#3. Cody Rhodes
It has been quite a year for the American Nightmare. Cody became the inaugural TNT champion and was the first wrestler in AEW to hold a title a second time. It also can not be understated the work he did in bringing prestige to the TNT Title by defending it on a weekly basis in the open challenge as well. Cody had one of the best Dynamite matches to date when he battled Mr. Brodie Lee in a dog collar match to regain the TNT title. Cody is still one of the best promos in all of wrestling and yes, he even got his last name back.
As great as all of this is, Cody’s biggest contribution this year was putting over other talents. Rhodes consistently defended the TNT title against young up and coming talent both in AEW as well as established performers from the independent circuit. The casual wrestling fan may not have heard the names, Ricky Starks, Eddie Kingston, and Warhorse before they were introduced to them during Cody’s open challenge but came away impressed with all three after. Cody’s long-term storytelling with Darby Allin is one of the best things AEW has done to date. Having Cody, who has been very arrogant in matches and promos the majority of the year, dropping down to a knee and handing Darby Allin the TNT Championship was a clear sign that Allin had arrived and had earned Cody’s respect.
What the future holds for Cody remains to be seen. The TNT Title should be chased by those considered to be the future of AEW, such as Jungle Boy, Ricky Starks, Sammy Guevara, and Orange Cassidy, just to name a few. Rhodes can also no longer vie for the AEW World Title due to a stipulation loss to Chris Jericho. So while his future remains uncertain, it is clear that 2020 was a banner year for Cody Rhodes.
#2. Jon Moxley
AEW World Champion for over nine months. Check. Number 1 wrestler in the world according to the PWI 500. Check. A constantly improving promo game that has lifted him to new heights. Check.
Despite dropping the AEW World Championship on last week’s Dynamite this has been a year to remember for Jon Moxley. Mox has defended his title against some of the biggest, toughest and best that AEW has to offer. After beating Pac in a number one contender’s match Mox went on to dethrone Chris Jericho and Revolution earlier this year. From there Mox defended his title regularly and defeated the likes of Jake Hager, Mr. Brodie Lee, Brian Cage, Darby Allin, MJF, Lance Archer, and Eddie Kingston.
While Moxley’s matches were impressive on their own, he has also elevated his storytelling and promo game to new heights. Every one of his title defenses was built up as well as they could have been, and in large part to the mic work of Jon Moxley. His face to face verbal confrontation with Eddie Kingston, who is known for his work on a microphone, was some of the most spirited back and forth we have seen in the short history of AEW. And as good as Kingston was, (and he is extremely good) Mox matched him. Not having fans in the arenas for the majority of the year made Mox’s ability to tell a story in and out of the ring so crucial for AEW as it helped lead to more pay-per-view buys and higher Dynamite viewership.
Jon Moxley is a veteran and has seen both the highs and the lows of the wrestling business. It is hard to believe that two years ago he was losing matches to EC3 and Elias and sticking himself in the rear end with needles on Raw. Mox is truly an example of what proper booking and hard work can achieve.