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.