Ranking the Most Anticipated WWE and AEW Matches for the Rest of 2021 – Bleacher Report

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    How long will it be before we get Kenny Omega vs. Bryan Danielson in AEW?Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    Coming off a hot summer for both WWE and All Elite Wrestling, it’s an exciting time to be a wrestling fan heading into the final few months of 2021.

    The Forbidden Door has been busted wide-open, and everyone is benefiting from the new-found competition and surge in interest. As a result of the fresh-yet-familiar faces popping up on WWE and AEW programming, first-time-ever encounters are being booked, and anything appears to be possible.

    AEW, in particular, has had a thrilling influx of new talent over the past month or so between CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Ruby Soho and Adam Cole. All of them are excellent additions to what was an already-stacked roster, and more notable names could be on their way in.

    There are a handful of potential matches to look forward to over in WWE as well. SmackDown has been the best brand for months, and the returns of Brock Lesnar and Becky Lynch at SummerSlam have made Friday nights even more must-see.

    Even with how creatively stagnant Raw is on the whole most weeks, there are some storylines and Superstars worth watching. Exhilarating action isn’t hard to find on Monday nights, and there are plenty of unprecedented matches to be had still.

    Both WWE and AEW have done an effective job of laying the groundwork for multiple marquee matchups in the months to come, but the following eight are arguably the most anticipated.

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    Tension is brewing in the Mysterio household, as Rey and Dominik continue to come up short in their matches and aren’t on the same page.

    The father-son duo hasn’t been a cohesive unit since losing the SmackDown Tag Team Championship to The Usos at Money in the Bank. Rey has attempted to coach Dominik and aid him in his matches, but most of his efforts have been unsuccessful.

    Following Dominik’s latest losses to Sami Zayn on SmackDown, he has appeared to be increasingly distant from his father. It’s clear the two are headed for a split, and Dominik is most likely to play the heel.

    It’s too soon to tell how he will do in the role, but their matches should be nothing short of stellar. They had great chemistry as partners, and surely that would carry over into them being opponents.

    The idea of facing each other one-on-one has to be a thrill for both Rey and Dominik, and it’s another feud that should make the SmackDown midcard interesting through the fall regardless of who goes over.

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    In her premiere appearance for AEW at All Out, Ruby Soho came off like a total star.

    She entered the Casino Battle Royale as the Joker card to an excellent reaction, had a strong showing and emerged victorious to earn herself a future opportunity at the AEW Women’s World Championship. It was practically the perfect debut.

    AEW has yet to set a date for when she and Britt Baker will meet for the title, but it’s bound to be soon. Whether it’s at the Grand Slam edition of Dynamite in New York City or at the Full Gear pay-per-view in November, their championship clash should be special.

    Soho didn’t have the chance to have too many memorable matches in WWE. She had a few standout performances against the likes of Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Ronda Rousey, but mainstream wrestling fans have yet to see what she’s capable of.

    Baker isn’t one to be underestimated in the ring, either. She’s been a breakout star from a character perspective over the past year, but her in-ring work has also improved leaps and bounds. Look no further than her All Out bout against Kris Statlander. Her match with Soho should be equally entertaining.

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    There’s a lot that can be said about the lay of the land on Raw—and most of it is likely negative—but one of the bright spots of the show in recent months has been Damian Priest.

    His steady rise to the top of the card has been one of the best parts of the program this year because his is one of the few NXT call-ups WWE has gotten right. He’s off to a strong start as United States champion and should continue to rack up high-profile victories.

    Although he’s slated to defend his title against Sheamus at Extreme Rules later in September, a one-on-one match with Drew McIntyre is almost definitely on the horizon.

    McIntyre congratulated him backstage following their tag team win on the post-SummerSlam edition of Raw before being pinned by The Archer of Infamy in a Triple Threat match the subsequent week. He clearly has unfinished business with the U.S. champion and is going to be in hot pursuit of that prestigious prize soon enough.

    Regardless of whether the idea is for McIntyre to go heel, these two are capable of creating greatness in the ring together. Their interaction in the aforementioned Triple Threat was tremendous, so that inevitable one-on-one encounter is bound to be even better.

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    Considering CM Punk hasn’t wrestled regularly in over seven years and there’s a batch of fresh faces for him to work with, virtually every match he has in AEW going forward can be accurately labeled a “dream match” to a certain extent.

    It’s still surreal for fans to see him back in the ring and interacting with a variety of people on the roster. He’s teased several matches since returning in August, but based on what went down on Wednesday’s Dynamite, it looks like he will have his hands full with Team Taz for the foreseeable future.

    Taz was offended that Punk overlooked his faction while rattling off potential opponents, so Punk took it upon himself to call out every member of Team Taz: Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs and even Hook. It’s unknown whether Hook will ever wrestle in AEW—let alone square off with a competitor the caliber of Punk right away—but Punk against Hobbs and Starks on separate occasions is extremely likely.

    Punk vs. Hobbs should be first up following Hobbs’ dominant victory over Dante Martin on Wednesday night. From there, Punk can take on Starks in what could be a gem of a match, especially if they have time to have a verbal joust beforehand.

    Starks is a star on the rise, and proving his worth by being able to hang with the multi-time WWE world champion would see his stock skyrocket.

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    Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch was the feud fans didn’t know they wanted for the fall on SmackDown until The Man returned at SummerSlam and beat Belair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in under a minute.

    The way it played out was highly questionable and did neither woman any favors. Thankfully, the follow-up has been well done. Lynch’s gradual heel turn has been nicely executed, with Belair challenging her to a rematch on multiple occasions and Lynch turning her down at every opportunity.

    Their exchanges on the mic since SummerSlam have been excellent and have showcased them as the stars they are. Coming out of Friday’s contract signing on SmackDown, the pair are scheduled to go one-on-one again with the gold up for grabs at Extreme Rules later in September.

    Their initial encounter was so short that we didn’t get to see them make magic. However, come Extreme Rules, we will find out what kind of chemistry they have and how well they match up. Needless to say, they should have no problem stealing the show.

    The best part is that this program should extend through the remainder of 2021, and the likelihood for more matches is high. Expect excellence from these two when they are given the time the shine.

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    Adam Page may be out of the picture in AEW, but it’s more a matter of when than if he will be gunning for Kenny Omega’s AEW World Championship. He may have to overcome an obstacle or two before get his rightful shot, however.

    Enter Adam Cole.

    The former NXT champion is the perfect person for Page to fight before moving on to challenge Omega for the title. Page shouldn’t immediately be going for the gold upon his return and should have to work his way up, and Cole will be there to thwart his championship aspirations.

    The two have history—Hangman was one of Cole’s final opponents before leaving for WWE—so they can play off their bad blood, with Cole looking to avenge that loss and attempting to ensure that he doesn’t get his long-awaited match with Omega.

    The contest itself would be excellent, but the uncertainty surrounding the outcome is what makes it especially intriguing. It’s uncertain whether AEW would have Cole lose one of his first major matches in the company. But Page has suffered setbacks in the past, and another one could derail his road to the top for good (in storyline, of course).

    This is a matchup that must happen sooner rather than later. It has the potential to be a barn-burner.

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    Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar has been done on a handful of occasions over the past six years. But this time feels like the real deal because their roles have been reversed.

    Reigns has been running rampage over the SmackDown roster as the universal champion for more than a year. He has defeated every Superstar who has stepped up to challenge him, including several former world champions.

    Lesnar, of course, is an entirely different type of threat and arguably his biggest to date.

    The Beast resurfaced at SummerSlam and immediately teased targeting Reigns and the Universal Championship. Paul Heyman, Lesnar’s former advocate, will play a key role in this storyline that will make SmackDown even more fun to follow in the months ahead.

    Prior to SummerSlam, Reigns vs. Lesnar felt like it had been done to death, yet their matches typically delivered (specifically their original encounter at WrestleMania 31). Reigns has stepped up his in-ring game even more as a heel, making their inevitable collision all the more tantalizing.

    Although it’s a WrestleMania-worthy match, it’s expected to transpire at Crown Jewel in October. They fought in Saudi Arabia once before in April 2018 (WWE’s first major event over there), but the stakes feel much higher for this colossal rematch, and it’s guaranteed to be great.

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    The biggest story coming out of AEW’s critically acclaimed All Out pay-per-view was the debuts of Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole. While Cole aligned with The Elite, Danielson wasted no time in setting up a future match with Kenny Omega.

    Their interaction that evening, as well as on Wednesday’s Dynamite, had shades of when Christian Cage arrived in AEW back in March, confronted Omega and planted the seeds for an encounter. That match didn’t happen for another six months, but the teases for Bryan vs. Omega have been strong enough that it’s expected to go down before the year is up.

    Full Gear would be an appropriate place for them to wage war over the AEW World Championship. That gives AEW plenty of time to build it up as the major match that it is.

    Danielson was delivering instant classics up until he left WWE earlier this year. With his new-found freedom on the mic and, most importantly, in the ring, there’s no telling what he will have up his sleeve that he hasn’t been able to use until now.

    Until Adam Page returns and resumes his ascent up the card to dethrone Omega as AEW world champion, this is the biggest bout the company can put on in the interim. It has fans excited for what it might entail and, because of the performers involved, should have no trouble living up to the lofty hype.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.