2020 PRO WRESTLING TRUTH YEAR END AWARDS
Hello, it is about a month late, but life and the world has been crazy. I haven't done anything like this since 2014, I think? Or 2015, actually now that I think about it. Pretty crazy! I'm not sure what dove me fully back into wrestling in the last year and a half after an on/off break in 2016-2018. Maybe it's just having more time on my hands now that I'm not doing much of anything with music and work is the only thing on my plate. Regardless, it's been a very enjoyable, but tedious dive back into doing this stuff.
Having to rebuild my audience after years away from reviewing has been tough, but I'd like to think I'm starting to build some consistency back and I hope to meet more new people through this outlet in the new year. Thanks to anyone who's stuck around from the old glory days of 2014-2015 and thank you to anyone who's new to reading my stuff. I appreciate you taking the time to check this blog out and see what I have to say. I truly do this just for fun and because I love compiling lists and trying to keep up with a sport I've loved since childhood. I'd also like to shout out my friends Donnie and Mike, both of whom have contributed to this site in some form in recent years, and are my 100% consistent in real life wrestling buddies that I watch almost everything with. I love y'all <3
Now, onto this. So this year I'm doing things like how I used to. I'm bringing back my PRO WRESTLING TRUTH ELITE 80 wrestlers of the year list (with a sliiiiightly different format) and am also doing Top 10 Wrestler lists for WWE, AEW, and NJPW with write ups on each plus a Top 25 Overall Matches of the Year List consisting of any promotion. Individual promotion Top 10 Matches of the Year List will be listed on my 2020 Year in Review tab at a later date, probably a few days from now. I just needed to get the main stuff out before I let it slip under the rag as the year starts pressing onward. Also, if you want a month by month list of every match I watched and rated that was ***+ you can find that here!
Without further a due, let's start this thing off with the 25 Best Matches of 2020::::::
Best Matches of the Year (Overall):
1) Kenny Omega & Hangman Page (c) vs. The Young Bucks - AEW World Tag Team Title Match - AEW: Revolution - 2/29/20 - *****
2) WALTER (c) vs. Ilja Dragunov - NXT UK Title Match - WWE: NXT UK - 10/29/20 - *****
Wow. That’s the first word that comes to mind when thinking of this match. I never thought a match like this would happen under the WWE banner, but it did and I really feel like it went under the radar despite the amount of buzz it did get. This one will be looked back on for ages. A true fight. No better way to describe it, these two beat the everloving hell out of one another. Five stars.
3) Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado - NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Finals - 12/11/20 - ****3/4
Hiromu had a career year even in the Covid-era and Despy.. well Despy may have had the best year of his career too. What a match and story from two juniors who had a litany of insane recent BOSJ finals to live up to and they somehow did it despite any doubts from people who wouldn’t see this being nearly a five star match on paper. I could be included on that list, but through this tournament I came to know more and more about Despy and I know I can’t be the only one. This was the perfect finale for Hiromu’s comeback story as well as Despy’s tournament story, but it was also so much more due to the history being Hiromu and Despy.
4) Kazuchika Okada vs. Shingo Takagi - NJPW: G1 Climax 30 - 10/10/20 - ****3/4
In a year where Okada seemed to coast and sort of fall off, Shingo Takagi proved himself yet again by pulling out the Okada of old in this amazing G1 Climax match. I was so stoked on Shingo/Ibushi being a thing that I didn’t even think about how good this could be and it ended up being a level up from Shingo/Ibushi and one of my favorite matches of the year. Shingo is the future and pulled out an epic performance from Okada. Shingo hitting the rainmaker pose?!? What more could you ask for?
5) Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito - IWGP Heavyweight/IC Title Match - NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom - 1/5/20 - ****3/4
Before Okada sunk downhill in match quality wise through the spring and summer, he had this epic with Tetsuya Naito that was a long time coming from the LIJ leader. Naito deserved this and delivered in this huge spot. Awesome contest that lived up to being in the WK main event slot.
6) Will Ospreay (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match - NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 14 - 1/4/20 - ****1/2
Hiromu started his year with this crazy ass match against Will Ospreay. Ospreay is on his way out of the junior division and Hiromu is coming back from injury with something to prove and boyyyy did he ever.
7) Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Ryu Lee - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match - NJPW: New Beginning in Osaka - 2/9/20 - ****1/2
Another early in the year barn burner from Hiromu. He and the former Dragon Lee have a storied series of matches that always bang and this was no different. Another fitting edition to their series that stole the show on this particular night.
8) Kenny Omega vs. PAC - 30 Min Iron Man Match - AEW: Dynamite - 2/26/20 - ****1/2
Matches like this that happened on free TV are part of what sent Omega to the WOTY spot for me. 30 minute Ironman clinic between Omega and PAC. I know something is good when my dad takes the time to call me up to talk about (it’s very rare) and he did that for this match with two guys he is very new to watching. A gem and the best TV wrestling match in 2020.
9) Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks - Hell in a Cell Match - WWE: Hell In A Cell - 10/25/20 - ****1/2
On an otherwise boring show that played in the background of a small birthday gathering for a friend of mine, Sasha & Bayley continued their legacy with another classic and violent battle for the Women’s Championship. These two somehow continue to innovate every time they step foot in a new stipulation match against each other. Hats off, ladies. This ruled. Best WWE main roster match of the year.
10) Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJPW: G1 Climax - 9/20/20 - ****1/2
Much like Okada, Tana had a little bit of an off year, but in the G1, he had this match that brought out the old classic Ace. Naito felt like THE guy all tournament as he came into it as the champion, and this match to me was a huge reason for that. This felt like everything NJPW, the IWGP Title, and the Grade One Climax is about. This is that signature big style NJPW match that Okada & Tana made famous and Naito has now proved he can deliver that as the top guy and with his own twist.
11) Zack Sabre Jr vs. Will Ospreay - British Heavyweight Title Match - RevPro: High Stakes - 2/14/20 - ****1/2
I really forgot about this one, but boy was it good. Sabre & Ospreay are longtime rivals who came into the limelight around the same time so the story here is there and we already know these two can both deliver the physical goods so yeah. Great shit.
12) FTR (c) vs. The Young Bucks - AEW World Tag Team Title Match - AEW: Full Gear - 11/7/20 - ****1/2
This got hella mixed reviews, but to me it encapsulates tag team wrestling in the past 20 years as a whole. The Young Bucks changed the game and here you see them pay odes to their inspirations turned foes whom they all beat along their way to the top. FTR even paid tribute to their inspirations too all while still telling the story this match was built around. So awesome.
13) The Elite (Kenny Omega, Hangman Page, & The Young Bucks) and Matt Hardy vs. Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Santana, Ortiz, & Jake Hager) - Stadium Stampede Match - AEW: Double or Nothing - 5/23/20 - ****1/2
This was just good old fuckin fun. AEW excelled in this type of matches during the Covid era and this may have been the last time we see BC/Elite team in this large of a number for a while. Such a highlight reel of a match with so many memorable moments.
14) Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kota Ibushi - IWGP Heavyweight Title Match - NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 14 - 1/4/20 - ****1/2
This was Ibushi’s big match after winning the G1. The biggest match of his career. So you know he delivered because he ALWAYS delivers. Plus it’s Okada as IWGP Champion at Wrestle Kingdom so he’s automatically in epic mode. Great match and main event for Night One of WK14
15) Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly - NXT Title Match - WWE: NXT Takeover 31 - 10/4/20 - ****1/4
I had to watch this match a few times to fully take it in because it wasn’t what I expected from these two. Instead of a great pure wrestling match, we got a war that left Finn Balor with a broken jaw. This was almost, keyword almost, as brutal as the WALTER/Dragunov battle a month or two prior. Just absolute destruction over the NXT Title. And we are getting a rematch of it to start 2021 so let’s gooooo.
16) Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent) vs. Santana & Ortiz - Parking Lot Fight - AEW: Dynamite - 9/16/20 - ****1/4
One of the best TV wrestling matches ever? 100%. Big Dave went the full five on this, if that tells you anything. But yeah, this whole story was so much fun and these two teams had the most awesome trash wrestling street fight brawl thing and I will be rewatching this probably 10 or 15 more times in my lifetime. Just so much fun and a highlight of the year undoubtedly.
17) Edge vs. Randy Orton - WWE: Backlash - 6/14/20 - ****1/4
Alright y’all, it was billed as the greatest wrestling match ever and although it was never gonna be that, it honestly was even better than I expected it could be. After their disappointing empty arena WrestleMania match that seemed to last forever, these two set out to have a straight up wrestling match with no frills and that’s exactly what they did and SHOCKER - it was so much better than the melodramatic shit they tried to pull at Mania.
18) Jon Moxley (c) vs. Eddie Kingston - AEW World Title Match - AEW: Full Gear - 11/7/20 - ****1/4
This was easily one of the most captivating old school pro wrestling stories of the year. So plain and simple, but so believable because of the two involved’s insane promo ability and the ability to back it up in the ring with an intense contest. It wasn’t the five star MOTY some hoped and expected, but this feud as a whole was one of the best of the year and the match was fantastic.
19) Kota Ibushi vs. Minoru Suzuki - NJPW: G1 Climax 30 - 10/10/20 - ****1/4
In a G1 where several of my Ibushi dream matches disappointed me slightly, this one didn’t. Suzuki and Ibushi went to battle and it was everything you’d expect from these two. Simply a stiff masterclass between the resilient Ibushi and the pissed off old bastard.
20) Kenny Omega (c) vs. Laredo Kid - AAA Mega Championship Match - AAA: TripleMania - 12/12/20 - ****1/4
This one snuck up on me. In an empty arena in Mexico in December, Kenny Omega topped off his year with another excellent showing against Laredo Kid. There wasn’t a ton of build to this, but they over delivered in the ring and made this feel like a big deal and had me on the edge of my seat on several occasions. It truly shows the magic of Omega to be able to pull this off and it may be what sealed the deal in my battle of deciding who would be wrestler of the year.
Top WWE Wrestlers/Superstars of the Year:
1) Drew McIntyre
2) Randy Orton
Orton has been prominently featured on WWE programming for 17 years and he somehow nearly snagged the spot for wrestler of the year. From his feud with Edge to his matches with McIntyre to setting Bray Wyatt on fire, Orton arguably had another legendary year that furthered his resume as one of the greatest of all time. I can’t imagine the year 2020 in WWE without Orton.
3) Roman Reigns
Reigns and his big heel turn has had some downside like the excessive melodramatic speeches mid-match, but for the most part was top notch and gave his character a much needed change of pace and elevated several people in the process (Jey Uso & Kevin Owens). The Big Dog has never been a favorite of mine, but his continued effort and great performances cannot be denied.
4) AJ Styles
AJ has came down a few notches since his 2016-2017 run that was full of amazing matches & moments, however he is still one of the most steady and prominent hands on the roster. This year he had a match that will be remembered forever in the final Undertaker match at WrestleMania - The Boneyard Match, one of the best openers in PPV history with Jeff Hardy & Sami Zayn, and a clinic with Daniel Bryan on Smackdown, reminiscent of their battles in ROH.
5) Finn Balor
Welcome back, Finn. Since having to relinquish the Universal Title back in 2017 following one of the strongest debuts in recent memory, Balor slowly fell into a slump of uninteresting and uneventful mediocre storylines and matches. Earlier this year, the WWE moved him back to the NXT brand and the Prince came back into a new full form. He was the now veteran and not the newcomer. He was focused and violent. We got moments like a “too sweet” between Balor and Cole and matches like his defense against Kyle O’Reilly which was one of the most brutal matches of the year anywhere.
6) Kyle O’Reilly
Between his tag matches and delving into a singles run that I’ve been awaiting since O’Reilly got signed, Kyle is beginning to work his way up to a spot that I’ve always known he was capable of holding. Kyle is one of the most versatile modern wrestlers and this year he delivered in every single area in phenomenal fashion despite missing part of the year due to Covid.
7) Sasha Banks
The Boss was undoubtedly the best and most consistent woman on the roster this year. Having another classic with Bayley at Hell in a Cell and holding multiple titles throughout the year, Sasha’s career continues to boast a vast amount of moments, matches & accomplishments to look back on.
8) Adam Cole
The Panama City Playboy brought in the new year as the longest reigning NXT Champion of all time. He had notable matches against Keith Lee & Finn Balor amongst others and continued to be the best thing about NXT alongside his Undisputed Era stablemates.
9) Rhea Ripley
Aside from Sasha, Ripley to me was the most consistent woman on WWE TV, having great matches on PPV and NXT TV consistently. It was hard choosing between her, Io, and Asuka for this slot, but I think Rhea’s resume is just a bit stronger.
10) Daniel Bryan
Bryan hasn’t really been in a main role since returning from his early retirement, but he has been just as great as he ever was, having phenomenal matches with just about everyone he’s placed against. From his strap match with The Fiend Bray Wyatt at Royal Rumble to his series with Drew Gulak, Bryan spent the year being a gem of the undercard and it appears as if Bryan looks to spend 2021 winning the Royal rumble for the first time and the WWE title for possibly the last. The all time great has made it clear he is nearing the end of his full time in ring career and if that happens in 2021, it will be a sad day, but I know he will go out with a bang.
Top NJPW Wrestlers of the Year:
1) Hiromu Takahashi
2) Shingo Takagi
PUMPING BOMBERRRRRR. I love Shingo and I have for almost 10 years. This year he had his second year in New Japan and once again knocked it completely out of the park moving up to the heavyweight division and having awesome matches with everyone from Okada to Ishii to Cobb to Ibushi and winning the NEVER Openweight Title in the process. I fully believe Shingo is a future IWGP Heavyweight Champion and I’m excited to see what 2021 holds for him.
3) Tetsuya Naito
LIJ dominates the top three spots in this list and it was truthfully a struggle to figure out who should go where on the list. Naito was undoubtedly the biggest star of the three, but the lackluster, borderline terrible feud with EVIL pretty much sunk his ship for getting the #1 or 2 spot, albeit no real fault of his own. Naito was the man this year, finally getting his big double title victory at WK in January and holding the titles throughout and to the end of the year having some great matches along the way. How will Naito fair heading into January at WrestleKingdom with two title defenses? Only time will tell!
4) Will Ospreay
Ospreay made the jump from junior to heavyweight this year and did so in insane fashion. Starting the year with his last few awesome junior matches against Takahashi and Sabre (if you can count that one), then heading into the G1 Climax and forming his own stable and revolting against CHAOS and their leader/his former leader Okada, Ospreay looks to reach a new level in 2021 as he faces Okada in a huge match at WK to start the year.
5) Kota Ibushi
Ibushi made history this year by winning the G1 Climax for the second year in a row. Winning the G1 twice has only been done a handful of times, much less back to back years. Ibushi had great matches all year per usual and vows to become god in January by finally capturing the IWGP Heavyweight Title from Naito and defend it against Jay White the following night.
6) Minoru Suzuki
At 52 years old, it's pretty insane the level that Suzuki continues to be able to compete at. From his match with Moxley early in the year to his G1 run and everything in between including a NEVER Openweight Title reign and some killer matches with Shingo, Suzuki was one of the most consistent performers in the world as he has been for a long time.
7) Kazuchika Okada
Okada had a slower year than normal, but still had some of the best matches of the year against Naito and Shingo. It felt like we lost what made the Rainmaker special at some points in the year, but when those spurts showed, there were no doubts that he is still the Rainmaker we all know and love.
8) Zack Sabre Jr
ZSJ might be the most well rounded performer in the world. From his singles match against Ospreay, in the NJCup & G1 Climax, and his tag title reign with Taichi, Sabre was so consistent and killed it in everything he was involved in
9) Tomohiro Ishii
Getting down to the last few spots on the list is tough because there are so many mid-card work horses in NJPW that deliver ****-****1/4 matches throughout the year. Between, Ishii, Taichi, & Goto, I wasn't sure who to pick, but looking back through my archive - Ishii's name popped up more than the rest and we all know the Stone Pitbull is a staple in New Japan and never disappoints, this year was no different with awesome showings in tag matches, tournament matches, and slugfests that no one else can deliver in the same fashion
10) Jay White
Jay White was probably the best heel in the business in 2020 bringing something fresh and new to the prospect of being a heel in New Japan. Plus, he knocked off Kota Ibushi to earn himself a spot in the 2021 Wrestle Kingdom main event despite coming up short in the G1 Climax. The Switchblade continues to be one of the most promising young talents in modern pro wrestling.
Top AEW Wrestlers of the Year:
2) Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega nearly stole the #1 spot from Moxley solely based off how many outstanding matches he had across the board this year and the fact that he ended the year by becoming the AEW World Champion. His tag match with Page against The Young Bucks in February is the undoubted match of the year and he had a number of other memorable matches across TV & PPV throughout the year. It truly was the perfect showcase year for Omega who showed he can be the best bout machine anywhere on the card.
3) Hangman Page
Hangman has been one of the most fascinating characters all year. With his role constantly developing and adding layers, and a number of great matches to boot, Page had an awesome year and is destined to be the face of AEW, this year showed a ton of growth and that he is on the path to being just that.
4) Cody Rhodes
Cody has truly transformed himself in the past few years since leaving WWE and that transformation and growth continued as he is literally the most cherished human in AEW to its core audience. Awesome pure white meat baby face and owner of the organization. His TNT Title open challenge gave tons of new faces a chance to shine and he had great matches every time out. Shout out Cody for being one of the best things about American wrestling in 2020.
5) Chris Jericho
Y2J dropped the AEW Title to Moxley in February but spent the rest of his year putting over and elevating SO much young talent. A lot of people are ragging on him to close out the year, but the importance of Jericho in this promotion cannot be denied.
6) Darby Allin
Darby is the first true homegrown breakout AEW star and this year he moved even further up the ranks with too many memorable matches and moments to count. He delivered and then some in every match or story he was put in and closed his year out as TNT Champion and appearing side by side with Sting. It don’t get much better than that.
7) Sammy Guevara
I expect Sammy to fully break out next year. This year, he was one of the best things about the Inner Circle. And his recent tension with MJF is showing how much the crowd would get behind him if he turned face which is super shocking considering how despicable he’s been since Dynamite debuted on TNT in 2019.
8) Brodie Lee
Brodie barely had one full year in AEW before his passing in December, but he made enough memories to last us. From his reveal as the leader and exalted one of Dark Order to his matches with Moxley and Cody, the Big Rig finally got a chance to show a new side of him when he was released from WWE and showed up in AEW. He was destined to become an even bigger star in the coming year and I still can’t believe I’m even writing this, but RIP Brodie, you will never be forgotten :(
9) Eddie Kingston
Eddie Kingston has been one of wrestling’s best kept secrets for many, many years. In July, he got a chance to face Cody in the TNT Title open challenge and that set off a chain of events that would lead to him getting a full time spot in AEW and now I can’t imagine weekly Dynamite without him. I hope King stays here for a long time and gets the World Title run he couldn’t quite get this year despite an amazing program with Jon Moxley.
PAC may have been gone most of the year, but when he was there, his performances were so stellar, there's no way he could be excluded from the Top 10. I see PAC getting a lengthy world title reign at some point in this promotion in the future and who knows, maybe 2021 will be that year!
So, I did this in 2014 & 2015 before going ghost for a few years. In those years, I developed a points system to form the list. I planned to do the same this year, but couldn't find the time or proper format to do that this year having not watched a lot of bigger matches in some other promotions. This made me feel like my list / points system could be inaccurate so I chose to go the manual route. Now, that's not to say I won't divert back to the points system in 2021, because I may! In fact, I thought about going as far as to doing it for prior years which could mean a potential 2020 revisit at some point. But for now, this is it! Enjoy!
1) Jon Moxley
2) Kenny Omega
3) Drew McIntyre
4) Hiromu Takahashi
5) Randy Orton
6) Roman Reigns
7) Will Ospreay
8) Shingo Takagi
9) Tetsuya Naito
10) Minoru Suzuki
12) AJ Styles
13) Kota Ibushi
14) Hangman Adam Page
15) Cody Rhodes
16) Chris Jericho
17) Darby Allin
18) Kazuchika Okada
19) Go Shiozaki
20) Finn Balor
21) Kyle O’Reilly
22) Sasha Banks
23) Adam Cole
24) Sammy Guevara
25) Brodie Lee
26) Eddie Kingston
27) Orange Cassidy
29) Zack Sabre Jr
31) Tomohiro Ishii
32) Rhea Ripley
33) Daniel Bryan
34) Jay White
35) El Desperado
36) Johnny Gargano
38) Hiroshi Tanahashi
41) Io Shorai
43) Sami Zayn
44) Keith Lee
45) Lance Archer
46) Hirooki Goto
47) Masato Tanaka
48) Matt Riddle
49) Damian Priest
50) Penta El Cero M
51) Rey Fenix
53) Taiji Ishimori
54) Matt Hardy
57) Seth Rollins
58) John Morrison
59) Kofi Kingston
61) Candice Lerae
62) Jonathan Gresham
63) Kevin Owens
64) Yuji Okabayashi
65) Santos Escobar
66) Nick Gage
67) Ricky Starks
68) YOSHI HASHI
69) Will Hobbs
70) Brian Cage
71) Isaiah Scott
73) Jeff Hardy
74) Robbie Eagles
75) Pete Dunne
76) Lance Archer
77) Lio Rush
78) Hirooki Goto
79) Timothy Thatcher
80) Tomasso Ciampa
Final thoughts & What to Expect from Pro Wrestling Truth in 2021:
Okay y'all --- that's the bulk of this year's year end awards for 2020. I will have other lists such as Top 10 Tag Teams of the Year, and individual promotion matches of the year categories listed in my 2020 Year In Review archive tab on the homepage. I will post on Twitter & Facebook when all of that is up. Meanwhile... what's to come in 2021?
For starters, I plan on even more extensive review coverage. I've already started the year by covering both nights of Wrestle Kingdom & New Year Dash along with the first episodes of AEW Dynamite, NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live! That's alot for 11 days, but that's the pace I want to set for the entire year. I also racked up some All Japan viewing and have a hefty 2021 Match Rating Archive already compiling which can be found here!! Make sure to follow it throughout the year <3
ALSOOOOOO, my Ruthless Aggression Era Review Project will continue on. I started in spring of last year and made it from the start of the era (June 2002) all the way through to January 2003 which I am starting now! I hope to make it through 2003 and into, if not through 2004 by the end of the year. For those who don't know, I've taken on the task of reviewing every Raw, Smackdown, and PPV of the entire Ruthless Aggression Era (June 2002 - July 2008). You can find all my prior reviews in the project at the above link and make sure to follow me on twitter @thepwtruth to keep up with updates as I am constantly watching stuff!
I think that's all now! Follow the blog on Twitter and "Like" us on Facebook! I hope you all have an awesome 2020 and here's to growth and more great wrestling in 2021!!