I think we can all agree that 2020 has been pretty awful so far. The wrestling world has had to adapt to deal with the growing pressures of the pandemic and have either had to make the tough choice of shutting up shop or continuing as normal but without the benefits of having a live audience. Many wrestlers across the industry have struggled but there have been the few cases of performers making the most of the situation and breaking out in their own right.
Perhaps 2020 was destined to be their year all along or maybe they’ve just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Either way, these ten wrestlers will forever look back on 2020 as the year where they established themselves as a star, someone that can be relied upon by their promotion and have begun to forge their own legacy as a global superstar.
We’re going to look at wrestlers from across all corners of the wrestling business, so make sure you throw down your own breakout stars from WWE, NXT, AEW or any of your favourite indie promotions down in the comments section.
1. Cara Noir
‘The Black Swan’ of professional wrestling arrived in PROGRESS Wrestling as part of the 2019 Natural Progression Series, fighting his way to the semi-finals before falling to the eventual winner Scotty Davis. Even though Cara walked away with the loss, Noir was one of the most talked about performers heading into the final few chapter shows of the year.
Cara’s matches with ‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne and Ilja Dragunov helped establish him as a reliable star for the brand who were seeking fresh talent to fill the void left behind by NXT UK stars. It came as no surprise to see Cara included in the PROGRESS Championship fatal-four-way match to kick-off 2020. In what will forever go down as one of the most beloved moments in the Electric Ballroom, Cara defeated his nemesis Dragunov to walk home with the title for the first time, a mere four months after his debut with the promotion.
Since then, Noir has defended against top-tier talent and become comfortable in the role of being the face of PROGRESS Wrestling. Even though ‘The Black Swan’ has had a long tenure in the BritWres scene, this could easily be seen as his pinnacle.
Even though the current climate has put a halt on his momentum, 2020 certainly has been the year of the Swan.
2. Dexter Lumis
If anyone was to tell me this time last year that Dexter Lumis was going to become a star attraction of NXT with the gimmick he has, I would have had a right chuckle. But here we are, with the stalker/psycho hoss lumbering around under the ring chasing down members of The Undisputed Era. Admittedly I haven’t been following NXT TV as well as I should be, but I’m pretty certain Lumis’ reasons behind siding with Velveteen Dream in his ongoing dispute with Cole and pals is pretty vague.
Nevertheless, NXT seem to be doubling down on Lumis as one of the top prospects. Having competed in the NXT Breakout Tournament last year and coming up short to Bronson Reed, he was relegated back down to live event duty and had yet to carve out his niche. It’s great to see that Dexter made it onto TV with a character that could easily be sold to Vince down the line, but I’m not sure how much longevity this gimmick has.
We’ll see where things go for Lumis as the year unfolds but at least so far, he can say he’s achieved a lot in his breakout year.
3. Hiromu Takahashi
Since returning from a career-threatening injury, ‘The Ticking Time Bomb’ has been one of the biggest talking points of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Re-entering the fray of the Junior Heavyweight division, Takahashi picked up exactly where he left off in chasing the IWGP Jr Championship and putting together an exciting Wrestle Kingdom feud with Will Ospreay.
Takahashi walked away with the title, starting one hell of a run for the L.I.J faction. With New Japan being one of the first companies to give their staff as much safety and security as possible during these troubling times, we haven’t had the chance to see Takahashi live up to the hype of his big championship win. This can only mean that he’ll be even more pumped to return to pick up his comeback run and put together some of the greatest Jr. Heavyweight matches of our time.
Hiromu is destined to become a huge marquee star for NJPW, 2020 will go a long way in establishing that.
4. Lance Archer
‘The Murderhawk Monster’ has quickly become one of the biggest stars in All Elite Wrestling. Debuting alongside the legendary Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Lance Archer assumed the position of being the resident monster heel and carved out his path to the TNT Championship in the match against Cody at Double or Nothing.
Having had a pretty impressive 2019 as part of NJPW’s G1 Climax, Archer was destined to become a star in 2020, putting together an impressive resume against stars like Jon Moxley and Kota Ibushi. Archer’s re-emergence in the US was rightly anticipated to be a massive deal for whoever he signed with and I look forward to seeing how he progresses as a wrestling megastar as the year continues.
I see huge things in his AEW future, do not sleep on this big man.
5. Io Shirai
‘The Joshi Judas’ has definitely made an impact in NXT throughout this year. After being lost in the shuffle of Rhea Ripley’s ascendance and Charlotte Flair’s return to the ranks of the NXT Women’s division, Io Shirai has truly capitalised on her re-emergence as part of her rise to prominence. Having returned to win the six-way ladder match after WrestleMania, Shirai has gone from meandering about the mid-card to being in with a serious chance of succeeding Charlotte Flair as Women’s champion.
Io has always been a popular star on NXT, especially since re-branding herself as a vicious heel vixen. The high-flying superstar has a lot to offer and holds a marketable factor that few women have on the NXT roster. With Rhea potentially moving on to bigger things after her rematch against Flair, Io is more than ready to step up to the big time with some quality matches against Flair and the rest of the Women’s division.
If this hasn’t already been her breakout year, then just you wait until the summer.
6. Mad Kurt
My hometown boy Kurtis Chapman has finally made the big time with his reinvention as Mad Kurt. I’m sure it goes without saying that I have a soft spot for Mad Kurt being a Southampton native, but beyond that, he’s also an incredibly talented wrestler that should soon go on to be considered one of the greatest technicians on the scene.
Mad Kurt has been showing up in pretty much every promotion going across the UK, competing against the very best Britain has to offer and winning over fans with his nerdy charisma and barmy characteristics. Fans adore Mad Kurt and sooner or late, he’ll get his big win over Minoru Suzuki. Then the world will understand.
It’s safe to say that Mad Kurt has picked up the ball and sprinted with it after many BritWres promotions started looking for new stars to fill the spots of the NXT UK guys and girls. Now starting to pick up bigger wins over fellow hot stars, it’s only a matter of time before he’s included in the main event scenes and a future contender for the next crop of NXT UK signings. For now at least, BritWres is in very safe hands.
7. Sonya Deville
One of the more recent breakout stars of 2020, Sonya Deville has truly come into her own as part of the Otis/Mandy Rose romance storyline. A feud between the former Fire & Desire partners has been teased for well over a year, with plenty of reports suggesting that Rose was pictured as one of the next big stars of the Women’s division. Though I don’t think anyone backstage would have pencilled Sonya Deville to be the star of this feud.
Sonya’s mic work has improved tenfold and she’s truly shined as the villain of this narrative. Now siding with Dolph Ziggler, Deville is set to ride the wave through the rest of the year and hopefully become a top star in her own right. ‘The Pride Fighter’ might not have been on many people’s radars at the start of the year, but she’ll damn sure finish on them.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Sonya, I love the MMA style and I hope she brings the fire to her growing feud with Mandy and come out looking strong even in defeat.
A veteran of the ring, PCO finally reached the peak of his career by capturing the Ring of Honor Championship from Rush earlier on this year. He ditched the Villain Enterprises faction and defeating his former leader, ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll, to become the number one contender for the title at Final Battle and fully establishing himself as a credible singles star for the first time in his career.
PCO has really pushed the boat out to ensure that he’s taken seriously in the ring. For a 52 year old performer, he can still go like the best of them, putting together some insane spots for a guy his size. PCO unfortunately dropped the title only a couple of months after his big win but in the process of being elevated to that position it really helped rejuvenate his star-power and has put him on the map for other independent promotions.
Here’s hoping that PCO bounces back from his title loss and continues on his road to superstardom later on this year.
9. Orange Cassidy
‘Freshly Squeezed’ Orange Cassidy has been gradually coming out his shell since debuting for AEW last year. Cassidy became an overnight attraction when emerging as part of the Best Friends faction and becoming a highlight of their matches at ringside. His mini-feuds with PAC, Jimmy Havoc and Kip Sabian have quickly become to the most talked about moments of Dynamite and Dark, even making it onto pay-per-view in what was Cassidy’s first ‘proper’ match in AEW.
Orange Cassidy has since been confirmed for the Double or Nothing Casino Ladder match, making him a viable contender for the AEW Championship. This is a huge leap for someone that debuted as nothing more than a comedy skit. Cassidy’s apathetic style has truly become a unique form of wrestling, making his matches must-see content.
I’m sure whatever he pulls off in the Casino ladder match will go a long way in building his star for the rest of 2020.
Easily the biggest breakout star of 2020 so far has been the lovable Otis. Having lost his tag partner Tucker to injury, Otis has had to go it alone in recent months while making his WrestleMania debut and subsequent Money in the Bank victory. Otis has really made the most of his TV time and won over some significant names backstage to help formulate this massive push that has put him in line for a future championship.
Otis can be used to appeal to various demographics of the wrestling fanbase and could very well be the modern day blue-collar warrior. At first, many assumed the team of Heavy Machinery would be one of the biggest flops on the main roster since The Ascension, but they’ve defied expectations and sold enough merch to make them a star attraction, even if that was just off Otis’ back alone.
I see a bright future ahead for both men, even if Otis doesn’t successfully cash-in on either Braun or McIntyre, he’ll definitely look back on 2020 fondly.
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