Top 5 Male Wrestlers of 2021
2021 has been a wild year for pro wrestling fans. We witnessed many great feuds, classic matches, shocking returns, and amazing title reigns from various promotions across the globe. Here is my list of top 5 male wrestlers of the year 2021. The criteria I used are match quality, consistency, growth, title run, popularity among the fan base of their respective companies.
5. Josh Alexander (Impact Wrestling)
Though the departure of his tag team partner Ethan Page led to the breakup of The North, it turned out to be a boon for Alexander. The Walking Weapon won the X division championship at Rebellion, and his title reign was one of the best things to watch in Impact Wrestling. He was a part of the historic first-ever 60-minute ironman match in the promotion (against TJP). He also successfully defended the title in an Ultimate X Match against some of the top names in the X Division at Slammiversary.
After proving unstoppable in the X Division, he went for option C and challenged Christian Cage for the World title. He won his moment at Bound For Glory pay per view when he dethroned Christian and celebrated the win with his family. Despite dropping the title to Moose, who cashed in his “Call Your Shot” minutes later, he has been established as the top babyface of the company. 2021 has been a breakout year for the Walking Weapon in a big way.
4. Kenny Omega (All Elite Wrestling)
Since turning heel and winning the title at Winter is Coming 2020, we’ve seen a different side of Kenny Omega throughout 2021. He wasn’t the same badass heel who ran the Bullet Club. Instead, he adopted more of a goofy heel character who was helped most of the time by his Elite stable-mates. He was a part of the first-ever exploding barbed wire deathmatch in the promotion (against Jon Moxley). “The Belt Collector” added one more feather to his cap, defeating Rich Swann to win the Impact Wrestling World Championship. He successfully defended the title against Moose and Sami Callihan before dropping it to Christian Cage on the first episode of Rampage. He had some quality defenses with the AEW Championship against Rey Fenix, Pac, Orange Cassidy, Jungle Boy, and Christian Cage. He also played a 30 minute classic against Brian Danielson, which ended in a time-limit draw.
He dropped the title to “Hangman” Adam Page at the Full Gear pay per view after a perfectly laid feud using their back story of the last 3 years. He also had to vacate his AAA Mega Championship due to injuries. Huge respect to Omega for fighting through his injuries to entertain us and wishing him a speedy recovery.
3. Roman Reigns (World Wrestling Entertainment)
It’s a sad truth that the quality of the WWE main roster product has been on a downfall in the last two years. But still, if they are on the top of the rating chart, it’s simply because of the Tribal Chief himself. The reactions received by the new side of Roman Reigns are just the opposite of the negative responses he received when the company pushed him as the top babyface. This man has been on a thrilling ride since he won the Universal Championship in 2020. He is ending 2021 as champion with successful defenses against some of the biggest names in the promotion like Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Edge, Cesaro, Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Finn Balor. Each of the feuds was well-built that we’ll get hyped up to watch the show. He established himself as one of the best heels in the business and improved a lot in the ring since his return.
2. Bryan Danielson (All Elite Wrestling)
Known as the “American Dragon” and widely regarded as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world, the signing of Bryan Danielson to AEW is undoubtedly the biggest acquisition by a wrestling promotion this year. He spent the first four months of 2021 as Daniel Bryan in WWE and signed with AEW in September by making his debut appearance at the All Out pay per view. In the four months with WWE, he won the Elimination Chamber match and had four unsuccessful attempts for the Universal Championship. In his final four months of the year in AEW, he remains undefeated and never had an underwhelming match. He started with a classic 30-minute draw against the then AEW World Champion Kenny Omega. He defeated notable wrestlers like Minoru Suzuki, Nick Jackson, Rocky Romero and Bobby Fish. He earned himself a World title opportunity by winning the AEW Championship Eliminator Tournament(defeating Dustin Rhodes, Eddie Kingston, and Miro). He turned heel by interrupting and insulting the champion “Hangman” Adam Page, during his championship celebration. Subsequently, he started fighting and injuring each members of Dark Order in the coming weeks. However, at Winter is Coming, he failed to take away the title from Page, with the match ending in a 60-minute draw. He may not have won any gold this year, but his consistency alone can top the world champion of any promotion, the reason why he came second on my list.
1. Shingo Takagi (New Japan Pro Wrestling)
It was a tough task to pick the other positions, but picking the first place was comparatively much easier for me. The best wrestler of the year is the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, “The Dragon” Shingo Takagi. His 2021 has been a roller-coaster ride. He started 2021 by successfully defending his NEVER Openweight Championship against Jeff Cobb but lost the title to Hiroshi Tanahashi by the end of January. His attempts to win the New Japan Cup final and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship were foiled by Will Osprey, with their title match becoming a match of the year contender.
Takagi would then win the title by defeating Kazuchika Okada at Dominion 6.7 when Osprey vacated the title due to injury. He successfully defended the title against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Evil, and Zack Sabre Jr. He put up a string of great matches in the G1 Climax tournament. His match against Tomohiro Ishii was awarded the Match of the Tournament. Anything this man touched this year has turned to gold. It’s all hits no misses for Shingo this year, with most of his matches being memorable classics. He has been awarded the Tokyo Sports MVP Award 2021. Without a doubt, Shingo Takagi is pro wrestling’s Most Valuable Player of 2021.
Honourable mention :
Katsuhiko Nakajima (Pro Wrestling NOAH)