TOP 22 WRESTLERS OF 2021

2021 has come and gone and it was another interesting year in wrestling.

We entered the year hunkered down from the pandemic of 2020.  Wrestlemania 37 brought in a limited live crowd, but it wasn’t until summer when audiences really started to return and shows started to feel like shows again.

Still – from empty arenas to packed out stadiums, there were 365 days of hard hitting action across the world for us all to enjoy.

When it comes to the wrestling landscape, AEW continues to gain ground as the #2 wrestling company.  The gap between AEW and WWE is still considerable, but AEW has made advances.

Elsewhere, ROH seems to be closing up shop.  Minus the buzz around the Final Battle: End of an Era PPV, there wasn’t much to get excited about in what may have been the company’s final year.  NXT is in an odd transition state as well, shuffling out most of its previous stars in favor of the new 2.0 generation. There are no ROH or NXT wrestlers in the Top 22 this year. NXT, which used to a hotbed for wrestling talent, only has two current starts in the Top 100.

While New Japan still seems to be finding their post-covid footing, Impact Wrestling has taken advantage of a cross-promotional relationship this year with AEW.  Who would’ve thought there was still life in the former TNA 20 years later?

With all of these companies, plus GCW, the NWA, MLW, and more – all vying for eyeballs, is it possible there’s too much wrestling in 2022? Are present-day fans faced with so much wrestling content coming from so many different places that it’s impossible for any one person to stand out?

It’s hard to say if that’s the case, especially when looking at those who stood out on this list.  They all certainly deserve a top honor of some sort.

So here it is! Check out our by-the-numbers list of the Top 22 below!

Note: Rankings were calculated based on “Big Event” (PPV/iPPV/Special Show) appearances and main events and titles held. Emphasis was placed on larger organizations over smaller organizations based on Google analytics for each organization.

#22 SASHA BANKS

Legit Boss
  • Entered 2021 as the Smackdown Women’s Champion.  Held the title going into her history-making first night main event of Wrestlemania 37, where she lost to Bianca Belair.  It was the first time in Mania history that two Black wrestlers faced off in the main event, and won an ESPY Award for Best WWE Moment.
  • Returned in the summer to first team with Belair and then challenge her for the Smackdown Women’s Title at SummerSlam.  Unfortunately, the match never happened because Banks was pulled from the match on the day of the event and replaced by Becky Lynch.
  • Returned again to challenge Belair and Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch at the Crown Jewel ebent in Saudi Arabia.  Banks was unsuccessful in regaining the title.

#21 EDGE

Cutting Edge
  • Made his return from injury at the Royal Rumble, entering #1 and lasting the entire match to earn his second Rumble victory.
  • Challenged Roman Reigns for the Universal Title at Wrestlemania 37.  The match – which turned into a triple threat with Daniel Bryan – main evented the second night of the show.
  • Was unsuccessful in a main event rematch with Reigns at Money In The Bank.
  • Moved on to a feud with Seth Rollins, which culminated in a hellacious Hell In A Cell match that opened Crown Jewel.  The clash was named WWE’s Match of the Year.

#20 CESARO

Swiss Cyborg
  • Turned face early in 2021 and entered into a feud with Seth Rollins.  The two had a show-stealing match at Wrestlemania 37, where Cesaro came out victorious.
  • Finally ascended to the top of the pecking order of WWE, scoring a main event Universal Title match against Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania: Backlash.
  • Reignited his feud with Rollins, but was unable to score another victory in rematches at Hell In A Cell and on Smackdown.

#19 CHRIS JERICHO

The Inner Circle
  • Spent most of the year leading The Inner Circle in a bitter war with MJF’s The Pinnacle. The two factions faced off in the first ever Blood & Guts Match on the Dynamite Blood & Guts special.
  • Led The Inner Circle to a Stadium Stampede victory over The Pinnacle in the main event of Double Or Nothing.
  • After the much-talked-about Labors Of Jericho, finally put an end to his feud with MJF with a win at All Out.

#18 CHARLOTTE FLAIR

The Queen
  • Started the year as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions with Asuka.  The pair lost the straps to Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler at the Royal Rumble, thanks to interference from Charlotte’s own father, Ric Flair.  The two would soon part ways.
  • Began a quest for the Raw Women’s Championship, but came up unsuccessful multiple times in the first part of the year.  This includes being pulled from Wrestlemania 37 after a positive covid test.  Finally defeated Rhea Ripley to win the belt at Money In The Bank, beginning her 5th reign.
  • Was drafted from Raw to Smackdown in the 2021 WWE Draft and forced to swap the Raw Women’s Title with Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch.  It didn’t go well.  Defeated Becky in a brutal Champion vs Champion match at Survivor Series, ranked one of the Top 5 WWE matches of 2021.

#17 HIROSHI TANAHASHI

The Ace
  • Defeated Shingo Takagi for the NEVER Openweight Title at The New Beginning in Nagoya.  The win made Tanahashi just the 4th Triple Crown Champion in NJPW history.
  • After being knocked out of the New Japan Cup, feuded with Jay White. This culminated in a main event match at Wrestling Dontaku where Tanahashi lost the NEVER Openweight Title.
  • Defeated Lance Archer at the Resurgence PPV to win the IWGP United States Title, becoming the first ever Japanese wrestler to hold that belt.  This also made Tanahashi the 2nd NJPW Grand Slam Champion.

#16 RHEA RIPLEY

The Nightmare
  • Runner-up in the women’s Royal Rumble match, lasting nearly 40 minutes before being eliminated last by winner Bianca Belair.
  • Made her Raw debut in March. Challenged Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 37, where Ripley won the title.  Held the title for 98 days before dropping it to Charlotte Flair at Money In The Bank.
  • With Nikki A.S.H., defeated Natalya & Tamina for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles on the September 20th Raw.

#15 JON MOXLEY

Death Rider
  • Entered the year feuding with Kenny Omega to regain the AEW World Championship.  Was unsuccessful in a memorable Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch main event at the Revolution PPV.
  • Held the IWGP United States Title for over 200 days in 2021. Lost the belt to Lance Archer in a Texas Death Match at Night 2 of the Dynamite Fyter Fest special.
  • Formed a successful tag team with Eddie Kingston.  Together they defeated Suzuki-gun’s Archer & Minoru Suzuki in the main event of the Rampage Grand Slam special.

#14 RICH SWANN

Undisputed Champion
  • Entered the year as Impact World Champion. Unified the Impact and TNA World Titles by defeating Moose in the Sacrifice main event.
  • Feuded with AEW interloper Kenny Omega, which saw Swann lose the Impact Title in the Rebellion PPV main event.
  • Formed a tag team with Willie Mack and began a feud with The Good Brothers over the Impact Tag Team Titles.  The pair have as yet to be successful in winning the belts.

#13 SHEAMUS

Celtic Warrior
  • Kicked off the year by literally kicking Drew McIntyre right in the head, ending their long friendship.  The pair feuded for the first months of the year, with Sheamus unable to defeat the Scottish Psycopath in matches at Raw and the Fastlane PPV.
  • Defeated Riddle for the United States title at Wrestlemania 37 in a highly physical match. Kept challengers at bey in his US Open Challenges for 132 days until losing to Damian Priest at Summerslam.
  • Was drafted from Raw to Smackdown in the 2021 WWE Draft.  Formed a tag team with rookie Ridge Holland, who looks upon the Celtic Warrior as the legend that he truly is.

#12 SHINGO TAKAGI

Dragon
  • NJPW’s top star and Dave Meltzer 5-star favorite, Takagi kicked off 2021 as NEVER Openweight Champion before dropping the title to Tanahashi in The New Beginning in Nagoya main event.
  • Made it to the finals of the New Japan Cup tournament, but lost to Will Ospreay in the finals.  Challenged Ospreay for the IWGP World Title in the Wrestling Dontaku main event, but was unsuccessful.
  • After Ospreay vacated the IWGP World Title due to injury, Takagi defeated the legendary Kazuchika Okada to win the vacant championship at Dominion 6.7.

#11 RK-BRO

The Viper & The King of Bros
  • The unlikely tag team of Randy Orton and Riddle formed after Wrestlemania 37, with The Viper turning face to play the straight man to Riddle’s King of Bros character.  The duo won the Raw Tag Team Championship from AJ Styles & Omos at SummerSlam.
  • Defeated Smackdown Tag Team Champions the Usos in a champion vs champion match at Survivor Series.
  • At Survivor Series, Orton wrestled in his 177th PPV match, breaking the record previously held by Kane for most all-time PPVs.

#10 BIG E

Y’all wanna go big, then say that!
  • Started off the year as Intercontinental Champion after defeating Sami Zayn on the Christmas episode of Smackdown.
  • Had hot feuds with both Zayn and Apollo Crews before dropping the IC title to Crews in a Nigerian Drum Fight at Wrestlemania 37.
  • Won the Money In The Bank Ladder Match, becoming the first Black wrestler to hold the briefcase.
  • Though a Smackdown competitor, cashed in his MITB contract against Bobby Lashley on the September 13th Raw and won his first WWE Championship.
  • Was officially drafted to Raw in the 2021 WWE Draft.  Came up short against Universal Champion Roman Reigns in the champion vs champion main event at Survivor Series.

#9 SETH ROLLINS

The Visionary
  • Made his surprise return at the Royal Rumble, and then declared himself the leader of the Smackdown locker room.  Unfortunately, the locker room was not ready to be led by Rollins, leading to a long feud with Cesaro which saw Rollins ultimately come out on the winning side.
  • Cost Edge a potential Universal Title win by interfering in the Edge/Reigns main event at Money In The Bank.  Beat Edge in the feud ending match – a Crown Jewel Hell In A Cell encounter that was hailed as WWE’s Match of the Year.
  • Was drafted back to Raw in the 2021 WWE Draft.  Led the Raw team to victory in the Men’s Survivor Series match.  Rollins was the sole survivor.
  • Won a Raw Fatal Fourway Ladder Match over Kevin Owens, Rey Mysterio, and Finn Balor to become the #1 Contender for the WWE Title.  Was set to take on Big E at the Day 1 PPV, but KO and Bobby Lashley turned it into a Fatal Fourway.

#8 MOOSE

MOOSE!
  • After declaring himself the TNA World Heavyweight Champion in 2020, Impact finally recognized the belt as a sanctioned title in February.  Moose would put the TNA Title on the line against Impact World Champion Rich Swann in the Sacrifice main event.
  • In the main event of Under Siege, Moose won a Six-Way Match to become #1 Contender for the Impact World Title.
  • Faced Impact World Champion Kenny Omega at Against All Odds on the AEW home turf in Jacksonville.  Moose was unable to defeat Omega thanks to interference from The Young Bucks.
  • Dominated his feud with Eddie Edwards.
  • At Bound For Glory, won the Call Your Shot Gauntlet match, earning himself a match for any championship.  Moose cashed in later that night to defeat Josh Alexander for his first Impact World Title.

#7 AJ STYLES

Phenomenal
  • Challenged for the WWE Title in the Elimination Chamber, but ended up being eliminated last by Drew McIntyre.
  • Teamed with Omos to defeat the New Day for the Raw Tag Team Titles at Wrestlemania 37 in a dominating performance.  The win also made AJ a WWE Grand Slam Champion.
  • Dominated the Raw tag team division with Omos, successfully defending the titles over a 133 day reign that ended at SummerSlam thanks to RK-Bro.
  • After failing to regain the titles, his team with Omos deteriorated.  Omos turned on Styles late in the year to end the team.
  • AJ’s work in tag teams and singles, as well as his willingness to help bring up new talent like Omos, shows why he continues to be Phenomenal.

#6 BIANCA BELAIR

EST
  • Won the 2021 women’s Royal Rumble match after entering at #3 and lasting a record 56 minutes.  The win earned Belair a championship match at Wrestlemania.
  • Defeated Bianca Belair for the Smackdown Women’s Title in the Wrestlemania 37 Night 1 main event.  The historic match won an ESPY for Best WWE Moment and marked the first time two Black wrestlers main evented Wrestlemania.
  • Came out on the winning end of a feud with Bayley, which saw Bianca pick up victories at Wrestlemania Backlash and in a notable Hell In A Cell match.
  • Was scheduled to defend the Smackdown Women’s Title in a rematch with Sasha Banks at SummerSlam, but ended up losing the belt in short order to a returning Becky Lynch instead.
  • Was traded to Raw in the 2021 WWE Draft.  Was the sole survivor in the women’s Survivor Series match, and the first person to come back from a 4-on-1 situation to win.

#5 THE GOOD BROTHERS

BizCliz 4-Life
  • Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson made a huge splash when they appeared at AEW’s New Year’s Smash event, saving Kenny Omega from Jon Moxley.  Teamed with Omega to defeat Rich Swann, Chris Sabin, and Moose in the Hard To Kill PPV main event.
  • Came into 2021 as Impact World Tag Team Champions and carried the titles into March, when they lost the belts to FinJuice at Sacrifice.
  • Won the Impact Tag Titles a 2nd time in a Fourway match at Slammiversary.  Successfully defended the titles against teams like FinJuice, Bullet Club, and Violent By Design, and their reign continues into 2022.
  • Their fingerprints were all over the Throwback Throwdown II event, which featured both Impact and OVW talent portraying fictional 90’s characters.  Gallows’ Sex Ferguson lost to Santa Claus in the main event.
  • Will soon be breathing rare air as one of the few teams to hold the Impact World Tag Titles for over 300 combined days over the title’s 15-year history.

#4 BOBBY LASHLEY

The All Mighty
  • Walked into 2021 as the WWE United States Champion, but he lost the belt to Riddle in a Triple Threat Match with John Morrison at the Elimination Chamber PPV.  That same night, Lashley conspired with The Miz to attack Drew McIntyre, thus costing McIntyre the WWE Title in a Miz Money In The Bank Cash-In.
  • Defeated The Miz (three times) on the March 1 Raw to win his first ever WWE Title.
  • Defeated Drew McIntyre to retain the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 37.  Held off McIntyre again at Wrestlemania Backlash, and then again in Hell In A Cell.  Destroyed former champ Kofi Kingston at Money In The Bank.
  • Successfully defended the title against Goldberg via ref stoppage at SummerSlam.
  • Defeated Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and WWE Champion Big E all on the same Raw to earn his way into a WWE Title Fatal Fourway Match at Day 1.

#3 KENNY OMEGA

The Cleaner
  • Entered 2021 as the AEW World Champion, thanks to his new alliance with manager Don Callis.
  • At Impact’s Hard To Kill PPV, teamed with The Good Brothers to defeat Impact World Champion Rich Swann, Chris Sabin, &  Moose in the main event.
  • Defeated Jon Moxley in the AEW Revolution Exploding Barbedwire Death Match main event to retain the AEW Title. Also successfully defended the title in a triple threat against Pac and Orange Cassidy at Double or Nothing.
  • Defeated Rich Swann to win the Impact World Title at the Impact Rebellion PPV.
  • Lost the Impact World Title to Christian Cage on the debut episode of AEW Rampage, but defeated Christian to retain the AEW Title at All Out.
  • Was ranked #1 in the PWI 500 for the second time in his career.

#2 DREW MCINTYRE

Scottish Psychopath
  • Carried the WWE Title into 2021. Successfully defended the belt against Goldberg at the Royal Rumble.
  • Main evented the first ever WWE Superstar Spectacular show in India, teaming with The Indus Sher to defeat Jinder Mahal & The Bollywood Boyz.
  • Successfully defended the WWE Title in the Elimination Chamber main event against Randy Orton, Sheamus, Jeff Hardy, and Kofi Kingston.  Unfortunately, an attach by Bobby Lashley left him vulnerable to The Miz and a Money In The Bank Cash-In.
  • A long feud with Lashley led to some hard hitting matches, but McIntyre was unable to successfully wrestle the WWE Title off of the All Mighty.
  • Was sent to Smackdown in the 2021 WWE Draft, where he began building victories thanks to his Open Challenges.

#1 ROMAN REIGNS

Tribal Chief
  • Started, spent, and ended 2021 as WWE Universal Champion.
  • Successfully warded off challenges from Edge and Daniel Bryan, including smashing and stacking them both for the pinfall in the Wrestlemania 37 triple threat main event.
  • Sent Bryan packing for AEW in a career vs title match on Smackdown.
  • Defeated WWE legend John Cena in the SummerSlam main event, giving Reigns a 2-0 career record over Cena.
  • Defeated the returning Brock Lesnar in the main event of Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia.
  • Defeated WWE Champion Big E in the Champion vs Champion main event of Survivor Series.

Below, check out our entire Top 100 for 2021.

1 Roman Reigns
2 Drew McIntyre
3 Kenny Omega
4 Bobby Lashley
5 The Good Brothers
6 Bianca Belair
7 AJ Styles
8 Moose
9 Seth Rollins
10 Big E
11 RK-Bro
12 Shingo Takagi
13 Sheamus
14 Rich Swann
15 Jon Moxley
16 Rhea Ripley
17 Hiroshi Tanahashi
18 Charlotte Flair
19 Chris Jericho
20 Cesaro
21 Edge
22 Sasha Banks
23 Zack Sabre Jr.
24 Chris Sabin
25 Evil
26 Daniel Bryan
27 MJF
28 Ace Austin
29 Damian Priest
30 Sanada
31 New Day
32 Omos
33 Kazuchika Okada
34 Deonna Purrazzo
35 Kyle O’Reilly
36 Christian Cage
37 Taichi
38 Trey Miguel
39 El Desperado
40 Sami Zayn
41 Bandido
42 Natalya
43 Matt Cardona
44 Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.
45 Shayna Baszler
46 Santana & Ortiz
47 Kota Ibushi
48 Kevin Owens
49 Toru Yano
50 Jonathan Gresham
51 Josh Alexander
52 Tetsuya Naito
53 Eddie Edwards
54 The Young Bucks
55 Raquel Gonzalez
56 Darby Allin
57 Great-O-Khan
58 Dolph Ziggler
59 The Mysterios
60 Happy Corbin
61 El Phantasmo
62 Ricochet
63 Sami Callihan
64 Tasha Steelz
65 Tomohiro Ishii
66 Johnny Gargano
67 Hirooki Goto
68 Taiji Ishimori
69 Becky Lynch
70 Havok
71 Yoshi-Hashi
72 Brian Myers
73 Liv Morgan
74 Alexa Bliss
75 Jeff Hardy
76 Jeff Cobb
77 Adam Page
78 Pete Dunne
79 Yujiro Takahashi
80 Eddie Kingston
81 Tanga Loa
82 Sammy Guevera
83 The Miz
84 Joe Doering
85 Rhino
86 Rush
87 Yoshinobu Kanemaru
88 Braun Strowman
89 John Morrison
90 Dragon Lee
91 Finn Balor
92 Ruby Soho
93 Shinsuke Nakamura
94 Jungle Boy
95 Ethan Page
96 Sho
97 Jay Lethal
98 Carmella
99 Guerillas Of Destiny
100 Jinder Mahal

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