Drew McIntyre stands out as Wrestler of the Year
There has never been a year in professional wrestling like 2020, and likely never will be again (assuming the COVID-19 vaccinations bring the pandemic under control). Still, wrestling forged ahead, creating another year of big moments and memories for fans.
From WWE airing WrestleMania over two nights from an empty performance center, to the creation of the ThunderDome, to AEW continuing to form their image, to NJPW and other Japanese promotions finding their own way through the difficult times, there is plenty to talk about with pro wrestling in 2020.
The CBS Sports experts sat down to vote on 13 awards to honor the best — and some of the worst — from this unique year of wrestling, recognizing outstanding efforts from stars representing not only WWE but also the rising AEW. You can view the complete awards list below.
Wrestler of the Year — Drew McIntyre (WWE): Despite there being numerous incredible finalists considered, including names like Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Jon Moxley, there was clarity as to why McIntyre was the right choice. Not only was he pushed heavily before ultimately defeating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36, McIntyre has become the strong, established cool babyface that WWE always hoped Reigns would develop into. He put WWE on his back as the company’s face and top male star during a global pandemic as a constant presence on TV, and he delivered fantastic matches as well. There were plenty deserving consideration for Wrestler of the Year, but McIntyre stood out from the rest. — Adam Silverstein
Match of the Year — WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK): There were plenty of valid options in the world of wrestling, including an absolutely wonderful match between Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada on Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom. But WALTER vs. Dragunov was just a step above. This was also the rare match that seemed to benefit from the lack of a live crowd, distilling things down to pure brutality between two old rivals. The match was given time to develop without going so long as to overstay its welcome. A rare match where nearly everything was perfect. — Brent Brookhouse
Event of the Year — Royal Rumble (WWE): This was a surprise winner considering the numerous high-quality wrestling events including Wrestle Kingdom 15, multiple NXT TakeOvers and multiple AEW pay-per-views. However, while those may have won in terms of workrate and match quality, the Royal Rumble stood out from the rest due to a culmination of everything that happened on the show, including the return of Edge, one of the best booked and most entertaining Royal Rumble matches in history (if not the singular best), Becky Lynch vs. Asuka and “The Fiend” vs. Daniel Bryan. McIntyre truly began his ascension as WWE’s top male babyface in the main event. — Silverstein
Tag Team of the Year — Sasha Banks & Bayley (WWE): Banks and Bayley carried entire shows with their tag team. In an era where WWE loves nothing more than to either break up teams before they build any steam or relegate them to the background, this pairing of superstars commanded attention no matter their opponents. The breakup was inevitable but delayed because of how great their run was, and that’s saying something. — Brookhouse
Best Moment of the Year — Edge makes shocking Royal Rumble return (WWE): Though there were rumors that Edge was eyeing a return to the ring, he denied those reports emphatically to cast doubt that a return was actually in the cards. In the end, even if some thought he might come back to WWE, the company did an incredible job hiding that it would be at the Royal Rumble. Considering Edge’s insane level of popularity coupled with the severity of what were believed to be career-ending injuries, his return was unexpected. On top of that, the moment itself — and Edge’s emotional reaction to the crowd response and gravity of his return — really put this over the top. — Silverstein
Worst Moment of the Year — Matt Hardy vs. Sammy Guevara at All Out (AEW): There were plenty of awful moments this year, but the complete failure of everyone involved in this tops them all. Hardy was clearly in a bad way after his head smacked the concrete, and rather than stop the match, he was given a quick look over and sent back out to immediately move into another high-risk spot. This was a literal life-threatening decision, and one that should not happen in 2020. — Brookhouse
Worst Event of the Year — Super ShowDown (WWE): If you were compiling a list of the worst matches of 2020, two of the finalists would have come from this show: “The Fiend” vs. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar vs. Ricochet. That’s not even considering that the rest of the show was terrible (aside from a surprise Mansoor vs. Dolph Ziggler bout) or the controversy that followed. WWE’s Saudi Arabia events have largely been disappointments not even taking into account the situations surrounding their deal itself, but this one took the cake as the worst — and it was not even a tough call. Never watch this show, and you will be better off for it. — Silverstein
Comeback Wrestler of the Year — MVP (WWE): While Edge’s comeback was the bigger deal, MVP became a consistent presence throughout the entire year. The Hurt Business became a key part of weekly television, and MVP has been responsible for helping get guys over and has done a better job than most in the company could. There’s a lot to be said for bringing that presence and consistency to the table. — Brookhouse
Smack Talker of the Year — Eddie Kingston (AEW): The rise of Kingston from independent favorite to AEW main eventer was astonishing, and it all happened because of his mouth. Given an opportunity to appear on AEW Dynamite, Kingston earned himself a contract largely due to the promo he cut that night. Then he was so over that he worked his way into a PPV main event against AEW champion Jon Moxley where Kingston’s promo chops only shone brighter. While he may not have had the singular promo of the year (more on that below), his body of work on the mic was unrivaled in 2020. — Silverstein
Rookie of the Year — Eddie Kingston (AEW): This seems strange given Kingston is a longtime veteran, but hear me out. By the criteria of the award, used every year, Kingston qualifies. The award is given based on a first year with a major promotion. Kingston blazed into AEW, announced himself in what could have been a one-off match with Cody Rhodes, earned a contract and elevated himself to a great main event program with Jon Moxley. It’s a bit quirky but also a nice feeling to give the award to someone who has long deserved the opportunity he received in 2020. — Brookhouse
Promo of the Year — Edge puts Randy Orton on notice (WWE): WWE rarely gives its superstars carte blanche to cut unscripted promos, but its veterans get far longer leashes. In a year of incredible back-and-forth promos between Edge and Orton, this one took the cake. Nearly 6 minutes of Edge, unedited, cutting a top-tier promo inside a practice ring in a darkened room. It was passionate, emotional, raw and layered. The Kingston-Moxley back-and-forth ahead of their title match may have provided more juice, but we believe it’s tough to argue with the overall quality and difficulty of cutting a promo like this without being able to play off another person. Just watch. — Silverstein
Commentator of the Year — Samoa Joe (WWE Raw): Commentary is one of the most difficult tasks in wrestling and something that is picked apart by fans as seemingly simple. There were some valid options here, but Joe stands out for having a unique presence in a promotion where that is difficult, and where you have someone in your ear steering your work. — Brookhouse
Feud of the Year — Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso (WWE SmackDown): There were so many great finalists for this category, but Reigns and Uso took the honor due largely to the raw, personal and familial nature of the feud. Not only that, it was completely unexpected — due largely to Reigns’ surprising return and heel turn — and it constantly overdelivered on the mic and in the ring to the point that WWE extended the head-to-head part of the feud a month longer than initially intended. Playing into their family’s history ward establishing Reigns’ new character in a way that a feud against someone else would not have achieved. It also elevated Uso, a career tag team wrestler, into a consistent main eventer. In fact, even though Reigns and Uso are on the same side storyline-wise as 2020 concludes, the feud is ongoing internally on Uso’s side. It’s long-term storytelling at its best, which is something WWE has not been successful at achieving in recent years. — Silverstein