We’re doing the Fight Game Media Awards a little differently this year. We’ve reshuffled the deck on the pro wrestling side and added new writers who have been writing consistently for this website, or who will become more prolific for us in 2022. We’re also breaking up the awards into multiple posts.
Let’s get started with the pro wrestling breakout star of the year. But first, here’s the voting panel:
Sam Schipman: Contributor for Daily DDT and wrote her debut post for Fight Game Media
Mike Gilbert: Writes the Brace for IMPACT column and hosts the Brace for IMPACT podcast
Steven Conway: Writes about WWE for Fight Game Media
Skylar Russell: Writes about many different wrestling promotions for Fight Game Media
C.J. Tappin: Writes the Weekend Exit Survey for Fight Game Media and hosts the One Hour Broadway podcast
Scott Edwards Jr.: Writes the Five Star Joshi column for Fight Game Media and hosts the Five Star Joshi Show for Fight Game Media Network +
Breakout Star of the Year
Sam Schipman: Jade Cargill
Jade Cargill has IT. However you determine what IT is, Cargill has it in spades. She’s charismatic and absolutely stunning. She’s money on the mic; in fact “money” is how I’ve frequently described her.
AEW knew that they had a star in the making with Cargill, even with limited experience. They’ve done an excellent job protecting her as she learns her away around the ring. Much like Trish Stratus, she may not have come into the business with much in-ring experience, but she’s working her ass off and has a lot of potential.
Cargill is already THAT bitch and will continue to prove she is with the more experience she gains.
Mike Gilbert: Josh Alexander
Josh Alexander started his 2021 in IMPACT as a former tag team champion turned preliminary mid-card star. He lost his first match in his new role to Brian Meyers on the pre-show for Hard to Kill. His future was very much in doubt but he kept grinding and putting in impressive performances on television if front of an empty studio. Then, at February’s No Surrender, he was the most outstanding performer in an X-Division Revolver match. He began his outstanding 3-match series with TJP, with their 3rd and final match which was an Iron Man that is a top ten rated match in IMPACT history according to Cagematch.net. He won the X-division title in April and successfully defended it against Ace Austin, TJP, Black Taurus, Jake Something, and Chris Sabin. After one of the great X-title runs in the last decade, he handed the title over for an opportunity at the IMPACT World Championship against Christian Cage at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view in October, which he won and then immediately lost to Moose. As much as I hated the moment with Moose, it cemented him as the top babyface in IMPACT and he is primed for an even bigger 2022 in the company. His buzz in IMPACT also led to him getting booked in NJPW of America as well as most of the top independent promotions in the country.
Skylar Russell: Bianca Belair
Bianca Belair is the runaway choice for this award, even with the awkward booking choices that have been thrown her way the past three months. Belair had a star-making performance when she won the Royal Rumble, before going on to have a classic main event match with Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37. Belair is on track to become one of the biggest women’s wrestlers in recent memory who isn’t a part of the Four Horsewomen.
Steven Conway: Bianca Belair
WWE ran with Belair in a big way at the beginning of 2021. She won the Royal Rumble and proceeded to step up with a great match against Sasha Banks to main event the first night of WrestleMania on April 10. The fans responded to her push through the summer. The sudden loss to Becky Lynch at SummerSlam was a booking blunder, but Belair is now considered to be a top star in the women’s division by WWE fans, something you couldn’t say a year ago.
C.J. Tappin: Britt Baker
Britt Baker. It feels like Baker has been World Champion for years, in a very good way. You could argue that her breakout was in 2020 but we haven’t seen the proper reactions from full houses until this year.
Scott Edwards Jr.: Maki Itoh
Maki Itoh took every chance she got this year and turned it into gold. As an entry in the AEW Women’s World Championship Eliminator Tournament, she instantly won people over with her bursting personality. But over in her home promotion of TJPW, she displayed that she is one of the best storytellers wrestling has seen in a long time. Itoh’s ability to make you feel something as you watch her is not teachable but only a characteristic that people are born with. Itoh’s Princess of Princess Championship match with Rika Tatsumi is art as every blow makes you want to believe Itoh can overcome before she eventually falls. The same can he said after winning the Princess Cup as her match with tag team partner Miyu Yamashita for the Princess of Princess Championship at Wrestle Princess II is one of the best professional wrestling matches all year. Seeing that she had so many doubting her after the AEW appearance, she shut every single one of them up with one of the best years in all of wrestling.