The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff

In 2016, I spent the year publishing my list of the 50 Greatest Wrestlers of the Last 50 years, a labor of love where I ranked one wrestler a week, complete with a bio and perspective on their career. To this day, it is the project I am the most proud of, and while there was certainly a lot of controversy around the rankings, the response I got each week was tremendous and it did seem like people really enjoyed talking about it each week.

Since then I have often thought about the list, and how it has changed over the last four years, and I have decided that now would be a good time to update the list. Some wrestlers are going to be bumped off, some new wrestlers are going to be added to the list, some wrestlers are going to see their ranking increase and others are going to fall backwards.

If you would like to know more about the ranking process, I suggest you look at my original introduction from 2016 as the rules still apply. Wrestlers are being evaluated on everything, from drawing power, to charisma, to workrate, to longevity, etc. This isn't a list of the 50 greatest workers or the 50 biggest draws, the attempt is to try and summarize everything that is important in pro wrestling and assign a ranking to the best performers. As a refresher, here is the final list from 2016 (click this link for additional links to all the bios and assessments):

50.Ted DiBiase
49. Superstar Billy Graham
48. Akira Maeda
47. El hijo del Santo
46.Gene Kiniski
45. Bruiser Brody
44. Mick Foley
43. Kurt Angle
42. Hiroshi Tanahashi
41. The Sheik
40. Sting
39. Perro Aguayo
38. Ricky Steamboat
37. Toshiaki Kawada
36. Jushin Thunder Liger
35. El Canek
34. Vader
33. Jack Brisco
32. Shinya Hashimoto
31. Roddy Piper
30. Genichiro Tenryu
29. Triple H
28. Abdullah the Butcher
27. Keiji Mutoh
26. Bob Backlund
25. Mil Mascaras
24. Nick Bockwinkel
23.Randy Savage
22. Shawn Michaels
21.John Cena
20. Riki Choshu
19. Dusty Rhodes
18. Dory Funk Jr.
17. Bret Hart
16. Harley Race
15. Andre the Giant
14. Kenta Kobashi
13. The Rock
12. Jumbo Tsuruta
11. Stan Hansen
10. The Undertaker
9. Verne Gagne
8. Terry Funk
7. Mitsuharu Misawa
6. Giant Baba
5. Bruno Sammartino
4. Antonio Inoki
3. Hulk Hogan
2. Steve Austin
1. Ric Flair

Before I get into the full-fledged breakdown of the changes to the list, some quick notes I picked up from re-examining everything:

*If you are looking for the list to be completely ripped up and to look completely different you are going to be disappointed. I did a lot of research in 2016, and put a lot of thought into all of the rankings, especially the Top 10. Today, I still feel really confident in most of the original rankings.

*A positive note is that for a lot of the changes, it was more of a case of not realizing how great someone was back in 2016 and wanting to bump them up, as opposed to overrating someone in 2016 and wanting to bump them down.

*There are people who have done something since 2016 to make the list after falling short four years ago, but there are also some pretty significant changes to some older names. Over the last four years I have read, listened and watched more pro wrestling and thus my opinions and views on certain careers have changed. An effect of that is that it has led to some previously undervalued names being ranked higher, and in some cases, some overvalued names being ranked lower. Unfortunately, this will mean that names that a lot of wrestling fans recognize are probably being bumped down and some lesser-known names are being bumped up. My opinion of Steve Austin for example hasn't changed much since 2016, since I was already so familiar with his career because he is such a huge name in American wrestling. Other names from the past saw a bigger boost because their career's are just not as commonly known and required more research to fully appreciate.

*Some of the names at the bottom of the 2016 list had to be cut unfortunately to make way for the new names who made the list. I didn't really want to cut Ted DiBiase from the list, but I also can't cling onto the names of the past when it is clear to me that new names have come along and had superior careers. There were a lot of tough decisions.

*A final reminder that this is of course just my opinion and everyone is free to disagree. I did take a lot of time and did a lot of research coming up with the list, but there is always plenty of room for polite disagreements. In the end, while I took a lot of time with each ranking, if people want to argue that Hulk Hogan should be #1 and not #3, that isn't really a big disagreement to me. I wanted to make this list because I wanted to try and summarize the last 50 years in wrestling and create an accurate portrayal of the biggest individual stars of that period based on relevant factual information and proper context. I didn't make it to try and troll anyone.

Now for a breakdown of the new list....

Chris Jericho makes the list

In 2016 I said that Jericho was one of my last cuts, but he is a guy who was already close in 2016, and has done a ton of stuff since then to push his resume over the top. Jericho was a key figure going to New Japan and bringing a lot more eyeballs to the product outside of Japan while also helping establish Kenny Omega as a legit star attraction in the United States. Then he was a cornerstone of AEW, arguably the most important development in wrestling during the 2010s. Toss all of that on top of his long and successful run as a top name in WWE full of headlining feuds, great matches and legendary promos, he is an obvious choice to make the cut.

Randy Orton remains off the list

Orton is a fascinating contrast to Jericho because like Jericho, he missed the list in 2016 despite a hefty resume full of world-title reigns and big shows headlined. Unlike Jericho, Orton hasn't done much since 2016, and while his 2020 has been fantastic from a quality standpoint, he really didn't do anything too notable from 2016-2019. He just kind of moseyed along and made a lot of money and had a lot of unmemorable 12 minute matches. Orton will go down as a guy who headlined a lot of big shows and wrestled a million PPV matches by virtue of being an established guy in WWE for so long, but Jericho has a similar role and also has a much more diverse portfolio and time and time again has asserted his value as a major attraction in wrestling even as he nears 50. Orton just isn't at that level.

Jushin Thunder Liger falls off the list

I had Liger at #36 in 2016, which in my eyes was the most controversial pick because unlike everyone else on the list, Liger wasn't a real main event worker during his career. Instead I lauded him for his influence and amazing in-ring ability. His influence, while certainly big, was overstated in 2016 and he wasn't the first big modern high-flyer in wrestling, that title goes to the original Tiger Mask who was incredibly influential but his career was too short to make the list. Liger is still a legend and an iconic name in wrestling, but he doesn't belong in the same conversation as guys who were main event stars for decades.

Rey Mysterio replaces Liger

Rey Mysterio however is influential enough to make the list. Mysterio is easily the most influential wrestler of the past 25 years, and the wrestling industry in the US went from a business that wouldn't open its doors to performers of his height, to one that was making them world champions. His style would be copied by countless wrestlers, and even wrestlers who were not exactly high flyers, like Daniel Bryan, owe a debt of gratitude to Mysterio for paving the way for someone of his size to be a main event star. If you combine that influence with the fact that he was a legit main event attraction, a huge merchandise seller and proven ratings draw during his peak in WWE, he is an obvious call and was overlooked in 2016.

Atsushi Onita crashes the list

Like Akira Maeda, Onita took his own promotion (FMW) with his own unique style and turned it into a major promotion, capable of selling out stadiums, all without the support of television in Japan. While Maeda's shoot-style promotion would pave the way for the success of MMA later, Onita's emphasis on violence and crazy stunts would directly influence ECW and subsequently the WWF during the Attitude Era, but Onita stands all on his own as a major attraction in Japan thanks to his boundless charisma and incredible disregard for his own well being. Maeda had a more significant career in wrestling before founding his own promotion, but Onita was a bigger draw for a much longer period of time with FMW, so it feels logical to rank them closely together.

The Rock makes the the Top 10

It was hard for me to put someone whose career was so short in the Top 10, but if we are going to make an exception it might as well be for The Rock. After all, if Steve Austin can be #2, The Rock can slide right in at #9. Austin was a bigger star, changed the tide of the Monday Night War and had a longer career, so he is still comfortably higher, but it is hard to deny that The Rock was one of the most popular and talented wrestlers in history. I ended up moving Vergne Gagne down from #9. Gagne was the face of the AWA for nearly its entire existence, but at certain times he wasn't the top draw (The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser as a tag team were arguably more popular at the AWA's peak) and so I bumped him down to #13 and swapped him with The Rock.

Sting fails to make the cut

Oh boy, one of the more surprising things about the reaction to the original list was just how highly some fans valued Sting, with many arguing that I had ranked him too low. Well, the reality is that upon further examination, I had actually overrated Sting, and realistically he shouldn't crack the Top 50. Sting just wasn't as big of a draw as people remember, and just because he doesn't make the list it doesn't mean he wasn't as great as you remember him, and he can still be your favorite wrestler of all-time, but it wouldn't be an accurate list to include him.

I'll explain further since I know this is going to be controversial. A great guide for anyone looking to make a ranking like this is to examine the work historian Matt Farmer has done in compiling attendance data, dating back more than 100 years. Farmer created a list of the ten biggest attendance draws for each year, across the entire globe. How many times does Sting appear on that list? Once, when he finished #9 in 1998. So while Sting was considered the face of WCW in the early 1990s, the fact is that he wasn't a big draw during that time period, which is also evidenced by the fact that WCW lost money during those years and PPV revenue was poor.

Another factor is that due to the length of his tenure in WCW, fans remember Sting as WCW's biggest star, but realistically that isn't the case. Flair was the biggest star in WCW until he left in 1991, and Hogan would be the biggest star in WCW (with a case for Goldberg at one point) from 1994 until the company closed. There was a three year period in between those two eras that Sting was the top star, but he failed to crack the top ten each year and WCW lost money. Sting was a legit great PPV draw in 1997 and into 1998 when he was feuding with the NWO, but outside of that he really didn't draw at a high level compared to everyone else on the list.

Enter Konnan

Going back to the list compiled by Matt Farmer, Konnan is someone who is historically underrated as a draw. Most fans in America don't care about AAA, but during the early 1990s it was the biggest drawing promotion in the world and successfully ran stadium shows, with Konnan as the main star. Konnan was the #1 draw in the world in 1993 and 1994, and #2 in 1992, #3 in 1991, #4 in 1995 and #6 in 1990. He headlined the first TripleMania, drawing 50,000 fans, the largest crowd in modern Mexican wrestling history, in 1993. Konnan might be known as a mid-card guy in WCW but Konnan was the biggest draw in wrestling during the first half of the 1990s.

Mr. 51 makes the list

In 2016 I labeled Tatsumi Fujinami as Mr. 51, the last cut on my list. Upon further evaluation, I have to find a spot for him. I knocked Fujinami for never being able to get out of Inoki's shadow during his prime in NJPW, which while true, isn't his fault and is also was ignorant that Inoki was often not a full-time wrestler during Fujinami's prime and often times Fujinami did carry the whole promotion. He was a huge TV star in the 1980s when NJPW was still a prime-time ratings juggernaut in Japan, one of the best workers of his generation who was clearly influential on future stars, most importantly Hiroshi Tanahashi, and while Keiji Mutoh, Shinya Hashimoto and Masahiro Chono get most of the credit for NJPW's boom in the 1990s, Fujinami was still a main event player during that period as well. He was too good for too long to not make the list.

John Cena raises his game

Cena's ranking is one of the more fascinating developments since 2016. As far as actual production is concerned, Cena really hasn't done that much and has only worked a handful of shows over the past two years, so it isn't exactly that he has added anything major to his resume. However it is very clear that Cena's popularity masked a lot of business problems for WWE, as it has not been the same since he stopped being a full time talent. In that sense we have learned a lot more about how valuable Cena was to the company and to the wrestling industry in general. I bumped him up from #21 to #17 on the new list.

Hiroshi Tanahashi flies higher

Tanahashi plays a similar role to Cena in that he was clearly the main guy holding up the company for a long period of time, the difference being that NJPW has been able to build business past Tanahashi's prime while WWE has not been able to do the same once Cena was phased out. Unlike Cena, Tanahashi has still been adding to his resume since 2016, working regularly, main eventing a bunch of big shows including two Tokyo Dome shows, still flexing his drawing power even as NJPW begins to phase him down the card. He goes from #42 to #38.

The Dog of Nochistlan

Perro Aguayo, who died in 2019, was an unlikely person to rise very far up in the rankings. However upon his death, as it often happens, I came across a lot more information about Aguayo and there was no way I couldn't bump him up. Aguayo was a massive draw during the heyday of the UWA in the 1970s, and remained a huge draw all the way through the AAA boom period in the 1990s. If I rate El Canek at #35 due to his success working mainly with Aguayo in the 70s, there is no way I can have Aguayo at #39 when you factor in that he also was a huge draw for AAA in the 90s. When it comes to drawing people to arenas, due to his incredible longevity, Aguayo is believed to be one of the five or so biggest draws in history. I moved him all the way up to #28.

Rise of The Sheik

Like Aguayo, The Sheik would seem like an unlikely candidate to rise up very much since he died in 2003. However, I underrated his popularity. According to Matt Farmer, The Sheik was the #1 draw in pro wrestling every year from 1969 to 1973. How many other wrestlers could claim to be the #1 draw in wrestling for five straight years? Only two; Bill Longson for seven straight years from 1941 to 1947, and Hulk Hogan for eight years, from 1984 to 1991. Any other name, Steve Austin, Bruno Sammartino, Lou Thesz, Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Jim Londos, etc. all fall short. The Sheik is an all-time drawing card, even if he mostly did five minute matches that involved very little wrestling. He goes from #41 to #33.

Okada is the last addition

A case could have been made for Kazuchika Okada to be included in the list back in 2016, but he didn't have a long enough run as a top guy to justify it. However, Okada has done more than enough since to justify a spot on the list. Business in NJPW has only gone up since 2016 and that is with Okada as the main man, dominating the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and main eventing four Tokyo Dome shows since then, not to mention heading NJPW's expansion globally, all while NJPW lost key names like Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles and Kenny Omega. Also he might be the single best in-ring performer in the history of the business. He is an easy call and probably the only active wrestler who feels like they have a real chance to make the Top 20 one day.

What about Jerry Lawler?

One person who consistently came up in the comments section back in 2016 was Jerry Lawler who didn't make the list. I have thought a lot about Jerry Lawler, who was a huge attraction in Memphis and because Memphis did Sports Entertainment-style television, his work and the angles have aged really well. That being said, the reason I don't include Lawler is that outside of Memphis, which was a pretty small territory, he didn't do a whole lot during his career, outside of some stuff in the AWA and the WWF when he was past his prime. Lawler's case is very similar to that of Carlos Colon, who is an icon in Puerto Rico but didn't do very much outside of the smaller Puerto Rico territory. I'd rather have names that got over either in big territories/nation companies or got over big in multiple places than a big fish in a small pond.

Honorable Mentions

Too many to name, but in addition to our departed six (Liger, Sting, DiBiase, Superstar Billy Graham, Gene Kiniski and El hijo del Santo) I will add Randy Orton, Jerry Lawler, Masahiro Chono, Manami Toyota, Edge, El Solitario, Tetsuya Naito, Nobuhiko Takada, The Crusher, Brock Lesnar, Ultimo Guerrero, Cien Caras, Dr. Wagner Jr., Mad Dog Vachon, Dump Matsumoto, Ray Stevens, Daniel Bryan, Eddie Guerrero, Kenny Omega and about 1000 other people I am forgetting.

Who is next?

It is kind of difficult to predict the future of this list, particularly because the wrestling business has become less popular in general over the past few decades, meaning it will be very hard for a new name to crack the Top 10. As for new names to crack the list, there are a couple of different cases. Over the years my opinion on certain names will certainly change, as it has by adding known-names like Fujinami, Mysterio and Onita to this list.

As far as current names, someone like Orton, who is already pretty close, could have 2-3 really good years and if WWE business actually improves with him as a top star, would be an obvious choice. Tetsuya Naito, if he can stay healthy and be a top guy for a few more years, will also have a really strong case if NJPW business remains strong. If a WWE wrestler caught fire and turned their viewership trend around significantly, they would have an awesome case.

Long term who knows; if AEW really grows further and manages to pass WWE in overall popularity (again, this is LONG TERM) then whoever is the guy at that point will have a fabulous case. Young names that are just starting to sniff the main event, like MJF and Hiromu Takahashi might one day have cases, but that is a long time away and a lot of things have to go right.

The New 50 Greatest

50. Chris Jericho
49. Konnan
48. Akira Maeda
47. Atsushi Onita
46. Tatsumi Fujinami
45. Bruiser Brody
44. Mick Foley
43. Kurt Angle
42. Kazuchika Okada
41. Ricky Steamboat
40. Toshiaki Kawada
39. Rey Mysterio
38. Hiroshi Tanahashi
37. El Canek
36. Vader
35. Jack Brisco
34. Shinya Hashimoto
33. The Sheik
32. Roddy Piper
31. Genichiro Tenryu
30. Triple H
29. Abdullah the Butcher
28. Perro Aguayo
27. Keiji Mutoh
26. Bob Backlund
25. Mil Mascaras
24. Nick Bockwinkel
23. Randy Savage
22. Shawn Michaels
21. Riki Choshu
20. Dusty Rhodes
19. Dory Funk Jr.
18. Bret Hart
17. John Cena
16. Harley Race
15. Andre the Giant
14. Kenta Kobashi
13. Verne Gagne
12. Jumbo Tsuruta
11. Stan Hansen
10. The Undertaker
9. The Rock
8. Terry Funk
7. Mitsuharu Misawa
6. Giant Baba
5. Bruno Sammartino
4. Antonio Inoki
3. Hulk Hogan
2. Steve Austin
1. Ric Flair