One of the big complaints about WWE that I see is that they haven't been able to properly build new stars for the future. They rely on their older talent too much, and when that doesn't work, they look to bring in even older names from the past to pop a television rating or two.
TNA, at various points of their existence, has seen similar complaints lobbed in their direction, with people saying the company would rather push wrestlers from WWE's “trash pile” than create their own homegrown stars.
There is a lot of truth in both sets of complaints, folks. They aren't always true, but it's pretty easy to look at history and see repeated instances of the “old guard” being pushed over the “new guard”, even when fans were chomping at the bit to see the new talent take over.
With that said, it's not as though the future of pro wrestling is completely hopeless. I've been scouring the web and doing my fair share of research on the future, and it actually looks pretty bright. In my research, I have compiled a list of 30 wrestlers from various corners of the world. Some are male, and some are female. Some are already on the biggest stages of the business, while others are trying to work their way up to those levels. What every single person on this list has in common, though, is that they are under the age of 30 years old, and that they are, to varying degrees, the future of the industry. To make it easy to keep track of, I had to set a time cutoff. Therefore, these people can be turning 30 very soon, but they're eligible for the list as long as they are 29 or younger as of January 1st, 2017.
Feel free to put them in whatever order of “brightness” you would like, but for my column, I'm merely listing them from oldest to youngest, so don't complain if your favorite isn't at the top. Are we all caught up now? Good. Let's get to moving.
Becky Lynch (Born on January 30th, 1987): There is so much focus placed on the women of Raw, but if we're being honest with each other, Becky is a better in-ring performer than any of Raw's women. She may be working with a “lesser” talent pool on Smackdown, but that allows her to shine brighter and not get lost in the mix. Thus far, she has helped to bring out the best in Alexa Bliss, showing her veteran side in their feud. That could be a very good spot for Becky on the Blue Brand, even if it's just for a brief period.
Kyle O'Reilly (Born on March 1st, 1987): When I first saw O'Reilly wrestle, it was in the middle of the “era” where it seemed like every other indy wrestler had some sort of MMA influenced in-ring style. A lot of it almost blended together, and that made it difficult for some of them to stand out, O'Reilly included. Experience, experience, and more experience has really paid off for him, though. He still uses a similar style, but his time wrestling around the world has helped him tremendously. He's been successful in both tag team action (teaming with Bobby Fish to form reDRagon) and singles work (winning the PWG World Title in 2014 and holding the the RoH World Championship as of the end of 2016), and it seems like his “name” is only now blowing up, making it a huge possibility that his 2017 is huge.
Bray Wyatt (Born on May 23rd, 1987): It's crazy to think that he's been with WWE in one gimmick or another for nearly eight years now, signing his very first contract at the age of 21. The Wyatt character has had so much potential, but losing every “big” match you have tends to put the kibosh on that pretty quickly. With Randy Orton involved with the Wyatt Family for the time being, Bray looks as strong as he ever has, getting his first taste of WWE gold (silver, but you get the point) by becoming one-third of the Smackdown Tag Team Champions at TLC. There is a lot of buzz surrounding his name for 2017 now, with people predicting things like “Royal Rumble winner” or “Money In The Bank briefcase holder” for his future.
Zack Sabre Jr (Born on July 24th, 1987): Perhaps the best technical wrestler on the planet right now, Sabre has been a very hot commodity in recent years. He's been wrestling all over the world, putting on an endless string of solid matches against opponents of all types, including a wrestling nerd's dream come true against Kurt Angle in England for Revolution Pro Wrestling. A couple weeks later, Sabre was a participant in the Cruiserweight Classic, instantly becoming the favorite to win. He didn't win, of course, but making it to the semi-finals allowed him to showcase his in-ring style to a new group of fans. If he's already this skilled in the ring, imagine how good he could be in, say, five years if he can stay away from injuries.
Johnny Gargano (Born on August 14th, 1987): Before Gargano signed with WWE, he was viewed as one of the more solid in-ring talents on the independent scene. He was someone that could succeed in anything he did, albeit without having to be too flashy. While it appears that he has stepped his game up for the “big time”, he's still one of those wrestlers who is good at everything he does, while not being great at any of it. That's not a knock on him at all. Being a well-rounded worker is far from a bad thing. His tag team with Tommaso Ciampa has been setting NXT on fire, having multiple Match Of The Year candidates with The Revival, and they don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Apollo Crews (Born on August 22nd, 1987): Perhaps the most underutilized man on the entire WWE roster, Crews seems to go back-and-forth between mini-pushes a lot. It'll look like he's in line for an actual push, then he'll disappear, only to reappear a few weeks later and start the whole thing over again. As I mentioned in a previous column, I would like it if the Smackdown writers could develop some sort of character for him, because that's all he's missing right now. Most people are calling for a heel turn, but it doesn't have to be one. As long as he is given a reason to go out there and do what he does, his skills are more than enough to shine.