top of page

LONG STORY SPORT

My 30 Favorite Wrestlers Under 25 (Part 2: 20-11)

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

A couple weeks ago, I began my longest countdown to date, my Top 30 wrestlers aged 25 and younger in the world today. And while I was hoping I would've had this out a little earlier than I hoped, I decided I'd take my time with this until I knew how I wanted to order these next ten wrestlers. But I think I'm ready now to unveil the next third of this list.


This second crop of workers span six promotions including AEW, Stardom, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. You'll see some tag team specialists, some high flyers, a powerhouse or two, and a man who's main goal is to get on TV and dance aggressively whenever he can. We will also see some world champions and the son of a Tazmaniac. So without further ado, let's continue this list with my number 20 pick.

 

20

Miu Watanabe

Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Birthday - 10/19/1999 in Saitama, Japan
Debut Year - 2018
Major Accomplishments - International Princess Champion (1x), Princess Tag Team Champion (1x), Futari No Princess Max Heart Tournament (2022)

Miu Watanabe has spent the past few years serving as one of the most easily adaptable wrestlers in Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, the sister promotion to DDT. She's shown she can excel across a variety of different styles including comedy, tag team, and serious title matches. She's also developed a unique move-set that strongly accentuates her power and strength. If you watch enough Miu matches, you'll see her utilize backbreakers, shoulder tackles, and even giant swings quite often, which makes her a unique force on a TJPW roster that is mostly filled with high-flyers.


It's perhaps thanks to these elements that TJPW has rewarded her a handful of times during her career with title and tournament wins. Since making her debut in 2018, she's held two of the three title belts in the promotion, and her run with the Princess Tag Team championships from 2019 to 2020 is still the longest lasting reign of it's kind in the promotion's history at 370 days. Additionally, she and fellow "Hakuchumu" tag partner Rika Tatsumi won the company's tag team tournament in 2022, although they would go on to lose their challenge at the tag belts later in the year.


If there's anyone on that roster who deserves to become the next top star in TJPW, it's gotta be Miu Watanabe.

 

19

Hook

All Elite Wrestling
Birthday - 5/4/1999 in Massapequa, NY
Debut Year - 2021
Major Accomplishments - FTW Champion (2x, Current)

While I've had some issues with how AEW has struggled to make him seem like a threat for anything other than jobbers and Jack Perry, that doesn't mean that Hook has been slowly growing into one of the finest young wrestlers in the world today. Because he most certainly has.


The son of Taz (or Tazz depending on your own preference), Hook has grown his legend in AEW in a very novel way over the past few years. Instead of giving shoddy promos and doing the same five moves everyone else does, and consistently being placed on main show cards every single week, Hook remains largely silent and utilizes a tremendous technical move-set filled with every kind of suplex and submission in existence.


While you could argue that his ceiling at this point might not be as crazy high as some around his age, his greatest strength is his consistency. For the life of me, I don't think I've ever seen Hook make a single mistake that has ruined a match. His suplexes always look tremendous, he's always showing the perfect level of intensity to fit the situation, and he has risen from being a borderline meme with the "Send Hook" stuff a couple years ago into a legitimate midcard babyface as of writing.


I applaud Hook for his efforts in making sure he stays true to his work on television and I can't wait for him to eventually escape the shadow of the FTW Title and into a storyline for one of the actually sanctioned AEW championships.

 

18

Daniel Garcia

All Elite Wrestling
Birthday - 9/17/1998 in Buffalo, NY
Debut Year - 2017
Major Accomplishments - PWG World Champion (1x, CURRENT), ROH Pure Champion (1x), Limitless World Champion (1x), ESW Heavyweight Champion (1x), C4 Champion (1x), Battle of Los Angeles (2022)

This might sound a bit controversial, but I think the most impressive thing Daniel Garcia has been able to do since he joined AEW is actually raise his stake in the company while being linked with Chris Jericho as a former member of the Jericho Appreciation Society stable. For those of you who've watched wrestlers like Sammy Guevara, Anna Jay, and Proud and Powerfull struggle to gain much ground while with the "Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah", the same cannot be said about this guy.


I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he's been able to evolve his already established character without changing it too much so that he feels phony. Just like with Hook, Garcia feels authentic. And to me, authenticity is the number one thing I look for when appraising a wrestler's overall talent.


Aside from that, Garcia is an exceptional wrestler. He's got some of the best strikes for a wrestler his age, his grappling is impactful, and his submission game is believable and at times intimidating. And I'm certainly not the only one to think this way based on how many titles he's earned over his six-year run. While his run with the ROH Pure title is only as good as you think the style itself is, it was then when his technical acumen was really able to be seen to it's nth degree. Additionally, his PWG title run, which is still ongoing, has seen him take on four legit top tier talents in Bandido, Konosuke Takeshita, Jonathan Gresham, and Speedball Mike Bailey.


The last thing that makes me a massive Daniel Garcia fan is that he's an unapologetic Joshi wrestling fan, and that's just cool.

 

17

Kyle Fletcher

All Elite Wrestling
Birthday - 12/24/1998 in Sydney, Australia
Debut Year - 2014
Major Accomplishments - IWGP Tag Team Champion (1x), Ring of Honor Tag Team Champion (1x), NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champion (2x), PROGRESS Tag Team Champion (2x), RevPro Undisputed British Tag Team Champion (2x), wXw World Tag Team Champion (2x), Defiant Tag Team Champion (2x), OTT Tag Team Champion (1x), PWA Tag Team Champion (2x), Road to Royal Quest Tag Team Tournament (2019), NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Title Tournament (2022)

It's not often that anyone from Australia has been able to hit the wrestling zeitgeist in the same way Aussie Open was able to in the late 2010s. From the year they started teaming in 2017 to 2021, Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis went from competing mostly in Australia to appearing all around the world, all the while taking on some of the premier tag teams from whatever region they were competing in, including Mustache Mountain, Calamari Clutch Kings, Grizzled Young Veterans, and Ringkampf.


2021 would be a massive year for the Australian pair as they started to compete regularly for New Japan Pro Wrestling, where I first got to see them. Kyle Fletcher reminds me a lot of a young Will Ospreay, not just because he looks exactly like how the "Billy Goat" did back in the mid-2010s, but in how he wrestles as well.


Fletcher is probably most comfortable while taking to the skies, but he's also proven comfortable in striking exchanges. Some of his major moves include the Spanish Fly, Diving Cutter, and his devastating finisher, Grimstone, which is a Spinning Tombstone Piledriver. He might not be as adept in the submission or technical game like Hook or Daniel Garcia, but you could argue that's because his moveset and wrestling philosophy have been crafted through the lense of working as one half of a tag team. I'm sure that when he starts to compete on his own more often, the weaker areas of his game will eventually be strengthened, similar to what's happened to someone like Jack Perry.


As it stands right now, Kyle Fletcher is a tremendous tag team specialist, perhaps one of the best in the world, but has a long way to go if he has any aspirations to win any singles championships in the future. While that might not sound as ringing an endorsement as some of the previous entries on here, the thing that gives me hope is that he's already proven to have what it takes to succeed in this business, given the metric ton of gold he's won already.

 

16

Francesco Akira

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Birthday - 11/21/1999 in Bergamo, Italy
Debut Year - 2015
Major Accomplishments - AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Champion (1x), IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion (2x), Rising Sun World Champion (1x), EPW Heavyweight Champion (1x), SIW Italian Champion (1x), ICW Italian Tag Team Champion (1x), Il Numero Uno (2018), Junior Battle of Glory (2021), Scandi Graps Invitational (2022)

One of the "gaijin" MVPs in Japan since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Francesco Akira has built a remarkable resume over the past few years, and he's only 23-years-old. The "Fireball" has brought his own brand of excellence in the ring while working for a variety of promotions in the country, first in All Japan Pro Wrestling, and more recently at New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he flies the colors of The United Empire. But there's so much about Akira that makes him a young talent to watch out for in the future.


The first thing that will catch your eye when examining Akira is that he doesn't come from a country that's rich in pro wrestling acumen, Italy. Nevertheless, the Bergamo native was able to swiftly climb the ranks in the Central European scene until AJPW gave him a call in 2019, when he was only 19! While working at the famed promotion started by Giant Baba, Akira gained a loyal following, especially during the pandemic. Around two years after initially joining the promotion, Akira would go on to achieve his goal and win the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight title, a belt previously won by the likes of Masanobu Fuchi, Yoshinari Ogawa, Naomichi Marufuji, and even Kenny Omega.


A little less than a year later, Akira was announced to compete in the 2022 Best of the Super Juniors over in NJPW as the newest member of The United Empire, where he would beat the likes of SHO, YOH, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and earn what was essentially a permanent spot on the roster as a freelancer. Since then, he's continued to gain more traction in the company's junior heavyweight division and has also won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag belts along with his Catch 22 partner TJP on two occasions, As of writing, Akira and TJP have held the straps together a combined 341 days, which is longer than some notable teams like Time Splitters, reDRagon, and the Motor City Machine Guns.


It's amazing to think that Akira's achieved all of this already and yet he's still not even 24 yet. Here's hoping NJPW knows what they have in the Italian Ace, because I could see him one day being an even more integral cornerstone for their junior heavyweight division, along with Master Wato, Titan, and Ryohei Oiwa.

 

15

MIRAI

Stardom
Birthday - 12/3/1999 in Miyako, Iwate, Japan
Debut Year - 2019
Major Accomplishments - Wonder of Stardom Champion (1x, CURRENT), Goddesses of Stardom Champion (1x), Cinderella Tournament (2022)

It's amazing to think that just a couple years ago MIRAI was floundering as a tag team specialist for TJPW because what she's achieved since joining Stardom has been impossible to ignore. The Iwate native has been one of the most successful wrestlers on the Stardom roster ever since she made her official debut back in January 2022, having not only achieved a 64.1% win rate in singles contests (as of 9/19/23), but also adding titles and trophies to her resume.


MIRAI has achieved so much while also being one of the most fun wrestlers to watch not only in Stardom, but in all of Joshi. She has some of the best power striking offense in the business as far as I'm concerned, with her lariats being a particular delight. And while she's not the best at conveying the most appropriate facial expressions why selling pain, she is still really good at gaining sympathy from the fans.


The only fault I see in MIRAI's game right now is that she doesn't have a lot of charisma, which means I doubt that she'll ever hold the World of Stardom belt unless she can somehow gain that ability. But whether she wins the red belt or not, I think MIRAI will have a long and successful career filled with phenomenal matches.

 

14

VENY

Freelance
Birthday - 10/27/1998 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Debut Year - 2015
Major Accomplishments - SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Champion (1x), SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Tag Team Champion (2x), Sendai Girls World Champion (1x), World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana World Champion (1x), Regina Di WAVE Champion (1x), KO-D Tag Team Champion (1x), DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion (3x), KO-D Ten Man Tag Team Champion (1x)

The woman formerly known as ASUKA (spelt with ALL CAPS), VENY has been a fixture within the independent scene in Japan for nearly a decade now. Since she made her debut in 2015 while still a teenager, VENY has been seen wrestling for many of the biggest independent promotions in Japan, most notably Pro Wrestling WAVE, Sendai Girls, SEAdLINNNG, and DDT.


It took a few years for her to gain her footing within the industry, but beginning in 2018, VENY started to gain a stellar reputation as an exciting worker and charisma fountain, so basically, the exact kind of wrestler you'd want on the marquee. Basically, if you want were a booker and wanted to ensure the fans would love at least one match on your show, you'd bring in VENY.


Over the years, VENY has had some stellar matches, not only against women, but men as well. Some of my personal go to recommendations are her clashes with Arisa Nakajima, her 7/10/22 bout vs. Chihiro Hashimoto, her various bouts both teaming with or facing MAO in DDT, or any of her clashes at the three Hana KImura Tribute shows from 2021-23. She can work as a tremendous underdog babyface one night and a dastardly heel the next. Her versatility is often underrated because she doesn't work often enough for more visible promotions, but to me it's what makes her so special to watch.

 

13

Madoka Kikuta

Dragon Gate
Birthday - 9/20/1999 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan
Debut Year - 2020
Major Accomplishments - Open the Dream Gate Champion (1x, CURRENT), Open the Twin Gate Champion (1x), Open the Triangle Gate #1 Contendership Tournament (2021), Rey De Parejas (2023)

While I'm not.a gigantic Dragon Gate fan, mostly because I do try and spend time not watching wrestling, there are a few guys from that promotion who I felt needed to be put on this list somewhere. And while there were some guys listed in my honorable mentions, listed down below, it's DG's own reigning Open the Dream Gate champion Madoka Kikuta who will be talked about first.


The man formerly known as HipHop Kikuta made his debut during the summer of 2020, during the hellish existence that was the clap crowd era of Japanese wrestling. While I didn't get to see much of him from that era, because who would ever want to revisit that time, I've heard that he was an adequate rookie at the time who was only hampered by being constantly compared to his fellow rookies, some whom were thriving at the time like Jacky Funky Kamei and SB KENTo.


Fast forward a few years later to the present day and Madoka Kikuta is currently the top title holder in the promotion, a popular babyface, and the youngest member of the "Reiwa Six", which is a group consisting of Ben-K, Kota Minoura, Madoka Kikuta, Shun Skywalker, Strong Machine J, and Yuki Yoshioka, the six men who will be expected to lead DG to future prosperity. (NOTE: we aren't sure how old Strong Machine J is)


While he's not the prototypical Dragon Gate wrestler in terms of either physique or style, Madoka Kikuta has risen to the top of DG's roster thanks to staying his course and becoming the wrestler he was meant to become. Here's hoping he can remain healthy so that he can continue to grow his own legend.

 

12

Starlight Kid

Stardom
Birthday - 8/18/2001 in Japan
Debut Year - 2015
Major Accomplishments - New Blood Tag Team Champion (1x, CURRENT), Goddesses of Stardom Champion (1x), Artist of Stardom Champion (1x), High Speed Champion (1x), Future of Stardom Champion (1x), Future of Stardom Title Tournament (2018)

Starlight Kid might only be 22-years-old, but she's far from being a rookie in the wrestling business. Making her debut for Stardom back in November of 2015, SLK has gradually risen up the ranks from the understudy to Mayu Iwatani to the devilish pseudo general of Oedo Tai all the while achieving her fair share of accolades along the way.


SLK's winning ways began in early 2018 when she became the first to hold the Future of Stardom championship, which she would win as a member of Stardom's top babyface faction STARS for 281 days. But while that was a nice appetizer, she wouldn't hold any more gold while on the side of good. She would only find the success she was looking for once she turned to the dark side in 2021. A short time after joining Oedo Tai, she finally won her second title, the High Speed championship, after beating Natsupoi. She would go on to have a memorable reign with the strap, which finally ended in March 2022 in a legendary encounter with career rival AZM.


Since losing the High Speed belt, the Sky Tiger has gone on to win some other pieces of gold along with her Oedo Tai compatriots, but more importantly she's been able to fully define herself as one of the best heels in the promotion. She might be pretty short, but her presence precedes her in big matches. While this hasn't placed her at the top of Stardom's food chain as of yet, I think she's well on her way to reaching either of the promotion's top singles belts in the next few years.

 

11

Momo Watanabe

Stardom
Birthday - 3/22/2000 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan
Debut Year - 2014
Major Accomplishments - Wonder of Stardom Champion (1x), Goddesses of Stardom Champion (2x), Artist of Stardom Champion (3x), Cinderella Tournament (2018), Goddesses of Stardom Tag League (2018, 2020)

To those who watched Stardom before it was purchased by Bushiroad in 2019, Momo Watanabe was the up-and-coming talent who they viewed as a surefire candidate to one day get a run with the promotion's top prize, the World of Stardom championship. And while that's not happened yet, that's not to say she's been completely forgotten. Watanabe has remained one of the most talented all-around workers in the ring while also gaining a fun new edge after turning heel in late 2021.


Of course you can't talk about Momo Watanabe without mentioning her accolades, particularly those she gained while with the Queen's Quest faction, which she led following Io Shirai's departure from the company in 2018 until 2021. Watanabe had one of the greatest runs as Wonder of Stardom champion during which she proudly held the belt for 358 days and successfully defended it 13 times, which was a record until Saya Kamitani surpassed it during her 15 defense reign in 2022.


Additionally, Watanabe has also earned both the Goddesses and Artist belts on multiple occasions, both with Queen's Quest and Oedo Tai, and has won both the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League twice and the Cinderella Tournament, which is Stardom's annual single elimination tournament. The only other wrestler in Stardom's history to win the Wonder, Goddesses, and Artist belts as well as the Cinderella Tournament and Tag League is Mayu Iwatani.


Momo Watanabe has already built an incredible resume in Stardom, and I hope that she will continue to add to her trophy cabinet in the near future, because it's frankly been too long since she's been at the top of the promotion.

 

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 - Yurika Oka - Sendai Girls

44 - Starboy Charlie - Freelancer

43 - Takuma Fujiwara - Freelancer

42 - Ryohei Oiwa - NJPW

41 - Mei Seira - Freelancer


40 - Jacky Funky Kamei - Dragon Gate

39 - Nathan Frazier - WWE (NXT)

38 - Hanan - Stardom

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


20 - Miu Watanabe - TJPW

19 - Hook - AEW

18 - Daniel Garcia - AEW

17 - Kyle Fletcher - AEW

16 - Francesco Akira - NJPW

15 - MIRAI - Stardom

14 - VENY - Freelancer

13 - Madoka Kikuta - Dragon Gate

12 - Starlight Kid - Stardom

11 - Momo Watanabe - Stardom


(NOTE: 50-31 are my honorable mentions)

Comments


Home: Blog2

Subscribe

Home: TeamMember
Home: Contact
bottom of page