Roman Reigns, Kazuchika Okada, CM Punk top 2022 PWI 500

According to the latest PWI 500, Roman Reigns is the top star in all of pro wrestling, not just WWE.

It’s time to acknowledge Roman Reigns as the best pro wrestler on the planet.

For the second time, Reigns was selected No. 1 in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s PWI 500, its rankings of the top male pro wrestlers in the world. The list, which has been published annually since 1991, also gave Reigns the top spot in 2016.

Joining Reigns in the top three are Kazuchika Okada of NJPW and currently suspended AEW star CM Punk. Both are former number ones in their own right; Okada in 2017, Punk in 2012.

AEW and WWE each placed another wrestler in the top five, with Hangman Adam Page appearing at No. 4, followed by Bobby Lashley. It’s a career-best rank for Page, whose previous high was No. 33 two years ago, while Lashley slips just a few spots from No. 3 in 2021.

The top 10 for 2022 also includes AAA luchador El Hijo del Vikingo at No. 8, and former ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham at No. 10. After Okada, the next highest ranking NJPW wrestler is Shingo Takagi at No. 11.

Perhaps the most bittersweet entry among this year’s top wrestlers is No. 9-ranked Big E. While it’s his first appearance in the top 10 after moving up four places since 2021, Big E is currently out of action following a broken neck sustained in March, and he told TMZ over the summer that he’s unsure if he will ever be able to wrestle again.

Other notable entries within the PWI 500 top 30:

  • Jox Moxley slips just a bit from No. 6 in 2021 to No. 12.
  • At No. 13, Matt Cardona is the top-ranked indie performer.
  • Josh Alexander‘s No. 14 ranking makes him the top Impact Wrestling star for 2022.
  • Last year’s No. 1, Kenny Omega, finds himself at No. 19 this year, in large part due to time he missed due to injury.
  • Current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Jay White of NJPW is sure to use his No. 23 ranking as even more of a chip on his shoulder.

The December issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated containing the entire PWI 500 is available now digitally, and will go on sale in print form soon.

G1 Climax 32 semifinal matchups set: Okada-Tonga, Naito-Ospreay

The G1 Climax 32 results for Night 18 set the pairings for both semifinals as the tournament roars toward its conclusion in Tokyo.

It came down to the final night of block matches as it so often does, but the final four were set for G1 Climax 32 after a full card of block matches in the the Nippon Budokan on Aug. 16.

Kazuchika Okada, no stranger to success in this particular tournament, emerged as the A Block winner with a victory over Lance Archer. The win put the Rainmaker clear of everyone else in his group with 10 points, meaning no tiebreakers were needed to settle things.

That wasn’t the case in B Block, where Tama Tonga got some payback against the man responsible for running him out of Bullet Club, Jay White. Tonga was able to stun the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion — figuratively and literally — to leave them tied with 10 points atop the group, advancing due to the head-to-head win.

C Block also featured a tie at the end between Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. with eight points each. Yet those two also squared off on Night 18, with Naito surprisingly pulling off an inside cradle less than two minutes in to take both the match and the group.

His quarterfinal opponent will be Will Ospreay, who ended up the only man in D Block with eight points. Ospreay took care of Juice Robinson on Tuesday night to take his record to 4-2, while no one else in his group ended at better than 3-3.

The Night 18 results create interesting dynamics for both semifinals. This will be the first time that Okada and Tonga meet while both are fan favorites, and the crowd will likely be showing love for each of them in turn. Okada has the upper hand in terms of prior G1 Climax history, but Tama won their most recent tournament meeting last year.

Meanwhile, Naito and Ospreay have never met in a singles match, a somewhat surprising fact until one recalls that the Commonwealth Kingpin hasn’t been a heavyweight all that long. They have been in the ring together on the opposite side of tag team bouts any number of times, including three occasions to date in 2022.

While the whole card for Night 19 of G1 Climax 32 hasn’t been revealed, it will feature both semifinal matches, with the final taking place the following night. Start time for the card on Wednesday, Aug. 17 is 6:00 p.m. Tokyo time, which is 5:00 a.m. ET and 2:00 a.m. PT for NJPW fans in the Unites States.

Jay White def. Adam Cole, Hangman Adam Page, Kazuchika Okada to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Forbidden Door: Best photos

Check out the best photos of Jay White defeating Adam Cole, Hangman Adam Page and Kazuchika Okada at Forbidden Door.

Jay White backed up his assertion that he is the Catalyst of professional wrestling by successfully defending his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against three of the best in the game ⁠— Adam Cole, Hangman Adam Page and Kazuchika Okada ⁠— at Forbidden Door. Check out some of the best photos from this unforgettable four-way title bout below. (Photos courtesy of All Elite Wrestling)

Who’s who in New Japan: A beginner’s guide to the NJPW stars on the Forbidden Door card

Never watch NJPW and need a quick briefing on who’s who? Read our beginner’s guide to the top New Japan stars before Forbidden Door.

It goes without saying that Forbidden Door is a big deal. A collaboration between the second-largest pro wrestling promotion in the U.S., All Elite Wrestling (AEW), and New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), the biggest wrestling company in Japan, it’s not the first event of its kind, but it is being done on a scale that isn’t often seen.

Not only is the card loaded with bouts that feature talent from both brands, there are multiple matches in which an AEW wrestler could win a NJPW championship — or vice versa. That means what takes place at the United Center on June 26 could have ripple effects for months down the road, and AEW boss Tony Khan has already stated that he’s thought about how Forbidden Door could become an annual event.

If that happens, it’s possible the top NJPW talents could become household names among the masses in the U.S. But it’s possible, maybe even likely, that Forbidden Door will be the first time (or one of the first times, since some New Japan wrestlers have been on AEW TV leading up to the event) that many American fans are seeing them.

Perhaps even you.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to the top NJPW wrestlers who are appearing on the Forbidden Door card. There are many resources out there to learn more about these stars, and tons of videos to watch them in action. But if all you need is a brief overview to get ready for Sunday night, just keep scrolling down, as we’ve got you covered.

AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door — Everything you need to know

Get ready for AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door with our preview, including predictions for each match, start time, how to watch and more.

Considering AEW is only three years old, the company still enjoys a fair amount of firsts. Not many, however, are as significant as AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door, a pay-per-view being held in conjunction with Japan’s top pro wrestling promotion. Once only a dream in the minds of most wrestling fans, it’s about to become a reality in Chicago’s United Center.

That’s not to say the road to get here has been easy. The logistical hurdles in building a show between companies half a world apart have been apparent at times, with a good chunk of the card coming together only in the final week. Injuries haven’t been kind; in a perfect world, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega would all be on this show.

Despite that, there are some tantalizing matchups of the kind many probably never dared imagine prior to this year. They begin with the interim AEW World Championship being contested between Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi. With Punk out, one of them will carry the banner for AEW for the next few months, and even the possibility that it will be NJPW’s Ace is enough to be intriguing.

NJPW’s top title will be up for grabs as well. Jay White, who only recently secured the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada, now needs to defend it against not only the Rainmaker, but his friend Adam Cole and former AEW world champ Hangman Adam Page. Four-way matches are definitely not every fan’s cup of tea, but four performers of this caliber figure to make it compelling.

As the match count has made it to double digits, including a pre-show bout, the card figures to be close to final now. Keep reading for everything you need to know about AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door.

AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door

  • When: Sunday, June 26
  • Where: United Center, Chicago
  • Start time: 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT/5 p.m. PT
  • How to watch: On PPV through Bleacher Report, or InDemand through cable or satellite providers, as well as in select movie theaters in the U.S. On Sky Deutschland in Germany, and on FITE TV internationally. In Japan, Forbidden Door will be available exclusively via NJPW World, with Japanese commentary.
  • Matches announced: 10 (including one on pre-show)

CM Punk and Cody Rhodes are injured. Which AEW and WWE stars can step up to fill the void?

With CM Punk and Cody Rhodes injured, we run down the WWE and AEW performers best positioned to step up while they are out.

Fans of traditional sports know how one unexpected injury can torpedo a promising year. It’s no different in pro wrestling, where both AEW and WWE have had the injury bug strike top performers at the worst possible time.

CM Punk had literally just won the AEW World Championship when he hurt his foot during Dynamite last week. That led to an appearance on Rampage on June 3, when he revealed he would be out of the picture for a while while he has surgery.

Cody Rhodes hadn’t won a title yet since returning to WWE at WrestleMania, but he was repaying the company’s faith in him as a top star and looked like he was on the path to contending for championships sooner rather than later. Then he tore his pec, which led to a legendary Hell in a Cell performance before he, too, announced that surgery was in his immediate future.

The situations aren’t exactly the same, but they’re eerily parallel in some respects and the injuries struck just days apart. In AEW’s case, we already know how it plans to pivot — the promotion is holding a mini tournament to crown an interim champion — but the absence of both Punk and Rhodes will be acutely felt.

The silver lining in both cases is that there are opportunities for other talent to step up and claim more of the spotlight while they are away. Who’s in the best possible position to take a step forward over the next few months? Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.

Who could fill in as Raw’s top babyface with Cody Rhodes out?

Riddle

The King of Bros has been rumored to be the next championship contender for Roman Reigns, but his alliance with Shinsuke Nakamura and ongoing issues with The Usos put at least a little doubt on that plan. The most recent episode of Raw made it appear Riddle has his sights set on Reigns again, and the timing couldn’t be better.

Riddle is arguably as popular as he’s ever been in WWE right now, and has shown he has the knack for balancing an edgier side to his persona with his unmatched comic stylings. Pursuing Reigns means he’ll likely appear on both shows over the next month, but he has the potential to stay Raw’s top face even after Money in the Bank.

Bobby Lashley

Speaking of performers who are as over as they’ve ever been, we’re living in the time of Peak Good Guy Bobby Lashley if recent crowd reactions are any indication. Putting him up against the larger Omos helped him as he wasn’t able to win just by being bigger and stronger, but still looked impressive in overcoming the odds.

The only hiccup here is that Lashley just started a program with Theory, so his ascension to top dog on Raw could be more of a medium-term play if Rhodes ends up out until almost the end of 2022.

Edge

Yes, Edge has just spent the last little bit recruiting other wrestlers to be part of The Judgment Day, definitely not a face faction. But then Finn Balor joined and the group turned on him, so he’s going to be a good guy by default.

The 48-year-old WWE Hall of Famer is playing with house money at this point in his illustrious career, but if the company wanted to give him one final babyface run, this is now the ideal chance to do it.

AJ Styles

Not to quite the same degree as Edge, but Styles is headed toward the end of his time as a main event caliber attraction too. It’ll be interesting to see if he joins forces with Edge in an “enemy of my enemy” sense, but why couldn’t WWE push him to the very top of the card right after they deal with The Judgment Day?

Styles has faced Reigns in championship matches before, but not for years, so a program between the two of them could still feel fresh. With Money in the Bank on the horizon, it’s easy to imagine him winning the briefcase and then turning his attention to the Tribal Chief.

John Cena or Brock Lesnar

These are names mentioned somewhat in jest, but if WWE feels this is a “break glass in case of emergency” situation, it’s already announced that John Cena is returning to Raw in a few weeks. And Brock Lesnar is presumably just a phone call away.

Who will emerge as AEW Interim World Champion while CM Punk is on the shelf?

Jon Moxley

He’s got a leg up already in narrative terms since he is guaranteed a spot in the main event on Dynamite to determine who will go on to fight for the interim title at Forbidden Door. And since he’s held the real title before, people know what they’re getting from a Jon Moxley reign.

That’s the downside though, too. The AEW World Championship hasn’t been around all that long, as Mox already held it for some time. Pushing him more right now might feel like something fans have already seen, and not as effective as elevating someone new. The Punk-Moxley unification bout at the end of the rainbow would be sweet, however.

Wardlow

Now that Wardlow has freed himself from the machinations of MJF and become a legitimate star, why not just strap a rocket to him? It’s almost certainly not what the promotion was planning, but injuries have a way of changing plans, and this could be a change that pans out.

His path to the interim championship would also afford AEW a chance to put him over even more, as it would mean winning a battle royale, then defeating Moxley and someone at Forbidden Door, likely Hiroshi Tanahashi. That’s earning it, for sure. Plus it would be easy to turn Punk heel to play off him for their showdown when the current champ returns.

Eddie Kingston

Anyone who has followed Eddie Kingston during his career in the indies is probably already in favor of this idea, and people who only discovered him through AEW TV have to be impressed with him by now. In terms of building a story and selling it with promo work, Kingston could have one hell of a feud with Punk when he returns.

Does AEW view him as a top guy? It would be interesting to know, but if Eddie gets a chance to run with the ball right now, that would go a long way to answering that question in the affirmative.

Bryan Danielson

Just a quick note that while Bryan Danielson had a shot at the AEW World Championship while Hangman Adam Page held it, he wasn’t successful in winning it. The American Dragon has an unlimited amount of goodwill with the fans and would be easy to accept as the interim champ.

He and Punk wouldn’t be a brand new program, of course, but it’s been a decade since they faced each other with gold on the line. Both men shift effortlessly between face and heel roles, so it would be a showdown that can go any direction the creative team envisions once Punk is healthy again.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (or Kazuchika Okada, or anyone from NJPW)

Even in the Forbidden Door era, it seems unlikely that AEW would let someone from another promotion hold its main championship for any length of time. An interim title, though? That’s another story altogether.

Tanahashi was getting ready to face Punk later this month before the injury, and has already invited Punk to face him at Wrestle Kingdom next January. That could be to unify the regular and interim championships if so desired. Or Tanahashi could defend the interim strap in NJPW for the rest of 2022, opening up the possibility of dropping it to Kazuchika Okada or another top NJPW talent. The sky is really the limit should AEW choose to go in this direction.