Daily DDT End of Year Awards: AEW wins Promotion of the Year

All Elite Wrestling
All Elite Wrestling /

The Daily DDT writers voted on the 2021 End of Year Awards and voted All Elite Wrestling as the wrestling promotion of the year.

New acquisitions

While one company had 10 talent releases between April 2020-January 2022. With so much talent being released, it’s only natural that some would up in AEW.

These wrestlers became #ALLELITE in 2021:

  • Ethan Page
  • Lio Rush
  • Andrade El Idolo
  • Jade Cargill
  • CM Punk
  • Ruby Soho
  • Adam Cole
  • Bryan Danielson
  • Kiera Hogan
  • Lee Moriarity
  • Jay Lethal
  • Bobby Fish
  • Kyle O’Reilly

The Forbidden Door

Thanks to the Forbidden Door, some NJPW talent competed in AEW. KENTA, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, and Minoru Suzuki made their debuts. The women had a Women’s Championship Eliminator Tournament that took place in the US and Japan. Maki Itoh, Ryo Mizunami, Veny, Rin Kadokura, and Mei Suruga all made their debuts in the company. The tournament saw the return of Aja Kong, Emi Sakura, and Yuka Sakazaki.

Of course, there was AEW’s involvement with IMPACT Wrestling. More on that later.

Return of CM Punk

In one of the biggest moments in all of pro wrestling, CM Punk made his long-awaited return to the squared circle. It was the worst kept secret by design. A week prior, AEW debuted its second television show, Rampage. In the second episode, the “Second City Saint” made his return in his hometown of Chicago. In his 18 minute segment, he spoke about why he was away for so long. He put over Britt Baker, said he was back to wrestle a new generation of wrestlers, set a record for highest-selling t-shirt, sold his dream ice cream bars, and declared he was returning to PPV action against Darby Allin. Punk’s return was voted Moment of 2021.

Women finally main event

At the inaugural St. Patrick’s Day Slam, Britt Baker faced Thunder Rosa in an unsanctioned Lights Out- Anything Goes match. This match was herstoric for three reasons–it was the first time women main evented, the first unsanctioned women’s match, and the first women’s match to include weapons.

Baker has gone on to main event three more times.

The Belt Collector

Although Omega won the AEW World Championship in 2020, he became The Belt Collector in 2021. In 2019, he won the AAA Mega Champions title from Rey Fénix. He and “The Invisible Hand” Don Callis used the Forbidden Door to go to IMPACT Wrestling. Omega teamed up with his former Bullet Club brethren, The Good Brothers, for a series of matches. He beat Rich Swann for the IMPACT World Championship in a Winner Takes All match at IMPACT’s Rebellion pay-per-view. Omega successfully defended the IMPACT title against Sami Callihan. He eventually lost the IMPACT Championship to Christian Cage on the debut episode of Rampage. 

As a multi-champion, he helped IMPACT have their best-selling pay-per-view in seven years at Hard to Kill. They also had some of their highest viewed episodes when Omega was appearing. While the Forbidden Door would’ve been better served by having women go between the two promotions, it was a fairly successful endeavor.

AEW pay-per-views continue to deliver

AEW was the first major wrestling promotion to have a pay-per-view with fans with Double or Nothing.  It’s also the show where Britt Baker became the AEW Women’s Champion.

All Out changed the landscape of the entire company. It was a monumental pay-per-view for various reasons. CM Punk had his first pay-per-view match in seven years against Darby Allin. During the Women’s Casino Battle Royale, Ruby Soho made her not-so-surprising debut. The fans got a surprise when Minoru Suzuki showed up to confront Moxley.

In the show’s closing moments, Adam Cole came to the aid of his good friends (and murderers) The Elite. He Superkicked Jungle Boy and celebrated with his friends. Moments later, Bryan Danielson made his debut to help Jurassic Express and Christian Cage.

Omega lost his second championship at Full Gear to Hangman Page. This was a story that had been told for two years and finally came to a culmination in one of the company’s biggest stories. After this loss, Omega left to take time off for various injures. Thus, he forfeited the AAA Mega Championship and ended his run as “The Belt Collector”.

Next. 2021 Show of the Year: AEW ALL OUT. dark

These are only a few highlights that happed in AEW in 2021. One thing that they should be commended for is that they did not fire anyone during a global pandemic. Even with all of the challenges that the pandemic has brought, they found a way to keep people employed and still added excellent talent to its roster.

For all the of the positives, they are some things to improve on. The women’s division needs more attention. There needs to be at least two women’s matches per episode of Dynamite and not just once in a while, but weekly. Women need storylines, to develop their characters, and TV time. This has been a reoccurring issue since the company’s inception.

They need to do a better job of inclusion. Inclusion is different than diversity. The situation with Big Swole was handled horribly and for many people, lost a lot of good will towards the company and in particular, Tony Khan. Moving forward, they have to be open to constructive criticism from former talent and need to handle it better than sending out petty tweets.

AEW is moving into Year Three and has a lot of momentum to build on. They have the talent and just need to continue to execute it. Hopefully, they’ll work on some of the bigger issues in the coming year and be on their way to winning promotion of 2022.