NXT 2.0 Rookies of the Year

NXT 2.0 will celebrate its first birthday this coming Tuesday evening. The change away from the highly indie style of the Black and Gold brand was a huge culture shock. The move towards more outrageous characters, and using inexperienced wrestlers led to a drop in viewership and derision from some members of the Internet Wrestling Community.

Under the creative helm of Shawn Michaels' the show has ironed out the early kinks, and in this writer's view become consistently entertaining. This is in no small part to the highly impressive number of rookies on the show.

Over 10 wrestlers who regularly appear on the show hadn't worked a match prior to last year. Now some are regularly main eventing an International broadcast. This is a great achievement, and this article looks in depth at some of the young bright lights of NXT 2.0

Bron Breakker - Age 24 - In ring debut - September 14, 2021 - Number of matches - 41 Career Highlight - Two Time NXT champion

Being a second generation star can sometimes add a burden of expectation that is too much for some. Breakker has shined in the spotlight. He had the rocket ship strapped to him, when he destroyed LA Knight in the first match of the new NXT era.

Steiner claimed the NXT title at the second attempt from Tommaso Ciampa in his 14th match, and has built up an impressive resume of victories. He has claimed the scalps of Johnny Gargano, Roderick Strong, Dolph Ziggler, JD McDonagh, and most recently Tyler Bate to unify both the NXT and NXT UK titles. He is also one of only two men to have defeated GUNTHER in WWE.

Breakker even managed to work an entertaining match against the much maligned Joe Gacy. WWE are clearly high on the son of Rick Steiner. He worked last year's tour of the UK, and has been featured on Monday Night Raw. Barring a major setback, it'd be a huge surprise if he isn't called up to the main roster in 2023.

Brutus & Julius Creed - Ages - Brutus 26, Julius 27 - In ring debut - August 24, 2021 - Number of matches - 34 - Career highlight - NXT tag team champions

Being a member of Diamond Mine has been a poisoned chalice. Malcolm Bivens, Hideki Suzuki, and Tyler Rust have all left the company following their association with the group. The Creed Brothers though have flourished, becoming the cornerstone of 2.0's tag team division.

Initially positioned as heels, The Creeds won over fans with impressive outings against Grizzled Young Veterans and Imperium. They turned any doubters into believers when winning the Dusty Cup, beating former winners MSK to join the ranks of Authors of Pain and Undisputed Era in claiming the trophy.

Like Breakker, they have claimed NXT gold in their first 12 months. Their in-ring work has never been in doubt, but Julius has shown himself to be a decent promo which augurs well for their eventual move to either Raw or SmackDown.

Tony D’Angelo - Age 27 - In ring debut - October 5, 2021 - Number of matches - 25 - Career highlight - Defeated Tommaso Ciampa in his final NXT match

D'Angelo is the archetypal 2.0 performer. Young, character heavy, with a Division one athletic background. In ring he's a solid performer and hasn't looked out of place wrestling veterans like Pete Dunne and Santos Escobar. His win over Ciampa during WrestleMania weekend cemented him amongst the higher echelons of NXT performers.

His character work as the Don of NXT has been hit and miss. Not even peak Al Pacino could have salvaged some of the poor writing from sections of the feud with Legado Del Fantasma. Whilst playing the mob stereotype won over a lot of fans initially, the two dimensional role doesn't leave much room for development.

Bodhi Hayward - Age 22 - In ring debut - January 11, 2022 - Number of matches - 19 - Career highlight - Awarded scholarship to the prestigious Chase University

Like D'Angelo, Hayward has excelled at the character side of the business. The goofy protégé of angry university dean/professional wrestler Andre Chase has maximized his minutes on screen. His loyalty to Chase U is endearing, and he's built a cult following whilst building his resume on Lvl up.

He's shown himself to be a willing comedic foil to Chase, Thea Hail, and most memorably Sarray. Like Breakker, Hayward has a Gridiron background, and has demonstrated explosive speed in the ring. Whilst currently on the undercard, Hayward will be hoping to become a bigger fixture on 2.0 once the inevitable call ups happen.

Damon Kemp - Age 23 - In ring debut - December 21, 2021 - Number of matches - 19 - Career highlight - Narrow loss in drinking contest against Wolfgang

Diamond Mine turncoat Kemp has stepped out the shadow of his Olympic champion brother this year. Like D'Angelo and the Creeds, Kemp has a great amateur wrestling background, and he has shown this in the ring. His initial displays on TV weren't memorable, but he seemed to develop more confidence following a brief stint on NXT UK, working with the likes of Wolfgang and Noam Dar.

His presence in Diamond Mine has given him greater opportunities to appear on TV. His recent turn on the Creeds and Strong allowed him to showcase his chops on the mic. As an antagonist against the remaining members of Diamond Mine, he should begin to climb up the card.

Tiffany Stratton - Age 23 - In ring debut - November 23, 2021 - Number of matches - 24 - Career highlight - main eventing NXT in her 16th Televised match

No one has developed more rapidly than Tiffany Stratton in the last 12 months. She looked extremely nervous in her live TV debut in December. This earned her some harsh criticism from people stating she was a throwback to the Diva era.

These comments were a bit harsh. Prior to signing with WWE, Stratton was trained by Greg Gagne and Ken Anderson. She's shown a willingness to make a memorable character, with her Mean Girls/Cher Horowitz pastiche.

Her ring work has improved greatly. Working alongside the likes of Roxanne Perez, and most recently Wendy Choo, Stratton has shown a presence far beyond her relative inexperience. Whilst she may need a couple of years more seasoning on Tuesday nights, she possibly has the highest celling of any of the class of 2021.

Who would be your pick as NXT 2.0's rookie of the year?

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