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A Look at the PWI Top 20 for Y2K
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By Paul Herzog

It’s one of my favorites times of year to be a wrestling fan…this year’s PWI 500 has been released, covering August of 1999 to August of 2000. I picked up a copy before heading out to a conference in Washington, DC, and pored through it while taking breaks from endless sessions detailing Multiprotocol Lambda Switching in Optical Network Architectures. We’ll start with my thoughts on the Top 20.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley – The only realistic choice, HHH has been the lead all year for a company which needed one after losing Steve Austin. In hindsight, the best thing to ever happen to Helmsley was the retirement of Shawn Michaels, because it forced him to be a better wrestler and performer on-screen, and a locker room leader behind the scenes. Two years ago, I would have bet my mortgage he couldn’t pull it off. I’m happy to say I was 100% wrong.

Rocky Maivia – Arguments can be made for him being #1, but this is the right choice. He gets by too much on charisma and right hands…but it’s remarkable how far that can get someone in the Sports Entertainment business. Nobody, Austin included, can wrap an audience around their finger better.

Chris Benoit – Used to be, unquestionably, the best in-ring wrestler. May have lost that since his increased size has hurt what used to be a seamless aerial blend into his mat wrestling. But he’s done as well as possible for someone 5’10" with mediocre mic skills in a promotion where the top guys are 6’5" and do 20-minute interview segments.

Kenta Kobashi – The best choice for top foreign wrestler. With years of injuries piling up on Mitsuhara Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada, it’s Kobashi’s time to take over, and the future of NOAH rides squarely on his capable shoulders.

Jeff Jarrett – We’ll talk more about Jarrett in the "overrated" section. It’s fair to say he’s the top guy in WCW right now, but  does that mean that he’s had a better year, either in or out of the ring, than….

Justin Credible – Credible was in the same position that HHH was, when ECW lost Rob Van Dam for most of the year. The former World and tag champ worked his tail off all year and ably served as the promotion’s top guy, a role he’ll continue to play through ECW’s latest trials and tribulations.

Mike Awesome – Awesome made a huge jump, from Not Listed in last year’s 500 to #7 this year. Awesome took the ECW title ball at last year’s Anarchy Rulz PPV, and carried it to the Big Two, where he was saddled with a terrible "70’s Guy" gimmick. He’s deserved better from his time in WCW.

Jushin Liger – Liger busted out of the junior heavyweight division he’s dominated for the last decade to take a run at the IWGP heavyweight title. He later went to the U.S. and was involved in a "tequila bottle" finish against Juventud Guerrera where he lost the IWGP Jr. title, which he regained on the same trip. He finished the voting period by winning the Super J Cup 2000 tourmanent. Quite a year.

Chris Jericho – Has the talent to pull off a high-flying style in the punch-and-kick dominated WWF, and the charisma to be involved in any main event angle, in any role they so designate. Like Benoit, the move from WCW has paid off from Y2J.

Kensuke Sasaki – Stepped up to successfully spend the year as the top heavyweight in New Japan. Doesn’t have the opponents to have "four-star" matches night after night, but has been excellent in his role as main eventer on their biggest shows.

Vader – The body doesn’t let him be the best big man in the business, a role he had for much of the 90s. But he’s still the two-time Triple Crown champ, and the top guy for All Japan as they move forward into their new life without Misawa and Kobashi.

Scott Steiner – OK, I can’t figure this one out. I’ve tried and tried. He gets as good a reaction as anyone from WCW audiences, but hasn’t had anything better than a mediocre match, and his huge physique and numerous injuries make him immobile in, and on the way to, the ring.

Kurt Angle – This might be too high for Angle in the voting period, but he’s definitely on the fast track. His mic skills and charisma are a welcome surprise, as is the WWF’s willingness to take advantage of his wrestling.

Mitsuhara Misawa – It’s tough for me to judge today’s Misawa when comparing him to the mid-90s version. His next impact may come on the business side, as he struggles to move NOAH up to the level of his former company.

Hijo del Santo – Still the most over and highest-profile wrestler in Mexico after many years. The dropped peso may have affected how business is done with the Lucha promotions, but Santo remains Santo.

"Big Show" Paul Wight – Had a great first-half of the voting period, leading into the Four-Way Wrestlemania main event. Troubles maintaining weight have led him down to the Ohio Valley promotion, where Jim Cornette is happy to have him. This spot is too high for someone who spent several months in the minors.

Diamond Dallas Page – Another guy with a great first half…super-hot angle with Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and wife Kimberly led to an excellent main event at Spring Stampede, the best match for him or Jeff Jarrett this year. Has been out since July, so his position in next year’s 500 may drop.

Sid Vicious – Like Page, a WCW main eventer for the first half, not quite as much the second. In fact, he’s been gone since the R&B era, which is why I can’t figure out why he’s this high on the list.

Rhino – I didn’t like the angle with his piledriver on Sandman’s wife, Lori Fullington. But geez, is this guy impressive. Paul Heyman used an RVD injury during a match with Rhino to get the big guy even further over.

Eddy Guerrero – Another wrestler in a position to move up into the next echelon in the WWF. Problem being, some folks have to leave (can Undertaker really be a fourth-match guy?)

Now, for the rest. Most of these will be top 200, since everyone in the bottom half are solely indies, most of whom I’ve never seen, and most of those I’ve never heard of outside of a name in a sheet:

Five Guys Who’re Underrated

Jun Akiyama (42, between Bob Holly and Ric Flair)

Edge (51, between Kevin Nash and Tetsuhiro Takaiwa)

Jerry Lynn (54, between Buh Buh Ray Dudley and Tazz)

Shinjiro Otani (77, between Christopher Daniels and Road Dogg)

Crowbar (127, between The Wall and Gran Hamada)

Five Guys Who’re Overrated (outside of those I’ve already mentioned)

Scotty Too Hotty (33, between Toshiaki Kawada and Kane)

Universo Dos Mil (64, between Perry Saturn and X-Pac)

Tank Abbott (89, between Super Delfin and Genichiro Tenryu)

Kodo Fuyuki (119, between Bam Bam Bigelow and Psicosis)

Shark Boy (163, between Nova and Hugh "Gen. Rection" Morrus)

Five Who’ll Be Higher Next Year (outside of those who were low due to injury)

Kurt Angle

Lance Storm (40)

Booker T (61)

Steve Corino (155)

Simon Diamond (166)

Five, OK, Six Who’ll Be Lower Next Year (outside of those I’ve already mentioned)

Masato Tanaka (21, unless he returns to ECW)

Crash & Bob Holly (36 & 41, respectively)

Hulk Hogan (59)

Naoya Ogawa (83)

Johnny Ace (146, unless he unretires and leaves the WCW front office)

One I’d Agree With If I Could Tell Them Apart

Don Harris (134) seven notches above his brother Ron (141)

Top Pure Independent (except for about three weeks)

Michael Modest (116)

Top Pure Independent (period, no development deals)

Mike Quackenbush (160)

Lowest Wrestler Whom You’ve Seen On National TV This Year

Swinger (319)

Lowest Wrestler You’d Recognize On Sight

George "The Animal" Steele (389)

Lowest Wrestler You Probably Know Who Still Has To Do This For The Money

Tommy Cairo (386)

Lowest Wrestler You Definitely Know Who Still Has To Do This For The Money

Greg Valentine (369)

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@worldnet.att.net.

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