2020 was, let’s just leave it at, a year. For a period there, it looked like we might not get Pro Wrestling for a portion of it. Thanks to some brave work in the early days of the pandemic by All Elite Wrestling and WWE, we still got that entertainment that we all craved. It took some ingenuity from both companies and a bit of a change to how they work without fans in attendance, but they did it. That leaves out the great work that companies like: IMPACT Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and others have put on throughout the year.
This list will be dominated by the work from those four companies listed above, due to myriad factors, but the fact that AEW and WWE soldiered on through the early pandemic leads them to having more incredible moments. So without further ado, here’s the top 10 Pro Wrestling moments of the year.
Brock Lesnar’s Performance And Elimination At The Royal Rumble
Both Companies Running Their First “Pandemic Show”
Sasha Banks And Bayley’s Summer Run
Edge Returning At The Royal Rumble
Jon Moxley Beats Chris Jericho At AEW Revolution
10. Evil Ascends To The Top Of The Mountain
It was hard to decide if Evil joining the Bullet Club or this was a bigger moment. We’ll get to Naito’s story a bit later in the list, but this was a shocker from the NJPW world. After winning a tournament and showing some more aggressive tendencies, he fully turned heel and joined up with the Bullet Club. At Dominion, he and Naito almost went forty minutes in a damn good match, with Evil shocking the world and winning both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles. He became the first triple champion in NJPW history, but would quickly vacate the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag-Team Championship. Naito would get his win back and the titles at Summer Struggle, but for a fleeting moment, Evil was at the top of the NJPW mountain.
9. Sting Debuts On AEW Dynamite
You can read all about Sting’s debut on AEW Dynamite here, but it’s safe to say that it was a huge moment. The Stinger, who was a fixture on TNT with WCW for many years, returned to that network and made his debut on AEW. AEW has done a great job of using legends like this to build up their current stars. Hopefully Sting can be used properly, as opposed to his WWE tenure, which was spotty at best. His debut at Survivor Series 2014 is one of my favorite moments ever, but this one almost equals that.
8. WWE Debuts The Thunderdome
WWE had a real problem on their hands with their “pandemic” shows at the Performance Center. Not only was the building too small to host their main roster shows due to COVID-19 protocols, but they just weren’t getting the same type of shows as AEW. AEW had a smaller building, but they also had wrestlers in the crowd cheering and booing the action. So what did WWE do in response? They rented out the AmwayCenter in Orlando, Florida and made a giant video wall for fans to tune in on. WWE might have some major faults, but they have definite ingenuity in certain places.
The Thunderdome was a sight to see on it’s first broadcast, and it continues to this day. It’s a great way to get fans “back in the building” and intrigued in the action.
7. Omega and Callis Steal The AEW Title And Show Up On IMPACT
This one is fairly recent, but the waves from it might be felt more in 2021 than 2020. Sure, Kenny Omega winning his first major singles title in AEW was a big deal. But the aftermath and surrounding events from it are bigger than just that win. Don Callis‘s partnership with Kenny Omega is a huge story. Now AEW wrestlers are showing up on IMPACT and vice versa. For now it’s just Kenny Omega, but we might see the Good Brothers on AEW, or hopefully other talents from both companies intermixing. Competition is the best for pro wrestling, and companies working together adds to that.
6. Naito Wins The Big One Against Okada
This is the second time on the list that Naito is going to show up, but he was really the MVP for NJPW in 2020. This happened pre-pandemic, but it’s weight isn’t lost on us. He seemingly couldn’t win the big one against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom. After one of the best matches of the year (and it happened in January), Naito hit one last Destino on Okada to seal it. Naito would lose the double gold to Evil, but then gain it back. Now he heads to the WK15 main event against Kota Ibushi.
5. Tessa Blanchard Holds IMPACT Wrestling Hostage
The pandemic is going to be the overarching story of most of these moments. One such moment that should have meant more success, and ended up with a bad situation was Tessa Blanchard and the IMPACT World Championship. Her storyline with Sami Callihan was a huge one coming into the new year. After her successful win against him in January at the Hard to Kill event, it was all looking up. Then the pandemic hit, and IMPACT went on a hiatus. When they eventually came back, Blanchard was nowhere to be seen.
Her behavior was erratic, and after a while, she was let go by the company and stripped of the title. She’s still a free agent after all this time, and it seems like her status with any of the major wrestling companies is still up in the air.
4. Jon Moxley Wins The AEW Title And Ends Jericho’s Reign Of Terror
Another one that happened early in the year. At the AEW: Revolution event, the main event was Jon Moxley vs. Chris Jericho for the AEW World Title. It was looking like Moxley and Jericho were headed for a long feud over the title with multiple matches. Instead, we got a barn burner of a match at Revolution that culminated in Moxley winning the title. It was a spectacular moment of redemption for the former Dean Ambrose. He carried AEW through the “Pandemic Era” and led Kenny Omega to a great match for his first singles championship win earlier this month. Moxley was really the MVP for All Elite Wrestling this year.
3. Sasha Banks And Bayley Carry The Summer For Wrestling
These two women were THE act to watch for the WWE during their run in the Summer of 2020. With WWE providing mixed results for a product, Sasha Banks and Bayley held the company’s product together with their run as WWE Women’s Tag-Team champions and their feud over the Smackdown Women’s Title. It all culminated in a hellacious Hell in a Cell match where Banks finally defeated Bayley. It also led to her first ever successful title defense. All in all, with her appearance on The Mandalorian and this string of success in WWE, 2021 is looking great for Sasha Banks.
2. The Entire 2020 Men’s Royal Rumble Match
This one is a bit of a cop-out, but the 2020 Royal Rumble for WWE was sort of a turning point for the entire year. It was the last major event for the company with a full capacity crowd. The Men’s match was filled with gigantic moments and capped off with Drew McIntyre winning the whole thing. Along the way, we got Brock Lesnar utterly dominating the field in a “way more fun than it should have been” stretch. After Drew eliminated Brock in one of the hugest pops of the year, we got an even bigger crowd reaction from Edge making his return to the ring. After almost nine years away from the ring, he looked just as good as ever.
The whole match showed that WWE is capable of creating a product that lets multiple people shine. They just need to capture the essence of every Royal Rumble match where more Superstars are allowed to shine.
1. Both AEW And WWE Run Their First “Pandemic” Shows
For me, it was a real question about if Pro Wrestling would be able to survive and work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the overarching story of the entire year, and WWE and AEW among other companies, showed us that, yes, wrestling could work. Some things fade from memory over the course of a year, but I remember sitting watching my TV screen, a bit frightened, a bit unsure, but also excited about what this era could bring. Some might not like Triple H’s direction or whatever, but his words of encouragement and reassurance were a key to this whole thing.
It wasn’t just a wrestling show at this point. All other sports were shut down. MLB, NBA, and NHL had closed their doors at the beginning of the pandemic. This was all we had for live entertainment at the time. Was it perfect? No. But it got better and evolved into what we have today.
AEW Dynamite would follow Smackdown on the following Wednesday, and Cody’s words had just as much weight as Triple H’s. Standing in darkness at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida, Cody Rhodes delivered one of the best promos of his life.
These two shows gave all of us something to look forward to. Something to hope for in a time of darkness. The service that these performers put on for us, in the face of a pandemic, I will never forget.
So, what was your top moment in Pro Wrestling for 2020? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook at THS Wrestling!
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