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2021 Pro Wrestling Awards – Match of the Year

2021 match of the year

We’re doing the Fight Game Media Awards a little differently this year. We’ve reshuffled the deck on the pro wrestling side and added new writers who have been writing consistently for this website, or who will become more prolific for us in 2022. We’re also breaking up the awards into multiple posts.

Next is the award for match of the year. But first, here’s the voting panel:

Sam Schipman: Contributor for Daily DDT and wrote her debut post for Fight Game Media
Mike Gilbert: Writes the Brace for IMPACT column and hosts the Brace for IMPACT podcast
Steven Conway: Writes about WWE for Fight Game Media
Skylar Russell: Writes about many different wrestling promotions for Fight Game Media
C.J. Tappin: Writes the Weekend Exit Survey for Fight Game Media and hosts the One Hour Broadway podcast
Scott Edwards Jr.: Writes the Five Star Joshi column for Fight Game Media and hosts the Five Star Joshi Show for Fight Game Media Network +

Match of the Year

Sam Schipman: Britt Baker Vs. Thunder Rosa (3/17/21)
This was such a stacked category and took me a long time to make a decision. I rewatched several matches from my MOTY list, plus one I’d missed the first time around. This was the last match I rewatched.

This match was historic for three reasons.
1. It was the first time women main evented in AEW.
2. It was the first unsanctioned women’s AEW match.
3. It was the first AEW women’s match to involve weapons.

Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa was an instant classic. The image of Baker smiling with a bloody face is already iconic. 

This match solidified Baker as a star. She had come such a long way from her early promos. Thunder Rosa is a legit badass and future champion (and the woman I still believe will dethrone Baker). Also, shoutout to Rebel for playing her part perfectly. 

These two women proved that women are ratings draws and can do what the men do (and sometimes better). When fans look back at classic/best/favorite AEW matches, Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa will be on those lists. 

Mike Gilbert: Jeff Cobb Vs Shingo Takagi (1/5/21)
There were so many fantastic matches this year and there were so many that were more high profile than this one, but this for me was the most enjoyable. These two had their feet on the gas the entire match. It was fast paced, hard hitting, and most importantly it did not overstay its welcome, clocking in at around 20 minutes. Everything they did in the match felt important and I was on the edge of my seat thinking it could end at any moment. The match elevated both men as Takagi would go on to win the IWGP championship and Cobb has become one of the top foreigners in the company. 

Steven Conway: Kota Ibushi Vs. Jay White (1/5/21)
This match, which went 48:05, telling a gripping story all the way through. Ibushi’s emotional performance and White’s career-best day had many involved in tears at the end, from performers to announcers to fans. Headlining night two of an event like Wrestle Kingdom is a big ask, and both of these men were up to the challenge.

Skylar Russell: Ilja Dragunov Vs. WALTER (8/22/21)
My match of the year rankings are definitely close, but I can’t bring myself to award it to any match that isn’t Ilja Dragunov vs. WALTER from Takeover 36. The intensity in this match was unlike most WWE matches. Just twenty two full minutes of two rivals beating the soul out of one another. The end result, which saw Dragunov end the 870 day NXT UK Title Reign of WALTER, was a genuine surprise, which is appreciated in wrestling these days. 

C.J. Tappin: Kota Ibushi Vs. Jay White (1/5/21)
These guys went 48 minutes in an environment where fans can’t cheer or boo (this restriction plagued a lot of New Japan matches this year) but managed to have one of the best dramatic matches I’ve ever seen. This match exceeded their incredible G1 Finals match and, in my opinion, made Jay White as much as it certified Ibushi’s status as a dynasty wrestler. 

Scott Edwards Jr.: Utami Hayashishita Vs. Syuri (6/12/21)
There were countless match of the year contenders throughout this year ranging through multiple promotions but mine has been set since July. When Utami Hayashishita and Syuri squared off for the World of Stardom Championship, no one expected them to have the impact that they did after 43 minutes of action. Some might call it an all out war but what these two provided was a pro wrestling masterpiece, wrestling with every part of their being until there was nothing left at 43 minutes which is the longest match in Stardom history. It wasn’t a situation where you were left wanting more but rather stunned of how great the two competed. The world was talking about this one as it helped reawaken the joshi world to more than just the joshi fans. That’s impressive in it’s own right!

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