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2021 Pro Wrestling Awards – Who’s Next?

2021 awards who's next

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.

Next is the award for someone who set the tone in 2021 for a bigger future. 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 +

Who’s Next?

Sam Schipman: Darius Lockhart
Darius Lockhart got the wrestling community talking with his “I Can Fix It” promo about NWA. So much so that he got booked for their December tapings. 

But before those tapings, he wrestled on AEW Dark against former NWA World Television Champion Ricky Starks. The two had a great match with “The Revolutionary” nearly pinning Starks a couple of times. Lockhart also had a much hyped match up against Lee Moriarty at Enjoy Wrestling; #PantherStyle vs #TAIGASTYLE. Two sides of the same coin. The match certainly lived up to the hype and was one of the best matches of the year. Earlier this year, he had a great match with Bryan Keith at For The Culture 2. 

Lockhart once again got the wrestling world talking with the promo from his NWA debut. He proved why he is called “The Top 5 Best Promo.” He emboldened the people. Wrestlers like Big E have taken notice. Lockhart will be part of the NWA’s Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament on NWA USA. 

As someone who has had the chance to watch “The Intergalactic Oursoul” wrestle live many times, I can’t wait for everyone else to see what I’ve known for a long time. Darius Lockhart is special and someone wrestling desperately needs. 

Mike Gilbert: Wardlow
The AEW monster Wardlow has been waiting in MJF’s shadow for over 2 years now, and 2022 will be the year he finally breaks out. He has the look, the size, charisma, and the perfect foil in MJF to become one of the top babyfaces in AEW. His matches are typically short squashes but we saw in 2020 during a major cage match against Cody Rhodes that he can go longer if needed. 

Steven Conway: Bron Breakker
This is clearly Bron Breakker’s award. The budding star has yet to compile two dozen matches, but his athleticism, charisma, look and strength are obvious. The man has “main event star” written all over him. Barring injury, terrible booking (always a possibility) or a loss of interest in the business, Breakker should become a headliner for years to come. 

Skylar Russell: Masha Slamovich
There’s so many names I could throw out here, but Masha Slamovich sticks out the most. The “Russian Dynamite” has made a name for herself in a very quick manner since emerging on the US scene in 2021. Slamovich is signed to Impact Wrestling, which is usually a great faucet for quality women’s wrestling. I fully expect Slamovich to be in the running for “Breakout Star” in the 2022 awards. 

C.J. Tappin: Hook
I really don’t need to elaborate, but I will. This kid has it. He’s serious, he’s shredded, he has great music and his work, for his level of experience, is great.

Scott Edwards Jr.: YOH
It almost seems wrong to say that YOH is a guy who is next seeing that he made it to the finals of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament but 2022 feels to be his year in the juniors division. For anyone who watched BOSJ, you saw legitimate improvement each and every outing as Kevin Kelly perfectly described to you the journey of YOH as it changed match by match. He was not able to overcome Hiromu Takahashi in the finals, meaning that he still hasn’t fully made it yet. With a chance to kick the year off with a bang against his former partner SHO at Wrestle Kingdom 16, it should be the ideal launching point to make this YOH’s breakout year and see him capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

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