Lauren Founds: Elayna Black. At just 18 years old, Black is already making a name for herself. She took part in the RISE’s Rising Stars tournament this year and showcased her skills. She has a look and unique gimmick that makes her stand out. The future is bright for Elayna.
Phil Lindsey: Queen Aminata. Aminata has actually been wrestling since last year at least. She debuted with SHIMMER at Volume 101 last April. This year, she caught a lot of fans’ eyes when she worked as an enhancement talent in a tag team match against the Kabuki Warriors on the Apr. 30 episode of SmackDown. She also participated in RISE’s Regional Rising Stars Tournament. Aminata has such an unconventional look and background, but she also has a larger than life personality. Expect to see more of her in 2020.
Kristen Ashly: Kris Statlander isn’t technically brand new to wrestling as of 2019, but she certainly made her presence known the most, this year. Between a spot as local enhancement talent on SmackDown in April, to leading the women of AEW, Statlander has proved to all she’s out of this world. Her alien gimmick makes her stand out, and I hope to see more excellence from the extraterrestrial.
Patricia Rogers: Due to her breakout year towards the end of 2019, her face turn, and the promise she has in 2020, Lacey Evans. She has been in the wrestling business for five years. While she still has work to do, Lacey has made an impact this year. She drew heat when needed, and has an obsessive fanbase on Twitter already. Her character is one of the most fully-formed out of most in the WWE women’s division. I can see her becoming a WWE women’s champion in 2020.
Harmony Cox: My favorite newcomer in 2019 has been Max the Impaler, a Mad Max loving wasteland warrior. She’s the current Ohio Valley Wrestling champ, and she’s getting a lot of buzz in the Midwestern wrestling scene. She is great at character work and she’s an absolute wrecking machine in the ring. Her look and style are unique and her chops are almost as scary as Allysin Kay’s. I’m hoping we’ll see her at RISE or SHIMMER soon.
Dean Buckley: Aubrey Edwards. I appreciate that a referee is an unusual choice, but Aubrey Edwards is unusually brilliant, so deal with it. Just imagine being one of the best in the world at something so early in your career. Edwards is the sturdy backbone in so many of AEW’s matches, not just calling them straight down the middle, but building out the story through her own reactions. She’s taken to prime time better than almost anyone else on the whole roster. Keep on keeping on, Aubrey Edwards.
Breakout Performer of the Year:
Lauren Founds: Kris Statlander. Statlander has only been wrestling for two and a half years. In that time, she has made a name for herself all over the indie circuit. She went from a Beyond Wrestling staple to being on WWE and AEW’s radar. The latter signed her to a contract and in January she battles Riho for the Women’s Championship.
Phil Lindsey: Big Swole. It has been a huge year for Big Swole. She won her first singles title at The Summit when she defeated Zoe Lucas to become the Pheonix of RISE Champion; the first black woman to do so. She and Aja Perera became the first black SHINE Tag Team Champions. Over the summer, she took part in the women’s Casino Battle Royale at AEW All Out. After everything she has been through, it was awesome to see her sign with AEW and make her televised debut this year. She will be a part of their title picture next year for sure.
Kristen Ashly: My breakout performer might turn some heads, but Kylie Rae deserves this award. She went from almost pure indie obscurity to AEW leading lady in less than a year. And when everyone had counted her out, she turned it all around and made the biggest splash yet by re-entering the indie scene. Kylie has so much talent, and I’m so excited to see where she ends up next.
Patricia Rogers: I never thought I would say this, but Lacey Evans. WWE did a good job of making us pay attention to her when she started randomly coming out and walking the ramp dressed to the nines. It created heat because a lot of times it was like…why? She even came out during WrestleMania. She entered no.1 at Royal Rumble and has been positioned in a top spot, even though she has only been with the company for three years. She was in a feud with “The Man” Becky Lynch, right after Mania, going for the title in pay-per-view matches. And what I think made her breakout, was the feud with Natalya. From a technical standpoint, she learned how to wrestle from Natalya. After their series of matches, they made history at Crown Jewel. Lacey is on her way to be a big star, and possibly even a champion in 2020.
Harmony Cox: I have to give it to Miranda Alize. She’s always been a performer I’ve really enjoyed, but it feels like she got a new fire under her this year and she’s definitely performing on another level now. Her heartless heel turn in RISE and subsequent pair-up with Mercedes Martinez have been so much fun to watch, and seeing her debut on AEW earlier this month felt like the moment the rest of the world finally sat up and took notice of her skills and talent. Alize has so much potential, and I can’t wait to see what she does in 2020!
Dean Buckley: Gisele Shaw. Shaw has had a banner year by any measure, winning hearts and minds with standout performances at OTT and WOW (where she had a match of the year contender with Thunder Rosa), acclaimed indie matches against Taya Valkyrie and Tessa Blanchard, and an exciting run at EVE that culminated in her and Sammii Jayne winning the tag titles from the Woke Queens. Her charisma, confidence and exciting in-ring style have earned her thousands of fans this year, and many thousands are sure to join them.