Which WWE NXT Superstars Will Dominate 2021?

Published 12/28/2020, 9:22 AM EST
TOKYO, JAPAN – JANUARY 04: Yujiro Kushida during Wrestle Kingdom 13 at Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by New Japan Pro-Wrestling/Getty Images)

WWE NXT had a less than stellar year, and 2020 saw AEW rise and take the victory in the Wednesday Night Wars. However, during these wars, certain Superstars like Io Shirai and Kyle O’Reilly rose to achieve their fullest potential. The year 2021 will also see some breakout performers including some shocking names.


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Shotzi blasts her way to the main event


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Few NXT superstars have the daredevil aura of Shotzi Blackheart. In fact, one can call her the female embodiment of Jeff Hardy.

The green-haired star has been the breakout star for NXT in 2020. It only makes sense for her to grab the brass rings that lie ahead of her in 2021. Her matches against the likes of Io Shirai, Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez, and even at War Games have made her a must watch talent.

Blackheart is also NXT’s biggest babyface right now. This puts her in the perfect position to chase the NXT Championship in 2021.

The NXT Universe loves an underdog story and seeing Shotzi trying to beat the likes of Rhea Ripley or Raquel Gonzalez will remind fans of Bayley’s rise to the top or Sami Zayn’s journey to the NXT Championship.

Kross takes back what he never lost

In 2021, WWE can deliver the best storyline in quite a while. Let’s go back to SummerSlam 2016 where Finn Balor beat Seth Rollins to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion.

Unfortunately, a devastating shoulder injury forced Balor to vacate the title. Fast forward to 2020, and we saw a similar scenario with Karrion Kross.

Kross beat Keith Lee to win the NXT Championship but had to vacate it due to injury. He returned recently and announced it by targeting Damien Priest.

A win against Priest at New Year’s Evil steadies his course towards the NXT Championship. Finn Balor will be on the other end of the spectrum when Kross comes for his title. In 2021, Kross is coming for the Prince, but will he miss or hit the target?

What’s next for Pat McAfee in WWE NXT?

Pat McAfee is the only wrestler to gain more from two consecutive losses to Adam Cole. His wrestling profile has expanded substantially since he debuted against Cole at Takeover: XXX.

It is difficult to take a former football player for granted in WWE (Roman Reigns, Goldberg, The Rock). McAfee, however, has a side to him that literally no one expected to see.

In two Takeovers, McAfee has secured his place in the list of best performers of 2020. His success in this year only means that greater things are coming for him in 2021. With the feud with the Undisputed Era ending, it is very intriguing to see who fights Pat next, and whether that be his first win in an NXT ring.

It’s the sign of the times for Grimes

2020 was not the breakout year for Cameron Grimes that people expected. He had a few high profile matches against Finn Balor, Kushida and many more, but the former Trevor Lee has had an underwhelming run so far. Grimes isn’t to blame as NXT had too many stars at hand to push to the top.

After some NXT superstars get called up to the main roster, it will be a terrible decision to not put Cameron Grimes in the title picture, Whether it’s the North American or NXT Championship scene, Grimes deserves to be in that category. The man can do a backflip into a German suplex, and that is more than enough reason to strap a rocket to his back. We hope 2021 does a lot of good to Grimes.

Can Kushida correct his own path?

Kushida was the biggest NXT signing since Shinsuke Nakamura in 2016. The former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion is one of the best wrestlers on the planet, and it is saddening to see how NXT have underutilised him.

Kushida’s biggest win came against Velveteen Dream at Takeover: 31. The post match attack might just set the tone for his 2021.

Kushida deserves to be in contention for the NXT Championship. No wrestler has the combination of technical wizardry, high-flying antics, and a brilliant storytelling quality.

Pitting Kushida against Walter in 2019 did wonders for him. Pitting him against the likes of Timothy Thatcher, Tomasso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole will only be more beneficial for Kushida’s career in 2021.

Raquel conquers the WWE NXT Women’s division


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There is absolutely no doubt that Raquel Gonzalez will hold the NXT Championship in 2021. She has dominant heel champion written all over her. Gonzalez can be to NXT’s Women’s division what Walter is to the NXT UK division.

Her win against Io Shirai at NXT Takeover: War Games puts her in the driver’s seat for a title shot. However, it looks like Mercedes Martinez will be first in line to receive the said opportunity.

Despite that, the future is still bright for Gonzalez. WWE NXT desperately needs a heel monster like Gonzalez. A win for her against Rhea Ripley in the Last Woman Standing match at New Year’s Evil would be optimum.


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Who do you think would be a breakout star in 2021? Did we miss anyone out? Feel free to let us know in the comments. As for the aforementioned stars, 2021 is definitely going to be their year.


Nathan Fulgado

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Nathan Fulgado is a WWE and AEW author at EssentiallySports. Having published close to 1000 professional wrestling articles, Nathan is currently pursuing his Journalism degree from Xavier's College. He has previously worked at Free Press Journal as a local journalist.