The Unpopular Opinion: The Top Ten Wrestlers of the 2010s Part I

The Four Horsewomen taking a bow in 2015. These women would become cornerstones of the women's evolution to come later in the decade. (YouTube/WWE)

It’s a new decade, yes it is! Welcome back to the Unpopular Opinion, as we begin the countdown of David Jacobus’ top 10 wrestlers of the 2010s. Will your favorite make the list?

No.10:  Charlotte Flair

The list begins with a Flair. The name Flair in professional wrestling is synonymous with two things: winning championships and making history. In the very first Unpopular Opinion, Ric Flair was the top wrestler of the 1980s. Three decades later, who would have thought the daughter of arguably the greatest of all time would grace the list of the top 10 of a decade.

Charlotte Flair will arguably go down as one of the most dominant and most successful women’s wrestlers in history. Charlotte over the 2010’s went from signing a developmental contract to becoming the face of women’s wrestling.

Charlotte’s career began in 2012 when she signed a developmental contract with WWE. In a little over a year’s time, she debuted with NXT alongside her father. From that moment she would align herself with Sasha Banks and Summer Rae to form The BFFs (Beautiful, Fierce Females) and run through the NXT Women’s Division. Charlotte’s run of dominance led her to become the second-ever NXT Women’s Champion defeating Natalya at NXT Takeover. 

Winning the NXT Women’s Championship cemented Charlotte as the future of Women’s wrestling and continues the legacy of the Flair name. As Champion, she would help other women gain credibility and show why they are the future of women’s wrestling. She have matches with Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley, showing why the four of them have come to WWE to change the face of women’s wrestling.

These four women (better known as The Four Horsewomen of NXT) pioneered and led a charge to change how people viewed and presented women’s wrestling. Shortly after their time in NXT, they led their “revolution” to the main roster. 

On Jul. 13 2015, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks debuted on Monday Night Raw. From that moment these three instantly made an impact changing women’s wrestling.  A few months after her debut, Charlotte defeated Nikki Bella to win the Divas Championship. Charlotte would ultimately become the very last Divas Champion because at WrestleMania 32, WWE resurrected the WWE Women’s Championship.

At that aforementioned WrestleMania, Charlotte defeated Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to become the new WWE Women’s Champion. She would continue to reign on top of the Women’s Division. She reigned on top until the brand split and she was drafted to Raw where she became the Raw Women’s Champion.

While on Raw, herself and Sasha Banks competed in a historic rivalry revolving around the Raw Women’s Championship. Their back and forth rivalry battled on big stages, main events but no one seemed to have an edge over one another. These two women battled in Falls Count Anywhere bouts and became the first two women to ever battle inside Hell in a Cell (also first two women to main event a pay per view). These two had an intense rivalry ultimately ending in an Iron Man Match where Charlotte was able to win the deciding fall ending their historic rivalry.

Highlights from the aforementioned Hell in a Cell match. (YouTube/WWE)

Charlotte proved to herself that she is destined for greatness and is paving her path to being the greatest of all time. However, there was one woman who looked to make an impactful debut and what a way to do so than going after the one on top.

Bayley made her way to Monday Night Raw and looked to make an impact and challenge Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Championship. After barely escaping with victory, Charlotte knew her throne was close to being gone.

Bayley eventually defeated Charlotte to become Raw Women’s Champion. Charlotte would then lose her rematch ending her historic PPV winning streak. She then lost a fatal-four-way match at WrestleMania, ending her time on Monday Night Raw.

Charlotte then moved to SmackDown during the Superstar Shake-Up. Charlotte was heading to SmackDown already being a credible competitor, but she was the new face to a roster of women who have already made a name on SmackDown. Charlotte did not hesitate at yet again making more history. She was a competitor in the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. 

On Nov. 14, 2017, Charlotte would defeat rival Natalya to become SmackDown Women’s Champion. She became the first and only woman to hold the NXT, Divas, Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships. In a short amount of time, Charlotte was already chasing history books and closed in on Trish Stratus’s historic 7 title reigns.

She would take the SmackDown Women’s Championship all the way to WrestleMania where she took on Asuka. Asuka had dominated NXT and had over two-year undefeated streak and an over 500-day reign as NXT Women’s Champion. This was one of the first times that Charlotte went into a big match not as the odds on favorite.

The two went back and forth in a highly competitive match worthy of WrestleMania.  Asuka seemed to be closing in on the SmackDown Women’s Championship, however it was Charlotte who was able to submit Asuka, ending her undefeated streak, and retained the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Charlotte proved to the world that she was the Queen of the Kingdom and was the best Women’s wrestler in the world.

Charlotte lost the Women’s Championship a few days after thanks to Carmella cashing in her Money in the Bank opportunity. However, Charlotte returned and reclaimed the SmackDown Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. However, while reclaiming her throne, she made an enemy in her best friend.

Charlotte and Becky Lynch were the best of friends until Charlotte stole an opportunity. At SummerSlam, it was originally supposed to be Becky taking on Carmella for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Becky was the woman of Four Horsewomen that was always overlooked and never given an opportunity like the other three. However, when Charlotte stole Becky’s opportunity, Becky turned her back on her former friend and took the SmackDown Women’s Championship from Charlotte.

The two went to war with each other for almost an entire year. Charlotte attempted to dethrone Becky, but at every turn, it did not happen. However, an addition to the long stemming rivalry added fuel to the fire. Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey was supposed to challenge Becky Lynch at Survivor Series but an injury sidelined her from competing. Which led Becky to choose Charlotte to replace her. The two still were bitter enemies, but Becky knew Charlotte was on the same level as Ronda Rousey. However, Ronda’s hatred for Becky led to Ronda to viciously attack Charlotte at Survivor Series.

The hatred led all the way to the following PPV. The rivalry between the three women led to both Becky and Charlotte losing a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match to Asuka and led Becky to lose the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

Charlotte wanted to chase and end Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. She knew the way she could do so was by winning the Women’s Royal Rumble. However, it was Becky Lynch who won the Royal Rumble and had a match set with Ronda Rousey.

After months of going back and forth, Charlotte was added to the match between Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey. The match became the first Women’s Match to main event WrestleMania. The three women battled in a winner take all match after Charlotte defeated Asuka to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

Becky Lynch won the match at WrestleMania. However, the defeat did not stop Charlotte from striving for the throne. She defeated Becky Lynch at Money in the Bank to win her ninth Women’s Championship. She did not last long as Champion as Bayley cashed in the Money in the Bank and took the Championship from Charlotte.

While Flair didn’t leave WrestleMania with the gold, she was a part of the first women’s main event in its history. (YouTube/WWE)

Charlotte’s throne continued to slip away, but she saw history to make. At SummerSlam, she defeated arguably the greatest of all time Trish Stratus in a portrayal of a passing of the torch.

Charlotte would use that momentum and head to Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell to challenge Bayley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Bayley has attempted to use dirty tactics to try to get past Charlotte, but Charlotte was able to defeat Bayley at Hell in a Cell and become the first-ever 10 time Women’s Champion. However, she quickly lost the championship back to Bayley and was drafted to Monday Night Raw due to the 2019 WWE Draft. 

With the move to Raw, Charlotte began targeting a championship she never held, the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships. However, Charlotte does not have many allies besides one person, her former best friend Becky Lynch. Even though they don’t see eye to eye, the two teamed up to challenge The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships. 

Heading into the 2020’s, Charlotte is one of the most successful women in professional wrestling. However, there are tons of hungry and talented women in the world who continue to break through barriers and climb the ladder of success. Heading into the 2020’s, can Charlotte keep her spot on her throne and make the 2020’s the decade of the Queen?

Charlotte’s historic run in the last decade is second to no one. She has defeated the who’s who of women’s wrestling.  Many disagree with how fast Charlotte has made history and how much she is always in the title picture. However, you can’t ignore the facts that Charlotte is a key factor in changing women’s wrestling. Just like her father changing wrestling back in the 80s, Charlotte followed in her father’s footsteps and paving the way for future women in WWE.

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One of the biggest matches of Charlotte’s career, facing Becky Lynch in a Last Woman Standing match at the first-ever all-women’s pay per view, Evolution. (YouTube/WWE)

No. 9:  Seth Rollins

Hard work and perseverance defines the next entrant to the countdown, The Architect, the King Slayer, the Beast Slayer, the man known as Seth Rollins.

Seth, formerly known as Tyler Black, began the 2010s finishing up a short yet remarkable run with Ring of Honor. He was a multiple-time Tag Team Champion and a former World Champion; a reign lasting over 200 days. His run in Ring of Honor was historic and full of classic bouts with Nigel McGuiness, Claudio Castinolgi, Austin Aries, Colt Cabana, Roderick Strong and Kenny King. However, when one door closes; another one opens.

Seth then moved on to the biggest opportunity of his career, a developmental deal with WWE. He began his development with the promotion FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling). He, just like everyone else scratched and clawed to get every opportunity to make a name for themselves. However, Seth stood out as a potential diamond in the group of any other potential stars.

Seth had a successful run in FCW, winning every championship and being the one known as the final FCW Heavyweight Champion.

WWE rebranded FCW into NXT in 2012. Seth instantly made an impact and proving his worth for WWE. Seth within his first year in NXT, he became the inaugural NXT Champion and submitted himself in the history books. Seth proved to the critics that he was the future of WWE and was ready to make an impact whenever the time was right. 

At the 2012 Survivor Series,  Seth made the impact heard around the world. Seth alongside fellow NXT developmental stars Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns ambushed John Cena and Ryback, which aided CM Punk to retain the WWE Championship.

The three men formed The Shield and for years, they dominated and ran roughshod over the entire WWE taking out names like: John Cena, The Rock, The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Kane and many more. They went on to win championships and put together a historic win streak, until the past tried to get in their path of destruction.

Rollins making a trademark funny face following the Shield’s first win as a trio. (YouTube/WWE)

The Shield went under the wing of Triple H and The Authority and took out anyone who stood in their way of securing their face of WWE. However, when one becomes abusive with power, dissension begins from within. The Shield turned their backs on The Authority and strived to take down the powers that be. Until, the head of power Triple H reforms a group that dominated the WWE, Evolution.

Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista, three of the most successful wrestlers in WWE history, looked to take down The Shield and prove that no one crosses the Authority. However, Evolution was unsuccessful not once, but twice. A once-dominant faction, was beaten by the new faces of the future. But, in defeat, there is always a Plan B.

Triple H vowed to take down The Shield, but just as The Shield descended from within the Authority, The Shield suffered the same fate. In a move that no one saw coming, Seth Rollins turned his back on The Shield and aligned himself right under the wing of Triple H as the future of WWE. With the help of the Authority, Seth had a clear path to the future. Seth redesigned himself to ensure that he becomes the future diamond of WWE.

With the help of The Authority, Seth went on to win the Money in the Bank ladder match which ensured a future WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity. The Authority was ready to crown its future. However, guys like former Shield brothers Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, John Cena, Sting, and others put pressure to the guy that was being pushed to the top.  But, nothing was taking the golden ticket that was in the grip of Seth Rollins.

Entering WrestleMania, Seth Rollins already had a battle on his plate against Randy Orton, but what came later shocked the entire world.  The main event was scheduled to be Brock Lesnar defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Roman Reigns. Roman since the split of The Shield has scratched and clawed to the main event of WrestleMania, but many of the WWE Universe was not buying in to the push of Roman Reigns as the future face of WWE. As Roman and Brock battled for the biggest prize in the main event of the biggest show, one cashed in an opportunity that would go down as one of the biggest WrestleMania moments in history.

After the two powerhouses destroyed each other, Seth Rollins shocked the world and cashed in his Money in the Bank opportunity during the main event of WrestleMania. He hit the Curb Stomp on both men and pinned Roman Reigns to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The future was indeed now and the guy who was placed underneath the wing of Triple H was groomed and now was placed as the new face of WWE. 

Seth Rollins as champion used the Authority to make sure that he stayed at the top of WWE. Challengers came and challengers fell. Names like Randy Orton, Sting, and John Cena, all names that tried to put pressure on Seth Rollins being the future were now unsuccessful. However, there are challenges that potential stars of the company face. With the pressure at the top, some stay at the top and become a diamond. But, some cannot take the pressure and crumble and fade away. Seth seemed to become the next diamond, until a serious knee injury at a house show halted the rise. 

Seth was forced to relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and be sidelined for the next seven months and missed WrestleMania. Seth knew he had to work even harder in his path to get back to the top once he returned.

Roman Reigns had claimed the top after dethroning Triple H at WrestleMania. However, Seth Rollins redesigned, rebuilt and reclaimed the throne he never lost. Seth won back the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Money in the Bank PPV, but the reign was short-lived as a bit of deja vu for Seth took place. Former Shield brother Dean Ambrose won the Money in the Bank ladder match and did not wait for an opportunity to strike. Immediately after Seth Rollins just won back the championship he never lost, Dean Ambrose cashed in his opportunity and pinned Seth Rollins to win the WWE World Championship.

A historic moment when all three Sheild members held the WWE Championship. (YouTube/WWE)

After that pay per view, Seth Rollins was moved to Monday Night Raw due to the resurrection of the brand split. Seth Rollins was the first pick by Stephanie McMahon and was awarded a shot at the new Universal Championship at SummerSlam. However, the newest call up from NXT was looking to make a name for himself, Finn Balor. The dream match was set to crown the inaugural champion. Seth looked to make history once again, but it was Finn Balor capturing and becoming the inaugural Universal Champion. However, Finn Balor suffered an injury during the match and was forced to relinquish the Universal Championship.

The injury gave another chance for Seth to reclaim the top, but there was once who did not want that and it was his own mentor, Triple H. Triple H cost Seth Rollins the Universal Championship and did all in his power to show Seth is not the diamond he was groomed to be.

Seth’s hardwork and drive needed to be proven and the way to prove that was by destroying the one who built groomed him for the top. He needed to become the King Slayer and needed to burn down the kingdom. He did so at his return to WrestleMania 33. 

Seth was now on his own two feet and was ready to take on all challengers. Without a Universal Champion, Seth and the entire Raw roster chased the Intercontinental Championship. Next to the World Championship, the Intercontinental Championship is one of the most prestigious Championships in WWE. Many have laid claim that the Intercontinental Championship is the workhorse championship. Meaning Seth has to prove  he is a workhorse and can be the one that leads Monday Night Raw. However, Seth had to start at square one and rise.

And rise Seth did. He continued to overcome battles and odds to prove his ability in the ring. His shining moment came during a gauntlet on an episode of Raw.  Seth was the first in the match and for over an hour competed with the best that WWE has to offer. He beat John Cena and Roman Reigns in two high quality matches. The gauntlet match put Seth Rollins back on the map as one of the top competitors in WWE.

That performance led Seth to WrestleMania where he challenged The Miz and Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship. Seth overcame the battle and odds and defeated both competitors to become the new Intercontinental Champion. He became a Grand Slam Champion and proved to the world that he can win on his own. Over the next year he defended the Intercontinental Championship with the best and brightest on Raw. Beating Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, The Miz and others proving he was the best Raw has to offer.

However, there was one objective that Seth had to prove and that was to become Universal Champion. Seth’s path led him to the Royal Rumble where he was able to overcome the odds and win the Royal Rumble match guaranteeing him a shot at the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. However, he had to take the Universal Championship from the man he had never defeated, Brock Lesnar.

With odds not on his side, Seth was able to defeat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania and reclaim the top title of Raw. He was now the face of Raw proving he can persevere and battle when the odds are not on his side.

Rollins securing the victory against Lesnar, much to Paul Heyman’s chagrin. (YouTube/WWE)

He fought through battles between the lights of AJ Styles and Baron Corbin, however the presence of Brock Lesnar was still there. Seth’s hardwork and climb was gone after Brock Lesnar cashed in the Money in the Bank to win back the Universal Championship. However, Seth had to show that his hard work to change the WWE was not for nothing. That is why he challenged Brock to a rematch at SummerSlam and was able to defeat him once again and reclaim the Universal Championship.

Seth would then involve himself into a temporary feud with Braun Strowman before finding himself in the crosshairs of The Fiend, Bray Wyatt. The demonic split personality of the new Bray Wyatt tormented Seth for weeks. The two clashed inside Hell in a Cell and then in a rematch at Crown Jewel. The Fiend defeated Seth at Crown Jewel  to win the Universal Championship.

Seth would then find himself on Monday Night Raw once again after the WWE Draft. He attempted to lead the brand into the future and into the fight against SmackDown and NXT at Survivor Series. Raw was the least successful brand at Survivor Series which angered Seth.

Seth the following night called out every member of Raw and blamed them for the lack of success at Survivor Series. Which angered Raw member Kevin Owens. Seth and Kevin began feuding, but Seth gained the backup of the Authors of Pain to protect him as the sole leader of Monday Night Raw.

Seth had a rollercoaster of a ride throughout the 2010s. From going through NXT and becoming the future. To debuting alongside his brothers in The Shield, ultimately becoming their own worst enemies. To have to restart from square one after coming back from injuries and setbacks. Seth will go down as one of the best from the 2010’s not only from his rise to the top. But, his in-ring performance, his story having everything taken away, only to strive climb and reclaim success. 

Now that Seth has gained the muscle of the A.O.P, will this be the rise of a new and powerful faction heading into the 2020’s? Seth has done it all in this decade and does not look like slowing down heading into the 2020s.

Rollins steps into the next decade with a deadly alliance with the Authors of Pain. (YouTube/WWE)

No. 8:  Bullet Club

Next on the list is a group that created more news, headlines and chaos around the wrestling world. I’m of course talking about the Bullet Club.

Bullet Club originated in Japan. Prince Devitt (the now Finn Balor in WWE), was captivating crowds and dominated the junior heavyweight division in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Multiple reigns as both IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. Devitt was on what seemed a rise to the top with the ranks of the heavyweights.  However, Devitt seemed that New Japan management saw differently.

Devitt’s new attitude continued to gain more controversy as he turned his back on his former tag team partner Ryusuke Taguchi and aligned himself along new ally Bad Luck Fale. 

The duo then became a faction as Machine Gun Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga quickly made his way into the faction after an attack on Hiroshi Tanahashi. These men would run roughshod over the following months destroying New Japan and stopping at nothing to take over. 

In 2013, the Bullet Club expanded, adding The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) to the fray. The two instantly skyrocketed to the top, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships on multiple occasions.

Another heavyweight then made his way, Doc Gallows. He joined Karl Anderson and the two dominated the heavyweight tag team division winning the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships on numerous occasions. Bullet Club was riding high and dominating Japan. However, there was a shift in leadership of the team. 

The first incarnation of the Bullet Club basking in their success. (YouTube/New Japan Pro-Wrestling)

In 2014, Devitt was kicked out of Bullet Club. However, not long after a new leader made his presence felt. AJ Styles debuted in New Japan and instantly took over the role of leader of Bullet Club.

AJ went on to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his debut match thanks in part to newest member Yujiro Takahashi. AJ Styles leadership with the richest prize in New Japan showed the entire world that Bullet Club will stop at nothing to take over the wrestling world. They became the talk of the wrestling world and in some ways built a culture around them. In some ways, Bullet Club was this generation’s New World Order. Changing the game every step they made.

They would recruit Kenny Omega who was becoming a rising star in the junior heavyweight division. He adopted the name “The Cleaner” to clean up the entire junior heavyweight division in pursuit to the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

The Bullet Club also adopted a young boy training just like how New Japan has. Their first trainee was Cody Hall, son of Hall of Fame wrestler Scott Hall. Bullet Club continued their dominance, but yet again, the top of the Bullet Club was immersed in controversy.

AJ Styles was leaving New Japan, which created an opportunity for someone to dispose of him from Bullet Club. Kenny Omega attacked and with help from Bullet Club, erased AJ Styles from leadership and out of the faction once and for all. The Bullet Club gained an “Elite” stability at the top of New Japan. 

With Kenny and The Young Bucks at the top of Bullet Club, the trio formed The Elite, a sub-faction within Bullet Club. The trio was on the rise from the junior heavyweights and on the cusp of heavyweight championships in their near future.

Kenny would go on to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and then the G1 Climax on his first attempt (also was the first non-japanese wrestler to win the tournament). It was then time for Bullet Club to branch out and show why they are out to dominate the wrestling world.

Bullet Club would go to Ring of Honor and recruit top star Adam Cole. Adam Cole was a big name already in Ring of Honor. However, in Bullet Club, he would go on to win 2 Ring of Honor World Championships and become one of the biggest names in professional wrestling.

Bullet Club would continue their recruiting as they added both “Hangman” Adam Page and Cody Rhodes. Adding these two names gave Bullet Club even more legitimacy to changing the face of professional wrestling. However, yet again, controversy stirred within Bullet Club.

The Golden Elite basking in their glory. (YouTube/New Japan Pro-Wrestling)

Tama Tonga raised tension in leadership of Bullet Club. Tama brought in his brother Tanga Loa in look to changing the future of the leadership of Bullet Club. The two quickly reached success becoming Tag Team Champions. However, the talk was still about Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes.

Kenny was striving for success in chasing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. While Cody was out to prove that he was not going to be anybody’s second. Cody was out to prove to the world that he was the rightful leader of Bullet Club.

Cody did all in his power to assert control within Bullet Club. However, Kenny wanted to restore unity within Bullet Club. He offered “Switchblade” Jay White a spot within Bullet Club. However, he turned down and attacked Kenny. He would then capture Kenny’s IWGP United States Championship. However, after Kenny lost the title, the strings of Bullet Club continued to unravel. Cody attacked Kenny, but Kenny was saved by former tag team partner Kota Ibushi.

The Golden Lovers reunited and challenged The Young Bucks. Their match did more to strengthen Bullet Club more than ever. The Young Bucks would go on to become IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, while Kenny Omega finally reached the top of the mountain and became IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

Bullet Club continued to get stronger adding Marty Scurul who became new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Bullet Club was strong and powerful, but dissension continued to grow within.

Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Bad Luck Fale made their presence known as The Firing Squad. A war within was destined to split Bullet Club once and for all.

The Guerillas of Destiny would reclaim the Heavyweight Tag Team Championships from The Young Bucks. A new era for Bullet Club was destined.

Jay White, the man who turned down Bullet Club originally, assumed the role of leadership of Bullet Club, leading Bullet Club into the future. Bringing in Taiji Ishimori, Geido, El Phantasmo, KENTA, Jado to the new era.

Bullet Club changed professional wrestling. I do not remember a time where Bullet Club or members was not in the news or in headlines after big events in Japan. Wrestlers became major stars within the Bullet Club dominating Japan. The current members of Bullet Club look to write a new future heading into the next decade. 

A playlist detailing the long history of the Bullet Club. (YouTube/New Japan Pro-Wrestling)

No. 7: The New Day

It’s a New Day, yes it is! The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, & Big E) since forming in 2014, has become one of the most entertaining and charismatic teams in WWE history. However, before we can take a unicorn ride into what made the New Day worthy of this spot on the countdown, we have to rewind time to understand the backstory into this legendary team.

We start our journey with the New Day by looking at all the members as individuals and the reason they got together. We start with Kofi Kingston. A “Jamaican” wrestler with high-flying athleticism and abilities unlike anybody anyone had ever seen. Debuting in 2008, Kofi amazed crowds and was on the rise as a future star in the making. Kofi would go on to win the United States Championship and Intercontinental Championship on several occasions. The main event scene seemed to be getting closer and closer for Kofi. However, he never got to that level.

Another star on the rise was Big E. Big E is a massive and powerful former powerlifter turned professional wrestler. Big E wrestled in the developmental territories before making it to NXT where he would become the second ever NXT Champion. He made his main roster debut shortly thereafter, aligning himself with Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. He would soon split away from the two and pursued a singles career. He would go on to win the Intercontinental Championship, having one of the longest reigns in history. However as Intercontinental Champion, Big E seemed to have to presence to be the future of WWE.

Which brings us to Xavier Woods. Xavier Woods like Big E wrestled in NXT and seemed to try to make a name for himself as the future of WWE. However, Xavier’s journey had a few twists and turns. He began feuding with Brodus Clay for the right to use the Funkadactyls. Which led to Xavier to get lost in the shuffle of the main roster. Until he had enough of it.

In 2014, on the July 21 edition of Monday Night Raw, Xavier Woods confronted Big E and Kofi Kingston who seemed to be on a downward spiral after losing a tag team match and continuing their losing streak. Xavier Woods stated it was time to find a purpose. It was time to make a change in the WWE.

After the passionate statement, vignettes began to air on WWE programming showing the three preaching the gospel of a New Day. There was a New Day coming for the New Day.

Big E using his best preacher’s voice to sing the praises of the New Day. (YouTube/WWE)

When the New Day debuted, their attitude and presentation was different. It became New Day Rocks and claps of positivity. However, the WWE Universe was not buying into the New Day. The WWE Universe continuously yelled “New Day Sucks” and showed their disapproval towards the New Day. How did the New Day retaliate?

The New Day used the negative energy that was given by the WWE Universe and used it in the ring. Keeping the upbeat positive attitude, the New Day used underhanded tactics to get ahead, which led them to win the WWE Tag Team Championships.

The New Day as Tag Team Champions brought back the famous “Freebird Rule,” where all members of a team can defend the Tag Team Championships. The trio defeated all comers and did not let defeat stop them.

They would lose the Tag Team Championships to The Primetime Players (Titus O’Neil), but the New Day would regain the championships mere months later at SummerSlam. However, the future for the New Day seemed to be full of tables.

The New Day would go on to feud with the legendary Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von). The Dudley Boyz would be unsuccessful at beating the New Day, but the Dudley Boyz helped give the New Day credibility in building the future of WWE. 

The New Day would continue to gain success, defeating the teams of: The Lucha Dragons, The League of Nations, The Wyatt Family, The Vaudevillians and The Usos. The New Day defeated any team that stood in their way. With the reign of dominance and their power of positivity, The New Day was also gaining a following from the WWE Universe.

“New Day Sucks” turned into “New Day Rocks.” The New Day became a cult following full of rainbows, bright colored t-shirts and glowing unicorn horns. From the power of Francesca the Trombone to twerking, the New Day was instantly becoming one of the most popular factions in WWE. The gain in popularity led to one of the greatest marketing ideas in WWE history, Booty Os. The New Day launched Booty Os cereal with the slogan, “Booty Os: They make sure you ain’t Booty.” Booty Os flew off the shelves of Fyes and online sites. Everything continued to look up for the New Day.

In 2016, the New Day landed on Monday Night Raw due to the Brand Split. They would continue their dominance as the Tag Team Champions where they broke the record for the longest reign as WWE Tag Team Champions in history (483 days).

The final task the New Day had to face. Taking on four of the biggest WWE superstars to break the longest tag team reign record. (YouTube/WWE)

While on Raw, The New Day continued to face all challenges like Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson and The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro). Once The New Day eventually lost the Tag Team Championships, the New Day would go on to host WrestleMania. They would travel to the ring in an ice cream cart. Meaning they created something new to sell which was New Day Pops. Popsicles that you make at home. As hosts of WrestleMania, The New Day brought entertainment, excitement and created moments worthy of WrestleMania. 

New Day, however, found a new challenge when they moved to the SmackDown brand due to the Superstar Shake-Up. They would go on to take on the challenge of the new environment. They would go on to feud with former rivals The Bar, and The Usos. The New Day quickly made their presence known by challenging and winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championships from The Usos. The two would feud for months eventually leading to the first-ever tag team Hell in a Cell match. The feud between these two stole the show every time they faced off and showed the world that tag team wrestling is still alive.

On SmackDown, the New Day would also steal the show against The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) from Raw at the Survivor Series. Two of the best trios that WWE had to offer showed why those six men were the future of the wrestling business.

The New Day then set their sights back on the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, but the presence of Luke Harper and Erik Rowan halted their pursuit. The New Day failed to capture the Championships at WrestleMania. However, using Pancake Power, New Day finally defeated Harper and Rowan shortly after SummerSlam to become 5 time Tag Team Champions. The New Day would begin the reign by being summoned into the “Five-Timers Club” by none other than King Booker. 

The fifth reign was short-lived however when The Bar beat the bosses of booty on SmackDown 1000. The New Day would continue to pursue the Tag Team Championships but it was unsuccessful. However, there was a bigger goal in mind.

An injury to WWE Superstar Ali, opened an opportunity for a member of the New Day to enter the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber. Kofi Kingston was the one who took the opportunity and he made the best of it. He stole the show and came inches away from becoming WWE Champion. His performance inside the Elimination Chamber was a performance of a lifetime that gained a following from the WWE Universe. The #KofiMania movement began. The WWE Universe wanted Kofi to get a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

Kofi has been with WWE for over a decade, but has never given a chance at the WWE Championship. He has never been given a chance at becoming a main event superstar. Vince McMahon however wanted Kofi to earn it. Vince put challenge after challenge in the path of Kofi Kingston to make sure he does not get a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

Kofi, however, defied the odds and with the help of his New Day brothers got the shot at WrestleMania, challenging Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

At WrestleMania, Kofi again faced the odds, but with the support from the WWE Universe and the help from the New Day, Kofi Kingston defied the odds once again and won the WWE Championship on the biggest stage at WrestleMania. The decade-plus journey brought Kofi Kingston to WrestleMania to make history to become the first African-born WWE Champion.

Kofi Kingston becoming WWE Champion at WrestleMania solidified The New Day’s spot on this list. As individuals, each seemed that their future was bleak and lacked any direction. However, as a unit, the three gained credibility and got to express themselves both as a team and as individuals.  The New Day showed that you should make the best of opportunities because opportunities are a dime a dozen in the world of WWE. 

One of the shining moments from WrestleMania 35, Kofi Kingston defeating the odds and becoming the first African American WWE Championship with his close friends by his side. (YouTube/WWE)

The New Day would go on to gain a sixth Tag Team Championship reign on SmackDown and Kofi Kingston has faced overcoming the odds every step of the way as WWE Champion. 

Kofi’s WWE Championship reign ended, when Brock Lesnar defeated Kofi on the debut episode of SmackDown on Fox, but that has not stopped Kofi from fighting.

The New Day was drafted to SmackDown due to the 2019 WWE Draft. They went on to defeat the Revival to become SmackDown Tag Team Champions for the seventh time. What will the 2020s bring for the New Day?

The New Day will go down as one of the greatest tag teams in WWE history. From the flamboyant and outgoing personalities to helping integrate the video game world to the wrestling world with Xavier Woods’ YouTube channel UpUpDownDown, to helping with changing how stars are looked in WWE today. The New Day changed the future of not only tag team wrestling, but also changing the future of potential stars in WWE. From unicorn horns, “The Book of Booty,” Booty Os, rainbows and pancakes, the New Day continues to gain a cult following from the WWE Universe and continues to prove the critics wrong as some of the best athletes in the WWE today. 

No. 6: Kevin Steen/Owens

Where do I begin with someone who calls himself, “Mr. Wrestling.” Whether you call him Kevin Steen or Kevin Owens, you can say that he has been a name that continues to headline any promotion that he is in.  Kevin made opportunities made moves that completely altered the face of professional wrestling.

Kevin’s story begins surrounded in controversy. Kevin was one of the top performers in ROH (Ring of Honor) and became one of the top wrestlers in the world. However, failed promises and money led to Kevin creating a crazy and chaotic atmosphere around ROH.

He entered 2010 feuding with former best friend El Generico (better known in WWE as Sami Zayn). Kevin and Generico’s rivalry stemmed from a long and extensive tag team partnership which saw them to the ROH Tag Team Championships.  However, Kevin turned his back on Generico at Final Battle 2009.

No matter the attacks by Kevin, Generico never wanted to harm his best friend, until enough was enough and Generico fought back. The two waged war for months until the circumstances reached its peak. At Final Battle 2010, El Generico put his mask on the line against Steen who put his ROH career on the line. After a bloody battle, Generico finally was able to Kevin, ending Kevin’s career in ROH, or at least we thought.

After Steen left ROH in 2010,  would compete in Southern California wrestling territory PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerilla).  He would face opponents like PAC, Akira Tozawa, Chris Hero, Claudio Castignoli ( also known in WWE as Cesaro), the Young Bucks and Ricochet.

Owens paying tribute to the original venue of PWG. (YouTube/WWE)

Steen would return to ROH in 2011, but with the same attitude and chaos that he is known for. An ongoing battle with attorneys and Jim Cornette, the battle was set for Steen to win his career in ROH back. 

He had to defeat his mentor that made him into the villainous and chaotic psychopath, Steve Corino. Steen had to defeat his mentor, who aligned himself with management. He also had the challenge of his former friend Jimmy Jacobs against him as the special referee.

At Final Battle, the two caused destruction and mayhem all over the arena. The two bloody warriors left it all on the line in the ring. Steen was able to however hit a deadly Package Piledriver on a set of chairs for the win. Steen was now officially back in ROH, however, his mission was not complete. Kevin hit yet another Package Piledriver on Jimmy Jacobs and looked to hit one on Jim Cornette. However, El Generico returned and confronted Kevin. That decision however would backfire as Kevin low blowed Generico which led to Kevin hitting  a Package Piledriver through the announce table, sending Generico to the hospital. With Steen back in ROH and Generico out of the picture, Steen took full advantage to make ROH his own personal playground.

Over the next year, Steen would go on to defeat the best ROH has to offer, leading his chase towards becoming ROH World Champion. After becoming World Champion defeating Davey Richards at Border Wars in Canada, Steen aligned himself alongside Jimmy Jacobs and Steve Corino forming S.C.U.M.(Suffering, Chaos, Ugliness, & Mayhem). Steen and S.C.U.M. ran roughshod over ROH. However, a former foe became a stick in the side of Steen once again.

El Generico returned and vowed to bring the ROH World Championship back to ROH. The two knew a regular singles match wasn’t going to finish this war, the stakes needed to be raised. The two decided to end their nearly three-year rivalry in a Ladder War. A match that had only happened ROH a handful of times due to the amount of physicality and brutality. Those words defined this encounter. However, it was Steen who was able to write the last chapter retaining the ROH World Championship.

For nearly a year, Steen dominated ROH. After losing the World Championship to Jay Briscoe, Steen’s time in ROH was soon approaching. What a way to go out that with having dream matches with the best wrestlers in the world. ROH helped put Kevin Steen on the map and helped him blossom into one of the best wrestlers in the world both on the mic and in the ring. There were definitely eyes on Steen. Once his contract ended after his final match with Steve Corino, Steen became the hottest free agent in professional wrestling.

Knowing the stardom that Steen brings, there was only one company that would show Kevin’s talent and that was the WWE. WWE signed Kevin and brought him into the upstart promotion NXT. now going under the name Kevin Owens (paying tribute to his favorite wrestler Owen Hart), Kevin from his debut made an instant impact that put Kevin right to the main event.

Kevin debuted at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution defeating CJ Parker (better known as Juice Robinson). However, his night was not over. In the main event of the same show, Sami Zayn defeated Adrian Neville to win the NXT Championship. During the celebration, the entire locker room came out to congratulate Sami on realizing a dream. Kevin was the first one to hug and embrace his best friend who had reached a major milestone and a major accomplishment. As we saw the two heading back up the ramp, Kevin stabbed his best friend in the back and left him lying in a broken heap. A night that was supposed to be the biggest night in Sami’s career, turned into Sami’s worst in a matter of a moment.

The moment that shocked the world when Owens ruined Zayn’s crowning moment. (YouTube/WWE)

Kevin did not wait to make an impact, he made his opportunity no matter who got in his way. His take no prisoners path led him to a match with Sami Zayn NXT TakeOver: Rival for the NXT Championship. Sami was determined to issue much-needed revenge on his former best friend. However, there was nothing that was going to stop Kevin from becoming champion. Kevin powerbombed Sami into oblivion which forced the referee to stop the match, awarding the NXT Championship to Kevin Owens.

In 2 months to the day since making his debut in NXT, Kevin Owens became NXT Champion. Kevin proved to everyone that he was an instant start the moment he stepped foot in NXT. However, it was now time to prove to the entire world that Kevin is the best in the world.

On May 18, 2015, on an edition of Monday Night Raw, John Cena issued an open challenge for the United States Championship. The one to answer the open challenge, was Kevin Owens. In a surreal moment, John Cena was in the same ring as Kevin Owens. The NXT Champion was in the same ring as the United States Champion on Monday Night Raw. Kevin did not waste a second making a statement to the entire world. He stepped up and stood over John Cena. Not as United States Champion, but as someone who helped both himself and NXT, showing that anyone who came from NXT should be taken seriously.

Kevin would however go on and defeat John Cena at the Elimination Chamber pay per view. Making a statement is one thing, but to defeat a name like John Cena, someone who has been the face of WWE for over a decade and is a 16 time World Champion. To beat John Cena in your main roster debut match instantly made a statement that Kevin Owens is a main eventer and has the potential of being the biggest star in professional wrestling.

After losing the NXT Championship to Finn Balor, Kevin had his focus set on being a main roster superstar. After feuding with John Cena, Kevin set his eyes on yet another prize, that being the Intercontinental Championship. Kevin would challenge and defeat Ryback at Night of Champions. Kevin Owens winning the historic Intercontinental Championship gave some legitimacy to the championship.

As Intercontinental Champion, Kevin challenged and defeated all comers. Until Dean Ambrose crossed his path. Dean defeated Kevin for the Championship at the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay per view.  The two continued wage war against each other; however, Kevin was continuing to be unsuccessful.

Kevin would regain the Intercontinental Championship in fatal-4 way and would go on to defend the championship at WrestleMania. “KOMania” was unsuccessful for Kevin because he lost the Intercontinental Championship in a seven-man ladder match.

Kevin’s history continued to haunt him as Sami Zayn returned and resurrected their historic rivalry. The two waged war once again battling at Battleground, Payback and at Extreme Rules. Having arguably the best matches on each card. A rivalry built on a decade of friendship, brotherhood, and betrayal. Kevin knowing that Sami was the first to sign his WWE contract, while he was left in the indy scene. While Sami has done everything the right way, but has gotten sidelined due to injuries and bad luck. Kevin took everything Sami should have had. The rivalry between these two wrestlers helped put both on the map as two of the top performers in the world still to this day.

After the two wrote the final chapter of their historic rivalry, the two went their separate ways on Raw. They were both drafted to Raw, but Kevin had a focus on doing what he has done since he stepped foot in WWE, becoming the top star. After Universal Champion, Finn Balor had to relinquish the Championship due to injury, Kevin saw an opportunity to fulfill his mission.

Kevin Owen, with help from Triple H, defeated Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Big Cass to become the Universal Champion. Kevin Owens’ journey to the top culminated with becoming Universal Champion. Kevin was now the top guy of WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw.

As Universal Champion, Kevin aligned himself alongside Chris Jericho. The two would create an insatiable bond. From The List of Jericho, to scarfs, and the entire WWE Universe being stupid idiots, these two were the most talked-about duo every Monday Night, which culminated with “The Festival of Friendship.”

Kevin was preparing to challenge the legendary Goldberg for the Universal Championship, so Jericho tried to celebrate their friendship and prepare Kevin ready for Goldberg. However, Kevin was not buying it. After exchanging gifts, Kevin had one last gift for Chris. It was a new list. However, it was not a “List of Jericho,” it was a List of KO with the only name on it was Chris Jericho. Kevin would go on to attack Chris leaving him lying in the middle of the ring.

Kevin would lose the Universal Championship to Goldberg thanks to a Jericho distraction. This ultimately led to the two feuding for the United States Championship at WrestleMania. Kevin would defeat Jericho at WrestleMania and became “The New Face of America.” Kevin would take the United States Championship to SmackDown  where he would defend it against Jericho and AJ Styles. He would lose and win back the United States Championship between the duo, however authority became an issue for Kevin.

In the final bout between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens, AJ won the championship thanks to the officiating of Shane McMahon. Kevin continued to feel that Shane intentionally kept Kevin from winning back the United States Championship. So, Kevin would attack both Shane and his father Mr. McMahon until he got what he wanted. Kevin wanted to end Shane. The rivalry lead to a bout inside Hell in a Cell at the pay per view with the same name.

One of the igniting moments of the feud with Shane McMahon was Owens headbutting Vince McMahon, busting him open and hitting a superkick/frog splash combo on the CEO. (YouTube/WWE)

The two brutally destroyed each other and did all in their power to end each others career. Shane looked to be closing in on victory. He was looking to leap from the 20 ft. structure with a prone Kevin Owens on the announce table. Until, Kevin was pulled off the announce table. The person who saved Kevin Owens, was Sami Zayn. Yes, that Sami Zayn who was Kevin’s arch-nemesis. The one who went to war for years with Kevin Owens. Sami would drag Kevin so that he would defeat Shane McMahon.

The brotherhood of the two was stronger than anything that their history of rivalries brought them. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would take over SmackDown and run havoc over the top stars. However, Shane McMahon wanted to make the lives of both of them a living hell, but he needed a partner to do so.

Shane’s partner would be the returning Daniel Bryan (who had been the SmackDown General Manager) and the two would team up at WrestleMania and defeat Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Kevin and Sami were then picked up by Raw after they were fired from SmackDown. However, the duo ended after Sami sustained an injury sidelining him.

Kevin would fight solo as he faced off against the Monster, Braun Strowman. The rivalry, however, was one-sided as Braun Strowman would use his size to throw Kevin off of ladders and steel cages. Kevin seemed that he was not going anywhere. He wasn’t reaching the success that he felt he could accomplish. That is why abruptly on an episode of Raw after he couldn’t defeat Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship, he quit.

He returned shortly after his departure, but his return wasn’t for long as he suffered an injury.

After being out several months, Kevin was instantly brought back into the WWE Championship picture. Mr. McMahon replaced Kofi Kingston with Kevin for the upcoming WWE Championship match at Fastlane. However, Kevin was unsuccessful. But, that did not stop Kevin from getting a new attitude. Kevin seemed to be turning a new leaf as he joined the New Day as “Big O” while Big E was injured. However, the partnership was short-lived as Kevin ambushed WWE Champion Kofi Kingston and the two waged war over the WWE Championship. Kevin was yet again unsuccessful at capturing gold.

Over the next few months, Kevin tried winning Tag Team gold with Dolph Ziggler, but was unsuccessful. That was the last straw for Kevin however. He knew where he wanted to target. Kevin Owens has been great at many things in wrestling and one of those is creating noise and making statements.

On an episode of SmackDown, Kevin grabbed a microphoned and dropped a pipe bomb on Shane McMahon. Kevin unleashed utter disdain and hatred that Shane has had over the entire WWE Universe. He became a major voice for the entire WWE locker room and expressing the disgust that they have for Shane proclaiming himself to be the “Best in the World.”

The blowoff match between McMahon and Owens on the first SmackDown during their move to Fox. (YouTube/WWE)

Shane would do all in his power to silence Kevin Owens, but the silence was only temporary as Kevin defeated Shane at SummerSlam.  However, as we know, the McMahon’s will always be the ones who get the last laugh. Shane continued to be a roadblock for Kevin. Fining him over $100,000 for putting his hands on an official(Elias), and firing him because Kevin didn’t let Shane get to the King of the Ring Finals. Kevin would throw the next shot as he sued Shane for wrongful termination which brought us to the final match of the rivalry.

The two faced off in a Loser Leaves Ladder match on the first Friday Night SmackDown on Fox. Where, the loser will be fired from WWE. 

Kevin Owens put his body on the line and did everything in his being to keep his career alive. Shane tried to rob Kevin’s dream, but Kevin was able to put an end to Shane as he was able to climb the ladder and tell Shane, “You’re Fired!” 

Kevin can now focus on his career especially since moving to Monday Night Raw in the 2019 WWE Draft.  However, he has to claim himself at the top by getting through Seth Rollins and the Authors of Pain. Can he find success once again, just like when he moved to Raw in 2016?

Check back next week for the final five entrants in the best wrestlers of the 2010s.

David Jacobus
Staff Writer

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