I started off last year’s list by saying that 2019 was a crazy year for professional wrestling. Safe to say, 2020 was just a crazy year in general. Everything we knew about day to day living was effected, including professional wrestling. New Japan Pro Wrestling didn’t have any events from February to June, most independent wrestling shows were cancelled, and WWE built this thing. We got through it, somehow, and we still had a very good year of wrestling.
As a disclaimer for my list, please keep into consideration that I do not watch every RAW or Smackdown Live. I watch a majority of Japanese wrestling, AEW, NXT, and independent wrestling. That being said, here’s the 2020 list:
1.Go Shiozaki (Last Year: 82)
I have never in my years of watching professional wrestling seen someone have so many “five star matches” in one year. He has had so many Match of the Year candidates that it’s hard to keep track of.
Shiozaki started the year off by capturing the GHC Heavyweight Championship from Kaito Kiyomiya, and he never slowed down. His chops are absolutely insane, he’s a top notch in-ring storyteller, and he has fantastic chemistry with everyone he’s wrestled this year.
He has had must see matches against Takashi Sugiura, Katsuhiko Nakajima, and Naomichi Marufuji. His 60 Minute time limit draw against Kenoh is something all wrestling fans should seek out.
2. Tetsuya Naito (Last Year: 2)
Tetsuya Naito is becoming the “always a bridesmaid” of my yearly lists. He didn’t movie up or down this year in my rankings, but he’s still as consistent as ever.
Beginning the year completing his “DESTINO” by not only winning the main event in the Tokyo Dome at a Wrestle Kingdom, but by also being the first every dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion. In doing so, he had back to back amazing matches with Jay White and Kazuchika Okada.
His first championship defense against KENTA was a brutally beautiful encounter. He lost both belts to the turncoat EVIL, but quickly regained them a month later. He had a pretty good G1 Climax Tournament, and will finish out the year still as the double champion.
While I cannot fully blame the cancellation of many NJPW events on Naito not taking the number one spot, it certainly didn’t do him any favors.
3. Kenny Omega (Last Year: 15)
While the wrestling world is buzzing over Kenny Omega winning the AEW World Championship and taking it to Impact, Omega has his fantastic run with Hangman Page to thank for his ranking this year.
Omega, for almost the full year, was a tag team wrestler. He and Hangman, in an absolutely stacked AEW tag team division, lead by example. The unlikely duo had very good matches with Best Friends, Jurassic Express, and The Lucha Bros. They had quite possibly one of the best tag team matches in recent memory against The Young Bucks at AEW’s Full Gear.
After losing the tag titles to FTR, Kenny Omega ascended to the top of All Elite Wrestling. He finished out the year by defending his AAA Mega Championship against Laredo Kid
4. Kota Ibushi (Last Year: 6)
Competing against Kazuchika Okada in the Tokyo Dome in a MOTY candidate merely four days into the year certainly started Kota Ibushi off on the right track.
While we didn’t get to see the full extent of what the team of Golden Ace’s (with Hiroshi Tanahashi) IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship run would have looked like, it ultimately wasn’t in the cards for Ibushi.
Winning the G1 Climax Tournament for the second year in a row, Ibushi has remained consistently great. He continues to put on fantastic matches with everyone under the NJPW banner, and always has you on the edge of his seat. Mostly out of awe, but somewhat out of fear.
While Ibushi did lose the right to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships at Wrestle Kingdom, Naito wants to wrestle him so badly, Ibushi will get the chance anyway. 2021 could start off even bigger than 2020 did for the Golden Star.
5. Jon Moxley (Last Year: 16)
While 2020 probably wasn’t all that Jon Moxley had hoped for, it was still overall great.
He started the year strongly in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Having an absolute insane match against Lance Archer. Moxley had a small but great feud with Minoru Suzuki as well. Then, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Moxley’s NJPW run ended for the time being.
Moxley defeated Chris Jericho to become the second AEW World Heavyweight Champion, and he was promptly put through the ringer. Jeff Cobb, Lance Archer, Brian Cage, MJF, and the late great Brodie Lee. For me personally, Moxley’s feud with Eddie Kingston was where he really shined. Having an impromptu match against him in September, and a fantastic “I Quit” Match later in the year.
Moxley was ultimately defeated by Kenny Omega, and is now taking some time off. 2021 will be very interesting in terms of where Moxley will fit into the big picture in AEW.
6. Shingo Takagi (Last Year: 4)
I used to call Tomohiro Ishii the “MVP of NJPW”, but after another fantastic year from Shingo I think it’s time to pass that on to him.
Shingo Takagi has made the perfect transition from the Junior Heavyweight division to the Heavyweight division. While that is a change that happened last year, this year he flourished. Having a series of great matches with Minoru Suzuki over the NEVER Openweight Championship. His G1 Climax tournament was once again solid, and he had an amazing showing against Kazuchika Okada in possibly the best match in the entire tournament.
The sky is the limit for Shingo, and I would not be surprised to see him holding either the IWGP Intercontenital Championship or Heavyweight Championship before 2021 comes to a close.
7. Katsuhiko Nakajima (Last Year: 56)
Truthfully, Katsuhiko Nakajima was someone whose matches I had seen here and there. In 2020 I got really into Pro Wrestling NOAH, and Nakajima is a big part of that.
Nakajima was part of AXIZ with Go Shiozaki, whom he turned on towards the end of 2020 to join Kenoh’s faction, Kongoh. Nakajima’s heel work since the turn has been fantastic, and we’ve just scratched the surface of this persona. He is a vicious striker and is up there with the very best in terms of his insane kicks.
While he might not be as flashy as his former friend and tag team partner, Go Shiozaki. Katsuhiko Nakajima is someone who should be recognized as one of the best in the world in 2020.
8. Mayu Iwatani (Last Year: Unranked)
In addition to watching more NOAH in 2020, I watched a whole lot of STARDOM as well. A promotion that Io Shirai and Kairi Sane called home, is where Mayu Iwatani reigns supreme.
Mayu Iwatani is the ultimate baby face, someone you want to root for. She makes it real easy, because she’s an overall fantastic performer. Her 377 day reign as World of Stardom Champion came with some fantastic defenses against Momo Watanabe, Jungle Kyota, and Syuri.
She is, in my mind, the Ace of STARDOM. She is absolutely my 2020 Female Wrestler of the Year.
9 & 10. The Young Bucks (Last Year: 23, 31)
The Young Bucks, like all of us, had an interesting 2020. They started off the year in a losing effort against Kenny Omega and Hangman Page, but in the process gave us one hell of a match in the process.
They were a huge part of the Stadium Stampede match, which was one of the more entertaining cinematic matches of the year. It almost felt as if Matt and Nick were in a holding pattern until FTR showed up in AEW in late May/early June. That’s not to say they weren’t having good matches with The Dark Order, The Butcher & The Blade, Best Friends, or Jurassic Express. It just felt like, to me, that as soon as FTR showed up The Young Bucks stepped it up even more.
From a character standpoint, we saw The Young Bucks drop back to their evil ways. Delivering super kicks to anyone and everyone they saw. FTR was really getting in their heads. We finally got the dream match we wanted at FULL GEAR, and it delivered.
While the Bucks have only made one championship defense since capturing the titles, they’ve had two great matches with the up and coming teams of Top Flight and The Acclaimed. Look for 2021 to have the Young Bucks sitting on top of the tag team division in AEW.
11. Kazuchika Okada (Last Year: 17)
I’ve found myself writing “2020 was a weird year” for pretty much everyone in my top twenty, so I’ll say it once again: Kazuchika Okada had a weird 2020.
Okada started out by having back-to-back Match of the Year candidates with both Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito. After failing to defeat Naito, he kind of just floated around from tag teams to six man tags.
After NJPW came back, Okada shined in two of New Japan’s tournaments: The New Japan Cup and the G1 Climax Tournament. He had great matches in both tournaments, which included the aforementioned Shingo Takagi match. He failed to win either tournament.
Okada has now turned his attention to Will Ospreay and The Empire. Okada looks to get revenge on Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom. At the moment, it seems that The Rainmaker has stepped away from the main event picture, so 2021 should make for an interesting year for him.
12. Hangman Page (Last Year: 83)
Alright. I’ll admit it: I was completely wrong about Hangman Page.
On our weekly live stream, myself and my co-hosts constantly talked about how Hangman Page “wasn’t the guy”. We didn’t get it. Towards the end of 2019, we started to get it. 2020 was such an amazing year for Hangman, both in and out of the ring. His story lines were funny and creative. He went on a journey with The Elite, and an even bigger journey with Kenny Omega.
Capturing the AEW World Tag Team Championships with Omega in late January, they went on an amazing run with those championships. They had fantastic title defenses against pretty much everyone in the division.
While Hangman has been kicked out of The Elite, his talent has caught the eye of The Dark Order. Will Hangman Page join up with them in 2021? Could we see Hangman back in the AEW Heavyweight title picture? If there’s one thing we learned about Adam Page in 2020, it’s that he’s ready for that main event picture now.
13. Sasha Banks (Last Year: 58)
The Boss, The Blueprint, The Standard, The Landlord, The Queen of the Cell. Sasha Banks was must see television every time she showed up.
Sasha Banks continues to be one of the best wrestlers in the world. She had a fun and great WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship run with Bayley. The two captured those championships, as well as both the RAW and Smackdown Women’s titles. Whenever The Golden Role Models were on the screen, you knew you were going to be entertained. They ran both shows, and furthered the Bayley/Sasha story line in the process.
When Bayley and Sasha finally met at Hell in a Cell, it was magic. Brutal magic, but magic nonetheless. They put on a Match of the Year candidate, which saw Sasha Banks become the Smackdown Women’s Champion.
I’d also like to mention Sasha’s series of matches with Asuka, which were fantastic. Banks had a fantastic year, and we all hope she stays on top as Smackdown Women’s Champion for a long time. She’s certainly earned it.
Oh, she also TORNADO DDT’d Boba Fett. I mean, come on.
14. Tomohiro Ishii (Last Year: 5)
Tomohiro Ishii has, once again, had a solid year in wrestling.
The workhorse of New Japan spent the better part of the year with his CHAOS stablemates in various Six Man Tag matches, but shined in both the New Japan Cup and G1 Climax Tournaments. Having standout matches with Shingo Takagi and Jeff Cobb.
Ishii finished out the year teaming with Toru Yano in the World Tag League tournament. While it is puzzling that Ishii does not have a match at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom (either night), we can expect Ishii to have another solid year in New Japan in 2021.
15. Lee Moriarty (Last Year: Unranked)
If there’s one person that should be absolutely talked about by everyone who watches professional wrestling, it should be Lee Moriarty.
I wasn’t all that familiar with Moriarty’s work, but I had heard his name around the internet. During The Collective Weekend, every match Moriarty had was must see. Including his Match of the Year candidate with Jonathan Gresham. I was so impressed with what I saw from him during that weekend, I went back and watched matches from earlier in the year.
“The Apex of Combat” has a huge upside. He is top notch in the ring, and he personally reminds me of Daniel Bryan in some aspects of his work. Do yourself a favor and start watching his matches, because he will not be on the independent scene for long. Look for Moriarty to be signed in 2021.
16. Io Shirai (Last Year: 90)
2020 saw Io Shirai FINALLY becoming NXT Women’s Champion.
In a completely stacked NXT Women’s Division, Io Shirai was in the thick of it. Shirai has always been one of the best women’s wrestlers on the planet, and she added to her resume this year. She had standout matches with Tegan, Dakota Kai, and Rhea Ripley. But her best match of the year came against Sasha Banks at NXT’s Great American Bash.
Shirai’s feud with Candice LeRae in October was also notable, as well as her performance at War Games. With NXT constantly adding new talent, Shirai looks to stay atop in 2021.
17. Minoru Suzuki (Last Year: 68)
If you aren’t completely scared of Minoru Suzuki, there’s something wrong with you. At age 52, he is still putting on hard hitting brutal matches with everyone who dares get in the ring with him.
He walked out during night two of Wrestle Kingdom to slap Jon Moxley around. While Suzuki didn’t defeat Moxley for the IWGP United States Championship, the two had a fantastic match up. The leader of Suzuki-gun did manage to capture the NEVER Openweight Championship from Shingo Takagi, and also had a great showing during the G1 Climax Tournament.
Suzuki isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, so look for The King to be Gotch Style Piledriving opponents in the new year.
18. Johnny Gargano (Last Year: 9)
With the Tommaso Ciampa feud finally behind him, Gargano captured the NXT North American Championship twice and had some stellar matches along the way.
Johnny Wrestling continues to prove he is a phenomenal wrestler, with great technical prowess and fantastic heel work. Like, actual heel work this time around. His switch to his new role has been fantastic. You loved him as the underdog, and now you love to hate him as the heel.
Gargano ended this year by forming the stable The Way. Gargano has stated that he is NXT for life, so it will be interesting how he keeps things fresh going forward on Wednesday nights.
19. Takashi Sugiura (Last Year: Unranked)
Takashi Sugiura is a straight up badass. He has been around for a long time, and I’ve been kicking myself for not watching NOAH and his work for longer than I have.
Sugiura has shined throughout 2020 and has been pretty consistent all year long. He’s had standout matches against the likes of Kaito Kiyomiya and Katsuhiko Nakajima. But none of his matches compare to the absolute slug fest he had against Go Shiozaki late this year.
At 50 years old, Sugiura is still at the top of his game.
20. Hiromu Takahashi (Last Year: Unranked)
It’s crazy to think there was a time we all thought we’d never see Hiromu Takahashi wrestle again. Then he came back in late 2019, and has lit fire to the entire Junior Division once again.
The beginning of 2020 saw Hiromu recapturing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and pinning Jushin Thunder Liger on back-to-back nights. He then had a great showing in the mostly heavyweight division tournament: The New Japan Cup. In which he had a banger of a match with Kazuchika Okada. Hiromu also had a fantastic run in the tournament to crown new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions alongside his LIJ stablemate BUSHI. But the duo ultimately never captured them. In the process, they renewed their feud with El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru.
Hiromu Takahashi finished out 2020 by winning the Best of the Super Junior XXVII tournament, in a five star match against El Desperado.
The Best Of The Rest
21. CODY (Last Year: 84)
22. WALTER (Last Year: 64)
23. Kenoh (Last Year: 97)
24. TRENT (Last Year: 80)
25. Chuck Taylor (Last Year: Unranked)
26. Rey Fenix (Last Year: 10)
27. Kyle O’Reilly (Last Year: 50)
28. EVIL (Last Year: 43)
29. Susumu Yokosuka (Last Year: Unranked)
30. Hikaru Shida (Last Year: Unranked)
31. Naruki Doi (Last Year: Unranked)
32. Roman Reigns (Last Year: Unranked)
33. Yuji Okabayashi (Last Year: 89)
34. Eita (Last Year: Unranked)
35. Dakota Kai (Last Year: Unranked)
36. Rhea Ripley (Last Year: Unranked)
37. Pentagon Jr. (Last Year: 18)
38. Cash Wheeler (Last Year: Unranked)
39. Dax Harwood (Last Year: Unranked)
40. Chris Jericho (Last Year: 48)
41. Santana (Last Year: 54)
42. Ortiz (Last Year: 55)
43. Taichi (Last Year: 27)
44. Ilja Dragunov (Last Year: Unranked)
45. Bayley (Last Year: Unranked)
46. Darby Allin (Last Year: 63)
47. Adam Cole (Last Year: 8)
48. Sammy Guevara (Last Year: Unranked)
49. Blake Christian (Last Year: Unranked)
50. Drew McIntyre (Last Year: 94)
51. Orange Cassidy (Last Year: Unranked)
52. Candice LeRae (Last Year: Unranked)
53. PAC (Last Year: 14)
54. Giulia (Last Year: Unranked)
55. BxB Hulk (Last Year: Unranked)
56. YAMATO (Last Year: 91)
57. Randy Orton (Last Year: Unranked)
58. Asuka (Last Year: Unranked)
59. Finn Balor (Last Year: 96)
60. Zack Sabre Jr. (Last Year: 20)
61. Bobby Fish (Last Year: Unranked)
62. Momo Wantanabe (Last Year: Unranked)
63. KAI (Last Year: Unranked)
64. Jungle Boy (Last Year: 49)
65. Hirooki Goto (Last Year: 75)
66. Eddie Kingston (Last Year: Unranked)
67. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Last Year: 22)
68. Daisuke Sekimoto (Last Year: Unranked)
69. Dragon Kid (Last Year: Unranked)
70. Jonathan Gresham (Last Year: 1)
71. Arisa Hoshiki (Last Year: Unranked)
72. ACH (Last Year: Unranked)
73. Shun Skywalker (Last Year: Unranked)
74. Kaito Ishida (Last Year: Unranked)
75. KENTA (Last Year: 62)
76. Keith Lee (Last Year: 79)
77. MJF (Last Year: Unranked)
78. Roderick Strong (Last Year: 32)
79. Jay White (Last Year: 28)
80. Isiah “Swerve” Scott (Last Year: Unranked)
81. Thunder Rosa (Last Year: Unranked)
82. Pete Dunne (Last Year: 37)
83. Nyla Rose (Last Year: Unranked)
84. Tam Nakano (Last Year: Unranked)
85. Kota Minoura (Last Year: Unranked)
86. El Desperado (Last Year: Unranked)
87. Naomichi Marufuji (Last Year: Unranked)
88. Marcel Barthel (Last Year: Unranked)
89. Fabian Aichner (Last Year: Unranked)
90. Kaito Kiyomiya (Last Year: 41)
91. Shotzi Blackheart (Last Year: Unranked)
92. Kohei Sato (Last Year: Unranked)
93. Kevin Owens (Last Year: Unranked)
94. The Butcher (Last Year: Unranked)
95. The Blade (Last Year: Unranked)
96. Chris Dickinson (Last Year: Unranked)
97. Jey Uso (Last Year: Unranked)
98. KZY (Last Year: 30)
99. Kofi Kingston (Last Year: 66)
100. Tegan Nox (Last Year: Unranked)