In this article, we will detail the best WWE matches of 2021 and ranking the top 10 from worst to best.
2021 has been a rollercoaster year in wrestling. The year began still in the midst of the pandemic, with no fans in attendance and just the Thunderdome for company.
By the end of it, WWE are back at full capacity and heading for one of the biggest Wrestlemania’s of all time. In-between that, however, were all the best WWE matches in 2021.
What counts as WWE?
The term “WWE” does not just encompass Raw and Smackdown. Stars from WWE shows like NXT and NXT UK put on some of the best matches of the year. The highest rated match even took place on NXT UK, and is one of the most beloved WWE matches of all time.
The matches on this list are curated by looking at a number of different factors. Dave Meltzer’s star ratings in the Wrestling Observer are a good place to start. The list wont be exclusively based on these numbers, but will give a good indication of where to start looking.
Cagematch is a wrestling match rating site, which aggregates users rating of matches in one place. This will also be where I will look to find the best matches WWE put on in the year 2021.
The other factor will be simple – my opinion. You can argue every single point in this list because it is my opinion, based on my viewing of the match, and story told.
The storyline leading up to the match can also influence the match rating, but if the match is good enough, it may not need a storyline to help it along.
So, with that out of the way, here is the list of the top 10 best WWE matches of 2021.
Best WWE Matches of 2021
10. Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns – Royal Rumble 2021
The first match on this list is one from the beginning of the year. You may think that 10th may be slightly low for this match, but I will explain later why it doesn’t rank higher.
Kevin Owens was somehow the ultimate babyface. From watching him since his NXT debut, I never saw him as anything other than the companies top heel. He was just that good.
Yet when this match comes around, you can’t help but wish him on. He’s out there, beating up the bad guys and hitting everyone who moves with a Stone Cold Stunner.
The match was let down slightly with it’s ending. It was an exciting match, with huge bumps and both utilising the backstage environment brilliantly in the Last Man Standing Format.
Owens had Reigns beat at the end, handcuffing him to a structure backstage. However, Paul Heyman failed to remove the cuffs in time, while the referee just stopped counting for some reason. Reigns was down for minutes without the referee counting, making everyone look a bit silly.
Despite this, the in-ring action in this match was fantastic, and was one of the best WWE matches of 2021.
9. Finn Balor vs Pete Dunne
Finn Balor’s return to NXT was a highlight of WWE recently. The Irish superstar became a two time NXT Champion during this time, and pulled off some of the best matches the “Black and Gold Brand” had ever seen.
One of those in-ring masterpieces was his Championship victory of England’s own Pete Dunne. Dunne is hailed as one of the best British wrestlers currently in action, and he proved that with his technical clinic with Balor.
The match showcased the best of both men’s abilities. They wrested for over 25 minute, showing some excellent technical wrestling that would not be out of place on ITV’s World of Sport.
Pete Dunne’s trademark joint manipulation was in full effect, causing untold pain to the fingers, knuckles and wrists of the NXT Champion.
They broke up the technical wrestling with brief flashes of hard hitting shots and devious violence. This helped split up the long wrestling sequences and helped the match feel a lot less than 25 minutes.
While the first 20 minutes or so are for the fans of mat wrestling, the final five were pure NXT-Takeover main event level. False finishes and fast paced action galore, including Dunne catching Balor’s Coup de Grace into a devastating triangle choke manoeuvre.
Finn Balor won the match in the end, but the match itself showed Dunne to be a future NXT Champion if he stays with the company. His technical style can work in the company, and he proved it with one of the best WWE matches of 2021.
8. Money in the Bank Ladder Match
The Money in the Bank ladder match is one of the most exciting match types in WWE. Every year fans are guaranteed an entertaining, out of control bout of chaos featuring as many ladder bumps as Jeff Hardy when he does anything- too many.
The match featured lots of ladder-based action and hard hitting moves. It even included Jinder Mahal attacking McIntyre, and then having his henchmen Veer and Shanky carrying the Scotsman off.
The match, as most year is, was star studded. Big E was crowned the eventual winner, but had to contend with seven other WWE superstars, many of which were former WWE Champions.
Big E defeated Drew McIntyre, John Morrison, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Ricochet, Riddle and Seth Rollins to become Mr Money in the Bank, which guaranteed him a world championship match whenever he wanted.
It was a lot of fun and one of the best WWE matches of 2021.
7. Edge vs Seth Rollins – WWE Crown Jewel (Hell in a Cell)
Edge’s bough with Seth Rollins at Crown Jewel wasn’t just one of the best matches in WWE in 2021. In fact, it was of the best Edge matches in WWE history.
The battle between the two rivalries took place in a Hell in a Cell match, during the Crown Jewell pay per view in Saudi Arabia.
The match signalled the end of the Rollins vs Edge feud, and was a fitting end to such a brutal rivalry.
Edge defeated Rollins in a violent encounter that saw weapons galore being used, including Edge curb-stomping Rollins head onto a chair for the victory.
6. Tommaso Ciampa vs WALTER – NXT Takeover: Stand and Deliver
WALTER walked in NXT Takeover: Stand and Deliver having held his United Kingdom Championship for over 500 days. However, he faced his toughest competitor yet when he defended his belt against the former NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa.
The match came about when WALTER’s faction, Imperium, tried to recruit Timothy Thatcher to their ranks. However, this was without Tommaso Ciampa, his tag team partner. The pair got into a feud with the European stable, and the match between Ciampa and WALTER was set.
WALTER would pick up the victory in an epic match and retain his NXT Championship. He used his size and his strength advantage to full effect, picking up the win and putting Ciampa down for the three count.
5. Daniel Bryan vs Roman Reigns – Smackdown (Title vs Career)
The end of a sensational WWE career is number five on the list of best matches in WWE this year. The best match of 2021 on Smackdown, when Roman Reigns defended his WWE Championship against Daniel Bryan, with the Dazzler putting his career on the line to secure the title shot.
The pair previously faced off as part of a triple threat match including Edge at Wrestlemania 37, and out two of the WWE’s finest performers in a one-on-one match for the WWE Championship.
In a tightly contested match, Roman Reigns was victorious with the Guillotine Choke. It was one of the best matches of 2021 in WWE, and Daniel Bryan was forced out of WWE for the third time in his career.
He would later debut in AEW as Bryan Danielson.
4. Daniel Bryan vs Edge vs Roman Reigns – Wrestlemania 37
According to Cagematch, this is the fourth best match WWE have put on in 2021. And it’s not hard to see what fans love it so much.
It featured three of the biggest stars in WWE history. Three men who climbed to the top of the mountain, had their careers taken from them and climbed back up again. Edge and Daniel Bryan retired due to injury before miraculously recovering, while Reigns returned to WWE to become champion despite a prolonged battle with Leukaemia.
Edge returned at the 2021 Royal Rumble from injury, winning the match from the number one position. He became only the third man to do so, after Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit.
The match was paced perfectly and was full of action, with fans split between who they wanted to win. Bryan and Edge were the clear favourites, with champion Reigns booed to oblivion. Luckily, Reigns has previous in being booed in Wrestlemania main events.
Reigns clearly used that experience to pin not one, but both men. He stacked them on top of each other and pinned both men for the count of three. He retained his championship in one of the best matches of 2021 and shows no signs of slowing down going into 2022.
3. Johnny Gargano vs KUSHIDA – NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day
NXT has long been heralded as the home of some of the best matches in WWE history. Johnny Gargano is a legend of the yellow brand and has had the best showings in the companies history. He even holds a five star-rated match by Dave Meltzer, with his battle against Andrade Almas at NXT.
Gargano defended his North American championship against one of the best Japanese wrestlers in the world, Kushida. Famous for his tag team runs in NJPW with partners including Alex Shelley, Kushida came to NXT with much fanfare, but failing to perform to the expected standard until he faced Gargano at NXT Takeover.
The pair pulled out a classic match with 24 minutes of classic NXT-style wrestling. Near falls and finisher kick outs galore, it was your classic “Johnny Wrestling” match that put him on top of the NXT brand. Gargano retained his championship against Kushida, giving both men one of their best matches of all time.
2. A-Kid vs Jordan Devlin – NXT UK
NXT UK has had some bangers this year, and rightly dominates the top of this list. While some viewers may think that this match should be top of the list, it lands in second place just behind another NXT UK classic.
A-Kid, the young Spaniard who has taken NXT UK by storm, took on the Irish Ace Jordan Devlin in a 30 minute Iron Match on an episode of NXT UK.
The pair had been locked in a long term rivalry, with one incredible bout already under their belts. It was a rivalry of epic proportions and one that warranted a rare stipulation match.
The match delivered, with both men wrestling for thirty minutes without respite. A-Kid picked up the win after the time ran out, winning by two falls to one, but with both men showcasing their skills as two of the best wrestlers in the UK.
1. WALTER vs Ilja Dragunov – NXT Takeover 36
NXT UK dominated the top spots in the 2021 match of the year candidates. While A-Kid vs Jordan Devlin was an outstanding bout, it could not top the match where WALTER finally lost his United Kingdom Championship.
The match was the second title bout between the two, with WALTER winning the first bout. That match took place in October 2020, and was rated as one of the best matches in WWE in 2020. It gained five stars from Dave Meltzer, and had fans angling for a rematch.
It took two postponements to finally get the long awaited rematch, but it was well worth the wait.
The match was one of the most brutal matches I have ever seen. Both men did not hold back, with disgusting chops and strikes galore. Ilja Dragunov’s chest was red with the battering chops he suffered at the hands of WALTER, who did not look much better.
Ilja Dragunov became the man to finally dethrone WALTER. 871 days after his reign began, Dragunov locked in The Sleeper and finally became the first man in WWE to beat WALTER, and become the United Kingdom Champion.
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.