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.
It’s our last award for most outstanding wrestler 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 +
Most Outstanding Wrestler
Sam Schipman: Kenny Omega
“The Belt Collector” was one of this year’s best stories. Omega held the AEW World Championship, IMPACT World Championship, & AAA Mega Championship simultaneously (he actually won this title in October 2019, but COVID kept him from defending it in Mexico). He became one of wrestling’s best heels along with his manager, “The Invisible Hand”, Don Callis.
At IMPACT, Omega wrestled a handful of trios matches with the Good Brothers. It wasn’t until April that he defeated Rich Swann for the title. He defended the Impact Championship against Moose, Sami Callihan, and Christian Cage.
Omega defended his title against PAC, Orange Cassidy, Jon Moxley, Cage, and Hangman Page. While Omega had great matches all year, nothing comes close to his non-title match with Bryan Danielson. It was a dream match for the ages and surpassed the hype. Two of the best wrestlers in the world battled it out in a 30 minute time-limit draw in one of, if not the, match of the year.
Omega also defended and retained the AAA Mega Championship against Andrade El Idolo. He eventually vacated it due to injuries. Besides his excellent matches, Omega became one of the best heels in the business. He’s always been known for excellent character work, but he really solidified it by going to another level. And he did all of it while battling multiple injuries and vertigo. Can you imagine how much more dominant he would’ve been at 100%?
Mike Gilbert: Kenny Omega
I think when we look back at Kenny Omega’s 2021, it will go down as one of the single most outstanding years in a wrestler’s career in history. Omega wrestled in 19 matches that were rated four stars or higher. Two matches were awarded five stars with his final match of the year earning five and one-half stars. What makes his year more incredible is he took his consistent match quality to AAA in Mexico and to IMPACT Wrestling in front of very little-to-no-fans. In the case of IMPACT his three pay-per-view matches scored no less than four-and-a-quarter stars. His match at Rebellion against Rich Swann led to the pay-per-view being the most purchased show in the company since 2011.
Steven Conway: Shingo Takagi
Takagi began the year with the NEVER Openweight Title, beating Jeff Cobb in a tremendous match on night two of Wrestle Kingdom and was brilliant throughout the year. New Japan leaned heavily on him. He went to the finals of the New Japan Cup and had great matches throughout the G1 tournament. His match against Will Ospreay at Dontaku was nearly my match of the year. When Ospreay’s reign as World Heavyweight Champion was interrupted due to injury and travel restrictions, New Japan put its faith in Takagi and he delivered, with great performances working with Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, EVIL and Zach Sabre Jr. In 2021, Shingo cemented his place as my favorite wrestler to watch.
Skylar Russell: Jonathan Gresham
Despite not having the national attention on him that a Kenny Omega or Roman Reigns is afforded, I’m of the firm belief that Gresham is the best wrestler on the planet. The combination of the way he carries himself and his brand with his superb wrestling ability makes him stand out of a crowd of today’s wrestlers who can seem very similar at times.
C.J. Tappin: Bryan Danielson
Daniel Bryan was in the fantastic WrestleMania XXXVII main event with Roman Reigns and Edge, as well as other solid singles bouts against Reigns. Fast forward to late August and the American Dragon returns with Bryan Danielson’s debut in AEW. Danielson’s run in just the last four months of the year can be stacked up against anyone’s full calendar year. We got a dream match with Minoru Suzuki, a 30-minute draw with Kenny Omega, and a one-hour draw with Hangman Page just to name a few.
Scott Edwards Jr.: Syuri
It’s not secret to joshi fans how good Syuri has always been in her career but 2021 saw a different side of her come out. Not only was she the best wrestler in Stardom with outstanding performance after outstanding performance but she managed to help smash open the window for eyes worldwide to take a look at what Stardom was doing. Her match with Utami Hayashishita will be one that goes down as one of the very best all year in anyone’s book, let alone a Stardom fan’s. Syuri has the accolades of holding the SWA World Championship all year, capturing the Goddess of Stardom Tag Team Championship and ultimately winning the 5 STAR Grand Prix. It was the finals of the 5 STAR Grand Prix that Syuri gave the best single night performance I have ever seen as her matches with Takumi Iroha and Momo Watanabe were two of the best you’ll see all year in the world of joshi. Every time she stepped into the ring, no matter it being singles or tag team, you expected greatness. There was no one more outstanding than Syuri this year.