Daniel Bryan on the March 2014 cover
|Publisher||Kappa Publishing Group|
|First issue||September 1979|
Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) is an American internationally sold professional wrestling magazine that was founded in 1979. PWI is headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and published by Kappa Publishing Group. The magazine is the longest published English language wrestling magazine still in production. PWI publishes monthly issues and annual special issues such as their "Almanac and Book of Facts". The magazine recognizes various world championships as legitimate, similar to The Ring in boxing.
PWI is often referred to as an "Apter Mag", named after its long time photographer Bill Apter, a term used for wrestling magazines that keep kayfabe. In recent years, the PWI has moved away from reporting on storylines as actual news and mixed in editorial comments on the behind the scenes workings.
Each year since 1991, PWI publishes every year their "Top 500 Wrestlers" in the world list. In 2008, they added a yearly "Top 50 Female wrestlers" list which was expanded and renamed to "Top 100 Female Wrestlers" in 2018.
The first issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated was released in 1979. The magazine soon became known for not breaking kayfabe in its articles as it traditionally treated all "angles", or storylines, as real. However, in more recent years the magazine has taken an editorial approach between kayfabe and "shoot" writing, differentiating between on-screen feuds and controversies behind the scenes. PWI is not limited to covering only prominent professional wrestling promotions, as it also covers multiple independent promotions in the United States. PWI also publishes other special issues, which include: Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestling Almanac & Book of Facts since 1996, Women of Wrestling and a weekly newsletter entitled PWI Weekly from 1989 to 2000. It was eventually acquired by Golden Boy Enterprises.
PWI has given out annual awards and recognitions since its inception. These awards had previously been given out by another Victory Sports Magazine property, Sports Review Wrestling. PWI has also given out monthly rankings for the big promotions, some select independents, and an overall rankings in singles and tag teams. Additionally, readers are given the ability vote for the winners of the year-end awards with ballots being included in special year-end issues. A special PWI Awards magazine is issued annually, which reveals winners and the number of votes counted. The following is a list of categories in which PWI has issued awards.
Although many wrestling organisations promote their lead title as a World Heavyweight Championship, PWI has only recognized a few top versions as valid World titles at any one time. With regard to the NWA World Heavyweight championship, PWI has generally recognized the lineage retrospectively traced by the NWA from its 1948 formation back to Georg Hackenschmidt in 1905.PWI has also recognized any tag team title corresponding to a recognized World title as a World Tag Team Championship.
Until March 1991, Pro Wrestling Illustrated and its sister publications steadfastly referred to WCW as "the NWA" despite WCW having increasingly phased out the latter name in the preceding months. In Spring 1991, the family of magazines adopted a new policy of referring to the current promotion and its champions as WCW and the promotion's pre-1991 past as the NWA. The magazine also announced it would refer to the overall history of the World title as the "NWA/WCW World Championship" (and likewise with other WCW championships).
Subsequently, after Ric Flair left WCW and was stripped of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in July 1991, PWI and its sister publications nonetheless continued to recognize the WCW title as held by Lex Luger, Sting, Vader and Ron Simmons as the rightful continuation of the historic NWA World Heavyweight Championship. When Masa Chono won an NWA World title tournament in Japan in August 1992, PWI and its sister publications only recognized Chono's title as the "NWA Championship" and rejected it as a World title or as a continuation of the historic NWA World title.
In 1983, Pro Wrestling Illustrated withdrew world title recognition from the WWF, citing how champion Bob Backlund was not facing contenders from outside the WWF territory and furthermore was only facing rulebreakers. This coincided with the WWF's withdrawal from the NWA in summer 1983. PWI reinstated world title recognition in 1985 on account of the WWF's massive mainstream media profile.
The AWA was stripped of world title recognition in January 1991 when the promotion was in its final months. By this time, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship was vacant and would remain so until the promotion's closure in August that year. ECW was finally granted world title status in 1999 only for the promotion to close two years later.
|NWA World Heavyweight Championship||July 14, 1948 - January 11, 1991;|
May 8, 2006 - May 13, 2007
|AWA World Heavyweight Championship||August 16, 1960 - December 12, 1990|
|WWWF/WWF/WWE Championship||April 25, 1963 - present|
|WCW World Heavyweight Championship||January 11, 1991 - December 9, 2001|
|ECW World Heavyweight Championship||July 6, 1999 - April 11, 2001|
|World Heavyweight Championship (WWE)||September 2, 2002 - December 15, 2013|
|TNA World Heavyweight Championship||May 13, 2007 - August 1, 2015|
|WWE Universal Championship||August 21, 2016 - present|
|AEW World Championship||April 3, 2020 - present|
|IWGP Heavyweight Championship||April 3, 2020 - present|
PWI has published the list of the top 500 professional wrestlers each year since 1991 in an annual special edition magazine, the PWI 500. PWI writers choose the position of the wrestler following a designated evaluation period starting from mid-June; anything a wrestler accomplished before or after that period is not considered. They follow a criterion that includes win-loss record, championships won, quality of competition, major feuds, prominence within a wrestler's individual promotion(s) and overall wrestling ability. As of 2018, only Jushin Thunder Liger has appeared in every edition of the PWI 500. In 1993, Miss Texas (Jacqueline Moore) was the first woman to be ranked in the list at No. 249. Since 2008 men and women have their separate lists.
In July 2020, PWI announced they would include more women in the PWI 500.
|1991||Hulk Hogan||Lex Luger||Ric Flair||Randy Savage||Sting||Scott Steiner||Ricky Steamboat||Steve Williams||Arn Anderson||Rick Steiner|
|1992||Sting||Randy Savage||Rick Rude||Bret Hart||Ricky Steamboat||Jerry Lawler||Scott Steiner||The Ultimate Warrior||Stunning Steve Austin|
|1993||Bret Hart||Big Van Vader||Shawn Michaels||Sting||Yokozuna||Ric Flair||Lex Luger||Rick Rude||Mr. Perfect||Scott Steiner|
|1994||Hulk Hogan||Ric Flair||Big Van Vader||Shawn Michaels||Stunning Steve Austin||Razor Ramon||Sting||Ricky Steamboat||Owen Hart|
|1995||Diesel||Shawn Michaels||Sting||Bret Hart||Sabu||Hulk Hogan||Big Van Vader||Randy Savage||Razor Ramon||Mitsuharu Misawa|
|1996||Shawn Michaels||The Giant||Kenta Kobashi||Ahmed Johnson||Kevin Nash||Rey Misterio, Jr.||Hulk Hogan||Sabu||Ric Flair|
|1997||Dean Malenko||Mitsuharu Misawa||Stone Cold Steve Austin||Diamond Dallas Page||Lex Luger||The Undertaker||Shinya Hashimoto||The Giant||Jushin Thunder Liger||Chris Benoit|
|1998||Stone Cold Steve Austin||Goldberg||Mitsuharu Misawa||The Undertaker||Kenta Kobashi||Booker T||Ken Shamrock||Chris Jericho|
|1999||Rob Van Dam||Rey Misterio, Jr.||The Rock||Diamond Dallas Page||Keiji Mutoh||The Undertaker||Goldberg||Taz|
|2000||Triple H||The Rock||Chris Benoit||Kenta Kobashi||Jeff Jarrett||Justin Credible||Mike Awesome||Jushin Thunder Liger||Chris Jericho||Kensuke Sasaki|
|2001||Kurt Angle||Stone Cold Steve Austin||Keiji Mutoh||Booker T||Triple H||Scott Steiner||Mitsuharu Misawa||Rhyno|
|2002||Rob Van Dam||The Undertaker||Keiji Mutoh||Chris Jericho||Eddie Guerrero||Kurt Angle||Edge||Yuji Nagata||The Rock||Triple H|
|2003||Brock Lesnar||Triple H||Kurt Angle||Keiji Mutoh||Chris Jericho||Big Show||Booker T||Kenta Kobashi||Eddie Guerrero||Rob Van Dam|
|2004||Chris Benoit||Eddie Guerrero||Triple H||Kenta Kobashi||Randy Orton||Toshiaki Kawada||John Cena||A.J. Styles||Shawn Michaels||Chris Jericho|
|2005||Batista||John Cena||Satoshi Kojima||Triple H||John Bradshaw Layfield||Kurt Angle||A.J. Styles||Edge||Shelton Benjamin||Hiroyoshi Tenzan|
|2006||John Cena||Kurt Angle||Edge||Samoa Joe||Místico||Rey Mysterio||Brock Lesnar||Kenta Kobashi||Shawn Michaels||Jeff Jarrett|
|2007||Edge||Místico||Kurt Angle||The Undertaker||Shawn Michaels||Christian Cage||Perro Aguayo, Jr.||Bobby Lashley||Takeshi Morishima|
|2008||Randy Orton||Kurt Angle||Triple H||Samoa Joe||Edge||The Undertaker||Shawn Michaels||Nigel McGuinness||John Cena||Shinsuke Nakamura|
|2009||Triple H||Chris Jericho||John Cena||Edge||Randy Orton||Nigel McGuinness||Hiroshi Tanahashi||CM Punk||Sting||Último Guerrero|
|2010||A.J. Styles||John Cena||CM Punk||Randy Orton||Chris Jericho||Batista||Shinsuke Nakamura||The Undertaker||Kurt Angle||Sheamus|
|2011||The Miz||Randy Orton||John Cena||Kane||Takashi Sugiura||Alberto Del Rio||Mr. Anderson||Rey Mysterio||Eddie Edwards||CM Punk|
|2012||CM Punk||Bobby Roode||Daniel Bryan||Sheamus||Jun Akiyama||Davey Richards||Kurt Angle||Mark Henry||Alberto Del Rio|
|2013||John Cena||CM Punk||Hiroshi Tanahashi||Bully Ray||Kazuchika Okada||Sheamus||Jeff Hardy||Alberto Del Rio||Dolph Ziggler||Kevin Steen|
|2014||Daniel Bryan||Randy Orton||John Cena||A.J. Styles||Bray Wyatt||Roman Reigns||Magnus||Adam Cole||Bully Ray|
|2015||Seth Rollins||John Cena||A.J. Styles||Roman Reigns||Shinsuke Nakamura||Randy Orton||Jay Briscoe||Rusev||Alberto El Patrón||Kevin Owens|
|2016||Roman Reigns||Kazuchika Okada||Finn Bálor||A.J. Styles||Jay Lethal||Kevin Owens||Shinsuke Nakamura||Seth Rollins||Dean Ambrose||John Cena|
|2017||Kazuchika Okada||A.J. Styles||Kevin Owens||Roman Reigns||Kenny Omega||Shinsuke Nakamura||Samoa Joe||Dean Ambrose||Bobby Roode||The Miz|
|2018||Kenny Omega||Kazuchika Okada||Brock Lesnar||Seth Rollins||Braun Strowman||Roman Reigns||Cody Rhodes||Tetsuya Naito|
|2019||Seth Rollins||Daniel Bryan||A.J. Styles||Kofi Kingston||Kazuchika Okada||Johnny Gargano||Kenny Omega||Hiroshi Tanahashi||Will Ospreay|
PWI has published a list of the top female professional wrestlers each year since 2008 in a special edition magazine, the Women's 100 (formerly known as Female 50). Like the list of male professional wrestlers, PWI writers choose the position of the wrestler following a designated evaluation period starting from mid-June; anything a wrestler accomplished before or after that period is not considered. In 2018, after ten years of the list including 50 wrestlers, it was expanded to 100, and renamed from Female 50 to Women's 100.
|2008||Awesome Kong||Beth Phoenix||Gail Kim||Mickie James||MsChif||Sara Del Rey||Roxxi Laveaux||Melina||Michelle McCool||Candice Michelle|
|2009||Mickie James||Angelina Love||Melina||MsChif||Tara||Awesome Kong||Beth Phoenix||Michelle McCool||Maryse||Taylor Wilde|
|2010||Michelle McCool||Mercedes Martinez||Cheerleader Melissa||Eve Torres||Madison Rayne||Mickie James||MsChif||Maryse|
|2011||Madison Eagles||Mercedes Martinez||Mickie James||Natalya||Madison Rayne||Cheerleader Melissa||Tara||Sara Del Rey|
|2012||Gail Kim||Beth Phoenix||Cheerleader Melissa||Sara Del Rey||Jessicka Havok||Layla||Miss Tessmacher||Saraya Knight||Mercedes Martinez||Tara|
|2013||Cheerleader Melissa||Mickie James||Saraya Knight||Jessicka Havok||Kaitlyn||Gail Kim||Kacee Carlisle||Tara||AJ Lee||Mercedes Martinez|
|2014||Paige||AJ Lee||Gail Kim||Cheerleader Melissa||LuFisto||Angelina Love||Ivelisse Velez||Courtney Rush||Natalya||Charlotte|
|2015||Nikki Bella||Paige||Sasha Banks||Santana Garrett||Gail Kim||Charlotte||Naomi||Cherry Bomb||Courtney Rush||Taryn Terrell|
|2016||Charlotte||Sasha Banks||Asuka||Becky Lynch||Bayley||Jade||Natalya||Gail Kim||Sexy Star||Sienna|
|2017||Asuka||Charlotte Flair||Alexa Bliss||Sasha Banks||Io Shirai||Sienna||Naomi||Kairi Sane|
|2018||Ronda Rousey||Alexa Bliss||Charlotte Flair||Io Shirai||Asuka||Shayna Baszler||Carmella||Nia Jax||Mayu Iwatani|
|2019||Becky Lynch||Charlotte Flair||Ronda Rousey||Shayna Baszler||Tessa Blanchard||Bayley||Natalya||Io Shirai||Mercedes Martinez||Nicole Savoy|