Updated: Sep 8
Voices of Wrestling recently published a list of their 30 Under 30, or their 30 favorite wrestlers under 30, and while I probably would've made a few changes, I thought they did a terrific job at highlighting individuals who are helping to push the sport of pro wrestling into the future.
I was initially going to follow their lead and write my own version of the list, but when I noticed that VOW's entire countdown only included six wrestlers aged 25 Y.O. or younger, I decided I'd lower the age of entry to 25, that way I can talk about some different athletes who deserve to be talked about, instead of merely saying what literally everyone is saying on social media every single day about people like MJF, Konosuke Takeshita, and Rhea Ripley.
To keep this list as evergreen as I possibly could, I made my cutoff date January 1st, 2024, that way any wrestler who has or will turn 25 in 2023 can be nominated. As long as you don't turn 26 in 2023, you're clear for entry. Additionally, I've also elected to disallow any wrestler who is under the age of 18 at time of writing. For simplicity, I've included this chart that shows the age range we'll be working with today, based on year of birth.
1998 - 9
1999 - 9
2000 - 3
2001 - 4
2002 - 3
2003 - 0
2004 - 1
2005 - 1
Today we will cover my picks from 30 to 21, with my 20 to 11 and 10 to 1 posts coming in the next week or so!
Birthday - 9/27/2000 in Sacramento, CA
Debut Year - 2018
Major Accomplishments - West Coast PW Heavyweight Champion (1x, CURRENT), Prestige Champion (1x), Young Lions Cup (2019), West Coast Cup (2022)
Titus Alexander is one of my favorite competitors currently working on the United States independent scene. While you can mostly find him working on the west coast, the "Future Franchise" has also made some appearances in the Northeast as well. I've personally seen him twice over the past year in New Jersey.
The second generation wrestler has already achieved some pretty great things over his five year career including winning the West Coast PW Heavyweight Championship, previously won by guys like Alexander Hammerstone and Jacob Fatu, and the Prestige Championship, which he beat current Impact World Champ Alex Shelley for in February 2022. This year, he's continued his momentum when he was selected to compete in the 2023 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament, which is the most prestigious tournament in American Indie wrestling, and has even made his first appearances for both Ring of Honor and All Elite Wrestling.
Birthday - 12/17/2001 in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan
Debut Year - 2020
Major Accomplishments - SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Tag Team Champion (1x, CURRENT), Princess of Pro Wrestling Champion (1x)
The newest generation of Joshi wrestlers is jammed packed with some incredible talent, as this list will illustrate, and while Stardom and Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling are currently leading the way with the most notable players, that doesn't mean they have them all. The SEAdLINNNG promotion, for instance, has their own wunderkind on their roster, and her name is Riko Kaiju.
The so called "Beast Kid" has been wrestling for around 3 years now, and over that time she's become one of the most well rounded young athletes in all of Joshi. Not only that, but she's become a dependable workhorse around the Joshi Indies, including at Sendai Girls, Ice Ribbon, OZ Academy, and Pure-J, where she held their top prize, the Princess of Pro Wrestling Championship, for 119 days. Other wrestlers who've held that belt in the past include Hana Kimura, Suzu Suzuki, Sareee, and Arisa Nakajima.
Within SEAdLINNNG, Kaiju and partner Ayame Sasamura defeated ASUKA (aka Veny) and Makoto to win the promotion's tag team titles, which they still hold as of writing.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Birthday - 7/14/2002 in Niihama, Ehime, Japan
Debut Year - 2021
Sometimes that's astonishing to me is that Kosei Fujita, the resident "young lion" of TMDK, has only been wrestling for a little over two years. Fujita, who's the most recent junior heavyweight graduate of New Japan's legendary dojo, is set to continue his education on a temporary excursion, where he'll continue to hone his craft and get more reps.
The 21-year-old has already displayed his technical ability, which in my opinion is years beyond where you'd expect a wrestler of his age to be. If he continues to work on what he's already great at, while also learning how to showcase his physical charisma, I think New Japan have a potential junior heavyweight ace on their hands who's more similar to NJPW's early to mid 2010's ace KUSHIDA than current top guy Hiromu Takahashi.
Birthday - 9/27/2004 in Bradford, England
Debut Year - 2019
Major Accomplishments - NORTH Champion (1x, CURRENT), 1PW Tag Team Champion (1x, CURRENT), TNT World Champion (1x), NORTH Tag Team Champion (1x)
While there's one other wrestler under the age of 20 who's become a lot more famous over the past year through his association with AEW, Leon Slater is another teenage competitor fans have been getting to know more and more this year. The Englishman only has 126 matches on his Cagematch account, but he's already taken on some of the world's best on the independent scene including Ricky Knight Jr., Luke Jacobs, Shigehiro Irie, and Lio Rush. Additionally, he's also battled two of England's greatest exports in Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay this year.
Slater might only be 18, but he's already shown off some incredible high flying ability. He kind of reminds me of the aforementioned Will Ospreay from about a decade ago, which means that if he's able to continue developing his game would make him a world class wrestler in the future.
World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana
Birthday - 2/7/2001 in Ushiku, Ibaraki, Japan
Debut Year - 2019
Major Accomplishments - World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana World Champion (1x, CURRENT), New Blood Tag Team Champion (1x, CURRENT), Princess of Pro Wrestling Champion (1x), World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana Tag Team Champion (3x), WAVE Tag Team Champion (1x)
World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana might not be the biggest Joshi independent in Japan, but it has served as a launching pad for some of the best talents in the scene over the past decade, most notable Sareee, who wrestled in WWE for a couple years as Sarray. One other wrestler in their ranks who has all the potential in the world to be the next true breakout superstar is Haruka Umesaki.
Since making her debut in 2019, Umesaki has showcased her talents all over Joshi, and she's been rewarded for her efforts as time's gone on. She's won a combined five tag team champions across three promotions; Diana, Pro Wrestling WAVE, and New Blood, which is the quasi developmental brand for Stardom. She's wrestled just about every notable name you can think of. And she's even developed an alter-ego named KARMA. I personally would love to see her earn a more permanent spot on the Stardom roster in the next year so that we see her tie it up with some of the top names in that company.
All Elite Wrestling
Birthday - 12/15/1998 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico
Debut Year - 2012
Major Accomplishments - AAA World Tag Team Champion (1x, CURRENT), WAR City Cruiserweight Champion (1x)
I'm admittedly not too knowledgeable about the scene down in Mexico, so you won't be seeing much representation from that region this go around, but if I could fit one luchador on here, it would have to be the "rope-walker" Komander. Starting his career over in Mexico back in 2015, the high flyer started to branch out into different territories last year, working for companies like GCW, West Coast PW, and even Dragon Gate, but it was this year that he perhaps surprisingly found himself getting consistent work with AEW and Ring of Honor. In fact, he even signed with AEW over the summer.
Komander is still admittedly pretty raw right now, but he's always someone who excites me when all of his lucha offense is at it's most fluid. In AEW alone, he's had memorable scrapes with guys like Jay White, Claudio Castagnoli, El Hijo Del Vikingo, Chris Jericho, and Rey Fenix, and I'm positive that if Tony Khan keeps using him consistently, he will steadily blossom into a terrific luchador on a roster filled with some of the very best in that style.
Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Birthday - 11/27/1998 in Ibarki, Japan
Debut Year - 2019
TJPW has some fantastic in-ring workers like Miu Watanabe, Rika Tatsumi, and Yuka Sakazaki, but one who's not received enough credit has got to be the promotion's resident honey bee, Suzume. The 24-year-old is one of those talents who's charisma is evident even on when you're watching on a laptop or phone screen, and unlike fellow TJPW talents Maki Itoh and Suzume, her charisma comes strictly from her work in the ring.
Another thing that makes her standout is that she employs a style that not too many wrestlers in Joshi use. She's constantly moving at 100 miles per hour when in control, and she uses her speed to trip up opponents who can't catch up. She will then use the ropes to fling herself into the air, where she can then take her adversary down. The only way people have been able to negate her offense is by overpowering her.
While she has yet to earn any gold since making her debut, I don't think she's too far off from achieving that goal, whether that's with Arisu Endo in the Daisy Monkey tag team, or with either of TJPW's singles belts.
Birthday - 8/21/2000 in Manchester, England
Debut Year - 2018
Major Accomplishments - RevPro Undisputed British Cruiserweight Champion (1x), PROGRESS Atlas Champion (1x), FSW Tag Team Champion (1x), Natural Progression Series VII (2021), PROGRESS Atlas Title Tournament (2022)
While the BritWres scene has seen some better days since it reached it's apex back in the mid-2010s, promotions like Revolution Pro and PROGRESS have continued to churn out quality wrestlers like Drilla Moloney, Michael Oku, and the aforementioned Leon Slater. My personal favorite guy on the rise in England has got to be Manchester's own Luke Jacobs. The "Young Gun" started his career back in 2018, toward the end of the BritWres boom, and in only five years he's become one the most dependable young workhorses in the entire region.
He's already achieved great success, having won belts in both of England's top promotions, and he's done so while also taking part in some of the best matches on any given card. Jacobs employs a hard nosed style all the while skirting between being a junior heavyweight and a heavyweight. Whenever I watch his matches, I always think that Jacobs would've fit perfectly within New Japan's NEVER Openweight division from the mid-2010s, which might've been my favorite thing about that promotion at that time. Some recent bouts I'd recommend include ones against Michael Oku on 7/23/22, Will Ospreay on 2/26/23, and best of all, against one of those guys from NJPW's NEVER Openweight division from years ago, the legendary Tomohiro Ishii from 8/26/23.
If BritWres can keep churning out guys like this, I think they could get some of that legendary status they had not long ago.
Birthday - 11/5/2001 in Laredo, TX
Debut Year - 2016
Major Accomplishments - NXT Women's Champion (1x), Ring of Honor Women's World Champion (1x), NXT Women's Tag Team Champion (1x), New Texas Women's Pro Champion (1x), ROW Diamonds Division Champion (1x), RWR Vixens Champion (1x), ROH Women's World Title Tournament (2019), NXT Women's Breakout Tournament (2022)
At 21-years-old, Roxanne Perez has already achieved some amazing things in the wrestling business. From being trained by the legendary Booker T, the Texas native wrestled all over the state for the first few years of her run. Then in 2021, she exploded on the American indie scene working for companies all over the country like GCW, Warrior, and most importantly Ring of Honor, where she would make history in late 2021 when she became the first ever Ring of Honor Women's Champion.
She would hold the title for 119 days, during which she defended the belt against big names like Killer Kelly, current NWA Women's Champion Kenzie Page, Trish Adora, and Willow Nightingale before dropping it to Deonna Purrazzo a few months before she started up with WWE's NXT brand.
Perez would continue to find success in Florida starting in the summer of 2022 including winning a Women's Breakout Tournament, winning the NXT Women's Tag Team titles, and finally the NXT Women's Championship itself in December after beating the seemingly impervious Mandy Rose.
All Elite Wrestling
Birthday - 7/10/2005 in Seattle, WA
Debut Year - 2018
Major Accomplishments - DEFY World Champion (1x), GCW Tag Team Champion (1x), 5CC Wrestling Champion (1x)
Let's finish this portion of the countdown with a look at someone who could claim to be the ultimate wunderkind of American pro wrestling, the teenage dynamo Nick Wayne. The 18-year-old first pinged on my radar back in February of 2022 when Darby Allin approached him during a DEFY wrestling show to offer him an official contract with AEW when he was only 16. And while he wasn't allowed to compete for AEW until he turned 18, Wayne spent the next year and a half wrestling incredible matches against some of the best in the world.
In singles competition, he took on the likes of Alex Shelley, Will Ospreay, Swerve Strickland, and the aforementioned Titus Alexander. Elsewhere in the tag team scene, Wayne teamed up with Jordan Oliver to create the East West Express, and they had terrific bouts against Aussie Open, the Moonlight Express, and the Motor City Machine Guns.
Suffice to say, Nick Wayne joins the AEW roster as an active talent with an incredible resume, and he'll surely add to that in the years to come.
FULL LIST SO FAR
50 - Megan Bayne - Freelancer
49 - Mochizuki Jr. - Dragon Gate
48 - Tomoka Inaba - Just Tap Out
47 - Takeshi Masada - DDT
46 - Jordan Oliver - Freelancer
45 - Hanan - Stardom
44 - Starboy Charlie - Freelancer
43 - Takuma Fujiwara - Freelancer
41 - Ryohei Oiwa - NJPW
41 - Mei Seira - Freelancer
40 - Jacky Funky Kamei - Dragon Gate
39 - Nathan Frazier - WWE (NXT)
38 - Yurika Oka - Sendai Girls
37 - Mariah May - Freelancer
36 - Ricky Knight Jr. - Freelancer
35 - Billie Starkz - Freelancer
34 - Hikari Noa - TJPW
33 - Dragon Dia - Dragon Gate
32 - Tiffany Stratton - WWE (NXT)
31 - SB KENTo - Freelancer
30 - Titus Alexander - Freelancer
29 - Riko Kaiju - SEAdLINNNG
28 - Kosei Fujita - NJPW
27 - Leon Slater - Freelancer
26 - Haruka Umesaki - Diana
25 - Komander - AEW
24 - Suzume - TJPW
23 - Luke Jacobs - Freelancer
22 - Roxanne Perez - WWE (NXT)
21 - Nick Waybe - AEW
(NOTE: 50-31 are my honorable mentions)
Featured Image Credit - DEFY Wrestling
Contact me at AndrewSoS@protonmail.com if you'd like to collaborate!