July 4, 2024

Words: illfam79

What a difference a year makes.  A year ago, new kings were crowned, submarines were exploding, and “Barbenheimer” was all the rage.  In pro wrestling, we were looking forward to a AEW’s new Saturday show Collision, a CM Punk return (to AEW) was imminent, and we were still wondering if Cody Rhodes should have gone over Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39. Now look at us: Punk’s “home” in WWE, AEW TV is still figuring things out post-Punk, and Cody finished his story.  A year ago, Black Rasslin’ released its fifth BRP50, their annual listing of the top 50 Black professional wrestlers at the moment. It served not only as a ranking of the best of that year, but also as a snapshot of the state of Black professional wrestling for that year.  And again, what a difference a year makes. The key to understanding the BRP50 is that, no matter the overall story, the differences are impacted by industry trends practically every year. How much did they work? How much did they win? How much were they on television? How important were they to the stories being told? What championships did they hold, and for how long?  Where did they wrestle, who were they wrestling, and how good were those matches?

A good example of how things can change from year to year is Kofi Kingston's positioning through the BRP50’s history.  The Ghanaian-born superstar has been on every iteration of the BRP50.  He was at the top of the list in the first two years before falling to number nine in 2021. In year four of the BRP50, he dropped nine more spots to 18, then fell to 35 in 2023, and rose seven spots to sit at 28 this year.  When the original list dropped, Kingston was 37 years old and a world champion; now at 42, Kingston is a former NXT Tag champion (with fellow New Day member Xavier Woods), who is not only competing on the biggest stage in all of pro wrestling, but still involved in storylines on weekly television.  

Another story that the BRP50 tells every year involves a wrestler’s positioning on the list. Typically, the 50th spot on the list has gone to a newcomer—to the list or pro wrestling as a whole. (Past number 50s include AQA, Holidead, Timmy Lou Retton, Billy Dixon, J Boujii, and this year’s number 50, the Chocolate City Champion Andino.) When you land in the middle of the BRP50, it can be a coin flip; either you’re on the way up… or on your way down. Past wrestlers who have held down the middle of the 50 include Angelo Dawkins, Kiera Hogan, Scorpio Sky, Montez Ford, Keith Lee; current number 25 Oba Femi may have potential to climb higher than those mentioned earlier.   Then of course, there are the 1s (no Bloodline). Bianca Belair and the aforementioned Kingston are both two-time holders of the top spot, with Sasha Banks (as she was known when she held down the top spot) and 2024’s No. 1 Carmelo Hayes rounding out the group.

With a yearly list like this, wrestlers who move down the list tell just as much of the story as the ascensions. The most obvious fall on the list was one of, if not the shortest, Bianca Belair, from one to two.  Not a far drop, but that number one spot is very significant.  On the flip side, Wes Lee’s fall was rather substantial.  In 2023, Lee was ranked at five, and fell this year to 32, mostly due to a nasty injury suffered in December, which kept him out for five months. “Bounty Hunter” Bryan Keith had a bit of a tumble as well, falling ten spots (from 10 in 2023 to 20, to be exact) this year.  One could contribute this to it being a transitional year for Keith, going from being a heavyweight champion in the indies to being a full-time talent at AEW.  The most curious and talked about case is “Absolute” Ricky Starks, falling 17 spots over the last year, from four to 21. This year, he did have a run with the AEW Tag Team titles, but a few things dropped Starks down a few notches.  A feud with CM Punk was stopped short due to Punk’s termination, leaving their story without an ending.  There is also rumor and innuendo that Starks is being punished for showing up at multiple WWE events supporting Cody Rhodes.  With his AEW contract situation seemingly up in the air, it will be interesting to see where The Absolute will be on the BRP50 next year.  Hopefully, these folks will trend up in 2025.

On to this year’s list.  Fifteen wrestlers from the BRP50 in 2023 didn’t make the cut due to retirements, injuries, or just not being top of mind for their current promotion. And while it is true that some performers can have a down year, the good news for a lot of them is that the only way left to move is up. (Just look at Willow Nightingale, who easily made it to the top 3 of this year’s BRP50.)  The 2024 BRP50 also included 15 wrestlers—first-timers and vets—that didn't make the 50 in 2023. The oldest person on the list is former Raw Tag Team Champion R-Truth (at 52 years of age), and the youngest is Leon Slater at 19.  The breakdown by promotion is also interesting. WWE (including NXT) has 12 people on the list, followed by AEW with 11 (if you include Ring of Honor). TNA had six people make the list, MLW and NWA had two representatives apiece, and New Japan had one.  The biggest group, with 16, was the independent scene.  Je’Von Evans (fka Jay Malachi on the indies) was included with WWE, where a great deal of his impact was felt.  AJ Francis and Naomi/Trinity Fatu worked multiple promotions, but counted in this grouping with TNA since they both held championships there.  Men lie, women lie, but these numbers are the truth.

No matter what the story of this year ends up being, the amount of movement speaks to a larger footprint held by Black folks in the sport.  We all have that favorite performer who may not have landed as high on the list as we wanted (or on the list at all). However, with multiple companies on television and the rise of Black indies like F1ght Club and ASÉ, the upward trend in “spots” for Black professional wrestlers moves us further away from the “good ol’ boys” brand of pro rasslin’.  The men and women on the BRP50, and the years that they've had, prove that point every time they step into the squared circle.


Excellent work by Fam! So glad he wrote this to help explain the list and how it’s laid out!


Yo, great read!


Great article! Love to see Black wrestlers getting their flowers!


Great article fam! Thank you for giving us the why behind the BRP50 selections.

Designed By Blogger Templates | Templatelib & Distributed By Blogspot Templates