Pro Wrestling’s Top Ten Best List of 2013: The end of Vince McMahon’s ownership and creative control, Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm, Tony Schiavone, Continental Classic, Swerve, Ospreay, more


In a previous column I listed the worst people and moments of 2023. Now it’s time to look at the best. These are the Top 10 people or moments that I think entertained us or otherwise put a smile on our faces.


10. Tony Schiavone Returns to Play-by-play

When Collision launched in June, it did so with the announce team of Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness. It quickly became apparent, however, that Kelly was ill-suited for the role of AEW play-by-play. In September, Tony Schiavone asked for an opportunity to do something he hadn’t done in over 20 years – lead play-by-play on a pro wrestling broadcast.

For his entire run in AEW, Tony has been the zany third wheel on commentary, leaving the calling of moves up to Excalibur. His desire to get back into the center chair again worked out perfectly for Tony Khan’s Kevin Kelly problem. With no advanced notice, Collision opened one night with Tony welcoming us to the show and it’s been great ever since.

For so many of us, Tony is one of the voices of our childhood. Hearing him do play-by-play is such a nostalgic blast, especially with Nigel playing the Jesse Ventura color commentator role to perfection. Tony has been sharp and he’s clearly learned a lot in the way of moves from sitting next to Excalibur for four years. He’s easily one of the best parts of Collision every week.

9. Toni Storm is “Timeless”

Toni Storm debuted in AEW last April. Since then, she’s had one or my favorite women’s matches of the last decade with Jamie Hayter at Full Gear last year, joined up with Ruby Soho and Saraya as the Outcasts, and along the way held the AEW Women’s World Title twice. Still, it felt like Toni was just another pretty face at times. That was until she lost her mind.

After losing the AEW Women’s Title to Shida at Dynamite 200, Toni began growing more delusional by the week, eventually coming to believe she was a silent movie queen. Her whackadoodle “Timeless” has been endlessly entertaining every week. Fans love her. She won the Women’s Title for the third time at Full Gear and looks to walk into 2024 still Women’s Champion and unarguably the most over woman on the roster.

8. Swerve Strickland

Swerve entered 2023 as just another guy leading a faction in AEW. He will exit the year as perhaps the number two star behind MJF, but he’s taking time off. His glow up really started during his feud with Darby Allin in which he demonstrated how far he was willing to go by breaking into Nick Wayne’s house and leaving him to bleed out.

His feud with “Hangman” Adam Page took his to the stratosphere, though. The promos were fantastic. The two had a stellar match at WrestleDream in October that Swerve won with minimal help. They had a rematch at Full Gear, engaging in one of, if not the most violent match in recent memory (and that I’ve ever seen). His performance in the Continental Classic was great. He went 4-1 overall.

His interaction with MJF last week whet everyone’s appetite for that eventual match. It’s only up for Swerve from here and I predict an AEW World Title run is in his near future.

7. Becky Lynch Gives Back

Becky Lynch was already the GOAT when this year started. She decided to spend this year cementing her legacy by giving back to others, first to her heroes and then to the next generation.

In February, she teamed up with WWE Hall of Famer Lita to defeat Damage Ctrl for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles in a genuine feel-good moment. Following WrestleMania, she embarked on several-month-long feud with another Hall of Famer Trish Stratus which culminated in a MOTY candidate cage match in September.

Her next move was a surprising one. She stepped down to NXT to go after the one title she never won (and help juice the ratings). She defeated Tiffany Stratton for the NXT Women’s Title and, in their rematch, made Stratton look like a million bucks. She then dropped the NXT Women’s Title to Lyra Valkyria clean, giving that rookie the biggest win of her career thus far. Someone in Becky’s position could be a selfish egomaniac. Instead, she’s been nothing but selfless in pursuit of making everyone she shares the ring with look good.

6. Rhea Ripley Shines

It there was one MVP in WWE this year, it was Rhea Ripley. She made Dominik Mysterio palatable. She carried The Judgement Day, often being the only interesting thing about that group. There’s just something about the way she carries herself. She’s been the Raw-based Women’s Champion since defeating Charlotte at WrestleMania and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for her reign. And why would there be? She’s the best champion WWE’s had all year.

5. The Continental Classic

At the end of November, AEW introduced its own G1 style round robin tournament, the Continental Classic. The tournament gave a AEW a much needed jolt.

It provided them with structure, plus the emphasis on quality wrestling reminded viewers what made AEW special and why they fell in love with it in the first place. It was also give Brody King, Daniel Garcia, and Andrade strong runs and platforms for further growth. All the positives far outweigh the singular negative of the Triple Crown Title. Hopefully the tourney is even better next year.

4. Will Osperay is All Elite

Halfway through the year it became known that Will Osperay’s contract with NJPW expired at the end of the year. As a result of his immense talent, he received interest from both major companies. Ultimately, he felt that AEW was a better fit for him. New Japan allowed him to negotiate with Tony Khan, and at Full Gear he announced that as of 2024, he’s officially All Elite. This is nothing but good news for AEW. By signing someone like Osperay, AEW maintained the perception that it’s a place where wrestlers, especially those with a real passion for the business, want to go. Given a lot of the negativity surrounding the company, this was a much needed win.

3. Vince McMahon is Replaced

After his resignation last summer, Vince McMahon was replaced as head of creative by Triple H. When he forced his way back in January, it was immediately feared he would snatch those duties back and that his desire to sell the company was in part a way to solidify continuing his position as the creative brains behind WWE.

Turned out, the joke was on him. After the merger with UFC became official in September, the new entity’s top brass threw their weight behind Triple H, giving him firm creative control of WWE. That’s nothing but a positive for WWE as Vince was out of touch and creatively bankrupt. Even if I don’t agree with all of Triple H’s choices, there’s no question that him being in charge has been a welcome change.

2. All In Smashes Records

Tony Khan decided to get very ambitious this year. He scheduled an event for 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium in London. Initially, the idea of filling half those seats seemed plausibly attainable and then tickets went on sale with no matches announced and nearly 50,000 tickets were sold between pre-sale and the first-day of general sales.

All of sudden, filling up Wembley seemed like a distinct possibility. In the end, 80,000-plus people packed into Wembley for All In, setting a new attendance record for a wrestling event, blowing past two records both set by WWE. Even before a single match aired, All In was a massive success.

Easily the highlight of AEW’s 2023, TK and company are running it back next year and as of now have already sold 35,000 tickets to that event.

1. WWE is Sold

When Vince McMahon staged his coup (see “Worst of 2023“), it was for the express purpose of finding a buyer for WWE. After months of speculation, it was announced just before night two of WrestleMania that WWE would be purchased by Endeavor and merged with UFC to form a new corporate entity.

That entity, TKO Holdings Group, became official as of September.

For the first time in its over 50 year history, WWE is not owned or majority controlled by the McMahon family. For better or worse, this is easily the biggest story of the year. Thus far, the merger is a financial success and doesn’t seem to be having a noticeable effect on the onscreen product. Maybe the fact that the corporate portion is wholly separate from WWE is the reasoning for that.

(Zach Barber contributes the weekly “AEW Feud Tracker” column to each week. You are welcome to submit a guest editorial to for consideration of being published.)

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