With 46 percent of the vote, AJ Styles cruised to his third Wrestler of the Year of the award, becoming the first wrestler to win the coveted honor in three consecutive years since Ric Flair accomplished the Herculean task in 1984-1986.
Only Flair (WOTY 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1992), Hulk Hogan (1987, 1991, 1994), and Steve Austin (1998, 1999, 2001) have managed to win Wrestler of the Year three times or more, placing AJ in some serious Hall-of-Fame caliber company.
Styles reigned as WWE champion from November 7, 2017, until November 13, 2018, a remarkable 371-day span that tied Randy Savage’s 1988-1989 run as the eighth-longest WWE title reign ever. During that time, Styles successfully defended his title against an impressive and diverse array of opponents, including Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal.
Styles proclaimed Smackdown “The House That AJ Styles Built” and he served as the backbone of the blue brand for the entire calendar year.
The wrestling business has changed considerably between Flair’s three-peat and now. From 1984-1986, Flair was the unquestioned top dog in the NWA and a consistent main-eventer. In 2018, Styles headlined only one pay-per-view (a Six-Pack Challenge match at Fastlane). Though widely considered WWE’s top technician, he was generally down the WWE pecking order from Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman. He was ranked number two (behind Kenny Omega) in the 2018 “PWI 500.” Heck, Styles didn’t even make the cover of this magazine, despite his historic accomplishment (although he did in 2016 and 2017).
But even though Styles doesn’t necessarily get the hype and praise he deserves from matchmakers or the media, the fans know he truly is “phenomenal.” Styles received more votes than Lesnar, Reigns, and Strowman combined and beat out the first runner-up, Omega, by almost a three-to-one margin. The voting wasn’t even close.
"Thank you to PWI, its readers, and my great fans for the honor of being named Wrestler of the Year for the third straight year,” said Styles. “This was made even more special when I learned that only the legendary ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair had also been a three time consecutive winner. That's phenomenal!"
KENNY OMEGA (17%) Omega finally vanquished Kazuchika Okada and claimed the IWGP heavyweight title this summer. He was named number one in the 2018 “PWI 500” and racked up wins against Cody Rhodes, Tetsuya Naito, Penta El Zero M, and Tomohiro Ishii. Not too shabby for a kid out of Manitoba.
CODY RHODES (8%) Cody split his time between New Japan and ROH and made it to the main-event picture in both promotions. At All In, he defeated Nick Aldis to win the historic NWA heavyweight title. That title win—and the overall success of All In—had to be intensely satisfying.
SETH ROLLINS (7%) Rollins had two runs as Intercontinental champion in 2018 and proved to be the workhorse of the Raw brand, consistently delivering show-stealing, exciting matches. While he wasn’t able to win the Universal title, this may have been the best year of his career so far.
VOTES FOR OTHERS (22%) Some of the other top vote-getters who did not capture a runner-up spot include: Daniel Bryan, Dalton Castle, Tomasso Ciampa, Brock Lesnar, Jay Lethal, Kazuchika Okada, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Johnny Gargano.