2023 was one of the better years for professional wrestling. Whether it was WWE or AEW to some of the indies running shows of the year type of events. I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the best male wrestling stars that superseded this past year. For this, I took the 3 best, one from WWE, one from AEW, and one from the Indies, with the fourth being the rising star of the past year.

WWE: Cody Rhodes

To say Cody had a great 2023 would be an understatement. The American Nightmare showed why he was the top star in WWE. From his return at the Royal Rumble, to headline WrestleMania Night 2, his trilogy with Brock Lesnar, to being one of the focal points on Monday Night RAW throughout the summer, and even him capturing the Undisputed Tag Team Championships with Jey Uso and feuding with The Judgement Day which led to his team winning the War Games match from Survivor Series. Cody really showed what he brings to the table even if he came short on finishing his story at WrestleMania. Cody positioned himself as one of the top faces in WWE after having one of the most impressive years a wrestler can have coming from a torn pec. 


If Cody had a great 2023, MJF might have had the greatest year in AEW history. He had a streak of match-of-the-year contenders all year long. Whether it was the Iron Man match against Bryan Danielson at AEW Revolution, the four-pillar fatal 4-way match from AEW Double or Nothing, pinning NJPW ace Hiroshi Tanahashi at Forbidden Door 2, to capturing the ROH tag titles with Adam Cole at AEW All in London which he main evented against his championship partner Adam Cole.

Defeating Samoa Joe at AEW Grand Slam an opponent whom he would later defend his ROH Tag team championship with at AEW Full Gear as Cole recovered from surgery, which was another night MJF pulled double duty by defending and defeating Jay White in the main event. MJF was also in the middle of one of the best AEW storylines in its history. MJF did it all, in ring, on the mic and then some. He delivered in every match in 2023 and showed exactly why he is the face of AEW and the future of professional wrestling. 

Indies: Bobby Beverly

For the independent portion of this piece, it was not an easy pick, as there were plenty of options from this vast collection of single stars. The top options would be speedball Mike Bailey and Jonathan Gresham, both of whom are mainstays in the Indies. However, Gresham and Bailey have both also had success in Impact and other top promotions, so for me, I am going with Bobby Beverly, whom you look at in 2023 as a whole.

This man had or at least was among the most talked about hardcore matches, which is a not-so-highlighted category of professional wrestling. Whether it was him vs Matthew Justice WrestleMania weekend in the Clockwork Orange House of Doom match, to his Ultra-Violent Kumite Deathmatch with Akira, the Bev showed why he is one of the best hardcore/death match wrestlers. If those two matches aren’t enough, he ended the year by winning the legendary and historic King of the Deathmatch this past December. 2024 should only bring more blood, violence, and perhaps championships for the man they can, The Bev.

RISING STAR – Swerve Strickland

This might have been the only clear-cut winner of this article. No one rose their stardom and stock more than the leader of Mogul Embassy. Strickland always had that aura to him whether he was in Defy, Lucha Underground, NXT or now in AEW. Swerve turned it up to 100 in 2023 when he started running roughshod over the others in AEW. From him and Darby Allin reigniting their feud that spans years all the way to their days in Defy which lead to a premier tag team match pitting Swerve and Christian Cage vs Darby Allin and Sting at All In-London.

To his match of the year contender against Hangman Page at WrestleDream and to his now infamous and perhaps the greatest Texas Deathmatch in AEW history against Hangman Page at AEW: Full Gear. Swerve also made it to the finals of his league in the inaugural Continental Classic tournament this past December. If there is anything that is guaranteed in 2024, it will be that a championship will be around the waist of Swerve as he turns AEW this year into Swerve’s house. 

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