Throughout the year, a new crop of stars has stepped up to make a name for themselves with both AEW and WWE.
Dozens of independent wrestlers stand out every year and go on to earn a contract for a major wrestling promotion. Realizing their dreams and becoming a breakout star on WWE’s massive roster is much tougher. The sheer size of the company makes it difficult to make an impact right away but it’s not impossible, especially with the advent of NXT.
On the other hand, AEW has so much room to grow as a relatively new venture. In its second year, wrestlers have more of a chance to fill a void or develop into a role that didn’t exist yet. As such, new stars debatably have more opportunities in a smaller pool of talent.
In 2020, several new and familiar faces emerged and became names to keep an eye on. Here are 6 wrestlers with a bright future ahead of them in the years to come.
Dominik Mysterio has to be the 2020 rookie of the year after a lively start to his official WWE career. The third-generation wrestler has made appearances for the company dating back to 2005 but he made his in-ring in August at SummerSlam.
The 23-year-old sought vengeance after Seth Rollins brutally impaired his father, Rey Mysterio, in the Eye for an Eye match at The Horror Show at Extreme Rules. Although his son put up quite a fight in Street Fight against a renowned workhorse, the plucky newcomer wasn’t able to defeat the former universal champion.
Nevertheless, Mysterio looked spectacular in back to back pay-per-view performances and a Steel Cage match on Raw. He displayed an impressive understanding of wrestling psychology and an offense. He’s already well ahead of the curve and he has shown glimpses of knowledge beyond his time in the industry.
Now that he and his family have finally finished their feud with Rollins, the sky’s the limit for Dominik Mysterio. It’s not hard to predict that 2021 will be an even bigger year for him. We look forward to watching him continue to carry on his dad’s legacy and make his own mark on professional wrestling
AEW’s women’s division has had some well-documented struggles since last year. Early on, Britt Baker stumbled as well as to find her footing in the company.
The first signee outside of The Elite was available at all of the initial press events and AEW clearly saw her as someone focal point on the women’s roster. However, fans didn’t take to her vanilla babyface character and she sustained an untimely injury before Double or Nothing.
Baker’s fortunes drastically changed when she turned heel at the beginning of the year aboard Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager at Sea Part Deux: Second Wave. On the Jan 22 episode of AEW Dynamite, the real-life dentist debuted a wildly entertaining, self-absorbed, and biting character that quickly became a hit.
Her promo skills have improved so much this year and her character work is among the best on AEW programming. She doesn’t have the in-ring ability of more experienced wrestlers like Hikaru Shida or Serena Deeb but she will inevitably become the AEW Women’s World Champion.
It’s only a matter of time and when she does she will excel because there hasn’t been a flagbearer for the division yet who can elevate a storyline like Baker. She has done so in her feud with Bea Priestley and later with Big Swole.
Bianca Belair is genuinely one of one; there is no one else on the WWE roster like her. She exudes confidence, she’s a pure athlete, and she looks and talks like an authentic Black woman.
The EST of WWE is a star and all of those qualities are just the tip of the iceberg. It was clear to see she had something special on NXT but it all seems like fans haven’t seen what she is fully capable of yet.
Although she shined on a stacked roster, Belair never won the NXT Women’s Championship. In January, she delivered a record-setting performance in the 2020 women’s Royal Rumble match but she didn’t outlast the other 29 participants. Every time the Knoxville native proves herself, WWE seems to get cold feet.
However, Belair is undeniably a future champion. The company will pull the trigger eventually and SmackDown is the perfect place for her to make an impact in 2021. The blue brand could use another big-name in its women’s division outside of Sasha Banks and Bayley and Bianca Belair fits the bill.
MJF has been earmarked as the future of AEW since day one. The Burberry scarf-wearing narcissist is one of the best antagonists in the industry but his scathing promos and adherence to old-school heel sensibilities put him in a class of his own.
The 24-year-old has already shared the ring with three of the biggest stars in the company. In February, he defeated Cody Rhodes at AEW Revolution and he headlined All Out with Jon Moxley. MJF didn’t secure the AEW world title at the event but he proved once again that he’s not just a conniving character with exceptional mic skills.
He held his own against Mox and that wasn’t the first time showed off his in-ring ability. MJF and Jungle Boy also produced what became a sleeper at Double or Nothing in May.
To close the year, the first-ever Dynamite Diamond Ring winner went toe to toe with a veritable legend, Chris Jericho. MJF matched wits with Le Champion and outsmarted him at Full Gear to earn a spot in The Inner Circle.
MJF is the full package and he has already accomplished so much in less than two years with AEW. Even mover, Rhodes, Moxley, and Jericho all speak highly of him. That’s a testament to how good he is and the potential they see in him. 2021 seems like the year he will add championship gold to resume one way or another.
This has to be the year that Rhea Ripley leaves NXT and takes the main roster by storm, right? The Aussie went on a hot streak last year in what became the best run of her career.
When the inaugural NXT UK women’s champion made her return to the black and gold brand to confront Shayna Baszler on Aug 28, 2019, fans could immediately see her star power. If they didn’t, it was abundantly clear as she brought a mosh pit into the ring to celebrate her win over Bazler on the Dec. 18 episode.
Ripley ended The Submission Magician’s 416-day reign to become the first woman to hold both the NXT and NXT UK Women's Championships. En route to that monumental victory, she produced an extraordinary performance on consecutive nights during Survival Series weekend, leading her WarGames team and Team NXT to a win.
At just 24 years old, The Nightmare seems poised to be the future of WWE’s women’s division. Ripley floundered after she lost her title to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36 but she still had incredible matches with Mercedes Martinez, Raquel Gonzalez, and Io Shirai. 2021 will be the year that she gets test herself against the women on the main roster again and aims for a third women’s title.
'Hangman' Adam Page
Adam Page’s has a fascinating journey over the last three years. While he has steadily improved since his days with Ring of Honor New Japan Pro-Wrestling, many fans considered him the most uninteresting member of The Elite.
That sounds harsh but he was standing alongside established stars in the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes is wrestling royalty. More to the point, Hangman never achieved a big profile win as a singles competitor to cement his place among his peers.
So, it came as a shock when Page asserted that he would be AEW’s first world champion at the company’s first press conference. He came close to reaching his goal as he faced Chris Jericho for the vacant title at All Out 2019.
However, Hangman lost to The Painmaker and the rest is history. Jericho became the inaugural champion and Page went into a slump that transformed him into one of the most compelling characters on Dynamite.
It’s only a matter of time before he reaches his goal to win a world title but the tumultuous excursion to get there has benefited him. Page would make a great champion and he’s the ideal guy to build a new wrestling company around. He looks like white meat babyface characters of old aesthetically and he moves like a contemporary crowd-pleasing indie wrestler, making him the perfect amalgamation of the new and old school.
All he needed was a hook to get a new audience to invest in him. Page didn’t have the strong support he needed to become the face of the company in January 2019 but he has grown into a fan-favorite since. 2021 will be his biggest year to date as a singles star and he will just keep going.