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The Katz Files
Top 2009 Pro Wrestlers
The Kingfish Arnie Katz picks his favorite WWE and TNA professional wrestlers for 2009.

In professional wrestling, unlike the amateur grunt-and-groaners, the man who wrestles best is not necessarily the best wrestler. Athleticism and ring skill are important to the success of a performer in the wrestling show, but other factors like verbal ability, charisma and overall appearance can turn a great wrestler into a jobber and a mediocre one into a champion.

A main eventer must excel in all, or at least most, of those areas to hold a place at the top of a card. Some of the premier attractions, from Bruno Sammartino to Hulk Hogan, have been less than spectacular as pure wrestlers, but they possessed other qualities to such an extent that their total performance put them in the spotlight.

Many performers distinguished themselves in 2009. Here are my favorites, based on their activity in the year just ending.

My Favorite Pro Wrestlers of 2009

Kurt Angle. The former Olympic champion is probably the best wrestler in the business, but it is intensity, acting ability and personal magnetism that have lifted him to the highest ranks of superstar-dom. In he ring, Angle has two big-time finishers that he does in almost every match, but he varies his overall program enough so that fans don’t know, automatically, what’s coming three moves down the road.

John Cena. He’s an example of a wrestler with only slightly above-average ring skill who is a solid-gold main eventer, He works the mic as effectively as many man in the business today. He always delivers an exciting match even if the opponent and the booking aren’t too hot –and he can light up an arena with something like his mega-feud with Randy Orton.

Randy Orton. It must be in the genes, because this third-generation wrestler took to the ring like a second home despite relatively little training. He became the lead heel on RAW and maintained that position in memorable feuds with Cena and the McMahon clan. He is WWE’s designated Man You Love to Hate.

AJ Styles. AJ Styles entered TNA as an under-sized, somewhat dorky-looking cult favorite. The intervening seven years has seen The Phenomenal One blossom. His ring performance is exemplary, as it always has been, but AJ has upgraded every other facet of his performance, including his look. Nothing will ever give him the physical presence of Triple H, but e proves that a smaller wrestler can still become a major star even if he isn’t 6’5”, 260 lbs.

I’ll be back on New Year’s Day for my “Best of the Year” picks.

Celebrate like it’s 2010.

— Arnie Katz
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