This is part two of our Best of 2020 list. For part one, click here.
By Jozef Raczka, Laura Mauro, Steph Franchomme, James Truepenny, John Dinsdale, Humza Hussain, Lee Hazell, Alex Richards, Tom Mimnagh, Tom Beasley, David Bedwell, Danny Cause & Mark Cannon Jr.
2020 has been a strange year and to reflect that strangeness, we present a year in which the man holding the top title in the WWE going into WrestleMania hasn’t even cracked our top 40. While we’re sure there’s going to be some disagreement over various people who did or didn’t make it onto the list, we are pleased to say that this list represents SteelChair fully. Without much furth ado, let’s get into our top 40 of 2020:
Editor’s note: We want to say that we do not endorse the actions of every individual on this list but that there are some who many of our writers felt represented a significant contribution to the wrestling landscape of 2020. We apologise to anyone who is offended by their inclusion.
40. Millie McKenzie – Sendai Girls (2018 – 44, 2019 – 55)
Turning 20 this year, McKenzie is astonishingly accomplished, especially for her age. Holding the Sendai Girls Tag Team Championships, winning the Riptide Tag Team Tournament, the SHE-1 and Tag Team Championships in Pro Wrestling EVE. If McKenzie can have that good a year before lockdown, imagine what she’ll do in 2021.
Highlight: Participating in the Riptide Combat Panto.
39. Arisa Hoshiki – STARDOM (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Despite her retirement, Arisa Hoshiki left a mark this year. Before her retirement she was one of the best wrestlers in the world, even getting a pretty great match from Bea Priestley, Hoshiki and Giulia’s brief interactions were some of the best you’ll see in all of wrestling.
Highlight: Competing at the Tokyo Dome, STARDOM White Belt Champion.
38. Rhea Ripley – WWE (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
The bruising Aussie grappler has had a dream of a year. She took down the all-conquering Shayna Baszler to earn the NXT Women’s Title and then competed in the first WrestleMania bout for that belt — a terrific contest against company favourite Charlotte Flair. Can things get any better for her?
Highlight: Defeating Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship.
37. Tsukasa Fujimoto – Ice Ribbon (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Fujimoto once again anchored Ice Ribbon as part of the Dropkickers tag team while also putting over the new generation of talents like Suzu Suzuki. She saved lockdown for many with her epic series of matches against broom. Also had a fantastic rivalry in SEAdLINNNG with tag partner Arisa Nakajima against Yoshiko & Hiroyo Matsumoto.
Highlight: Winning SEADLINNG’s Beyond The Sea Tag Championship.
36. Britt Baker – AEW (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Side-lined for much of the year due to injury, Britt Baker proved in lockdown that character is king. In the silence of the empty arenas, Baker’s imagination and talent for comedic timing made her screwball segments my most anticipated and enjoyed on Dynamite week to week to week.
Highlight: Becoming one of the most entertaining promos on AEW.
35. Laura DiMatteo – Freelance (2019 – 65)
2020 could have been DiMatteo’s year. Heading into it, she reached the final of the Pro Wrestling EVE Tag Team Championships tournament and ended Ayesha Raymond’s 465-day reign with the GWF Women’s Championship. She put in some great work, making every match matter with sheer intensity and skill.
Highlight: German Wrestling Federation (GWF) Women’s Champion.
34. Nyla Rose – AEW (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
The Native Beast Nyla Rose is not only one of the most intimidating forces in professional wrestling, but also one of the most overlooked promos. With her new-found manager, Vickie Guerrero being the missing piece to the Beast’s puzzle, her segments are getting more elaborate and her character more complex.
Highlight: AEW Women’s Champion, joined forces with Vickie Guerrero.
33. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW (2017 – 73, 2018 – 31, 2019 – 72)
Suzuki-Gun’s head honcho was having a low-key 2020 until winning the IWGP NEVER Openweight Championship at Summer Struggle in Jingu. Since then, he competed in the 2020 G1 Climax, gaining victories over the likes of Tomohiro Ishii and Jeff Cobb. He continues to show that ageing dishonourably can look damn good.
Highlight: Winning the NEVER Openweight Championship.
32. Kevin Owens – WWE (2015 – 2, 2016 – 5, 2017 – 13, 2018 – 58, 2019 – 36)
Whether he’s in the ring or on the microphone, and he’s even done some commentary this year, Kevin Owens seems to be consistently entertaining in whatever role he’s asked to do. The only downside is that Owens has been without a Championship for quite some time.
Highlight: Jumping off the WrestleMania sign.
31. Io Shirai – WWE (2018 – 82, 2019 – 48)
Io Shirai temporarily took a backseat to Rhea and Charlotte but ultimately defeated the two in a fantastic triple threat match, crowning her as the new queen of NXT. Few talents are as smooth as the ‘Genius of the Sky’, and she continues to show that in her championship reign.
Highlight: NXT Women’s Champion, 2x WarGames competitor.
30. Edge – WWE (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Edge’s unlikely comeback may have been somewhat short-lived due to injury and marred by a lack of an audience, but he appeared to have barely missed a step in his matches with Randy Orton. For his emotional return at the Royal Rumble alone, Edge deserves his place on this list.
Highlight: Defeating Randy Orton at WrestleMania.
29. Sami Callihan – IMPACT (2017 – 70, 2018 – 35, 2019 – 33)
Started off the year losing the Impact World Championship to Tessa Blanchard. Kicked off a big change for one of Impact’s most controversial characters as ICU. Feud with Shamrock ended with them teaming. Very short face turn against RVD but back to heel with Shamrock now. Transitional year for Sami.
Highlight: Successfully reinventing himself again.
28. Lulu Pencil – Gatoh Move (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
The pencil army has seen Lulu Pencil develop her game even more over the past year. The ChocoPro series has allowed her to continue adding layers to her interesting gimmick without the need for audiences.
Highlight: Main eventing ChocoPro #25 against Kaori Yoneyama.
27. Daniel Bryan – WWE (2015 – 39, 2018 – 50, 2019 – 12)
2020 has been a subtler year for the leader of the ‘Yes Movement’. It started by him concluding his compelling championship feud with ‘The Fiend’. However, 2020 has certainly been the year of Bryan selflessly putting over talents like Sami Zayn, Drew Gulak, and AJ styles (in an instant classic).
Highlight: Vs AJ Styles (Intercontinental Championship – Smackdown Live).
26. Kenny Omega – AEW (2016 – 4, 2017 – 1, 2018 – 2, 2019 – 5)
Highlight: AEW Tag Team Champion.
25. Hangman Adam Page – AEW (2018 – 72, 2019 – 32)
A strong 12 months from the “Anxious Millennial Cowboy” saw him recover from a loss to Chris Jericho at, forming a ta title-winning partnership with Kenny Omega and becoming one of the most popular performers of the Dynamite era. Expect a big next 12 months from Hangman Page.
Highlight: AEW Tag Team Champion.
24. Mayu Iwatani – STARDOM (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
The Hiroshi Tanahashi of Stardom entered the year as world champion and has spent the year fending off challengers and becoming the standard-bearer of the company. Despite nearing her 10th anniversary, Iwatani is showing no signs of slowing down as she leads Stardom into a potential boom period.
Highlight: Competing at the Tokyo Dome, White Belt Champion.
23. Chris Brookes – DDT Pro(2017 – 55, 2018 – 42, 2019 – 22)
Chris Brookes has taken wrestling from the Frog and Bucket in Manchester to the bright lights of DDT, feuding with some of the biggest in the company whilst also holding their Universal Title. He’s also been in several deathmatches with FMW Legend, Atsushi Onita.
Highlight: 2x DDT Universal Champion.
22. Rickey Shane Page – GCW (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Ever since taking the GCW Title from AJ Gray and Nick Gage, RSP has made himself the biggest villain the indies has ever seen. Alongside his 44OH! brethren, he has made himself one of the independent scene’s biggest talking points. All of this has been done on his terms.
Highlight: GCW World Champion.
21. Seth Rollins – WWE (2015- 3, 2016 – 23, 2017 – 66, 2018 – 6, 2019 – 13)
Rollins began this period as Universal Champion, but losing that belt might’ve been for the best. He subsequently transformed into the Monday Night Messiah, which has taken him to the next level as a heel. Not many WWE bad guys have been evil enough to scoop out a dude’s eyeball.
Highlight: Winning his sixth RAW Tag Team Championship.
20. Sasha Banks – WWE (2015 – 1, 2016 – 15, 2017 -65)
If you’re looking for people who have made the most of 2020 then look no further than The Boss. Funny to think that there was a time when we weren’t sure if she was ever coming back. Now she’s revitalised with a passion that has led to some of her best work. Teaming with Bayley, winning the tag titles and the RAW Women’s Championship again, but inevitably losing it all and her friendship with Bayley in the process. A Hell in a Cell match is the perfect way to end one of the best feuds of the year.
Highlight: Two Belts Banks holding the Smackdown Women’s & Tag-Team Championships simultaneously.
19. Bray Wyatt – WWE (2015 – 22, 2017 – 62, 2019 – 30)
Since re-debuting at SummerSlam 2019, Bray Wyatt has had a stellar run in his new guise, despite some questionable booking decisions. A win over Seth Rollins to take the Universal Championship at Crown Jewel yielded a dominant Universal title run that ended abruptly with a defeat to Goldberg in February. However, The Fiend would rebound with a memorable “cinematic” match against John Cena at Wrestlemania 36, in one of the most creatively ambitious things WWE has ever produced. His matches with Braun Strowman fell short of expectations, but Wyatt has had a very solid year in his new, inventive gimmick.
Highlight: Winning the Universal Championship at SummerSlam.
18. Rey Fénix – AEW (2017 – 69, 2018 – 71, 2019 – 52
Quite possibly one of the best Luchadores in the world Rey Fénix has killed it every chance he gets. His two matches with his brother Penta El Zero Miedo stand out as two of the best matches on AEW Dynamite‘s short history. He competed in 2019’s PWG Battle of Los Angeles, held the AAA Mega Championship and frankly, the fact that there is any titles in AEW he hasn’t held, let alone that bar a first-round win in the AEW Championship number one contender’s tournament, he hasn’t had a title shot since February is tantamount to a disgrace.
Highlight: His pair of matches with Penta on AEW Dynamite.
17. Randy Orton – WWE (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Close to being a twenty-year veteran in WWE, the Viper seems to straddle that fine line between a full-time and part-time wrestler. Orton proves that less can often be more and has done some of the best work of his career in 2020, especially when positioned opposite Edge. Indeed, the Rated-R Superstar seems to raise the game of the Apex Predator. Since then, Orton has done what he does best: killing legends. As well as Edge, Orton has targeted Big Show, Christian, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. Elsewhere in 2020, Randy Orton has also been seeking his 14th World Championship.
Highlight: The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever at Backlash.
16. Hana Kimura – STARDOM (A SteelChair Top 100 Debut)
Right now, we should’ve been singing the praises of one of the most talented young wrestlers in the world. Instead, we’re reflecting on what could have been. But Hana’s tragic suicide is not why she’s on this list. She’s here because she was one of the most impressively solid all-rounders on the Stardom roster, showing herself in matches with the likes of Mayu Iwatani to be a worthy main-eventer and a performer of rare charisma and charm. The 2019 5★Star GP winner, a one-time Goddess and two-time Artist. She will be missed but she will never be forgotten.
Highlight: Competing at the Tokyo Dome.
15. Jay White – NJPW (2017 – 96, 2018 – 83, 2019 – 53)
Only been back in New Japan for just two years, White established himself as part of the furniture in the most abrasive style imaginable. The Switchblade Era has returned the group to its cutthroat ways of old. Hand-picked by Bad Luck Fale, Prince Devitt and Tama Tonga as the future of the faction, he is drenched in NJPW tradition, as a good Bullet Club member should be, but rotten to the core. A stand out in G1 29 & 30, and as successful as any of the former BC leaders. The fans hate his guts and he likes that just fine.
Highlight: The best heel in wrestling. Period.
14. Bayley – WWE (2015 – 16, 2016 – 25, 2017 – 86)
Adored by so many in NXT, the hugger was often overshadowed by Charlotte, Becky and Sasha but not anymore. 2020 is officially the year of Bayley and she really found her groove as a heel. Keeping the Smackdown Women’s Championship close, often with the help of Sasha, she has been the most successful women’s wrestler in the industry this year. Her feud with Banks has been the most consistent and enjoyable storyline in WWE and Bayley has truly stepped out of the shadow of her Four Horsewomen friends.
Highlight: Smackdown Women’s Championship, Women’s Tag Team Championship, PWI Women’s #1.
13. MJF – AEW (2018 – 88, 2019 – 71)
2020 has been a stellar year for the young Maxwell Jacob Friedman. He’s the perfect example of the cowardly heel who hides behind his bodyguard, Wardlow. Throughout most of the year, MJF led an election-like campaign for change, declaring that AEW deserved a better standard of Champion. This led to Friedman becoming the #1 contender for Jon Moxley’s World Championship. Eventually getting that title shot at All Out, MJF was unsuccessful in capturing the gold, but the loss to Moxley remains the only blemish on MJF’s 2020 record of 9-1. And that’s not bad going.
Highlight: Challenging for AEW Championship at All Out.
12. Orange Cassidy – AEW (2019 – 21)
In a world of try-hards, Orange Cassidy has dared to try only when necessary. Putting into practice an economy of movement and ability to connect spots seamlessly, Cassidy has seen himself In a world of try-hards, Orange Cassidy has dared to try only when necessary. Putting into practice an economy of movement and ability to connect spots seamlessly, Cassidy has seen himself put on great matches with Rey Fénix, PAC and Brodie Lee while proving himself a true main eventer getting good matches out of Chris Jericho and Cody.
Highlight: Defeating Chris Jericho in the first Mimosa Mayhem Match at All Out.
11. Drew McIntyre – WWE (2015 – 42, 2016 – 30, 2017 – 36 , 2018 – 37)
The Scottish Psychopath has had the biggest year of his career and so it’s a real shame he hasn’t been able to do it in stadiums packed with fans. He conquered the Beast at WrestleMania this year, felling Brock Lesnar with the Claymore to climb the WWE mountain at last as Universal Champion — six years after he was sacked as an under-performing comedy act. His dominant Royal Rumble victory very much set the tone for this year and he has since done very well on top of RAW, most recently kicking Randy Orton in the head on a weekly basis.
Highlight: Defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania.
10. Kota Ibushi – NJPW (2015 – 26, 2016 – 27, 2017 – 49, 2018 – 14, 2019 – 6)
Ibushi’s year has been one of ups, downs. The Golden Lovers finally finished, Ibushi moved up in the singles ranks with a win in the G1 Climax in 2019, and would face Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Title on January the 4th 2020. However, not only would he lose to Okada but Jay White on the 5th as well. With no singles direction, he returned to the tag ranks with Hiroshi Tanahashi, but Golden☆Ace was a stop-gap at best. He returned to singles where he shone again and took his second G1 Climax. Back on track, he would lose his title shot to White under controversial circumstances and Naito would offer him a January 4th shot at redemption.
Highlight: Promising to surpass God, has levelled out at minor deity.
9. Kazuchika Okada – NJPW (2015 – 14, 2016 – 20, 2017 – 2, 2018 – 3, 2019 – 3)
Having taken a back seat since Wrestle Kingdom to enable Tetsuya Naito to grow into the role of Ace he handled so well for so long, Okada is not the peak performer of old. His run in G1 30, outside of this year’s qualification period, showed that he can turn it on when he needs too. Okada is compelling for his match quality and his full-court press attitude. Everything Okada does matters. He got more of pop for returning to the short tights of old in 2019 than he did for some of his matches, he is the quintessential pro wrestler. Adapting a mix of Lucha, Strong Style and King’s Road storytelling allows him to adapt to his given role. He may not be at the top for a while, but eyes will always be on The Rainmaker.
Highlight: Competing in the Wrestle Kingdom Gold Rush.
8. AJ Styles – WWE (2015 – 8, 2016 – 1, 2017 – 4, 2018 – 10, 2019 – 27)
Highs don’t come without the lows, and the Phenomenal One has had his fair share of both. It doesn’t come much lower than being buried alive by the Undertaker, but AJ Styles bounced back, returned to SmackDown and captured the Intercontinental Championship. What’s more, he defeated Daniel Bryan, to capture the vacant Championship, in what has to be a match of the year candidate. While it’s been rare for Styles to appear on PPV this year, he has been in a number of standout matches on SmackDown this year, including bouts against Jeff Hardy and Matt Riddle. The triple threat ladder match against Hardy and Sami Zayn was an instant classic. Now back on RAW, Styles will likely be chasing the WWE Champion yet again.
Highlight: Winning the Intercontinental Championship on Friday Night Smackdown.
7. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW (2015 – 46, 2016 – 16, 2017 – 6, 2018 – 32, 2019 – 24)
The position he craved for so long seemingly came out of nowhere. Added to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 14 seemingly as an afterthought when they needed one more man to make up the four in the Double Championship tournament, he excelled at the final hurdle when so many times he had fallen before. Legally blind in one eye for most of 2019, he was a walking miracle of match quality. He has devoted his career to this main event run and looks unstoppable. Scrappy in a good way, his frantic offence beguiles fans and he is the most popular grappler New Japan has to offer. Forsaken in the past for his overly earnest approach, he found himself and found success. Tranquillo, baby. The world is at his feet.
Highlight: Twice holding the IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championships simultaneously.
6. Jon Moxley – AEW (2015 – 7, 2016 – 14, 2017 – 67, 2019 – 8)
Jon Moxley has done a complete 180 on his career. He’s gone from languishing in WWE to being the top champion in AEW and defending his belt against world-class competition. He exploded into AEW, targeted Kenny Omega and took their top title for himself. So far in his time, he has dethroned Chris Jericho, taking Kenny Omega to his extreme limit and become one of the most popular wrestlers in the whole world. He is also the current IWGP US Champion for New Japan Pro-Wrestling and an all-round wrestling badass. He has become one of the biggest examples of a fighting champion, never straying away from any opponent that may challenge him. As it stands, he seems unbeatable, only time will tell though.
Highlight: AEW Champion, NJPW US Champion.
5. Asuka – WWE (2016 – 31, 2017 – 10, 2018 – 9)
Asuka will go down in history as one of the people that saved WWE. She has almost single-handedly at times carried the company through thick and thin. She has dominated every women’s division and continuously put on high-class matches regardless of whether an audience has been in attendance. She is currently RAW Women’s champion and won the 2020 Women’s Money in the Bank. Her achievements range far beyond titles and trophies as the pandemic has proved she is not just an excellent competitor but also a powerful force of character. Asuka worked her arse off to make the pandemic era enjoyable and tackled the eerie atmosphere of the PC no-crowd shows with glee and energy. 2020 was the year that proved Asuka was a Swiss Army Knife of talent helping cement her as one of the people that helped WWE survive one of the roughest times in the world’s history.
Highlight: 2xRAW Women’s Champion, WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion.
4. Adam Cole – WWE (2015 – 36, 2016 – 21, 2017 – 32, 2018 – 25, 2019 – 4)
Adam Cole has been near flawless as one of, if not the top star in NXT ever since his arrival. He’s consistently produced great matches, oozed charisma, and played a great Flair Esq. heel (the bad guy you love) as the longest-reigning NXT Champion in history. However, 2020 may have been Cole’s most complete year since arriving in WWE. Not only did he continue leading the brand in his record-breaking NXT title reign up until July, he continued delivering classic matches (like his bout with Finn Balor), but he also showed his range in working with Pat McAfee. The verbal duals felt authentic between the wrestler and sports analyst, and Cole and McAfee played off each other brilliantly. Also, Cole, like a true professional and top talent, helped guide McAfee to one of the greatest celebrity matches in professional wrestling history. Adam Cole has undoubtedly been outstanding in 2020, “baby!”
Highlight: 2020 has been Cole’s most complete year.
3. Keith Lee – WWE (2017 – 58, 2018 – 61)
Highlight: Simultaneously holding the NXT and North American Championships.
2. Chris Jericho – AEW (2016 – 10, 2017 – 28, 2018 – 22, 2019 – 11)
From winning the inaugural AEW Championship at All Out, Chris Jericho has dominated Dynamite alongside his cohorts in The Inner Circle, having absolute belters with the likes of Cody Rhodes, Scorpio Sky, Jungle Boy, and Orange Cassidy, and that’s not even including the absolutely insane Stadium Stampede match at Double or Nothing.
Although he lost the title to Jon Moxley in February, Jericho continues to be a star attraction on Dynamite, arguably having the best year of his career from a character perspective and continuing to deliver in the ring even when paired with younger, more athletic dance partners. In many respects, Jericho has been the foundation on which AEW has built its initial success and he continues to help elevate the up-and-coming talent within the company while maintaining his value, as any truly great veteran should, and clearly relishing his newfound creative freedom in the process.
Highlight: Starting off the year as AEW Champion.
1. Cody Rhodes – AEW (2017 – 11, 2018 – 8, 2019 – 10)
Finally, we can use his full name. But just because he’s only been going by half a moniker for the last four years, don’t assume for one second he has ever been half the man. Last year, in our 2019 list, I said Cody Rhodes was the ace of the industry. The problem is, he didn’t win, and now I wish I didn’t blow my best line on when he was a runner up. Still, though, that ace line is even truer today than it was 12 months ago. Cody is an even greater wrestler, promo, showman, and storyteller in 2020 than he was in 2019. But even more than that he is a promoter. Under his influence, AEW has been the definitive wrestling promotion of the COVID era, making a constant stream of content while remaining responsible enough, that while there have been COVID incidents, there have been no COVID disasters. All the while Cody himself has excelled. His premiership of the newly introduced TNT title, both heroically won and magnanimously lost, has had people wondering which really is the top title in AEW right now. Through his generosity, its challengers have gone from relative unknowns to fan-favourite warriors, and one, Eddie Kingston, even becoming a main-event title contender. The roster under Cody Rhodes feels stronger and deeper and richer than ever. And when you’re so good you make a whole company seem like a pantheon of superhuman demi-gods, that makes you Wrestler of the Year.
Highlight: 2xAEW TNT Champion.
Photos courtesy of WWE, AEW, NJPW1972, DDT Pro, World Wonder Ring Stardom, Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling, Sendai Girls, Defiant Pro Wrestling, Basil Mahmud, Impact Wrestling & Rickey Shane Page