The 2014 CRL 100 – Part 2 (50 – 26)

Oh, hey there! Welcome back! Did you enjoy your last stay at the Casa De CRL? Were the wrestlers to your liking? What did you think of the stunning vistas of badassness? Well whatever brought you back here for a second taste of our yearly countdown of the best and brightest that the world of wrestling has to offer, we thank you for coming. After all, this is the part where it really starts to get good. With the first 50 behind us, we now turn our attention to the people who are really deserving of the spotlight for what they accomplished in 2014. Some came out of nowhere to thrill us with performances we never imagined we would see from them, some basically just did what they always do, but everyone in this section of the countdown is stuck in that limbo between the really good, and the truly great. But even if these guys and gals didn’t manage to crack the top 25 this year, remember these names. Every single one of them has the push, talent and potential to make it all the way to the top.

Unless they work for TNA.

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.

50. (N/A) Luke Harper and Erick Rowan (WWE)
(WWE Tag Team Championships)

Cewsh: Bray Wyatt will always get the majority of the credit for being the engine that drove the Wyatt Family, but in 2014, Wyatt and Rowan made a name for themselves and managed to emerge from his shadow. They made a great team, but towards the end of the year they split off into singles and really showed where their real potential was, as both have rapidly ascended the card on their own. It’s just a shame that they spent some of the year in limbo as a team, so their assault on the top 25 will have to wait until 2015.

49. (N/A) Tyson Kidd (WWE)

Psycho: Do you believe in miracles? While the man in question probably does not, the transformation of Tyson Kidd definitely convinces me. In 2012, Kidd got his moment to shine in the sun as he was a part of the Smackdown Money in the Bank ladder match. While it was an excellent showing, he faded into obscurity afterward with an injury, and it was long believed he would never become an integral part of the WWE product. Fast forward to the end of 2014, and after a workshop stint in NXT, Tyson Kidd finally found his niche. His character is on point, his crowd reaction is bigger than ever before, and as we already knew, his wrestling skills are far above the rest. NXT lit a fire under Kidd’s ass that molded him into one of the greatest performers currently in WWE, and I would not be surprised to see him higher on the list next year.

48. (#3) KENTA/Hideo Itami (NXT)
(GHC Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: KENTA is one of 3 people on this list, (the other two are further up the list,) who missed nearly half of the year and yet still made it into the top 50. For KENTA, that was due to his life altering decision to leave the comfort of Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he was their last and only hope, to chase his dreams to the United States. Since debuting in NXT he has stirred up an incredible amount of hype and discussion, and he is one of the premiere talents in all of wrestling. This may well be the lowest ranking he will ever have on the CRL 100.

47. (#29) Yuji Nagata (NJPW)
(GHC Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: When KENTA left NOAH, it left a huge hole that NOAH was in no position to fill. Things looked desperate, until in stepped the ageless wonder. At the ripe old age of 46, Yuji Nagata grabbed the GHC title and put it back on the map with a series of matches that restored hope to a fading NOAH. Which is good, because Nagata’s work in New Japan over the past year has been a letdown for him, especially a lengthy storyline with the Gracie family that saw Nagata gamely trying to teach MMA fighters how to be professional wrestlers live in the ring, a task that men half his age couldn’t do as well as he did. As he gets closer to 50, it’s entirely possible that Nagata might scale back and slow down in the year to come. Just don’t put money on it.

46. (N/A) Tyler Breeze (NXT)
Artie: Ah, prince pretty. A year ago, this guy was all gimmick, but 2014 has been his year to shine in NXT. After having some great matches with Zayn, Neville, and that 4-way at Takeover 2, Breeze’s stock has gone up considerably in the WWE developmental system. With NXT churning out so much talent right now, Breeze is one of those guys with both character and a solid catalog of ringwork that has earned him a spot in our top 50 performers for the year.

45. (#42) Alex Shelley (NJPW)
(Smash Wrestling Championship)
(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships w/ KUSHIDA)

Cewsh: Normally, when a team is as fantastic and high profile as the Timesplitters have been over the past year, I would group them together. But KUSHIDA did so much on his own this year that I had to regard him seperately, which leaves his partner a little ways back here. But that is by no means an insult to Shelley, as the Timesplitters have resurrected his career and all year long, they had unbelievable matches with a rotating cast of tag teams, from reDragon to the Young Bucks and on and on. With the resume he’s built with KUSHIDA on top of his work with Chris Sabin in the Motor City Machine Guns, Shelley has a solid claim to the title of “Best Tag Team Wrestler of His Generation.”

44. (#27) Kana (Freelance)
(REINA World Tag Team Championships w/ Arisa Nakajima)

Cewsh: The modern day queen of Joshi had a quiet year by her standard. Only one championship, and more losses than usual as she played her part in attempting to jump start a new generation of Joshi stars. But make no mistake, she is still the premier name in a burgeoning Joshi world which is producing some out of this world matches as it continues to knock of the door of the Japanese mainstream for attention.  And when she makes her trips to Shimmer twice a year, she is an attraction like no other.

43. (N/A) Mia Yim (Shimmer)
(Shine Championship)
(Shine Tag Team Championships w/ Leva Bates)
(NWA FUW Women’s Championship)

Cewsh: For years, we were harsh on Mia Yim for everything from being seemingly dangerous in the ring, to trying too hard to ape the styles of people like Low Ki. Despite enormous hype and goodwill from the indy community, Yim had never managed to make her performances match her expectations. Then she went to Japan. Upon coming back, what we saw was a very different Mia Yim, with a personality and style all her own, and equipped to tear the house down every night. All of that finally built to 2014, where she exploded onto the scene, stealing every single Shimmer volume she appeared on and capturing the Shine Championship with stunning performances against a wide variety of styles. Yim may well have the most pure potential of any young woman working in wrestling today. If she keeps living up to it, she simply has no limits.

42. (#20) SUWAMA (AJPW)
(AJPW Triple Crown Championship)
(AJPW World Tag Team Championships w/ Joe Doering)
(Tenryu Prject Six Man tag Team Championships w/ Arashi and Tomohiro Ishii)

Cewsh: For another year, SUWAMA WAS AJPW. As the company continues to splinter and fall apart around him thanks to the bizarre whims of it’s owner, SUWAMA has remained the one thing that fans and peers alike could depend on. He won’t ever be a top level wrestler, and he won’t ever be a top level draw. But his loyalty to All Japan, despite obvious opportunities elsewhere, is admirable, and his ability to pull interesting matches out of people like Akebono and Joe Doering is damn near miraculous. He did take a step back this year, as All Japan desperately sought a new main event star to take some of the pressure off of their workhorse. But that’s more a case of people moving past him than any deficiency on his part.

41. (#33) Sheamus (WWE)
(WWE United States Championship)
Artie: While his US Title reign seemed never-ending and almost pointless, Sheamus churned out quite a few good defenses. His Win-loss record was impressive, even in kayfabe. Whether facing Del Rio, Wyatt, or doing epic battle with Cesaro, Sheamus produced some damn fine matches. Despite a lack of storyline this year, no one can argue that Sheamus wasn’t one of WWE’s top performing in-ring competitors this year.

40. (#28) Bray Wyatt (WWE)

Psycho: Bray has not had the greatest year. He debuted rather strong last year and held a lot of promise, but a murky feud with John Cena, a considerable string of losses and a lack of evolution for his character held this man back from where he could have been on the list. Even so, he’s racked up victories over Cena, Jericho and Daniel Bryan, the latter of which he had one of the top matches of the year with. He was a highlight of WrestleMania, a driving force of the product during the summer, and was part of an excellent program with The Shield. Put all this together with the fact that he’s had an excellent run with Dean Ambrose, and he [i]still[/i] manages to rank above the 60 wrestlers before him

39. (N/A) reDragon (ROH)
(ROH Tag Team Championships)
(IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championships)
Artie: Man, talk about 2 guys who changed my opinion so drastically for one year to the next. I had written these guys off stereotypical ROH indie lame-os who throw too many kicks and kick out of too many false finishes. More than anything, I think that reDRagon were just stifled from the available talent in ROH. This past year, they’ve delivered some great matches with Bad Influence, The Young Bucks, and The Timesplitters that could easily be considered MOTYC in the tag team division. Hopefully these two continue working with tag teams that elevate their skills and status and 2015 is an even better year than the excellent 2014 they had.

38. (#75) Nicole Matthews (Shimmer)
(Shimmer Championship)
(ECCW Women’s Championship)

Cewsh: Nicole Matthews has been full of talent and potential for years, both in singles and as part of the preeminent women’s tag team in the world, the Canadian Ninjas. But she took a gigantic jump forward this year, first with a fantastic feud with CRL mainstay Madison Eagles, and then by shockingly capturing the Shimmer Championship with the help of a gods damned fireball. Now she holds the title which makes you pretty undisputedly the top female talent on the independent scene. Can it be long before a certain talent hungry corporation comes calling?

37. (N/A) Global Green Gangstas (Shimmer)
(Shimmer Tag Team Championships)

Cewsh: The team of Tomoaka Nakagawa and Kelly Skater has defied convention from the beginning. From the combining of the world cheatingest Joshi and the world’s frzziest Australian to their unexpected face turn as fans latched on to their act, 3G has gone from midcard novelty to one of the top draws in Shimmer seemingly overnight. Over the past year they’ve turned away challenges from amazing teams like Cheerleader Melissa and Mercedes Martinez, Mayumi Ozaki and Saraya Knight, and the Canadian Ninjas, and began stealing main events away from the Shimmer Champion, which is nearly unprecedented for Shimmer. Sadly, this is the last year for 3G as Nakagawa retired from wrestling in early December, but they’ve ensured that 3G won’t ever be forgotten in the Berwyn Eagles Club.

36. (#54) Austin Aries (TNA)
(TNA X Division Championship)

Cewsh: It’s hard to believe that anybody in TNA could actually be moving UP the rankings with the year that company has had, but Aries used what is likely his final year in TNA to his advantage, having his best matches since his unlikely title run a few years previous. Aries is one of the few people on this list for absolutely nothing but his own personal performances in matches, as he’s been given nothing to work with. But here he is all the same.

35. Magnus (TNA)
(TNA World Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Out of nowhere this year, TNA stumbled onto a World Champion who suddenly showed skills, charisma and presence that he had never exhibited before, who delivered a string of titles defenses that actually inspired confidence in fans, before TNA ripped the rug out from under him unceremoniously when a whim took them in a different direction. This year’s version of that sad story is Magnus, who had long had doubters who saw him as nothing but an American Gladiators guy and shut all of them up with his stellar performance as the sellout king of TNA before being forced to dump the belt to Eric Young, and then try to get Bram over as something important. It’s a tough gig, but he made it look good.

34. (#79) Minoru Suzuki (NJPW)

Psycho: It’s been a strange year for the violent Suzukigun leader. The first half of it was spent toiling away in a feud with Toru Yano that should have ended in January, if not before the end of 2013. On top of that, a lot of his earlier work was nowhere near his best in-ring work. Despite having a solid tag match with Muta, it seemed Suzuki was floating in limbo until he convinced Iizuka to turn on his former partner Yano and join Suzukigun. The feud with Yano still meandered, but in the meantime, Suzuki was doing some solid character work and getting back in his wrestling groove, racking up a lot of wins along the way. His showing in the G1 Climax was strong, but it was the almost legendary match with AJ Styles that really made this such a successful year for Suzuki, as that match shocked the world on how amazing it turned out to be. Regular exposure and one of the Top 5 matches of the year settles Minoru right inside the Top 40.

33. (#16) AJ Lee (WWE)
(WWE Divas Championship)
Artie: “Let’s light it up” her song says and light it up she did. The true star of the women’s division in 2014, AJ Lee became the standard bearer of what it takes to be Divas champion. Ending her first reign and adding 2 more to her list of accomplishments, AJ racked up a long list of victories, while holding the divas division together. While other divas have also held the title this year, AJ is the one who gave the title meaning. If 2014 is her final year in wrestling, a fine year it was.

32. (#18) Johnny Gargano (DG:USA)
(DGUSA Open The Freedom Gate Championship)
(PRIME Championship)

Cewsh: As far as i’m concerned, this is the premier indy singles talent. I’m at a loss as to why he seemed to be in less places than ever this year. Seriously, people. I can’t rank him higher if all he does is wrestle Ricochet 800 times.

31. (#17) Tetsuya Naito (NJPW)
(NJPW NEVER Openweight Championship)
Artie: What an odd year for Tetsuya Naito. After winning the 2013 G1, he failed to gain the support of the crowd and got bumped down on the Wrestle Kingdom card. After that, he lost his NEVER Openweight title. While it looked bad for Nato, it was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. With the pressure of being a main event player gone, Naito went on to deliver some much more intense matches and sort of found his own style. As the year winds down, we have a much more confident Naito heading to Wrestle Kingdom to face off against AJ Styles in what should be a damn good match. With this confidence and comfort in the ring, 2015 could be everything that New Japan was expecting out of Naito in 2013.

30. (#68) Kevin Steen (ROH)
(2CW Tag Team Championships w/ Jason Axe)

Cewsh: It may seem baffling that a guy could lose two world titles and somehow jump 30 spots on the countdown, but Kevin Steen’s goodbye tour of the independant scene before he graduated to WWE was some of the best work he has ever done. Where before he spun his wheels in ROH’s nonexistant main event scene, this year freed Steen up to wrestle for fun, and the results were fantastic. From becoming the third Young Buck to giving Silas Young the rub of his life, Steen was on fire all year, and looks to carry that into NXT in 2015.

29. (N/A) Daisuke Sekimoto (AJPW)
(BJW Strong World Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: Really, the fact that we’ve left Sekimoto off of the list all this time hinges on criminal. For years he has been the top talent on the Japanese independent scene, and he continued that into this year by laying waste to everything in front of him. Built like some kind of Japanese bull god and with a lariat that brings a tear to Stan Hansen’s eye, Sekimoto is the great mystery of Japanese wrestling, as he remains the most significant free agent available to the major companies. One signature could put him into position to be one of the biggest power players in wrestling. Will it ever happen at this point?

28. (#56) Kota Ibushi (NJPW)
(IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship)
(DDT KO-D Tag Team Championships w/ Kenny Omega)
(DDT KO-D Six Man Tam Team Championships w/ Kenny Omega and Daisuke Sasaki)
Artie: What a year for advancement for Kota Ibushi. Increasing his weight to bring himself closer to the heavyweight division, Ibushi powered through the Junior Heavyweight division this year, winning both the IWGP Jr Heavyweight championship and defeating the winner of the BOSJ to retain his title. Moving up to the heavyweight division, Ibushi challenged for the NEVER title and in 2015 has his sights set on the IWGP Intercontinental championship. I have a lot of faith in Ibushi succeeding in adapting to the heavyweight division and being very successful.

27. (#35) Roman Reigns (WWE)

Cewsh: For all the talk of Reigns being a lackluster performer, he certainly doesn’t have a resume that reflects it. Of course, that may be because this was the final year that the Shield was intact, and the unbelievable matches they had all through the first half of 2014 gave each member a substantial push to the top of these rankings. Since the breakup, Reigns is the one who has struggld the most to find his identity as a singles performer, and an injury stole much of the last part of the year from him. But the man is young, exciting, and WWE thinks it may have a new top star on it’s hands. He will rise.

26. (#41) Bobby Roode (TNA)
(TNA World Heavyweight Championship)

Cewsh: Poor Bobby Roode. It must really suck to be one of the best wrestlers in the world and still be stuck spending your prime years wrestling guys like Brom and Abyss for a failing company. But if there’s anyone who the stink of TNA can’t touch no matter what they do to him, it’s Roode, who has put together a sterling resume despite rotten competition and no real motivation or reward for doing so. All we can do is hope that he gets rewarded somewhere down the line with a cushy job for a much better company. I wish I could believe it will come in time to take advantage of his tremendous talents.


That’ll do it for us this time, boys and girls. Remember that if want any match recommendations for any of these wrestlers, let us know in the comments, and feel free to take to Facebook or Twitter to voice your agreement or displeasure with our rankings. Stay tuned, because on Friday we unveil the last piece of the CRL puzzle and crown a brand new, first time ever, #1. Until then, remember to keep reading and be good to one another.

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