wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards (Part Five) – The Best Major Shows of 2020

January 7, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Edge Royal Rumble

Welcome back to Part Five of the 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards of 2020! 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 2020. 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 Major Show or PPV of the year. Let’s get right to it…

Rob Stewart

5. NXT Takeover: Portland
4. NXT Takeover: 30
3. AEW Double or Nothing
2. WWE Hell In A Cell

1. WrestleMania 36 – Wrestlemania was… weird this year. It was two night’s long! It took place in an empty gymnasium (except when it was taking place in a Boneyard or in The Fiend’s magical void)! It had cinematic matches. It really didn’t FEEL like Wrestlemania, and will always be a part of history as “Oh, the COVID one”. But still… it was a pretty good show! The Boneyard match was fantastic, and while I didn’t love Fiend/Cena, a lot of folks did. The women’s title matches were both really good, even if you don’t care for the results. The strange ladder match that saw three singles wrestlers fighting for the tag titles was still tremendous. For being a strange aberration, it was a LOT of fun.

Jeffrey Harris

5. NJPW New Year Dash!! 2020
4. NJPW Power Struggle 2020
3. NJPW Summer Struggle in Jingu
2. NJPW New Beginning in Osaka 2020

1. Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Nights 1&2) – Yes, I’m just going to collectively list Wrestle Kingdom 14 as my top event of 2020. Yes, that event did happen in 2020, and yes it counts. It wasn’t even a year ago, but it’s weird how long ago this seems. This was before the world completely changed due to the pandemic shutdowns. We were all so naive and taking the luxury of live and packed wrestling events for granted. While I can very much nitpick some booking choices on these cards, you had the retirement of a living legend with Jushin Thunder Liger, who was able to end his career on his terms. The way Liger handled this and with such class and dignity is the blueprint for how such things should be handled.

Secondly, you had Tetsuya Naito fulfilling his destiny and finally winning the big match and title that had alluded him up until that point. Frankly, I would’ve Naito win the title back at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in 2018. However, it worked out well here, and he and Kazuchika Okada had a fantastic match for the double-gold.

You also had other great moments, such as Hiromu Takahashi making a glorious return and winning back the IWGP junior heavyweight title. It was an amazing comeback story after Hiromu was sidelined with a devastating neck injury. Even on the first night, Kota Ibushi and Okada was so dramatic, Ibushi had me out of my seat rooting for him to get it done and win the title. Overall, this was an amazing, feel good event.

Steve Cook

5. NXT Takeover: Portland
4. AEW Double or Nothing
3. WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night One)
2. WWE Royal Rumble

1. AEW Revolution – Revolution was highlighted by two matches that shaped the course of AEW’s 2020. Jon Moxley defeating Chris Jericho for the World Championship was obviously a big deal and started quite the run through the year for Moxley. Also featured was a match many consider the Match of the Year, Kenny Omega & Adam Page successfully defending the Tag Team Championship against the Young Bucks. Add in a big win over Cody for MJF & Orange Cassidy proving himself as a legitimate wrestler to non-knowing fans against Pac, and it was a pretty loaded show. You also had fans in attendance, which as we learned in 2020, matters.

Len Archibald

5. WrestleMania 36
4. AEW Full Gear
3. Wrestle Kingdom 14
2. NXT: Takeover 31

1. AEW Revolution – Revolution to me was a game changer in modern professional wrestling. In front of a red hot Chicago crowd, AEW flew past the “t-shirt company” mockery and solidified itself as the wrestling promotion to watch in the world with AEW Revolution. After Jake Hager and Dustin Rhodes kicked things off, Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara had a full blown banger. Hangman Page and Kenny Omega retained their tag titles against The Young Bucks in what many declare to be the best tag match in AEW’s short history. I was down for Britt Baker and Penelope Ford teaming up to take on Riho and Yuka Sakazaki and had a lot of fun with it. I loved Cody vs. MJF and LOVED Orange Cassidy vs. PAC. The crowning of Jon Moxley as AEW Champion, defeating Chris Jericho felt oddly majestic and timely in a way that hasn’t been felt in a long time with a wrestling champion: Moxley felt like OUR champion and AEW is the embodiment of the professional wrestling some fans wanted to see outside of the WWE bubble and here they have all been vindicated. This was an exhausting show in the best way, creating moment after great moment for the company and declared to the world that they may be around for a good while.

Jake Chambers

5. WWE Clash of Champions
4. NXT Takeover: War Games
3. WrestleKingdom 14 (Night Two)
2. WrestleKingdom 14 (Night One)

1. NXT UK Takeover – Blackpool II – That’s right, I love Joe Coffey and I don’t care who knows it! The momentum from this outstanding early January Network event was supposed to propel NXT UK into a year of glorious successes! A perfectly paced show with every match being just the right amount of time for the astute combination of complimentary styles featured. I’m sure many will scoff at the idea of near 30-minute Joe Coffey match, but I bought into the Rocky-esque struggle, determination and cardio of a bruiser trying to solve the complex prize-fighter puzzle that Walter always presents. In a world without COVID, I’m guessing there’d be three more NXT UK Takeovers on this list, with or without great Joe Coffey main events.

Ian Hamilton

5. AEW Full Gear
4. NJPW Summer Struggle in Jingu
3. NXT Takeover: War Games
2. AEW Dynamite #66 – A Celebration Of Mr. Brodie Lee’s Life

1. WrestleKingdom 14 (Night One) – Putting this one at the top because it feels wrong to say the “best show of the year was a tribute show”, the first night of WrestleKingdom was perhaps a sign of what could have been, with the top half of the card more than delivering. The Texas Death Match between Jon Moxley and Lance Archer? Hiromu and Will Ospreay havign a banger? Ibushi and Okada doing the same? It’s just a shame that less than two months later, everything got thrown out of the window, but this may have been New Japan’s “last hurrah” for the “old era” as some are putting it.

Kevin Pantoja

4. AEW Full Gear
3. NXT TakeOver: War Games
2. WWE Royal Rumble

1. WWE. NXT TakeOver: Portland – I was so close to putting Royal Rumble at the top of the list. There was so much good there but also some lulls (Evans/Bayley & Corbin/Reigns). However, TakeOver: Portland was absurdly good from start to finish. The worst match was Adam Cole/Tommaso Ciampa and that was still very good even if it was overly long. Belair/Ripley and Kai/Nox were great matches from the women, while the Tag Title, Balor/Gargano, and Lee/Dijakovic were each stellar bouts on the men’s side. A spectacular show all around.

Jeremy Thomas

5. NXT Takeover: WarGames
4. AEW Revolution
3. WWE Royal Rumble
2. NXT TakeOver: Portland

1. Wrestle Kingdom 14 – Look, I’ll be the first to say that my knowledge of NJPW is somewhat lacking. I don’t follow it to the extend that I probably should, outside of my responsibilities here at 411. I’d never seen a Wrestle Kingdom before 2020, but I took the dive for WK 14 based on Larry’s glowing reviews. And I’m glad I was, because I was blown away with the best wrestling I saw in 2020. What can you even say about these shows that hasn’t been said? It was phenomenal wrestling and while I still can’t watch NJPW as much as I want, it turned me into an instant fan. There were some great major shows and PPVs in 2020, but Wrestle Kingdom nights one and two were easily the top for me.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Major Shows of 2020 ARE…

5. NXT Takeover: WarGames11 points

4. AEW Revolution12 points

3. NXT Takeover: Portland15 points

2. WWE Royal Rumble16 points

1. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 1422 points