As we near the end of the longest year of our lives (scientifically questionable, mentally very much so), and the sounds of Christmas joy plays on the radio (grinches optionable), it presents a wonderful opportunity to look back over the best matches of the last year.
Throughout 2020, AEW dealt with their second year unlike anything they planned, having to rely on multiple tapings, empty arenas, and secret locations for their shows. Despite this, the newest major wrestling company persevered, and continued to earn themselves a rabid fanbase.
With that in mind, let us look back at the ten best AEW matches of 2020 that demonstrated AEW is full of life and possibility.
1. Kenny Omega & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page C vs. The Lucha Brothers – AEW Dynamite (19th February 2020)
The decision to have Page and Omega win the Tag Team Titles surprised many at the time, considering the depth of the tag team division. The expectation prior to this match was likely for the Lucha Brothers to win, especially as Page was in the midst of a downward spiral. Instead, the previous communication issues between the champions, and their attempts to solve them, became the story of the match.
Both teams started off slowly with Page and Fenix using their pace and chemistry before culminating in an excellent four way battle, full of high spots and some excellent near falls. Page and Omega retained to confirm the upcoming PPV match between them and The Young Bucks, helping continue the groundwork for a year-long storyline still undergoing. More than that, it continued the company’s aim for AEW Dynamite to be viewed as must-see television.
2. PAC vs. Kenny Omega – AEW Dynamite (26th February 2020)
PAC and Omega had been feuding since the previous year’s All Out and despite an upcoming tag team title defence in just a few days’ time, Omega took on his rival in the first and currently only Iron Man match in AEW history. With two equal warriors in battle, they seemingly took inspiration from another classic Iron Man shown on free television, the Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar match (possibly my favourite Iron Man match ever). With PAC battering Omega with a steel chair and drawing the first disqualification in AEW history, PAC then took advantage of a weakened Omega to get a pinfall victory and tie up 1-1.
With this psychological edge and tremendous storytelling on display, both men played to their strengths with PAC, the viciously cruel villain, and Omega full of fiery resilience. Despite the chair attack in the 16th minute, neither man gained that extra fall, causing Sudden Death. With a burst of sudden energy, Omega finally hit the One-Winged Angel and achieved a huge victory before the upcoming PPV.
3. Kenny Omega & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page (c) vs. The Young Bucks – AEW Revolution
Just a few days after an excellent singles match with PAC, co-champion Omega was part of an even more awesome bout, defending alongside Page against former allies-turned-enemies The Young Bucks. Matt and Nick Jackson are commonly referred to as one of the best tag teams in the world, and were determined to confirm this by winning the titles off the surprise package champions.
A phenomenal thirty minute battle that featured great character work with several tiebacks to all four men’s history, including Page using Marty Scurll’s Crossface Chicken Wing and Young Bucks insulting Omega with a golden Trigger. Mixed in amongst nonstop action, engrossing nearfalls, and resentment between Matt and Page before developing into a nastier aggression from the challengers. Despite Page finally achieving victory over Matt with the Buckshot Lariat, this was only one chapter in an entire book currently still being written, hinted at with a tease post-match of a Page heel turn. Must-see.
4. The Inner Circle vs. The Elite – AEW Double Or Nothing
Without question, one of the most fun and enjoyable matches of the year. A required replacement for the cancelled Blood ‘n’ Guts match and a cinematic masterpiece, it’s full of comedy, action and character pieces galore. Even though it began with both sides charging towards one another and a ring in the middle of the field, all ten men ended up travelling around the stadium in a variety of setpieces.
Between Page riding a horse, a bar brawl between him and fellow drinker Jake Hagar, Matt Jackson’s field goal post Moonsault, Ortiz and Santana battling Matt Hardy in a Pool of Reincarnation, Judas Effect to the Jaguars mascot, the replay booth, Sammy Guevara being Northern Lights Suplexed from one end of the stadium to the other, there’s so many amazing parts of this match. It’s chaotic, ridiculous, and creatively brilliant during a year where we most needed it.
5. The Butcher, The Blade & The Lucha Brothers vs. FTR & The Young Bucks – AEW Fyter Fest Night Two (8th July 2020)
Having joined AEW very recently, FTR had impressed quickly with a philosophical clash against the Young Bucks and a growing rivalry against The Butcher and The Blade. This huge eight-man tag team match featured four of the best tag teams in the company (Butcher & Blade are underrated, don’t @ me) mixing physicality with high flying built upon top notch storytelling.
The expectation was for FTR and the Young Bucks to turn on one another, but instead they demonstrated almost flawless chemistry, including mixing teams with Wheeler and Nick hitting FTR’s finisher while Harwood and Matt earned a nearfall on The Blade. Including an unforgettable Canadian Destroyer from Fenix to Nick Jackson off the apron onto the other competitors, it took an accidental Superkick from Matt to Harwood for Lucha Brothers to take advantage for the victory.
6. Kenny Omega & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page (c) vs. FTR – AEW All Out
Page and Omega entered this match as Tag Team Champions with a reign lasting 228 days, and yet were at their most troubled; Page full of anxiety and anger due to FTR’s betrayal and pushing Young Bucks away, while Omega was frustrated after several months of issues. In comparison, FTR were a well-oiled machine, manipulating the opposition throughout the match and increasing Page’s mental anguish. A tactical battle throughout that was engrossing and full of tension.
In the end, it took an errant V-Trigger from Omega that wiped out Page and left a hobbling Omega susceptible to two Spike Piledrivers, for FTR to win the titles. As one story begins with FTR preparing to rule over a tag team division full of potential and ability, another enters a new chapter in Omega and Page. As ‘Hangman’ reached out to his partner for help, a frustrated Omega left him and the building, giving an ultimatum to his fellow Elite members The Young Bucks. The tag team division in AEW is one of the strongest in the world and the excitement generated for this bout was rewarding for the storyline work over the previous months.
7. Best Friends vs. Ortiz & Santana – AEW Dynamite (16th September 2020)
This might be one of the most appropriate matches in the top ten, as it epitomises the care exhibited by the company for storytelling and long-term booking. It all began with the Inner Circle members losing to the Best Friends, who bitterly destroyed a previously referenced van that belonged to Trent’s Mum Sue. In that moment, Ortiz and Santana made it personal, eventually leading to the Best Friends inviting their rivals to a fight.
Exchanging fists, plywood, batons, dustpans and chains, this was a violent brawl full of intensity and animosity, with all four men destroying windshields, car hoods and each other’s bodies. With the surprising reveal of Orange Cassidy from a trunk to help his compatriots, the Best Friends earned their victory, gained their revenge, and proved themselves absolute badasses. What might have been a run of the mill bout in any other promotion main evented with a big match feel that had fans invested, culminating in one of the best hardcore matches of the year.
8. Mr. Brodie Lee w/ John Silver (c) vs. Cody w/ Arn Anderson – AEW Dynamite (7th October 2020)
With the resounding success of both the AEW World Title and the AEW Tag Team Championships (the AEW Women’s Title less successful but getting better thanks to Hikaru Shida), the decision was made to incorporate a midcard championship in the AEW TNT Title. With the hugely popular Cody having booked himself out of the main event scene, it made sense for him to become the figurehead of the new division. Using his popularity and opening the division to non-contracted talents made the TNT Title a weekly highlight, even leading to Ricky Starks and Eddie Kingston getting full-time contracts.
Losing the title to Mr. Brodie Lee for a period of time shocked audiences, and Cody’s return culminated in the sort of bloody NWA-esque throwbacks that AEW continues to excel at. AEW has always been renowned for allowing more creative freedom from the wrestlers, and Lee’s love for the classic Dog Collar match between Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine and Roddy Piper is the perfect demonstration of the opportunities granted.
With Lee coming across as a monster in the build-up, and Cody as the resilient badass who battled through the odds to earn back the championship that meant so much to him, this match will go down as one of the early greats of the championship’s lineage. As a representation of the tremendous work put into not only a midcard championship but also the midcard itself, you won’t get much better.
9. FTR (c) vs. The Young Bucks – AEW Full Gear
It began with a running joke of “Fuck The Revival” in 2017, became possible in May 2020 when FTR debuted on AEW Dynamite, and finally happened at AEW Full Gear. One team was a throwback to traditional 1980s mat wrestling while the other a foundation of modernised tag team wrestling. Their list of classics could be held up against any other tag team in history, and the hype was almost insurmountable, yet somehow they succeeded.
A wondrous love letter to the history of tag team wrestling, incorporating classic teams such as the Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz, Steiner Brothers, D.I.Y., Hart Foundation and probably more I didn’t notice. The psychology is also excellent throughout, with the injury to Dax’s right hand allowing the Young Bucks to demonstrate a more vicious and FTR-esque gameplan.
The climax was flawless as an injured Matt is at the mercy of Cash, but the pathological need to prove themselves better meant Cash erroneously attempted a Bucks-esque 450 Splash. This arrogance left Cash open for a Matt Superkick that finally won the Young Bucks their coveted Tag Team Titles. The most impressive part might be that despite the high quality of this match, you still feel there is potential for a second classic.
10. Jon Moxley (c) vs. Kenny Omega – AEW Winter Is Coming
At AEW Full Gear 2019, Jon Moxley gained a huge victory in a Lights Out Match against Omega, using the momentum to challenge for and win the AEW Championship at AEW Revolution 2020. Over the next 390 days, AEW subtly developed their story through Moxley’s success as the biggest star in AEW and their reigning World Champion, while Omega focused on the tag team division and his partnership with co-champion Adam Page. The importance of the victory and the loss impacted both men, with Moxley becoming invested in being a figurehead, and Omega determined to vanquish the man who set him back.
The rematch between the two shocked many by occurring on a special episode of AEW Dynamite as opposed to a PPV, but despite that, it had a big match feel; it had the history, it had the audience in the palm of their hand. Beginning as a wrestling match, Moxley proved the variety he had gained in his repertoire and that he was Omega’s equal, transitioning into a brawl between two rivals, and culminating in a story-crafted ending that combined Omega’s heel turn, Moxley’s loss of the championship and a possible crossover between AEW and Impact Wrestling.
As an example of the importance of long term booking, it may be one of the best examples in recent history, and also is a rewarding classic for those who have watched the previous year. Great match, great story, great booking. Simply great as the final top ten AEW match in 2020, watch it.
AEW entered 2020 with plans to build upon a successful first year, and in February, it seemed they were primed for growth. Unfortunately, real life intervened and created a worldwide situation unexpected and unprecedented in the modern age. Despite this, AEW took it as a challenge and utilised the Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida as well as several unknown locations to continue their work without audiences.
With such obstacles against them, it makes it even more impressive that AEW achieved such a high quality of matches throughout. It turns out that despite everything, AEW will continue to succeed at putting on classic matches and this list demonstrates that. Look back, enjoy, cheer, and prepare for a 2021 that hopefully rewards fans for their loyalty and AEW for their reliability.
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