B/R Staff's Midyear AEW Awards for Top Stars, Matches, PPV and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2020

B/R Staff's Midyear AEW Awards for Top Stars, Matches, PPV and More

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    Credit: AEW

    An unprecedented 2020 could not stop All Elite Wrestling from continuing to establish itself as the hottest brand in professional wrestling.

    And as we pass the midway point of the year, the B/R Wrestling writers decided it was time to look back at the best the company has produced over the last six months.

    From jaw-dropping moments to unforgettable in-ring performances, we made our picks in the following categories:

    • Male Wrestler of the Half-Year
    • Female Wrestler of the Half-Year
    • Men's Match of the Half-Year
    • Women's Match of the Half-Year
    • Rising Male Star
    • Rising Female Star
    • Most Memorable Moment
    • Best Feud
    • Best Overall Character
    • Most Extreme Stunt/Moment
    • Best Promo
    • Biggest Surprise
    • Most Underutilized

         

    Our panel, a Casino Battle Royal's worth of talented writers, includes:

        

    Who emerged with the top honors and will look to improve upon them in the weeks and months to come? More importantly, why? Find out now with this recap of the half-year that was in AEW.

Male Wrestler: Cody

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    The first half of 2020 for Cody was a rollercoaster period in which he continued to establish himself as one of the best storytellers in the industry.

    First, there was the emotional feud with friend-turned-enemy MJF and then the physical war with Lance Archer. From there, he became the first-ever TNT champion, and he defeated Jake Hager to continue his title reign on Night 1 of Fyter Fest.

    Matches with young stars such as Marq Quen of Private Party, Darby Allin and Jungle Boy also featured in the first half of the year.

    If his 2019 was about establishing AEW as a genuine alternative to WWE, 2020 has been about reasserting himself as one of the more interesting in-ring workers in the business. He threw caution to the wind while working with Allin, bled after a wild brawl to get Jungle Boy over and threw fists with Archer in a physical war at Double or Nothing.

    No one match has been the same and the pressure is on the inaugural TNT champion to deliver on a near-weekly basis. It has hardly been easy, but he has for the most part held up his end of the bargain.

    Now, can he do it for the next six months and run away with the AEW Wrestler of the Year award? That remains to be seen.

          

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Jon Moxley

    Chris Jericho

Female Wrestler: Hikaru Shida

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    The B/R writers have made Hikaru Shida one of only two unanimous winners in these awards.

    She was a name AEW touted heavily from the get-go but struggled to find a spot for early in its creation. Overshadowed by Nyla Rose and Riho, she wandered aimlessly, working on AEW Dark and putting others over as she awaited her opportunity to showcase herself.

    Shida got it earlier this year, and fans now understand why the company was so excited to have her on board, even if it took a while to get her on television consistently.

    The Japanese competitor rose through the women's division and really broke out with an April 8 victory over Britt Baker in which she broke and bloodied the nose of the self-proclaimed "Role Model."

    At Double or Nothing, her journey to the top of the division culminated with her AEW Women's Championship win over Rose in a No Disqualification match. An intensely physical bout, it served as the perfect coronation for a performer whose toughness and resiliency had been such a significant part of her journey through the ranks in AEW.

    Shida's unexpectedly great match against Penelope Ford at Fyter Fest was merely the exclamation point on her breakout year and further proof that AEW should have featured her prominently in its women's division from the beginning.

Men's Match of the Year: Hangman Page and Kenny Omega vs. Young Bucks

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    Any time four undeniable talents such as "Hangman" Adam Page, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks share a ring, the likelihood of a great and memorable match is extremely high.

    When they are accompanied by the most compelling story in the company and a red-hot Chicago fanbase, the ingredients are there for a classic.

    Page, Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson did not disappoint at AEW Revolution on February 29.

    Their battle for the AEW Tag Team Championships was defined by the drama and emotion that accompanied the action-packed battle. Would Page and Omega be able to coexist? Was Hangman destined to betray his partner? What depths would the Bucks sink to in order to prove they were the best team in wrestling and win the titles that had somehow managed to elude them to this point?

    Those questions were on the minds of the fans as they watched in awe, marveling in the athleticism of the participants involved and their ability to weave story elements in and out of high spots.

    Despite their best attempt to mock Omega and his partnership with Kota Ibushi in New Japan Pro-Wrestling by breaking out a Golden Trigger, the Bucks were unable to keep the champions down. Page and Omega emerged with the gold still intact.

    Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio called it "the greatest tag team match ever." While this could've been hyperbole in the heat of the moment, there is no denying it is the front-runner for Match of the Year in 2020, regardless of the company.

            

    Others Receiving Votes

    Stadium Stampede (AEW Double or Nothing 2020)

Women's Match of the Year: Hikaru Shida vs. Britt Baker

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    Dr. Britt Baker had been the face of women's wrestling in AEW from the company's inception.

    One of the first women signed to a contract, she was the performer around whom Tony Kahn and the AEW executive vice presidents wanted to eventually build their women's division around. Fans, though, kept waiting for that breakout performance that backed up the confidence the higher-ups had in Baker.

    The character work, particularly after turning heel, was phenomenal, but she needed that one defining match to really back up the hype.

    She got it on the April 8 episode of Dynamite when she and Hikaru Shida beat the life out of each other in a physical match that left Baker bloodied and more respected as a worker than she ever had been to that point.

    Defined by the counters and reversals throughout, the match elevated Baker in the eyes of the AEW fans and cemented Shida as the top women's wrestler in the company. In hindsight, it was also the match in which the overall quality of the women's division in AEW took a turn for the better.

    Until then, "inconsistent" was the best way to describe the division, both from an in-ring and storytelling perspective. Since then, it has developed on the back of Shida as its star and her ability to have quality matches against opponents of different styles and backgrounds.

    Throw in the visual of a bloodied Baker staring almost maniacally at Shida, and you have a match whose overall importance cannot be denied.

             

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Shida vs. Nyla Rose (Double or Nothing 2020)

    Riho vs. Rose (Dynamite, February 12)

    Shida vs. Penelope Ford (Fyter Fest)

Rising Male Star: Jungle Boy

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    On the surface, someone like Darby Allin, Orange Cassidy or even MJF would be the runaway choice for Rising Male Star, but the B/R writers recognized the evolving excellence of Jungle Boy instead.

    At just 23 years old, Jack Perry has shown signs of becoming wrestling's next truly great babyface. He has spent the first six months of 2020 paying off every ounce of hype directed his way from the AEW faithful, management and commentary team.

    At Double or Nothing, he wrestled a brilliant match with MJF, showing signs of the great Ricky Steamboat as he both sold the offense of his opponent and sparked the sort of energetic babyface comeback you expect of someone in that role.

    While he lost that match, he followed it up with a win in a Battle Royal to earn a shot at the TNT Championship and nearly defeated a bloodied Cody for that title.

    Another superb, pay-per-view-quality showing, this time in a tag team match in which he and Luchasaurus managed to knock off MJF and Wardlow, further solidified the consistently great run he has put together this year.

    Others may get more television time, but few have inspired genuine excitement about their future in the industry.

             

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Orange Cassidy

    MJF

    Darby Allin

Rising Female Star: Penelope Ford

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    There is no denying Penelope Ford has always had the look and presence of a star, but there were real questions about her ability between the ropes, particularly after some iffy performances early in her run.

    Over the last three months, though, she has silenced doubters with her raw athleticism and evolving in-ring abilities.

    A big tag team victory over Hikaru Shida earned her a championship opportunity against the top competitor in the AEW women's division at Fyter Fest. 

    With the lights bright and the pressure on, Ford turned in arguably the best match of the entire show. Dramatic and hard-hitting, it never once appeared as though she was out of her depth as she matched every strike, move and near-fall.

    That she kicked out of Shida's famed Falcon Arrow did a great deal to establish her toughness and resiliency, too.

    Her athleticism and underrated toughness, as well as her ability to keep up with a much more experienced worker such as Shida, created genuine excitement about the Philadelphia native's future.

    Whether she is seconding "Superbad" Kip Sabian or forging her own path through the women's division, Ford is clearly ready to take the next big leap in AEW.

Most Memorable Moment: Sammy Guevara Run over by a Golf Cart

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    The Street Fight on the May 6 episode of AEW Dynamite was a wild, chaotic battle pitting The Inner Circle's Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara against Matt Hardy and Kenny Omega.

    The brawl took the competitors all over Jacksonville's Daily's Place and ended with the heels triumphantly posing on TIAA Bank Field.

    It was one spot in that match, though, that took social media by storm and ranks as the most unforgettable moment of 2020 so far: Omega and Hardy running down Guevara in a golf cart. 

    The facial expressions of both Omega and Guevara, as well as The Spanish God's bump as he was "run over" by the vehicle, made the spot better and more comical than anyone could have imagined. It was so over the top that it fit in perfectly with everything else around it.

    Guevara running away from members of The Elite became a running joke (pun intended). At Double or Nothing, he sprinted across TIAA Bank Field as Hangman Page gave chase on a horse, then evaded the golf cart once again in the closing moments of the match.

    Nothing beats the first time, though, as Guevara and Co. gave the internet more unbridled creativity to marvel over.

             

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee debut (Dynamite, March 18)

    Stadium Stampede (Double or Nothing 2020)

    Hangman Page chases Guevara on a horse (Double or Nothing 2020)

Best Feud: Cody vs. MJF

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    A friendship ruined by jealousy and greed.

    Cody and MJF once appeared to be as thick as thieves. The American Nightmare had accepted the young Maxwell Jacob Friedman almost as a younger brother, bringing him along and providing him with the opportunity to become the next big thing in AEW.

    But that was not enough. MJF wanted more.

    No longer willing to sit back and endure what he considered Cody's selfish ways, he lashed out. At Full Gear in November, he betrayed his mentor and friend. As 2020 began, he made it a point to make Cody's life a living hell.

    And he did, making the second-generation star go through a series of physical, mental and emotional challenges in order to even get a match with him. First, Cody could not touch MJF, no matter how much the fury inside of him wanted to tear the New Yorker apart. Second, he had to defeat the massive newcomer Wardlow in a Steel Cage match. And finally, Cody would have to take 10 lashes live on television.

    Having accomplished all three tasks, Cody rolled into Revolution on February 29 and lost after MJF blasted him with the Dynamite Diamond Ring.

    What made the compelling feud that much better is that AEW did not water down the effect of MJF's win by going right into a series of rematches that would have diminished the effect of his victory and almost certainly ended with Cody victorious.

    No, Tony Khan and Co. let the result breathe. To this day, there has not been a rematch, nor has there been any inkling of one. That chapter has been written, and Cody has yet to avenge the betrayal, humiliation and pain dealt him by the egotistical young star.

    When he does, though, do not be surprised to hear about it winning another mid- or end-of-year award.

           

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Chris Jericho vs. Jon Moxley

    The Inner Circle vs. The Elite

Best Overall Character: MJF and Chris Jericho (Tie)

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    There are very real parallels to draw between MJF and Chris Jericho.

    When he first broke out as a star in North America, Jericho did so as a loud, obnoxious, spoiled brat of a heel who denounced every defeat and used loopholes to get out of championship defeats. He was the sort of insufferable type you wanted to see get his ass kicked but were also so thoroughly entertained by that you couldn't help but want to tune in every week.

    MJF is the same, if not slightly more insufferable.

    Today, Jericho has developed into the veteran performer with a knack for catchphrases, nicknames and championships. As the leader of The Inner Circle, he has continued to prove himself as one of the best entertainers in wrestling history. 

    His work on commentary has gotten stars over while his not-so-subtle digs have been genuinely funny. Even at 49, he continues to find ways to stay relevant and keep the audience entertained.

    That is where he and MJF differ.

    Jericho continues to find new ways to keep himself fresh and entertaining at this advanced stage in his Hall of Fame career, while MJF has yet to hit his prime but is already capturing the attention of fans every time a camera is pointed in his direction. Whether he is antagonizing Cody and Jurassic Express or taking time off work for an excruciating hangnail, he has been responsible for some of the best stuff on AEW TV.

    Looking back at the first six months these heels had, it is no surprise that the B/R staff could not choose just one to hoist the trophy as best character in AEW. 

            

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Orange Cassidy

    Jon Moxley

    Luchasaurus

    Hangman Page

Most Extreme Stunt/Moment: One-Winged Angel from the Seats

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    Stadium Stampede was one of the most surreal matches in wrestling history, combing comedy with an intense rivalry that was months in the making.

    There were horses, milk, near-drownings and the evolution of Matt Hardy before our own eyes, but one moment in particular ranks as the most extreme of the first six months in AEW.

    Having failed to escape The Elite once more, Sammy Guevara found himself in the clutches of Kenny Omega. From the stands inside TIAA Bank Field, Omega hoisted him onto his shoulders and drove him some 30 feet to the ground with the One-Winged Angel, crashing through a wooden platform.

    It was the only real way a match of that type could have ended and the perfect exclamation point on the most creative and unforgettable match in the young history of the company.

    That it involved Guevara, a young star with a penchant for risk-taking, was no surprise whatsoever.

            

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Darby Allin skateboards off a ladder (Double or Nothing 2020)

    MJF lashes Cody (Dynamite, February 6)

Best Promo: Anything Cody

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    While the B/R writers could not come to a consensus on exactly which individual promo was the best of AEW's first six months in 2020, there was one thing they could agree on: It most likely involved Cody.

    The most talented talker in the company, The American Nightmare has the ability to connect with audiences on an emotional level.

    His words are chosen carefully, his cadence deliberate. He has clearly studied the masters of the mic, picking and choosing elements of their performances that he specifically wants to retool and make his own. He has a lot of his father in him, without ever coming across as a caricature of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.

    He also takes the sport of pro wrestling seriously, elevating titles or eloquently putting over opponents and rivalries whenever Tony Schiavone places a mic in front of him.

    Promos are an art form, and he has become a virtuoso performer.

    His most recent bit of excellence, on the May 27 episode of Dynamite, introduced his newly won TNT Championship, established its significance and put over the open challenge he would institute in the weeks to come.

    Could others have cut that promo? Absolutely, but would it have struck the same nerve with the audience that Cody's did? No, and that's the difference between him and everyone else.

           

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Jon Moxley (Dynamite, June 3)

    Taz (Fyter Fest)

    The Elite (Dynamite, March 18)

    The Inner Circle Pep Rally (Dynamite, May 27)

Biggest Surprise: Brian Cage Debuts at Double or Nothing

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    AEW rarely disappoints when it advertises a mystery entrant, and the Casino ladder match at Double or Nothing was no different.

    On a night when the likes of Darby Allin, SCU, Joey Janela, Kip Sabian and Colt Cabana battled for the right to earn a shot at the AEW Championship, it was the debuting Brian Cage who stole the spotlight and made a lasting impression with a dominant performance.

    The former Impact Wrestling world champion exploded onto the scene and overpowered all around him en route to capturing the casino chip that would set him up for a potential showdown with Jon Moxley.

    Cage's debut was a surprise, even though Tony Khan admitted during the post-show media scrum that The Machine had been quietly signed to a deal for months.

    That AEW officials and insiders were able to keep it a secret helped make the moment all the more memorable.

           

    Others Receiving Votes:

    The Exalted One is revealed

    FTR debuts

    Chris Jericho destroys Vanguard-1

Most Underutilized: Lucha Bros

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    The COVID-19 pandemic forced many changes in the industry, not the least of which was halting the rise of Death Triangle as a force within AEW.

    Just prior to the global shutdown, The Lucha Bros' Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix had joined PAC in a trio that appeared well on its way to raising hell and, potentially, winning titles.

    It would have been the best use of the masked brothers after a disappointing start to 2020. It never happened, though, rendering The Lucha Bros as the most underutilized talents of the year.

    Fenix and Pentagon are a generational team. Their ability to work with duos both big and small, high-flyers and mat technicians is invaluable. They should have consistently been at or near the top of the tag team division, but they hadn't been before Death Triangle gave them that little bit of spark.

    Their recent return to television and appearance at Fyter Fest alongside The Butcher and The Blade as they battle FTR and The Young Bucks is hopefully the start of a re-emergence for the tandem.

    It will take a special team with credibility to take the AEW tag team titles off Hangman Page and Kenny Omega, and The Lucha Bros are one of the few teams who can do it.

    It is time for management to rebuild them, reintroduce them as the threat they are and set them up for that Match of the Year candidate.

          

    Others Receiving Votes:

    Joey Janela

    MJF

    Shawn Spears