AEW Naughty or Nice List 2021: Best Heels & Faces of the Year

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Coinciding with WWE’s Naughty or Nice list, let’s examine All Elite Wrestling’s roster to give a 3-count of the best babyfaces and heels of AEW, too.

AEW likes to brand itself as not having traditional heroes and villains, but we all know that’s b.s. Just because they play more with shades of gray than WWE at times doesn’t mean there aren’t still some clear-cut babyfaces and heels. They have different tunnels they come out of, for God’s sake!

As with that WWE list, these names I picked are solely by my personal opinions, although I tried to factor in accomplishments, longevity, character work, intensity and other kayfabe elements even if I didn’t necessarily prefer that person over some others. I try to be as objective as I can, despite how it’s a mostly subjective topic.

Naturally, your personal preference may disagree. If so, be sure to tell us your list in the comments below!


Without further ado, let’s talk about the men and women who made this year’s AEW list…


BEST BABYFACES

“Hangman” Adam Page

How could the cowboy not make the top 3? His journey to the AEW World Championship saw true growth from his first attempt until he finally reached the mountain top. This was the year he made those final steps and fully assumed his position as the top babyface in AEW.


You could argue the entire Kenny Omega heel title reign was in service of making Page. It was very much designed this way, and while some hiccups happened along the timeline and I’m sure it wasn’t 100% mapped out as it occurred, by and large, AEW killed the execution (in a good way).


Wrestling fans are often so bitter. When someone is groomed to become champion, so many times, the crowd turns on them. Suddenly, the underdog they wanted to hold the belt is now overrated and it’s no longer fun to root for them. Those fans are awful and are never satisfied as they’re more concerned with being adversarial to the norm than enjoying anything outright.

It was great to see that this hasn’t happened with Page. He’s simply been embraced as an outright babyface champion of the people, due in part, I’m sure, because he’s not some John Cena/Hulk Hogan type character, nor is he in WWE at all.

Instead of rejecting it, people are eating it up, as they should. Page is likable as an everyman and someone with a lot of heart who can take a beating, but isn’t invulnerable, and can dish out some punishment, but isn’t destroying people with two moves.

Jungle Boy


Page is someone young enough to get invested in for his first title reign. Someone who is even younger and an investment for further down the line, who will undoubtedly pay off in the future, is Jungle Boy.

In many ways, I’d argue Jungle Boy is actually more of the top babyface in AEW than Page. It’s a hard call, and I ultimately went with Page because he’s the actual top champion, but Jungle Boy is the sentimental underdog above all underdogs.

This year in particular, he saw some impressive victories that put him closer and closer to achieving some real success. Ultimately, he came up short in the big matches that would have given him a belt, but he came within inches of so many pinfalls on those major moments. This year, he stepped up to a new level that made him “a guy to watch out for” to someone who has been declared one of the four pillars of the company.


That’s a huge moniker that shouldn’t be downplayed. Jungle Boy could have easily been a gimmick that didn’t work and quickly fizzled out. His name’s Jungle Boy, for god’s sake. He’s not the tallest, nor is he the best on the microphone, nor is he the most muscular. But he’s for damn sure one of the best they have in the ring.

I go into every Jungle Boy match knowing it’ll probably be my favorite of the night and that it’s extremely doubtful I’ll dislike it. I can’t say that for many other wrestlers out there in AEW, nor WWE.

I don’t get tired of his act because it’s simple. He’s just a good guy and a good wrestler. Being aligned with the babyfaces is just natural, as he fits the underdog role so well and doesn’t have the cocky bravado that a smaller guy like Lio Rush has, for instance. I could even picture Darby Allin turning heel easier than Jungle Boy, who very much comes off to me as this company’s Rey Mysterio or Ricky Steamboat, in that I think I’d be okay if he never turned.


CM Punk

CM Punk

The pops this guy gets. Crowds singing along with his theme. That type of response would already put him in the running for this. But what really seals the deal in my mind for him being one of the top 3 is that with his return came something that rarely ever happens in professional wrestling: a collective sigh of relief.

Punk was back, he’s in a company that will better suit his strengths and weaknesses, and he’s happy. It shows. Fans can tell when someone’s bitter and frustrated, which bleeds over into their work and makes people resentful. When someone’s having fun, even if he’s not having the absolute best matches of his career, people are still riding the wave of positivity with him.

That includes this still being the honeymoon period of his return in general. Fans are too excited that he’s back at all to really lock in the cynicism and start nitpicking. It wouldn’t shock me if 2022’s list doesn’t have Punk on it after things fizzle out, but for now, he’s someone who gets Stone Cold Steve Austin reactions whenever the static hits.

5 Honorable Mentions:

  • Chris Jericho – Turning The Inner Circle babyface was a necessity. I’m personally more interested in tracking Sammy Guevara than keeping up with Jericho, but as the mouthpiece, he’s the driving force for that vehicle.
  • Darby Allin – He’s undeniably one of the top stars that many people are so behind it’d be impossible to deny him a mention on this list, even if I don’t think he’s worthy of taking one of the top 3 spots.
  • Dark Order (as a whole) – John Silver, in particular, is one of my top favorites
  • Eddie Kingston & Jon Moxley – I’m grouping them together as I think their pairing was instrumental in both of their babyface personas this year.
  • Orange Cassidy – Admittedly, it wasn’t as good of a year for him as 2020, but I still love the guy.
  • Also, shout out to Varsity Blonds for being a team I’ve gotten very much behind, too, but they couldn’t realistically make this list.

BEST HEELS

The Elite

The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Don Callis, Adam Cole, Brandon Cutler and to lesser extends, The Good Brothers, Bobby Fish and Michael Nakazawa were collectively the best heels in AEW this year BY FAR.

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