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2020 Year End Awards

For the sixth straight year, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories presents its Year End Awards, in which we ask our writers to vote in a number of key categories. We've also included (for the first time ever) how writers previously voted below each category.

Match Of The Year

Adam Zimmerman: John Cena vs Bray Wyatt - Firefly Fun House Match (WrestleMania XXXVI).  Personally, as weird as it may be, I really enjoyed the Firefly Funhouse match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt from WrestleMania XXXVI. I realize it hardly constitutes an actual "match" and no one else will ever pick this as the match of the year but I sat there watching it in awe, as it occurred. I loved all the insider references and the fact that they even referenced Vince McMahon's real-life catchphrase of, "That's good shit (pal)!". For these reasons; I'll give it my number one slot, this year.

The Big Rybowski: Edge vs. Randy Orton (Backlash). It wasn't "The greatest wrestling match ever," but it sure as hell was great. I loved everything about this match, and that's why it is my pick for MOTY. Dubbing a match as the greatest ever is almost certainly setting it up for failure, but it did a great job, creating  some real hype and the match itself ended up delivering in spades. The pre-match theatrics (MSG microphone, Howard Finkel announcing, funky camera angles) set the tone for an epic near-hour match. I liked the spot where Edge landed Christian's Killswitch right before Orton hit Edge with a pedigree. It was also cool seeing both men hit The Three Amigos in the match. Just overall, it was a well-produced, well-executed match. 

Canadian Bulldog: The Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & Adam Page (Revolution). You had the tension between members of The Elite (within two different dynamics, in fact). You had a tremendous spotfest that one may expect from these four, without resorting to lots of weapons and bloodshed (I seem to remember a table spot, but it wasn't gratuitous). Most of all, you had this tremendous story that played out over a half-hour, in which four of the world's best wrestlers tried to top each other before frustration kicked in. This was one of the best tag team matches of all time, let alone 2020.

Mike Rickard: The Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & Adam Page (Revolution). There were many excellent matches in wrestling this year, but for me, AEW's Revolution AEW World Tag Team Championship match between champions Kenny Omega and Adam Page against the Young Bucks. The match was easily the best tag team match I’ve seen in decades and harkened back to the glory days of the 80s. 30 minutes of tag team excellence and a match that proved that tag team wrestling is just as good as singles competition.

Stu Stone: The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles - Boneyard Match (WrestleMania XXXVI). No one knew what to expect from this match and what it delivered was a memorable final send off for The Dead Man. It felt like you could extend his career by many many years with these types of matches, but from the sounds of it, this was a one shot deal.

Previous Match Of The Year Winners

Male Wrestler Of The Year

Adam ZimmermanNick Aldis. The NWA has been through a lot of ups and downs since Billy Corgan took the helm (through no fault of his own, in my opinion. He's a very smart businessman and promoter but "shit happens", as they say) but Aldis continues to carry the "10 Pounds Of Gold" with an air of dignity and class that always commands respect.

The Big Rybowski: Randy Orton. I'm going to preface this one by saying I have never been a fan of this wrestler. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that I really, really dislikes this wrestler and never understood what all the fuss was about. However, 2020 has been all about seeing things from a different perspective, and my tune has not only changed, but its done a complete 180 when it comes to Randy Orton. The Legend Killer did some of the greatest heel work I have seen this year. It started with his feud with Edge (minus their WrestleMania match), where Randy brought back peak Legend Killer status doing some of the best promo work of his career. 2020 saw Randall feud with Drew McIntyre (he even had a very brief title run in there), put over Keith Lee and now he's doing a program with Bray Wyatt. Not a bad year at all! 

Canadian Bulldog: Roman Reigns. For the past several years, wrestling fans have had Roman Reigns shoved down their throats and regardless of his ability or vast improvement, it never really seemed to resonate. And while you can certainly draw parallels to the career of John Cena, Reigns finally took the plunge in 2020 to become a heel -and an amazing heel at that! Between having Paul Heyman in his corner and his new High Chief/Head of the Table persona, WWE finally has a legit star on its hands again and not someone who is nearly as polarizing.

Mike RickardDrew McIntyre. Drew has steadily improved to the point where he’s undoubtedly the top babyface in the WWE and one of the top babyfaces in the world. McIntyre has an amazing style that incorporates power-based moves, submission wrestling, and of course, brawling. He’s proved adept at working against a variety of opponents and the only thing going against him this year was the lack of a live crowd to gauge their reaction to him.

Stu Stone: Drew McIntyre. Drew won the Rumble, beat Brock in the WrestleMania main event and is still the champion to close out one of the strangest years in pro-wrestling AND real life. Drew fulfilled Vince’s prophecy of him being the “chosen one” during his rookie year last decade.

Previous Male Wrestler Of The Year Winners

Female Wrestler Of The Year

Adam Zimmerman: Hikaru Shida. I'm picking Shida because she's been a solid champ and always puts on a great match. Very consistent. If I see her advertised for a match; it's worth checking out.

The Big Rybowski: Bayley. Not unlike my pick for Male WOTY, my pick here is someone who I absolutely despised before this year. i know that I (as a 40 year old man) was never the target audience for her character, but I loathed having to watch her on TV - especially her "mic work." When she turned heel early on this year, I never imagined her doing a good job with it. But I was completely wrong. Bayley and Sasha Banks were the best thing going on SmackDown for the better part of 2020. Bayley specifically was really able to adapt to (possibly even strive in) the no-crowd environment. 

Canadian Bulldog: Bayley. As Rybowski said, Bayley definitely stepped up her game in 2020, becoming one of the most compelling characters on either roster. Her feud with Sasha Banks, which took almost two years to build, didn't have a WrestleMania-style payoff, but it was still an entertaining ride. There are few "dream" matches left in the women's division, but I could see potential in a relatively-fresh Bayley-Asuka match come WrestleMania.

Mike RickardBayley. The WWE deserves a serious dressing down for the atrocious booking of its women’s division this year, including putting Asuka in as a long-term placeholder for the RAW Women’s Championship while Becky Lynch took time off. It also went overboard with booking RAW, NXT, and SmackDown around the slow-burning story of The Golden Role Models’ split. Nevertheless, Bayley shined all year as a heel in the mold of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, a cocky chickenshit who always finds a way to steal a win. It’s difficult to imagine that Bayley is the same woman who played “The Huggable One” and every bit of credit goes to her for mastering her character and developing an in-ring style to go with it.

Stu Stone: Bayley. Asuka could have easily been named here as well. Bayley WAS the Womens Division for most of WWE’s 2020, managing to make her new persona entertaining as well.

Previous Female Wrestler Of The Year Winners

Non-Wrestler Of The Year

Adam ZimmermanJim Cornette. Many years, I give the same pick for this category and I don't see that changing anytime soon unless Cornette ever "retires" for good. Just his observations about modern wrestling on his various podcasts are more entertaining than watching your average, modern-day wrestling show.

The Big Rybowski: Samoa Joe. I’m having a really, really hard time picking someone here. No one was a standout for me in this category, so I’m picking Joe simply because I like the work he does at the announcers table.

Canadian Bulldog: Tazz. The Human Suplex Machine literally started 2020 on January 1st as a guest commentator on AEW Dynamite. From there, he became a regular part of the commentary team for the very-underrated AEW Dark, and built a stable of bruisers that harkens back to the days of The Heenan Family. But the best part of Tazz's 2020 comeback is that, after years of floating around in WWE, TNA and even the podcasting world, he seems to have found the perfect fit within All Elite Wrestling.

Mike RickardAubrey Edwards. Who would think that a referee could become a personality in their own right without a heel referee storyline? Aubrey has been a capable referee, but one who reminds me of legendary referee Tommy Young for the ability to make matches better without making themselves the focus of the match. Her podcast with Tony Schiavone has been a pleasant surprise too.

Stu Stone: Pat McAfee. From what I saw of NXT in 2020, all eyes were on Pat McAfee and rightfully so. He arguably cuts the best promo on the brand and a transition to full time in ring performer has to be imminent for 2021 and beyond.

Previous Non-Wrestler Of The Year Winners

Rivalry Of The Year

Adam ZimmermanAEW vs WWE. I don't think any given wrestlers could have as hot of a rivalry as these two companies are having right now. It's always intriguing to see what's going to happen next. It really gives me a late-90s WWF vs WCW vibe, which is nice.

The Big Rybowski: Edge vs. Randy Orton. I hate to beat the Randy Orton drum to death here, but my favourite feud this year was Randy Orton vs. Edge. I loved the promo work and it ended with a classic match.

Canadian Bulldog: Edge vs. Randy Orton. This is a feud that would have seemed impossible even a year ago due to Edge's early retirement. But when you consider that these two created an epic rivalry almost out of thin air, then managed to build on it until Edge was injured again AND the fact that they're likely going to lock up again in 2021... that makes for a really impressive feud.

Mike RickardJon Moxley vs. Chris Jericho. It’s difficult to think of any promotions in North America that book feuds as well as AEW, a promotion that has restored long-term storytelling whether it’s undercard programs or main event programs like Jon Moxley’s war with Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle. Moxley played the loner throughout his feud with Jericho and company, lasting through some rough spots on his way to the title match at February’s Revolution pay-per-view (another excellent show), overcoming a kayfabe eye injury and repeated beatdowns until he defeated “Le Champion” for AEW’s top prize.

Stu Stone: AEW vs. WWE. Same as last year for me, the most compelling feud in the business was between WWE and upstart AEW. With the All Elite team scoring major wins for an entire calendar year. AEW has pushed WWE to “try harder” and as a fan, I can’t wait to see a more edgier WWE product in 2021.

Previous Rivalry Of The Year Winners

Event Of The Year

Adam Zimmerman: WrestleMania XXXVI. I'll be honest; I didn't watch many "big events" this year. Pre-Covid, I was hyped for this year's Crockett Cup but, once that event got canceled, I sort of lost interest in wrestling for a while. I guess I was a little apathetic given the whole situation. I did however watch multiple matches from this year's Wrestlemania and enjoyed more than one so, for that reason; I'll pick Wrestlemania XXXVI for "Event Of The Year".

The Big Rybowski: TLC. I've heard many stories about sports journalists finishing up stories about seemingly out-of-reach games, only to have to come up with a last-minute rewrite after witnessing an unlikely comeback. I never thought that would happen to me (mostly because I'm no journalist), but here we are. I had originally picked the Royal Rumble as event of the year, but after watching TLC this past weekend, my tune has changed (replacing the year's first PPV with its last). I'm a sucker for a big spot, and TLC delivered in spades. It had (in a Stefon voice): tables; ladder; chairs; Miz cashing in his Money In The Bank contract; a tag team title change; the surprise return of Charlotte Flair; another tag team title change; a spot-fest between Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns; and The Fiend being set on fire. It was a solid PPV and one that was actually able to hold my attention from beginning to end. WWE had a lot of great shows this year, and they saved the best for last.

Canadian Bulldog: Survivor Series. While WWE still went with the played-out "brand warfare" motif again this year, almost all of the Raw vs. SmackDown matchups felt fresh and fun. Both elimination matches were well done, Sasha Banks vs. Asuka was my favorite women's match this year and Drew McIntyre vs. Roman Reigns, which just would have been a "meh" match a year earlier, had a big fight feel to it.

Mike RickardDouble or Nothing. The WWE deserves credit for keeping WrestleMania afloat this year despite the ‘rona (and I particularly liked how the show was split up into two more easily manageable nights, especially on my ever-aging bladder). Nevertheless, AEW Double or Nothing was so good that I had no problem justifying the $50 I dropped on the show. The Stadium Stampede Match was pure comedy gold, MJF vs. Jungle Boy was the proverbial clinic, and even the Casino Ladder Match was good. Although I didn’t like Lance Archer losing to Cody (the booking killed Archer IMO as he went from Murderhawk Monster to just another big guy), the match was good and the shot of Mike Tyson yawning was priceless. Just an all-around good show with a spectacular main event that reminded me of the days when I’d drop $35 on a pay-per-view and not complain.

Stu Stone: Winter Is Coming (AEW Dynamite). Great matches including a Kenny Omega title win capped off a memorable night of action that also featured the return of STING to the TNT network for the first time in decades. Very cool!

Previous Event Of The Year Winners

Promotion Of The Year

Adam ZimmermanAEW. I'm a huge NWA fan and I wish them well on their road to recovery but they really took a hit this year when they canceled NWA Powerrr and all of their respective live events. AEW continues to go strong and Dynamite is one show that I usually always make sure to catch, every week. For that reason; I gotta rank them as number 1.

The Big Rybowski: WWE. I think AEW is great for what it is, but I’m a WWE guy.

Canadian Bulldog: AEW. This is kind of breaking new ground for me. If you look at the table below, you'll see that I always (save for the one time two years where I recognized "All In" on it merits of being a one-night event) have voted for WWE. Heck, even if you go back to awards columns in my years before Wrestling Merchandise and Memories, I'd rank WWE ahead of TNA, ROH, NJPW, etc. What changed this year? AEW proved they were for real. Anyone can spend their way to having decent talent or temporary ratings buzz, but week in and week out, All Elite Wrestling continued to elevate itself, bring in new talent and create exciting, episodic television. Look, I'm definitely not the "anti-WWE" type and probably never will be. But this year belong to AEW.

Mike Rickard: AEW. Definitely not the WWE as its sloppy COVID-testing and heartless layoffs made it the epitome of corporate greed (not to mention some downright dumb booking throughout the year). The winner is AEW which continues to put on entertaining shows, build new stars, and give fans a reason for wanting to tune in every Wednesday for their wrestling fix (as opposed to reading highlights).

Stu Stone: AEW. Have to give the nod to AEW as they managed to keep my attention more often than not. With a stacked (some would even say crowded) roster, it will be interesting to see if AEW can keep up its momentum moving forward. They seemed to have awoken a sleeping giant in WWE which should make the next calendar year of wrestling very exciting!

Previous Promotion Of The Year Winners

Tag Team Of The Year

Adam ZimmermanBest Friends. Obviously, these guys aren't technically the greatest tag team currently working (also, I guess if you include Orange Cassidy then they're a "trio") but I'm making them my personal pick because I'm a huge Orange Cassidy fan, and, "You gotta give the people what they want"! 

The Big Rybowski: The Boss 'n Hug Connection. It’s hard to deny the Boss ‘n Hug connection here. Although their team name is stupid, their performance is 2020 was nothing but. Great mic work, great in-ring work and really compelling story lines make Sasha Banks and Bayley my tag team of the year.

Canadian Bulldog: The Young Bucks. I'm in the midst of finishing Matt and Nick Jackson's (excellent) autobiography, and it reinforces what people have been saying for years: The Young Bucks are the best tag team in the business today. They're great characters, their work rate is hard to beat and they can tell a story in the ring better than most. Their matches against Adam Page and Kenny Omega, FTR, Best Friends and so many others made for must-see television.

Mike Rickard: FTR. A tough call as the WWE had a number of excellent teams but failed to use them properly. The New Day continue to put on consistently entertaining matches after 3000 years together and teams like the Viking Raiders, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro, and the Street Profits are good as well. Unfortunately for every good team, the WWE finds a way to split them up whether it’s the IIconics, Heavy Machinery, or Angel Garza and Andrade. AEW on the other hand has treated its tag teams as grade-A acts and has an incredible array of teams ranging from mid-card acts to main eventers like Kenny Omega and Adam Page, the Young Bucks, and FTR. FTR (aka the former WWE team the Revival) quickly proved how much they have to offer in the ring when they jumped to AEW and the only bad part of their run was putting the tag titles on them for a short period of time. AEW has so many good tag teams that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but for me, FTR proved they’re more than talk.

Stu Stone: The Young Bucks. Best Tag Team in the world, again, is the Young Bucks. They continue to be unselfish in the ring, making their opponents look great in the process and continue to push the limits of imagination with their tandem offense. Matt and Nick were an easy pick for this one.

Previous Tag Team Of The Year Winners

Wrestling Merchandise and Memories Article Of The Year

Canadian Bulldog: Despite the crazy year that was 2020, one of my personal highlights of the year was rebuilding Wrestling Merchandise and Memories from its previous home. The new design and easier accessibility let me try a few new ideas, including Mike Tyson's Punch Out Only The Opponents Are 80s Wrestling Villains, which received acclaim from none other than The Iron Sheik!

Mike Rickard: This was another tough call. I always enjoy the Bulldog’s Top 50 lists (especially the Top 50 Rivalries), but the Grappling Gamer has really come into his own. I’m going to take the cheap way out and give the entire site the award because I dig the new design and the continued quality content.

Stu Stone: 2020 was a year that got me back into being a collector of retro action figures like LJN and Hasbro and my new favorite WCW UK Galoobs. Any time there was coverage on figs, I was a happy reader! Would also love to point out that the WMaM PODCAST was great this year with the new episodes that came our way. Hoping to hear more in 2021!

Previous Article Of The Year Winners

Thank you so much for reading Wrestling Merchandise and Memories this year!

Be sure to come back on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 for...

Top 50 Wrestling Headlines of 2020

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