2020 was a weird year from start-to-finish. Nothing was easy this year. So perhaps it’s fitting that choosing the 2020 Wrestler of the Year is no easy task.
It’s never been harder to be a top guy in pro wrestling. No crowds, no stadiums to pack, and no adoring masses. And somehow, the best of the best in pro wrestling found a way to stand out. To stand above the rest. As with last year, Electric Bento has chosen the male and female wrestlers of the year, the tag team of the year, and the breakout star of the year.
With the table set, let’s find out who earned the top honors. These are the winners and contenders for the 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Breakout Wrestler Of The Year – Orange Cassidy
It’s a gimmick that should never have worked. Not outside the indie circuit, anyway. A guy in a Canadian tuxedo, a t-shirt, and aviator sunglasses. Who doesn’t put forth a bit of effort. And despite it all, Orange Cassidy made himself a legit contender for 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Cassidy’s breakout year isn’t solely of his own making. AEW showed faith in the character Cassidy’s been playing in smaller promotions for years. It’s something that shouldn’t work on a big stage. See, Cassidy could take that gimmick from armory-to-armory and small show to small show. He comes out, lazes around for three quarters of the match, and pops the crowd with a big finish. AEW managed to turn that into months of anticipation. Before finally hyping Cassidy’s match against PAC at AEW Revolution with five words:
“This time he’s gonna try.”
Ten months and two victories over Chris Jericho later, and Orange Cassidy is the Breakout Wrestler of the Year. The last couple months have been rocky, as AEW doesn’t seem to know what to do with the King of Sloth Style yet. But if the interest of the fans is any indication, there’s no reason Orange Cassidy shouldn’t be in consideration for 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Runner-Up – Darby Allin
Darby Allin came close – really close. To be fair, the guy already had his breakout year in 2019. Inasmuch as he appeared on the national wrestling scene, anyway. His time-limit draw battle against Cody at Fyter Fest 2019 put him on the map. But in 2020, Allin has feuded with just about everybody in AEW. Guys of all shapes, sizes, and star power.
Allin claimed the TNT Championship from Cody this year. He’s in the crosshairs of Team Taz. And now he’s poised for a program with one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history, Sting. Also, I’m sure it’s just coincidence that these are both AEW guys. I’m sure it has nothing to do with WWE’s reluctance to, you know, build new stars.
Tag Team Of The Year – Best Friends
So when choosing a tag team for our 2020 Wrestler of the Year awards, why would we go with Best Friends? They didn’t win any tag team titles, they didn’t main event any PPVs. So why, then?
Well, simply put, Best Friends put on killer matches, and they connected with the audience better than any other tag team in 2020. And that’s a tall order, considering they work for AEW. I’m an admitted AEW fanboy, but there’s no denying that All Elite Wrestling has the top tag team division in all of pro wrestling. Surrounded by teams like the Young Bucks, FTR, Butcher and Blade, and – for most of 2020 anyway – ‘Hangman’ Adam Page and Kenny Omega. Chuck Taylor and Trent stand out by virtue of the fact that they can make any feud seem like the biggest thing in the world.
They went up against Santana & Ortiz over some damage to Trent’s mom’s van, for Pete’s sake. And in the process, they got themselves ten times more over than they already were. Best Friends are experts at pulling incredible matches out of any opponent. Why are they Tag Team of the Year on our countdown to the 2020 Wrestler of the Year? Well, as Excalibur wisely puts it: “GOT to give the people what they want!”
Runners-Up – Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)
Always the bridesmaids.
One of the drawbacks to being arguably one of the best tag teams of the last five years? Being ubiquitous is its own drawback. Makes it hard to stand out in a crowd. But Fish and O’Reilly are physically incapable of having a bad match. NXT was a hotbed of tag team action for years. Multiple teams came and went, but Fish and O’Reilly remain the gold standard for holding the tag ropes on the black-and-gold brand.
Women’s Wrestler Of The Year – Sasha Banks
It’s hard to believe that Sasha Banks has been on the WWE main roster for more than five years. She’s been a fixture in several firsts for the company, including the first-ever women’s Hell In A Cell match. Sasha remains the workhorse of the WWE women’s division. And now she’s the 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Over the last year, Sasha Banks had an incredibly successful run with Bayley as half of the women’s tag team champions. And she capped off the biggest feud of the year – among men or women – against Bayley with an awesome Hell In A Cell match in October. Sasha Banks was made to be the face of WWE’s women’s division, and now she’s finally there. She’s taken advantage of cross-functional appeal, guest starring on The Mandalorian. And it seems like she hasn’t even scratched the surface of what she can do. Her women’s matches are always the best in the company. She takes chances that would make the biggest daredevils in wrestling shudder.
Simply put, Sasha Banks is in a league of her own. The perfect choice to be the 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Runner-Up – Dr. Britt Baker
In fairness, Britt Baker spent most of this year on the injured list. She didn’t have a lot of great matches. Hell, she didn’t have any great matches. But she did spend 2020 rebuilding her character from the ground up. She started the year clinging to the plucky, white-meat babyface persona she entered AEW with. And then she turned that into being a snarky brat who enjoys making fun of Tony Schiavone.
As we close out 2020, Dr. Britt Baker has combined her incredible ‘Mean Girls’ personality with a bona fide mean streak to make her the most compelling character in AEW’s women’s division. Granted, that’s like shooting fish in a barrel at this point. AEW’s women’s division isn’t much to speak of. But Dr. Britt Baker has eyes on turning that around. At this pace, we might be talking about Britt Baker as next year’s wrestler of the year.
Men’s Wrestler Of The Year – Drew McIntyre
WWE doesn’t seem to be aware of it themselves. But they finally have a face of the company in Drew McIntyre. On top of that, they have our choice for 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
The man sustained a place at the top of the card all year long. He kicked the year off by winning the 2020 Royal Rumble match in dramatic style. And for most of the ensuing feud with Brock Lesnar, he managed to do what almost no one has. He stayed above ground. The mere act of feuding with Brock Lesnar did not result in Drew McIntyre being buried. In fact, Lesnar, on a critical episode of Raw actually gave a little to Drew McIntyre. McIntyre was booked to hit Lesnar with two Claymore Kicks. Lesnar called an audible and said, “Give me a third.”
Then the world ended. Drew defeated Lesnar for the WWE Championship in front of an empty Performance Center at WrestleMania 36, and it seemed like there was no way things could go right. And despite multiple obstacles, Drew McIntyre has stayed on top of the wrestling world through all of 2020. In a weird way, this was the perfect time to get a big win over Brock Lesnar at the highest level. It’s a time when getting a cut of the gate isn’t an option anymore, and Brock is nowhere to be found to get his win back.
A lot of it is due to circumstances. But it can’t be ignored that Drew McIntyre has made himself indispensable to WWE. And in the process, he’s made himself the 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Runner-Up – Chris Jericho
For the second straight year, Jericho finishes just short of being the Wrestler of the Year. But that’s a testament to Jericho’s sheer longevity and his unbelievable skill at staying relevant. Le Champion dropped the AEW Championship to Jon Moxley – who didn’t have such a bad year himself – back in February. And in the process, he made himself more over than ever.
Since dropping the belt, Jericho turned the aforementioned Orange Cassidy into a bona fide star. And now he’s making MJF’s already bright star blinding. His matches have slowed down quite a bit, owing a lot to Jericho being 50 years old now. But he does what every great pro wrestler needs to be able to do. He’s taking big stars, and he’s making them even bigger. That alone makes him worthy of consideration to be 2020 Wrestler of the Year.
Feature image courtesy of WWE.