The 2019 WWE Top 25: January
Hello everyone, and welcome to the first official edition of the WWE Top 25!
January has come and gone, and what a month it was in the World Wrestling Federation. There was action aplenty all over, and now that WWE TV has wrapped up for the month, it’s time to take a look at who made the cut for the first set of rankings for the year 2019.
In case you need a refresher on what the WWE Top 25 is, the grading system, and what my projections were for the entire year, here’s a handy link.
As an aside, each month, in addition to the WWE Top 25, I will be unveiling my Top 10 matches for the month as well as my Top 10 TV matches for the month, as well. Given that I am watching each TV show each week, and I am grading what I’m seeing, I think it’s important to showcase the matches that are worthy of praise and recognition. So with that said, before we unveil the rankings, let’s take a look at the matches of the month.
TOP 10 TV MATCHES
1. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15) — ****¾
2. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (2/3 Falls, SmackDown Live, 1/22) — ****¼
3. Andrade/Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali/Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/8) — ****
4. Cedric Alexander vs. Hideo Itami (205 Live, 1/9) — ****
5. Bobby Lashley vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/14) — ****
6. Baron Corbin vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor vs. John Cena (Raw, 1/14) — ****
7. The Usos vs. The Bar (SmackDown Live, 1/8) — ***¾
8. Balor/Cena/Rollins vs. Lashley/Ambrose/McIntyre (Raw, 1/7) — ***¾
9. Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/21) — ***¾
10. Danny Burch/Oney Lorcan vs. Fabian Aichner/Marcel Barthel (NXT, 1/23) — ***¾
JUST MISSED THE CUT
Ronda Rousey vs. Bayley (Raw, 1/28)
Adam Cole vs. EC3 (NXT, 1/9)
Bianca Belair vs. Nikki Cross (NXT, 1/9)
Finn Balor vs. Jinder Mahal (Raw, 1/14)
Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks (NXT UK, 1/23)
TOP 10 MATCHES
1. Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: Phoenix) — ****¾
2. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15) — ****¾
3. Asuka vs. Becky Lynch (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****½
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****½
5. Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****½
6. Moustache Mountain vs. James Drake/Zach Gibson (TakeOver: Blackpool) — ****½
7. Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders (TakeOver: Phoenix) — ****¼
8. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (2/3 Falls, SmackDown Live, 1/22) — ****
9. Women’s Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****
10. Men’s Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****
JUST MISSED THE CUT
Mustafa Ali/Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade/Samoa Joe (SmackDown Live, 1/8)
Cedric Alexander vs. Hideo Itami (205 Live, 1/8)
Dean Ambrose vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/14)
Finn Balor vs. John Cena vs. Baron Corbin vs. Drew McIntyre (Raw, 1/14)
Okay, so we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s dive through some quick numbers:
There were 92 total matches this month on WWE TV and WWE Network specials
There were 70 total matches this month on WWE TV
Of the 92 total matches, 40 of them received grades of at least ***½
Of the 92 total matches, 17 of them received grades of at least ****
Of the 92 total matches, six of them received grades of at least ****½
Of those three, two were given ****¾
There were no matches given five stars this month
146 wrestlers partook in matches this month
Finn Balor and Seth Rollins were the workhorses of the month. Finn and Seth each competed in six matches, the most of anyone in the entire company. Finn had the distinction of competing on Raw, TakeOver: Blackpool AND the Royal Rumble.
I’d like to start by giving some honorable mentions. So, here those are.
PETE DUNNE, RHEA RIPLEY — 8 points
KALISTO — 8.5 points
BROCK LESNAR, JAMES DRAKE, ZACK GIBSON — 9 points
ASUKA — 9.25 points
BARON CORBIN, JINDER MAHAL — 9.5 points
AKIRA TOZAWA — 10.25 points
Presenting: The WWE Top 25 for January!
T23. FABIAN AICHNER, MARCEL BARTHEL, NATALYA
Most Notable Match:
Women’s Royal Rumble Match (Natalya, Royal Rumble, 1/27);
vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch (Aichner and Barthel, NXT, 1/23)
We had a three-way tie here to ‘start’ the Top 25.
We’ll start by talking about the tag team of Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner. Those who may not be in the know were likely in the know now after watching these two compete with each other this month. Barthel and Aichner have been prominent faces in the NXT UK brand and have also made stops in NXT as well.
That proved to be the case this month, and these two studs showed out. They had three very fun and good tag matches both across the pond and here in the states. Their best effort was against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch on the final NXT before TakeOver: Phoenix. If you haven’t seen that match, I highly recommend it. The two teams went full throttle, and Aichner and Barthel showed a lot of promise.
This could definitely be a sign of things to come if they get more screen time like I think that they will. Be on the look out for these two, as they could very well be a contender for Tag Team of the Year at this rate.
Meanwhile, squeezing her way into the Top 25 in January’s Top 25 is Natalya.
Nattie was certainly aided by the fact that she partook in some very solid tag team matches this month. She was part of two terrific ones in fact, as she and Ronda Rousey battled The Boss & Hug Connection on the go-home Raw before the Royal Rumble. Nattie also partook in a six-woman tag featuring Bayley and Nikki Cross, as she and those two clashed with The Riott Squad back on January 14.
It also certainly helped that Nattie was part of the Royal Rumble match, a match that she was the ‘Ironwoman’ of, in fact. Nattie lasted 56:01, which proved to be longer than any other competitor could last in the entire match.
Given that she was on the fringe, and won’t be competing at Elimination Chamber as of now, it’s a wonder if she’s going to make it into February’s Top 25. Particularly because her feud with Dana Brooke likely will not be up to snuff with some of the other women superstars on the roster. That being said, she certainly had her good moments this month, and finessed her way into the Top 25 as a result.
T21. CESARO, NIKKI CROSS
Most Notable Match:
w/ Sheamus vs. The Usos (Cesaro, SmackDown Live, 1/8)
vs. Bianca Belair (Nikki Cross, NXT, 1/9)
Next up, a high-quality European duo who find themselves tied up at 21st.
Cesaro had himself yet another high-quality month alongside his buddy Sheamus. The Bar performed well in all three tag team matches that they competed in. Their highmark was at the start, as they faced off with The Usos in an excellent back-and-forth affair on the second SmackDown of the year 2019. Cesaro then went on to compete in a fun tag with Sheamus against The Miz and Shane McMahon at the Royal Rumble.
His month was capped off with a strong showing in the Fatal 4-Way tag that went down this past Tuesday on SmackDown. You’ll notice that Sheamus is not here alongside him. Like his tag partner, Cesaro faced off with The Miz on SmackDown. The difference? I preferred the Sheamus-Miz match to the Cesaro-Miz match, and you’ll see where Sheamus landed on this rankings list later on. But there’s no shame in being here, and I think we’ll continue to see him hang around.
Meanwhile, we have Nikki Cross here alongside The Swiss Cyborg. Cross finished up her run in NXT with a banger against Bianca Belair back on January 9. That match was one of my favorites of the month, even though it didn’t crack the Top 10. Cross then partook in a super fun match on Raw the ensuing Monday. She, along with Bayley and Natalya faced off with The Riott Squad in a match that showcased Nikki for the first time to the WWE main roster audience.
She wrapped up her January with a fine display in the Women’s Royal Rumble. For Nikki, the thing to watch will be her usage rate as well as what brand they decide to keep her on. She’ll be in a match against Boss and Hug on Monday, and that could give her a great start to the month of February.
T19. MUSTAFA ALI, SAMOA JOE
Most Notable Match: Ali-Mysterio/Joe-Andrade (SmackDown Live, 1/8)
Yet another tie here, as two fixtures on SmackDown Live made their way into the Top 20.
Mustafa Ali and Samoa Joe might as well be written about together. They were in three matches this month, and they were on opposite sides in each. The first came in an awesome tag team match to start off the month. Ali teamed up with Rey Mysterio, while Joe was in a tandem with Andrade. That match was the 3rd-best TV match of the month, and Ali and Joe were certainly big reasons why.
Later on, these two faced off in a fun singles match before the Rumble. Joe choked Ali out, and based on what would happen next at the Rumble and on SmackDown this past week, it doesn’t seem like this feud will end anytime soon. They both were in the Royal Rumble match, and Ali was able to eliminate Joe from the match.
It looked like Joe was going to break the tie on Tuesday. He was scheduled to face off with Rey, but Andrade attacked Rey before the match could even happen. Now these two will be on opposite ends again in the Elimination Chamber next month. So, it looks like these two will remain tied at the hip. Given what’s transpired already, it won’t be a surprise if we see them near each other again at the end of February.
Most Notable Match: vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: Phoenix)
Feast your eyes on the man who got into the Top 25 with only ONE match.
Ricochet holds that distinction this month, and it’s pretty hard to dispute. His match with Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: Phoenix was just outstanding. Both he and Gargano brought out ridiculous tricks and maneuvers, and wowed the PHX crowd with what was, in my opinion, the match of the month in January.
It will be fascinating to see what happens going forward for Ricochet. His workload will probably have to increase for him to stay into the Top 25, but NXT can only provide him so much. That being said, if he can deliver (and the man has YET to not) in the minimal spots that he has, then he has a very steady chance of maintaining his spot in the Top 25 going forward. But he certainly deserves plenty of recognition here.
T15. BOBBY LASHLEY, TRENT SEVEN, TYLER BATE
Most Notable Match:
vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (Lashley, Raw, 1/14);
vs. James Drake and Zack Gibson (Seven/Bate, TakeOver: Blackpool, 1/12)
A three-way tie comes up next, as a dynamite tag team is evened up with an ‘allmighty’ force on Monday Night Raw.
Bobby Lashley had himself a very good month. It started in a six-man tag on the first Raw of 2019. Lashley teamed up with Drew McIntyre and Dean Ambrose, as the three faced off with John Cena, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Then, Lashley won the IC Title in a banger triple threat with the aforementioned Ambrose and Rollins. That title victory was Lashley’s first in over a decade in WWE, obviously, and certainly helped cement his status in this Top 25 as a result.
Bobby spent just a couple of seconds in the Royal Rumble. But, since I awarded points to everyone in the Rumble, and TRUST ME, that will come up again here shortly, he was able to launch his way up to 15th as a result.
Given that Lashley is the current IC Champion, he’ll likely remain a fixture here for some time. He’ll be defending that belt pretty regularly, and considering who he’s feuding with now, those matches should be good enough to keep him in the mix.
Meanwhile, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate got into the Top 25 despite working only two matches. I can tell you that they were on the outside looking in going into Wednesday. But, their match with the aforementioned Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel on NXT UK was good enough for them to get back into the mix. And it certainly would’ve been a shame had they missed out.
They had one of the best matches of the entire month at TakeOver: Blackpool. They came up short to Zack Gibson and James Drake in the match that crowned the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions. But, that effort was strong enough to have them vying for contention. And unlike Gibson and Drake, they were able to get one more match this month to finesse their way up to 15th.
For them, like others in the NXT brands, workload will be what has to keep them vying for contention. Time will tell to see what happens for them, but for now, they have more than earned their spot in this month’s Top 25.
Most Notable Match: w/ Cesaro vs. The Usos (SmackDown, 1/9)
Sheamus has always been one of WWE’s most consistent performers. So it should come as no surprise that The Celtic Warrior finds himself in a very good spot on these rankings after the month of January.
Sheamus participated in four matches this month. Three of them were tag efforts, the best coming on the second SmackDown of the new year. He and Cesaro faced off with The Usos in a dynamite tag match that was one of the better matches on TV this month. Sheamus would later go on to face The Miz in a pretty fun singles match the next week, and then he and Cesaro took Miz and Shane McMahon on at the Royal Rumble. That one proved to be a fun one, and while Sheamus and Cesaro took the loss, it was still a solid enough effort to help him move up.
Sheamus capped off the month with a very solid showing in the Fatal 4-Way tag on SmackDown this past Tuesday. That match was won by the aforementioned Usos, but The Bar lasted until the final two and the match was entertaining enough for Sheamus to stick himself in this spot. He’s nearly two full points ahead of 15th, so there’s still a pretty sizable gap between he and everyone else.
While he won’t be participating at Elimination Chamber as of now, expect Sheamus to still get enough opportunities on SmackDown so that he can maintain his status as one of the most consistent performers in WWE.
13. HIDEO ITAMI
Most Notable Match: vs. Cedric Alexander (205 Live, 1/9)
Well, this is a bit ironic, eh?
Hideo Itami will finish January and his WWE career 13th in the first WWE Top 25.
Hideo participated in four matches, all in the realm of 205 Live, and frankly a lot of them were pretty good. His first match was his best effort, as he and Cedric Alexander had a doozy that saw Itami prove victorious. Then it was on to a triple threat with Akira Tozawa and Kalisto a few days before the Royal Rumble. That one, also, was a solid showing for all three, really.
Itami then performed well enough at the Royal Rumble in an intense Fatal 4-Way for the Cruiserweight Championship. Buddy Murphy proved victorious of course, but Hideo, like the others in the match, were rewarded for the performance. Finally, Itami’s WWE career wrapped up with another solid showing against the aforementioned Tozawa on Tuesday night’s episode of 205 Live.
Hideo Itami’s career in WWE will always be a what if, but make no mistake: Itami went out with a very consistent and legitimately good January.
T11. BAYLEY, NIA JAX
Most Notable Match: vs. Ronda Rousey (Bayley, Raw, 1/28);
Women’s Royal Rumble (Nia Jax, Royal Rumble, 1/27)
Not expecting this one? Well, we’re gonna dig on in. Cause there’s lots to chew on.
Let’s start with Bayley. Perception is a mother, and the perception around Bayley has seemed to be all over the place since that ill-fated night at Extreme Rules 2017 (I’m not discussing this further, you know what happened). Some have lost faith. Others have kept up optimism. Bayley’s been able to repay those folks who’ve stuck by her with a very solid effort in January.
As the Women’s Tag Team Championships loom, the truth of the matter is that Bayley’s turning herself into a pretty good tag team wrestler. Those “pointless” tag team matches on Raw only appear to be making her stronger in the department, and she helped herself out with a great showing against The Riott Squad in a legitimately fun six-woman tag. Then, the following week, she along with Sasha Banks battled Natalya and Ronda Rousey. Again, she showed out, and performed well in a big spot.
Then came the Women’s Royal Rumble, and Bayley had one of the best performances of the match. She came in with ferocity, eliminating Ruby Riott and Rhea Ripley, before later tossing Alexa Bliss out with the help her of pal Carmella. She nearly eliminated Charlotte Flair in a hell of a tease, but eventually lost. Still, she was in the Final Four, and looked great in doing so.
Her final showing in January was a brilliant solo effort against the aforementioned Rousey. While Ronda appeared to be a bit shaken and stirred by the crowd reactions in the promo beforehand, Bayley helped carry Ronda to a more than respectable match. She brought out a ton of new, innovative stuff and even used the Bank Statement. In case ANYBODY forgot how good Bayley was, I think she proved that she was still among the best, and did so in spades this month.
Now, let’s move on to Nia Jax. This one’s a little… more controversial. Perception on Nia has certainly been low, but the truth of the matter is that in her spots this month, she did rather well. She played her role against Sasha in a #1 contender’s match well, did fine enough in a match with Tamina against Sasha and Rousey, and ended the month with a solid showing in a tag against Alexa and Mickie James that helped catapult her and Tamina into the Elimination Chamber.
Now, why is she so high here? She was featured both the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble matches. She was among the final three in the Women’s Rumble before eventually being eliminated. Then, she showed up in the Men’s Rumble after attacking R-Truth, and ate finishers from Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton, but did rack up some eliminations beforehand.
Now, here’s the thing. Had Nia Jax just been featured in the Women’s match, she would’ve likely found herself closer to the fringe of the Top 25 instead of where she currently stands: Tied for 11th with a more consistent performer. I did give everyone who participated in the Rumbles four points, since I gave the matches four stars.
So, I couldn’t exclude Nia from that, since she appeared in both Rumbles. I gave Becky Lynch multiple points for appearing in two matches on the show, so fair has to be fair. This is not a situation that will arise again I don’t think, so eventually, there will be some course correction. However, this is where we stand based on the math and the way that the formula has to work.
Debate away, and feel free to bag on it if you want, but Bayley and Nia find themselves JUST on the outside of the Top 10.
10. SASHA BANKS
Most Notable Match: vs. Ronda Rousey (Royal Rumble, 1/27)
The Boss… is back… to the level of greatness that we knew she was capable of.
Sasha Banks is in the Top 10 for the month of January. Banks partook in four matches his month, and almost all of them were absolute hits. Banks’ first match was a singles contest against Nia Jax, which helped Banks get a Raw Women’s Championship opportunity against Ronda Rousey at the Royal Rumble.
Sasha then moved on to team with Ronda against Nia and Tamina. That match was a little rough around the edges, but fear not: Banks still marched on. She partook in a match with her aforementioned pal Bayley against Rousey and Natalya on the go-home show before the Rumble, and it was certainly a sparkling affair.
But The Boss saved her best for last. Banks’ match against Ronda for the Women’s Championship was outstanding. She had been in the middle of the pack beforehand, but despite that, her showing and the grade that match got helped shoot her up into the 10 spot. Even while not competing on Raw the next night, she still did herself enough to be recognized in this fashion. And frankly? I’d expect to get used to that if what’s on the horizon is any indication.
If you forgot just how good Sasha Banks is? Well, January reminded you.
9. DREW MCINTYRE
Most Notable Match: vs. Baron Corbin, Finn Balor and John Cena (Raw, 1/14)
His stock may not be as high as it was a few months ago, but Drew McIntyre did himself enough to squeak into the Top 10 this month.
McIntyre participated in a bundle of TV matches this month and not once did he miss a beat. Mac’s best showing may have been in the #1 Contender’s Fatal 4-Way, a match that he, Baron Corbin and John Cena lost to Finn Balor. But, McIntyre was certainly good enough to help make that match one of the best TV matches of the month.
McIntyre also partook in matches against Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins, each of which did their job and then some. The match against Seth really stood out, as it helped set the table for the Royal Rumble. Mac’s participation in that match gave him enough points to ascend into the Top 10 and his showing against Braun kept him stable.
I am interested in seeing what happens from here. He may be facing Cena at WrestleMania, but for now appears to be locked in a feud with Strowman, still. Will he stay within range? We’ll have to see. For now, Mac gets to belong in the Top 10.
8. RONDA ROUSEY
Most Notable Match: vs. Sasha Banks (Royal Rumble, 1/27)
Ronda Rousey safely splashed into the Top 10 after a pretty wonderful January.
It didn’t get off to the ‘best’ of starts, as she and Sasha Banks were tasked with facing Nia Jax and Tamina on Raw. That tag match was just okay, and Ronda needed to partake in some… better matches going forward. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened.
It started the following week. Rousey, along with Natalya, took on The Boss and Hug Connection in the main event of Raw. The match was very good, as one might expect, and Rousey had her moments where she flourished.
Then came the Royal Rumble. Rousey and Banks collided in a match for the Raw Women’s Championship. And what a match it was. It certainly helped remind fans how good Sasha is, but it also definitely added to Ronda’s great cache that she’s built up in the last 10 months. It was yet another big time performance on a big time stage, and there’ll be plenty more chances for her to do exactly that again coming.
Rousey capped off her month against Bayley. This match was certainly carried by The Hugger, as Rousey looked… a bit shaken, perhaps by the debacle that happened beforehand where the crowd may, or may not, have shook her up. But points are points, and she was rewarded enough to maintain her spot in the Top 10.
Rousey’s standing will depend on what happens going forward. Will she fight at Elimination Chamber? It’s not looking likely. That could send her down the rankings next month and send others up the ladder. What will happen is yet to be seen, but there’s certainly no doubt that Rousey was among the best in-ring workers in January.
7. DEAN AMBROSE
Most Notable Match: vs. Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/14)
Hello, controversy. How are you?
Dean Ambrose? The Top 10?
Ambrose’s stock may be down (and he’s also leaving WWE in April) but he still participated in more good matches than bad ones this month, which is sort of ironic in a way, I guess. He’s certainly a beneficiary of quantity, as he posted five matches on Raw and at the Royal Rumble. He’s also certainly a beneficiary of having those valuable points from the Men’s Royal Rumble match, as well.
But, that being said, he also had some quality showings against Seth Rollins on Raw, was in a very good six-man tag, and partook in a banger of a Triple Threat IC Championship Match on January 14.
This is no doubt one of the more controversial parts of this Top 25, I will admit that. But the formula doesn’t lie. And it says that Ambrose had himself a Top 10 month.
6. JOHNNY GARGANO
Most Notable Match: vs. Ricochet (TakeOver: Phoenix, 1/26)
While opinions may have soured on him in the last couple of months, there’s no doubt that Johnny Gargano is one of the best in-ring workers in the game. And he proved exactly that at the start of the year 2019.
Gargano posted just THREE matches that made tape, and still managed to wriggle into the Top 10. He started off with a solid effort against newcomer Humberto Carrillo on NXT TV. Then, he had an absolutely spectacular match with Ricochet at TakeOver: Phoenix. Certainly, Gargano took himself to another level in this one, showcasing why he’s got the ‘Johnny TakeOver’ designation that he has.
Much like a few others, he was ‘rewarded’ with points for partaking in the Royal Rumble Match. Much like a few others, that sort of thing probably won’t happen again for a while, if ever again this year. But, in fairness, that effort against Ricochet would’ve gotten him into the Top 10 based on how things shook out.
Debate away, but Gargano’s standing shouldn’t come as a surprise.
5. BECKY LYNCH
Most Notable Match: vs. Asuka (Royal Rumble, 1/27)
The Man is in the Top 5. Who could argue against that?
Becky Lynch came into 2019 white hot, and that’s not stopping any time soon. Lynch competed in four matches this month and hit on every single one of them. She had a really good showing in a triple threat on SmackDown, a solid effort against Peyton Royce, and then had her big night at the Royal Rumble.
She competed in an absolutely awesome match against Asuka to open the show. The match was a killer, with stiffness, high-impact maneuvers and hard hits galore. Lynch may have succumbed to Asuka’s own version of Cattle Mutilation, but that only set the stage for her big moment in the Royal Rumble match. Lynch was victorious, and was outstanding in doing so.
I do suspect that we’ll see Lynch a lot in the Top 10 going forward. She is putting in incredible work at this point in time. There’s no denying her place in WWE, and there’s no denying her place in these rankings either.
4. SETH ROLLINS
Most Notable Match: Men’s Royal Rumble Match
The winner of the 2019 Royal Rumble has landed himself in the Top 5. And who could possibly be surprised? Seth Rollins went on a tear last year and that momentum seems to be rolling into 2019.
Rollins performed at a high level in TV matches this month. He never was given a grade below ***1/4, and shined brightly in some multi-man matches on Raw. Rollins was part of an awesome Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship Match that saw Bobby Lashley prove victorious (and featured Dean Ambrose), as well as a great six-man tag team match on the first Raw of 2019.
Rollins definitely had his moments this month, but I think he definitely shined the brightest in the Royal Rumble Match. He ‘overcame’ the odds and won after coming in at #10. I will say that I am looking forward to some more singles matches for Rollins this month. He had three of them, two against Ambrose, one against Drew McIntyre on the Raw go-home show. Given that now it’s in stone that he’ll face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, I imagine he’ll get plenty of burn going forward. Time to see what he can do.
T2. ANDRADE, REY MYSTERIO
Most Notable Match: Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15)
It’s almost ironic that these two find themselves paired together, given how the month played itself out. But, Andrade and Rey Mysterio find themselves here tied for second place in the first edition of the WWE Top 25.
Many fans were longing for Andrade to finally be able to showcase his touted talents on the main roster. For a while, he was kind of stuck in purgatory due to timing issues, among other things. But anybody who has watched him, dating back to his AAA days in Mexico, knows that he’s a prodigy and an incredible talent. Well, Andrade absolutely got his shine on in January, alright. He lasted all the way until the Final Four in the Royal Rumble Match, a possible sign of things to come for him this year if all goes well.
But Andrade really shined against the man he’s tied up with here. Rey Mysterio was his dance partner three times on the three SmackDowns on the way to the Royal Rumble. Once in a tag team match, and twice in singles matches, one being a 2/3 falls match. And the first encounter they have may have been the best match to ever air on SmackDown.
Both Rey and Andrade brought out the best in each other, using innovative offense as well as high-flying and high-impact maneuvers. They took fans’ breaths away on more than one occasion, and each seem poised for bigger and better things. And frankly, we’ll all be better for it if that’s indeed the case.
1. FINN BALOR
Most Notable Match: vs. Brock Lesnar (Royal Rumble, 1/27)
What a start to 2019 for Finn Balor. 2018 saw the beloved Balor try to find his footing again after spending time on the shelf from 2016-2017. While Balor definitely got plenty of work in, there was a sense that there was still plenty left to be desired. Well, Finn and WWE capitalized on that for sure.
Balor was arguably the biggest workhorse of the month. He worked six matches in total and even worked on two different continents. He was part of the first NXT UK TakeOver in Blackpool, having put on a dazzling display against Jordan Devlin, a superstar that Finn actually had a hand in training out in Ireland.
Finn was consistently great on TV. He took part in four TV matches this month, two in one night back on January 14. I gave TV matches that Finn participated in no worse than ***3/4, including two four-star showings in a six-man tag on January 7 and a Number One Contender’s Fatal 4-Way on January 14. Finn absolutely shined in both of those showings, winning the right to face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.
And no match displayed the type of abilities that Balor possesses more than that encounter against Lesnar. The match was a full-on sprint and Finn showed tremendous heart, offense and ability. It was, in my opinion, Finn’s best WWE match ever, even dating back to his days in NXT.
Simply put, Finn Balor was one of the best around in January. If he can keep up this kind of effort with this type of workload? Look out, because he could very well stay atop the rankings for a very long time at this current rate.