wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards (Part Twelve) – The Best Wrestlers of 2020

January 15, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Kenny Omega AEW, Impact

Welcome back to Part Twelve 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 Wrestlers of the year. Let’s get right to it…

Rob Stewart

5. Kenny Omega
4. Keith Lee
3. Roman Reigns
2. Jon Moxley

1. Drew McIntyre – Boy, you just can’t deny the year McIntyre has had, even with that weird little hiccup title reign of Randy Orton’s. He was dominant in the Rumble by ending Lesnar’s reign of terror there en route to winning the whole shebang. He humbled Brock at ‘Mania in a way in which Reigns or Seth was never able to. And then he just took on all comers and has still looked strong doing it. He feels much more natural as a dominant face than Roman ever felt (though DAMN Roman could have won this for his last five months as a villain). Here’s hoping he keeps it up.

Jeffrey Harris

5. Sasha Banks
4. Taiji Ishimori
3. Tetsuya Naito
2. Jon Moxley

1. Kenny Omega – This was very much a tough call in what’s been a very difficult, harrowing, humbling and rough year. As difficult as this year has been, there have still been some great standout wrestlers. However, I got to pick Omega. I think in 2020, Omega proved yet again why he is one of the top names and wrestlers in the business. Even as a tag team with Adam Hangman Page, he was consistently in the best matches on TV week after week. However, everything perfectly culminated at Winter Is Coming when he defeated Jon Moxley and captured the AEW World title. The win also thrust him into what is unfolding to be one of the best and most exciting angles in wrestling right now. Omega, along with Don Callis, played every bit of this to perfection. As I’m writing this, 2020 still isn’t even over yet. And Omega suddenly going from tag team midcarder, to main event world champion, and making it look seamless is a rare quality that few wrestlers can pull off.

Len Archibald

5. Kenny Omega
4. Roman Reigns
3. Adam Cole
2. Tetsuya Naito

1. Jon Moxley – In 2020 Jon Moxley fulfilled a prophecy most fans of his who followed him from the beginning of his career back in his CZW days envisioned: he was going to one day be the biggest name in the professional wrestling world. Moxley did something truly special and unique in this era of professional wrestling: Moxley is a guaranteed WWE hall of famer. He left WWE and 1: showed that he didn’t need them to be the star that most knew he could be on his own and 2: became a BIGGER star because of it. Moxley, unhinged, unbound and untethered brought something refreshing back to professional wrestling in 2020: raw passion and unpredictability. The work he did during his feud with Eddie Kingston up to their I Quit match at Full Gear was brilliant and is near the top of my list for feud of the year. Mox had great matches with Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki, MJF, Lance Archer, Brodie Lee and Darby Allin – the man was consistent in everything he did and most of all, you FELT Moxley’s passion in every movement he made. He was a babyface you could root for, almost a modern-day gunslinger looking to right the wrongs in the wrestling world and willing to get dirty to do it. For some fans, having Moxley carry a promotion outside WWE and being the biggest name in wrestling was just a pipe dream, but that’s how good Mox is: 2020 is his reality and we are all just in it. Cheers and congrats on the baby. Ohio and Canada. Oh man, I know what that combination is like…

Jake Chambers

5. Go Shiozaki
4. Shingo Takagi
3. Kazuchika Okada
2. Kota Ibushi

1. Drew McIntyre – I’m going with a conservative pick here. Although I’m not really a giant fan of Drew the character, nor did any of his matches make my personal Top 30 of the year, I’m putting him at number one over all the Japanese stars I consider technically better wrestlers. Ultimately, my lifetime WWF/E fandom forces me respect a calendar year like Drew had, where he clearly stepped up to the main event level after winning the Rumble, became WWE champion and then defended the belt in a variety of main event matches, including one strong marquee feud. This is the textbook definition of what I’m looking for in a WWE character in-ring narrative. Some of my all-time favourite years in wrestling followed similar patterns, from Yokozuna, Bret, HBK, Austin, Rock, Benoit, to Brock, and then wrestlers like Cena, Mankind, Angle, Edge, Show, Undertaker, Punk, Bryan and Rousey, also had these incredible calendar years, and while Drew doesn’t fall onto my all-time list like all these guys, I respect the tradition and what it means in professional wrestling to anchor to biggest and most important company in history.

Ian Hamilton

5. Eddie Kingston
4. Shingo Takagi
3. Tomohiro Ishii
2. Jon Moxley

1. Hiromu Takahashi – With a lot of promotions having been on ice in 2020, a lot of names I’d have usually put in this list simply didn’t have enough to their name to warrant being put on here. So I’m going with what some may see as a surprising choice in Hiromu Takahashi – a man whose first year back from a broken neck saw him flirt with the heavyweights – such as the excellent New Japan Cup showing against Tomohiro Ishii – while showing why he’s transcending the junior division in the promotion. By the time this goes up, we’ll know if Hiromu left the Tokyo Dome with the IWGP junior title or not, but let’s face it – it’s just a matter of time before he’s considered a heavyweight. 2020 just proved his versatility.

Kevin Pantoja

5. Roman Reigns
4. Io Shirai
3. Jon Moxley
2. Drew McIntyre

1. Sasha Banks – Considering the way this includes everything from box office to accolades to performances, it’s tough to pick a winner. Box office is hard to really rate given that there were barely any live crowds in 2020. Ultimately, Sasha Banks gets the slight edge over Drew McIntyre. While he won two WWE Titles and the Royal Rumble, Banks won every Women’s Title that she could and shined on all three brands. She was in countless PPV matches, usually delivering a great performance. She also helped Smackdown score strong ratings and gave NXT a boost to beat AEW when she appeared there, while McIntyre led Raw to some of their lowest ratings in history, even if it wasn’t his fault. Sasha Banks was at her best in 2020 since her 2015 NXT run.

Jeremy Thomas

5. Kota Ibushi
4. Hiromu Takahashi
3. Taiji Ishimori
2. Tetsuya Naito

1. Kenny Omega – This was honestly a rough one for me to pick. It pained me to have Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada at #5 and just off the list, but they were overshadowed by others on NJPW’s roster the year. And while if all things were equal this probably would have been Naito’s year for me, NJPW being shut down for an extended period of time prevented that. That gave Kenny Omega, who delivered all throughout in 2020, room to sneak in and take the top spot. He’s defended titles in AAA and AEW, dominated in tag team action with Hangman Page for much of the year, and then stepped up to take AEW’s main event spot in the last stretch of the year. No one was able to “do it all” in 2020, but Omega came closest and he did it while maintaining the sky-high standard in terms of match quality.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Wrestlers of 2020 ARE…

5. Hiromu Takahashi7 points

4. Tetsuya Naito11 points

3. Kenny Omega12 points

2. Drew McIntyre15 points

1. Jon Moxley20 points