Welcome to the Pro Wrestling Musing's Best Wrestlers of 2020 Top 10 list. That means only one thing...
2020 is almost over
But it hasn't all been bad. 2020 was the first full year of AEW and there have been highlights galore. From that Bucks/Page and Omega tag to Brodie Lee's squash of Cody to Moxley's near 10 month title reign to John Silver's breakout appearances on BTE.
In a down year in New Japan we have still seen a wonderful return year for Hiromu Takahashi, some early year Okada specials and a short run from Moxley culminating in him going up against Minoru Suzuki.
Elsewhere, DragonGate and NOAH are attracting disillusioned NJPW viewers and Stardom are making moves in Japan and internationally. WWE even saw some year defining runs from Drew McIntyre, Roman Reigns, Bayley and at long last, Sasha Banks.
That brings us to the whole purpose of this article. 38 ballots have been cast by PWMusings' contributors, subscribers and invited content creators from the extended wrestling creators community. Each ballot allows the voter 5 nominations.
These have been collated and cover 49 wrestlers across at least 10 promotions plus a few unattached picks to boot. Each number 1 pick is worth 5 points, with a number 5 pick being worth 1 pick. Scroll down to see the top 10 based on these votes!
Pro Wrestling Musings' Top 10 Wrestlers of 2020
Throughout 2020 Kenny Omega collected various accolades, not least being inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, becoming the first US or Canadian based wrestler in over 30 years to be inducted without a run in WWE or WCW.
Omega defended his AAA Mega Championship against Laredo Kid in AAA’s match of the year and Sammy Guevara in the first great COVID-era match, setting the tone for a difficult period in wrestling history.
It was AEW where Omega shone brightest though, firstly winning the AEW World Tag Team Championship. Omega, alongside Adam Page, went on to have one of the best tag team championship reigns ever before running through the AEW Eliminator Tournament in exhilarating fashion. A tournament which culminated in Omega winning the AEW World Championship from Jon Moxley courtesy of an all-time great heel turn.
Speaking of that turn, a reason it was so brilliant was not only the cataclysmic change to the industry it presented, but the 18-months of story that preceded it. A carefully plotted narrative that saw Omega’s character delve into a dark side of himself that we hadn’t seen for a few years, ‘The Cleaner’.
It’s not unlike ‘The Best Bout Machine’ to have great matches but in 2020 Omega showcased himself as a true all-rounder that “best in the world” needs to be. From tag team wrestling to singles competition to cinematic matches like Stadium Stampede.
Omega had more appearances (17) than anyone in Cagematch’s top 300 matches of the year except for Shingo Takagi (17) and Tomohiro Ishii (18). Including 6 appearances in the top 100, bettered only by Mayu Iwatani, Takagi (both 8) and Ishii (11). Omega was also involved in 12 matches rated higher than 4 stars by Dave Meltzer, only Ishii and Takagi had more.
By Gareth Ford-Elliott (@RHWGareth).
For the majority of 2020, Jon Moxley was the face of AEW. His success there paved the way for other talent to bet on themselves and venture out of the WWE universe. He was involved in major storylines, hard hitting matches, and never looked weak or goofy.
The best part of Mox's title defences in AEW was that he helped to build up the profiles of his opponents. I never thought that Brodie Lee, MJF, or Eddie Kingston were going to win the belt but all three came out of those matches looking stronger. For all his personal success, it's what he contributes to the pro-wrestling industry as a whole that makes him exceptional.
Moxley's reign as IWGP US Champion continues and one of my many hopes for 2021 is that he finds his way back to Japan to defend it.
By Tim Morehouse (@TimmayMan)
Go Shiozaki has been a consistent fixture in puroresu since he began training in 2003, and accomplished just about everything a Pro Wrestling NOAH superstar could accomplish. He could have easily phoned it in as the world of wrestling began to seemingly collapse thanks to COVID-19 and the Speaking Out movement, but instead, he continually proved himself to be one of the best wrestlers in the world, adapting to a lack of crowds better than many of his contemporaries throughout the wrestling world. He started off the year strong, beating Kaito Kiyomiya on January 4th in an early Match Of The Year candidate to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the 4th time (tying with Takashi Sugiura for most GHC Heavyweight title reigns).
Soon enough, the crowds went away, and Shiozaki got a lot more creative. The first half of his nearly hour-long title defense against outsider Kazuyuki Fujita consisted entirely of an intense stare-down. Wearing the colours of Mitsuharu Misawa, the founder of NOAH, Shiozaki stared daggers at his opponent while standing proudly on the company’s emblem on the ring mat. Shiozaki wasn’t just representing Pro Wrestling NOAH. He WAS Pro Wrestling NOAH. Shiozaki won the match, and throughout the year, defeated Akitoshi Saito, Naomichi Marufuji, Katsuhiko Nakajima, and Takashi Sugiura to retain his belt, with the only “blemish” on his title reign being when he and GHC National Champion Kenou went to a time limit draw.
Other accomplishments included gaining second place in the A-Block of the N-1 Victory tournament, having a singles-match win-rate of 75%, and having an overall win-rate of 70.5% for the year. Also, for those who value Dave Meltzer’s opinions, Shiozaki’s match against Nakajima was rated 4.75 stars, and his match against Sugiura was the first 5-star NOAH match since 2004.
What was probably more impressive was his immense ability to make all of his opponents look like absolute killers. Shiozaki’s selling is unmatched. Don’t get it twisted though; his victories do not look undeserved, as his comeback segments are just as impressive as his selling. On top of all of that, the fact that his matches were so compelling despite long run-times and minimal crowd noises should be celebrated. His singles matches of 2020 averaged 32 minutes and his championship matches averaged 43 minutes. Each of those matches were excellent, proving why Shiozaki is at the top of the Pro Wrestling NOAH totem pole, and why he is one of the best wrestlers in the world.
By Ryan Gorneault (@RyanGorneault)
After a career-threatening injury, Hiromu Takahashi burst back onto the scene in a big way by defeating Will Ospreay for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom in what was a top 10 in match of the year according to Cagematch, Grappl and Dave Meltzer.
Hiromu then went on to have a stand-out performance in the New Japan Cup, narrowly losing to Kazuchika Okada in the semi-finals and having one of the best comedy matches of the year against Toru Yano. He then stepped up to IWGP double champion, EVIL, and almost beat him in what was easily EVIL’s best match of the year.
After just one defence because of a lengthy lay-off due to COVID-19, Hiromu lost the Juniors championship to Taiji Ishimori only to go and have an amazing performance in Best of the Super Juniors 27. Winning in the final against El Desperado which was also ranked in the top 10 for matches of the year on both Grappl and Cagematch.
The ever-entertaining Hiromu Takahashi had a wonderful year, reminding everyone just how good he is and was the shining light in what was a difficult year for NJPW.
By Gareth Ford-Elliott (@RHWGareth).
Drew McIntyre became one of the faces of the WWE in 2020. He started off the year with a spectacular display in the Royal Rumble match, he came in and stopped Brock Lesnar’s impressive run in the rumble match eliminating him to a massive pop. He then used that momentum eliminating Lesnar to carry him to victory last eliminating the 'Big Dog' Roman Reigns to win the match. He carried this momentum all the way to Wrestlemania but unfortunately for Drew his coronation as champion came in front of an empty performance centre as the world came to a stop due to the corona virus pandemic. He defeated Brock Lesnar on the second night of Wrestlemania in the main event to win his first WWE heavyweight championship capping off a true Cinderella story following his release from the WWE in 2014.<