wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards (Part Thirteen) – The Best Overall Performers of 2021

January 15, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Roman Reigns WWE Raw

Welcome back to Part Thirteen of the 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards of 2021! The Year-End Awards have been out for a couple of years but they’re back, and here’s how they work. For the next couple of weeks, we will present our top choices for a particular topic relating to wrestling in 2021. All the writers here on 411 will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic and the end, based on where all of the votes rank on people’s list, we will create an overall Top 5 list. It looks a little like this…

1st – 5
2nd – 4
3rd – 3
4th – 2
5th – 1

Once everyone’s had their say, we will tally the scores and get our overall top 5. Tonight we’re looking at the Best Overall Performer of the year. Let’s get right to it…

Jeffrey Harris

5. Big E.
4. Dr. Britt Baker
3. Hangman Page
2. Bryan Danielson

1. Kenny Omega – This was a tough one because there were a lot of standout performers in 2021. Plus, Kenny Omega actually won the AEW World title at the tail end of the previous year, and he lost it close to the end. But this was actually a great year for Omega where he finally got his chance to shine as the main guy and face of AEW. Turning him heel to have him win the title from Jon Moxley was a stroke of genius. And on top of that, he had his Belt Collector gimmick. While wrestling was massively impacted by the pandemic, AEW and Impact Wrestling actually started working around it, and we started getting co-promoted shows, with wrestlers from both AEW and Impact inter-mingling on a fairly regular basis. So after becoming the Impact and de-factor TNA World champion, plus the AAA Mega title, Omega had this great Belt Collector and Thanos Infinity Gauntlet gimmick that worked perfectly for him.

Plus, Omega was constantly working potential Match of the Year Candidates throughout the year, whether it was his 30-minute draw with Bryan Danielson on AEW Dynamite or his climactic match with Hangman Page at AEW Full Gear. Omega once again proved why he’s the best wrestler on the planet.

Steve Cook

5. Bobby Lashley
4. Cody Rhodes
3. Kenny Omega
2. Roman Reigns

1. Bryan Danielson – The All Mighty Bobby Lashley was a dominant force on Raw. Cody Rhodes always generated a reaction in an AEW ring. Kenny Omega finally had his main event run in a North American promotion. Roman Reigns dominated anybody in his path. My top vote has to go to the man that has been the best wrestler whose full career happened in my lifetime. I’ve said that Ric Flair was the best wrestler I’ve ever seen, but I wasn’t alive when his career started. Same for Bret Hart, and I was barely alive for the start of Steve Austin’s career.

Danielson has always been a master of any situation he’s been in. I saw his ROH career unfold. I saw him work himself into WWE’s system and become one of their most trusted hands. Now we’re seeing him embracing his past and becoming the dickhead heel he truly is. He’s not over confident, he’s supremely confident since he’s been the best wrestler in the world for many years. WWE needed him to prove himself. AEW recognized his greatness when he stepped in the door. The difference in attitude is understandable. What I’ve always believed to be true since I bought a t-shirt with “Best in the World” on it in 2006 is still true in 2021.

Andrew Cazer

5. Darby Allin
4. Cody Rhodes
3. Hangman Page
2. Roman Reigns

1. Bryan Danielson – Danielson was my best in-ring wrestler of the year and he’s my best overall worker of the year as well. His jump to AEW really solidified that position for him. He has not only excelled as a wrestler but also as a character. Since beginning his feud with Hangman Page Danielson has become one of AEW’s most disliked characters saying and doing a number of cocky unnecessary things that are actually pretty true so they sting even harder. Danielson did wonders in WWE this year and continued to do that in AEW as well so he’s an easy pick for me as both Best Performer and Wrestler because he really was at the height of his game in 2021 as he was able to step up as he left WWE, take time off and then join AEW and just get right back at it.

Jake Chambers

5. CM Punk
4. Kazuchika Okada
3. MJF
2. Noam Dar

1. Roman Reigns – Amazingly, Roman Reigns’ excellent year in the ring was actually overshadowed by his sustained character work in promos and presence. This is incredible considering how critical most superfans were of his personality during a babyface run that made people violently hate him. That Reigns evoked a post-John Cena “oh god, they’re doing it again” response, but even worse because Reigns couldn’t give the epic promos to momentarily win over his critics or have Cena’s knack for maintaining positive body language no matter the hate. So witnessing this 2021 run of Reigns so enveloped in this uniquely evil heel persona and bumping up against a variety of great opponents has been the saving grace for the rest of WWE’s painfully mediocre television.

Ian Hamilton

5. MJF
4. Will Ospreay
3. Kenny Omega
2. Shingo Takagi

1. Bryan Danielson – See the “best wrestler” award – “doing it” in both WWE and AEW while keeping the appearance fresh takes some doing. AEW Danielson wasn’t just “WWE Daniel Bryan with a new name” – and to work on both sides of the divide while enthralling fans really should cement him in this spot as long as he remains injury free.

Kevin Pantoja

5. Kenny Omega
3. Bianca Belair
2. Bryan Danielson

1. Roman Reigns – For most of the year, Roman Reigns was lightyears ahead of everyone. He’s always been good in the ring but in 2021, nearly every match he had was great. Think about it. Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Edge, Finn Bálor, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and the list goes on and on. On top of the in-ring work, Reigns was fantastic when it came to promos and he took it to the next level with his character work. Reigns feels like a star in a way that nobody else in wrestling does.

Thomas Hall

5. Britt Baker
4. Bobby Lashley
3. Eddie Kingston
2. Roman Reigns

1. Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson – I don’t think I need to explain that Danielson is the best in-ring wrestler going today, but there is something to him that makes you want to react to him every time he is on screen. He can play the ultimate underdog or the villain who knows he could rearrange your body parts anytime he wants, while also having that condescending grin. Danielson is excellent at everything he does and he is the best performer in wrestling today.

Jeremy Thomas

5. CM Punk
4. Britt Baker
3. MJF
2. Bryan Danielson

1. Roman Reigns – We acknowledge Roman Reigns in the Thomas household. It was actually a very good year for overall performance in wrestling, as we had perhaps more performers delivering both in the ring and character-wise than I can think of in recent member. CM Punk’s return was something to behold, and Britt Baker developed into the best female combined character and worker in the business. MJF is just brilliant with what he does, and Danielson was at the top of his game.

But it was all about the Tribal Chief for me. Reigns took what was already a very strong character from 2020 and pushed it to the stratosphere this past year. He was consistently delivering great in-ring appearances, and his heel persona was a regular highlight of wrestling television week after week. The days of “Sufferin’ Succotash” are a distant memory at this point; he is finally at the pinnacle of what he always seemed capable of, and it’s been a damned delight.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Overall Performers of 2021 ARE…

5. Shingo Takagi6 points

4. MJF7 points

3. Kenny Omega15 points

2. Roman Reigns27 points

1. Bryan Danielson32 points


* 1. The Biggest Disappointment of The Year: WWE’s Talent Releases – 28 points
* 2. The Best Non-Wrestler: Paul Heyman – 40 points
* 3. The Best Tag Team: The Lucha Bros – 32 points
* 4. The Worst Major Show: WrestleMania Backlash – 18 points
* 5. The Best Major Show: AEW All Out – 34 points
* 6. The Best Weekly Show: AEW Dynamite – 42 points
* 7. The Best Promotion: AEW – 47 points
* 8. The Best Match: WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT Takeover 36) – 35 points
* 9. The Most Overrated Performer: Charlotte Flair – 14 points
* 10. The Most Underrated Performer: Damian Priest – 11 points
* 11. The Best Women’s Wrestler: Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. – 35 points
* 12. The Best In-Ring Performer: Bryan Danielson – 43 points