The VOW 30 Under 30 2023

We here at Voices of Wrestling have assembled an all-star panel to create wrestling’s most comprehensive 30 Under 30 list for 2023.

The goal of this list is to be as well-informed and wide-ranging as possible. We have panelists plugged into various wrestling styles across the globe, including American TV, lucha libre, deathmatch, and Joshi, among others. (To see the full panel, check out Part 1). 

Every wrestler under thirty was eligible for this year’s list.

We’ve separated our list into several parts. This is Part II. Part 1, featuring Honorable Mentions and all wrestlers who received votes, is here. The final piece, revealing Nos. 15-1, will be posted Friday.

Without further ado, here are the 30 best wrestlers under 30:

Francesco Akira

#30 – Francesco Akira

Age: 23
Years Active: 7
Promotion: New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Revolution Pro Wrestling
Accomplishments: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion (x2), AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Champion, Rising Sun World Champion (x2), EPW Heavyweight Champion, SIW Italian Champion, ICW Italian Tag Team Champion, Junior Battle of Glory Winner (2021), Il Numero Uno Winner (2018), Scandi Graps Invitiational Winner (2022)
Highest Panel Ranking: 16

“Akira has been a really fun addition to New Japan, though he really found his groove as one-half of Catch 22 alongside fellow United Empire stablemate TJP. They’re proven to be one of the best tag teams in the world over the last year plus. Even though I knew he wouldn’t be in my top ten coming into this project, I knew that Akira was a stone cold lock to be in my Top 30.” – Sean Sedor

“A dynamo of a performer, very exciting to watch with a lot of star potential.” – Will Young

Miyu Yamashita

#29 – Miyu Yamashita

Age: 28
Years Active: 9
Promotion: Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling
Accomplishments: Princess of Princess Champion (x3), EVE Champion, SPARK Joshi World Champion, SHINE Champion, Princess Tag Team Champion, CCW Champion, Futari Wa Princess Max Heart Tournament Winner (2023)
Highest Panel Ranking: 8

“A founder member and the long term ace of TJPW, it’s easy to forget just how young Yamashita is given her long list of accomplishments. She’s had lengthy reigns with the POP title, and added the Princess Cup to her résumé this year, with acclaimed matches in the semi-final and final.”  – Ewan Cameron

Mascara Dorada

#28 – Mascara Dorada

Age: 21
Years Active: 2
Promotion: Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre
Accomplishments: Mexican National Lightweight Champion, Torneo La Leyenda de Plata Winner (2023), Gran Alternativa Winner (2022)
Highest Panel Ranking: 8

“Dorada has pretty much come out of nowhere and is in the midst of a huge push in CMLL. His recent match with Rocky Romero will finish high on end of year lists and he became the youngest ever Leyenda de Plata winner. His execution in the ring is nearly flawless. The future is bright for Mascara Dorada!” – Griffin Peltier

Madoka Kikuta

#27 – Madoka Kikuta

Age: 23
Years Active: 3
Promotion: Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling
Accomplishments: Open The Dream Gate Champion, Open The Twin Gate Champion, Rey de Parejas Winner (2023)
Highest Panel Ranking: 4

“Madoka Kikuta has gone through a lot in his brief career. A 2020 dojo graduate, Kikuta debuted in front of 0 fans and less than a year later, he was in a World Title match. After taking a year off from injury, Kikuta transformed from a calculated heel to a valiant babyface. He’s doing the best work of his young career as Dragongate’s top champion.” – Case Lowe

Takuya Nomura

#26 – Takuya Nomura

Age: 29
Years Active: 7
Promotion: Big Japan Pro-Wrestling
Accomplishments: BJW World Strong Heavyweight Champion, BJW Tag Team Champion (x3), AJPW World Tag Team Champion, Capture International Champion, IRON FIST Tag Team Champion, Toshiwasure! Shuffle Tag Tournament Winner (2019)
Highest Panel Ranking: 3

“Mr. Consistency. Nomura is able to drag out good performances out of nearly everyone he steps into the ring with. Not only is he a great singles wrestler, he excels in tag team wrestling. Recent partnerships with Fuminori Abe (as Astronauts – a Tag Team of the Year contender) and Kento Miyahara have been a blast to watch. If Nomura wrestled in a company like New Japan Pro-Wrestling, he’d be near the top of this list.” – Griffin Peltier

Willow Nightingale

#25 – Willow Nightingale

Age: 29
Years Active: 8
Promotion: All Elite Wrestling
Accomplishments: NJPW STRONG Women’s Champion, NYWC Starlet Champion (x3), NYWC Fusion Champion, CHIKARA Campeonatos de Parejas Champion, Owen Hart Foundation Women’s Tournament Winner (2023), Tournament for Tomorrow Winner (2018)
Highest Panel Ranking: 6

“After simmering in the indies for a while, Nightingale burst into mainstream consciousness with an energy and presentation that no other person on AEW’s roster can compare to. Taking on a powerhouse role, she has adapted her style to fit her exuberance, while highlighting her strengths and showing constant improvement in her work. Plus, she became the first NJPW STRONG Women’s champion and had a best-of-class ROH Women’s Championship title match with Athena in 2023. It’s a career year for someone whose career seems rather limitless.” – Warren Hayes

Ilja Dragunov

#24 – Ilja Dragunov

Age: 29
Years Active: 11
Promotion: World Wrestling Entertainment
Accomplishments: WWE NXT United Kingdom Champion, wXw Unified World Wrestling Champion, wXw Shotgun Champion (x2), wXw World Tag Team Champion (x2), Next Step Heavyweight Champion (x2), 16 Carat Gold Tournament Winner (2017), Mitteldeutschland Cup Winner (2013)
Highest Panel Ranking: 12

“Arguably the best in-ring performer in all of WWE, Dragunov has managed to take his dramatic performances that first got him noticed on the European indies to WWE, and has delivered several of the best matches in recent WWE history, often in the main events of different NXT shows. His ceiling seems limited as it is unlikely there will be major main roster plans for Dragunov, but there is no denying he has had an outstanding career thus far.” – Jesse Collings

“A talented name held back by the promotion he works for, Ilja Dragunov characterizes the never-say-die babyface better than most wrestlers on the planet. While his ceiling is low in WWE, he’s been allowed to shine in NXT UK and NXT proper.” – Suit Williams

Butch

#23 – Butch

Age: 29
Years Active: 16
Promotion: World Wrestling Entertainment
Accomplishments: WWE NXT United Kingdom Champion, WWE NXT Tag Team Champion, PROGRESS World Champion, RevPro Undisputed British Cruiserweight Champion, wXw Shotgun Champion, OTT No Limits Champion, Destiny World Champion, PROGRESS Tag Team Champion, OTT Tag Team Champion, Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Winner (2020), King of Trios Winner (2017), VII Trifecta Trophy Tournament Winner (2015), Infinity Trophy Winner (2015), Elder Stein Invitational Winner (2012)
Highest Panel Ranking: 12

“Though Pete Dunne may not be a top star since his main roster call up, he cannot be forgotten as one the more important players of the British indie boom in the late 2010s. After Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr started to take more dates with New Japan, Pete Dunne and the rest of British Strong Style were a big part of the scene staying strong. While Tyler Bate was the first UK champion, Pete Dunne established the belt with a long reign and made a name for himself on NXT before having the NXT UK brand built around him.” – Brady Trappett

“A talent that would be higher on this list if he wrestled almost anywhere else on the planet, and a talent much better than the goofy “Scrappy Doo” gimmick foisted upon him. It’s hard to remember the time Pete Dunne was one of the UK’s finest. A top name that rivaled the likes of Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr, he chose to helm the WWE’s invasion into the UK. And now…he’s Butch. Ah well, he’s still young.” – Suit Williams

“Dunne had an amazing start to his career, breaking out during the peak of the UK indie boom and having fantastic matches both in Europe and North America before signing with WWE. He continued to have a few strong years in NXT, but has sputtered on the main roster, suffered a humiliating name change, and now feels like a replaceable cog in the machine as he nears 30.” – Jesse Collings

Jack Perry

#22 – Jack Perry

Age: 26
Years Active: 8
Promotion: All Elite Wrestling
Accomplishments: AEW World Tag Team Champion, FTW Champion, APW Junior Heavyweight Champion, PWR Tag Team Champion, West Coast Cruiser Cup Winner (2016), WON Rookie of the Year (2019)
Highest Panel Ranking: 13

“Perry has been met with vocal critics ever since he first was tabbed as one of the four pillars in AEW, due to his lack of experience and questionable charisma. He has been a work in progress in AEW, and while he has been surpassed by other prospects in that company, Perry has churned out a very strong four years in AEW, with many high-quality matches and is now at least attempting a new endeavor with his Hollywood heel character.” – Jesse Collings

“The future is bright for Jack Perry, who, already in his short time on the national level, has evolved from Jungle Boy into something that he can develop and grow with the height of his ambitions.” – Warren Hayes

Dragon Lee

#21 – Dragon Lee

Age: 28
Years Active: 9
Promotion: World Wrestling Entertainment
Accomplishments: CMLL World Lightweight Champion (x2), CMLL World Welterweight Champion, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, ROH World Television Champion (x2), AAA World Tag Team Champion, ROH World Tag Team Champion (x2), King of Indies Winner (2018, 2019), CMLL Family Tag Tournament Winner (2019), Mas Lucha Supremo Winner (2022), WON Rookie of the Year (2014)
Highest Panel Ranking: 7

“One of the best and arguably most aggressive high flyers in the world, it’s a shame that Dragon Lee went to WWE so early in his career. It will be hard to get the best out of him.” – Tyler Forness

“An extremely talented luchador that can wrestle multiple styles, Lee has a huge resume of great matches and a career-defining rivalry with Hiromu Takahashi.” – Jesse Collings

El Lindaman

#20 – El Lindaman

Age: 28
Years Active: 9
Promotion: GLEAT
Accomplishments: G-REX Champion, AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Champion, Open The Triangle Gate Champion, ZERO1 World Junior Heavyweight Champion, ZERO1 International Junior Heavyweight Champion, All Asia Tag Team Champion, KO-D Six Man Tag Team Champion, New Year Unit Six Man Tag Team Tournament Winner (2017)
Highest Panel Ranking: 7

“The face of the GLEAT promotion, impresses everywhere he goes.” – Will Young

“Lindaman’s career may have been different if he never split off from Dragongate, but it’s hard to say he made a mistake. He’s found a home in GLEAT and emerged as a top singles star, in addition to working frequently around the world, and has shown tons of charisma and in-ring ability throughout his career.” – Jesse Collings

“Lindaman only being 28 is terrifying. He’s been around nearly a decade now and his continued big push in GLEAT justifies the entire existence of the promotion. I wish he wasn’t stuck there, but he continues to be the best thing about an otherwise rudderless promotion.” – Case Lowe

Lio Rush

#19 – Lio Rush

Age: 28
Years Active: 8
Promotion: New Japan Pro-Wrestling, IMPACT Wrestling
Accomplishments: IMPACT X-Division Champion, WWE NXT Cruiserweight Champion, MLW World Middleweight Champion, CZW World Heavyweight Champion, CZW Wired Champion (x2), HOG Crown Jewel Champion, Super Junior Tag League Winner (2022), Shane Shamrock Memorial Cup Winner (2015, 2016), ROH Trip Prospect Tournament Winner (2016)
Highest Panel Ranking: 9

“An incredible junior heavyweight talent whose injuries and wavering passion have given him some unfair labels over the course of his career. Making New Japan a home base may be the best decision for his career.” – Suit Williams

“Although he’s had obvious and recognisable talent for years, 2023 has shown what a happy, motivated and largely injury-free Lio Rush is capable of. Electric between the ropes, he’s got such a natural feel for wrestling and has fitted into New Japan’s junior division like a hand in a glove. Hopefully his most recent injury isn’t too bad and he’s able to really stretch his legs some more in both Impact and New Japan.” – Andrew Sinclair

“Here’s something that is going to surprise you about Lio Rush. He’s only 28. Lio has been everywhere. He has spent time in ROH, WWE, AEW, and now New Japan. It’s impossible to predict the future with Lio Rush, but his 2023 with New Japan has been great and has me excited for what the future holds.” – Brady Trappett

Logan Paul

#18 – Logan Paul

Age: 28
Years Active: 1
Promotion: World Wrestling Entertainment
Highest Panel Ranking: 4

“Logan Paul might be the best celebrity wrestler ever. He’s only had six matches but delivers in every single of them – including against guys like The Miz and Dominik Mysterio! He just gets it, is a stellar athlete, and carries himself like the megastar that he is.” – Griffin Peltier

“I couldn’t justify putting him in the top 10, but I can’t justify putting him lower. He understands wrestling at a shocking degree for the level of novice he is, and his almost inherent talent makes me wish he was a wrestler full-time.”  – Suit Williams

“If Logan Paul wanted to do this wrestling thing full-time, he’d be one of the very best in the world. He’s genuinely that good. It’s not just that he’s the perfect, dislikeable heel, it’s the fact that he’s incredibly athletic and seemingly has such a natural feel for what works in a match and what doesn’t.” – Andrew Sinclair

Wheeler Yuta

#17 – Wheeler Yuta

Age: 26
Years Active: 9
Promotion: All Elite Wrestling
Accomplishments: ROH Pure Champion (x2), IWTV Independent Wrestling World Champion, NOVA Men’s Commonwealth Cup Winner (2018)
Highest Panel Ranking: 12

“Wheeler Yuta was one of the top stars on the independent scene when he got signed by AEW. We all knew that he was a very solid wrestler, but it took a little while before he got to show what he was truly capable of. Being a part of the Blackpool Combat Club alongside the likes of Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, and Claudio Castagnoli has really helped to elevate Yuta. He’s part of a big main event act, has been involved in main event feuds, and has gotten to show a more aggressive side over the last year or so. There no doubt that, as long as he’s in AEW, he’ll be a feature player in some form or fashion for a long time.” – Sean Sedor

“Another great young talent scooped up by AEW and is slowly finding the personality that will propel his in-ring talents to the next level.” – Will Young

“Since being scooped up by AEW, Wheeler Yuta’s ascendence has been remarkable. From his blood-soaked christening into the BCC, to a BOSJ tour in Japan, to his two reigns as ROH champion, he has become a constant presence on our weekly television. An unheralded pillar of the future of pro wrestling.” – Warren Hayes

“Working with Jon Moxley the last year has been huge for his growth and there is a massive future set for Yuta.”  – Tyler Forness

Utami Hayashishita

#16 – Utami Hayashishita

Age: 24
Years Active: 5
Promotion: STARDOM
Accomplishments: World of STARDOM Champion, SWA Undisputed World Women’s Champion, Future of STARDOM Champion, Artist of STARDOM Champion, EVE International Champion, Goddesses of STARDOM Champion (x2), 5STAR Grand Prix Winner (2020), Goddesses of Stardom Tag League Winner (2018), WON Women’s Wrestling MVP (2021), Tokyo Sports Women’s Award (2021), Tokyo Sports Rookie of the Year (2018)
Highest Panel Ranking: 6

“Not that long ago, Hayashishta was the final boss of STARDOM, as she sat at the top of the company for over 400 days as the World of Stardom Champion (only behind Nanae Takahashi and Io Shirai… good company). She was just barely over three years as a pro when she dropped the title to Syuri in what is regarded as one of the greatest women’s wrestling matches of all time. In this short time, Hayashishta has polished her presentation to that of a room-commanding superstar with a skill set that is as slick as it is fierce. A recent, albeit short, tour of the US shows that she is just scratching the surface of her ambitions.” – Warren Hayes

“Utami Hayashishita transitioned from reality television star – as a child, her family of 12 was featured on a Japanese television show – to professional wrestling. Debuting in 2018, she quickly became a top star in Stardom, reaching the finals of the 5 Star Grand Prix and winning the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League within three months of her debut. Her peak arguably came in 2021, when her feud with Syuri culminated in two top twenty matches in the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year in 2021. One of those matches, on June 12, received *****1/2 from Dave Meltzer, and the same year she won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Women’s Wrestling MVP award.. She continues to be a high-level in-ring talent and is positioned to be a cornerstone of Stardom moving forward.” – Fred Morlan