Matt Singh

Top 50 of 2003

When it came to pro wrestling in 2003, there wasn’t a whole lot to shout about. WWE continued it’s downward fall, only really establishing Brock Lesnar as a viable worker on top. John Cena and Randy Orton made big steps though, however they’re still a long way off from having the ability to work on top. NWA/TNA continued to stall, but did show however the aptitude to be able to book Raven in the right sense. The X-Division showed signs of slowing down and losing steam, but that was the only outcome after such a strong start. Ring of Honour was a shining light in 2003 though, and carried on promoting the best shows in North America in 2003.

Another year goes by in the industry that millions follow, and thousands are fans of. The year started in great form, with Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle working WWE’s greatest match of the year. Benoit in particular receiving a stand ovation after the match (in which he did the job-out), only for WWE management to drop him straight back down to mid-card status with the likes of A-Train. It was almost as if someone had a word in management’s ear shortly after convincing them Benoit worked a ham ‘n’ egger. Throughout the year, Chris Benoit has proven why he’s so highly rated by knowledgeable industry fans and analysts, from working a meaningless, worthless program with A-Train, to working with Angle in said WWE match of the year. There’s no doubting Benoit is the most reliable in-ring worker WWE has, and is the epitome of what the term ‘good worker’ means.

Eddie Guerrero a close joint-second behind Benoit when it comes to reliability from an in-rind view, and has come-in leaps and bounds this year in regards to the stick and spiel aspect of his game. It’s just a shame Eddie has been programmed with Chavo for much of the year, and it’s a disappointment for both Eddie and Chavo.

Not slowing down one iota this year after neck surgery, like Benoit, Kurt Angle had another stellar twelve months working with the likes of Lesnar and Benoit. Working WrestleMania despite having a severely injured neck, Angle showed just how awesome his genetics are, and returned after surgery on top form, but surely he’ll pay a price in 2004 for this.

Brock Lesnar dominated the WWE World title picture in 2003, improving in all needed areas, indeed, he improved despite booking on SmackDown weakening significantly in 2003. Year low-lights for Lesnar are led by the nonsensical ending to his team’s match against Chris Benoit’s, in which Lesnar, the World title holder, was in the curtain-jerker and tapped to Benoit, but with Benoit’s team-mate John Cena actually getting the decisive pinfall in the Survivor Series elimination match.

Spending the year working for NWA/TNA and RoH mostly, AJ Styles probably progressed more this year than anyone else in North America did. Capturing the oldest World title in America from Jeff Jarrett, Styles had a critically semi-success run on top as ‘The Man’, but lost it all too soon to former champion and the owner’s son. Meanwhile in RoH was able to shine in matches against Christopher Daniels, Lo Ki and numerous others who can at that level.

Chris Jericho’s year, from a critical standpoint had the most consistently great matches one after another, proving he is the most consistent grappler on the Raw side of things. Got a chance to live a genuine dream by working with Shawn Micheals at WrestleMania, and considering where that program went afterwards, should have gotten the nod to roll over Micheals.

Working in various promotions like AJ Styles, Lo Ki continued to fly and throw lethal kicks in both RoH and NWA/TNA, as well as across the ocean in Japan for Zero-One. Fully confirmed himself a main event player despite his relative diminutive stature compared to others in the same place. Also was able to get some exposure when working as a job-boy at WWE Velocity tapings opposite former RoH co-worker Brian Kendrick.

Shawn Micheals’ second comeback year proved even more fruitful than 2002, showing against the likes of Ric Flair, Jericho and Randy Orton that he can still had an entertaining match with damn-near anyone. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, easily his best moment of 2003 was his one-man show at the Survivor Series being the last member of Team Austin, working the crowd to perfection and blading to a visually great/dangerous amount.

Indie supremo Christopher Daniels finally found a partially-lucrative home in NWA/TNA, where he worked Junior heavyweight corkers on a weekly basis along side Lo Ki, Jerry Lynn et all. Also continued to tour with Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, and upper his stock tenfold with national exposure on NWA/TNA.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Hiroyoshi Tenzan had a great 2003 in many respects, winning the year’s G-1 Climax going over Jun Akiyama in a match of the candidate. Captured New Japan’s top title, the IWGP title in November via going over Yoshihiro Takayama, only to lose it less than a month later to Shinsuke Nakamura. Overall, in essence, Tenzan was booked to fail this year, but still managed progressed critically wise.

So, after much deliberation, the top spot went to Eddie Guerrero. Now, before anyone decries the choice because he isn’t even a main eventer, stop and think; he put on consistently the co-best matches of the year (with Chris Benoit, placed second), improved the most out of anyone on SmackDown (yes, even Brock Lesnar) and even carried Big Show to a good match. And he wasn’t even working on top. Without further ado, here’s the magnificent fifty…

  • *1. Eddie Guerrero
    *2. Chris Benoit
    *3. Kenta Kobashi
    *4. Naomichi Marufuji
    *5. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
    *6. AJ Styles
    *7. Chris Jericho
    *8. Kurt Angle
    *9. Raven
    *10. Christopher Daniels

    *11. Low Ki
    *12. Jun Akiyama
    *13. Brock Lesnar
    *14. KENTA
    *15. Christian
    *16. Rey Misterio Jr.
    *17. Shawn Micheals
    *18. Osamu Nishimura
    *19. Yuji Nagata
    *20. Shinjiro Ohtani
    *21. Koji Kanemoto
    *22. Booker T
    *23. Chavo Guerrero
    *24. Shocker
    *25. Juventud Guerrera
    *26. Ultimo Dragon
    *27. Spanky
    *28. Trish Stratus
    *29. American Dragon
    *30. Jerry Lynn
    *31. Rob Conway
    *32. Molly Holly
    *33. Yoshihiro Tajiri
    *34. Jushin Lyger
    *35. Masato Tanaka
    *36. Josh Barnett
    *37. Hiroshi Tanahashi
    *38. Ayako Hamada
    *39. Manami Tokyo
    *40. Jamie Knoble
    *41. Doug Basham
    *42. Matt Hardy
    *43. Homicide
    *44. Kane
    *46. Steve Corino
    *47. D’Lo Brown
    *48. Mariko Yoshida
    *49. Momoe Nakanishi
    *50 Ric Flair

(Compiled with help from: Tony Cottam, Simon Lamb and Mitchell Jones)