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2026 Nomination Thread

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Tessa Blanchard

*in-ring only* people. She's apparently nuclear, but people still enjoy the work of people who are without a shadow of a doubt, terrible human beings.

One of a kind pro-wrestler. She would outwork any woman in WWE, AEW or IMPACT (if she went back). Unmatched intensity, great as a babyface as showed by her feud against Sami Callihan (two MOTYC in a row for the promotion) and oh yeah, she is the first woman who actually won a man's world title and made it work. Great heel also, and not just IRL. Awesome at pretty much every aspect of the game (offense, selling, bumping, she can do it all), has the presence of a star, works like one. Probably won't ever reach her potential in the business because of her rep. One of the greatest "in limbo" workers ever ? 

Tessa Blanchard vs Gail Kim (04/28/2019 - IMPACT)

Tessa Blanchard vs Sami Callihan (07/07/2019 - IMPACT)

Tessa Blanchard vs Sami Callihan (01/12/2020 - IMPACT)

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Gail Kim

Because she spent most of her career in TNA, she's one of the most overlooked great worker of the last 20 years. In 2007 TNA made her their first woman champion, and she had a bunch of great matches against Awesome Kong, which were basically the first time women's pro-wrestling was taken and treated seriously in the US in decades. That was the real women's revolution, if you will. Gail Kim is great at everything she does. She's an *incredible* bumper, a quality that is less talked about now that most pro-wrestler do much more big athletic stuff, but Gail still is striking in how she would bump in really brutal and explosive ways (without looking like she would kill herself like Sasha Banks). She can take a beating like no one else and at the same time showcase that attitude of always fighting back. Great seller. But she's also a great bitchy heel with tons of details in her game in term of character work, hell, she's probably a better heel actually even though her most famous matches were as a babyface. She can make a spectacle of a match if necessary against a super green worker, as showed by the Taryn Terell match at Slammiversary, and basically always made everyone around her look better than they were. I'm not done with exploring her second TNA stint yet (in which the context was much less favorable as the first one, at least for a while), but to me she was clearly a great worker whom, transferred into current WWE or AEW, is right up there with the best women. Her last match at 41 years old in 2018 against Tessa Blanchard showed that she was still excellent by this point. 

Gail Kim vs Awesome Kong (12/02/07 - TNA)

Gail Kim vs Awesome Kong (01/06/08 - TNA)

Gail Kim vs Taryn Terrell (06/02/13- TNA)

Gail Kim vs Tessa Blanchard (04/28/2019 - IMPACT)

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Hallowicked

May seem an odd choice on the surface of it, but he's got a near 20 years career at this point, and he's been good for the vast majority of it. Probably tied with Kingston for the best Chikara graduate, he's an interesting case where we've pretty much got his whole career on tape, especially in his formative years and he just gets wrestling very quickly. He has good matches with the likes of Mr ZERO in his first year, and managed to get a rare good match from Joey Janela in 2019, with plenty of good stuff in between. Good tag worker, reliable singles wrestler, and still one of those names that interests me when he'll pop up on a random indy card. Not saying he'll make my list, but he's definitely due consideration

Matches

vs Mr ZERO (International Invasion of the International Invaders 2003)
vs Eddie Kingston (Anniversario? 2007)
vs Joey Janela (Chikarasaurus Rex 2019)

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14 hours ago, NotJayTabb said:

Hallowicked

(...) Probably tied with Kingston for the best Chikara graduate, (...)

Maybe a bit off-topic, but would you put him above the Colony guys (Orange Cassidy, Drew Gulak and Tracy Williams), Ultramantis Black or Jigsaw?

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I'd forgotten about Gulak, but I think he's comfortably better than Cassidy and Ultramantis. Jigsaw is an interesting comparison, he's probably more well travelled than Hallowicked, possibly got good quicker too, but there's a reliability and consistency I like from Hallowicked 

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Takumi Iroha

Lack of footage hurts her but in every match I see from her I come away thinking she was the stand-out performer. She's probably the best offensive wrestler in the world today, with good mat-work, great striking, a varied moveset, and excellent execution (she's a contender for best superkick ever). She's great at changing up her moveset to fit the situation, sometimes going strike heavy and other times emphasising her size and power advantage with big power moves. She's also incredibly selfless and generous, often giving her opponents enough time to shine and bumping big to get them over.

Matches

w/Sareee and Nanae Takahashi vs Maria, Mei Hoshizuki, and Mikoto Shindo 07/22/2019 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viV75EHK_JI

vs ASUKA 08/19/2018 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fKIurblUj0&t=1272s

vs Mayu Iwatani 02/08/2020 - https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV147411F78Z/

 

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Tsukasa Fujimoto

Her strong babyface energy makes her easy to root for, but she can believably snap and be more heelish when the situation calls for it. She's an amazing tag worker - with a particularly stellar tag run with Arisa Nakajima - she's consistently good to great in singles matches, even when working with rookies, and she is really great at elevating her opponents. Offensively she can be a little clunky and slow, but her strong striking along with her creativity more than make up for it - she has this one move which I can only describe as a body scissors hurricanrana roll-up which I had to replay about 10 times the first time I saw it just to understand what just happened. Definitely a contender for best ace in the modern era.

Matches

Vs Arisa Nakajima 12/13/2017 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buTS2SlebE8 (entrances start at 1:02:45)

Vs Maya Yukihi 08/03/2019 - https://www.bilibili.com/s/video/BV1x7411k73E

w/Arisa Nakajima vs Nanae Takahashi and Emi Sakura 05/04/2016 - https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1F54y1b73s/

 

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Amazing/Awesome Kong

Want to diversity your ballot this time, whether it be race, gender, or style? Kia Stevens is someone who was left off nominations previously. She played the monster heel exceptionally well, and had amazing power moves and awesome top rope spots. Believable, threatening aura. She went all out with total action and could have satisfying complete matches in 10 minutes. Had 800 recorded matches. Japanese cred, in demand in U.S., but never had a successful WWE/AEW run which hurt her recognition. If you are looking at non-joshi women to think about Kong actually is an excellent worker compared to the 2000s WWE's pre-Revolution roster, not to mention the 1990s divas. She ignited the TNA Knockouts division with Gail Kim. Kong was hardcore and took sick bumps, had a great spinning backfist and powerbomb, didn't no sell, and was more agile than the nostalgic 1980s male hosses who racked up votes last time. Worked intergender matches, had babyface runs, and exciting three ways. If you were running a league in the 2000s, who would be better to top the women's division as a heel, champion, and then turn babyface?

Amazing Kong vs. Aja Kong (4/30/2004) A warzone featuring the original and the new version

Amazing Kong vs MsChif 4/7/2007 Sickest backbreaker you will ever see, really showcases how dominating Kong is but is also willing to sell. I dare say this fun match would rank in the top 1% of modern day WWE, NXT, and AEW women's matches.

Amazing Kong vs Azumi Hyuga 8/26/2007 20-minute epic video game battle/legalized attempted murder. I broke down crying after Azumi got busted open.

Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim 1/10/2008 Sub-10-minute TV match that will leave your jaw dropped [You can watch any Kim vs Kong match BTW, since they perfected Monster vs Underdog]

Awesome Kong vs. ODB (9/14/2008) Sick table highspots in a quick 10 minute match with a tough brawler

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Well, with some of the recent nominations, I might as well...

Hiroshi Watanabe

The story of Hiroshi Watanabe is that he was an incredibly talented wrestler whose lack of size denied him success or exposure beyond Z-level indies. That said if you come across him, he is an incredible discovery. The most apt description I can come up with is that he's a sleazier, shorter Osamu Nishimura. A guy who has a knack for working lengthy, extremely technical, brainy matches. Fortunately for us the fed called MUMEJUKU allowed guys like him to do their thing and work the niche 70s throwback matches our hearts long for. I'd say Watanabe is easily one of the best pro-style matworkers outside of lucha of the 21st century. Given how rare quality pro style matwork is these days he's remarkable. He also manages to do his throwback style without feeling phony or like a LARP. That kind of dedication - the fact he's wrestling for over 20 years working the lowest of the low indies and still puts on great performances working brainy technical matches in front of the smallest crowds - should make him well worthy of all-time level consideration despite limited tape history.

Recommended matches:

vs. Fuminori Abe, HEAT-UP 5/19/2019

vs. Yasushi Sato, Mumejuku 4/17/2019

vs. Kousei Maeda, Mumejuku 6/2/2007

 

Yasushi Sato

The case of Yasushi Sato is even more mysterious than Watanabe. From what I know he only started wrestling in the mid-2000s, at a pretty old age, and barely ever making tape. But when he does, this guy looks like a wrestling genius. He is incredibly efficient working technical matches built around his leg grapevine moves. He also has a neck for unique amateur spots and cradles, a bit like a smaller Tamon Honda. I wouldn't hesitate to call his match against Masamune a match of the decade contender, and for someone who shows up on tape so little his hit rate of great matches is incredibly high. Definitely someone everyone should check out.

Recommended matches:

vs. Masamune (Mumejuku 6/3/2018)

vs. Hiroshi Watanabe, Mumejuku 4/17/2019

w Konaka Pale One vs. Hiroshi Watanabe & Hideya Iso, Mumejuku 2/5/2017

 

Fugo Fugo Yumeji

Okay, hear me out. On the surface he's a Zero1 jobber who rarely made TV. How on earth can he have a case? But really, if you look at his indy career, he has been a great wrestler since at least 1997 (only 1 year in his career), and up to 2018. That's a 21 year span. He's shown up in huge variety of different settings, and is always extremely efficient. And he was a pretty great character in Z1 too, attacking people with crazy headbutts and having a few memorable short TV matches. His technical ability is pretty good and he has a knack for building great matches around a few suplexes and his incredibly violent headbutts, which he uses better than almost everyone. Another interesting thing about him is his project EXIT, a promotion that seems to focus on short, intensely violent matches in a ring that has chains instead of ropes. If anything, he's a guy I always want to check out no matter what kind of match he's in.

Recommended matches:

w Makoto Saito vs. Cosmo*Soldier & Takeshi Sato, WYF 6/10/1997

vs. Katsuhiko Masada, MUGA 4/6/1999

w BUKI vs. Yuki Ishikawa & Johta, EXIT 7/14/2018

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Nikolai Zouev

Certainly doesn't have the resume that Volk Han has, but he was one of the smoothest workers in RINGS and is an example of an intricate technical wrestler that has a lot of finesse to his game. He was probably one of the guys that brought a lot of flavor to RINGS' early period along with Volk Han, Kopylov, Willie Peeters, and Dick Vrij. He was a great SAMBO specialist and his matches really stood out from other shoot-style stuff at the time. I think Kopylov, Zouev, and Han are the best wrestlers to ever come out of Russia and I would rank them above Zangiev and Hashimikov if I am being honest. If we are considering the entire work-shoot spectrum, they founded Russia Top Team, which was a pioneering group for Russia's MMA development. A good example of someone who could sneak into my top 100 based on pure technical ability.

Recommended matches -

Nikolai Zouev vs Andrei Kopylov (10/23/93)

Nikolai Zouev vs Volk Han (11/18/93)

Nikolai Zouev vs Kiyoshi Tamura (6/21/97)

Nikolai Zouev vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (11/20/98)

Mikhail Ilyukhin

Another Russian SAMBO guy who made a name for himself in RINGS. His career was limited to RINGS like the other Russian guys in RINGS, save for one match in U-Style against Kawada which was decent. Like Zouev, Han, and Kopylov though, he was very good from a pure technical standpoint. I don't think he had any bad matches either. He was a crowd favorite in RINGS by 1998/1999, and he really put together some late RINGS classics with Kiyoshi Tamura and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. In terms of shoot-style, it's hard not to consider him one of the top 25 guys in the style. 

Recommended matches -

Ilyukhin vs Kiyoshi Tamura (1/28/98)

Ilyukhin vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (9/21/98)

Ilyukhin vs Nikolai Zouev (10/21/95)

Grom Zaza 

Might be the best wrestler to come out of Georgia? I can't think of many other examples. That's probably not a good headliner by itself, but he was a very fine shoot-style wrestler and really helped RINGS define its unique, state-of-art style through the years as he introduced a Georgian wrestling style that many hadn't seen before. Guys like Zaza really helped develop the RINGS house style I think, because flashy and highly technical matches became the expectation among the fans due to the level of work seen from some of the eastern European grapplers. He was able to have a good match with almost anybody. Maybe a top 25 shoot-style guy? I would put his matches up against anybody on that list.

Recommended matches -

Zaza vs Volk Han (5/16/92)

Zaza vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (12/19/95)

Zaza vs Kohsaka (7/22/97)

Hiromitsu Kanehara

A really underrated shoot-style wrestler who was one of the more promising guys in UWFi along with Kakihara, Tamura, and Sakuraba. He was also a very high-level wrestler who brought a lot of flair to his matches, and became an important figure in UWFi, RINGS, and Kingdom, which sort of speaks to his longevity. His series with Masakazu Maeda is fantastic and might be one of the most underrated feuds in Puroresu. He then had a fantastic series of matches in both UWFi and Kingdom before being a key guy in the later RINGS period, where he probably helped the promotion retain an audience by adding to the undercard. Like the other guys on this list, he didn't really have a bad match either. 

Recommended matches -

Kanehara vs Masakazu Maeda (2/29/1992)

Kanehara vs Kazushi Sakuraba (8/18/95)

Kanehara vs Sakuraba (12/2/1997)

Kanehara vs Volk Han (1/23/1999)

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Rusher Kimura

I'm mostly nominating Rusher Kimura because he seems like the sort of person who should be nominated and I'm interested in what the general feeling around him is. Obviously, he has a rep as a talker, and that really isn't in GWE purview, per se, but he was the ace of a major promotion and had a big run in New Japan after IWE closed, plus the run as Baba's partner, including the all-time great Old Man tag from 89. 

vs Jumbo Tsuruta - IWE 3/28/1976

with Giant Baba vs Genichiro Tenryu/Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW 12/8/1984

with Giant Baba vs Stan Hansen/Genichiro Tenryu - AJPW 11/29/1989

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Hangman Adam Page

In the last three years, Adam Page became legit one of the best worker in the world. He's still a work in progress in term of career and I admit I am not familiar with his ROH work, although he was already showing signs of being really good in NJPW (or better than signs, actually). But from his tag work with Kenny Omega, which happened to count arguably the greatest tag-team match ever to his latest accomplishments as a babyface singles main event wrestler, at this pace, of course Adam Page makes the list.

(going for the obvious)

Hangman Page & Kenny Omega vs Young Bucks (AEW - 02/29/2020)

Hangman Page & Kenny Omega vs FTR (AEW - 09/05/2020)

Hangman Page vs Kenny Omega (AEW - 11/13/2021)

Hangman Page vs Bryan Danielson (AEW - 12/15/2021)

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Adam Cole Has a charisma and presence that gets him over wherever he goes. Despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to be spectacular enough to be a main eventer in PWG or (pre USA network) NXT he still has great matches in these environments. He’s not someone who doesn’t have longevity, he’s been at least pretty good for 10 years, and from near the beginning teaming with Kyle O’Reilly he knew how to be a dickhead heel that has this undercurrent of likeability.

w/ Kyle O’Reilly vs Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre Jr WXW 03/13/2011

vs Kyle O’Reilly PWG 05/23/2014, go to 1hr 15 mins in that video for the match

vs Johnny Gargano NXT 04/05/2019, go to 2hr 21mins 30secs in that video for the match

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Yasha Kurenai

Seems like one of the most underrated wrestlers of all time. Badass girl brawler who wrestles like a pissed off, kendo stick wielding Taue. Will boot you in the face, chop you in the throat and has a cool finishing hold. Really good in both a face and heel role, consistently entertaining in both undercard tags and main events. I think she only wrestled for 10 years in niche promotions but she has a few all time level performances under her belt.

Recommended Matches:

w  Shinobu Kandori  & Rumi Kazama vs. Eagle Sawai & Michiko Nagashima & Sayuri Okino, LLPW 2/15/1998

vs. Hikari Fukuoka, JWP 12/6/1997

vs. Michiko Nagashima, LLPW 6/21/1998

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On 12/9/2021 at 1:08 PM, Reel said:

Rusher Kimura

I'm mostly nominating Rusher Kimura because he seems like the sort of person who should be nominated and I'm interested in what the general feeling around him is. Obviously, he has a rep as a talker, and that really isn't in GWE purview, per se, but he was the ace of a major promotion and had a big run in New Japan after IWE closed, plus the run as Baba's partner, including the all-time great Old Man tag from 89. 

vs Jumbo Tsuruta - IWE 3/28/1976

with Giant Baba vs Genichiro Tenryu/Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW 12/8/1984

with Giant Baba vs Stan Hansen/Genichiro Tenryu - AJPW 11/29/1989

I would like to suggest his match vs Jos Leduc - IWE (10/3/1979) too.

Rusher had a whole lot of slow, plodding matches, particularly when up against more technical foreign wrestlers, but against brawlers like Leduc or Gypsy Joe he absolutely shined. This one is probably my favourite of the lot, and I highly recommend it.

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Josh Barnett

Josh Barnett vs Kiyoshi Tamura (U-Style - 11/23/05)

Josh Barnett vs Hideki Suzuki (IGF  - 12/31/11)

Josh Barnett vs Jon Moxley (Bloodsport - 4/8/21)

Pretty surprised Barnett hasn't been nominated. Big burly shoot style worker who can work the mat and strike & suplex with the best of them. The 3 matches I've put forward to go with the nomination I honestly see as MOTDC for each of their decades. If someone has 3 MOTDC in 3 different decades, they deserve a look. Someone I definitely plan on watching more (or ALL) of during this project. His highs are as impressive as pretty much anyone from the last 20 years. 

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Don Arakawa

Controversial, but Arakawa deserves, at the very least, a crack at nominations. He's one of the most consistent comedy wrestlers ever, and that's coming from someone who groans at that style in general. Under the comedy work is a pretty technical hand who can almost universally take any act and get them to a decent match: a lot of his (documented) SWS work is getting random NJPW guys who are barely out of the Dojo to presentable (or at times even fairly good) matches. He's the perfect opening guy and remained as such for way, way longer than you would expect. That being said, he's had some particularly fun showings when allowed to get his hair down a little, and his weird out of his depth persona when entering shoot style stuff is very entertaining. 

Don Arakawa vs. The Cobra (NJPW, 1985) 

Don Arakawa vs Daisuke Ikeda (PWFG, 1993) 

Carl Greco & Don Arakawa vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Yuki Ishikawa (Bridge of Dreams, 1995)

Don Arakawa & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Fugo Fugo Yumeji & Kuroge Wagyuta (ZERO-ONE, 2002)

Don Arakawa vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara (ZERO-ONE, 2003) 

Don Arakawa vs. Munenori Sawa (Big Mouth Loud, 2006) 

Don Arakawa vs Osamu Kido (Big Mouth Loud, 2006) 

 

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Momo Watanabe

She's been among the best wrestlers in the world for the last 4 years. Offensively strong (those kicks!) and has a good amount of versatility. Generally consistent, but excels in big match situations, leading to Stardom trusting her in several important matches (Mayu Anniversary match in 2020, Utami's first title defence, GP final against Syuri). Already has an excellent big title run under her belt with the Wonder of Stardom title, and given how young she is, the sky is the absolute limit for her.

Vs Syuri (09/25/2021) - https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1DL411W7Ur/

Vs Jungle Kyona (03/03/2019) - https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7num5p

Vs Io Shirai (02/18/2018) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr_HWyyY6Tc

 

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Masao Inoue

Alright, hear me out on this one. Inoue isn't really much of a hand in his AJPW stuff: I've had the unfortunate task of watching most of it in action: but he evolves into probably the best "fish out of water" wrestlers ever, a pure and true underdog that couldn't even be called that, because at least underdogs win big matches sometimes. Inoue wins nothing, but somehow manages to get the crowd to rally endlessly behind him in every endeavour he makes: either teaming up with the old guard to try to get a big win or staring down some of the meanest, nastiest wrestlers on the roster, he's a true master of getting the most out of a considerably limited moveset, using a mix of comedy alongside genuine selling to get a audience to laugh, cheer, or even boo him. He won't amaze you with Terry Funk tier selling or astonish with epic workrate, but he'll rake the eyes really good, and on the (very) rare occasion he gets that Backbreaker off, the roof almost always nearly falls with how much fanfare he gets. The best "I know I'm bad but that's my gimmick anyway" worker I've ever seen. He's more Rocky than Rocky ever was. 

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Masao Inoue (NOAH 14.06.2020) 

Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue vs. Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima (NOAH 04.08.2019)

Kenta Kobashi & Masao Inoue vs Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito (NOAH 14.2.2014)

Jun Akiyama vs. Masao Inoue (NOAH 23.04.2006)

Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa (NOAH 10.09.2004) 

Masao Inoue vs. Yuji Nagata (NOAH 14.05.2003)

Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa (AJPW 27.11.1999)

Kenta Kobashi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Masao Inoue & Toshiaki Kawada (AJPW 02.01.1998)

 

 

 

 

 

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