Hello and welcome to the AEW End of Year Awards for 2021 as voted for by Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors. A reminder that these awards are specifically for All Elite Wrestling as a company, hence nothing from any other wrestling company is in this article.
Wrestling Act of the Year (Kenny Omega).
[@Gareth_EW] Wrestling Act of the Year is the most prestigious award going, this is essentially AEW's MVP for the year and includes men's, tag team and women's performers in the running.
Our winner is Kenny Omega and I will let Jae go into why that is below in the next award, also won by Omega. But simply put Kenny was the heartbeat of AEW this year, wrestling a world championship match at all of AEW's PPVs, having some of the best matches, coming into his own as a great TV character and telling arguably the greatest story wrestling has ever seen. Whether you agree that it is, there's no doubt that Hangman and Omega's rivalry is in the conversation.
Not to mention Kenny did all of this whilst wrestling injured and with vertigo. As much as his quality didn't hit the peaks he reached in New Japan, it is perhaps a bigger achievement considering the context in which he was wrestling.
Men's Wrestler of the Year (Kenny Omega).
[@jaefinley13] Is a person wrestler of the year because they are in multiple classic matches or main events? Or because they win several titles across the world? Or maybe it's their character's arc over a given year? Or perhaps the wrestler of the year is the person who is MVP of their promotion, putting over other talents and making the industry a little better? Truth be told, these are all fair criteria. This year, there's no need to debate which criteria should guide us since one wrestler excelled under all of them: Kenny Omega.
Kenny Omega held the AEW, AAA, and Impact World Championships for most of 2021, main-eventing multiple pay-per-views and television episodes. Omega earned five stars or more on the Meltzer Scale in matches against Rey Fenix in January, Bryan Danielson in September, and Hangman Page in December. Along the way, he elevated Jungle Boy and Dante Martin, reminded the world that Christian Cage is top-tier, and he danced a beautiful storyline with Hangman Page that reminded the wrestling world to dream big and expect more.
2021 was better, and professional wrestling is better, because of Kenny Omega.
Women's Wrestler of the Year (Serena Deeb).
[@Gareth_EW] First of all, it is an indictment of AEW that the woman PWM has voted as wrestler of the year has wrestled six matches on TV and one on a PPV buy-in in 2021. Let us not forget that. Serena Deeb has been criminally underutilised this year.
But that only strengthens her argument when it comes to nominating her for this award. Her quality has been so high, and so consistently high, that she's managed to put herself in this conversation.
Don't get me wrong, I can certainly see the argument for others. Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker had great years. But that consistency wasn't there with Baker and Rosa was as underutilised as Serena Deeb on TV and PPV.
Deeb started the year still holding the NWA Women's World Championship which she defended in matches against Tay Conti, Red Velvet and Riho. Serena seriously helped get Conti and Velvet over whilst helping their development also in those matches. Then that match with Riho was one of the best in the women's division all year.
After dropping the title to Kamille in NWA, Deeb took time off to recovery from an injury. Upon returning she had a fantastic trilogy with Hikaru Shida which really was the shining light in the last quarter for AEW's women. Each match was fantastic and it allowed Serena Deeb to enact her heel turn, which has taken her to the next level as a character.
Serena Deeb proved her worth in 2021. Whether she holds a championship or not, she needs to be better utilised in 2022.
Tag Team of the Year (Young Bucks).
[@GoodVsBadGuys] Between Matt’s excellent selling and Nick’s hot-tag sequences and babyface fire, the Bucks are a really fun team to support as babyfaces, which is what they were for the first 3 months of 2021. They wrestled one of my favourite matches as good guys against MJF & Jericho.
From April onward, as heels, solidified by their vile treatment of SCU in an emotional feud. They really took off and reached another level. While they cut back on their move set from their lofty standard, most fans wouldn’t notice, and they still have a ton of tools to play with. Their nasty edge helps tell stories and create moments for righteous revenge for babyfaces.
The Bucks were able to elevate MJF and Eddie Kingston in the Spring, Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus in the Summer, then create a huge moment and push for the Lucha Bros with their epic clash at All Out to kick off the fall. They took the Winter to focus on their Trios work with Adam Cole where they further elevated Jungle Boy, but still had a large enough body of work as a tag team to warrant team of the year honours.
When you talk about money matches on Pay-Per-View, Matt & Nick give you more bang for your buck, with their three tag title matches on PPV averaging a 4.583 from me, 4.23 from GRAPPL, and 4.916 from Meltzer. Those numbers, their merch numbers, their ratings numbers, and their performances, are ALL ELITE, creating basis for the argument that the Young Bucks are not the best team in AEW in 2021, but the best team in the history of professional wrestling.
Match of the Year (Lucha Bros vs Young Bucks).
[@CraigPWMusings] The Young Bucks are always divisive but for me and many others they are maturing into an incredibly special act. In fact, they were my vote for Act of the Year and to give a peak behind the curtain, they only just missed out to Kenny Omega. So why did this match end up number one?
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Dave Meltzer gave this match 5.75 stars, GRAPPL users gave it 4.8 and CAGEMATCH users gave it 9.5/10. It is the highest rated match (in AEW or outside) on GRAPPL, the 5th highest on CAGEMATCH and the 2nd highest by Dave Meltzer in 2021.
For me, the statistics really tell the story. This match was a 20-minute festival of carefully constructed wrestling chaos that didn’t even come close to over-staying it’s welcome. I like fast paced and impactful action in my wrestling and this one with almost 60 Reversals and almost 30 Grapples certainly delivered.
However, with the men in the ring you may expect this match to ‘spam’ big spots and no-sell. When we consider the minute-by-minute, this match followed a classic hot babyface start, heel heat midsection and babyface comeback structure with periods of ultramodern exchanges throughout. To that end, the Fenix dive at the end of the match was so impactful because the two teams built the match to crescendo there, rather than just pack in moves unthinkingly.
This match was a true joy to watch and an incredible achievement for the Bucks as they reached the heights of Revolution 2020 again without Kenny Omega. A high 4.5 stars from me.
Storyline of the Year (Hangman's Journey).