The Inside Pulse Top 50 US Based Wrestlers 2004/2005 – Part 2

Before we continue the countdown, let’s take a quick peep at who was ranked #50-31…

NUMBER 50: KERWIN WHITE
NUMBER 49: HARDCORE HOLLY
NUMBER 48: JEFF HARDY
NUMBER 47: TAJIRI
NUMBER 46: NUNZIO
NUMBER 45: FRANKIE KAZARIAN
NUMBER 44: DOUG BASHAM
NUMBER 43: SEAN WALTMAN
NUMBER 42: ELIX SKIPPER
NUMBER 41: ALEX SHELLEY
NUMBER 40: AKIO
NUMBER 39: ROB CONWAY
NUMBER 38: CHRIS HARRIS
NUMBER 37: SONJAY DUTT
NUMBER 36: AUSTIN ARIES
NUMBER 35: JAMIES GIBSON
NUMBER 34: RON KILLINGS
NUMBER 33: CHARLIE HAAS
NUMBER 32: JAMES STORM
NUMBER 31: THE BIG SHOW

In case you missed it, or you just want a more in-depth reminder, go right ahead and check out Part 1.

And now, let’s continue with the Top 30 of 2004/2005…

NUMBER 30 – CHRIS SABIN
Last year #24
What we said: “…wonderfully professional attitude that has spilled over into his in-ring work ability too…”

Ross Williams: After a stint of doing a heck of a lot of work for Team NWA in the America’s X Cup series, Sabin kept impressing by doing the same thing over and over but doing it so bloody well that you just can’t resist. Any match with him in is worth watching and, whilst his list of genuine achievements this year is marginal, his value in the ring has been reassuringly high. Whereas so many of his colleagues and competitors in the WWE haven’t added much to their repertoire and just traipse through the same thing over and over again, growing more stale by the month, it doesn’t seem to affect Sabin as much, such is the calibre of his showings – although, it must be noted, it’s about time he does step up and start mixing it up a tad now – as good as he might be, I’d like to see him start making some progress up the card over the next year so that when we rate him highly, we’ve got more to say than “oooh, he’s good in the ring, innit?”

NUMBER 29 – EUGENE
*New Entry*

Iain Burnside: It’s not that long ago that Eugene was the single most popular thing on Raw. For the first month or two after his debut the crowds just plain loved him, although this may have been due to his inadvertent mocking of Triple H. That particular storyline fizzled out rather disappointingly though, with WWE blowing a perfect opportunity to turn “Eugene the gimmick” into “Nick Dinsmore the incredibly hated heel and incredibly talented wrestler.” After that, the gimmick was only ever living on borrowed time. They delayed the backlash as long as they possibly could, with the added bonus of a genuine knee injury along the way. Eugene was paired with Regal for comedic value, he got to piss off Raw’s communal bitch Eric Bischoff so much that he lost his hair (literally), got to interact with Hulk Hogan a number on a number of occasions, got a Diva to act as his cheerleader and got a top feud against Kurt Angle… It still wasn’t enough though. The crowds are starting to turn on the tired gimmick and Dinsmore badly needs a character makeover if he is to have any longevity in WWE.

NUMBER 28 – RANDY ORTON
Last year #25
What we said: “Will he snag the big one at SummerSlam? Too much, too soon, I’d say – so it’s pretty likely to happen knowing Vince.”

Ross Williams: A marginal drop down the charts here for Captain Smug and I think it’s more of a testament to how poor the options are for us this year than testament to Orton showing improvement or a great deal of capability – after all, he has spent the majority of the time between WrestleMania and SummerSlam sitting on his arse and avoiding his steroids, if his weedy appearance on RAW back in the spring was anything to go by. Generally nondescript in the ring, he can have a decent match with a good opponent (Benoit) or a brilliant match with someone who can’t be arsed to sell anything he does and treats him like a toilet scrubber (The Undertaker) but, despite bagging the big one at SummerSlam 2004, he looked like a kid with a plastic belt rather than a genuine World Champion and Hunter taking the title back within four weeks didn’t help his credibility in the slightest. Originally set to win the main event at WM21, a huge audience backlash against Randy pushed the “Legend Killer” aside for the unlikely superstar, Batista. Bloody right, too – the crowd couldn’t give a shit about Randy as a face and I’m amazed that anyone ever thought that someone who seems to be this genuinely arrogant could appeal to the masses as a good guy. At least he’s now back in the position that he’s best used in, so let’s see what he can do with it.

NUMBER 27 – KANE
Last year #50
What we said: “Kane has yet to win on PPV this year, even against Matt Hardy, and he only scraped into the 50 this year due to some decent performances.”

Iain Burnside: The real-life drama between Lita, Hardy and Edge may have stolen all the headlines but it is the fictional life of Kane that has had the most convoluted drama in this past year. It’s been a parade of increasingly absurd events that have bypassed ‘crap’, sped past ‘lame’, burnt up ‘unwatchable’ and landed slap-bang in ‘guilty pleasure’ territory. We had the wedding to Lita (complete with Trish Stratus as the hottest bridesmaid ever), which was followed by the laughable abortion angle that introduced the most unlikely new superstar in years in one Gene Snitsky. Somewhere in the fall-out from this Kane turned face and genuinely fell in love with his bride, which led to a bizarre stalking incident with Trish and another unlikely opponent in the newly-horny Viscera. Then he wound up divorced from Lita, who had fictionally shacked up with Edge and made Kane cry live on Raw. The new couple tried for a wedding of their own, which Kane ruined. By now it was time for Operation Hardy to take centre stage, so Kane wound up arrested and confined to a mental institution after beating Edge in a Stretcher Match, giving Lita a Tombstone, beating up some cops and paramedics and trying to kidnap her in a stolen ambulance. One word can sum all this up – huh? Oh well, at least Glen Jacobs has played his part like an absolute star and is quite clearly having a blast with it all. Raw now has its very own Jason, and if his upcoming movie is any good then who knows what might happen?

NUMBER 26 – TRISH STRATUS
Last year #29
What we said: “Her in ring performance is as sturdy as ever but, for the first time in several years, isn’t on a par with what she’s doing when not wrestling.”

Ross Williams: For the second half of 2004, Trish was generally one of the highlights of RAW, something she carried into 2005 with her and it’s to her immense credit that she helped get Viscera over with the crowd, something that hasn’t happened in, well, ever! Wearing the Women’s gold for the entire year except for a minor blip where Lita managed to avoid injuring herself for a full four weeks, she retains the championship at present according to WWE.com despite not having defended the strap since WrestleMania, in my estimation. Still, who can say no to someone who can hoist Christy Hemme (in her debut match) to “adequate” standard, someone who can get the audience involved in a Kane vs. Viscera match and someone who looks so damn hot whilst doing it? Not me, that’s for sure. Seemingly destined to return to the WWE as a face, since every other Diva on RAW is a heel now, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to move her to Smackdown just to freshen things up – heck, outside of Melina and Michelle McCool, there’s nobody left for her to wrestle (who can wrestle, and McCool is iffy) who she hasn’t already, so just bring her back and let her help elevate some mid-carders. There’s no shame in her being a manager, you know – in fact, she might be just what Christian at this point and they *do* have a history and all.

NUMBER 25 – PAUL LONDON
Last year #46
What we said: “You can just picture the scene now…

VKM: Oooh, when did that Spanky fellow dye his hair black?
JR: That’s not Spanky, sir. That’s Paul London.
VKM: Nonsense! I’d recognise those pert little young buttocks anywhere!
JR: Spanky quit, sir.
VKM: Really? That’s a shame. I’d have given him a title for following company policy on Operation Protect Hunter’s Hair. What’s this young piece of booty called then?
JR: Paul London, sir. He teams with –
VKM: London, eh! I like London. I like jellied eels. Give him a title!
JR: Very good, sir.
VKM: Fuzzy bit of felt, championship belt!
JR: Err, are you feeling okay, sir?
VKM: Koko B. Ware, protect Hunter’s hair!
JR: I’ll get your medication, sir…”

Iain Burnside: As it turns out, Vince did discover who Paul London actually was. Sadly, he quickly told him to “Cut all that Jackie Chan bullshit out!!” and took away his 450 splash and Shooting Star Press with all the misguided love of a parent taking away his kid’s PS2 because of Hot Coffee. London’s natural reaction of “But Daaaaaaaaaad… All the cool kids are doing it…” thus gave rise to his new backstage nickname of Whiny Little Bitch. Now the fat lady is writing on the wall and it seems only a matter of time before London ‘does a Kazarian’ and bails, although the return to the company of former tag team partner Brian Kendrick might offer up a suitable alternative to keep him happy. Still, he’s had a pretty eventful year that included enjoyable feuds with Kidman and TAFKA Chavo, not to mention his cult-classic series with Akio on Velocity and developing a bizarre, Warrior-Lite entrance. Here’s hoping the kid stops pouting and dad lightens up.

NUMBER 24 – THE UNDERTAKER
*New Entry*

Ross Williams: A magnificent year for the man from the dark side, if only for his complete drubbing of Randy Orton not once, but twice. Seriously, his performances at ‘Mania and SummerSlam were of such utter contempt for No Mates that they became two of the guiltiest pleasures of all time. Aside from these wonderful pieces of work, ‘Taker rumbled in an acceptable series with Bradshaw to end last summer, had an expectedly poor feud with Heidenreich during the fall and then moved on to knocking Orton around for the best part of 2005, a pursuit that has brought me great happiness. Let’s give him a lollipop or something. It seems that he’s going to be fighting Orton for a little while longer, which actually isn’t as bad as you might think, especially if he no-sells his way through another bout, preferably a gimmick affair, but I’m thinking that 2006 could well be the year that he finally wins the Royal Rumble, if only because he’s surely got to wind down for another break soon, possibly finishing up, and he’d no doubt want to add the Rumble win to his list of achievements. I think it’s probably only fair. Also, a Batista vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania is the biggest and most intriguing match that WWE can offer right now – at least with their currently active full time roster.

NUMBER 23 – JOHN CENA
Last year #35
What we said: “Cena has little else but a bunch of dick and fart jokes. For someone being touted as the future of the company, this does not bode well.”

Iain Burnside: In one corner we have the Chain Gang aficionados, squealing hysterically for every Cena appearance, convinced that he is the most charismatic and skilled wrestler out there, that his rapping skills are beyond reproach, that his movie will be great fun, and that he will be a mainstream celebrity to rival The Rock. In the other corner we have the Chain Gang misanthropes, changing the channel each time he appears, laughing at and not with his promo and wrestling work, choosing Fozzy over Cena’s rapping, dreading the humiliation of another failed wrestling flick, and hoping like hell that this fad plays out sometime soon. Cena can certainly polarise opinion. The truth lies somewhere in-between, since he’s not as bad as some think or as good as WWE makes him out to be. He has a great chance to prove himself worthy of all the hype, but he is far from the finished article yet. For starters, his only memorable moments – barring a miraculously fun I Quit Match with JBL – stem from the efforts of Christian and Chris Jericho. Short of drastically improving his in-ring game or adding some fresh layers to his character, he won’t get that much-coveted longevity we are constantly told he already has. Cena’s time is not now, but it could well be coming soon.

NUMBER 22 – JEFF JARRETT
Last year #16
What we said: “When Jeff Jarrett dies, I really do believe that he’ll be entombed with the NWA Title firmly grasped in his steely rigor-mortis assisted clutch.”

Ross Williams: Can you believe that it’s been a third of a year since Jarrett held the NWA World Title? Before you get out the party hats, ticker tape and kazoos, stop to realise that he spent the preceding two thirds of the year with the belt firmly wrapped around his waist and you might start to get a little edgy. Angry? Go find a glass. Throw it against a wall. Feel better? No? Well, you’re a cretin for following the advice of an internet writer, aren’t you? Jarrett feels the same way, since he’s not going to be listening to the internet any time soon. Everyone out here seems to think that it’s about time he limited himself in TNA, that he realise that he’s not a major draw, he’s not a major star and the only reason he’s at the top is because he owns the freakin’ promotion, but you’ve got to give the guy some credit – he’s serviceable in the ring, knows what he can and can’t do, knows when to do it and generally keeps the top card situation of TNA pretty smooth, if generally predictable. Yep, the last few months have been a wonderful time where other people, particularly Raven, have been given a chance to run with the ball, so let’s hope his generosity continues and he finds something to quibble with someone about that isn’t the World Title. Oh yes, I’ve got to ask this – why does he *still* use the guitar as his weapon of choice? It makes no sense with his character now and hasn’t done since around 2000, so it’d be realty useful if he’d make an upgrade to something like a brick, plank of wood or a shotgun. The guitar is about as relevant to him as him smacking someone about with an Etch-a-sketch, although the latter clearly has more comedy value.

NUMBER 21 – ABYSS
Last year #30
What we said: “…more than any other employee of TNA, Abyss needs to stay with this lot as the big guy who can.”

Iain Burnside: Another year, another unbelievable dose of pain and suffering for the cut-price Kane. So it is written, so it shall come to pass. Speaking of which, the Dog Collar Match with Raven at No Surrender deserves special mention for being hands-down the most brutal match to grace PPV this year. Even more impressive was that wrestling’s reigning hardcore master was matched all the way by pretender-to-the-throne Abyss. Really, short of removing and eating his own body parts, there’s not a lot more that this guy can do to prove just how scarily tough he is. If he could find an attractive, female personification of pain then he would marry her and the pair could celebrate in their honeymoon bed-of-nails by taking turns to smack one another around with the axe of love. And the wedding gift registry would be handled exclusively by Mick’s Hardware Supplies, predominately featuring things with multiple blades and the ability to whirl them around at great speed. This is the sort of thing that Abyss does; only now he does it with an odd looking little man in his corner to mouth off at people for him in case opening his mouth to speak encourages Abyss to eat more sharp metallic objects than are strictly necessary. He is the perennial default title challenger that will not move up or down the card. He is just there, doing his thing, as painful as it may be – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

NUMBER 20 – MONTY BROWN
*New Entry*

Ross Williams: Come on, a big chunky black fellow with enough coffee in him to make D-Von say “Damn, that’s a lot of coffee” bounding around the ring like a maniac and running full tilt into other people? That has GOT to be one of the best reasons for watching TNA. The fact that, a mere 18 months ago, most people didn’t know who the heck he was and now he’s getting an almost universal thumbs up from the generally difficult IWC audience should tell you that this guy is something special. Enjoyable matches with the likes of DDP and Jeff Jarrett didn’t hurt any and his performance in the King of the Mountain match in June was tight as they come. The big crimper was that he turned heel in March and has been playing the heel since then, which really hampered his development, especially since the fans love to cheer for this guy. Nonsensical alliance with Jeff Jarrett aside, it’s been a great year for Brown and I sincerely hope that TNA catches on to the fact that they’ve got a hugely bankable commodity here and should do something major with him forthwith, before Vince sinks his teeth into those firm, chocolatey buttocks. Oh come on, you know he would.

NUMBER 19 – EDGE
*New Entry*

Iain Burnside: To quote the late, great Sam Beckett – “Oh, boy.” We’re not meant to take much notice of what has been happening backstage in compiling the 50, but the ridiculous tabloid fodder that Edge has been involved with for most of 2005 is hard to ignore since it has directly impacted his standing on Raw. For years, Edge has been the chosen one that has never actually been chosen by anyone and it is rapidly becoming apparent that it may never happen at all. He had yet another Intercontinental Title reign that ended prematurely thanks to yet another injury with nobody paying much attention. His heel turn and lengthy feud with Shawn Michaels did little to convince that he was ready to take the next step and claim the World Title, even after winning the Money In The Bank Match. He then took a real-life heel turn by shacking up with Lita, which was followed by a repetitive on-screen feud with Kane and an off-screen feud with Matt Hardy that is currently also being beaten into the ground. He is also less credible as a potential World Champion than he has been at any point since before his neck surgery in 2002. At least then he could hang with the likes of Hogan and Angle with the due fan reaction that someone in such a prominent position would expect. Now, in 2005, he still has the same old look and wrestles the same old ‘perfectly acceptable’ style but he’s hanging with Snitsky and Hardy instead. All in all, Edge has had a rather disappointing year – not in terms of what he has accomplished, but in terms of what he could have accomplished.

NUMBER 18 – SHELTON BENJAMIN
Last year #17
What we said: “Benjamin’s cocky demeanour and – at times – just plain smarmy mannerisms indicate that he could make a great heel, and his return could be the perfect chance to make the switch.”

Ross Williams: I don’t think much of Benjamin, but Iain does, so I’m going to try and be objective here. Shelton has no personality, of that, I’m sure. Actually, outside the ring, he seems to be a really nice bloke, if the interviews I’ve read are anything to go by, but when it’s time for him to play the “Shelton Benjamin Wrestling Character” you can wipe the slate clean enough that it’s more virginal than the majority of people wearing Chain Gang T-shirts. When it comes to the in-ring shenanigans, he’s got a little more to him. I’m not on the bandwagon, I’m afraid, of “what an athlete”, I think the guy is pretty spry and he’s pretty smooth but he doesn’t really know when to do stuff and his transition work leaves a lot to be desired. He does, admittedly, do some very nice spots, as the ladder match at Mania clearly demonstrated – that run up the ladder was a joy to behold and the T bone off the steps was only improved by the fact that it nearly broke Edge’s face. Ultimately, the lad did hold the IC belt for a ridiculously long time (although he didn’t defend it more than eight times) and had some bona fide belters along the way (the match with Michaels springs to mind) but I can’t help but wonder why management decided to keep this dude if they were going to fire Charlie Haas. They’re at the very least equally talented and equally bland. The tag team scene is feeble at present and Shelton hasn’t really exploded into the singles ranks in quite the way some were predicting (although some questionable booking against Snitsky and Chris Masters hasn’t helped) so perhaps dragging Haas back in and hooking up a very entertaining tag team would be the best thing for all concerned?

NUMBER 17 – PETEY WILLIAMS
*New Entry*

Iain Burnside: Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first – the Canadian Destroyer is insane. Hell, the people that design wrestling video games would probably dismiss it out of hand as being too ‘unbelievable’, yet there it is, courtesy of Team Canada’s MVP. It’s sad to think that WWE is currently trying so hard to get a full nelson over as a deadly finisher when there are moves like this out there. Some peculiarly harsh critics claim that if he didn’t have that finisher, Williams would be nothing more than a bland, faceless addition to the X Division. Anybody who truly believes that probably also believes that what the world needs now is another Police Academy movie. Williams has gone up against some of the greatest wrestlers in the world today and more than held his own against them, particularly during his six-month X Title reign. The man has tremendous ring presence and more charisma than his Canadian team-mates seem capable of mustering. Granted, it’s not a great deal of charisma, but Williams has got several years ahead of him to work on that. For now, Williams should be proud of all that he has done to raise the profile of the X Division and TNA and, hell, Canada itself over the past year. Let’s all celebrate by eating maple things.

NUMBER 16 – BOOKER T
*New Entry*

Ross Williams: A quite shocking return to form for “The Book”, a form that many – myself included – forgot he could attain. After he stumbled through a clumsy and misguided series with John Cena back in the fall of 2004, the Booker T who held the WCW title five times was nowhere to be found. The same can be said of the chap who popped up in his yearly slot as the quasi-serious World Title contender in a program with JBL towards the end of last year. Let’s be honest – did anyone seriously think he might actually unseat Bradshaw? No? Didn’t think so. A win in the unexpectedly interesting pre-WM battle royal seemed to lift his spirits and then, of all things, a feud with Kurt Angle over whether or not Kurt got to teabag Booker’s wife set a fire underneath Huffman and we were cooking again. Of course, we just put this down to some good performances by Angle but there was a lot more to it than that. Truth be told, Angle was probably a bit off from his past form and Booker did more than his share of hard work in getting this program across. On top of this, he actually won the program, which few – myself included again – could believe he would. Booker T? Beating a credible main eventer? Surely not! He was then bumped back to the mid-card and tangled with Christian, producing some fine action and has since been pottering around doing this and that with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm that is quite frankly refreshing to watch. Whilst it’s generally not a good idea to bring your wife to ringside, having Sharmell around really seems to have got Booker back on track and if this is what we can expect from him, I say let the woman stay (and let Kurt teabag her).

NUMBER 15 – RAVEN
Last year #12
What we said: “…one of an increasingly rare breed of wrestlers who are prepared to put character development over quarter-hour ratings, ring psychology over endless tilting, whirling, spinning things, and good ol’ fashioned fights over chiseled abdominals.”

Iain Burnside: Well, it’s taken him about seven years but Raven has at long last managed to capture a major wrestling title, fulfilling his self-proclaimed destiny with the NWA World Heavyweight Title. The fact that he has therefore actually dropped three places in the rankings says more about the performances of others than it does about his own, although he did lose a hell of a lot of PPV matches before winning the title – even jobbing to Jeff friggin’ Hardy at Lockdown. It’s all good though, because as his TNA profile states, “Much like Jim Morrison’s personality transcended music, Raven’s career has transcended wrestling.” He is now in a comparable position to where the likes of The Undertaker and Ric Flair are on Smackdown and Raw respectively. Neither of those two needs a title to prove that they are worthy of accolades or to show what they can do. No, the crowds already know what they want to see from such people and they are still capable of giving them it. Raven does of course have the advantage of still being able to surpass expectations, bringing his brutally beautiful game to the ring and taking it just one step further than anyone else could do. Hell, most other people probably wouldn’t be able to see the possibility. Thankfully, with his savant-like ability to turn wrestling into an art form, Raven still can. Let’s hope the rest of TNA pays attention and learns a thing or two.

NUMBER 14 – CHRIS JERICHO
Last year #3
What we said: “Jericho has more or less been left to his own devices by management and this is precisely the sort of condition under which he thrives.”

Ross Williams: A rather substantial drop in the chart for Y2J, unquestionably due to a year mainly spent lathering, rinsing and repeating. Sure, the standard of his performances has always been at least presentable and there have been no calamities of 2001 Flubahol level but he’s been lacking a lot of the fire requisite in an upper mid-card guy. Probably not that surprising given that he must know he’s never going to get a run at the top of the card again, but he’s generally kicked around with blokes like Shelton Benjamin, Christian and Edge, won the IC belt for approximately 2 days or something like that and done a decent job making Shelton look good back towards the end of last year. He would have been a bit lower on this list if it were not for his absolutely superb job of carrying John Cena to a moderately interesting program recently – indeed, given Cena’s elephantine limitations, Jericho put forth an outstanding effort to not only get some interest and momentum going before their SummerSlam match but also managed to carry JC to the best match he’s had in years, possibly ever. True, he got himself over so well during this period that he got the majority of the crowd turning on Cena during the match, but I thought it was piss funny so I’m not going to hold it against him at all.

NUMBER 13 – SAMOA JOE
Last year #27
What we said: “It’s unlikely he’ll get anywhere at any point in the big pond of the WWE, nor even likely to benefit from a TNA run, but if he continues on the current path, a spot as the most marketable truly independent star in the US is very much on the cards.”

Iain Burnside: Samoa Joe. He’s big. He’s tough. He’s silent. He’s generally in a bit of a mood. He’s deadly. He’s more likely to rip your arm out of its socket, tear off the hand with his bare teeth and bitch-slap you with it than he is to shake your hand if you offer it to him. He’s probably going to do the same thing to your mother too, just on principle, only the hand might wind up slapping something else instead. He’s spent the year getting over the loss of his ROH Championship by continuing to inflict serious levels of pain on people in highly entertaining ways. He’s carried this wrath of rampage into TNA to breathe fresh air into the X Division. He’s cool. He’s Joe. The sad thing is that if he somehow wound up in WWE he would most likely be repackaged as Joey Phatu, the long-lost cousin of Rikishi, dancing his way into tag team obscurity alongside Scotty 2 Hotty by shoving his arse in people’s faces. Stay where you are, Joe, for your own good.

NUMBER 12 – REY MYSTERIO
Last year #6
What we said: “You’ve got the best known and love cruiserweight in the world on your roster, he’s proved himself to be reliable, hard-working and is accepted as a genuine star by your fans, so what do you do with him? You’re not sure? Congratulations, you must be a WWE writer!”

Ross Williams: I find myself looking back to last summer and wondering what the little scamp was up to back then. To be honest, I actually can’t remember him wrestling anyone other than Eddie Guerrero which isn’t all that surprising given the ball crushing longevity of their program, something that harks back to the days of old and was fine when you had nothing to occupy you between WrestleMania and SummerSlam but a lot harder to keep ticking over when you have 2 hours of exposure per week and a couple of pay per views between April and August to boot. Let’s try harder… hmmmm… hmmmm… No, not that hard, I nearly disgraced myself there. Ah yes, Rey was tagging with London and Kidman to fight the Dudleys. Well, Eddie is a big step up from that, so good job, I say. Bottom line, Rey’s done his usual collection of jumping, spinning and twirling and has done it with as much enthusiasm as ever. He’s also had a stab at doing some emoting, given the nature of the “Who’s your Daddy?” angle with Eddie. The results have been mixed but nonetheless worth copping a snook at. Still, why the drop from last year? I suspect it’s got something to do with feeling that, despite being quite good fun, he really could be doing a lot more with himself, stuff to make him stand out as really top 5 material and the fact that only one of his many scuffles with Eddie stood up to the standard you’d expect out of such a pair of athletes probably dampened things a smidge. Oh, and that stupid mask at WrestleMania that kept making a bid for freedom and totally ruined the pace of the opener.

NUMBER 11 – C.M. PUNK
Last year #36
What we said: “Let’s just be grateful that this is one young man who seems to be in no real danger of surrendering himself to the many demons surrounding this crazy business…”

Iain Burnside: If pessimism is the new realism then this may well have been the year that C.M. Punk’s enigmatic career finally stops moving onwards and upwards. Having just signed a developmental deal with WWE, which in and of itself is definitely a rewarding thing for any wrestler to achieve (and, in this case at least, thoroughly deserved), given the promotion’s track record with unique independent grapplers it is highly unlikely that they will utilise him properly. Certainly, getting a scheduled appearance on Heat pulled for not being ‘spectacular’ enough doesn’t bode well. Only time will tell what Punk’s WWE future holds for him, but it cannot diminish his excellent past, which has reached new heights of brilliance in the past twelve months. Capturing the ROH Heavyweight Title was a fitting epitaph to his marvellous time with the group, which included some genuine Match of the Year Contenders up against Samoa Joe and the captivating Ricky Steamboat/Generation Next storyline. Anybody with the history of athletic prowess and emotional pull that Punk has shown in the wrestling ring emphatically deserves more success and recognition in the future. Let’s just hope he gets the chance to achieve it.

…and then there were ten. Stay tuned for the grand finale of the Top 50, coming soon!

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