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My 15 Favorite Wrestling Shows of 2021

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

HELLO and welcome to my first annual year-end retrospective surrounding the great sport of professional wrestling. 2021 was an incredible year inside the squared circle, both here in the states and around the world, and as we count down the hours until the start of 2022, I thought it would be fun to highlight the best stuff I watched over the past 12 months.

Down below, I list my 15 favorite shows in chronological order, and then I included my superlatives from this year, including my favorite wrestlers, matches, and more. I've also included links to where you can find each of these shows if you choose to check them out for yourself.

There's so much to talk about, so let's dive right into it. Be sure to enter your email address at the bottom of this page so you don't miss out on future blog posts. Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: NJPW


New Japan kickstarted their 2021 campaign with yet another fantastic Wrestle Kingdom event. While I decided not to include the show's first night, as it didn't reach the necessary level for one of these lists, the second night certainly did. Most of the press following this show covered the excellent double belt main event match between Jay White and Kota Ibushi, but if you ask me, the battle between Jeff Cobb and Shingo Takagi for the NEVER Openweight Title more than quenched my appetite as a fan of the hard-hitting style synonymous with the promotion.

But my favorite thing about this year's Wrestle Kingdom, as it usually is, is how New Japan went all out on making the event as big and as important as they possibly could. Even with most of the Tokyo Dome devoid of fans thanks to COVID restrictions, the pageantry surrounding the event was still there in full force.

Highlights (Bold = Match of the Night):

  1. Jeff Cobb vs. Shingo Takagi (c) - NEVER Openweight Championship

  2. Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c) - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

  3. Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi (c) - IWGP Heavyweight Championship/IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Where to Watch: New Japan World

Photo Credit: Dramatic DDT


If you were to tell me that DDT of all promotions would populate this list more times than New Japan at the beginning of this year, I'm pretty sure that I'd say you were crazy. I had this notion that the company best known for employing human-sized dolls and holding matches in steam rooms and waterparks was nothing else but a comedy company and not at the same level as a serious promotion. But I come to you now with the knowledge that DDT is far more than it's often described.

In fact, DDT had a wonderful 2021 inside the ring, so much in fact that they rivaled New Japan as Japan's premier men's promotion over the past 12 months. Take this show from Valentine's Day as a chief example. Sure, there was a lot of comedy here, peaking with the excellent six-man mixed tag team match that featured everyone's favorite idol turned wrestler, Maki Itoh. That match was not just a hilarious match, but also well-paced and wrestled.

But it was when the show got serious when it earned its spot on this list. Between the fun, styles clash pitting the hard-hitting Yukio Sakaguchi with the high-flying Yuki Ueno for DDT's Universal Championship to the world title clash between titleholder Tetsuya Endo and one of the greatest wrestlers to ever do it, Jun Akiyama, this show not only made me reaccess my thoughts on DDT as a promotion, but it also made it one of my favorites to watch this whole year. Also, as you can see with the image above, KENTA KOBASHI was there!


  1. Chris Brookes, Maki Itoh, and Super Delfin vs. Keigo Nakamura, MAO, and Mirai Maiumi

  2. Yukio Sakaguchi vs. Yuki Ueno (c) - DDT Universal Championship

  3. Jun Akiyama vs. Tetsuya Endo (c) - KO-D Openweight Championship

Where to Watch: Wrestle Universe

Photo Credit: WWE


It's kind of sad to revisit this show, to be honest, because only a few months after this awesome show, NXT would be essentially destroyed by Vince McMahon and a new, lame version of NXT would be brought, all but killing Triple H's greatest creation and legacy (in wrestling). Even so, everything from KUSHIDA's clash with Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Championship to Finn Balor's NXT Championship defense against "The Bruiserweight" Pete Dunne helped make this edition of the "Takeover" series one worth remembering.


  1. KUSHIDA vs. Johnny Gargano (c) - NXT North American Championship

  2. MSK (Nash Carter and Wes Lee) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake and Zack Gibson) - Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final

  3. Pete Dunne vs. Finn Balor (c) - NXT Championship

Where to Watch: Peacock

Photo Credit: Stardom


Not to sound overly dramatic, but this list wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Stardom. I've historically fallen in and out of love with wrestling multiple for several years, mostly because I typically become jaded every couple of years. By the time this show came around, I was starting to feel like a break was needed as many of the favorite promotions weren't doing anything of interest to me.

Then I watched this event and all of those concerns disappeared entirely. This anniversary show succeeded on practically every level I care about. The action in the ring was exciting. The show featured characters I could easily gravitate to. And the storylines were genuinely gripping at their best. Watching Mayu Iwatani, one of wrestling's most likable people right now, be absolutely demolished by the monstrous Yoshiko, only to make a heroic comeback was enough for me to recommend this show. But the main event clash between Giulia and Tam Nakano in a hair match for the Wonder of Stardom title was enough for me to plead for people to check it out. It evangelized me not only as a Stardom fan but as a fan of shows that deserve more notoriety.

For the longest time this year, this was my number one show and is one that I hope to revisit later on down the road.


  1. Natsupoi vs. AZM (c) - High Speed Championship

  2. Mayu Iwatani vs. Yoshiko

  3. Saya Kamitani vs. Utami Hayashishita (c) - World of Stardom Championship

  4. Tam Nakano vs. Giulia (c) - Wonder of Stardom (Hair vs. Hair match)

Where to Watch: Stardom World

Photo Credit: TWM News


One year after Hana Kimura tragically took her own life, the wrestling world came together to celebrate her memory with this emotional show organized by Hana's mother Kyoko. Every match from the fun six-man tag featuring some of Hana's favorite wrestlers from her childhood to the main event pitting Hana's mentor Kagetsu and her best friend ASUKA (known as Veny in AEW) was wonderful. Every person on this card left their hearts in the ring from Hana's childhood schoolmate Ram Kaicho to her former Tokyo Cyber Squad teammates Death Yama-san and Konami.

But the real highlight of this show was the finale where we saw a moment that is worth way more than the words I could possibly write about it. Suffice to say, it was beautiful. Please, if you haven't watched this, take the time to check it out.



  1. Eisa8, HUB, and Shisaou vs. FUMA, Mil Mongoose, and Shota

  2. The "Irregular Battle Royal" featuring people like Chihiro Hashimoto, CIMA, Jinsei Shinzaki (FKA Hakushi in WWE), Masato Tanaka, Ram Kaicho, and many more.

  3. Oedo Tai (Hazuki and Kagetsu) and Tokyo Cyber Squad (Death Yama-san and Konami) vs. ASUKA (Veny in AEW), Mio Momono, and Donna del Mondo (Natsupoi and Syuri)

  4. Kagetsu vs. ASUKA

Where to Watch: FITE TV

Photo Credit: Dramatic DDT


What do you get when you announce a show that features matches from four completely different companies? You get this fantastic event from June 6th, the Cyberfight Festival. While it's fair to say that this show was pretty uneven in parts, as all these shows have rosters that vary in wrestling quality, everyone came to this event ready to show the masses what their brand is all about. This show has really grown on me over the past several months to the point where I firmly believe that it was one of the highlights this year.

If you have to watch any matches from this show, it would include the NOAH vs. DDT match featuring Kaito Kiyomoya and Yoshiki Inamura from NOAH and Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno from DDT, the hilarious Tokyo Joshi eight-woman tag, and finally the KO-D Openweight Title match between the beloved ace of DDT, HARASHIMA, and the legendary Jun Akiyama.


  1. Hyper Misao and Shoko Nakajima vs. Hakuchumu (Miyu Watanabe and Rika Tatsumi) vs. BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma and Yuki Aino)

  2. Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi and Yukio Sakaguchi), Akito, Naomi Yoshimura, Sanshiro Takagi, and Yukio Naya vs. Kongo (Hao, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenou, Manabu Soya, Nio, and Tadasuke)

  3. Kaito Kiyomiya and Yoshiki Inamura vs. 37KAMIINA (Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno)

  4. HARASHIMA vs. Jun Akiyama (c) - KO-D Openweight Championship

Where to Watch: Wrestle Universe

Photo Credit: Super Luchas


For any wrestling fan who doesn't watch Stardom (yet), which I expect is probably a few of you, this was the show that featured the now-legendary first clash between Syuri and Utami Hayashishita for the World of Stardom Championship. Not only was it my favorite wrestling match of 2021, but it may have done the impossible and uprooted the Bayley vs. Sasha Banks match from NXT Takeover: Brooklyn in 2015 as my favorite women's match ever. If you love the New Japan style and all that it entails, you will absolutely adore this over 40-minute war.

If you need any other reasond to watch this excellent show, I'd also recommend practically every match starting from the three-way tag team comedy match featuring the oddest of odd couples, former archrivals Giulia and Tam Nakano. That match perfectly compliments the next tag team clash, which was an incredibly dramatic battle between the ultimate good guy team STARS, and the evil group Oedo Tai. If you want to experience suspense distilled in a wrestling match, I'd recommend you watch that one. Finally, the finals of the annual Cinderella Tournament between Saya Kamitani and Maika was a fun watch as well.


  1. AZM and Natsupoi vs. Mina Shirakawa and Momo Watanabe vs. Giulia and Tam Nakano

  2. Rin Kadokura and Stars (Hanan, Koguma, Mayu Iwatani, and Starlight Kid) vs. Oedo Tai (Fukigen Death, Konami, Natsuko Tora, Ruaka, and Saki Kashima) - Ten Woman Elimination Tag Match

  3. Syuri vs. Utami Hayashishita (c) - World of Stardom Championship (My Match of the Year)

Where to Watch: Stardom World

Photo Credit: NJPW


Several months after they held the excellent Wrestle Kingdom two-night event, New Japan returns to the list with this exciting card held once again at the Tokyo Dome.

This show worked on so many levels for me, but the main reason everything worked was thanks to the action inside the ring. All but one match, which I don't even count as being on the card, worked for me on some level. Highlights included a tremendous tag team clash between Tetsuya Naito and SANADA of Los Ingoberables de Japon and the Dangerous Tekkers and a forgotten classic between Shingo Takagi and Hiroshi Tanahashi for the newly minted IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. If you want to see the very best in men's Japanese in-ring wrestling right now, New Japan still holds the undisputed title in my humble opinion.


  1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb

  2. Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) (c) - IWGP Tag Team Championships

  3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shingo Takagi (c) - IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

Where to Watch: New Japan World

Photo Credit: AEW


If I had the ability to forget one wrestling show from 2021 so that I could watch it again for the first time with a fresh set of eyes, there is no question that I would pick this seemingly random episode of AEW Rampage. That's because, as I'm sure you'd expect given the above picture, is because it featured the glorious arrival of one CM Punk to AEW. I'm not ashamed to say that there were some tears shed during that first segment because the "Voice of the Voiceless" as CM Punk called in WWE had returned to the sport he loved after being its most famous walkout for the better part of a decade.

If you've somehow not seen this show yet, I envy you so much right now. But please, check it out.


  1. Everything to do with CM Punk

Where to Watch: Punk's Entrance is HERE and Punk's promo is HERE

Photo Credit: AEW


Now here's a show that I don't think needs any introduction. AEW's All Out from this year was nothing short of extraordinary and easily the best pay-per-view the company has ever produced. There was so much to like during this show; Eddie Kingston and Miro put on a clinic for the TNT Championship, CM put on a remarkable performance in his first match in over seven years against the incredible Darby Allin, and Christian Cage surpassed all expectations I had in his match against Kenny Omega for the AEW World Title. The show's highlight inside the ring was undoubtedly the tag team classic between the Lucha Brothers and Young Bucks, a match I put up as my favorite cage match ever.

But of course, the real highlights were the surprises that AEW sprinkled throughout the broadcast. Three wrestlers who I absolutely love to watch all came out to mammoth reactions by the AEW fans. First, it was Minoru Suzuki, who came out dressed to kill, and I mean actually kill, Jon Moxley after the former AEW World champ defeated Satoshi Kojima. Then, after Kenny Omega successfully defended his title in his aforementioned clash with Christian Cage, Adam Cole (Bay Bay) came out to a monster reaction, followed a few minutes later by MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE WRESTLER Bryan "The American Dragon" Danielson. As you'll notice down in my superlative section, this final moment left a strong impression on me and his subsequent run has been nothing short of phenomenal.

AEW might not be my favorite promotion in the world, but when they put on a good show like this, it's like nothing else in this sport. And with this year's All Out, Tony Khan and the brass in Jacksonville showed just how much they clearly love putting on fun cards for their fans.


  1. Eddie Kingston vs. Miro (c) - TNT Championship

  2. The Lucha Brothers (Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero Miedo) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) (c) - AEW Tag Team Championships (my favorite cage match ever)

  3. CM Punk vs. Darby Allin

  4. Christian Cage vs. Kenny Omega (c) - AEW World Championship

Where to Watch: FITE TV

Photo Credit: Stardom


Next up on this chronological list of my favorite wrestling shows of 2021, we have the final night of Stardom's 5STAR Grand Prix. In brief, the 5STAR is Stardom's most prestigious tournament, where the winner fights the champion of their choosing at a future show. Just like with some other shows on this list, this one succeeded because of the brilliant in-ring work rate that Stardom has become synonymous with this year.

Mayu Iwatani battled her former best friend turned latest rival, Starlight Kid in a brilliant first chapter to a story I can't wait to see be written. Syuri and Takumi Iroha fought in a war for the right to compete for a slot in the 5STAR's final, Utami Hayashishita, Stardom's world champion, battled Tam Nakano, Stardom's second most prestigious titleholder, in a thrilling styles clash, and the night ended with a very memorable final between Syuri and Momo Watanabe.


  1. Mayu Iwatani vs. Starlight Kid

  2. Syuri vs. Takumi Iroha

  3. Utami Hayashishita vs. Tam Nakano

  4. Syuri vs. Momo Watanabe - 5STAR Grand Prix Final

Where to Watch: Stardom World

Photo Credit: Pro Wrestling Musings


Pro Wrestling NOAH might not have been one of the most exciting companies to watch in 2021 for a multitude of reasons, but they eeked out a spot on this list with a great showing on the final day of their own major tournament, the N-1 Victory. The event featured a number of fun matches from both of the tournament's semi-final matches and the remarkably good final match between stable partners, and somehow archrivals, Kenou and Katsuhiko Nakajima.

I won't spoil the end of the final match because I think it's worth a watch to find out for yourself. These two have excellent chemistry, and they made the 20-minute match feel like 10 with their fluid grappling and strong pacing. With NOAH planning on battling New Japan on January 8th, I think this show would prove to be an excellent primer to the forgotten giant of the Japanese wrestling scene.


  1. Kenou vs. Kaito Kiyomoya - N-1 Victory semi-final

  2. Masakatsu Funaki vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima - N-1 Victory semi-final

  3. M's Alliance (Keiji Muto, Masaaki Mochizuki, and Masato Tanaka) vs. Sugiura-gun (Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita, and Takashi Sugiura)

  4. Kenou vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima - N-1 Victory Final

Where to Watch: Wrestle Universe

Photo Credit: @TakeSoup on Twitter


Have you ever wanted to watch a pro wrestling show that is so weird and different that it could be classified as a whole new sport? Well, have I got the event for you! DDT once again took a sharp left turn into crazy town when they announced that they would be returning to the fabled Tokyo Dome for yet another empty arena art piece they decided to call a "wrestling match". The last time the Tokyo Dome brass allowed for such shenanigans, it resulted in one of the most hilarious matches in history between DDT owner Sanshiro Takagi and "Murder Grandpa" Minoru Suzuki.

Five teams of four entered for a chance to win 5 million yen or around 50 thousand dollars. And while there wasn't a ring anywhere in the arena to speak of, these madmen and women fought everywhere from the bullpen to the concourse to even the baseball diamond itself.

To say that this match was insane would be the understatement of all understatements and I loved every single second of it. If you don't laugh at least three times, then I don't know what to tell you.


  1. Team TJPW vs. 37KAMIINA

  2. Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama throw out a "first pitch"

  3. All the nods to "Squid Game"


Where to Watch: Wrestle Universe

Photo Credit: @DDTPro on Twitter


If you're looking for a show that is all about in-ring work rate and pure wrestling excellence, I can't think of many events that were better than this incredible DDT offering. This event was noteworthy. as it kickstarted the company's D-Ou Grand Prix competition, a multi-week long tournament in which 12 wrestlers are split into two groups of six and each wrestler fights everyone else in said group. If you're familiar with New Japan's G1 Climax, or the aforementioned 5Star Grand Prix from Stardom, think of it as the same thing but not nearly as long.

Starting off the D-Ou, DDT held four contests, all of which come highly recommended. But if there's one match you absolutely need to watch first, it's the show's main event between the incomparable Yuji Okabayashi and DDT's world champion, Konosuke Takeshita. It's hard-hitting, technical, and methodically paced in the best way.


  1. Chris Brookes and Drew Parker vs. 37KAMIINA (MAO and Shunma Katsumata)

  2. HARASHIMA vs. Kazusada Higuchi - D-Ou Grand Prix

  3. Tetsuya Endo vs. Yuji Hino - D-Ou Grand Prix

  4. Jun Akiyama vs. Yuki Ueno - D-Ou Grand Prix

  5. Konosuke Takeshita vs. Yuji Okabayashi - D-Ou Grand Prix

Where to Watch: Wrestle Universe

Photo Credit: @Oh_TheHorror on Twitter


Stardom finished their 2021 calendar year with a show that could possibly be my favorite of the entire year. Every match from the dizzying three-way for the High Speed title to the wonderful conclusion to the Syuri/Utami rivalry was special in its own right, but if you ask me nothing hit as hard as the tremendous Konami farewell bout against Giulia. If you want to experience what makes this sport so special, I implore you to watch this beautiful love letter not only to Konami but to the aforementioned Hana Kimura, who was one of Konami's best friends.

This show was a perfect year-end show, not only because the action in the ring was top-notch, but because Stardom was able to put a bow on a number of stories that have been told with the utmost care over the past 12 months. If there is one company that I encourage all of you to check out in 2022, it is Stardom.


  1. AZM vs. Koguma vs. Starlight Kid (c) - High Speed Championship

  2. Konami vs. Giulia

  3. Mayu Iwantani and Takumi Iroha vs. Hazuki and Momo Watanabe

  4. Saya Kamitani vs. Tam Nakano (c) - Wonder of Stardom Championship

  5. Syuri (c) vs. Utami Hayashishita (c) - SWA and World of Stardom Championships

Where to Watch: Stardom World


As a bonus, here are my Next 15 also written in chronological order.


My Superlatives of 2021:

  • Male Wrestler of the Year (North America) - Bryan Danielson (WWE/AEW)

  • Male Wrestler of the Year (Japan) - Konosuke Takeshita (DDT)

  • Female Wrestler of the Year (North America) - Bianca Belair (WWE)

  • Female Wrestler of the Year (Japan) - Syuri (Stardom)

  • Most Underrated Wrestlers of the Year - Mio Momono (Marvelous), Suzu Suzuki (Ice Ribbon/Freelance), and Baliyan Akki (Gatoh Move/DDT)

  • Male Tag Team of the Year - Lucha Brothers (Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero Miedo) (AEW)

  • Female Tag Team of the Year - Alto Livello Kabaliwan (Giulia and Syuri) (Stardom)

  • Male Stable of the Year - The 37KAMIINA (DDT)

  • Female Stable of the Year - Donna del Mondo (Stardom)

  • Promotion of the Year (North America) - All Elite Wrestling

  • Promotion of the Year (Japan) - Stardom

  • Most Underrated Promotion of the Year - DDT and Gatoh Move

  • Pay Per View/Special Event of the Year - Hana Kimura Memorial “Matane”

  • TV Show of the Year - AEW Dynamite

  • YouTube Show of the Year - Gatoh Move Chocopro

  • Tournament of the Year - Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix

  • Mens' Match of the Year - 8/22/21 - Ilja Dragunov vs. WALTER (c) for the NXT UK Championship (WWE NXT)

  • Female Match of the Year - 6/12/21 - Syuri vs. Utami Hayashishita (c) for the World of Stardom Championship (Stardom)

  • Tag Team Match of the Year - 9/5/21 - Lucha Brothers vs. The Young Bucks (c) for the AEW Tag Team Championships (AEW)

  • Male Feud of the Year - Adam Page vs. Kenny Omega (AEW)

  • Female Feud of the Year - Syuri vs Utami Hayashishita (Stardom)

  • Male Rookie of the Year - Bron Breakker (WWE) (I'm sorry, I'd give it to Hook, but he's only wrestled twice)

  • Female Rookies of the Year - Lady C (Stardom) and Riko Kaiju (SEAdLINNNG)

  • Wrestler Who Returned to the Ring (Male) - CM Punk (AEW)

  • Wrestler Who Returned to the Ring (Female) - Koguma (Stardom)

  • Ring Announcer of the Year - Justin Roberts (AEW)

  • Commentary Team of the Year - Stewart Fulton and Mark Pickering (NOAH)

  • Most Unexpected Moment of the Year - Katsuyori Shibata returns to the ring after four years away (NJPW)

  • Number of times I teared up watching wrestling in 2021 (approximation): SIX

    1. Hana Kimura's tribute show

    2. That time Mayu Iwatani and Giulia pointed to the heavens after a time-limit draw

    3. CM Punk's pro wrestling return

    4. Bryan Danielson's debut in AEW at All Out

    5. Katsuyori Shibata's stunning return to the ring after four years away

    6. Konami vs. Giulia at Stardom Dream Queendom


Special thanks to WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs, Cagematch, and 1.02.JP for helping make me a more well-informed fan.

Thank you all for helping make 2021 a landmark year for Long Story Sport. Be sure to subscribe down below by adding your email so that you can be notified whenever I post a new blog. I plan to post even more about baseball and pro wrestling in 2022 and I hope to have you come along on the ride!

Featured Image Credit - Renzo Garcia (@renz559 on IG)

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