Who Were the WWE and AEW Men's and Women's 2020 Superstars of the Year?
To say 2020 was challenging would be an understatement. Although many of us were ready to put the catastrophic year behind us, others thrived in uncertain times. These stars proved that the cream truly rises to the top no matter what the conditions are.
First and foremost, let's commend every performer who was brave enough to risk the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to entertain us. 2020 was a scary year, but WWE, All Elite Wrestling and several other companies continued to produce amazing shows. We should all be grateful for the work that went into them and the people who overcame this test of resilience to give fans something special.
It's also important to acknowledge everyone who died and applaud their contributions to professional wrestling. Bob Armstrong, Brodie Lee, Danny Hodge, Hana Kimura, Howard Finkel, Kamala, Kevin Greene, La Parka, Pat Patterson, Animal, Rocky Johnson, Shad Gaspard and Tommy "Zeus" Lister will all be missed.
It wouldn't be right to talk about the best wrestlers of the year without marveling at Mr. Brodie Lee's short but rousing stint with AEW. The Exalted One, real name John Huber, revitalized The Dark Order and became the main event player his unwavering fanbase hoped to see. His debut, TNT title win and match with Jon Moxley at Double or Nothing were unforgettable, and Lee was only scratching the surface. He looked more motivated than ever, and it's a shame that we won't get to see more of his work. Still, we're grateful for an awesome run that gave fans a chance to see him in a new light.
Without further ado, let's take a look at WWE and AEW 2020 men's and women's Superstars of the year.
Io Shirai: The Genius of the Sky finally won the NXT Women's Championship in 2020 and delivered some excellent matches with the likes of Sasha Banks, Candice LeRae and Rhea Ripley. Shirai also stole the show at WarGames with her meme-worthy trash can-assisted crossbody splash from the top of the cage.
Britt Baker: The Pennsylvania native's heel turn was a revelation. Her change of attitude on the Jan. 22 episode of Dynamite quickly made her one of the best characters and talkers on the roster.
Asuka: The Empress of Tomorrow had a monumental year, as she became Ms. Money in the Bank, a two-time Raw women's champion, a two-time women's tag team champion and the second female Grand Slam champion. On paper, she was the most accomplished female wrestler in WWE, and she flourished in the empty-arena era.
Bayley: The longest-reigning SmackDown women's champion landed at number one on the 2020 PWI Women's 100. She also enjoyed a second reign with the WWE women's tag titles and a compelling feud with Sasha Banks. Like Baker, she came into her own as a heel.
Thunder Rosa: The former NWA world women's champion had the biggest match of her career at AEW All Out, where she unsuccessfully challenged Hikaru Shida for her title. Following her breakout year, she is still signed with NWA, but she has continued to appear on Dynamite. She isn't an official member of the AEW roster but she has undeniably made a mark with the company.
Roman Reigns: The Tribal Chief's shocking return at SummerSlam was one of the most talked-about moments of the year, and he has been doing the best work with WWE since. If he hadn't taken months off starting in April, he would be an easy choice for the men's Superstar of the year.
Kenny Omega: As one half of the AEW world tag team champions, Omega took part in an outstanding tag match against The Young Bucks at Revolution. Then he closed out the year with a highly anticipated world title win that has changed the landscape of the industry. The Best Bout Machine will be the wrestler to watch in 2021 as he invades Impact and begins his quest to collect all the championship gold.
Randy Orton: The Legend Killer has been one of the most fascinating characters on WWE programming since he brutally attacked Edge following his return at Royal Rumble. Orton proved once again he is at his best as a methodical and sadistic villain. His promo work alone was incredible.
Keith Lee: The Limitless One was on a Cinderella run following his NXT North American Championship win and Royal Rumble appearance in January. He went on to become the black-and-gold brand's first dual titleholder when he ended Adam Cole's record-setting reign as NXT champion in July.
Cody Rhodes: The American Nightmare continues to be one of AEW's most popular stars. At Double or Nothing, he was crowned as the inaugural TNT champion, and his subsequent open challenges for the prize were highlights of the year.
AEW Women's Superstar of the Year: Hikaru Shida
It may not seem like it, but Hikaru Shida is the most dominant AEW champion. The Japanese star finished 2020 with a record of 22-1 in singles competition.
Additionally, no one pinned or forced The Fullmetal Champion to submit, as her sole loss came in a Fatal Four-Way match for the women's title on the Homecoming episode of Dynamite. On New Year's Day, the inaugural titleholder, Riho, pinned Britt Baker to retain and handed Shida her first—and most recent—loss.
Shida won the title in a phenomenal No Disqualification match against Nyla Rose at Double or Nothing. Although AEW's women's division has been heavily criticized, the Joshi standout had a stellar showing at most of the company's pay-per-view events in 2020.
She and Penelope Ford overachieved in a pleasant surprise on Night 1 of Fyter Fest. Moreover, her highly acclaimed bout with Thunder Rosa at All Out was the best match on the card and a natural candidate for any year-end lists. AEW clearly knows she is one of its best in-ring competitors, and she proved how well she can work when given the opportunity.
WWE Women's Superstar of the Year: Sasha Banks
We could make a strong case for Bayley as well. However, Sasha Banks's re-emergence as a top star in 2020 felt more impactful. The Legit Boss delivered so many high-quality matches and held three titles in the same year. So it's hard to say she wasn't WWE's woman of the year.
Banks was missing in action for months earlier on. Surprisingly, she didn't enter the women's Royal Rumble or the Money in the Bank ladder match. Her character work took center stage heading into WrestleMania, though, as her feud with her best friend started to come to fruition.
The signs of cracks in their alliance started to show as Banks coveted The Role Model's WWE SmackDown Women's Championship, the only title she had yet to win. At the Showcase of the Immortals, the Boss helped Bayley retain the belt, but the damage to their friendship was apparent.
Over the summer, the two Horsewomen took the company by storm, holding the women's tag team gold and both brands' main titles concurrently. The Two-Woman Power Trip elevated Banks, who scored the wins in just about all of their defenses as a team and became the third Grand Slam champion.
She and Bayley split up in dramatic fashion in time to face off in an exceptional Hell in a Cell match wherein Banks ended her former partner's 379-day reign. The 28-year-old is synonymous with the stipulation match now, as she is the only woman who has appeared in demonic structure three times—and she has excelled on every occasion.
The SmackDown women's champion also broke "the curse" on Nov. 6, when she successfully defended a singles title for the first time on the main roster. Banks secured with a clean win over Asuka at Survivor Series and following a fantastic showcase of submission holds against Carmella at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.
AEW Men's Superstar of the Year: Jon Moxley
In May 2019, Jon Moxley shocked the world when he left WWE and joined AEW at Double or Nothing. The former Shield member entered the MGM Grand Garden Arena to the loudest reaction of the night, and his popularity has skyrocketed ever since.
On the Jan. 22 episode of Dynamite, Mox defeated PAC in a No. 1 contender's match for the AEW World Championship. At Revolution, he dethroned Chris Jericho to become the second man to hold the company's top prize. The 35-year-old also competed on both nights of New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom, where he regained the IWGP United States title and defended it against Japanese legend Minoru Suzuki at The New Beginning.
It would be easy to say Moxley brought star power to AEW because of his time with WWE, but he undeniably entered 2020 with a different swagger and a renewed confidence. He bet on himself, and he reached new heights, as PWI named him the No. 1 wrestler in the world on its annual top-500 list.
Mox is cutting some of the best promos of his career. His programs with Jericho, Mr. Brodie Lee and MJF were all outstanding, and his feud with Eddie Kingston put over both men as main eventers. Although Kenny Omega defeated him for his title on the Winter is Coming episode of Dynamite, The Cleaner's tainted win wouldn't have meant nearly as much if it didn't come at the end of such a significant reign.
Moxley also proved on more than one occasion that he is a leader. For example, his heartfelt speech on Brodie Lee's tribute episode showed why he was the face of the company for most of the year.
WWE Men's Superstar of the Year: Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre has been one of the best babyface champions in recent memory, and no one on WWE programming looked more competent and steadfast in 2020. After all, you can't start a year much better than stunning Brock Lesnar in the men's Royal Rumble match and going on to win the contest for the first time.
The Scottish Psychopath challenged and defeated the Beast Incarnate at WrestleMania 36 to become the first British WWE champion. The Superstar, whom Vince McMahon famously dubbed "the chosen one" during his first run with the company, fulfilled his destiny and soared as a protagonist on its flagship series.
His rivalry with Randy Orton went on a little too long, but they played off each other wonderfully throughout the year. The Viper secured his 14th world title win over McIntyre at Hell in Cell, but the Scot returned with a vengeance to regain the gold on the Nov. 16 episode of Raw. Then he entered a fiery war of words with Roman Reigns heading into Survivor Series. Their champion vs. champion showdown was one for the ages.
Although the Tribal Chief came out on top, both titles appear to be in good hands. The two-time WWE champion finished the year with a nail-biting defense in a TLC match against AJ Styles. The Miz attempted to cash in his Money in the Bank contract on the last pay-per-view of 2020, but McIntyre left the Tropicana Field victorious.