An inveterate list-maker myself, it's no surprise that I'm drawn every summer to Pro Wrestling Illustrated's annual "PWI 500," in which the magazine ranks the 500 best wrestlers worldwide based on win-loss record, technical ability, influence on the sport, success against the highest grade of competition, success against the most diverse competition, and activity, meaning number of bookings (this appears to work mainly negatively, eliminating, for obvious reasons, wrestlers who had not been booked in the previous 12 months). This year the top spot went, deservedly, I think, to CM Punk, with Bobby Roode, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Jun Akiyama, Davey Richards, Kurt Angle, Mark Henry, and Alberto Del Rio filling out the Top 10 spots.
Whereas my lists on Ringside at Skull Island reflect my individual tastes and kinks and limited access to wrestling events, PWI's list is the product of a committee, ensuring a certain degree of objectivity, while favoring major promotions and reflecting the common denominator of a number of different sportswriters specializing in pro wrestling. There's also a generally fair representation of varying promotions, body types, ethnicities, and wrestling styles. The wrestlers I'm mainly interested in usually appear in the bottom half of PWI's list, working independently or on the rosters of small promotions, with less television exposure and often with shorter histories in the ring, thus seen by fewer writers. For example, Seth Rollins (aka Tyler Black) ranked at number 46 (a coupe for the rising NXT star), Adam Cole at 75, El Generico at 82, Caprice Coleman at 159, Kota Ibushi at 183, Ricochet at 226, Jigsaw at 277, Pepper Parks at 299, Josh Daniels at 339, Drew Gulak at 345, Timothy Thatcher at 393, Steven Walters at 424, and Dave Dutra at 472.
The Fight! 6 show in Toronto last month featured a match between two wrestlers of interest to me: Psycho Mike Rollins (ranked 415 in 2012's "PWI 500") and RJ City (ranked higher up at 368). I haven't seen the match, but Tabercil's photos convey a sense of the fight's flavor. RJ approaches Mike with contempt, exuding his slick brand of arrogance. Mike responds with batshit crazy energy and wins the night. PWI called City a "triple threat," as a wrestler, actor, and would-be singer--he has held the Great Canadian Wrestling National Championship longer than anyone in the title's history and stars in a Canadian revamp of American Gladiators aimed at the Nickelodeon set and taking advantage of the current popularity of all things medieval and wizard-y. PWI compares Rollins to Goldberg, noting his "intensity and high-octane approach." Both wrestlers are big men, topping six feet and 200 pounds, in other words two big bodies that pack a lot of juicy bump.
An angle I like more than I care to admit (being a college English instructor and a purveyor of classical reasoning and high culture) is the victory of the wild over the effete. For me one of the more potent draws of pro wrestling narrative is the sweaty and unscrubbed babyface who dismantles a posh and affected heel who has entered the ring reeking of Dior Homme. Honestly I can't tell whether this reveals my self-loathing as a homosexual, preferring butch crassness over high metrosexual style, or finely hewn class consciousness, having been raised in trailer parks and on military bases (my friend Elizabeth tells me this is a redundancy--its being quite enough to say I grew up in government housing to establish my credentials as poor white trash). At any rate, the scenario casts a spell on me. I always want the low-rent upstart to rip the fancy sophisticate a new asshole, which is pretty much what happens here in City-vs-Rollins. And naturally it doesn't hurt that both men are strong, beefy, and very hot.