This one is a bit hard to define, but as I sit here working on the 2023 Breakout Wrestling performance of the year across AEW and WWE, I have some ideas.
In a Slammy Award type setting, the old way would define this to a “rookie” award, but the definition of rookie would be “never before seen on WWE television using that gimmick”.
Here’s the thing…
Almost every performer that reaches either AEW or WWE has worked on the independent scene for a bit first. They don’t arrive to either as rookies, but rather, as slightly less polished.
So, this won’t be a rookie award.
And, since I feel like 2023 lacked some true “came out of nowhere” performances, this is going to be a bit of a wide net I am casting.
Meaning, I will consider breakout performances from younger performers, but they need not be true rookies.
However, while someone like LA Knight finally had it all click, I would consider him to be a breakthrough star, versus a breakout.
Semantics, for sure, but semantics nonetheless.
Honestly, had someone like Gable Steveson actually worked out, he could have landed here. For reasons not fully disclosed, he went from debuting to disappearing in rapid fashion.
Gable Steveson Makes His Huge Decision
What comes next, I admit may not fit quite the bill even I expected…but overall, especially when focusing on the domestic Big 2 promotions? The pickings were kind of slim.
So with that out of the way…here’s who I am thinking for the breakout performances of 2023.
2023 Breakout Wrestling Performance Of The Year: Logan Paul
Will that selection irk people? Absolutely.
But, when I racked my brain, and thought about all the performances in 2023…I settled on Logan Paul.
Why Paul? Because he continues to look far more comfortable and capable in the ring than someone with his lack of experience should.
Yes, he arrived in WWE in 2022, so that was his rookie year, but considering how little he’s worked, he is still learning.
Only, you’d never know it. While someone like LA Knight reached new heights in 2023, he’s also been in the business for a lot longer than Paul.
Meanwhile, Logan Paul delivered (one half) of the spot of the year (2023 Rumble) and capped off his year by claiming the United States Championship.
Not too bad for a second year in pro wrestling.
2023 Breakout Wrestling Performance Of The Year Honorable Mention: Thea Hail
Hail is someone still incredibly young, but super talented and she came into NXT with a ton of experience.
Just, not WWE experience. So she had to learn more and train more and continue to develop.
Notice how she wound up in the NXT Championship picture, against fellow rising talent Tiffany Stratton?
That’s no accident.
2023 Breakout Wrestling Performance Of The Year Honorable Mention: Tiffany Stratton
It was a really good year for the NXT women, and I assure you, there are quite a few risers that I am not going to even call out here…but I might for the 2024 awards.
Stratton gets some love here, and she deserves it.
Everyone surely saw her work with Becky Lynch, and while many will remember that for Lynch ultimately finally claiming the NXT title she never had before…
It was the NXT talent who impressed many.
For her (and Hail) it’s not if we see them on RAW or SmackDown…but rather…when.
2023 Breakout Wrestling Performance Of The Year Honorable Mention: Grayson Waller
I know he’s not a rookie, he’s been around NXT and indies before that.
But, he did have a really good year in 2023, for someone who prior to this year, had a relatively quiet profile.
How’s that for a vote of confidence?
I completely acknowledge…again…that a main with more than five years of experience is not a rookie. However, I can also put him here because I had doubts he was truly ready for the brightest lights WWE had to offer.
Thus far he has only proven he belongs.