Wednesday, February 28

TheSportster’s 10 Best AEW Matches Of 2023, Ranked

2023 may have been a tough year for AEW overall, but it must be said that from an in-ring standpoint, it has still been arguably the most consistent and highest quality company in professional wrestling today.


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Every single week, some of the best in-ring talents on the planet put on countless show-stealers and get the crowd on their feet, even if the storylines haven’t been perfect this year. TheSportster’s ratings system will determine the very best of the best this year. These ratings will also be compared to that of cagematch.net and Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

To learn more about how we rank wrestling matches on TheSportster, please check out our match ranking criteria guide here.


10 Darby Allin Vs. Samoa Joe (AEW Dynamite 02/01/2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.5/10

Storytelling

2/2.5

Technical Ability

2.25/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.25 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 8.85

Samoa Joe was the dominant and unforgiving powerhouse, and Darby Allin was his punching bag who flew around and put his body on the line. Despite their insane differences, they showcased unreal chemistry here in this No Holds Barred match for the TNT Championship.

The match felt super brutal at times with some massive spots which saw the inclusion of a thumbtack jacket, the exposed ring, and tables. The natural occurrence of blood also added to this. Perhaps the only downside was that the story going in wasn’t massively interesting, but it was good enough.

9 MJF Vs. Kenny Omega (AEW Collision 10/28/2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.5/10

Storytelling

1.75/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.75 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.17

Going into this AEW World Championhip match, AEW didn’t put too much into the build, which was a shame. Given who was involved, this could have been even better had there been more emotion and a storyline behind it.

They blended their styles to create a fluid encounter that managed to get the crowd behind it even with the lack of storytelling. From an in-ring standpoint this was stunning, and the closing sequences offered up plenty of incredible action, near-falls, and big moves such as the powerbomb through the table.

8 Christian Cage Vs. Darby Allin (AEW WrestleDream 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.75/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.25/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.01

This ‘best 2-out-3 falls’ match was a spectacle. Every fall was unique and had a different direction, which made it truly feel like three matches in one. It developed into a war, with the ripping up of the ring, referee bumps, swerves, interferences, and more.

It had everything a big time main event match should have, not to mention the actual in-ring work between these two, which was brilliant. Allin played the fearless underdog and Cage brought his veteran heel tactics. Allin took some of the scariest bumps ever here, but it only added to the realism of the bout.

7 Adam Page Vs. Jon Moxley (AEW Revolution 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.75/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.24

This proved to be a wonderful feud-ender for Jon Moxley and Adam Page, who went to absolute war in this Texas Deathmatch. The hatred between these two men was felt, with it feeling like they truly wanted to cause pain and damage.

Sure it was a bit extreme for some, but that only added to the atmosphere and the intensity of the match. The closing spot was iconic too, with Page hanging Moxley over the top rope, causing a rare submission for Moxley.

6 Bryan Danielson Vs. Ricky Starks (AEW All Out 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.25

This was brutal. It can be hard to get strap matches right, but this may very well be the best strap match of all time. Bryan Danielson and Ricky Starks tore each other to shreds, making the strap feel like the most deadly weapon in all of wrestling.

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The intensity of the whipping, the very real welts, and the obvious pain made it hard to sit through but impossible to take your eyes away. Even with a rushed build, Danielson’s pure fire in this was hard to ignore. Starks may have been the heel, but he came out of this looking legitimized too.

5 Bryan Danielson Vs. Zack Sabre Jr (AEW WrestleDream 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.25/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5.5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.61

Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr battled for the right to be called the greatest technical wrestler in the world, and they really excelled in that aspect with a technical masterpiece.

It was crisp, perfect wrestling, and despite it being on the mat for much of it, it didn’t tire or feel slow at any point. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands and competed in a physical matchup in which they worked each other out throughout. In the end, the story of Danielson needing to pull out a big finishing knee rather than a technical move to win was a nice addition.

4 Kenny Omega Vs. Will Ospreay (AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9.25

Storytelling

2/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.25/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.5/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 6 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.57

This wasn’t quite at the level of their Wrestle Kingdom match, but it was still one of the best AEW matches of the whole year, which just goes to show the high level that these two compete to.

There was great heel work from Ospreay and Callis, and whilst some of it was cheap, it did make sense. This succeeded due to the in-ring work above all, which was stiff, hard-hitting, sometimes absolutely beautiful, and above all as fluid as you’ll ever see it.

3 FTR Vs. Bullet Club Gold (AEW Collision 07/15/23)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9.5/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5.25 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.44

For over 58 minutes, these two teams had one of the greatest television tag team matches in professional wrestling history. This was a stunning piece of wrestling history that will be looked back on as an all time classic.

For the length, they went at an insane pace, getting more and more desperate and beat up as the match went on. The selling was top class, Jay White’s heel work was marvelous, the in-ring work was stellar, and the crowd was on fire. Everything came together here and this near hour-long match flew by.

2 MJF Vs. Bryan Danielson (AEW Revolution 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9.75/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.5/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5.75 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.60

Iron Man matches can sometimes experience dips due to their length and the fact that fans know the important falls won’t occur until the end. However, MJF and Bryan Danielson crafted one of the most perfectly executed Iron Man matches of all time.

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It felt like the match went at 100mph for the full 60 minutes (and sudden death time), with Danielson and MJF going to war. MJF showcased his world class in-ring skills, looking like an equal to Danielson. It had drama, stiff moves, blood, technical wrestling, and some great near-falls. The final portion of the match in particular was stunning, with Danielson using the “YES” taunt for the first time in AEW.

1 Adam Page Vs. Swerve Strickland (AEW Full Gear 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9.75/10

Storytelling

2.5/2.5

Technical Ability

2.25/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.5/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.64

This wasn’t for everyone, but in terms of death matches in AEW, this one has the right to call itself a “deathmatch” more than any other. Swerve Strickland and Adam Page tore each other to shreds with a variety of weapons including staples, barbed wire, and so much more.

It was a brutal war between two rivals fueled with so much rage and hatred. The match was massively heated and the crowd were on their feet for all of it, responding in complete shock at the violence they were seeing.

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