It’s been a big year and yes that’s putting it way too mildly, but it must be said, as simple as it sounds. AEW started in 2019, and in 2021 they proved more than ever, that they’re here to play and not just that, but add quite a wee bit of competition to the playing field.
Changing the landscape they are, and many are of course pleased; especially those that are perhaps a tad annoyed with the direction of WWE. AEW showed that they are not only another option but the cure for a tired, old, boring recipe of how to put on a wrestling show.
WWE deserves respect. Of course they do…especially for what they did over the years, the Golden, Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras speak for themselves, and the stars that were born out of those periods dominated and will forever dominate in the history of pro wrestling for sure.
But in an era now, when as stated above, WWE seems to be producing quite a stale product, fans have somewhere to go…disgruntled fans and disgruntled employees alike.
2021 saw a lot of WWE releases and interestingly enough, AEW saw a lot of debuts. In this piece, I’ll be going into some of these debuts as they surely stand out as being the greatest AEW moments of the year.
In this Best Of Series of 2021 we’ve been publishing, we’ve gone over tag matches and singles matches, and although those were all epic moments in and of themselves, these moments can surely stand out as being the best, most impactful moments of the year, that changed the landscape not only for AEW but pro wrestling overall.
Kyle O’Reilly debuts
NXT was supposed to have been the place where the future of WWE was being trained. It turns out that they had a lot of talented wrestlers flock over—wrestlers like Mr. O’Reilly himself that had already dominated on the indie circuit. So many NXT stars did just that.
But the problem with the whole NXT deal, since its inception, when the young up-and-coming stars were ready to graduate for lack of a better term, they weren’t accepted with open hearts and open arms by Vince McMahon, and their debuts—many of them—were terrible, these stars getting lost in the shuffle on the main roster.
It happened too many times to count. An example: Toni Storm…epic wrestler on NXT, she gets into a pie fight on the main roster! Enough said.
Essentially the slogan should read as follows: NXT…Tomorrow’s AEW and Impact Wrestling Stars.
Kyle O’Reilly perhaps saw the writing on the wall, because when it came time to re-sign with WWE he opted out and decided to join up with his friends, Adam Cole and Bobby Fish in AEW.
Adam Cole debuts
And speaking of Adam Cole, this was the first NXT expat of incredible renown to make the move. This was the paradigm shift—the real paradigm shift as we knew it—the game as it stood, no pun intended.
Those that were supposed to have been the future of WWE were now jumping ship. Cole debuted at All Out and to quite the reception from the crowd. It was one of 4 incredible debuts and yes…all in on single AEW event.
Ruby Soho debuts
Underutilized in WWE, this woman proved once she entered AEW that she can wrestle, and wrestle amongst the best. There are epic wrestlers in WWE that are not given the opportunities they deserve, and she was example of just this.
Her debut was an important one and not only did it shine a light on her talents, but on the entire division she was entering into.
Bryan Danielson debuts
This was a game changer as well. Bryan Danielson, or rather Daniel Bryan as he was known in WWE, was a WWE guy through and through; especially considering his role on Total Bellas. There were many that felt that this man would never leave the confines of WWE.
The mistake those individuals made was to forget that Bryan Danielson’s first love was professional wrestling, and he saw firsthand that he’d be able to have the high octane, high energy and extremely physical matches he wanted to have in AEW and he jumped at the chance. His debut at All Out was an equally amazing one. Minoru Suzuki also debuted at the event. He and Danielson would go on to have a match on the buy-in to an episode of Rampage later during the year. The match made our Greatest Matches list of course, for obvious reasons.
CM Punk debuts
It was quite a few weeks before Danielson made his way to AEW, but really the rumblings of CM Punk coming back to wrestling started way before his debut…pretty much at the time that AEW landed on the map. Really, CM Punk fans knew that it was the place for him, especially considering how awful the end of his WWE run turned out.
His debut in Chicago remains the number one moment of the year for sure and the number one moment in AEW thus far in this writer’s opinion. The only other moment in pro wrestling that stands close to it is Hulk Hogan’s debut in Montreal after his match with The Rock at WrestleMania X8…an ovation that lasted for several minutes.
I know because I was there, and yeah, I kind of had something in my eye the whole time. The whole arena did. The same thing happened when CM Punk returned to the industry he helped create a new direction for…a new direction that was cut short by the powers that be in WWE.
Looks like in AEW he’s getting free reign to paint on the canvas, and it looks like the colors he plans to use, both dark and bright, are blending well with one and all. Looking forward to 2022, and all of these 5 performers and what they will be accomplishing. Happy New Year, dear readers. From all of us here at Pro Wrestling News Hub.