Roman Reigns might be “Head of the Table,” but  Pro Wrestling Illustrated says “The Big Dog” is not head of the pack. In a dream showdown fans might never see in a ring, Kenny Omega topped Reigns for the coveted No. 1 spot in the publication’s annual “PWI 500.”

“It was close,” PWI Editor-in-Chief Kevin McElvaney told Wrestling Inc. in an exclusive interview for The Wrestling Inc. Daily. “But Kenny being a triple World champion was our top guy.”

Ranking the AEW World Champion above No. 2-ranked Reigns set the internet on fire last week. Those questioning PWI‘s choice point to the Universal Champion’s landmark year as WWE’s most compelling on-screen personality, a fact McElvaney freely admits.

“He is Smackdown,” McElvaney declares, asserting Reigns has done the “best work of his career” to become “the biggest star in WWE.” The editor admits, “About any other year, he would win.”

Despite the WWE Superstar’s “transformative” year, PWI ultimately decided what was most compelling about Reigns’ was “incredible storylines,” not his matches. McElvaney points out Reigns goes extended periods without competing, lost house show six-man matches and faced a small array of challengers. While Omega performs for smaller audiences,  the magazine feels he competes more often against higher level challengers.

“We’re Pro Wrestling Illustrated; we’re not Pro Promo Illustrated, Pro Storyline Illustrated,” the editor said. “Kenny Omega: Impact World Champion, AEW World Champion, AAA Mega Champion. I don’t know how you compete with that.”

Also making waves was the publication ranking former Impact World Champion Rich Swann No. 10. McElvaney called Swann’s reign a “turning point” for Impact, which lost PWI “World Title” designation in 2015.

“That company had fallen into obscurity a little bit,” he stated, asserting as Impact champ Swann presented a “credible” challenge in his feud with Kenny Omega.

“Even in defeat, [Swann] did so much for Impact,” McElvaney said “He has to get a lot of credit for that, what he did to elevate the company this year.”

Before the dust even settled on the PWI 500, the magazine looks to the future. Its expanded PWI Women’s 150 — up from 100 the previous year — hits newsstands in October. Barring “seismic changes,” the publication’s primary contenders are set.

“People are going to be really surprised by some of the omissions, even in WWE and AEW,” he opined.

Citing significantly reduced numbers of women’s titles, McElvaney says rankings depend less on championships than frequency and breadth of in-ring activity. As a result, he anticipates fans might be surprised by how well lesser-known names do on the charting.

“If someone’s on the lower mid-card in WWE, should they really outrank someone who’s had a great year in Japan or Mexico or any number of U.S. states?” he asks.  “I don’t know about that, and we did have those conversations this year.”

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