wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards (Part Five) – The Best Major Shows of 2021

January 7, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
WrestleMania 37 Edge Roman Reigns Daniel Bryan Bryan Danielson Image Credit: WWE

Welcome back to Part Five 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 Major Show or PPV of the year. Let’s get right to it…

Rob Stewart

5. WWE SummerSlam
4. WWE Crown Jewel
3. NXT Takeover 36
2. AEW All Out

1. WrestleMania 37 – Look, Wikipedia is considering this one event, so so am I. I have no idea what the other contributors are doing (besides, I’m sure, giving this award to All Out on a silver platter, but I didn’t get to watch that show live as it happened, so by the time I saw it, I knew everything that happened and nothing hit as hard. I do imagine if I saw it when it aired, it might be my #1, but I didn’t so it isn’t). That said, WrestleMania MORE than delivered this year, marking yet another really good ‘Mania in the 30’s (really only 32 and 33 were true disappointments). Two FANTASTIC main events and a bunch of really good filler (Zayn/Owens, Sheamus/Riddle, Cesaro/Seth, Bad Bunny’s performance, Rhea/Asuka)? Yeah, I’ll call this show of the year. Yes, I know everyone else is giving this to All Out, so my vote isn’t hurting that show; leave me alone.

Jeffrey Harris

5. WWE SummerSlam 2021
4. AEW Dynamite: Winter Is Coming 2021
3. AEW Double or Nothing 2021
2. AEW Full Gear 2021

1. AEW All Out 2021 – They don’t really come much better than this. Top to bottom, this is like a wrestling fan’s dream. When you’re worst match of the night is a three-minute break match between Paul Wight and QT Marshall, you’re doing pretty good. You had CM Punk making his in-ring return against Darby Allin; CM Punk’s first match in over seven years. The Lucha Bros. and Young Bucks tore the house down with their Cage Match and we saw a dramatic, exciting title change. Heck, even Christian Cage far surpassed my expectations in his title match against Kenny Omega. Plus, you had the AEW debuts of both Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson. I rarely get excited for wrestling events as I did with this show.

Steve Cook

5. WWE Money in the Bank 2021
4. WWE Royal Rumble 2021
3. WWE WrestleMania 37
2. AEW Full Gear 2021

1. AEW All Out 2021 – We knew that All Out was going to be a special night. CM Punk’s first match back? In Chicago? Yeah, that was going to be an event, and it lived up to expectations. Punk vs. Darby Allin might have been enough to make All Out a good show, but plenty of other things happened to push it over the top. Miro & Eddie Kingston had a war to open things. The Lucha Brothers took the tag straps off the Young Bucks in one of those crazy cage matches you have to see to understand what exactly happened. Ruby Soho made her AEW debut, then the end of the night saw Adam Cole & Bryan Danielson making theirs. It was one of those nights where AEW gave their fans everything they wanted. Call me crazy, but I like shows that do that.

Andrew Cazer

5. ROH Final Battle 2021
4. GCW Homecoming Weekend Night 1
2. AEW Double Or Nothing

1. AEW All Out – This show had everything a major wrestling event needs and then some. Everything from captivating matches, an energetic crowd and incredible moments. This feels like an event that could be hard to top for a number of years going forward. It’s not every night you see CM Punk return to the ring and face off with one of wrestlings top rising young stars in Darby Allin. It’s also not every night that you get to see Adam Cole make his AEW debut just weeks after leaving the WWE. And it’s not very often you get to see a superstar the level of Bryan Danielson make the jump to a rival promotion and debut in the closing moments of the show. I’ve been to nearly every AEW event and this was the first one I took my entire family to. We purchased tickets well before Punk was even teased and were more than spoiled by the result. I remember specifically telling my girlfriend that Bryan Danielson would debut and she questioned me throughout the end asking where he was the moment that theme hit and tron appeared is hard to top in my mind.

Jake Chambers

5. NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome
4. AEW Full Gear
3. WWE Crown Jewel
2. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 – Night 1

1. WWE Wrestlemania Backlash – One of the final WWE PPVs in the “empty arena” era was able to highlight some of the best thing about this strange window of time. Firstly, they made a tight 3-hour show, an art that was seemingly lost especially pre-COVID were PPVs were becoming so bloated and painful. The polarizing Zombie Lumberjack Match was a home run for me as the kind of goofy stupid fun pro-wrestling used to be about, just like some of the weirder stuff WWE experimented with while they had the chance, from the Eye For An Eye Match to Randy Orton burning The Fiend in the middle of the ring. This controlled environment also let them do stuff like a prolonged run for the normally mediocre Bobby Lashely, Dominick Mysterio given time to wrestle in some big dramatic matches, the Rhea Rhipley/Charlotte Flair bangers series, and most importantly, a championship match for Cesaro. I don’t think there’s many fan-filled arenas that the WWE is going to trust with a 30-minute Cesaro catch-as-catch-can style main event, but we finally got that here and it was a glorious topper to the best PPV of the year.

Lee Sanders

5. NXT Takeover: Stand and Deliver
4. Impact Rebellion
3. NWA 73rd Anniversary
2. WrestleMania 37

1. AEW Full Gear – Not really a difficult choice for me here. When you look back on not just the matches FULL GEAR had this year, but the quality of those matches, hard to dismiss this ppv overall for top seed. From Bryan Danielson vs Miro in a classic banger to Lucha Bros vs FTR, MJF vs Darby Allin, Punk vs Kingston, Hangman Page vs Omega, this card from top to bottom was great. Even the pre-show match was decent. I went into this ppv with not so high expectations and came away very pleased. Up and down this card had so many matches with built-in weeks of storylines with the payoff bringing those to this PPV head to head while others continued on. Of all the ppvs in 2021 I’ve seen this was my absolute favorite.

Ian Hamilton

5. WWE Crown Jewel
4. WrestleMania 37 – Night One
3. NJPW WrestleKingdom 15 – Night One
2. AEW Double or Nothing

1. AEW Full Gear – The show that paid off AEW’s longest story arc so far, Full Gear could have been a one-match show but everything up and down the card delivered – it’s just a shame that AEW seems to have an issue with how to present champions once they’ve crowned them!

Kevin Pantoja

5. NJPW WrestleKingdom 15 – Night 2
4. NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver – Night 1
3. AEW Full Gear
2. NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day

1. AEW All Out – There were a handful of great shows this year, with most coming from AEW and a couple of NXT TakeOvers. There are no main roster PPVs listed because most of them fall into the same category. They feature good wrestling, questionable booking, and often range from the 6-8/10 area. Anyway, AEW’s All Out was my pick. It may have been bested by TakeOver Vengeance Day from a pure in-ring standpoint but it had a special feeling to it. CM Punk’s first match in nearly a decade, the debuts of Ruby Soho, Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole, and so much more. The matches were also very good with Allin/Punk, Omega/Christian, and especially Young Bucks/Lucha Brothers standing out.

Thomas Hall

5. AEW Double Or Nothing
4. WWE Extreme Rules
3. AEW Full Gear
2. NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day

1. AEW All Out – I wanted to put Vengeance at the top but the more I thought about it, the more remarkable All Out really is. In addition to the great action, it was the show where Adam Cole debuted for one of the biggest surprises of the year. That was the case for all of two minutes, because Bryan Danielson appeared after, giving us one of the biggest nights in AEW history. Throw in CM Punk’s return to the ring for the first time in seven and a half years for a pretty great match with Darby Allin and Kenny Omega doing an Urkel impression and this wasn’t going to be topped.

Jeremy Thomas

5. NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day
4. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15
3. AEW Full Gear
2. WrestleMania 37

1. AEW All Out – AEW All Out was really the show that gave fans all the gifts. It was arguably the most anticipated major show of the year, with rumors that Bryan Danielson might debut at the show along with Ruby Soho and Adam Cole. It’s not often that a wrestling PPV delivers on all fans’ anticipation, and that’s what we got here as Soho debuted in the Casino Battle Royale and we had a fantastic overbooked post-main event close as Adam Cole, then Danielson came out to fans’ adulation.

But All Out wasn’t just a show that gave all the fan service. We also had a great series of matches, including CM Punk doing fine work in his first match back against Darby Allin while both Christian Cage and Kenny Omega tore it up in the main event. Miro had a great match against Eddie Kingston, while Jon Moxley had a good old fashioned brawl with Satoshi Kojima. And the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros. absolutely killed it (and each other) in their steel cage match, which saw Penta and Fenix win the titles. The one actively iffy match (Paul Wight beating QT Marshall) was very short, and everything else delivered which gave us our best major show of the year.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Major Shows of 2021 ARE…

5. NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day11 points

4. AEW Double or Nothing12 points

3. WrestleMania 3718 points

2. AEW Full Gear29 points

1. AEW All Out34 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