The 31st annual PWI 500 - Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s (mostly) kayfabe ranking of the 500 best wrestlers in the world - is here.
For the second year in a row, an AEW talent tops the list. Jon Moxley’s successor is also making his second appearance at number one; shortly after taking the IWGP Heavyweight title from Kazuchika Okada in a two-out-of-three falls match Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer gave seven stars, Kenny Omega was first on the 2018 PWI 500.
As just announced by @AlCastlePWI on @BustedOpenRadio: Congrats to @KennyOmegamanX, who ranks #1 in the 2021 #PWI500—his second time topping the list.— PWI (Pro Wrestling Illustrated) (@OfficialPWI) September 8, 2021
Preorder your copy of our 31st annual "500" issue at https://t.co/EuUXs75XJB pic.twitter.com/pJ5JhImsvn
According to the magazine, each PWI 500 covers the period from July 1 of the previous year to June 30 of the current one. Selectors weigh win-loss record, technical ability, influence on the sport, success against the highest grade of competition, success against the most diverse competition, and activity. I call it “(mostly) kayfabe” because “influence on the sport” gives them some room to consider non-work elements of a person’s career... and because I personally believe some thought is understandably given to their own shoot business, e.g. what will sell magazines. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.
Because even more than honoring some talented folks who’ve had amazing runs over the past 12 or so months, the point of the PWI 500 is to give fans something to debate. And giving Omega the nod over Roman Reigns - who’s held the WWE Universal title for almost the entire span this ranking covers while creating one of the best characters in recent wrestling history and being at the center of a compelling, layered story on SmackDown every Friday where he’s defeated numerous former champions & legends - is certainly going to lead to a few arguments.
Omega’s resume over that timeframe nothing to sneeze at. He held the AEW Tag Team & World, Impact World & AAA Mega championships from summer 2020 to summer 2021.
Here’s the rest of this year’s top ten:
1. Kenny Omega
2. Roman Reigns
3. Bobby Lashley
4. Drew McIntyre
5. Kota Ibushi
6. Jon Moxley
7. Will Ospreay
8. Finn Balor
9. Shingo Takagi
10. Rich Swann
It’s a fun debate, so let it begin!
You can purchase a digital or print copy of the December issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated dedicated to the 31st PWI 500 here.