From Drew McIntyre to Bayley, 5 Pro Wrestling Stars Who Made 2020 Their Year
It has been a challenging year for all, but somehow pro wrestling hardly missed a beat. The companies adjusted and continued to produce shows during some of the most challenging times. Many performers — Randy Orton, Sasha Banks, Orange Cassidy, Eric Young, EC3, Asuka, Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns, Nikki Cross, MVP, Eddie Kingston to name a few — even thrived in this unique environment where there were no fans physically in attendance. Below, check out five other wrestlers who really made 2020 their year.
Drew McIntyre returned to WWE in 2017 looking to make the most of his second chance. The momentum from his return took him into this year’s Royal Rumble where he outlasted 29 other wrestlers. McIntyre followed that up a few months later by defeating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36, becoming the first Scottish WWE champion. The fighting champ also overcame many foes, including Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Lashley. After losing the gold for a short time, he regained it from Orton on a November episode of Raw. McIntyre really upped his game this year, doling out inspiration during the year's dark times.
When Bayley cut her hair, canceled the Bayley Buddies and turned heel, there was initial concern if she could pull off playing the villain. Those doubts quickly washed away when the superstar fully embraced the character transformation and became the longest-reigning SmackDown women’s champion. Whether it was on the mic or in the ring, Bayley delivered.
Jon Moxley carried the torch as All Elite Wrestling's champion for the better part of 2020. After dethroning Chris Jericho in February, the popular renegade went on to defend against the likes of Jake Hager, Brain Cage, Darby Allin, Brodie Lee, MJF and Kingston. However, Kenny Omega eventually ended Moxley’s 277-day run. Outside of AEW, Moxley is also recognized in New Japan Pro Wrestling as their IWGP United States champion.
Deonna Purrazzo did not find the success she was looking for in WWE, but after her release in April, "The Virtuosa” was determined to prove her naysayers wrong. It didn’t take long for Purrazzo to leave her mark in the Impact Wrestling women’s division. She overcame Jordynne Grace to win the Knockouts Championship at Slammiversary and retained in their first-ever 30-minute Iron Man Knockouts rematch. After losing the title briefly to Su Yung, she quickly won it back. Purrazzo ends 2020 with a long-term deal with Impact and an entire division built around her.
New Japan Pro Wrestling canceled shows due to COVID and went dark for a number of months, but that hasn’t stopped Tetsuya Naito from making history. It all started in January, at the promotions biggest shows of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 14. The Los Ingobernables de Japon leader won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Jay White and followed it up the next night by winning the IWGP heavyweight championship from Kazuchika Okada. Naito became the first to hold the two titles simultaneously. After dropping them to Evil in July, he took the titles back in August. Naito now turns his attention to Wrestle Kingdom 15 in January, meaning 2021 could be another big year for this champ.