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InYourCase

Four Years On: An Updated GWE Ballot

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I've been thinking a lot about the 2016 GWE project recently and how I really enjoyed compiling my list. I talked on my podcast, Open the Voice Gate, about how this project came along at a very formative time in my wrestling viewing habits and ever since, this project has changed the way I think about and consume wrestling. Last week on Twitter, Chad Campbell posted an updated GWE ballot and it inspired me to do the same, but I didn't want to tweet about it, so I'm putting it here instead. Here's my 2016 ballot. 

  1. Kenta Kobashi
  2. Stan Hansen
  3. Genichiro Tenryu
  4. Tatsumi Fujinami
  5. Rey Mysterio Jr
  6. Masaaki Mochizuki
  7. Bryan Danielson
  8. Toshiaki Kawada
  9. Terry Funk
  10. Jun Akiyama
  11. Vader
  12. Ric Flair
  13. KENTA
  14. Mitsuharu Misawa
  15. Shingo Takagi
  16. Jushin Liger
  17. Riki Choshu
  18. Hiroshi Tanahashi
  19. Shinya Hashimoto
  20. Kazuchika Okada
  21. Akira Taue
  22. Kurt Angle
  23. Eddie Guerrero
  24. Jumbo Tsuruta
  25. Susumu Yokosuka
  26. El Generico
  27. Tomohiro Ishii
  28. Kota Ibushi
  29. CIMA
  30. Ricky Steamboat
  31. Chris Hero
  32. Chris Benoit
  33. Hiroshi Hase
  34. William Regal
  35. Shawn Michaels
  36. Yoshihiro Takayama
  37. Nick Bockwinkel
  38. Masato Yoshino
  39. Samoa Joe
  40. Masato Tanaka
  41. CM Punk
  42. Austin Aries
  43. John Cena
  44. Steve Austin
  45. Shinjiro Otani 
  46. Kiyoshi Tamura
  47. Kensuke Sasaki
  48. Koji Kanemoto
  49. AJ Styles
  50. Yoshiaki Fujiwara
  51. Daisuke Sekimoto
  52. Low Ki
  53. Minoru Suzuki
  54. Jay Briscoe
  55. Arn Anderson 
  56. Dick Togo
  57. Carlos Colon
  58. Jim Breaks
  59. Yuji Nagata
  60. Naomichi Marufuji
  61. Claudio Castagnoli
  62. Randy Savage
  63. Yoshihiro Tajiri
  64. Mark Briscoe
  65. Yoshiaki Yatsu
  66. Negro Casas
  67. Akira Tozawa
  68. Yoshinari Ogawa
  69. Roderick Strong
  70. Kenny Omega 
  71. Sean Waltman
  72. Yoji Anjoh 
  73. Fit Finlay
  74. Masa Fuchi
  75. Brock Lesnar
  76. Satoshi Kojima
  77. Will Ospreay 
  78. Dragon Kid
  79. Matt Hardy
  80. Zack Sabre Jr 
  81. TAKA Michinoku
  82. Milano Collection A.T.
  83. Kevin Steen
  84. Volk Han
  85. Mick Foley
  86. Tsyoshi Kikuchi
  87. Chris Jericho 
  88. Too Cold Scorpio
  89. Ricochet 
  90. Little Guido
  91. Edge
  92. Sabu
  93. Goldberg
  94. Sting
  95. Dustin Rhodes 
  96. Alexander Otsuka
  97. Makoto Hashi
  98. Genki Horiguchi
  99. Zolton Boscik
  100. Homicide 

New additions are in BOLD. 

The biggest change is flipping my #1 and #2 (and #3 and #4). I went with Hansen in 2016, mainly built off of the idea that he had successful runs in four vastly different territories. His longevity mixed with his adaptability put him over the top. Four years later, I just can't deny Kobashi the top spot. I've gone back and rewatched almost all of his GHC defenses and I still feel comfortable saying that is the best title run ever. Kobashi's case is simple. He has the greatest output of all-time. No one really touches him. My gut tells me he's the greatest of all-time and then I watch the footage and that idea is confirmed. Tenryu slides ahead of Fujinami based on longevity. Assuming someone does a large scale version of this project in a few years, I'd like to examine Tenryu's case as a possible #1. 

Masaaki Mochizuki jumps from #10 to #6. He's the most consistent wrestler I've ever seen. Since 2000, he's been working at a world-class level and has a nearly 20 year streak of at least one ****1/2 match a year. He worked with the young boys and rookie generation of Dragongate for almost all of last year and it only illuminated his greatness more as all of those kids came away much better workers as a result of working with Mochizuki on a regular basis. More than anyone else, Mochizuki was criminally undervalued by participants in 2016. 

Kazuchika Okada jumped 62 spots from #82 to #20. When ballots were submitted in 2016, Okada was someone I really struggled with rating. He had by far the largest upside of anyone in the running because he was realistically only four years into his career at that point. In 2016, NJPW was just putting a bow on the Tanahashi vs. Okada story and transitioning into Naito vs. Okada. We hadn't seen Okada vs. Omega, Okada vs. Shibata, or Okada vs. ZSJ at that point, let alone the numerous high-level Tanahashi and Naito rematches. His greatness is undeniable at this point. I'm glad anyone with a clue has stopped fading him. If Okada continues his usual output, he'll have a serious case for being in the top 10 five-six years from now. Kota Ibushi jumped up 44 spots for similar reasons. 

Yoshiaki Fujiwara fell 21 spots, which is the biggest fall for anyone that remained on the ballot. I like Fujiwara a lot. I like him enough to think he's one of the 50 best wrestlers ever. What I value in wrestling has shifted since 2016, however, and as a result, all of the shoot-style guys (with the exception of Tamura) took a hit. Volk Han and Yoji Anjo are still on my ballot but they both dropped slightly. 

New additions find themselves on the bottom half of the ballot. No one has gone from a non-entity to one of the 50 greatest wrestlers ever in the last four years. Kenny Omega was on the cusp of making my ballot in 2016, primarily due his All Japan output and his continued consistency in DDT. In the time between submitting ballots now and in 2016, Omega produced the match of the decade with Okada (6/9/18) and weirdly became underrated at one point. Numerous great matches with Ishii, Naito, and a handful of really strong MOTYC-level tag team matches. 

Will Ospreay joins the fray based off of his run in New Japan. Ospreay is one of New Japan's greatest juniors of all-time at this point. His portfolio is only rivaled by Liger and Kanemoto. I think his NJPW work is stronger than Otani's, but I really like some of heavyweight Otani's work + Otani has longevity on his side. I have no doubt Ospreay will pass him some day. Zack Sabre Jr is someone I was flirting with in 2016 but I didn't think he had the output. He upped his game and became the best worker on the US indies for a short while and is now one of my favorite guys to watch in New Japan. I went back and watched some really early ZSJ stuff recently and was delighted at how well it held up. He's got a decade of great matches under his belt now. Ricochet seems like the easiest man in the world to book, yet WWE is somehow screwing it up. He was close based off the strength of his work in Dragon Gate in 2016. His time as a pushed commodity in New Japan finally put him over the top for me. 

I don't think I've ever enjoyed a Goldust match, which is why he was absent from my ballot in 2016, despite the fact that I really like his WCW output. His willingness to adapt to a new style and a new generation of talents in AEW have helped get Dustin on the list. Sans a clunker or two, he's been really enjoyable to watch in AEW. He knows his role and he does his job well. Same goes for Chris Jericho, who is obviously pushed far more than Rhodes, but is in a similar place career-wise. Jericho was just coming off of a bunch of terrible WWE matches when the ballots were due in 2016 and I think that hurt him in the long run. He fell off my ballot because of his terrible AJ Styles matches. He's since reinvented himself and it's clear now that he's one of the greatest to ever do it. He just needs to be motivated. AEW helped get a handful of guys on the ballot, while since 2016, the only person that has been aided by their work in WWE is Roderick Strong. I was a huge advocate for Roddy in 2016 because he's a multi-generational indie superstar who remained a pushed act for well over a decade on the indies. I never imagined his act would work well in NXT, but it has, and I'm wildly impressed by that. 

Zolton Boscik is an odd pick for WoS guys to make the list, especially given that I don't have Steve Grey on my ballot. Grey would likely make it if I watched more of him in the interim between 2016 and now, but in my limited WoS viewing in the last four years, Boscik is always the guy that has stood out to me. I simply love what he brings to the table. Homicide was a late scratch in 2016 and i've regretted it ever since. The man deserves to be represented. 

The cuts: 

  • Akira Maeda 
  • Bret Hart 
  • Curt Hennig 
  • Jeff Hardy 
  • Matt Sydal 
  • Ryo Saito 
  • Spike Dudley 
  • YAMATO 

I was shocked to see that I had Maeda ranked as highly as I did in 2016. I don't enjoy his shoot-style stuff at all anymore and I don't think he's an elite tier guy in 80s New Japan. He's someone I don't enjoy watching, which can also be said for Bret. I put him on my ballot in 2016 because I felt like I had to. I don't feel that way anymore. I don't like watching Bret. I never think he's the best guy in any of his matches. He's not for me. Maybe one day I'll come around, but I don't anticipate that happening. Curt is gone because I simply think there are guys better than him that deserve a spot on the list. 

Dragon Gate loses a trio of guys in Sydal, YAMATO, and Saito. The latter two were actively bad at points in 2017. Saito was in a feud so bad it nearly drove me away from the company. YAMATO failed as a top guy and that really hurts him in my eyes. Sydal is great, but his post-WWE run hasn't brought a ton to the table and his flying abilities have been surpassed by guys like Ricochet, Ospreay, and PAC. 

I had Jeff Hardy at #61 in 2016. He's off the ballot now. I really respect what Jeff did and if this was a Top 150, he'd be in there, but he's not as good of a plunder guy as say, Homicide, and his weapon-less work was never that great. Spike is someone I love but there's too many guys out there that are just more talented. 

Wrestlers I need to study: 

  • Gran Hamada
  • Giant Baba 
  • PAC
  • Steve Grey 
  • Yuji Okabayashi 
  • The entire Joshi scene 

Hamada will make my ballot as soon as I deep dive his career. I've just never gotten around to doing so. Baba is someone I want to find a spot for, but if I ask myself who's better: Homicide or Giant Baba? My gut tells me Homicide. I need to watch more 70s Baba because that could convince me he's worthy of being on the list, but I also don't love 70s All Japan so who knows. Love Grey, just need to see more of him. PAC and Okabayashi are contemporary guys with strong cases, I just struggled contextualizing them in the big list. 

I've seen next-to-zero joshi and at some point will change that. 

I'd be happy to answer any questions about where guys are ranked. I love that four years later, I'm still thinking about this project on a regular basis. It was a lot of fun to do the list the first time around and it's been great revising it now. 

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Glad to see people still looking at this - its been an age since I thought about the list but thought I might use this time of not being able to go out to watch a ton of wrestling and put together something.

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This is really great to see! ...I think the GWE project really deserves a revisit. Totally dug the reasoning behind the additions, subtractions, and moves. I kinda made my own list before I was a member of PWO, might have to go back and work on it. I think the hardest part of making the list is the order of wrestlers. Anyone after #25, I'm not sure where I'd put them...Maybe make ten top 10 lists ...also I think the overly serious nature of the list has diminished. This time it can be more fun :)

 

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I have a tinker with my list every couple of months, just seeing if I'd swap positions around, or adding guys who have either added to their case since 2016 (Roman Reigns) or adding guys who I've watched more of since then (Mike Quackenbush, Masaaki Mochizuki), just in case we ever did GWE again and I'd have a solid foundation to base a list on. Plus, it's just fun to keep on top of. I do find sometimes my positions will vary based on my current viewing - for example, I've watched a bunch of 80's WWF and 1992 WCW recently, which has seen Greg Valentine shooting up the list, with Ricky Steamboat hitting the top 10. The biggest tussle is for my top spot between my previous #1 Bret Hart and Daniel Bryan, who was at #8 before, but has shot up in the past few years. Rey Jr, El Hijo Del Santo and Jushin Liger round out the top 5 as they did in 2016.

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