Modern professional wrestling is a fast-paced and highly acrobatic sport. Many may decry the rise of the so-called "spot monkey," but the days of trading headlocks and chops are long gone and are likely to never return. The modern maestros of the ring are more into springboard moonsaults, suicide dives, and MMA-style offense than simple hammerlocks or elbow drops. As such, wrestling has become increasingly dominated by younger, leaner athletes who might look like teenagers compared to even the mid-sized talents of the 1990s. A large segment of these athletes are 25 and under.
Among this youthful vanguard, a few top stars stick out. Some of these names have already found their way to the big time in the WWE, while others are currently indie darlings in federations like Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Professional Wrestling Guerrilla, and the various up-and-coming promotions in the United Kingdom. All fifteen of these wrestlers can work across various styles, and if the online community is to be believed, then all fifteen of these wrestlers are just one big break away from being household names. At least two of the entries on this list have already captured WWE titles. Whatever the case, these fifteen wrestlers are names to watch out for in the very near future.
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13 Lio Rush (21-Years-Old)
At only 21, the DC area native Lio Rush has already captured the attention of the IWC. At just a little over 160 pounds, Rush is a light Cruiserweight whose offense is primarily dependent upon his aerial abilities. In short, Rush is a rush of excitement every time he steps into the ring, whether or not it's in front of 20 or 200. Very late in 2014, Rush debuted for the infamous Combat Zone Wrestling promotion and began his journey to championship glory. On December 12, 2015, Rush won the CZW Wired Championship after defeating rival Joey Janela. The two have traded the title back and forth, with Janela recently ending Rush's second reign just a few weeks ago.
Outside of CZW, Rush has performed numerous times for ROH and even won the company's Top Prospect Tournament for 2016. It's plain to see already that Rush is a hot prospect whose time is coming up on the horizon. Before long, don't be surprised to see Rush wearing gold in one of the major independent federations.
12 Pete Dunne (23-Years-Old)
Known as the "Bruiserweight," Pete Dunne is part of a crop of great young talent from the United Kingdom. The tough-faced Brummie has plenty of moxie too, for he's already crowned himself the "King of British Strong Style." As such, a Pete Dunne match is chock full of forearm strikes, rolling elbows, knee strikes, kicks, hard chops, and the occasional high spot. During his Battle of Los Angeles 2016 match against fellow Brit Mark Andrews for PWG, Dunne got the crowd amped by hitting two consecutive Tombstone Piledrivers. Dunne's involvement in the Will Ospreay versus Vader feud, which has its origins in a Twitter beef over Ospreay's match against Ricochet at NJPW's Best of the Super Juniors 2016, further cemented his place as a hot commodity.
For those who dislike "spot monkey" antics, Dunne should be a breath of fresh air. The "Bruiserweight" has a genuinely rough style that can translate well in North America and Japan. Don't let his small size fool you--Pete Dunne is a heavy hitter.
13. Tessa Blanchard (21-Years-Old)
When you're a third generation talent, the world's expectations are placed on your shoulders. For Tessa Blanchard, the daughter of Four Horsemen original Tully Blanchard, the expectations are even higher because her beau is the acclaimed grappler Ricochet. Luckily, Tessa Blanchard has proven herself worthy of carrying on the Blanchard legacy. A skilled competitor whom most fans might know from her scattered appearances in NXT as a jobber, Blanchard is currently riding a huge push in Japan's Stardom federation, which, along with Shimmer, is one of the premiere female wrestling companies in the world.
Indeed, the folks who run Stardom think highly enough of Blanchard's in-ring work that on September 22, 2016, Blanchard wrestled Yoko Bito in the finals of the 5 Star Grand Prix. The match was not only the main event at Korakuen Hall, but Blanchard even kicked out of Bito's devastating B Driver finisher. Although Blanchard ultimately lost the contest, her career is clearly in the ascendancy.
11 Mandy Leon (24-Years-Old)
The self-proclaimed "Queen of Honor" is currently everywhere you look on ROH television. The Brooklyn-born Leon not only hosts several on-air and online segments for the beloved indie federation, but she's one of the principal players in ROH's Women of Honor division. Unfortunately for Leon and other women wrestlers in ROH, the company does not have a belt for them to battle over at this moment. If they did, you can bet your life that Leon and Taeler Hendrix would be trading that championship back and forth as part of a larger storyline.
Outside of ROH, Leon is very active in the indies, especially in the Northeast. Over the summer, Leon had a stellar match with wrestling great Gail Kim in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Hopefully, buzz about this match, as well as Leon's work in ROH, will help to renew Stamford's interest in the woman they misused as just one Adam Rose's "Rosebuds."
10 Daichi Hashimoto (24-Years-Old)
Like Blanchard, 24-year-old Daichi Hasimoto has some big shoes to fill. The son of the late, great Shinya Hashimoto, Hashimoto is currently working his way up the highly competitive ranks in Japan. As of this writing, Hashimoto has spent a majority of his time working for Pro Wrestling Zero1 (a federation started by his father), the Inoki Genome Federation, and Big Japan Pro Wrestling. None of these organizations are considered the "big leagues" in Japan, but Hashimoto's work has garnered enough enthusiasm on the internet that it's likely that either NJPW or Pro Wrestling Noah will tap him for appearances very soon. The fact that Hashimoto wrestles in the classic "Strong Style" will no doubt endear him to Japan's major promoters, plus the fact that Hashimoto has shared the ring with the likes of Go Shiozaki, Kensuke Sasaki, and Shinjiro Otani can only help his future prospects.
Hashimoto's matches are a must-see for fans of old school Japanese wrestling, especially those who love the classic "Brainbustaaahh" call.
9 Deonna Purrazzo (21-Years-Old)
Deonna Purrazzo is only 21-years-old and has already wrestled for NXT, TNA, and ROH. That's quite the resume. Don't beat yourself up if you don't know her name yet, for Purrazzo's biggest exposure came when she was squashed decisively by Nia Jax. In TNA, Purrazzo was once again in the losing position against Brooke Tessmacher at Knockout Knockdown 2 in 2014. Not one to be deterred, Purrazzo, wrestling under her first name, appeared at One Night Only: Live in a gauntlet battle royal and at Knockout Knockdown 4, where she lost to Madison Rayne. As for ROH, Purrazzo has wrestled several singles and tag matches for the company's Women of Honor division. In the latter category she has frequently teamed with fellow rising star Mandy Leon.
With the WWE solidly behind the idea of giving female wrestling a larger presence on their weekly programming, expect big things from Purrazzo in 2017. Full Sail University might get to know her name and face very well.
9. Jay White (23-Years-Old)
Jay White has already had an odd career, even by the zany standards of pro wrestling. Although born and raised in New Zealand, White broke into wrestling after moving from the island of Guernsey to the English mainland in January 2013. After wrestling for several independent promotions in Great Britain and France, White met and befriended Prince Devitt (better known as Finn Balor in the WWE). Through Devitt White was put into contact with officials at NJPW, who in turn gave White the opportunity to train at the fabled NJPW dojo.
As one of NJPW's "young boys," White was constantly on NJPW's programming as one of the faceless men around the ring who clean up the streamers and apply ice packs to the necks of in-ring performers. Eventually, White started wrestling for the company and even managed to acquire a sizable following. Today, White is one of the more popular gaijin junior heavyweights in NJPW. On top of this, White recently debuted in ROH, which means that his takeover of North America is imminent.
8 David Finlay, Jr. (23-Years-Old)
Like his good friend Jay White, David Finlay, Jr. was a "young boy" in the NJPW dojo before he got the chance to wrestle for Japan's largest promotion. Anyone who subscribes to NJPW's streaming service knows the name David Finlay, Jr. well, for the young American grappler has appeared on almost every major show. Even though he's usually early in the card and involved in multi-tag matches, Finlay is always fun to watch. With his long, wild hair, big smile, and unruly beard, Finlay looks like a tiny and friendly Bruiser Brody.
However, a big streak of meanness runs in Finlay's blood. Finlay's father is the legendary "Belfast Bruiser" Dave "Fit" Finlay, which means that young David knows how to hurt people. With such a lineage, David Finlay, Jr.'s talents are bound to be noticed beyond NJPW.
7 Mark Andrews (24-Years-Old)
Despite the awful name "Mandrews," which he currently sports in TNA, the Welsh wrestler Mark Andrews is one of the most exciting young talents in the sport right now. Well under six feet and probably only 150 pounds, Andrews is a micro-Cruiserweight who can pull off amazing aerial maneuvers, such as a 180-degree stunner and corkscrew 450 splash. At PWG's Battle of Los Angeles 2016, Andrews wowed the crowd in Reseda with victories over Pete Dunne and Chris Hero. The win over Hero was especially shocking since Andrews spent the majority of the match as Hero's punching bag. With his small frame and flexibility, Andrews can sell anybody's offense and make it look devastating.
A mainstay of England's Progress Wrestling and America's Chikara federation, Andrews has long been a darling of wrestling's quirky set. That being said, Andrews has the talent to make it in the big leagues. He would be an absolute boon to the WWE's Cruiserweight division.
6 Andrew Everett (24-Years-Old)
Despite being only 24, the North Carolina native Andrew Everett already has a lot of miles under his tires. The son of one of the co-founders of OMEGA Championship Wrestling, Everett has wrestled for PWG, Combat Zone Wrestling, Global Force Wrestling, and Revolution Pro Wrestling. In 2014, Everett debuted in TNA as one of the company's newest X-Division talents. Two years later, Everett was placed into a mid-card storyline along with Trevor Lee as part of Gregory Shane Helms's Helms Dynasty. As of yet, championship gold in TNA has alluded Everett, but this shouldn't last.
Everett's in-ring work is incredible and should appeal to anyone who enjoys aerial offense. You owe it to yourself to watch Everett do his 630-degree Senton at least once in your life. Everett's nickname--"The Apex of Agility"--says it all.
5 Paige (24-Years-Old)
Pity poor Paige. Ever since setting the WWE on fire after winning the NXT Women's Championship (she's still the longest reigning champion in the title's history) and then winning the WWE Diva's Championship on her first night on the main roster, the English wrestler's career has been in steep decline. Even the Divas Revolution, which arguably Paige started in 2014 with her wrestling-centered feud with AJ Lee, hasn't helped Paige to re-ignite. Now, with the release of her boyfriend Alberto Del Rio and rumors of a serious neck injury, Paige's future in the WWE looks slightly bleak.
This is unfortunate for numerous reasons. First and foremost, Paige, who is still just 24, is one of the best female wrestlers in the world. Although she has a tendency to loudly call spots, Paige's matches are usually hard-hitting affairs that keep the always jaded WWE crowd interested. Beyond that, before her implosion, Paige was one of the more over wrestlers on the entire roster. Here's hoping that Paige returns to the ring and recaptures some of her earlier black magic.
4 Trevor Lee (23-Years-Old)
With a nickname like "The Carolina Caveman," one would expect in-ring savagery. This is what Trevor Lee delivers. One of the few wrestlers on this list who weighs over two hundred pounds, Lee is a great combination of speed, strength, and agility. While he could easily base his entire offense around strikes and various suplex permutations, Lee also incorporates plenty of daredevilry into his work. His standing moonsault fallaway slam is a gem to behold, while his tope con hilo has brought the PWG crowd to its feet on several different occasions.
Currently, Lee's talents are being utilized in TNA. As already mentioned, Lee is a member of the Helms Dynasty. Unlike his stablemate Andrew Everett, Lee has captured multiple TNA titles and was the X Division Champion for over 100 days. A run in NJPW, where his strong style is the norm, is likely in Lee's future.
3 Noam Dar (23-Year-Old)
Much was made of Noam Dar's young age during the WWE's inaugural Cruiserweight Classic. At only 23, the Israeli-born Dar was by far and away the youngest competitor in the tournament. Dar was also one of the more successful entrants, getting as far as the quarter-finals. There Dar lost to England's Zack Sabre, Jr. in what was one of the tournament's better matches. Because of his performance in the Cruiserweight Classic, WWE brass decided to sign Dar as a member of RAW's new Cruiserweight division. Could the Scotsman be wearing the purple belt soon? It's likely.
A technical grappler who emphasizes submissions, Dar is a nice complement to the more energetic styles of people like Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann. Furthermore, Dar's good looks and willingness to go airborne means that he's got all the right moves to be a star in the New Era.
2 Will Ospreay (23-Year-Old)
The 23-year-old Will Ospreay may be the face of wrestler's future. A standout in Great Britain for companies like Progress, and Revolution Pro, Ospreay has had his greatest impact in New Japan. Since debuting in March, Ospreay quickly became a fan favorite. This translated into him winning the Best of the Super Juniors and performing well in the Super J-Cup. Plus, for weeks and weeks, all anyone wanted to talk about was the match Ospreay had against Ricochet. Then everyone got fixated on the feud between Ospreay and Vader. It's nothing but wins for Ospreay so far.
Prior to joining NJPW, Ospreay was set to have a nice push in TNA. Although that fell apart, Ospreay did wrestle several times for the company. With that under his belt, the tall and lean Ospreay could transition to larger roles in ROH and PWG. At this point, Ospreay could easily make the jump to the WWE and win over the fans en masse.
1 Sasha Banks (24-Years-Old)
As unbelievable as it may seem, Sasha Banks is only 24. The former NXT and RAW Women's Champion has also only been wrestling professionally for about six years. In that time Banks has made herself into one of the most recognizable and beloved female wrestlers on the planet. "The Boss" is also one hell of a hand inside of the squared circle. If you need further proof just go and watch her series of matches against Bayley in NXT.
The only thing that could hold Banks back at this point are nagging injuries and her propensity to get new ones. Still, RAW seems poised to build their Women's division around the rivalry between Banks and Charlotte, which means that Banks will be a major player for years to come. As far as the Under 25 club goes, Banks is the biggest name and possibly the best in-ring performer of them all.
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