Best AEW Matches Part 1
Best AEW TV Matches of 2021
AEW is often criticized for the quality of their matches and sometimes the criticism is justified. Since its inception in 2019, there have been plenty of times we’ve seen the company make ridiculous booking decisions, some of which have had long-lasting effects on the talent involved. Yet for a company that has only been around since 2019, AEW has given us more than its fair share of great matches and it’s important we remember the good, and not just focus on the bad.
At the end of 2020, I posted a list of the twenty best AEW matches of the year. Since I received a ton of positive feedback about the article, I’ve decided to do it again. What follows is a list of the 20 best AEW matches of 2021 split into two parts. This first part focuses on the best AEW matches of 2021 that were televised. The second half of the list focuses on the best pay-per-view matches of 2021. Enjoy!
Jon Moxley, Rey Fenix & PAC vs. Kenny Omega & The Good Brothers (AEW Dynamite, February 3)
Shaq and Jade Cargill vs. Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet (AEW Dynamite, March 3, 2021)
Darby Allin vs Miro (AEW Dynamite, March 12, 2021)
Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson (AEW Dynamite, May 12th)
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs Dante Martin & The Sydal Brothers (AEW Dynamite, August 11th)
Ortiz & Santana vs FTR (AEW Dynamite, September 1, 2021)
Sting, Darby Allin, and CM Punk vs. MJF and FTR (Dynamite, December 22)
Best AEW Matches Part 1
15. Orange Cassidy & Chuck Taylor Vs Miro & Kip Sabian
AEW Dynamite (April 1, 2021) | Arcade Anarchy Tag Team Match
Let’s face it, the storyline between these men was incredibly disappointing, to say the least. It overstayed its welcome, misused the talents of Bulgarian brute, and alienated any wrestling fans who didn’t care about video games. Thankfully, it at least culminated with one of the most fun matches on Dynamite this year.
Orange Cassidy and Chuck Taylor of the Best Friends took on Miro and Kip Sabian in what they called Arcade Anarchy; a gimmick match in which arcade games surrounded the ringside area.
What made this match great was how it was the first AEW match that truly showcased Miro as a dangerous and dominant powerhouse. It was also full of creative, unique spots and featured a surprise return of Kris Statlander and Trent, with the latter driven to Daily’s Place by his mother, Sue, in her now-iconic white minivan. It wasn’t as great as the street fight between the Best Friends and Proud and Powerful in 2020, but this match featured one of the most satisfying endings to any episode of Dynamite to date.
14. Daniel Garcia vs. CM Punk
AEW Rampage (October 8, 2021)
Anyone who listens to Talk AEW knows I’m a huge fan of Daniel Garcia. At age 23, the man shows so much potential, and his match with CM Punk proved just why. This was easily Punk’s best match since his seven-year hiatus and Garcia is partly to thank for that. Both men shared great chemistry inside the ring and both men were able to tell a coherent story as well. Garcia of course wanted to prove he was better than the beloved veteran and Punk wanted to show the world that he could keep up with someone half his age.
I have to give credit to Tony Khan and AEW for allowing young guys like Garcia to participate in main events and also letting them go toe-to-toe with some of the more popular wrestlers. I’m sure Garcia was under pressure, but you wouldn’t know watching the match. Instead, he looked cool, calm and despite one or two hiccups, looked to be in full control. Let’s hope we one day see a rematch between these two!
13. Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page
AEW Dynamite (July 14, 2021) | AEW Fyter Fest Night Coffin Match
For the first time ever, two AEW stars collided in a Coffin Match as the face-painted antihero Darby Allin fought All Ego Ethan Page in the main event of the first night of Fyter Fest. Both men did an admirable job here, but it was the former TNT champion who stole the show. Not only did Allin take a huge bump by allowing Page to slam him on top of the steel steps via a Razor’s Edge from the top rope— but he won the match by locking Page inside the coffin, climbing the top rope, and knocking down his signature move while driving his body through the lid of the sealed casket. Talk about putting a nail in the coffin!
12. FTR vs. Sting and Darby Allin
AEW Dynamite (August 20, 2021) | AEW Grand Slam
I might be alone here, but one of the most fun wrestling matches to watch on free TV this year was the match between Darby Allin and Sting against Dax Hardwood and Cash Wheeler. It took place at AEW’s Grand Slam event at Arthur Ashe Stadium and proved that despite his age, Sting still has a lot in the tank.
It might not be a technical masterpiece like the match earlier that night between Brian Danielson and Kenny Omega but watching Sting tear up the ring was a total blast. Of course, one of the reasons this match is so good is because of the talented duo of FTR who can make any of their opponents look good, even if one of their opponents is in his sixties and clearly past his prime.
There were plenty of highlights too including Darby attempting a Coffin Drop on the apron and Sting landing a Stinger Splash shortly before applying the Scorpion Deathlock for the win.
11. Bryan Danielson vs. Eddie Kingston
AEW Rampage (October 29)
AEW kicked off their Halloween episode of Rampage with the semifinal bout in the World Championship Eliminator Tournament between The American Dragon Bryan Danielson and Eddie Kingston. This was a deliberately slow-paced hard-hitting match in which both men kicked and slapped the shit out of each other, but make no mistake, it was also one of the best matches of 2021.
This match might not be as high flying nor as action-packed as many other AEW matches but there’s no denying their passion and dedication to telling a great story and putting on a show. The level of intensity from both men was off the charts, so much so, it received a standing ovation. How many matches on Rampage can you say that about?
10. Andrade vs PAC
AEW Rampage (September 10, 2021)
After their match was rescheduled from All Out, Pac and Andrade El Idolo met in the ring during an episode of Rampage for their highly-anticipated showdown. And if you ask me, both men seemed intent on proving that their matched should have never been cancelled in the first place. Despite wrestling on the Friday night show, Pac and El Idolo delivered a match worthy of a pay-per-view. Hell, they also almost killed each with several dangerous spots from the top rope including a devastating brainbuster and a nifty reverse hurricarana. This is easily my favourite match on Rampage so far, and one of the best AEW matches of 2021.
9. Darby Allin vs Jungle Boy Jack Perry
AEW Dynamite (April 21, 2021)
aEW TNT Championship.
Two of my favourite wrestlers met in the ring for the TNT Championship on April 21st and despite not having fans in attendance due to the pandemic, it more than exceeded my expectations! Seriously, the showdown between these two young up-and-comers is easily one of the best AEW matches of 2021 and one of the best matches for the beloved TNT Championship to date. Allin and Jungle Boy absolutely tore the house down, delivering an intensely physical battle chockfull of near pinfalls, suicide dives, belly-to-belly suplexes, coffin drops, submission-based offense, and nail-biting suspense.
8. The Pinnacle vs The Inner Circle
MJF, Wardlow, Shawn Spears, Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood. The Inner Circle featured Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz.
AEW Dynamite (May 5, 2021) | Blood & Guts
After a 14-month delay, AEW finally delivered its first Blood & Guts match on May 5, 2021. It was the first major encounter between The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle, and it took place inside the confines of two rings surrounded by a steel cage. The match was unfortunately also surrounded by controversy and backlash as many wrestling fans were unhappy with what happened post-match. But this isn’t a list ranking controversies or post-match shenanigans— instead, this is a list ranking the best matches in AEW this year, and for my money, the Blood & Guts match belongs on this list. It featured plenty of memorable spots (mostly thanks to Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler who nearly stole the show) and some high-flying action by the always fearless Sammy Guevara. Even Jake Hager looked good here and it was also a showcase for Wardlow who delivered some devastating blows while manhandling all five of his opponents. Say what you will about Jericho obviously landing on a crash pad, Tony Khan gave fans a pay-per-view-worthy match but on free TV.
7. The Young Bucks vs. Death Triangle’s Pac and Rey Fenix
AEW Dynamite (April 14, 2021)
AEW Tag Team Championship Match
If you are having trouble remembering which match this is, don’t feel bad. It’s sometimes hard trying to keep up considering that all four of these men put on a clinic each and every time they step into the ring. This is the match that came after PAC & Rey Fenix earned their shot at the AEW World Tag Team Championships at AEW Revolution when winning the Casino Battle Royale. The match is remembered most for the moment in which the younger Jackson brother ripped Rey Fenix’s mask off to help him secure the win—which is probably the worst thing that could happen to a luchador as their masks are basically considered sacred. But the coolest moment came outside the ring when on the floor, Rey Fenix and Matt Jackson simultaneously delivered a crisp reverse hurricanrana on their opponents. This match might not be remembered as fondly as the cage match between The Lucha Bros. and the Young Bucks at All Out, but it’s hands down one of the best tag team matches of 2021.
6. Rey Fenix vs. Kenny Omega
AEW Dynamite (Jan. 6, 2021) New Year’s Smash Night 1
AEW World Title
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the match between Kenny Omega and Rey Fenix was the highlight of the first night of New Years’ Smash. Both men did exactly what everyone expected them to, delivering a pay-per-view-quality main event that featured some of the most innovative moves and sequences I’ve ever seen. Take for example the spot in the match where Fenix jumped off the turnbuckle, over Omega and hit a German Suplex. This match is nothing short of spectacular and the sort of match you’d want to revisit again soon. Add on the post-match finish which featured the unadvertised appearance of the Good Brothers, as well as an angry Jon Moxley (not to mention, the signature Bullet Club salute)— and what we have is one hell of a way to end an episode of Dynamite!
5. Brian Cage vs. Darby Allin
AEW Dynamite (Jan. 13, 2021) | New Year’s Smash Night 2
Regardless of how you feel about New Year’s Smash as a whole, the two-part special featured two great matches to cap off each episode of Dynamite: The Rey Fenix vs. Kenny Omega match on the first night and the Darby Allin vs. Brian Cage match on the second night. Of these two, the TNT championship match was by far my favourite.
Darby Allin promised an amazing match, and he delivered by participating in several dangerous spots such as having Brian Cage send the champ over the turnbuckle, outside the ring, and crashing through a table. And that was just the start of one of the most brutal matches of Dynamite yet. There was blood. There was chaos and there was plenty of high-flying action. After three straight powerbombs, Allin flipped the bird to Cage prompting The Machine to then powerbomb Allin out of the ring onto the entrance stage. Things weren’t looking good for Allin, but the champ remained defiant using his speed to his advantage; hitting back-to-back suicide dives and at one point nailing the Coffin Drop on Cage who was lying flat on the steel steps. With Team Taz feeling the pressure, Hook distracted the referee while Starks knocked Allin down onto the turnbuckles. From there, the lights went out, and out came Sting!
This match is a prime example of great booking and an even better example of great storytelling. It’s obvious Allin is no match for Cage but we all knew Darby Allin wasn’t going to lose since it was the first time, he was defending the title. AEW needed to find a way to make Cage lose without harming his reputation as being one of the most dominant big men in AEW. Thus the extended beatdown was necessary for anyone to take the match seriously.
We’ve seen bigger men destroy smaller men countless times in the past and every so often, a smaller guy manages to surprise his opponent and sneak away with a win. That’s exactly what we got here. In the end, Darby Allin scored a crucifix bomb off the turnbuckles to pin Cage and retain the TNT title. And so, despite Cage dominating the entire match, in wrestling, it only takes three seconds to secure a victory.
4. Jungle Boy Jack Perry vs. Dax Harwood
AEW Dynamite (Jan. 27, 2021)
I first set eyes on Jungle Boy Jack Perry when he made his debut on the inaugural Double or Nothing back in 2019. He didn’t have much time to showcase his skills since he was surrounded by 21 other wrestlers that participated in the pre-show Casino Battle Royale, but I remember immediately saying he would go on to be a huge star. Not long after, I saw him again in a great match (albeit short) with Chris Jericho, and later that year, his first match with MJF proved he had the in-ring talent and old-school mindset to match his good looks and undeniable charm. A year later, his second match with MFJ (again, at Double or Nothing) pretty much sealed the deal. And once Tony Khan purchased the rights to Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy” to use as Perry’s entrance music, it became clear that AEW was ready to push Perry in single’s competition. Fast forward to January 27, 2021, and Jungle Boy would meet Dax Harwood in a one-on-one bout that pretty much catapulted Perry into the spotlight.
I was confident Jungle Boy and Dax Harwood would have a decent match that night on Dynamite, but even as a longtime fan of Perry, I wasn’t prepared for how good it turned out to be. In fact, good isn’t the proper adjective to use when describing the match since the match is better than good— it’s great! The physicality, the slow build, and the psychology demonstrated throughout the match helped make it one of the best matches in the history of Dynamite.
Keeping Marko Stunt backstage and handcuffing Cash Wheeler and Tully Blanchard to Luchasaurus was a smart move since it allowed Jungle Boy to pick up a clean win in a hard-fought battle which featured plenty of highlights including Jungle Boy reversing a powerbomb and later landing two back-to-back German suplexes on Dax. There were plenty of near pinfalls and after a series of reversals, Jungle Boy locked on the snare trap submission hold for the win. Meanwhile, the post-match angle only added further fuel to FTR’s intensifying feud with Jurassic Express.
All in all, this match seemed designed to pave the way for Jungle Boy Jack Perry to become the face of the company. Separating Marko Stunt from the match and later watching FTR cut the horns off Luchasaurus’ mask signified the end was near for Jurassic Express. With the symbolism, the non-stop action, and the storytelling both in and out of the ring— Jungle Boy’s match with Dax Harwood will one day be seen as one of the most important matches in AEW history.
3. Thunder Rosa vs. Dr. Britt Baker
AEW Dynamite (March 17) | St. Patrick’s Day Slam Lights Out Match
Women’s Championship Match
The feud between Thunder Rosa and Dr. Britt Baker was one of the fiercest rivalries in AEW this past year. It was so intense, it built to a brutal unsanctioned ‘Light’s Out’ match featuring tables, ladders, chairs, kendo sticks, thumbtacks, and so much blood, it solidified Britt as the face of the women’s division.
Speaking of her face, the match also left a lasting image of Britt Baker that would flood the internet, overtake social media feeds, help sell a record number of wrestling t-shirts and somehow make everyone forget that she actually lost the match. Yes folks, despite losing to Thunder Rosa, Britt Baker completely stole the spotlight in what was Dynamite’s first main event featuring members of the women’s division.
The match itself was full of big spots and nail-biting suspense and sorry to say, it was far more memorable than the Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega ‘Light’s Out’ match from 2019. The wrestling world was put on notice that night as AEW proudly allowed two of their top talents to prove they deserved the spotlight, not to mention star in the main event. Needless to say, this was an important match for both women, but mostly Britt Baker, who overnight, went from star to superstar.
2. Hangman Page vs. Bryan Danielson
AEW Dynamite (December 15, 2021) | Winter is Coming
World Title Championship
For the second consecutive year, winter came to All Elite Wrestling, and kicking off the special episode of Dynamite was a blockbuster match featuring “Hangman” Adam Page defending the AEW World Title against top contender Bryan Danielson. It was one of the most hotly anticipated matches in recent memory and boy did it run long— 59 minutes and 56 seconds, to be exact.
Anyone who listens to our podcast Talk AEW knows that I wasn’t a fan of Tony Khan booking this match on free television because I felt the numerous commercial breaks interrupted the suspense and broke the tension built throughout the hour. That said, I did watch the match for a second time without commercial, and after a repeat viewing, I can’t deny that this is a Match of the Year candidate, rivaled only by Danielson’s battle with Kenny Omega which I’ve listed below.
Would I have preferred that this match was featured on a pay-per-view instead? The answer to that question is yes. Would I prefer the match also had a winner and didn’t end in a draw? The answer to this question is also yes. Still, I can’t deny that The American Dragon put on another masterclass, nor can I take anything away from Page, who was still able to hold his own, and for 60 minutes no less.
With this match, Danielson continued his hot streak, adding another incredible performance to his resume and proving once again that he is the best in the world.
1. Brian Danielson vs. Kenny Omega
AEW Dynamite (August 20, 2021) | Grand Slam
On August 20th, 2021, wrestling fans around the world got to see one of their dream matches play out at Arthur Ashe stadium in New York City. Of course, I’m referring to the opening match at AEW’s Grand Slam event which featured Bryan Danielson making his AEW debut, and wrestling Kenny Omega in what would turn out to be a 30-minute draw, in front of 20,177 fans— the biggest crowd in the history of AEW Dynamite. And what an amazing thirty minutes it was!
Danielson vs Omega is easily the best AEW match of 2021 and arguably the best match in the history of the company so far. We knew it would be great given the immense wrestling talent between the two men but somehow this match exceeded expectations of fans everywhere. Here’s a match that will be discussed, debated, studied, and talked about for generations to come thanks to their incredible in-ring talent and the story about two of the best wrestlers of their respective generations trying to prove their claim to the best in the world. It was a simple story but nevertheless, it didn’t stop the match from having a big fight feel. The pacing, in-ring work, and atmosphere were pretty much perfect. And yes, not having a winner didn’t detract from this at all; instead, it left fans thirsty for the eventual rematch.