We’re nearly at the midway point of the year, so it’s a good time to start thinking about year-end awards. With the proliferation of websites devoted to rating matches such as Cagematch, we’re able to take a statistical look at those ratings and start thinking about which wrestlers have had the best years in the ring. In terms of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards, this is specific to the Most Outstanding Wrestler award.
I pulled all of Cagematch’s match ratings data from this calendar year. Matches have to have at least ten user ratings in Cagematch’s database – this is an attempt to include a wide range of matches, while avoiding the very niche ones with only a couple of ratings. This data was pulled on June 27.
I assigned point values to ranges of match ratings in an attempt to reward top-level matches. In my experience, 9.25+ is approximately in the range of a Dave Meltzer rating over five stars. 8.75 to 9.24 is roughly equivalent to 4 3/4 or 5 stars, and so forth to the range of 6.75-7.24, which is roughly three and a half stars. I tried to space out the points assigned to rating ranges to best reward the higher-rated matches while still providing recognition for matches on the lower end of ratings.
|CM rating||Points per match||# of matches|
Matches rated under 6.75 were not considered. No one is getting credit for mediocre matches, and being involved in bad matches doesn’t seem to be enough to hurt wrestlers’ cases – no one is saying Tomohiro Ishii is a bad wrestler because his Tokyo Dome match with EVIL was an overbooked mess designed to get heat in front of a crowd that can’t cheer or boo.
Matches involving more than three people on a team, matches with more than four sides competing, and battle royal-type matches are not included in these ratings.
There are some inherent limitations in using Cagematch data – the user base largely ignores lucha libre, with the exception of some high profile AAA crossover matches. There are also some cliques of voters who heavily emphasize certain promotions – Tokyo Joshi Pro has a regular set of voters who tend to really like that promotion’s shows, and NXT UK’s entire viewership seemingly votes on the site.
634 wrestlers earned at least one point each, and 915 matches are rated at least 6.75 on Cagematch.
I’ve linked to the full list of wrestlers ranked with points. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1fauP1x6YcePsOb_AusHZhLa_3FNSzZRFIqxM5aQ_5RQ/edit?usp=sharing
The top 20 wrestlers and their points are in the chart below:
|Zack Sabre Jr.||81|
There’s a fairly wide space between the top two and third place Kazuchika Okada. The thirty-point gap between first place Mike Bailey and Okada is the same as the gap between 20th place Seth Rollins and the three-way tie for 68th.
Even though I think Mike Bailey has had a fantastic year to date – he’d be in my personal top ten – I was very surprised to have him come out with the most points in this. He has done well in Impact, but his best work has come on the indies – his match with Konosuke Takeshita on June 10 ranks as the 32nd highest-rated match of the year. Speedball’s six best matches of the year have come on the indies, per the Cagematch data; his triple threat against Ace Austin and Trey Miguel on Impact’s Rebellion show stands as his seventh-best, and his only in his personal top ten on the year.
It feels inevitable that Will Ospreay will quickly overtake Bailey once the G1 Climax begins. He’s just seven points behind Bailey, with seven fewer considered matches to his credit. Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and the rest of the top New Japan talent will similarly get boosted by the tournament, though each will have fewer matches this year due to the format.
Jon Moxley is the top name from one of the two biggest American companies. He’s been a workhorse for AEW, with 14 matches popping up in the criteria I used for this study. His eight matches in the 8.25-8.75 range is the most of anyone this year – Ilja Dragunov has five (which are his only five matches that qualify for this study).
Stardom’s top stars really benefit from the one-point specials – of the 11 names with the most matches in the 6.75-7.25 range, 10 work for Stardom. El Desperado is the one exception. That’s not enough by itself to prop up their ratings – for example, Syuri has eight matches in the top four categories. But she picked up three spots thanks to her 11 one-point matches.
Seth Rollins is the top name to pop up from WWE, placing 20th. His top three matches on the year have all come from his work with Cody Rhodes. You have to get down to 57th place for the next WWE name, which is Riddle. Ilja Dragunov (59th) and Cody Rhodes (71st) are the only other workers who have spent most of the year on WWE TV to be in the top 100.
El Desperado placing fifth will surprise most people. He gets a boost from the Best of the Super Junior tournament, but Despy also had a great New Japan Cup match against Kazuchika Okada and his tag match with DOUKI against Jun Kasai and Tomoaki Honma in JUST TAP OUT.
The high placements of All Japan stars Kento Miyahara and Yuma Aoyagi are surprising as well, considering how cold the promotion has been this year. Champion Carnival taking place earlier in the year than most Japan-based round-robin tournaments surely helped them finish higher than you would otherwise expect.
I wouldn’t advise blindly following these ratings, but it is an interesting tool to help analyze standouts for in ring-specific awards with half of the year in the books.