Welcome one and welcome all to the Sports Obsessive Wrestling Awards for 2021. This is the second time we’ve done this and this year is going to be bigger and better with six of our greatest wrestling minds – and me – casting our eye over the year that has been 2021. So who will be taking home the treasured Golden Grevas Awards this year? Read on to find out.
Best Male Wrestler: Kenny Omega
Andrew Grevas: Kenny Omega
This was Kenny Omega’s year. His work in AEW, Impact & in Mexico showcased him as a modern-day traveling champion, putting on classics everywhere he went. Knowing that he was working hurt the whole time made this run even more impressive.
Steve Swift: Jonathan Gresham
Gresham; joint manipulation, octopus mask, big flag. And the best Pure wrestler on the planet
Jon Shartzer: Bryan Danielson
I don’t care what anybody says about missed time. Nobody did more with the time that they were given than Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson. The man main evented Wrestlemania against Roman Reigns and Edge and then followed that up with dream matches against the likes of Kenny Omega and Minoru Suzuki. Throw in some other great matches, such as his steel cage match with Jey Uso and a hard-hitting affair with Eddie Kingston, and the choice for Best Male Wrestler is clear. Not to mention the current program that he’s in with the new AEW Champion, Hangman Page. Who else feuded with both WWE and AEW’s top champion this year? Bingo.
Chris ‘The Flack’ Flackett: Jonathan Gresham
‘The Octopus’ was the leading light of Ring of Honor this year, flying the flag for Pure wrestling and having great matches with everyone from Minoru Suzuki to Rhett Titus to Mike Bennett (twice!) Has a real opportunity with Terminus to carve out a real Pure niche in the American market.
Amber McCrudden: Eddie Kingston
This is definitely a biased pick but Kingston has been on a roll and is finally getting the recognition he deserves. From teaming up with Jon Moxley to his bouts against Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, and Miro, this really was the year of Eddie Kingston.
Joel Kananen: Kenny Omega
All Kenny Omega matches receive all of Kenny Omega. His in-ring motor is tremendous, and his match with Bryan Danielson was on a different level physically. Besides that, Omega showed the ability to craft a story better than anyone not named Roman Reigns. Part of telling a great story is finding an end, and for championship wrestlers, that means losing. When Kenny Omega lost to Adam Page, he culminated the best year of pro wrestling by any man.
Neil Gray: Kenny Omega
The Best Bout Machine proved once again why he has that monicker. From AEW to Impact to Mexico and all points in between, Kenny Omega put on classic match after classic match and did so while not only suffering a litany of injuries that would put most mortal men in a goddamn wheelchair for six months but while battling vertigo every single time he stepped through the ropes. There is no argument to be had here. Kenny Omega is the greatest wrestler to ever lace up a set of boots.
Best Female Wrestler: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D
AG: Deonna Purrazzo
You could make an argument that out of every WWE release in the last 2 years, that releasing Purrazzo was the biggest mistake of all. This woman is money and at 27, her reign of terror is just beginning.
SS: Leonie Rose
This won’t be a popular choice, but this UKW star has developed cool in-ring work and an arrogance that’s hard to pass by.
JS: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D.
Perhaps the biggest rise this year belongs to the current AEW Women’s champion. Other women had great years that they can certainly be proud of, such as Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley, but the good doctor has been on another level since her lights-out match with Thunder Rosa. The crazy part is that we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with Baker’s true potential and star power.
CF: Thunder Rosa
Started off the year following an excellent 2020 with some cracking matches with Britt Baker, peaking with perhaps AEW’s best match in their bloody Lights Out classic. Went on to push Kamille to her best match on NWA Powerrr. Has tapered off a little since going to AEW full time, but will surely be the one to dethrone the good Doctor.
AMC: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D
Britt Baker went from zero to hero in the space of a year and a half. After being woefully cast as a babyface she turned heel in mid-2020 and has grown so much in the past year. The Doctor of AEW has been great all year from epic matches with Thunder Rosa and Ruby Riott to winning the AEW Women’s Championship 2021 was the year of the D.M.D.
JK: Bianca Belair
Despite a low point of the year at Summerslam, it is undeniable that Bianca Belair had a transcendent year. From winning the Rumble to main eventing Mania to hanging out with Megan The Stallion, Belair is the best.
NG: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D
Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D was not only the best female wrestler of 2021, but she was the second-best wrestler of 2021 – behind Kenny Omega – full stop. She has gone from being a very unnatural babyface, who never really seemed comfortable in that skin, to one of the best heels in the business and 2021 saw her cement herself as the perfect anti-hero. We know we’re supposed to boo her, but she’s so damn good on the mic and in the ring that we can’t help but cheer. 2021 has seen her defend her title in some cracking matches and – until she starts feuding with Jamie Hayter – she will remain AEW Women’s Champion for a few more months yet.
Best Tag Team:
AG: The Young Bucks
This was a tough one but I have to go with The Young Bucks. Nobody outworked them this year and as characters, really blossomed into the most annoying punks on TV. This was a career year for them.
SS: No Pick
JS: The Young Bucks
Surprise, surprise. Matt and Nick Jackson put on a ton of great wrestling matches this year…again. I used to hate these guys but it’s hard to justify hating people who work so hard and consistently give everything they have for the fans. Whether it’s against the Lucha Bros or FTR, or in six-man action with Adam Cole or Kenny Omega. When the Bucks are involved, you’re in for a treat.
CF: Midnight Heat
Not a big name, which pains me because they should be. The Defy Wrestling and UWN World Tag Team Champions have been killing it everywhere this year, but their matches with The Bodega have all been excellent. A team not to be missed.
AMC: No Pick
JK: The Young Bucks
The Jackson’s were consistently entertaining and had top-notch match after top-notch match on Dynamite and AEW pay-per-views. And they did it as the most annoying heels on the planet. Plus, they brought Adam Cole back from the dead. Brandon Cutler forever. SuperKliq forever.
From five-star matches all year against their blood feud rivals, the Lucha Bros, to almost starting a riot at AAA Triplemania Regia, FTR have been on another level in 2021. I know my erstwhile colleagues have all seemingly gone for The Young Bucks – who have had a stellar year – FTR are simply better than any tag team you currently care to mention.
Best Card/PPV: All Out
AG: All Out
It’s not even close. Years from now, this card will be looked back on as an all-time great. It’s no exaggeration to call it WrestleMania 17 great.
SS: 19th Anniversary ROH
If only to say sorry to see you go. But more, much more, brilliant wrestling, major feuds, and Matt Taven falling at least 20 feet.
JS: All Out
This category was actually harder than I expected it to be. The argument could certainly be made for Full Gear, Money in Bank, or even Crown Jewel. But All Out was special for many reasons. The return of CM Punk to the ring was something we thought we would never see. The main event between Kenny Omega and Christian Cage was entertaining and the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros are always going to provide fireworks. Throw in the three big debuts of Ruby Soho, Adam Cole, and Bryan Danielson, which somehow didn’t feel like too much or overshadowing each other, and we may look back at this PPV as the definitive turning point for AEW.
CF: All Out
Whilst not every match was great (I wasn’t overwhelmed by the Britt Baker match, for example), the excitement in the audience was palpable and the likes of the cage match between The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers and Eddie Kingston vs. Miro were extremely high points. More than that, though, this show will be remembered for the sense of occasion—the night where CM Punk wrestled his first match for seven years and big WWE names Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson made their All Elite debuts. An event that will be talked about for years.
AMC: All Out
All Out overall was the best PPV of the year with the card being perfect from top to bottom, we had big debuts, fantastic matches, and crowning moments. AEW have some of the best big-time shows in the industry right now.
JK: All Out
The debuts of Minoru Suzuki, Ruby Soho, Adam Cole, and Bryan Danielson. CM Punk’s first match in seven years. Match of the year contender Young Bucks vs. Lucha Brother. Need I say more. All Out truly lived up to its name.
NG: Full Gear
Once again, my erstwhile colleagues have backed the wrong horse. Full Gear didn’t have a bad match on the card. Every single one was a four/five-star banger and we finally – finally – got to see Hangman Adam Page vanquish the evil Kenny Omega to end his reign of terror as AEW World Champion and bring to a close a story that took two years to tell. People will be talking about an AEW 2021 PPV years from now, but it won’t be All Out, it’ll be Full Gear, you mark my words.
Best Feud: Matt Cardon vs. Nick Gage and The GCW Fans
AG: Matt Cardona vs. Nick Gage
Everything about this was good. The way they worked in appearances, social media & had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand was wrestling gold. The culmination, seeing a Cardona win the GCW Title & have trash pelted at him was one for the record books.
SS: The Foundation v LFI
A Faction that loves the purity of wrestling. A team that loves to break the rules. It has been very tasty.
JS: Seth Rollins vs. Edge
The Rated R Superstar has been on a tear since he returned to the ring and found the perfect dance partner in the former Shield member. Rollins is one of the best of this generation and Edge is widely considered one of the best to EVER do it. There was no way that these guys wouldn’t create magic together. The whole feud was filled with superb storytelling and quality matches, capped off with an excellent encounter inside the dreaded Hell in a Cell.
CF: The Foundation vs. Violence is Forever
An old-school feud between two stables wanting to prove which is the best, and yet! This was a battle for supremacy of style as well as a stable staking the claim for how wrestling should be conducted – the pure way or via sheer wanton brutality? Whichever way this feud went, we fans were always the winners.
AMC: Matt Cardona Vs. The GCW Crowd
Matt Cardona has made himself undeniable with his heel persona being one of the best in the business. His obnoxious sports entertainer gimmick is one that the smart GCW crowd will boo. His feud with Effy has been one of the best of the year and I personally can’t wait to see what the next year holds for him.
JK: Seth Rollins vs. Edge
Seth violating Edge’s home was a brilliant piece of storytelling brilliance, and their trio of matches were superb. Their Crown Jewel Hell In A Cell match was truly a classic, and top contender for match of the year.
NG: Matt Cardona vs. Nick Gage and The GCW Fans and Anyone Else He Felt Like P*ssing Off
Matt Cardona must have trouble finding trousers that fit, considering he’s carrying around the biggest set of balls known to man. Not only did he have the nerve to go to GCW and beat their God, Nick Gage – as well as fan-favorite Effy – but he’s done it in such a way that they’ve come close to tearing him apart on more than one occasion. He’s trolled them in person, on the internet, and in interviews – while putting on some highly entertaining matches under his Sports Entertainment persona – and it doesn’t look like ending anytime soon. This past week, Matt Cardona registered the trademark “Deathmatch King”. This feud is never going to end.
Best Promo: MJF
There’s no better promo in the business than MJF today. He’s good on the mic. This award could conceivably be his every year, for many years to come.
SS: The Young Bucks
The Bucks are having fun, they make their out-there ideas work and they have an adornment of fringed headgear to keep your attention.
JS: MJF/CM Punk
This is the easiest category of them all. There are very few people in the wrestling business that can carry their own in a promo battle with CM Punk. MJF didn’t just carry his own. He might have carried the whole damn segment. That’s not to say that Punk wasn’t great, as always. He definitely had some zingers and seemed as comfortable as ever in the exchange. But man, MJF was in top form. Even the WWF references that AEW loves to use didn’t feel like too much. This is one that will be remembered for a long, long time.
CF: Eddie Kingston
I don’t know how much truth there was behind Eddie’s words that he aimed at CM Punk, but the passion, fire, and fury behind them were a thing of wonder. Punk played off Eddie beautifully, and a great feud was born. A shame then that it was dropped after one match, but still—what a goddamn promo!
AMC: Eddie Kingston
Yes Eddie Kingston again, he is one of the best talkers in wrestling right now. Pinpointing just one moment will never do him justice but his recent work with CM Punk was out of this world. A match that was hyped over 3 weeks of promos and delivered on every front.
JK: Roman Reigns
Against any opponent, Roman knew just what to say to create tension and interest. Even in the Thunderdome, Roman controlled his audience and convinced all that he was truly the best. His cocky demeanor and effortless confidence combined to make the Tribal Chief the champ of the mic. Plus: Paul Heyman.
There is no better bastard in the business today than MJF. He is just that damn good, in the ring and on the mic. His promos are a work of art that sees MJF just unload on his opponent with everything he has. He’s funny, vicious, and not afraid to drop his own pipe bombs, and in 2021 he has proven time and time again that there really is no one that can keep up with him. MJF is better than you and you know it.
Match Of The Year: Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair
AG: Adam Cole vs Kyle O’Reilly – Unsanctioned Match, NXT Takeover
These two men have been partners and enemies for over a decade now and while this match wasn’t their blow-off, it could’ve been. From athleticism to drama to violence, this match had it all and was in some ways, the end of an era for NXT.
SS: Bandido v Flamita v Rey Horus – ROH 19th Anniversary
Already sort of breaking up which gave this match an extra frisson, these three did wrestling things I have never seen before and hope to see again whilst I still have my own teeth.
JS: Ilja Draganov vs WALTER NXT Championship Match – NXT Takeover: 36
When these two faced off last October on NXT UK, they put on a classic match for the ages. They then followed that up with an even better encounter at Takeover 36 that left me amazed at how they were able to raise the level once again. There’s no doubt that the current and former NXT UK champions are willing to put their bodies through hell to entertain the fans and give us the best match possible. That’s exactly what they did and, to me, they put on the best match of 2021 in the process.
CF: Jonathan Gresham vs. Chris Ridgeway – Wrestle Carnival Pure
I’m not just saying this because I was in attendance for this one, but this was an astonishingly great encounter between two of the best pure wrestlers in the world, going at it hold for hold and strike for brutal strike. Check it out on ROH’S Week by Week on YouTube!
AMC: Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair – Wrestlemania
Aside from it being a historic moment for the women of WWE, this match was fantastic. A five-star classic from two of the best within the women’s division in WWE right now, their match at WrestleMania was deserving of the Main Event spot, and it over-delivered as if that is even possible.
JK: Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair – Wrestlemania
A truly historic matchup lived up to the hype on the first night of Wrestlemania. Banks and Belair choking up with tears before the match showed the raw emotion that translated to a culmination of everything wrestling can be. The incomparable was born to sell Belair’s power moves, and the pair created magic with an all-time great match.
NG: Hangman Adam Page vs. Kenny Omega – Full Gear
And this is what happens when you have seven people picking different matches, you end up with Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair as Match of the Year. Which it wasn’t. By a long shot. Still, instead of fudging the numbers I shall stick by the consensus of two and enquire why nobody outside of myself chose the match that ended the two-year redemption act for Hangman Page? It was the greatest match of the year and it ended the greatest wrestling story ever told.
Best Promotion: AEW
From the in-ring quality to the way they’ve taken care of countless wrestlers who found themselves out of work or not working enough to generating true excitement in the business, AEW is here to stay and 2021 was their banner year.
Regularly excellent matches, regularly brilliant wrestlers, and a successful push into the US. Not missing out at home, not messing about abroad.
As an admitted NXT mark, I never thought that I would say this. But AEW has consistently gotten better, while NXT “2.0” just doesn’t have the same feel to me anymore. Tony Kahn and company continue to impress and improve every single week, opening the “forbidden door” and giving us dream matches that we’ve always wanted and some that we didn’t know we needed. I’m definitely looking forward to what 2022 has in store from All Elite Wrestling and seeing if they can keep up the momentum.
They weren’t without fault at times, but from the major refocus on Pure wrestling to the great stable wars throughout the summer, from Matt Taven and Vincent’s bloody cage war to the reintroduction of the Women’s championship – whose first holder, Rok-C, is a great young talent – from the revelation that was ‘The Mecca’ Brian Johnson to the Briscoe Brothers wanting to smash each other up, ROH was on fire for a lot of this year and were really beginning to find their groove again after the loss of The Elite. What happens to ROH in the future, time will tell.
GCW has become one of the best promotions in North America and with its hardcore edge and great storytelling, it should have more eyes on it. Bloodsport and Effys Bing Gay Brunch are constant standouts with Emo Fight being a fun event too.
Tony Khan knows how to give the wrestling fan what they want. AEW added massive talent to their roster, added a legitimate second show in Rampage, and clearly identified themselves as a viable alternative to WWE. I think both companies benefit from their competition, and can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring.
This was a tough call. It could’ve easily been NJPW, NOAH, GCW, hell, even AAA, but in the end, I decided to go with AEW because I’ve watched and enjoyed more AEW in 2021 than I have any of the others. That simple really. A brilliant 2021 sees Tony Khan and co going into 2022 with a real chance to become the number one promotion in America, at least for fan satisfaction, and even though they might not have the financial clout of the WWE just yet, the future is more than bright for AEW.