2023 is one of the most controversial years in AEW. For the incredible highs of AEW All In and Forbidden Door, they faced incredible lows like CM Punk’s firing, and the concussion scare of Jon Moxley at Grand Slam.
The promotion has also put on some amazing matches, like Will Ospreay vs Chris Jericho at All In, Bryan Danielson’s clash with Kazuchika Okada at Forbidden Door, or even Jay White vs FTR on AEW Collision.
In this article, we’ve compiled the best moments from AEW in the year 2023, picking out one moment that stands out each month.
Adam Cole Returns From His Serious Concussion
Adam Cole’s AEW career was on the rocks before his return to the company in January 2023. He suffered a serious concussion in a match against Adam Page, Jay White and Kazuchika Okada at Forbidden Door 2022, and was not seen again for months.
There was no update. Not a peep. Nobody knew what was happening with Adam Cole, and as the weeks and months rolled on, there was a serious thought that his wrestling career could be over for good.
This was horrible news. Adam Cole had joined AEW less than a year before his injury, and had performed fantastically in matches against Orange Cassidy and Adam Page in that time. He was poised for a main event run, and ending his career then would have left so much potential on the table.
Thankfully, Adam Cole made a shock return to AEW in January 2023 in one of the best moments of the year. He teased a retirement speech, before revealing that he was cleared to wrestle and would be back in the ring imminently.
Adam Cole’s return promo in January was one of the best AEW moments this year.
The Gunns Win The AEW Tag Team Championships
February wasn’t the best mont for AEW, but it did have one of the best young teams in the division winning the AEW Tag Team Titles for the first time.
AEW does not shock its fans as much as other wrestling promotions. Most matches have very clear winners and losers, with a natural story progression being followed to craft the best storylines possible.
However, sometimes you get true shocks that nobody was expecting, and that is what happened when The Gunns defeated The Acclaimed to win the AEW World Tag Team Championships for the first time.
The match was in the main event of the Championship Fight Night edition of Dynamite, a jam-packed episode of the flagship show, chocked full of huge matches including stars like Bryan Danielson and The Elite.
The Acclaimed were at the peak of their popularity at the time, putting on fantastic matches against an array of challenges in the tag team division. Nobody expected The Gunns – one of the best heel teams in the company, but nowhere near world title level – to take the belts off them in a 10-minute match on AEW Dynamite.
Well, that is exactly what happened in one of the best moments to happen in AEW in February.
JF vs Bryan Danielson Goes 60-Minutes At Revolution
Some people were saying that MJF’s AEW Championship reign was not as good as they expected by April, with others calling for Tony Khan to make him drop the title ASAP.
Citing a reduction in TV ratings and some poor performances, it looked like the “MJF Experiment” was a failure, and the AEW original was not ready to carry the company on his back.
Reading this now, you know what a ridiculous statement that was.
The turning point in his reign came at AEW Revolution 2023. Bryan Danielson had goaded MJF into letting him pick the stipulation for their title match in the main event, beating all the champion’s hand-picked opponents in order to make the match a 60-minute Iron Man match.
This was the first time AEW had help an Iron Man match of that length. Only one match had gone that long before, and it was a time-limit draw for the AEW Championship between Bryan Danielson and Adam Page.
It seemed The American Dragon had the big advantage, but the bout really showed that MJF is every bit the top wrestler and superstar that he thinks he is.
e bout was the main event of the show and lasted an incredible 67 minutes. Both men showed an incredible amount of stamina during the match, going hard until the final seconds and keeping the fans on the edge of their seat.
MJF won the match 4 falls to 3 in overtime, forcing Bryan Danielson to tap out to the LaBelle Lock after 67 minutes.
Danielson won the first fall by pin fall and the second via DQ, when MJF hit his opponent in the testicles. However, that allowed MJF to pin The American Dragon twice in quick succession, levelling the scores 2-2.
MJF won the third with a Heatseeker Piledriver, before Danielson levelled again when he made the champion tap out to the Regal Stretch. He seemed to have the win when MJF tapped out with seconds to go, but the clock ran out before his hand hit the mat.
After much cheating attempts, MJF hit Danielson in the head with an oxygen tank, before locking in the LaBelle lock and forcing him to tap out in overtime. MJF won the match and retained the AEW Championship in the longest match in AEW history, lasting 67 minutes.
Roderick Strong Debuts In AEW
Without anybody even realizing he had been released by the WWE, Roderick Strong turned up on AEW Dynamite to come to the aid of former Undisputed Era teammate Adam Cole.
Roderick Strong joined Adam Cole, Bandido and Orange Cassidy as they fought off the Jericho Appreciation Society.
Strong’s debut was one of the most shocking moments in AEW this year, and set off a chain of events that led to his incredible “neck strong” gimmick that took him and Cole to the main event of AEW All In, and beyond.
The Elite Reunite
Nearly three years after Kenny Omega walked out on Adam Page and took The Elite with him, the four founders of AEW finally reunited to take on a common foe.
Hangman’s battles with The Elite are the most legendary in AEW history. His year-long fight against the group helped build AEW into the juggernaut it is today, culminating in him winning the AEW Championship at Full Gear 2021.
After a series of matches against Jon Moxley, Adam Page came to the aid of The Dark Order in their battle with the Blackpool Combat Club. After it became clear he could not fight them alone, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks came together to help their friend, reforming The Elite in one of the best moments in AEW history/
The group later added Kota Ibushi into the mix, as the fifth man in the Blood & Guts match against The Blackpool Combat Club later that year.
Will Ospreay Beats Kenny Omega In Canada
The match of the year in AEW (and maybe all wrestling) took place in June this year, when Will Ospreay defeated Kenny Omega at Forbidden Door 2023.
The bout took place in Omega’s home country of Canada, which Ospreay took full advantage of. He stole a Canadian flag from the crowd, wiping his butt and blowing his nose with it, before suffering for his actions by an attack from Kenny Omega.
Ospreay and Omega had an innate chemistry that you cannot team. Every move was crisp, perfectly executed and fit exactly in the story where it needed to be.
Despite interference from Don Callis, the match was perfect. The interference even helped the match, even if the referee did not do his job correctly.
The pair told a fantastic story, while also performing some of the most incredible wrestling moves you have ever seen. The whole atmosphere of Will Ospreay stepping into hostile territory and picking up the win made for one of the best moments in AEW in 2023.
Another fantastic moment from AEW in June 2023 was when CM Punk made his return to wrestling for the first time since August 2022. He returned to AEW on the first episode of AEW Collision, claiming to be the real World Champion and taking a potshot at The Young Bucks in the process.
While that was a top moment for AEW fans to enjoy, it did not quite rank above the six-star classic between Kenny Omega and Will Ospreay.
Adam Cole & MJF’s Friendship Blossoms
There are so many moments in the growing friendship of Adam Cole and MJF, and the month of July had so many of them
Their match against FTR for the AEW Tag Team Championships took place in July. Despite coming up short, the match ended with MJF throwing away his AEW Championship and embracing Adam Cole a friend, showing how much he had grown to trust the former NXT Champion.
They won the AEW Blind Eliminator Tournament in July, debuting new music (a mash-up of their respective themes) as they went on to beat Daniel Garcia and Sammy Guevara to earn a shot at FTR.
They also filmed a number of backstage skits, showing their friendship grow over trips to the bar, and playing video games. AEW produced an hour-long compilation, calling the duos relationship the “Feel-Good Bromance Of The Summer”. You can watch that video down below.
Friendship Prevails in MJF vs Adam Cole At All In
Any of the incredible moments from AEW’s All In could be included on this list. Chris Jericho’s Freddie Mercury-inspired entrance, CM Punk’s last match in AEW or Saraya winning the AEW Women’s Championship in front of her home crowd could all be included as the best moment from the night, but friendship prevailing at the end of the night has to be number one.
AEW’s debut in the UK could not have been more successful. The company sold 81,035 tickets to Wembley Stadium for their first UK show ever, drawing the biggest crowd in professional wrestling history (that did not include a crowd forced by gun point to attend).
Headlining that show was two best friends colliding (not Chuck Taylor and Trent, sadly), when Adam Cole challenged MJF for the AEW Championship. The pair grew close after winning the “AEW Blind Eliminator Tournament”, being paired up as a tag team in the lead up to a title match against FTR.
They lost that match, but “Better Than You BayBay” (as they styled themselves) defeated Aussie Open for the ROH Tag Team Titles on the pre-show of All In, giving the fans a chance to see MJF hit his brand-new move – the Kangaroo Kick.
The pair walked into the main event of All In as champions, but everybody who had seen wrestling before knew what was going to happen. One man was going to turn on the other, ending the friendship in a horrific turn that nobody wanted.
But then… they didn’t. Both men teased attacking the other after the match, but instead embraced in the ring as friends. MJF had previously revealed his struggled with ever trusting people, and Adam Cole had helped bring him out of his shell and taught him to trust again.
This ending helped move MJF’s character on from the hated heel he once had been. He became a crowd favorite, with fans chanting “He’s our scumbag” on a weekly basis. The ending was a rare heartwarming moment in wrestling, which will make the inevitable betrayal one day even worse.
Orange Cassidy Becomes A Main Event Star At All Out
AEW All Out 2023 was a special show for many, but none more so than AEW International Champion Orange Cassidy.
For years, he had faced criticism for his style of wrestling. He spent years in the wrestling business trying to make a name for himself, hitting struggles and hurdles along the way that seemed to have cost him his chance at greatness.
Orange Cassidy was never on the radar of the WWE. Many claimed his gimmick was too “goofy” and “silly”, many thinking it could never work in a major wrestling company like WWE, or AEW.
However, since his debut match at AEW Double or Nothing 2019, he worked as hard as he could to change that perception of him, while committing to the gimmick that got him the chance in the first place.
Freshly Squeezed kept his “Lazy” gimmick at the forefront, but showed fans over time that he could wrestle. In fact, he proved so many times that he was one of the best wrestlers in the world. His unique style managed to work against everybody, and his proved time and time again that he could out-wrestle even some of the best in the world.
Every time somebody doubted him, Orange Cassidy turned up a gear. While many were calling for him to be fired, he wrestled one of AEW’s best ever matches against PAC at AEW Revolution 2020.
When he was called a “flash in the pan”, he had a trilogy of matches with Chris Jericho which were some of Le Champion‘s best in AEW. When he was called “not serious enough”, he had people believe he could take the AEW Championship of Kenny Omega at Double or Nothing 2021.
That is why All Out 2023 was so cathartic. After years of struggling, he had elevated himself to the main event. After nearly a year, and over 30 title defenses with the AEW International Championship, he had earned the spot in the main event of the pay per view against Jon Moxley – one of AEW’s biggest stars.
It didn’t matter that Orange Cassidy lost the match. Just by standing in that ring, wrestling Jon Moxley in a pay per view main event, he had proved everybody wrong. This could be the best wrestling moment of 2023, let alone just in the month of September in AEW.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.