Updated: Apr 9
Best Storyline Nominees
Touted as two of the pillars of AEW, the contrast between Darby Allin and MJF made this an organic storyline. MJF went too far when they traded promos, and it made the payoff even more frustrating when MJF beat Darby Allin in one of the best matches this year.
Will they or won't they? Riddle's entertaining, goofy persona met the opposite-minded, too serious Randy Orton to form the dream tag team. While other storylines on this list are feuds, RK-Bro was the newest entry in the trope of mismatched tag partners working way too well together.
Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Edge
The main event of WrestleMania had a storyline with everything you could ask for. Roman Reigns is a WWE guy at the top of his game and a lengthy title run. Hall of Famer, and living legend, Edge won the Royal Rumble after returning from more than a decade off of wrestling. Daniel Bryan weaseled his way into the main event one more time, a fitting legacy of maybe the best pure wrestler of this generation. Each guy had a reason to be feuding with each other, making for the perfect triple threat storyline.
Best Storyline of the Year: "Hangman" Adam Page wins the AEW Championship
AEW's best storyline of the year was wrestling's best storyline of the year. In the first-ever AEW show, Adam Page failed to win the AEW Championship, losing to Chris Jericho. But it was his destiny, wasn't it? The young stud took a roundabout way to destiny. Losing most of his big matches in the first couple years, finding his stride by teaming with Kenny Omega, fighting confidence issues when Omega claimed the role of the stronger partner, drinking his way out of The Elite, and finding strange new friends in the Dark Order to build his confidence back to challenge for the title again. In the main event, he defeated Omega to win the title. When Tony Khan founded AEW, he claimed he knew who his first four champions would be. Khan invested in 2+ years of storytelling into Hangman Page's journey to get to his fourth champion, and I think it paid off with this moment.
Tag Team of the Year Nominees
The mat is sacred. Contrasted by flashy NXT 2.0 teams, Imperium is steady and technical, but still always delivers when the lights are bright. They have been the tag champions of the tag-heavy brand since October 2021.
Putting Matt Riddle and Randy Orton together was instant magic. They brought a new energy to the Raw Tag Team division, and they were champions from August 2021 to the end of 2021.
The Young Bucks
AEW quickly prioritized tag team wrestling, and it consistently sets them apart from WWE's main roster. The Young Bucks were champions for AEW from the beginning of 2021 until All Out in September 2021. They transformed their characters from beloved Indie wrestlers to fame-crazed, power-hungry EVPs that AEW crowds ate up as mega heels.
Best Tag Team of the Year: Lucha Bros
Even though the Young Bucks carried the titles for most of the year, I still think the Lucha Bros are the Tag Team of the Year. They always wow audiences with moves that must be seen to be believed. Every match matters for the Lucha Bros, and they never phone it in, and always bring signature aggression from Penta and show-stealing high spots from Rey Fenix. In their match with the Young Bucks, the Lucha Bros storytelling in-ring made the crowning moment even sweeter.
Female Wrestler of the Year Nominees
We want Becky! Crowds chanted for her throughout the first half of the year until her triumphant return at SummerSlam. She easily could have ridden that white-hot babyface wave, but Becky Lynch subverted expectations, beat Bianca Belair in seconds, and went heel. She has used her notoriety to rub elbows with Belair and Liv Morgan, with signs that more star-building performances are on the horizon for 2022.
AEW has received criticism for their women's division, but I think heel champion Britt Baker kept it relevant in 2021. Whether it was a main event, no DQ matches, backstage interviews with Tony Schiavone, or in-ring talk shows with her cronies, DMD was must-see.
Sasha Banks entered 2021 as champion, but her contribution to the women's division has been invaluable as one of the best wrestlers in the WWE period. Banks' Boss persona was the perfect foil to Bianca Belair, and equally as necessary to the formula using her notoriety to put Belair over. They had one of the best matches of the year. More importantly, two black women drew enough to main event WrestleMania in a singles match.
Female Wrestler of the Year: Bianca Belair
Bianca Belair won the match pictured above, but context is essential. Belair was just a prospect entering 2021. Then, she won the Royal Rumble and beat Sasha Banks in the match of WrestleMania weekend. She defended her title against Bayley in a Hell in a Cell match and put on some of the year's best matches in a losing effort to Becky Lynch. She had the most impressive Survivor Series performance of the year, and she keeps finding ways to one-up herself. The EST of WWE is the b-EST woman in wrestling for all of 2021.
Mid-Card Champion of the Year Nominees
At the beginning of the year, Carmelo Hayes wasn't even signed to NXT. Since debuting against Adam Cole in June he's won the breakout tournament, won the NXT North American Championship, defended against Johnny Gargano/Pete Dunne and led Team 2.0 over Team Black and Gold as the ironman in WarGames.
The wrestling veteran has been a great addition to the mid-card roster. After the fever dream run with Bad Bunny at WrestleMania, Damian Priest won the title at SummerSlam and went on to have more great matches with Sheamus, Jeff Hardy, and T-Bar.
Miro went to AEW with a wave of WWE releases that wanted to prove that WWE was using them wrong. So far, Miro has made the most progress, showing that he had so much more to offer with his serious "God's Champion" character. He quickly won the TNT Championship, and he was undefeated in AEW until losing to Sammy Guevara.
Mid-Card Champion of the Year: Matt Riddle
Before Riddle was half of RK-Bro, he was the glue in the mid-card that kept the middle hour of Raw entertaining. Rumor has it his championship win was supposed to belong to Keith Lee, but Riddle made the most of the opportunity, rising to the challenge to beat Bobby Lashley and John Morrison. Every match he had was memorable, utilizing his unique goofy charm and backing it up with legit MMA offense. His reign was ended short at WrestleMania by Sheamus, but he embodied what a mid-card champion should strive to do, making the middle of a show entertaining and unique from everything else.
Rising Star of the Year Nominees
Cora Jade came out of nowhere this year, and she built momentum by feuding with the champion Mandy Rose during the build to WarGames. However, in her first-ever WarGames match, she won the fans over when she went from weakest link to hero.
Big E won the Intercontinental Championship, Money in the Bank, and the World Title. Despite WWE's sour ending to his title run, Big E definitely proved he is a star on the rise.
Bianca had a meteoric title run after main eventing WrestleMania, Bianca rose to the top. She proved she was the next star in the women's division, and she took the torch from the Four Horsewomen.
Rising Star of the Year: Liv Morgan
Liv Morgan has been bubbling all year. She has been on the tip of everyone's tongue regarding the next star of the women's division. She has proved herself, and now she is waiting for the company to put the rocket on her back. She broke out against Becky Lynch, and WWE just needs to stick the landing and hand the next torch of the women's division to Liv.
Best Character Nominees
She took every shred of WWE creative and made it work. She was hilarious in WWE and worked her way to WrestleMania, and now she is one-half of the Impact Tag Champs.
Orange Cassidy is one of the most entertaining characters in wrestling today. Orange Cassidy is a nice change of pace in a land full of intense, serious wrestlers. He can outwrestle, and sports entertain you.
Roman has been one of the most protected champs in recent memory. His great personality is finally shining through, and it's produced one of the greatest runs ever. Acknowledge him.
Best Character of the Year: Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn doesn't win that often, and he isn't used particularly well. However, he is just one of those transcendent talents where it doesn't matter. Despite everything, Sami is consistently the best character in WWE. He is hilarious and intriguing, and he makes the most of everything. He actually turned his bad booking into an entertaining conspiracy storyline. He is the best character in wrestling today.
Wrestler of the Year Nominees
Sheamus won the United States title and had one of the year's best matches at WrestleMania. However, Sheamus has just been a highlight factory all year. This year, if you fought Sheamus one-on-one, you probably had an excellent match.
Roman Reigns has been delivering in the main event scene all year, and he proved this year he has all the tools. I don't think there is any serious argument that can be made against Roman's wrestling ability at this point.
Quiet as kept, Bianca's stories weren't always spectacular. However, Bianca's matches were always spectacular. She elevated her feuds opponents and herself in the ring, and Bianca is one of the most spectacular wrestlers in the ring today.
Wrestler of the Year: Bryan Danielson
Before Bryan even laced his boots this year, he was already an all-timer. However, then he went out and had one of the best wrestling years in wrestling history. He had one of the best feuds of the year against Roman Reigns and Edge, and tore the house down at WrestleMania. Then, he left for AEW and tore the house down with Kenny Omega, Adam Page and the Dark Order. Nobody is touching Danielson this year in the ring.
Match of Year Nominees
NXT Women's WarGames
This makes a list because of its excellent match story. It was so clever. It played into our expectations for Cora Jade to be inexperienced. They faked an arm injury and had us all wondering if it was real. I love any match in this era that can take me along for the ride as a fan.
Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks, AEW World Tag Championship Cage Match at All Out
This match was absolutely ridiculous. The sequences and spots were incredible, and innovative. The two teams made their case, not as wrestlers, but as artists that revolutionized tag team wrestling.
Walter vs. Dragunov, UK Title NXT Takeover 36
You didn't have to be following this feud to appreciate this match. I'm confident you could show this to non-wrestling fans, and they could probably appreciate it. This match was about the triumph of the human spirit. Watching Dragunov win the title, and refuse to lose and dominate the much bigger Walter was incredible. It is the wrestling equivalent to watching Rocky.
Best Match of Year: Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks, SmackDown Women's Title WrestleMania 37
This match was beyond words, but I'm going to try to recapture it as best as I can. There was so much pressure on this match's first-ever one-on-one main event by two women—the first ever one-on-one main event by two black women as well. The feud wasn't really that hot, and so the success all hinged on this match. Sasha and Bianca got emotional before the match because they understood the moment, but then the bell rang, and they knocked it out of the park. This was a blockbuster clash between two women who proved they are two of the best wrestling today. They had the best WrestleMania match and the best match of the year. However, what they did that night will live on for decades after that night. They have a piece of history, but they didn't just immortalize themselves. They broke down the doors for the next generation of women, and women who look like them by having a classic in the main event of WrestleMania. Congrats, Sasha and Bianca, y'all did that.