Top 15 Men’s Singles Matches of 2021 | By WrestlePurists

January 5, 2022

I had way too much free time in December. So what did I do? I watched a LOT of great wrestling. 

I put together a playlist of MOTY contenders with the help of friends and followers. I then decided I wanted to rate them all & decide my top Matches of 2021. 

The playlist included 19 NJPW matches, 16 AEW matches, 11 WWE/NXT matches & 9 matches from Other Promotions. 55 Matches in total. 

After watching all of them, I trimmed my list down to the 15 best of the best & put them in order. So here are the results… 

15 – Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay | NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15, Night 1: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

Great storytelling here. Especially in Okada’s work of building towards hitting the Rainmaker. The frustration as a viewer whilst watching him continue to try the Moneyclip again & again felt like it was intended that way. Bit of a slow start but that was fine & the work was good, it then builds into an exciting personal battle with a great finishing stretch. Not the best match between these two, but still two of the very best in the world going at it. 

14 – Kota Ibushi vs Jay White | NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15, Night 2: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

48 minutes is a long time. But this is still just great, Kota Ibushi being Kota Ibushi and Jay White drops which I think is one of the best in-ring heel performances of the year. A true rollercoaster of drama. I think these two have a lot better chemistry than what they get given credit for. 

13 – Shingo Takagi vs Hiroshi Tanahashi | NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

Hiroshi Tanahashi wasn’t even supposed to be in this match. He was a very late replacement. He had absolutely no right whatsoever to produce the performance that he did. 2021 and still proving why he’s one of the best of all time. 

I don’t think there is one wrestler dead or alive that I could confidently say that they could have done what Tanahashi did under these particular circumstances (last min replacement in a Tokyo Dome Main Event with a Pandemic crowd). He somehow even had you thinking he might pull off the win at certain points. Just a really special performance. Then of course you have Shingo, whose name you will be seeing a lot of on this list. 

12 – HARASHIMA vs Yuji Okabayashi | DDT D-Ou Grand Prix: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

A really brilliantly wrestled match. Heavy mat based grappling to start, that in itself told a story. It then unfolded into great drama between the two. 

Some of the strike exchanges were just crazy. The final moments are truly edge of your seat stuff. The visual of Okabayashi having HARASHIMA locked in a torture rack whilst his eye is pouring blood really is something to behold. 

11 – Hangman Adam Page vs Kenny Omega | AEW Full Gear: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

Things coming full circle & fans being satisfied. Just great. Kenny Omega went out there and made Hangman exactly how Id assume he always hoped to as the heel here. But taking absolutely nothing away from Hangman, he stepped up to the plate. Hangman’s crowning moment. Fully deserved & proving why in this match. 

10 – WALTER v Tommaso Ciampa  | NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

Intense fight feels. Ciampa went out there and just brought it to WALTER. Theres just something special about WALTER matches that is different to anybody else in the World Today. A fantastic story told throughout. Probably the most slept on match of the year in my opinion. Its fucking incredible. 

9 – Kenny Omega vs Bryan Danielson | AEW Dynamite Grand Slam: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75 

20,000 fans bursting at the seams with excitement in Arthur Ashe. The term “dream match” gets thrown around a LOT these days, but this was truly deserving of it. This is the definition of a dream matchup. 

Omega as the flawless heel, babyface Danielson with God-like selling. Just two of finest this generation has to offer proving why they’re both exactly that. 

The only reason I didn’t go full 5 stars is because I felt like they purposely left some stuff on the table as it was only their first match in AEW. Still spectacular and one to definitely remember for a long long time. I think these two are going to have some all-timers over the next couple years. 

8 – Shingo Takagi vs Tomohiro Ishii | NJPW G1 Climax, Night 1 – ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

They beat the shit out of eachother in typical Shingo & Ishii fashion. Its kinda funny to me when I look at how highly I rate this, because it went exactly how youd expect an Ishii/Shingo match to go in many ways if you are familiar with both men. 

But it just kept getting better, and better, and better right until the very end. Just tremendous. I can still hear the sound it made when Shingo hit Ishii with THAT lariat. This match was my kinda shit. 

7 – Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi | NJPW Wrestling Dontaku, Night 2: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

The best match between these two men. Which is saying something because these two set a crazy standard. Some of Shingos comebacks and counters in this are just so good. Crazy action. This match had a pace and quality that very few in the world could dream of keeping up with. 

6 – Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kenou | NOAH N-1 Victory: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

Brutal. 20 mins of violence.

If you haven’t seen it, do it now then come back. Please. You deserve it.

5 – Hangman Adam Page vs Bryan Danielson | AEW Winter Is Coming: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

It feels like it has been a long, long time since we had an iconic 60 minute draw. This was it. Bryans work as a heel is just something I watch in awe every single time. The slow simple pace to start with was great, as both men established exactly what they wanted to very well. Then at around the 30 minute mark they turned it up and really took the crowd and viewers on a ride. Matches this long are rarely quite this engaging, and to pull it off the way they did is a major testament to both men. 

4 – CM Punk vs Eddie Kingston | AEW Full Gear: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

Its actually too hard for me to articulate the roller coster that this match truly is. Especially without writing something way too long. This was a damn FIGHT. This is possibly the best under 15 minute match of all time to be honest.

3 – Shingo Takagi vs Jeff Cobb | NJPW Wrestle Kingdom, Night 2: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Crazy pace. Just action on top of action, but far from a spot fest, it was a true war. A wildly impressive physical display from both men. Comfortably the best match & performance of Jeff Cobbs career in my opinion. This would also be the first of many MOTY contenders for Shingo Takagi in 2021. This one was a true show stealer in the Dome. 

2 – Ilja Dragunov v WALTER | NXT Takeover 36: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

They had a match in 2020 which was so incredible, that the bar for this was set very high. But they some how managed to meet it in spectacular fashion. The intensity between these two is really something unique. The violence, the struggle, the chemistry these two have is so obvious. A really fitting way to end WALTER’s 870 day world title reign. 

1 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shingo Takagi | NJPW New Beginning: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

For me, this was an easy choice. The first match between these two, which makes it even more mind blowing just how good it was. The way these two matched up was clearly Power vs Technique. I like my wrestling simple, this was that but they made it spectacular. 

Tanahashi going after Shingos leg was the main story throughout, but just the way he would go after Shingos leg, Shingos selling, Tanahashis cunning, Shingos stubbornness, both mens timing, & THE DRAMA are just all perfection. The way this match builds and the paces it hits is such a ride. The finishing stretch really is incredible. 

Both are honestly flawless here and they both compliment each other so well. It was like watching the best right now vs the best of all time. It really had that feel by the end. My 2021 Match Of The Year. 

Honourable Mentions:

Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito | NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15, Night 1

Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr | NJPW NJ Cup, Night 8

Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi | NJPW NJ Cup, Night 13

Katsuyori Shibata vs Zack Sabre Jr | NJPW G1 Climax 31, Night 19 (special non-tournament match, UWF Rules)

Shingo Takagi vs Kazuchika Okada | NJPW Dominion

Kenny Omega vs Rey Fenix | AEW Dynamite New Years Slam

Bryan Danielson vs Minoru Suzuki | AEW Rampage Buy-In

Bryan Danielson vs Eddie Kingston | AEW Rampage

MJF vs Darby Allin | AEW Full Gear

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