Best AEW Matches
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 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, only this year, instead of waiting to publish my article in December, I will keep track of the best matches and update the list at the end of each month.
What follows is the best AEW matches of 2021 … so far!
3. AEW Dynamite (Jan. 6, 2021) New Year’s Smash Night 1
Rey Fenix vs. Kenny Omega
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!
2. AEW Dynamite (Jan. 13, 2021) New Year’s Smash Night 2
Brian Cage vs. Darby Allin
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 second to secure a victory.
1. AEW Dynamite (Jan. 27, 2021)
Jungle Boy Jack Perry vs. Dax Harwood
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.