This month, UK-based Fighting Spirit Magazine released their annual “The Fighting Spirit 50” list — the list, determined by members of the FSM staff, is essentially the Top 50 wrestlers of 2015.

Unlike the much-maligned PWI 500 from Pro Wrestling Illustrated or a litany of others, The Fighting Spirit 50 has a very defined criteria which makes it one of the more reputable year-end lists still going. The criteria for inclusion and ranking is quality of matches from November 2014 to November 2015. The match quality is not simply based on workrate or technical skill but also the coveted “little things” that go into making a wrestling match special: the ability to work a crowd, the quality of storylines going into a match and performance on the large stage.

The complete article, with notes on each competitor and much more, is in Issue 127 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available in print and online at

50. Volador Jr.
49. Mark Haskins
48. Dragon Lee
47. “The Villain” Marty Scrull
46. Jay Briscoe
45. Bayley
44. Jun Akiyama
43. Jay Lethal
42. Tomoaki Honma
41. “Speedball” Mike Bailey
40. Meiko Satomura

Holy crap, what an opening 10! A few of the folks on this first 10 are among my favorites of the year in particular I was shocked to see performers like Bayley, Jay Lethal and Jay Briscoe so low. Bayley, was arguably the MVP of NXT in the last half of the year and put together two sure-fire Match of the Year candidates against Sasha Banks. While she’s struggled since the graduation of her fellow Four Horsewomen, Bayley has still put together one of the best years of any women’s wrestler in 2015. Both Briscoe and Lethal didn’t have spectacular in-ring years but spent much of their time in main events as two of the primary focuses of Ring of Honor.

39. La Sombra
38. Roman Reigns
37. Drew Galloway
36. Michael Elgin
35. Katsuyori Shibata
33. Fenix
32. Hirooki Goto
31. Pentagon Jr.
30. Neville

Another stacked 10, this grouping features WWE’s arguable focal point Roman Reigns, NJPW stalwart Katsuyori Shibata and one of the aces of the DDT promotion, HARASHIMA. This section also features a few of my favorites from Mexico, including the man who won the hearts of many during season one of Lucha Underground, Pentagon Jr.

Painfully underutilized during his WWE run, Drew Galloway took a bit to find his footing in the independents but now is among its biggest stars. Whether it’s working EVOLVE, PWG or overseas with ICW, Galloway has become one of the preeminent workers in the world and a fine addition to this list.

29. Tommy End
28. Kyle O’Reilly
27. Ricochet/Prince Puma
26. Shingo Takagi
25. Timothy Thatcher
23. The Young Bucks
22. Akira Tozawa
21. Finn Balor
20. Will Ospreay

Among this grouping is six of my favorite wrestlers going right now in Kyle O’Reilly, Ricochet, Shingo Takagi, KUSHIDA, Akira Tozawa and Will Ospreay. Both Tommy End and Ospreay cut their teeth on the European scene and are now legitimate stars across the world — look for both men to gain additional exposure in 2016.

Elsewhere, half of reDRagon Kyle O’Reilly gets a fitting ranking as 2015 was the year he proved himself as a viable singles worker, particularly in his Match of the Year contender Best of the Super Juniors Final again, ironically enough #24 on this list KUSHIDA. Akira Tozawa remains one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the world and the eventual big-time main event match between him and #26 Shingo Takagi could be the biggest match in Dragon Gate history.

19. Masato Yoshino
18. Daisuke Sekimoto
17. Cesaro
16. Tomohiro Ishii
15. Yuji Okabayashi
14. Seth Rollins
13. Shinsuke Nakamura
12. Chris Hero
11. Brock Lesnar
10. Matt Sydal

The “Reborn” moniker isn’t simply a nickname for Matt Sydal but a state of mind. Once lost in the WWE shuffle, Sydal exploded onto the independent and international wrestling scene in 2015 and is a legitimately Wrestling Observer Most Outstanding candidate. While on the topic of Most Outstanding, one of my top three picks, Chris Hero also battled issues with the major promotions to become a steady draw and all-around great worker on the American independents and in Pro Wrestling NOAH alongside Colt Cabana.

If you’ve never heard of Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi, it’s time to get acquainted. These Big Japan Wrestling mainstays are among Japan’s most entertaining wrestlers and absolutely worth of Top 20 status in this year’s FSM 50.

9. Kota Ibushi
8. Zack Sabre Jr.
7. Roderick Strong
6. Sasha Banks
5. John Cena
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi
3. Kazuchika Okada
2. Kevin Owens
A.J. Styles

It’s hard to argue with A.J. Styles as Wrestler of the Year, Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Year or the FSM 50 #1. Our very own Brandon Howard pegged Styles as the number one worker in the world using star rating data and he’s a sure-fire favorite among Wrestling Observer Award voters.

Any way you slice it, Styles had an incredible year main eventing in New Japan Pro Wrestling while also being among the biggest draws in the United States independent scene (primarily with Ring of Honor) and Europe. Styles drew rave reviews all year nabbing 20 matches **** or above.

The remainder of the top spots are all occupied by deserving candidates. Kota Ibushi had an incredible first half of the year and was likely on pace for the top spot in this list and many others. Unfortunately, injuries reared their ugly head and Ibushi missed much of the last half of the year.

Zack Sabre Jr. ranked tremendously well on Brandon Howard’s average star rating sheet nabbing 20 **** and above matches with an incredible 4.11 average star rating. Sabre delivers each and everytime out and is yet another European talent to keep your eye on in 2016.

Roderick Strong solidified himself as one of the best workers in the world in 2015. Always filled with tremendous potential, everything finally came together for Roddy this year.

Sasha Banks became one of, if not, the best women’s workers in WWE history in 2015, helping build the NXT brand into a legit, touring brand.

John Cena, for all the crap about a tired, boring character had perhaps his best in-ring season in 2015 backed by his United States Open Challenge which saw Cena battle the likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose and more. Likewise, Cena delivered in big spots throughout the year including a Match of the Year contender at the Royal Rumble and a number of great matches throughout the summer.

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada continued their dominance in New Japan Pro Wrestling throughout the year. Okada had a consistently great year while Tanahashi came on strong in the 2nd half to solidify a spot in the FSM Top 5.

Kevin Owens burst onto the WWE scene in 2015 delivering perhaps the best WWE TV matches this year. Owens carried his tremendous performances in NXT to the main roster jumping onto the scene with a series of top-level matches against embedded WWE legend Cena. Owens has now settled into a mid-card/upper mid-card role where he’s turned in consistently good performances each week on WWE television.

What’d you think of the top 50? Discuss it on our forums!

The complete article, with notes on each competitor and much more, is in Issue 127 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available in print and online at