Friday, 14 November 2014

Archived writing: Top Ten Wrestlers of the 2000s - 2000 - 2009

Kurt Angle celebrates a big win
With 2010 rapidly approaching, it’s that time when people start to look back over the past decade and pick out their favourites in all different areas.

*As you may have gathered, this is an archived piece I originally wrote in December 2009. It was published on the website of a regional magazine I used to work for as a journalist.*


The last ten years in professional wrestling have brought us some memorable moments, matches and stars, and in this piece, it’s the latter that we’ll concentrate on.

Kurt Angle

It was in the latter days of the 1990s that Kurt Angle, Olympic Gold Medalist, first stepped foot inside a professional wrestling ring, but it was with the turn of the millennium that Kurt Angle, Wrestling God, became known as one of the best in the world.

Following an eight-year run with the WWE/F, during which time he captured numerous titles and participated in scores of epic matches, Angle’s personal problems prompted him to take an early contract release and eventually wind up in TNA Wrestling, where he continues to impress.

Whilst his problems outside the ring have all been well-documented (one need look no further than his woes with both Trenesha ‘Rhaka Khan’ Biggers and Jeff Jarrett over the summer months of 2009), Angle has remained a consistently outstanding in-ring performer, frequently getting the best out of his adversaries.

Shawn Michaels

The Heartbrak Kid Shawn Michaels
After missing most of the Attitude Era he helped form due to a crippling back injury, the long-time veteran made a surprise return to action in 2002 and hasn’t looked back since.

On top of his game, The Heartbreak Kid has had more spectacular matches than he’s had dud ones over the past eight years, including his amazing performance against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25.

Arguably even better now than he was in his mid-90s heyday, the Showstopper deserves to be on this list as much, if not more, than anyone.

AJ Styles

In 2002, a new wrestling company by the name of TNA was born in the wake of WCW’s demise.

Still trudging along in a bid to be seen as serious competition to the global powerhouse that is the WWE, only three men who were there at the beginning remain with TNA to this day; James Storm, the increasingly-elusive Jeff Jarrett and ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles.

Throughout his tenure with the company, Styles has earned his reputation as one of the decade’s finest; capturing multiple TNA Triple Crown Championships (with three NWA World Championships, one TNA Championship, the X-Division and Tag titles), becoming the company’s first Grand Slam Champion (winning the Legends/Global title meant he’d won everything TNA had to offer) and entering into a string of memorable performances against a variety of opponents.

Arguably TNA’s biggest home-grown star, the next decade looks set to be even bigger for The Phenomenal One.


Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles (from tnawrestling.com)

Samoa Joe

Another TNA stalwart to make the list, Samoa Joe has enjoyed a strong rise to prominence over the last several years.

A run with the TNA World Championship was well-received by many fans who had longed for the Samoan Submission Machine to reach the top of his game. Add in strong efforts against AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, not to mention his unforgettable efforts against CM Punk in Ring of Honor, and you have to admit that the noughties have been very nice for Samoa Joe.

Bryan Danielson

Daniel Bryan in Ring of Honor
‘The American Dragon’ makes this list primarily for establishing himself as one of the hottest wrestlers in the world without having the backing of a major company (no, ROH are not a ‘major company’, sorry fanboys).

Instead of the backing of a company like the WWE or TNA, Danielson relied on his prowess as an in-ring performer to establish a reputation as one of the best of the best.

Training at the Shawn Michaels’ Wrestling Academy in Texas before making his debut in 1999, Danielson frequently thrilled die-hard fans throughout his tenure with Ring of Honor and a handful of indie-feds.

Having signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment in the summer of 2009,  one can only imagine just how far The American Dragon could go in the next decade if he combines his in-ring skills with the company’s penchant for creating global superstars.

Trish Stratus

Few women have done more for modern women’s wrestling than the Canadian beauty, Trish Stratus.

Making her debut in 2000 primarily as a manager, the former fitness model eventually made her way into active competition and, over the next several years, worked hard to develop her wrestling skills, charisma and overall persona to the point where she was regarded as one of, if not the, best of her generation.

A former seven-time WWF/E Women’s Champion, Stratus captured her last belt in her final match against Lita, retiring as champion and moving on to pastures new having captured the hearts of scores of wrestling fans.

Trish Stratus flashes her ass

Edge

Despite being currently out of action, and having suffered several other devastating injuries during his rise to the top, the past ten years have been rather kind to the Rated R Superstar.

Breaking away from his friend and former tag partner, Christian in 2001, Edge embarked on a successful solo career which saw him capture multiple Intercontinental, World and WWE Championships, as well as the 2001 King of the Ring and the inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder match.

Brilliant matches against the likes of The Undertaker and Jeff Hardy, along with his natural charisma, ensure that things are never dull when Edge is around. Here’s hoping he returns to action sooner rather than later in 2010.

John Cena

Perhaps the most controversial entry on this list, Cena has divided popular opinion amongst the wrestling community like no other performer of the past ten years, but it’s hard to deny the impact he’s made.

Touted as the WWE’s franchise player, the five-time WWE Champion has had an incredible run over the last several years and, despite the criticisms he receives, has enjoyed a number of good-to-great matches.

Eddie Guerrero

He may have been a long-established veteran by the time the new millennium came around, competing in tonnes of thrilling matches not only in Mexico but also in the original ECW and the erstwhile WCW, but it was the first half of this decade that Latino Heat really became a true superstar.

After leaving WCW in January 2000, Guerrero, along with Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and the late Chris Benoit jumped ship to the then World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) as The Radicalz.

Whilst his life outside the ring was plagued by troubles including substance abuse, Eddie was joy to watch throughout a career which peaked with him capturing the WWE Championship in 2004.

Guerrero died the following year, but left behind a legacy as a remarkable performer.


Rey Mysterio

After delighting audiences in AAA, ECW and WCW throughout the 1990s, it was his move to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002 that finally catapulted Rey Mysterio Jr. into the upper echelons of the pro-wrestling elite.

A World Heavyweight Championship run in 2005, following the death of his friend Eddie Guerrero, may have been the peak of his career, but even now Mysterio continues to impress; just look at his fantastic feud with Chris Jericho over the Intercontinental Championship in the summer of 2009.

One of the most entertaining superstars to compete in a ring, Mysterio may not be competing in ten years time, but for the past ten years and more so, he’s been a joy to watch.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.