Every year a handful of wrestlers step up and put their head above the parapet, laying claim to the title of the breakout star of the year.
To be considered a true breakout talent, one must have elevated their standing within the wrestling world considerably enough to be looked upon as being at another level entirely to when the year began. It is not enough to have just had a few good matches, the wrestler in question must now be a markedly bigger name than they once were.
This year there have been a good number of performers who have done just this. The advent of AEW has helped by giving a platform to tremendous talents who hadn’t been seen before by most. Outside of AEW and the WWE there have been wrestlers who have most assuredly broken out too. These are just five such talents.
Thanks to Fite TV, GCW has been able to reach a much larger audience than it would traditionally have been able to considering the promotion’s tiny size. This has been a particularly good thing for Alex Zayne.
Despite being brand new to the world of wrestling, this talented youngster caught a lot of attention for a scintillating 630 Splash to the outside at a GCW show. One of the eyes that turned in his direction was that of CIMA. The Japanese veteran then invited Zayne to work in China for the OWE promotion, which he did teaming with CIMA himself this November.
Zayne has also worked a US show for NJPW and has had a match under the Impact banner as well.
He may be an out and out rookie, but this year has been extremely kind to the man. Zayne is making a name for himself amongst fans and industry personnel alike. Bigger bookings and matches are sure to follow in the coming twelve months.
Another youngster who has set the wrestling world alight with his dynamic in ring work is AEW’s Darby Allin.
When the fledgling promotion first debuted on television in the latter stages of the year, there were a number of small names who looked as though they could seize the opportunity afforded by the bigger stage and become stars. Most have not quite managed to do that just yet but Darby Allin has become one of the most popular stars in the company.
Be it because of his underdog status or ineffable charisma, Allin has been taken into the hearts of fans. His performance against Jon Moxley may best show why he has gained such popularity. Despite being outmatched by a hyper aggressive foe, he fought back with dogged determination and turned in a great match in the process.
Allin is a unique presence in the ring and that has served to make him stand out above the other youngsters on the AEW roster. He may well be on track to win some gold in the not so distant future and that is not something that anyone was thinking at the start of the year.
Someone else who isn’t too far away from winning some gold is Tessa Blanchard. The daughter of the legendary Tully Blanchard has carved out a name for herself as one of the toughest women in the industry and the undisputed best not signed to a major American promotion.
Tessa did not enter the year as an unknown quantity by any means but still she has gone from a recognisable name to a highly touted young star. She is just a whisper shy of making history as the first ever female Impact World Champion and has brought crowds to their feet on her way to it by taking on and, at times, outwrestling the men on the roster.
She is a wrestler without compare. A talent who could shine in any environment due to her skill and charisma. Her popularity is surging right now, and you’d have to think that big things are on the horizon for her. The first stop is beating Sami Callihan for his World Title. If any woman has emerged head and shoulders above the rest in 2019 then it is, without doubt, Tessa Blanchard.
Moving away from the youth uprising for a moment, let’s look at an older hand who has shown just how brilliant he truly is in the last twelve months. This man is, of course, the Murderhawk Monster himself, Lance Archer.
It may seem odd to be calling a 42-year-old a breakout wrestler, but Archer can not be described in any other way. This isn’t a resurgence as he has never had a stellar singles run before, performing predominantly as a tag team competitor as he has for so long.
It all started when he faced Will Ospreay in the G1 tournament. The match was arguably Archer’s best ever and it kicked off what has been a tremendous run for the highly effective big guy. Thanks to a forced title vacation by Jon Moxley, Archer picked up the NJPW US Title and is having the run of his career with it.
Killer Elite Squad may well have been one of the best big men tag teams of all time, but Archer is proving that alone he has the potential to be one the best gaijin performers of all time too. He is deceptively nimble for his size, has power for days, and just bleeds cool. Finally, people are noticing how fantastic this man is between the ropes in his own right. Long may he reign as champion.
Another imposing big man who has made waves in the last few months is Keith Lee.
Despite having been on the NXT roster since early 2018, Lee has only just gotten rolling. Injuries were a big part of that but now he is healthy and showing the world why he was such a highly respected member of the indy scene.
Between his standout performances against Dominik Dijakovic and his amazing time in the Survivor Series Elimination Tag Match, Lee has developed a huge following in the past few months. Management and fans alike are high on the hot prospect as he looks poised to content for the NXT Title.
Keith did not start the year as an unknown, he has always had his fair share of support but that has increased tenfold as of late. He is now someone who could conceivably receive a main event push and look right at home at the top of the card. NXT may well have thrust numerous stars into the spotlight over the past year, but none have taken to the shine quite like Keith Lee.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Impers0nalJesus. Thanks for reading!