The 2014 CRL 100 – Part 3 (25 – 1)

Have you ever had that feeling that you were being watched? Like a whole lot of people were hanging on your every word waiting for you to get on with revealing the top 25 of some hypothetical list that you had compiled? It’s weird, right? It’s almost like they’re just waiting for you to say…

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to final day of our CRL 100 countdown of the very best wrestlers of 2014! We’ve spent months watching tape, having spirited debates and recovering from the injuries caused during those debates, and now it’s time to reveal who topped the list and is taking home that prestigious photoshopped trophy. This year was the hardest ever, with the top 10 shuffling almost daily, but the consensus we arrived at is one we believed in, and if you don’t like it then you can make your own god damn list. On with the show!

Now that we’ve made it to the top 50, each wrestler will get their own write up detailing what made them so special this year. But before we get to those, let’s go to the good ol’ FAQ one more time for anyone who is new to these proceedings.

Q: What goes into deciding these ratings?
A: Everything. This isn’t just a list of who had the best matches this year, (though that plays a major part,) it’s also a list of who was the most valuable to their promotion, and to wrestling in general over the past year. Think of this list as representing where everyone in the wrestling world stood in 2014 in relation to everyone else. But to be clear, this is not a popularity contest. Nobody in contention for the status of “Cewsh’s Favorite Wrestler” even made the top 10. This is meant to be an objective look at who was top shit in 2014. Keep that in mind.
Q: Why 100?
A: Because 500 forces you to include people who aren’t really worthy of consideration, and 276 wasn’t symmetrical enough.
Q: What do all the numbers mean?
A: The first number is their rank this year, the number next to it in parenthesis is their ranking on this list last year.
Q: So where are you going to rank the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar/ etc?
A: We’re not going to. In order to make things as fair as possible across the board, we require that in order to be eligible for this list, you have to have wrestled at least 5 matches in the past calender year. Any less than that and there just isn’t a fair sample size to base an educated opinion on.  Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Q: John Cena’s not on here, is he?
A: Oh yeah, he totally is.
Q: Why are you combining the men and women on one list? That’s not fair to the women, is it?
A: Judging by some of the women you’ll find on this list, it might not be fair to the men. 

Q: But why did *insert my favorite wrestler* rank below *insert wrestler I don’t like*?
A: Because I said so.

Q: But you can’t possibly think…
A: Yep.

Q: But that’s ridic…
A: Nope.

Q: …
A: That’s right. Never argue with science.


25. (N/A) Tomoaki Honma (NJPW)

Psycho: The New Japan underdog has been on quite a hot streak in 2014. Well, sort of. He has not earned a single victory outside of being a part of a big team, and he’s been utilized sparingly throughout the year, but there’s no denying the heart in his performances, something which the crowd has quickly latched on to. So he may not have often been victorious and sometimes seen as a an afterthought, but the crowd alone has skyrocketed him up on the list. His match Ishii at Wrestling Dontaku was off the charts, and his entire showing in the G1 Climax proves that he has the skill to rise the card, especially when he was one of the few who were making his opponents look better than anyone else. I can’t even tell you any specific matches, because nearly every match he had in the G1 was a top contender for the year. If he can be victorious in 2015, he may find himself in the Top 10 sooner than later.

24. (#58) Jessicka Havok (TNA)

(TNA Knockouts Championship)
(WSU World Championship)

Cewsh: For Jessicka Havok, 2014 had been a long time coming. After spending years starting a buzz on the indy scene in promotions like WSU, she finally arrived in Shimmer and began tearing it to shreds. For most women on this list that would be enough, but this is also the year that Havok made her way into homes across the US for the first time as she made a dramatic entrance into TNA’s Knockouts Division by destroying everyone in her path and quickly claiming the TNA Knockouts Championship. Sadly, he reign was curtailed by TNA’s headlong rush into obscurity, but if 2014 is any indication, there isn’t a whole lot that can stop the Havok Death Machine from making her way to the top.

23. (N/A) Triple H (WWE)

Cewsh: Triple H keeps getting older, and somehow he seems to keep getting better. With a limited schedule allowing him ample time to recover and stay fresh, Triple H managed to turn out some of the best matches of his career in 2014, putting over the Shield, and having my personal match of the year against Daniel Bryan after being the focus of the biggest feud at the biggest event in the biggest company in the world. If he had actually put himself in the Survivor Series match for his own job, he very well might have cracked the top 10, but you know Triple H. He’s far too selfless for that.

22. (#15) Adam Cole (ROH)

(ROH World Championship)
(PWG World Championship)

Cewsh: 2014 ended on a down note for Adam Cole, with him losing a title match against Jay Briscoe that everyone was sure he would win, and suffering an injury that will cost him a spot on the most stacked card in wrestling this year, NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 9. But a little bad fortune can’t entirely derail the shooting star of the indy scene. With a main event look, ever increasing skills, and a title resume that gets longer by the hour, Adam Cole really just has a choice to make. Which major company is it going to be? If he makes the right choice, the sky’s the limit. If he makes the wrong choice then, well, at least Orlando is warm in the winter.

21. (#46) Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW)

Psycho: If there’s one thing that any New Japan wrestler in the Top 25 of this list has in common with each other, it’s that it’s damn near impossible for them to have a bad match. That statement is no different with Katsuyori Shibata, who has been on a tear throughout the entire year of 2014. Whether it was backfisting people’s head in the singles division or mutilating his victims with Goto, Shibata has been victorious more than not as he pulverized his opponents. While he looked strong throughout the year, he may have been one of the most talked about performers in the G1 Climax tournament this year, destroying Benjamin, Honma, Ishii, Kojima, Nakamura, and the most infamous of them all, Tanahashi in what was easily his best match of the entire year. If 2014 was any indication, Shibata will destroy all opposition in 2015.

20. (#5) Randy Orton (WWE)

(WWE World Heavyweight Championships)

Cewsh: It seems weird to say it but 2014 was the year that Randy Orton actually became UNDERrated. After years of being pushed wholesale down the throats of the WWE Universe, Orton had one of the best in ring years of his career, having solid clashes with John Cena, being a key cog in one of the greatest main event in Wrestlemania history, and feuding all summer with the Shield in some of the best 6 man tags WWE has ever seen. He was just starting to get white hot with a face turn as well when he had to take a break and missed much of the end of the year, which hurt him on this countdown. But if that face turn can keep up the momentum it has shown thus far, the Viper will be back in our hearts very soon.

19. (#49) Cesaro (WWE) 

Psycho: Cesaro is a man that could only be outside of the Top 25 if he was not utilized enough. He’s that damn good. So good, in fact, that despite booking that squandered his potential and left him mucking around in obscurity, he still came out as one of the most valuable components of WWE. While he may not play much of a role in the stories, Cesaro has become the go-to guy whenever you need a top notch bout. He’s been a regular fixture on television, and between his incredible reactions leading up to his epic Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal victory and his upper-echelon matches with the likes of Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler, he’s still managed to rock the wrestling world and put fans on notice. Cesaro is a dangerous man that could dominate this list in a better year, so we’ll see what the future holds for him.

18. (#77) Dean Ambrose (WWE)

(WWE United States Championship)
Artie: While Cena may be heart of the WWE, Ambrose used 2014 to slither into the very soul of the WWE. After Bryan went down to injury and the Shield went their separate ways, everyone was banking on Reigns being the top guy in the WWE. Until he also went out and when he did, one man stepped up and became the sole reason to watch WWE some weeks. Whether he was jumping out of presents, out from under tables, off a cell, or out of a cab, Dean Ambrose was THE star of the second half of 2014. No one man carried a show like Ambrose could and no one brought as much excitement to constantly losing matches as he did. His W/L for the year is absolutely atrocious, but greatness in wrestling isn’t measured in victories or championships, it’s measured in how important a person is to a company and for a large portion of 2014 Ambrose has been the lifeblood of the WWE.

17. (#61) KUSHIDA (NJPW)

(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship)
(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship w/ Alex Shelley)

Artie: After a year in which he fail in his challenges for the NEVER, the ROH TV Championship, and ROH Tag team championships, you’d think KUSHIDA could be called a failure. Well NEH EH. In 2014 KUSHIDA held both the IWGP Jr heavyweight and Jr heavyweight tag team championships simultaneously, a very rare feat. While his tag team partner, Alex Shelley, spent a considerable amount of time on the shelf, KUSHIDA, tore it up in Jr Heavyweight division and had one of his best years ever. His matches with Ishii, Jay Lethal, The young bucks, and reDRagon are all must-sees of the year. KUSHIDA’s 2014 was a damn impressive year overall.

16. (N/A) Ricochet (Freelance)

(DG Open The Dream Gate Championship)
(DGUSA Open The Freedom Gate Championship)
(HOG Heavyeight Championship)
(RPW Tag Team Championships w/ Rich Swann)
(NJPW Best of The Super Jrs. Tournament)

Artie: Look at this man. That smile, those titles, THAT hair. In addition to all of those things, Ricochet is a damn good wrestler. In 2014 he’s been DG USA champion, Dragon Gate Dream Gate Champion, Best of the Super Juniors, and first ever Lucha Underground champion. Switching his style from being super-reliant on flippies, Ricochet brought a lot more ground and power ground to his ring style as he bulked up quite a bit in size. While some were naysayers, there’s no denying his excellent showing in the BOSJ and his performances on the fledgling Lucha Underground show. King Ricochet’s talents are finally starting to be recognized and 2015 can only be better than what we’ve already seen.

15. (#21) Sami Zayn (NXT)

(NXT Championship)

Psycho: It honestly might be a mistake having Sami Zayn this low after that phenomenal performance he put on at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, but ranking at #17 is still nothing to sneeze at. The amount of potential the former El Generico possesses to be the next big star in WWE is unprecedented, and every time he steps out in front of a crowd, he proves that he’s more ready than some of the guys on the main roster. The man does not have a single bad match under his belt, and manages to make his opponents look even greater by working with him. He has easily become one of the greatest babyfaces of our generation, if not of all time, and has put in more effort than almost any other performer. Looking at his significant and consistent push in NXT as well as having 4 MOTY-quality bouts under his belt, he belongs among the men he is ranked beside and below, and will only move higher from here.

14. (#47) Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH)

(GHC Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: What do you do when the company you have dedicated your life to loses it’s top star to the WWE and is quickly plummeting out of the public consciousness without him? If you’re Naomichi Marufuji you pick up the slack. Years after his botched first run with the GHC title, Marufuji captured it again in May, beating Yuji Nagata to reclaim the title for the company which is now built on his shoulders. In title defenses against Daisuke Sekimoto, Katsuhiko Nakajima and former partner Takashi Sugiura, Marufuji proved that he wasn’t about to let his company go down without a fight, and his efforts didn’t go unrewarded. NOAH has slowly begun to gain positive momentum for the first time in years, and if you want someone to thank, just look for the guy with the best hair in the locker room.

13. (#88) Adrian Neville (NXT)

(NXT Championship)
Artie: Talk about a guy who left his comfort zone, broke out of his shell, and cranked up the charisma to an 11. Neville has always been great in the ring, there’s no doubt about that. When you talk about the best Jr Heavyweight wrestler in the WWE, Adrian Neville steals that title by leaps, bounds, flips, dips, tricks, and acrobatics. Aside from his superb in-ring style, Adrian Neville managed to transforms verbally and tone donw his Geordie accent, while adding some much needed passion and emotion to his speaking style. Easily the best NXT Champion we’ve had, Neville has main evented all 4 NXT Specials and elevated both the title and the NXT brand beyond anything we’ve seen out of a WWE developmental territory before.

12. (#30) Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW)

(NJPW NEVER Openweight Championship)

Psycho: Remember what I said about New Japan guys not able to have bad matches? Tomohiro Ishii is the epitome of that statement. Ishii could take a pile of shit and polish it into diamond-plated platinum before he would lariat the rare gem into oblivion. It’s seems almost criminal that he’s not in the Top 10, but that has much more to do with his slipshod booking than anything he is responsible for. Despite being bettered in the G1 and occasionally being an afterthought, Ishii has dominated the NJPW ring, taking insane amounts of punishment and dishing it back out tenfold. His reigns as NEVER Openweight Champion have been a story worth spreading, having knock-down, drag-out brawls with Tomoaki Honma, Kota Ibushi and even Yujiro Takahashi. Had his NEVER reign gone uninterrupted and been booked stronger during that interim period where he wasn’t champion, I would be campaigning for him to be Top 5.

11. (#10) Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW)

(IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
(IWGP Intercontinental Championship)

Cewsh: The Ace of the Universe took a step back this year. Despite winning both of the major championships in New Japan, this year was much more about fellow stars Okada and Nakamura, and he did everything he could to cede the spotlight to them. Of course, he managed to do that while growing the New Japan product worldwide, being the babyface foil to the Bullet Club phenomenon, having unreal quality matches with Shibata, Styles, and pretty much everyone else. In order to fall out of the top 25, Tanahashi would basically have to forget how to use his arms for a full year, and even then, he’d probably just get really good at leg locks.

10. (#23) Dolph Ziggler (WWE) 

(WWE Intercontinental Championship)

Psycho: Dolph just barely edges his way into the Top 10 through pure heart and wrestling skill, as well as being a part of one of the most cathartic moments in professional wrestling all year. After losing his World Heavyweight Championship and seemingly being jobbed out to everyone possible in 2013, it seemed Ziggler was doomed to a life as nothing more than a good mid card hand. But throughout 2014, Ziggler found himself on the winning end of things most often, even if it was in low card matches that had literally no importance. The crowd stuck with him the whole time, supporting and praising him to the extent that WWE apparently could no longer ignore it.

 Enter SummerSlam, where Dolph Ziggler captured the Intercontinental Title in a hotly built feud with The Miz, from which he goes on to have one of the greatest pair of IC Title reigns for only lasting 3 months. While bringing prestige back to the classic championship and re-establishing his worth, he was engrossed in one of the biggest angles of the year in Team Cena vs. Team Authority, being not only the main focus, but the ultimate hero that put The Authority out of business, eliminating 3(technically 4) of his opponents with almost no help. It may have came late, but 2014 was one hell of a year for the Showoff.

9. (#7) Cheerleader Melissa (Shimmer)

(Shimmer Championship)
(PWR World Women’s Championship)
(APW Women’s Championship)

Cewsh: The unchallenged Queen of Professional Wrestling. Other lists can give that title to whoever they want and i’m sure that’s all well and good. But over the past year, Melissa just continued to prove what we already knew: that she is the premier name in the industry. Defending the Shimmer Championship in dominant fashion, invading the Joshi stronghold of STARDOM, and essentially competing in nothing but championship matches for a year straight. Cheerleader Melissa doesn’t get out of bed for less than a title match, and when you watch her do her thing, it’s hard to blame her.

8. (#60) The Uso Brothers (WWE)

(WWE Tag Team Championships)

Psycho: They may be saddled with a terrible catchphrase, but that hasn’t stopped Jimmy & Jey Uso from ruling the WWE Tag Team division with painted faces. From start to finish, The Usos have produced their greatest year inside and outside of the ring, proving that they can handle their selves on the microphone and actually capture the attention of the entire audience. Gaining their first Tag Title reign, they brought legitimacy to a division that was sorely lacking, having quite the pre-show match at WrestleMania that was lauded by many. Other than the overall exposure they’ve had, probably their strongest contribution to the year was their unexpectedly stellar feud with Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. While it may not have ended how it should these two pulled out the best performances out of Wyatt’s former lackeys, while also doing the same for their selves. Whether they can go higher than this remains to be seen, but they have done more than earn their spot this year.

7. (#38) Seth Rollins (WWE)

(Money in the Bank)

Psycho: Any 2014 list would be incomplete without Seth Rollins automatically locked in above rank 10. The man has been on top of WWE since June when he turned on his brothers, effectively destroying one of the greatest stables ever in The Shield. Not in many years has such a turn been treated so immensely, as fans, marks and smarks alike, virulently chanted “YOU SOLD OUT” at nearly every event he was present. He soon won the Money in the Bank briefcase and has since taken on the role as the #1 heel in WWE that everyone wants to defeat while Brock Lesnar sips wine and has models rub his back, playing the part of the heel champion that is constantly shitting in everyone’s cheerios and making lives hell. While consistently being one of the best in-ring workers and talkers, he almost gets boosted up for kickstarting the mammoth singles careers of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, all the while cementing his own legacy and becoming one of the fastest growing stars of the business.

6. (#8) AJ Styles (NJPW)

(IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
(TNA World Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: Well this year certainly didn’t go as expected for AJ Styles. After being unceremoniously rejected by TNA in January, Styles promptly went to the independant scene and became the hottest commodity in recent memory. In no time at all he had captured the 2nd most prestigious title in the wrestling world after beating Okada and joining the Bullet Club in a move that rocked the wrestling world. He held the title for much of the year, and did a killer job of getting himself over, including a match with Minoru Suzuki that ranks up with the very best of his career. He lost the title to Tanahashi, but he’s far from out the door just yet, as he’s set to face off against NJPW golden child Tetsuya Naito in January. The future is uncertain after that for Styles, but for 2014 he was just as phenomenal as ever.

5. (#14) The Young Bucks (Freelance)

(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships)
(ROH World Tag Team Championships)
(PWG World Tag Team Championships)
(FWE Tag Team Championships)
(HOG Tag Team Championships)
(IWL Tag Team Championships)
(SCW Tag Team Championships)

Artie: While a picture says a thousand words and championships are the most used measure of success, The Young Bucks are not a tag team who were content with just winning a bunch of titles. No, the Bucks rocked the entire world of pro wrestling, elevating tag team wrestling to some astonishing heights. The Young Bucks have put out MOTYC after MOTYC after MOTYC with anybody and everybody thrown before them. reDRAgon, Timesplitters, World’s Cutest tag team, and even the Hardy Boyz were all elevated to their A-game and beyond when facing Matt and Nick Jackson.

The Young Bucks’ accomplishments this year are more than just winning titles or rockin’ in the ring, The Young Bucks are the heartbeat behind The Bullet Club and the Bucks have done so much to make the industry of wrestler self-promotion and marketing a financially viable option for the talent to earn a living. For an A+ 2014 and a 2015 that can only be better, The Young Bucks are definitely worthy of being ranked in the top 5 superstars in the industry.

4. (#6) John Cena (WWE)

(WWE World Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: John Cena is John Cena. By this point in his career he is as reliable as any wrestler in recent memory. Even in a year where the focus shifted away from him, he still managed to have two noteworthy feuds with Randy Orton, bring Bray Wyatt up to the main event, and make Brock Lesnar look like a bigger monster than ever. There is more greater pillar of consistency and spectacle in this industry than the man in the neon everything. Maybe one day he’ll even get to enjoy it.

3. (#1) Kazuchika Okada (NJPW)

(IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
(G1 Climax Tournament)

Cewsh: Last year, the Rainmaker was our CRL champion, and in most years he probably did enough to repeat, but unfortunately the two men above him just pushed past him into further levels of greatness. But let’s not take anything away from the most talented 20something in wrestling, as he still held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for several months, and won the grueling, legendary G1 Climax tournament for the right to face his nemesis Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of what may be the biggest Japanese wrestling show in history. He is the undisputed future of Japanese wrestling. But in 2014, he was just baaaaarely edged out by it’s present.

2. (#2) Daniel Bryan (WWE)

(WWE World Heavyweight Championship)

Artie: The Cinderella story of 2014 and one of the saddest downfalls we’ve ever seen. As 2013 drew to a close, we all assumed the Bryan was done with his brief main event run. He was booked as a lacky for the Wyatts and slowly being phased out in favor of Orton, Cena, and Batista. While it looked grim, the fans fought back, hijacked shows, and changed the landscape of WWE, forcing them to make Daniel Bryan THE focus of Wrestlemania. Having been there live, I can only describe the emotion of Bryan’s title win as “breathtaking”. Given how shortly thereafter Bryan’s career was put on hold, and possibly, an end, he fell a lot lower on this list than originally anticipated. Alas, the matches we got in his five active months, coupled with the beautiful story of his rise to the top cemented Daniel Bryan’s status as a top star of 2014.

1. (#8) Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW)

(IWGP Intercontinental Championship)

Cewsh: The King of Strong Style, the Sultan of Swag, the most charismatic wrestler on the face of this Earth. He was our number one this year by a mile, and he didn’t even hold a world title. He’s that fucking good.

Artie: The undisputed King of professional wrestling in 2014. It takes a special wrestler to make a secondary championship feel like the top title in any promotion, but Nakamura has made himself the biggest prize in NJPW. Having a match with Shinsuke Nakamure means that you could take a nap and wake up having had a MOTYC. Nakamura’s effort on the New Japan/ROH card was the best match of the night and showed so many American fans just what they can expect when New Japan comes to the screen of American TV in 2015. While Tanahashi is easily the face of the company, Nakamura has built a head of steam going into 2015 that could easily translate to him smashing his knee right into the face of the face of the company and claiming his spot at the top of New Japan.

Psycho: Really, what else can you say about Shinsuke Nakamura that hasn’t already been said by any fan of Puroresu? The man eats, sleeps, breathes, sweats, oozes and bleeds charisma—or “Swag,” rather—and has one of the most captivating wrestling styles all around. He’s a man that you have to stop what you’re doing just to say, “Who the fuck is that?” when you see him for the first time. Even when the man has a lackluster match, he’s still considered one of the greatest of all time, and I have a hard time finding any counter-argument to that. The man has made a secondary title seem more important than the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, put Okada over like a bigger star than he already was(which was pretty huge), and still has one of the best finishers in the industry today. Whether it’s for dominating the top of the card for the better part of the year, wrestling his ass off to string together some amazing matches like his classic bout with Tanahashi at Invasion Attack, or just being a generally unmitigated badass, he’s earned this #1 spot, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him do it a few times.

Well that’ll do it for us this year, boys and girls. We collected the 100 wrestlers who defined the year 2014 and ranked them in order. The response thus far has already been rife with controversy, (you should see our emails,) and now we eagerly await your praise, insults, adoration, revulsion and everything in between. We look forward to everything that 2015 will bring us and as always, remember to keep reading, be good to one another, and live your life in a way the King of Swag would be proud of.