The 2023 AEW Awards By Gino Lewis

aew awards mjf toni storm

A look back at AEW in 2023 with awards for the best male & female wrestlers, matches, major shows and a whole lot more.

The year 2023 was an interesting one for AEW to say the least. Up and down would be the best way I’d describe it. The highs were the highest in company history like the attendance record that may or may not have been set at All In back in August. Whether it truly broke any records really is irrelevant. Seeing the enormous crowd, no one can tell me that wasn’t a great night for a company that has been in existence less than five years. Only it didn’t garner very many positive headlines due to yet another CM Punk incident and questions about how legitimate the attendance record really was. All In was AEW’s 2023 in a nutshell. A huge success that ultimately did not generate any positive momentum for the company. At least not on social media anyway. The fact that the company had reached new lows was evident by the poor attendance the company was drawing late summer into fall. That has been remedied to a degree in recent weeks.

I started writing about AEW this year and even picked up a side hustle reviewing Collision for John Canton and the team at TJRWRestling. I wanted to do an award column to wrap up the year. It’s going to be very similar to John’s WWE Johnny Awards that he’s been doing for WWE for 15 years now! An impressive feat no doubt. If I go more than one or two years, maybe I’ll try to come up with a clever name for the awards sometime. The “Genies” perhaps? I think it needs work.

I have 20 categories. There are ten main categories and ten shorter sub-categories. Most of the awards will be positive but there are a few negative ones as well. Even as a huge AEW fan, I think it’s important to be fair and point out things that could use improvement or things that went badly in 2023. With all that said, let’s get to it!

1. Male Wrestler of the Year

Nominees – MJF, Swerve Strickland, Orange Cassidy, Jon Moxley.

Honorable Mention – Samoa Joe, Jay White, Bryan Danielson, Eddie Kingston.

Gino’s take – This isn’t a hard award to give out. Swerve Strickland has been on fire in the second half of the year. Orange Cassidy had one of the best title runs in AEW history. He really elevated the International Title after it was “leveled up” from the All-Atlantic Championship. Jon Moxley is the Ace of AEW. He’ll be considered a top guy in the company unless something drastically changes. Nonetheless, MJF was AEW World Champion the entire year. He is the longest reigning World Champion in AEW history. That makes him winning this award a no brainer.

Winner – MJF

mjf aew world champion all in

2. Best Female Wrestler

Nominees – Kris Statlander, Toni Storm, Julia Hart, Jamie Hayter, Hikaru Shida.

Honorable Mention – Athena, Saraya.

Gino’s take – 2023 was not a good year for the women in AEW. Things have picked up recently. Overall, it would be a stretch to call it a good year. It’s well known that the women’s division in AEW has never been booked very well. I’m on the fence about the reasons why. I’m a big fan of women’s wrestling. I’m not sure AEW’s core audience shares that feeling. I wish they were booked better but I understand why Tony Khan and the creative team are hesitant to put more of a spotlight on them. Kris Statlander had the most in-ring success. Kris had a nearly six-month reign as TBS Champion. I wouldn’t call it a memorable title reign although she did take the title off Jade Cargill who had the longest reign of any champion in AEW. Julia Hart has been on fire recently. Her character and entrance are incredible.

Hikaru Shida was AEW Women’s Champion twice in 2023. Those title runs combined to just 64 days. She was more of a transitional champion. Jamie Hayter was possibly the hottest wrestler AEW has had in the women’s division. She held the title the first five months of 2023. Her title reign and year ended up being marred by injury. That leaves Toni Storm who also had two runs with the World Title. Toni took the title off Hayter in a short match. The first run only lasted 66 days. That was part of the Outcasts angle that was unsuccessful for the most part. After losing the title Storm has done the best work of her career becoming without a doubt the best character AEW has had in the women’s division. They are giving her plenty of time and seem firmly behind her. Toni regained the AEW Women’s Championship at Full Gear in November. This wasn’t as obvious as male wrestler of the year. Still an easy choice.

Winner – Toni Storm

Toni Storm AEW

3. Tag Team of the Year

Nominees – MJF & Adam Cole, FTR, Ricky Starks & Big Bill.

Honorable Mention – The Gunns, Young Bucks.

Gino’s take – When AEW was formed there was an emphasis on tag team wrestling. That faded in 2023. There was never a time where the division seemed hot. I think it’s something AEW needs to get back to. The established teams have seemingly disappeared from the roster with the exception of FTR. That is evident by the current Champions Ricky Starks and Big Bill being singles wrestlers for the most part. The biggest storyline involving a tag team in AEW was the bromance between MJF and Adam Cole. That story was a back seat to the World Championship program between the two. While the story was amazing, I doubt they had more than five matches together. FTR held the titles for 185 days from April to October. That on its own makes them the clear winners.

Winner – FTR

aew ftr tag team champions

4. Best Pay Per View

Nominees – All In, Full Gear.

Honorable Mention – Revolution, Forbidden Door, All Out, Wrestle Dream.

Gino’s take – One thing that was definitely a high note for AEW in 2023 was the quality of the PPVs. This year saw a drastic increase in the number from five to eight with Worlds End still to come. That wasn’t easy on the pocketbook. I also think less can be more in that area. Still, every PPV completely rocked if you ask me. Other than Double or Nothing, I think I would have rated them all around 9/10 or higher. I was at Full Gear. It was an amazing show to see live. I’m biased in saying that was my favorite. All In was the biggest show in AEW history and completely delivered. I rated it 10/10. Hard to top a show of that magnitude that I gave a perfect grade!

Winner – All In

AEW All In.

5. Best Feud

Nominees – Swerve Strickland vs “Hangman” Adam Page, MJF vs Bryan Danielson, MJF vs Adam Cole, Christian Cage vs Darby Allin.

Honorable Mention – Christian Cage vs Adam Copeland, CM Punk vs Samoa Joe, Swerve Strickland vs Darby Allin, Julia Hart vs Kris Statlander.

Gino’s take – I don’t agree at all with the notion that AEW has no or weak storylines. They aren’t what most American wrestling fans have been conditioned to like. That doesn’t mean there aren’t strong storylines. Wrestlers like MJF, Christian Cage and Swerve Strickland were involved in long-term stories most of the year. For me this a two-horse race between the incredibly intense, personal rivalry between Swerve and Hangman. The segment where Swerve went into Page’s son’s bedroom was professional wrestling at its finest. The Devil storyline has been excellent. It’s hard to tell who is involved in that feud so I can’t put it in as a nominee.

Adam Cole and MJF’s feud and bromance carried AEW programming for about four months. I loved all of it. I don’t remember anything like it in wrestling. It reminded me of Sami Zayn joining the Bloodline in WWE. I’m not saying the programs themselves were similar. What was is that I think AEW had to change plans because of how well the story got over. The Blind Eliminator Tag Team Tournament seemed like a throw away type deal. I think it was done to set up Adam Cole challenging MJF for the World Title at All In. That was after their incredible time limit draw on Dynamite. It turned out to be so much more than that. It’s probably still going with most people thinking Adam Cole is the Devil in what is still the biggest storyline AEW has going.

Note: The Devil reveal at Worlds End solidified this choice.

Winner – MJF vs Adam Cole

adam cole knee mjf aew

6. Most Memorable Moment

Nominees – “Hangman” Adam Page drinks Swerve Strickland’s blood at Full Gear, Saraya wins the AEW Women’s Title in front of her family at All In, crowd chants “He’s Gay” for Anthony Bowens on Rampage, MJF’s “Kangaroo Kick” and Cole/MJF’s “Double Clothesline”. Christian Cage tells Adam Copeland “Go f*uck yourself”.

Honorable Mention – Jay Briscoe tribute show in Ring of Honor, Will Ospreay and Okada appear on Dynamite ahead of Forbidden Door. MJF, Adam Cole, Sammy Guevara and Daniel Garcia’s dance off. MJF and Adam Cole hug at the end of All In.

Gino’s take – There were more that could have been added. I’m going to have a best debut/return category so those aren’t included here. It’s also hard to include anything CM Punk related as best memories for AEW. MJF and Adam Cole’s comedy definitely led to some of the most memorable television of the year. That was highlighted by the in-ring dance segment along with the silly double clothesline and kangaroo kick. Ospreay and Okada showing up ahead of Forbidden Door really solidified that card after an underwhelming buildup.

The AEW crowd chanting “He’s Gay” for Anthony Bowens when the lovely Harley Cameron tried hitting on him was also wrestling comedy at its best. It was awesome to see a wrestling crowd react that way. This one is another easy one for me. Being at Full Gear I have to go with the stunning and gruesome visual of Hangman Page drinking then spitting Swerve’s blood. That whole match was insane. I’ve never been part of anything like that. The entire crowd went back and forth from cringing and roaring the whole match. It was so violent yet so beautiful. Even without the violence they told an amazing story performing at such a high level. The drinking blood spot drew the biggest reaction from the crowd and online. Rightfully so!

Winner – “Hangman” Adam Page drinks Swerve Strickland’s blood at Full Gear

7. Biggest News Story

Nominees – CM Punk fired from AEW, CM Punk returns on debut episode of AEW Collision, Sting’s retirement.
Gino’s take – This is the first of what I would call a negative category. It’s a shame because it shouldn’t be. You would hope a good story would get top billing. That wasn’t the case in 2023. CM Punk’s altercation with Jack Perry just ahead of All In going on the air clearly takes the cake. Considering we still hear stories about Brawl Out that happened back in 2022, it’s safe to say the story isn’t over. Punk’s debut and success in WWE is only adding fuel to the fire. This really isn’t something I like writing about. There is plenty to read about it if you like that sort of thing. I wish CM Punk well in WWE but I am glad the circus of him being in AEW is no more.

Winner – CM Punk fired from AEW

8. Best Talker

Nominees – MJF, Christian Cage, Don Callis, Toni Storm

Honorable Mention – Ricky Starks, Samoa Joe, Adam Cole, Eddie Kingston.

Gino’s take – 2023 saw some excellent mic work in AEW. That was especially true on the heel side with Christian and Don Callis drawing some of the best heel reactions you can get. Jack Perry was right there with them before his budding heel run was cut short due to suspension. MJF was amazing on the mic all year as usual. He’s not quite on the same level as a face. Toni Storm did the by far the best character work of her career. The winner is Christian. It’s not clear cut. Cage was a cut above saying things most people can’t even fathom on a weekly basis. Talking about his opponent’s fathers was about as low as a heel can get. Christian did it perfectly. It didn’t seem like an act in any way. Telling lifelong friend Adam Copeland to “go f*ck yourself” may have been the line of the year.

Winner – Christian Cage

christian cage tnt champion aew promo

9. Worst Feud, Match or Angle

Nominees – Outcasts vs AEW Originals, Powerhouse Hobbs joining QTV, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Death Match, Memphis Street Fight.

Honorable Mention – Tony Khan’s announcements.

Gino’s take – I like AEW more than a lot of wrestling fans. There are probably a lot of things I’m leaving off that didn’t bother me as much as others. This is what stood out as being bad for me in 2023. The Memphis street fight saw Jeff Jarrett beat Eddie Kingston in what amounted to a five or six on one beatdown. Jay Lethal somehow “earned” an ROH championship match through that debacle. The Texas Chainsaw death match between Jeff Jarrett and Jeff Hardy was worse. I have no idea why AEW thought putting Jeff Jarrett in death matches was a good idea. At least the money paid to sponsor that match went to a good cause. These were just bad matches that really didn’t do much damage to anyone. That can’t be said about the two storylines that are nominated. “Powerhouse” Will Hobbs beating Wardlow while joining the QTV group not only badly hurt both wrestlers but also the TBS Title. Neither Hobbs nor Wardlow has gotten their momentum back. Fortunately, Christian Cage has restored meaning to the TBS Title. Hobbs and especially Wardlow should be doing so much more.

The Outcasts storyline was probably the most damaging in AEW’s short history. There was a lot of potential for something special. I even thought this could be a female version of a dominant nWo type stable on the women’s side. We really haven’t seen that before. That’s not close to what happened. It really went nowhere and hurt everyone involved. The constant numbers game and use of spray paint by the Outcasts just made the entire AEW Women’s roster look weak. The same thing happened every week yet the stupid faces never got each other’s back. Britt Baker who should still be a face of AEW was hurt the worst. It was so bad AEW did a tournament to name participants in the Women’s match at All In. It ended up being the four main players in the storyline. AEW had to hold a tournament rather than just finishing the story. I want to be clear. I don’t blame the talent. I blame the creative behind it.

“Winner” – Outcasts vs AEW originals

The Outcasts AEW

10. Match of the Year

Nominees – MJF vs Bryan Danielson (Iron Man Match, Revolution), Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega (Forbidden Door), FTR vs Jay White & Juice Robinson (Best of 3 falls, Collision July 15), Swerve Strickland vs “Hangman” Adam Page (Texas Death Match, Full Gear).

Honorable Mention – Bryan Danielson vs Ricky Starks (Strap Match, All Out), MJF vs Adam Cole (Dynamite June 14), MJF vs Kenny Omega (Collision October 28).

Gino’s take – The year 2023 may have been a rough year for AEW in some areas. In the ring wasn’t one of them. I thought the match quality was excellent all year long. I’m sure there are other great matches I’m not remembering. I know I rated multiple matches four ½ stars reviewing AEW Collision. That rating is a notch below what it takes to be mentioned here. I rated all four nominees five stars. The three honorable mentions received ratings of four ¾ stars. I haven’t rated a match over five stars. I might break that scale for my match of the year Swerve Strickland vs Hangman Page. I’d have to go back and watch it on TV. Seeing that match live most likely helped the overall experience.

Winner – Swerve Strickland vs “Hangman” Adam Page (Texas Death Match, Full Gear)

11. Babyface of the Year

Winner – Adam Cole. Runners-Up: MJF, Orange Cassidy, Byran Danielson, Eddie Kingston.

Gino’s take MJF and Cole should share this award together. MJF was a heel when their program started. I’m not sure if the plan was for MJF to turn face. His work with Cole was too good, too entertaining for the fans not to cheer him. I’ll give Cole the nod as the top babyface of 2023. He brought that out of MJF.

Adam Cole MJF AEW

12. Best Heel

Winner – Christian Cage.Runners-Up: Samoa Joe, Toni Storm, Don Callis.

Gino’s take – 2023 was a great year for heels in AEW as mentioned earlier. I’ll also mention Jack Perry again. His heel run was too short after his suspension for using real glass and telling CM Punk to “cry me a river”. Toni Storm did the best work of her career. Samoa Joe was the dominant bully type heel that isn’t as prevalent in wrestling today. Don Callis is an all-time heat magnet. None of that was good enough to overcome Christian Cage as the Patriarch in AEW. He wins his second award.

13. Most Underutilized Wrestler

Winner – Keith Lee. Runners-Up: Britt Baker, Ethan Page, Wardlow.

Gino’s take – Honestly, I could write a novel about this category. Others could have been included in runners-up like Miro, Powerhouse Hobbs, Andrade, Takeshita, even The Elite; Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and Hangman Page don’t get nearly as much TV time as they should. I wanted to go with Britt Baker. My wife Amber convinced me to pick Keith Lee. We really don’t know how much Britt’s injuries hampered her year. Ethan Page has huge potential. I loved his run in Impact Wrestling. I’m not sure how much the mainstream fan considers him a star. Wardlow was at least a two-time TNT Champion. Keith Lee is finally getting his match against Swerve Strickland at Worlds End. It’s too little too late. Lee should be around the main event scene. He didn’t accomplish much in 2023. Hopefully, big things are in store for Keith Lee in 2024.

Note: Based on events at Worlds End where Keitth Lee had to be removed from his match with Swerve, we found out Lee may have been injured the entire year. I’ll still stick with him as the winner.

keith lee aew white hair

14. Best Trios

Winner – Acclaimed & Billy Gunn. Runners-Up: The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks), House of Black (Malakai Black, Brody King & Buddy Matthews).

Gino’s take – 2023 was a down year for multiple divisions in AEW including the women’s and tag team. The Trios division may have taken the hardest hit. When the titles were introduced, it seemed like The Elite would carry them to great matches establishing the division as the high flying indy style wrestling a lot of AEW fans love. Instead, they were immediately suspended after Brawl Out. Death Triangle did a decent job getting it off the ground but didn’t wrestle as trios much in 2023. The Elite and Death Triangle had a great 7-match series at the end of 2022. The Elite’s run as Trios Champs in 2023 was very short at only 53 days. House of Black had a long run at 175 days. Their reign was a little underwhelming for me. Especially the “House Rules” concept that seemed to be forgotten as soon as it was announced. I’ll give the nod to current champions Acclaimed & “Daddy Ass” Billy Gunn. The Acclaimed also started 2023 as Tag Team Champs. It was very close between them and House of Black. The lack of depth hurt the division all year long.

the acclaimed aew billy gunn

15. Manager or Valet of the Year

Winner – Prince Nana. Runners-Up: Don Callis, Julia Hart.

Gino’s take – AEW has a lot of factions. There was a time when there were a lot of managers and valets. That seems to have taken a back seat even if the factions still exist. Julia Hart is best known as a wrestler now. She was a big part of House of Black’s presentation during their Trios title reign. There were a couple of times she was banned from ringside as the “House Rules” stipulation. The announcers always did a good job pointing out how she was a threat. Don Callis probably deserves to win this award. It’s hard for me to see how he has elevated the members of the “Don Callis Family”. Takeshita beat Kenny Omega twice. Now he wrestlers occasionally on Rampage. Will Hobbs hasn’t gotten a push since joining Callis. On the other hand, Prince Nana says almost nothing but is an incredible visual contrast to his serious boss Swerve Strickland. I’m a big fan of Nana and his dance. I may be biased on this pick. Prince Nana is the winner for me.

Swerve making entrance in AEW alongside a dancing Prince Nana

16. Best Debut or Return

Winner – Adam Copeland (WrestleDream). Runners-Up: Mark Briscoe (Dynamite January 25), Jay White (Dynamite April 6), Adam Cole (Dynamite January 11).

Gino’s take – A running joke for AEW once was they had too many debuts. I think that slowed way down in 2023. In a good way. You can’t count on debuts and returns to pop a rating. There were definitely some meaningful ones. Adam Cole returned after a near career-ending concussion. He went on to have another injury-prone year although he was in the spotlight when healthy. Mark Briscoe’s debut was bittersweet, to say the least. The wrestling world took a big loss losing his brother Jay just a week earlier. Jay White’s debut wasn’t great. He got off to a slow start in AEW. He may have been the most impactful signing of 2023. The winner has to be Adam Copeland. The former Edge is one of the biggest and most unlikely former WWE wrestlers to make the jump to AEW. His work with Christian Cage so far has been excellent.

17. Announcer of the Year

Winner – Ian Riccaboni. Runners-Up – Excalibur, Nigel McGuinness, Tony Schiavone.

Gino’s take – I generally like the announcing in AEW. I think it’s a lot better on Collision than Dynamite. I don’t think there is a bad announcer. Sometimes they overdo it a bit on Dynamite. Schiavone works fairly well with both crews. Excalibur might be the most knowledgeable announcer in the business. He has his flaws though. Those are well pointed out online. Nigel McGuinness probably deserves this award. His work on Collision is excellent. He might be Bryan Danielson’s biggest rival ever dating back to his Ring of Honor days. I think they will have a match in 2024. Nigel has done a tremendous job building to that slamming Bryan every chance he gets. Ian Riccaboni is my favorite. He is the full-time announcer for ROH. His work on AEW when given a chance has been outstanding. I picked him as the winner because I’d like to see much more of him. I like Kevin Kelly a lot but I think he and Ian should swap roles.

18. Breakout Star

Winner – Swerve Strickland.Runners-Up: Orange Cassidy, Toni Storm, Jay White, Athena

Gino’s take – I have to admit I haven’t seen much of Athena’s work in 2023 as I don’t watch ROH. I’ve heard she’s killing it over there and wanted to give her a mention for that. Every wrestler in this category exemplifies what it means to break out. They were all well-known before 2023 but did their best work of their careers this year. The final two were very close between Orange Cassidy and Swerve Strickland. Orange really earned my respect in 2023. I wasn’t a huge fan of his. He won me over with his in-ring work turning the International Championship into the working man’s title. Swerve deserves the win. It’s either his second or third award depending on if you give him credit for Hangman drinking his blood. If AEW doesn’t put the World Title on Swerve early in 2024, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him win the International Title from Cassidy.

Swerve Strickland entrance at AEW WrestleDream

19. Most Improved

Winner – Julia Hart. Runners-Up: Skye Blue, Willow Nightingale, The Gunns, Roderick Strong.

Gino’s take – This category is different from Breakout Star. This is more for up-and-coming wrestlers not established stars. While 2023 was not a great year for women’s wrestling in AEW, we did see major improvement from three. Hart, Blue and Nightingale all elevated themselves. You can tell they are putting in the work. Julia is currently one of the top stars in the division. Skye Blue is part of the same storyline. I think there is a good chance Skye Blue wins the TNT Title in 2024. The Gunns have incredibly only been wrestling about five years. They started their careers in AEW as Ass Boys but have come a long way. They were AEW Tag Team Champions this year. Roderick Strong is known as an outstanding wrestler who lacks charisma. That hasn’t been the case in AEW. His Neckstrong gimmick has been very entertaining. Julia Hart takes the win. She has easily improved the most and carved out a big role in AEW.

20. Best Weekly TV Show

Winner – AEW Collision. Runner-Up: Dynamite.

Gino’s take – This one doesn’t need much commentary. Collision was very successful as a show in its first year. They have had plenty of issues with attendance. Being on Saturday night probably has a lot to do with it. It hurt a few episodes. For the most part, Collision is a very consistent wrestling-based show. I’ve reviewed almost every episode. There has only been one bad show. Dynamite has more high points. I still feel the most important angles in AEW happen on Dynamite. It goes both ways. I think most of the not so great things of 2023 happened on Dynamite as well. I love both shows but give the edge to Collision. Rampage is certainly the C show. I can see there being a time down the line where I would include ROH in this category. They’ll probably need to get an actual TV show for me to do that.

AEW Collision FTR vs Bullet Club Gold

Final Thoughts on AEW in 2023

I mentioned in the open that 2023 was an up-and-down year for AEW. The highs completely outweighed the lows for me. If you don’t listen to the noise on social media there really isn’t that much not to like. The year started off being featuring a strong storyline between Bryan Danielson and MJF that culminated in a five-star match at Revolution. The spring saw two great PPV’s Double or Nothing and Forbidden Door. AEW launched Collision on June 17. While CM Punk ultimately and predicably became a black eye for the company, the addition of Collision to AEW’s lineup has to be seen by in large as a smashing success. The wonderfully entertaining rivalry and bromance between MJF and Adam Cole carried the action through August.

All In was the biggest show in AEW history even if it might not have been the biggest show in all of wrestling history. I think it was a fair thing for AEW to put over. It’s not like they’re going to say it’s behind a WWE show. I’m not sure why that offended so many people. All Out seemed like a throwaway show with no build. It turned out to be awesome. I wasn’t even going to watch WrestleDream. The show was so well received I ponied up to watch the replay. Full Gear in November may have been my favorite show I have attended live. AEW is ending the year on a very high note after an incredibly successful Continental Classic Tournament. Another thing that somehow seems to have offended many wrestling fans. With Worlds End and the possible conclusion of the long running Devil storyline, AEW is set up to head into 2024 with a ton of momentum!

Overall Rating for AEW in 2023 – 8/10

Please follow me on Twitter/X @GeenoEvel86. Thanks for reading!