wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards (Part Two) – The Best Non-Wrestlers of 2021

January 4, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Paul Heyman Kayla Braxton WWE Smackdown Image Credit: WWE/Twitter

Welcome back to Part One 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 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. Malcolm Bivens
4. Arn Anderson and His Meme-able Glock
3. Kayla Braxton
2. MVP

1. Paul Heyman – The second straight category that wasn’t hard at all. Heyman has been putting in WORK to help make the Roman Reigns title reign the most compelling part of WWE programming. Heyman and Roman have fantastic chemistry, and it has always felt like Paul’s grip on his position with the Tribal Chief has been tenuous at best. And that is a credit to Heyman’s brilliant performances. Throwing Brock Lesnar into the mix in the second half of the year has only made it all better.

Jeffrey Harris

5. Nigel McGuinness
4. Excalibur
3. Chris Van Vliet
2. Pat McAfree

1. Taz – Taz does double-duty between commentary and managing Team Taz. Taz has actually become my favorite broadcast commentator in AEW this year. He not only brings the wealth of his history and background, he’s good at pushing the characters and storylines that are happening onscreen. Taz is can do this in his sleep and still sound like a million bucks.

Steve Cook

5. Pat McAfee
4. Tony Schiavone
3. Taz
2. Don Callis

1. Paul Heyman – I was a little surprised that Heyman won this award so easily in 2020, but will not be surprised if the same thing happens here in 2021. The most compelling thing about WWE this year was Roman Reigns’ rule over SmackDown as the Tribal Chief, the Head of the Table and whatever nicknames I’m forgetting here. He had Jimmy & Jey Uso along as backup, along with Paul Heyman as chief counsel. Heyman has a long history with Reigns’ family, going back to when he managed the Samoan Swat Team in late-80s WCW.

Things got complicated once Brock Lesnar re-appeared. As we all know, Lesnar & Heyman have been almost inseparable since 2002. There have been brief splits, but most of the time Brock & Paul have been on the same page. So when Brock came back against Roman while insisting that Paul was still his advocate, most of us believed him. Roman believed him too. Eventually, Paul admitted that he was trying to protect Roman from Brock, revealing who he saw as the superior athlete. By the time this gets posted, Day One will have taken place, so we’ll know who is the superior athlete, and whose side Paul Heyman is on.

People really care about that, which tells me that Paul Heyman has to be the best Non-Wrestler of the Year.

Jake Chambers

5. Tony Khan
4. Malcolm Bivens
3. Peter Rosenberg
2. Assistant to the NXT UK General Manager, Sid Scala

1. Sean Ross Sapp – 2021 was the year you really needed to be following Fightful’s wrestling reporter Sean Ross Sapp in order to keep up with all the breaking news behind the scenes in the pro-wrestling world. Solidifying himself as the Adrian Wojnarowski of wrestling Twitter, SRS has news so lightning fast you’d almost think he’s making it happen rather than just learning about it. From expiring contracts to releases, this has been another year where the discussion of what’s happening outside of the ring gets almost more focus than enjoying wrestling in the ring. Since wrestling doesn’t get much serious coverage in the mainstream sports media, we’ve always needed a journalistic voice that wasn’t biased or co-optable but also had some level of power and access. And while there are other options like Dave Meltzer or David Bixenspan out there, Sean Ross Sapp has emerged as the fastest and most reliable source for following the hard wrestling news.

Blake Lovell

5. Kayla Braxton
4. Tony Schiavone
3. Pat McAfee
2. Taz

1. Paul Heyman – Heyman’s chemistry with Roman Reigns is just incredible at this point. I don’t think there are many in wrestling history that are as masterful at telling a story with their words and mannerisms than Heyman. While he undoubtedly plays a role in the creative direction of Reigns’ storylines, his on-screen persona adds so much to the overall presentation. He’s the best manager and non-wrestler in the business right now, so in my opinion, this was the only choice for best in this award category.

Ian Hamilton

5. Adam Pearce
4. MVP
3. Tully Blanchard
2. Paul Heyman

1. Taz – Edges it over Heyman for me just because I’ve seen minimal main roster WWE this year, and Taz’s all-round stuff as a commentator and on-screen manager of sorts fits my preferences better in 2021.

Lee Sanders

5. Dan Lambert
4. Austin Idol
3. Dario Cueto
2. MVP

1. Paul Heyman – This was a pretty easy one for me as Mr. Paul Heyman has been quietly the best non-wrestler character for 2021. Whether he is cutting promos or is quietly holding a championship and delivering memorable facial expressions, Heyman has continued to be the glue that holds everything together for storylines with all parties involved. Just the extra layer he added to Roman Reigns as a heel and the great work Roman has done in 2020 and 2021 just wouldn’t be possible or believable without Paul Heyman. If the former ECW owner really is done as an on-screen character I’ve gotta say it’s been one helluva ride. Let’s give the man his flowers while he’s still alive and induct him in the WWE Hall of Fame already. Long overdue!

Kevin Pantoja

5. Paul Heyman
4. Don Callis
3. Malcolm Bivens
2. -1

1. Taz – Unlike years where Dario Cueto was around, this isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be. It was a tough call but I’m giving the edge to Taz. I think he did really well in every avenue in 2021. When he’s put on commentary, he’s typically only behind Excalibur as my favorite in the booth in AEW. He can be funny, puts over the wrestlers, and stays in character. As the guy running Team Taz, he does good work on the microphone and is a great mouthpiece for his guys. Plus, it’s always a joy to hear him gush over Hook and call his matches.

Thomas Hall

5. Dan Lambert
4. Scott D’Amore
3. Pat McAfee
2. Taz

1. Paul Heyman – I know it’s a cliched answer, but Heyman somehow manages to improve on the greatness that he has already achieved. There is perhaps nothing more entertaining in wrestling than watching him go out on television and doing or saying whatever it is that needs to be said to make a story work. Heyman and Roman Reigns were a perfect combination for the entire year, with the Reigns/Heyman/Brock Lesnar story being a major highlight.

What makes Heyman work so well is that he feels different. Maybe that’s because he seems to have more freedom with what he says and does, but he comes off as so much more genuine whenever he is out there. It makes his segments something that you can enjoy while also moving the story forward. That has been the case with him for a long time and he did it again here.

Robert Leighty

5. Renee Young
4. Nigel McGuinness
3. Tazz
2. Pat McAfee

1. Paul Heyman – This award should be named after Paul Heyman at this point. McAfee has been amazing, but I will give Heyman this award every year until he is no longer on my television screen. Whether it was the start of the year when he was on Talking Smack killing it every week with Owens, Bryan, AJ, Big E, Crews, etc or the long running story with Brock/Roman, Paul Heyman has always stolen the show. His year long running issues with Kayla Braxton have also been a ton of fun and you know they both enjoy the banter and torturing each other in the name of entertainment. Heyman is the king of non wrestling personalities and deserves all the praise heaped on him for always delivering and make sure whatever he is involved in is must see TV.

Jeremy Thomas

5. Pat McAfee
4. Arn Anderson
3. Tony Schiavone
2. MVP

1. Paul Heyman – There’s a reason good ol’ Paul E. is running away with this award, and it’s simple: in 2021, he continued to lead the way in terms of non-wrestling figures in the industry. While taking nothing away from Roman Reigns’ stellar work on Smackdown, Heyman did everything necessary to help keep the Tribal Chief’s reign atop Smackdown compelling and enjoyable throughout 2021. Heyman’s ability to help get talent over has never been clearer than this past year, and at the same time he had a lot of fun interactions with other talent like Kayla Braxton. His involvement behind the scenes has surely been a boon as well, making The Bloodline a very bright spot on WWE’s roster. And I for one can’t wait to see where, considering the position he ended up in at the end of the year, 2022 takes him.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Non-Wrestlers of 2021 ARE…

5. Tony Schiavone7 points

5. MVP14 points

3. Pat McAfee16 points

2. Taz29 points

1. Paul Heyman40 points


* 1. The Biggest Disappointment of The Year: WWE’s Talent Releases – 28 points