Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (2024)

From controversies, great matches, and big signings, pro wrestling had another boom period in 2023. Hell froze over when CM Punk went from AEW to WWE, Will Ospreay was a true workhorse, and Impact Wrestling continued to step up its game.

The year 2024 already looks to be a massive one for wrestling, with several big stars looking to get signed while WrestleMania is just around the corner. It will also see the retirement of the legendary Sting.

Before moving forward, we must look behind one last time at all the great moments 2023 had to offer. The Sporting News’ global combat team came together to discuss the year that was in pro wrestling.

Who stood out the most? The Sporting News has your winners of Men’s and Women’s Wrestler of the Year, Match of the Year, and more.

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The results are in…

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (1)

(AEW/NJPW/Sporting News)

Men's Pro Wrestler of the Year

Will Ospreay

Will Ospreay competed in over 70 matches in 2023. Of those matches, The Sporting News had several selected for Match of the Year.

It is therefore only fitting that the busiest man in wrestling wins the 2023 Men’s Wrestler of the Year.

Ospreay started 2023 with a Match of the Year candidate (more on that later) against Kenny Omega in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He then went on a run where he competed in IPW, Progress, RevPro, Impact Wrestling, and AEW. He also beat Omega in a rematch at Forbidden Door to win the IWGP U.S. Title and put on a clinic at the G1 Climax.

Outside those moments,Ospreay brought the house down against Shingo Takagi, Zack Sabre Jr., Mike Bailey, Josh Alexander, Shota Umino, Gabe Kidd, and Kazuchika Okada. In every match he was in, Ospreay defied expectations and he ended the year signing full-time with AEW.

There is plenty of debate about who the top star in wrestling is. Regarding the wrestling side of things, Ospreay was the true MVP and will look to continue his momentum in 2024.

“Wrestling is a weird meditation,” Ospreay toldSports Illustrated“I don’t believe my own hype, but I’m also confident I can tear it up with anybody right now. Everything I’ve done so far, I’ve built on my own back. That’s the way I’ve grown up and matured in this wild business, and that’s why I am very confident. What I did in 2023, I am going to up it in 2024.”

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (2)

(WWE.com/Sporting News)

Women's Pro Wrestler of the Year

Rhea Ripley

Rhea Ripley continues to adapt to any situation. The Aussie ended 2023 as a sort of “Final Boss” in pro wrestling, so much so that she earned the Women’s Pro Wrestler of the Year award by force.

Ripley started 2023 by winning the Royal Rumble, entering at No. 1 and lasting over one hour to win the whole thing. Impressive in its own right, Ripley followed that up with a Match of the Year performance (more on that later) against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 39, winning the then-SmackDown Women’s Title.

It was almost considered a changing-of-the-guard moment, with Ripley finally beating the veteran in Flair and becoming the youngest Grand Slam Champion, male or female, in WWE history.

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Over the last few months, she successfully defended the now-Women's World Championship by decimating the competition, performing incredible feats of strength. Not only did she showcase her skills in the ring, but Ripley became the de-facto leader of The Judgement Day, a group that fans love to hate but love to support when it comes to Ripley.

There is no doubt wrestlers like Athena, Giulia, and Toni Storm brought their A-game this year. However, Ripley has become too big a name to ignore.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (3)

(AEW/NJPW/Sporting News)

Men’s Match of the Year

Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay I - Wrestle Kingdom 17

It was hard choosing a Match of the Year for what was a great 2023 in wrestling. Kenny Omega and Will Ospreay, two of the best wrestlers today, appeared on the list several times, but it was match pitting the two together that stood out the most.

While their contest at Forbidden Door was intense, the first Omega vs. Ospreay match from Wrestle Kingdom 17 was a game-changer.

Omega returned to a New Japan Pro Wrestling ring for the first time since 2019 to face Will Ospreay for the IWGP United States Champion. There was tension between the two heading into the fight as they both played the role of “Ace” in NJPW at one point. They proved their status at Wrestle Kingdom.

Move after move, counter after counter, Omega and Ospreay would not let up. Omega bullied Ospreay in the match, forcing him to bleed. Still, Ospreay did not give up, landing several acrobatic moves and counter shots. Omega focused on the neck of Ospreay, eventually hitting suplexes, several V-Triggers, the Kamigoye, and the One Winged Angel to put Ospreay away and hold the U.S. Title once again.

Ospreay returned the favor in an epic at Forbidden Door, but, like the movies, nothing tops the original.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (4)

(WWE.com/Sporting News)

Women’s Match of the Year

Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair - WrestleMania 39

A match three years plus in the making, Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair tore the house down at WrestleMania 39 for the then-SmackDown Women’s Title. It was a changing-of-the-guard moment that helped elevate Ripley while adding to Flair’s legacy of great WrestleMania matches.

To tell the story of the match, we have to go back to WrestleMania 36 in 2020. During the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, Flair beat Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Title. Three years later, with The Judgment Day, Ripley won the Royal Rumble and challenged Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Title. It was a legacy-defining match for Ripley, who wanted to avenge a loss.

The two started hot, landing crossbodys, electric chairs, and hard chops, the latter turning Ripley’s chest bright red. A highlight of the match was Flair getting caught following a crossbody, Ripley going for the Riptide, and Flair countering into a DDT.

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As the match progressed, Ripley, in a heel faction and booed initially, was being cheered. They applauded every move, including her countering a moonsault attempt by Flair into a top rope suplex. Ripley hit a Riptide for two, and Flair hit a Spear for two. Eventually, Ripley caught Flair on the ropes and hit a mid-rope Riptide for the win to a standing ovation.

It was everything you could have wanted in a wrestling match. The women went all out, and Ripley became a true star. It is worthy of its own mention as Women’s Match of the Year.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (5)

(AEW / All Elite Wrestling/Sporting News)

Men's Tag Team of the Year


Though several teams disbanded or saw injuries that affected them, tag team wrestling reigned supreme in 2023. The one team that always stands out is the one consistent entity in wrestling: FTR.

Cash Wheeler and Dax Hardwood ended 2022 with an intense trilogy against The Briscoe Brothers. They had a tamer 2023 but still proved why they are the best men’s tag team.

Having lost the IWGP Tag Team Titles at Wrestle Kingdom 17, FTR took some time off and then beat The Gunns to win the AEW World Tag Team Titles. Holding the belts for 185 days, a highlight of their reign was a 58-minute classic against Jay White and Juice Robinson on free TV. Defending the belts a few more times, they would lose them to Ricky Starks and Big Bill but remained active.

One of their final matches in 2023 included a six-man tag honoring the late Jay Briscoe in which they teamed with Mark Briscoe against The Blackpool Combat Club. There was more desired from the team, but their consistency as wrestlers and storytellers gave them the win of Tag Team of the Year by a landslide.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (6)

(Impact Wrestling/Sporting News)

Women's Tag Team of the Year

Killer Kelly & Masha Slamovich

It was a cursed year for women's tag team wrestling, with injuries and betrayals a key highlight. However, there wasn't a stronger (and scarier) team than Impact Wrestling's Killer Kelly & Masha Slamovich.

Dubbed MK Ultra, the duo started as separate entities, dominating the competition in singles matches. They initially feuded with one another over the Impact Knockouts Title.

In May, Slamovich beat Kelly. They used chains to highlight a brief rivalry, with Slamovich beating Kelly in a Dog Collar Match. That chain eventually got used to bind them together as they formed the ultimate tag team.

In July, they beat KiLynn King and Taylor Wilde for the Impact Knockouts World Tag Team Titles and defended them against all comers. With Impact rebranding back to TNA Wrestling, they lost the belts against Decay, but their bond continues to hold.

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“I do love being in M.K. Ultra,” Kelly said on thePaltrocast with Darren PaltrowitzviaPost Wrestling. “This is the most fulfilling I’ve ever felt in my career, and me and Masha (Slamovich), we’re such a good pair, and the chemistry is so undeniable. We work so well as a team. You can see it in-ring, you can see it in videos that we make, the photos that we take. We are just a tag team through and through, and we have another goal. We were the longest reigning IMPACT Tag Team Champions, 182 days, so now our goal is to be the longest reigning TNA. So, we need to recapture those titles and make history once again.

Separate, they are dominant entities. Together, they are nearly unstoppable. The dynamic duo lost gold to start 2024, but they leave 2023 as The Sporting News’ Women’s Tag Team of the Year.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (7)

(AEW/Sporting News)

Event of the Year

AEW All Out

AEW was at the highest of highs following a record-breaking All In in London. The next PPV was All Out, a traditional event that follows All In a week later.

Several matches were announced at the last minute, and just a few days before the event, CM Punk was fired from the company.

With the event in Chicago, one could predict a disastrous outcome. Instead, from a wrestling standpoint, it exceeded expectations and then some.

There were questions about whether the crowd would hijack the show with CM Punk chants or boo The Elite, the founding members of AEW who had a volatile history with Punk. Instead, it was a relatively tame crowd who only lashed out at Tony Khan. It was a tense atmosphere, but the wrestling aspect of the show brought everyone together.

“Hangman” Adam Page won an entertaining Battle Royale to start things off. The PPV then had several matches produce surprises, whether short or long affairs. Samoa Joe and Shane Taylor had a nice battle of the big men. Speaking of big men, Miro and Powerhouse Hobbs had the crowd on their feet, chanting "Meat" with each clubbing blow by both.

An injured Bryan Danielson returned to action to face Ricky Starks in a Strap Match and it was a technical classic. Konosuke Takesh*ta beat Kenny Omega in a breakout moment for the former. The main event brought it all home. Orange Cassidy, the workhorse AEW International Champion, lost the belt against Jon Moxley in an emotional, bloody affair.

From top to bottom, the event didn’t disappoint. Several fights were graded in the high A's, per The Sporting News, and received a 9.22 rating from Cagematch. Even with plenty of nonsense leading up to the show, if you love no-nonsense pro wrestling, it was the perfect event.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (8)

(WWE.com/Sporting News)

Storyline of the Year

The Bloodline Saga

The Bloodline has held a firm grip on WWE for over four years. Roman Reigns continues to stand tall as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion while the group is all over WWE programming. It started that way and it continues in 2024.

The Bloodline’s story has had its highs and recently found its lows. There have been twists and turns in regards to the group's booking, with soap opera action that fans couldn't turn their eyes away from.

The year 2022 was all about Sami Zayn becoming a member of The Bloodline, a months-long story that culminated with Zayn helping the group win WarGames. He gained the trust of both Usos up until the Royal Rumble.

Reigns beat Kevin Owens for his title at the event and continued to beat down Zayn’s friend. Zayn stopped the attack and hit Reigns with a chair to a thunderous ovation.

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From the Royal Rumble up to Money in the Bank in July, The Bloodline story was at its hottest. Zayn, back to a babyface, faced Reigns at the Elimination Chamber PPV but lost. At WrestleMania, Zayn and Owens beat the Usos to win the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Titles, while Reigns retained his title against Cody Rhodes. Many expected Zayn or Rhodes to dethrone Reigns, and something like this would normally halt fans' interest.

Instead, intrigue picked up. Solo Sikoa became a breakout member, causing tension with the Usos. The brothers started a feud with Reigns and Sikoa that culminated at Money in the Bank, with Reigns getting pinned for the first time since 2019. While Jimmy betrayed Jey not long after, Jey got the babyface turn and momentum he had a few years ago, facing Reigns at SummerSlam.

Now, with each match Reigns is in, his reign as champion and The Bloodline as a group in general has cracks in it. They have limped into 2024 together, but 2023 was still a strong year for the group.

Will Ospreay, Rhea Ripley headline 2023 Pro Wrestling Awards for The Sporting News | Sporting News United Kingdom (2024)
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