wrestling / Columns

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

January 4, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Taz AEW 6-3-20

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

This award is open to managers, commentators, bookers, on air authority figures and the like. If they are an active part of the wrestling business (not as an in ring performer) they are eligible.

Rob Stewart

5. John Cone
4. Nigel McGuinness
3. Don Callis
2. Arn Anderson

1. Tony Schiavone – This was by far the hardest category to do because… there are just so few relevant people in wrestling who don’t at least occasionally wrestle these days. In a world without Dario Cueto, this isn’t an easy category. Have to give it to Tony, though, who provides the voice of AEW and was so damn fun in those skits with Britt Baker.

Jeffrey Harris

5. Kevin Kelly
4. Gino Gambino
3. Excalibur
2. Don Callis – OK, I have Pat McAfee at Number 1. I realize McAfee has wrestled some matches in 2020, and he’s done a good job. However, before his NXT TakeOver match with Adam Cole, he had a grand total of I believe one wrestling match over his athletic career. Pat McAfee was best known as a former NFL player who became a part-time NXT analyst and broadcaster and podcast host. But considering that I ranked Pat McAfee as No. 1 in another category, I wanted to save most of my talking points for that one.

In my humble opinion, Don Callis has always had the gift of gab going all the way back to the 1990s in a way that few have had. He’s always been a good talker and onscreen character. And even while this angle with Kenny Omega happened at the very tail end of 2020, it easily became some of my favorite and best moments of 2020. I think the reason this angle with Omega works so well is because there are so many elements of truth to it. Callis and Omega are like actual family and have history going back for years. Callis was instrumental in setting up the Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega feud and match in NJPW. And yes, Callis was arguably indirectly instrumental to the creation of AEW.

That’s made all the promos and angle for Callis crossing over into AEW while he’s also been one of the heads of Impact Wrestling such high quality. Now obviously, we still need to get a better look at where this angle is going and how things will end up. WWE screwed up WWF vs. WCW at every turn. That said, the promo on Impact where Callis called out Tony Khan and basically said, “You got screwed? Well, kid, welcome to the wrestling business,” that was absolute perfection. This is pure pro wrestling heeldom.

1. Pat McAfee

Steve Cook

5. Tully Blanchard
4. Paul Heyman
3. Father James Mitchell
2. Taz

1. Tony Schiavone – Tony didn’t have the best of reputations with wrestling fans of a certain age. People that grew up with him calling WCW Monday Nitro remember a guy constantly talking about how every night was the greatest night in the history of our sport. His most famous call from the time period involved taking a shot at Mick Foley winning the WWF Championship. Not his decision, but he sure got the heat for it. His time as part of AEW has changed a lot of opinions, as he’s shown much more enthusiasm and has added a lot to AEW’s product as an announcer, interviewer, podcast host, producer and probably fifteen other jobs behind the scenes. His interactions with evildoers like Chris Jericho, Britt Baker, Eddie Kingston & others have been among the highlights of AEW’s 2020.

Len Archibald

5. Taz
4. Jake Roberts
3. MVP
2. Paul Heyman

1. William Regal – In terms of visibility, the “correct” response I suppose should be Paul Heyman, but I am going by effectiveness and to me, no non-wrestling personality brings more gravitas or raises the stakes quite like the NXT General Manager does. Regal is the perfect authority figure: his presence looms, but isn’t invasive or intrusive to the point of annoyance, and he is not involved directly in any storylines. He appears when he is needed and when he is needed, it means something. Regal is one of the few characters in wrestling on this planet that still has an aura about him – he’s that rugged Brit that will get legit medieval on your ass – is he becoming the UK’s version of Haku? I’d love to hear some amazing stories of Regal in barroom brawls ripping people’s ear lobes off or something random. That was a tangent…When Regal appears on NXT, you better perk your ears up because some shit somewhere is about to get real – and it is becoming a most righteous tradition to see what situation Regal will find himself before he utters the most glorious word in professional wrestling: WARGAMES. What put him over the top for me was his tribute to Teddy Long, throwing a “Playa” out during a random episode of NXT. Dude is amazing.

Tony Acero

5. Tony Schiavone
4. Paul Heyman
3. Zelina Vega
2. Tully Blanchard

1. Jake “The Snake” Roberts – For years prior to this, Heyman almost always takes the cake, but in a rare instance, he was teamed with someone who didn’t need him. This didn’t eliminate how awesome Heyman is, but it also made it not so necessary. On the complete opposite of the spectrum, Roberts was a necessary component of Lance Archer’s build, and he wasn’t afraid to drop obscure lyrics and continue to lace his promos with the vitriol and power we have come to expect for years from him.

Blake Lovell

5. Tully Blanchard
4. Excalibur
3. Taz
2. Paul Heyman

1. Tony Schiavone – Tony’s return to wrestling television in 2019 was certainly noteworthy, and he followed that up with an awesome year with AEW. His work as a commentator and in-ring interviewer is great, especially when it comes to his interactions with his best bud Britt Baker. He’s clearly loving life after many years out of the wrestling business, and it’s just cool to see him so happy. And in case you forgot……IT’S STIIIIINNNGGGG!

Ian Hamilton

5. Quinn McKay
4. Taz
3. Absolute Andy* (feel bad giving him this as he is an active wrestler, but has transitioned to a different role)
2. Paul Heyman

1. Gideon Grey – I’m going outside the box here, since I’m not a week-to-week WWE watcher, so my choice is a personal favourite from Rev Pro. The UK indies don’t have a lot of mouthpieces, but that doesn’t mean that Gideon’s the best of a bad bunch – he’s genuinely effective in front of all kinds of crowds (well, back when they were allowed), and while the “Lord” gimmick isn’t around, the character is just as effective in ringleading a group of bad guys.

Kevin Pantoja

5. Scarlett
4. Taz
3. Arn Anderson
2. Paul Heyman

1. William Regal – Nobody really stood out in this category this year. There’s no Dario Cueto in wrestling anymore. Zelina Vega was far and away the best manager but she competed so she didn’t fit here. Scarlett is the best part about Karrion Kross, while Taz, Paul Heyman, and Arn Anderson have been good managers and mouthpieces. However, William Regal is the constant. He’s the one authority figure in wrestling who isn’t too much of a heel or babyface, playing things straight. Plus, he gets to shout “WAR GAMES” and that’s a plus.

Robert Leighty

5. Renee Young
4. CM Punk
3. Jake Roberts
2. Taz

1. Paul Heyman – In my mind this really wasn’t a close race as Paul Heyman has been by far the most entertaining non-wrestler of 2020. He has always been great with Brock Lesnar but it is the run with Roman Reigns that has reignited his career. With Brock, Paul was the mouth piece and hype man. With Roman he is the guy that sells the story with his eyes, movements and facial reactions. On top of that he has been amazing on Talking Smack in helping get other stories over and if you aren’t watching Talking Smack you should because his interactions with Big E, Daniel Bryan and KO have been some of the best promo work of the year.

Jake Chambers

5. Vickie Guerrero
4. Paul Heyman
3. Reginald the Sommelier
2. Assistant to the NXT UK General Manager, Sid Scala

1. Peter Rosenberg – Much respect to Peter Rosenberg on his return to the WWE PPV pre-shows this year, but this is just as much a vote for his regular Cheap Heat podcast. In a year when we’ve seen some WWE periphery podcasts co-opted by the Network, Cheap Heat continues to be a non-partisan hour of radio-quality wrestling talk anchored by Rosenberg’s clear professionalism with the medium, history with pro-wrestling, and logical criteria of what he’s looking for in the art form. While he waters it down on-screen for WWE, his persona still comes across as authentic and contrasts nicely with the in-ring legends and pretty Communications school grads they surround him with. As we saw this year with Pat McAfee, there is a higher goal for podcast personalities in the WWE than simply a talking head, and while Rosenberg may not have McAfee’s size, here’s to hoping his mouth carries him to a deeper role in the company one day soon.

Jeremy Thomas

5. William Regal
4. Salina de la Renta
3. Don Callis
2. Tony Schiavone

1. Paul Heyman – It probably won’t surprise many people to see Paul Heyman at the top of a lot of lists. To start with, the guy remains one of the best talkers, hype men, and creative minds in the industry. That almost goes without saying at this point. But if it was just that and his run with Brock Lesnar, I wouldn’t be giving him the top spot. Everyone knows he’s great with Lesnar, but I wouldn’t have imagined he would pair quite so perfectly with Roman Reigns. It would seem to be an obvious choice, but some things are only obvious to some people [me] after the fact. Heyman’s facilitation of Reigns’ heel turn has been nothing short of the absolute highlight of main roster WWE television in 2020. A lot of that is on Reigns obviously, but we can’t underestimate Heyman’s involvement both on camera and behind the scenes in making Reigns what fans have wanted him to be all along.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Non-Wrestlers of 2020 ARE…

5. Don Callis & Jake Roberts (Tie)10 points

4. William Regal11 points

3. Taz16 points

2. Tony Schiavone20 points

1. Paul Heyman33 points