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People Power (6/5/15): The Greatest Wrestlers Outside the WWE Today



It's a warm and fuzzy time to be an indie fan. We're basking in the afterglow of a new era of pro wrestling, where being called an "indie darling" is no longer an insult, and standing 6'6" with a physique that looks like a bad Rob Liefeld daydream is no longer a prerequisite for stardom.

Seriously, how would you have felt five years ago if we'd told you that in 2015, you'd be seeing the following in the WWE:

  • Kevin Steen brutally dismantling John Cena
  • Tyler Black ruling the world
  • PAC and Jon Moxley tearing it up in the ring
  • Bryan Danielson as a 4-time World Champion
  • El Generico, Prince Devitt, and KENTA waiting in the wings
  • Samoa Joe topping the WWE Shop t-shirt sales chart 

It seems that the next generation of WWE Superstars we'll be watching over the next decade cut their teeth either on the indie or international scene. Last week, we asked you, our Smark Henry readers, who you thought the greatest wrestlers outside the WWE today were. They just might be part of the future too.

So without further ado, here's how the voting turned out.



*****

#5 (tie—26%)
We have two completely different molds of talent checking in at the number 5 spot.


Who Is He?
On the one hand, you have the British beanpole Zack Sabre Jr., who looks like the only fights he could win are in Clash of Clans, but is perhaps the premier technical wrestler in the world today. If all you knew of him was his 2008 Match of the Year candidate against "The American Dragon" (and future WWE Grand Slam champion) Bryan Danielson, you could die happy—the man is a legit scientist.

ZSJ embodies pure technical wrestling, with very, very little of the showman style that's more popular all over the world today. He brings with him a mind-boggling arsenal of holds, pins, and legitimate submission maneuvers that would make Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, and William Regal, as well as fans of straight-up technical, catch-as-catch-can wrestling cry tears of joy.

The Fantasy WWE Match We'd Love To See
We'd love to see him trading floatovers and cross-armbreakers in a rematch with a (hopefully-healthy) Daniel Bryan, showing the world that in an industry dominated by beasts and behemoths, you can succeed on pure skill and science.



Who Is He?
On the other, you have the high-flying Ricochet—perhaps better known to slightly more casual wrestling audiences as Lucha Underground champion, Prince Puma—who sometimes makes us think that while Neville may be The Man That Gravity Forgot, he's probably The Man That Gravity Never Knew.

Ten years ago, 2 Cold Scorpio made the 450 splash famous; today, we're treated to regular 630s and double rotation moonsaults off of ladders, courtesy of "The Future of Flight." In 2014, he became the youngest competitor to ever win the prestigious NJPW Best of the Super Juniors tournament, and has impressed us in legendary battles against warriors like Kyle O'Reilly and Kota Ibushi.

The Fantasy WWE Match We'd Love To See
Personally, we think it would be amazing to see him matched up against the newly-promoted Neville in a 630-versus-Red-Arrow showdown, just to see who the king of the wrestling skies really is.

*****

#4 (35%)



Who Is He?
A four-time World Champion in the WWE. The only man to win both the Royal Rumble and Money In The Bank in the same year. A member of the Mexico national wrestling team. Winner of two-thirds of his MMA fights. Son to the beloved Dos Caras and nephew to the legendary Mil Mascaras. The man known today as Alberto El Patrón has quite a resume to match his pedigree and his million-dollar peso look. 

He's called himself "Mexico's Greatest Export," and it's hard to argue with that statement. Despite his unceremonious exit—and subsequent settlement with the WWE—in August of last year over alleged racial slurs hurled at him by a WWE staffer, he's been touring the globe, staking his claim to greatness all over the wrestling world, from AAA to ROH to Wrestle-1 to WWL to Lucha Underground. The self-proclaimed "Essence of Excellence" is perhaps the hottest "true" free agent in wrestling today, and will continue to be a mover and shaker in the industry.

The Fantasy WWE Match We'd Love To See
There aren't a lot of top-caliber WWE Superstars El Patrón still hasn't faced, but we're intrigued by the thought of him taking on another foreign national who's just as known as he is for his vicious superkicks and a killer submission finisher—the Bulgarian Brute and former U.S. Champion, Rusev.



*****

#3 (48%)



Who Is He?
Kazuchika Okada, the Rainmaker, might arguably be the best wrestler in New Japan today. We say arguably, because there are people who argue for our #1 in this poll holding that title. He's definitely among the top 10 wrestlers in the world. 

Ridiculously athletic, marketably good-looking, and already a master of the craft at (only!) age 27, we dare you to go watch an Okada match and see if you don't get drawn in by the way he moves and what he's trying to tell you without words. And when the rain finally comes, we promise you'll be hooked.

The Fantasy WWE Match We'd Love To See
Okada is best when he's working with people who are just as good at storytelling as he is, so we'd love to see Okada vs. John Cena. Also, does it still count as a "Fantasy WWE Match" if we said we wanted to see Okada vs. Finn Balor?

*****

#2 (74%)




Who Is He?
We bet that the happiest man in the world over Sting finally stepping into a WWE ring at this year's WrestleMania has got to be AJ Styles, because if Sting can do it—hell, if Samoa Joe can get in—then AJ knows he could make it too. 

The Phenomenal One is experiencing a rather late career renaissance after breaking free from TNA, where he was never able to realize his fullest potential. He's the main man now in both NJPW and ROH, and for good reason. 

The Fantasy WWE Match We'd Love To See
Can you imagine the fireworks and acrobatics if AJ were to face off against the reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins? Styles Clash versus the Pedigree, Spiral Tap versus Phoenix Splash, with the Bullet Club standing guard against the Authority? Admit it. That would be damn awesome. 

*****

#1 (87%)



Who Is He?
The only other acceptable candidate for "best wrestler in Japan today," Shinsuke Nakamura's hook is his ridiculously magnetic charisma. The self-proclaimed King of Strong Style is so unorthodox, so offbeat, and so good with hitting hard and making the most of so little, that it's no surprise that Nakamura was the breakthrough hit from last January's globally-televised Wrestle Kingdom 9

If you run into any new NJPW fans, chances are if they're not Bullet Club bandwagoners, they're Nakamura converts who spazz out and scream "YeahOh!" like he always does. In that case, it's no question why he's #1.

The Fantasy WWE Match We'd Love To See
We have only one proposal for this: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Brock Lesnar. Let's see who can break a nose first.

*****

How do you feel about our rankings? Upset that Kota Ibushi and Austin Aries missed the cut? Think that AJ Styles should have been tops? Leave us a comment below. 

Mark De Joya (@MDJSuperstar) is an advertising professional and brand strategist by day, but dreams of being the Vince McMahon of the Philippines by night. He writes anything to do with numbers for Smark Henry: People Power, our weekly fan survey, and Best For Business, our regular financial report. With 18" arms and a 300-pound squat, he is also the official bouncer of the Smark Henry offices.

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