Ten years ago I wrote about the best wrestler of the decade. Back then I picked Chris Jericho for the honor. For that ten year period, I stand by that choice. But who gets the nod for 2010-2019? This was a very tough decision that I consulted numerous fellow wrestling fans about.
Side note, this will be US based. There was a strong argument for Okada but I just don’t have the time or resources to deep dive into Japanese wrestling. Maybe one day.
Taking the last ten years of United States based wrestling, there were two names that came up (almost) every year. Title wins every year. Great matches. Main events. Classic stories. Success across the card. Those two men are AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan.
AJ started the decade with some more accolades to add to the already lengthy list during his time in NWA/TNA/Impact wrestling. After a dispute he heads to Japan and has great success there, both in wrestling and in selling black t-shirts to wrestling fans. Then, out of no where but kind of expected, he shows up at the Royal Rumble and his WWE tenure begins. Many a title held and great matches. This is most likely where AJ ends his career, and it’s without a doubt a Hall of Fame level one.
Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan rose above everything placed in front of him and became arguably the greatest underdog story in wrestling history. Paired up with the Miz in the first version of NXT. Part of the Nexus, but then fired. Came back to surprise and acclaim. Won tag, Intercontinental, United States, Money in the Bank, and many versions of the WWE Heavyweight title. The shortest title match in WrestleMania history spawned the Yes movement. An iconic moment at WrestleMania 30. The heartbreaking retirement. Then the shock, three years later, that he can return. And return he did, beyond the wildest dreams of anyone. Then turned heel! The most beloved hero was actually able to become the villain. And he did all of this despite losing 3 out of the 10 years of the decade.
When I started writing this I was all set to give this honor to AJ Styles. But now, thinking about the roller coaster of emotions that Bryan took us all on, in addition to his victories. The point is to name the greatest pro wrestler of the decade, and that includes both the sports and the entertainment. Daniel Bryan managed to do both well no matter what role he was in over the last ten years.
Daniel Bryan is the wrestler of the decade.