The Most Improved WWE and AEW Superstars in the Last 12 Months

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2021

The Most Improved WWE and AEW Superstars in the Last 12 Months

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    With All Elite Wrestling, WWE and most other promotions in the United States returning to the road and a sense of normalcy, we are going to start looking back on the pandemic era as a period when the industry had the most uncertainty. 

    When all of this started, we had no idea what was going to happen. Would these companies go on hiatus? Would some of them go out of business? How would the business survive without its most important element: the live crowd? 

    At first, WWE and AEW struggled to figure out how to keep their weekly shows on the air and produce new content without violating any of the COVID-19 protocols that had been put in place. Those first couple of months featured a lot of replays of past shows and pay-per-view matches to fill time.

    Both companies set up shop in their own backyards. WWE used the Performance Center before moving to the ThunderDome while AEW President Tony Khan was able to secure Daily's Place, which is connected to TIAA Bank Field where the Shahid Khan-owned Jacksonville Jaguars play.

    We've seen a lot of wrestlers doing great work to keep their respective companies afloat, and some of them have actually benefited from the circumstances. 

    For the past year, AEW and WWE Superstars have been working in the same place every week. While that is not ideal for the business as a whole, it has allowed certain names to flourish because they have been able to spend more time working on their craft and less time on the road. 

    Let's take a look at some of the wrestlers who have improved the most during the past 12 months. 

Tay Conti

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    Tay Conti spent a little under four years with WWE as part of the Performance Center and NXT, but she was never used in any kind of significant way.

    As soon as she was out of her contract and the 90-day non-compete clause, she signed with AEW and has thrived ever since.

    Conti has shown marked improvement in the ring and on the mic. Her personality is shining through in her character work, and she is getting more high-profile matches as time goes on.

    The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is often aligned with The Dark Order but has yet to accept a full membership. The segments she has had with the group have allowed her to show a lot more character than she has been able to before. 

    The 26-year-old is still honing her skills, but it wouldn't be surprising to see her holding the AEW Women's Championship at some point in 2022 if she keeps rising in popularity. 

Angelo Dawkins

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    When The Street Profits were called up to the main roster two years ago, there was a period of time when it looked like Montez Ford was going to be the breakout star. 

    During a promo on the December 30 episode of Raw, Angelo Dawkins appeared to blank on a line during a backstage promo. Ford helped him cover, but it wasn't overlooked by fans on social media. 

    Fast-forward six months and Dawkins is on a different level in every way. He has slimmed down, added some muscle, expanded his repertoire of moves and seems more comfortable on the mic.

    The pandemic era may have been the best thing for the 30-year-old's career because he has been able to spend more time working on different aspects of his game that he might not have been able to with a full touring schedule. 

    Nowadays, Dawkins is one of the most reliable guys on the SmackDown roster. He is a hot tag specialist and has already shown signs of being a great solo act if WWE ever decided to break up the team.

    Seeing Dawkins work hard and improve this year has been a joy. Once WWE gets back on the road, we are going to see how much more popular The Street Profits have become. 

Britt Baker

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    Britt Baker was one of the first people signed to an AEW contract. She has been with the company since the start, but her initial push was cut short when the fans didn't take to her as a babyface.

    Once she turned heel, everything changed. She found the personality and attitude necessary to become one of the best villains in the women's division. In fact, it's hard to think of anyone from the division who is on her level as a character.

    Not only has she improved on the mic, but her in-ring work has also gotten significantly better. Her matches with the likes of Thunder Rosa, Big Swole and Hikaru Shida have only served to underline that.

    Having Rebel as her henchwoman has allowed her to be humorous without being so funny that the fans only want to cheer for her. She has found the right balance to make people laugh while also generating boos whenever she wants. 

    With the women's title around her waist, the 30-year-old is getting ready to make the rest of 2021 the year of DMD. 

The Bloodline

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    Roman Reigns and The Usos have been three of the most consistently entertaining performers of the pandemic era on SmackDown, and the reason for that is WWE has showcased all of the ways they have improved as performers.

    The Tribal Chief has turned into one of the best heels in the business, which is remarkable when you consider how much fans did not like him as a babyface. Now, it's clear that turning him into a villain was necessary for both the product and his own success.

    Then we have Jimmy and Jey Uso. The real-life twin brothers have always been seen as a package, but their work in this storyline has established them as having different personalities and allowed them to shine as individuals. Their biggest area of improvement has been their ability to deliver promos. 

    Even when everything else on SmackDown seems boring or repetitive, The Usos and Reigns have been great at taking whatever they are given and turning it into something worth watching.

    It used to be impossible to imagine Jimmy and Jey having separate singles careers, but now it seems like a real possibility. 

Max Caster

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    The Acclaimed is an up-and-coming tag team in AEW made up of Max Caster and Anthony Bowens. While both have been impressive in their own right, the former has become the standout in the team thanks to his pre-match diss tracks.

    The level of charisma and personality Caster has shown is impressive. Whether he is insulting his opponent or dropping a pop-culture reference, he is always entertaining.

    When they first joined the AEW roster, they barely stood out. The company has a deep tag team division and it took time for them to find their voice.

    Caster and Bowens are going to be major players in the division, though, and Caster's verbal skills will be one of the main reasons why they stand out from the pack. 

Mandy Rose

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    Mandy Rose is the definition of a homegrown talent. She began her career as part of the 2015 season of Tough Enough where she finished in second place, but she still ended up getting signed to a contract.

    Her previous career as a fitness model meant she had the drive and physicality to succeed in the wrestling business, but it has been an uphill battle winning over the WWE Universe.

    The 30-year-old spent almost two years in the developmental system before being called up to the main roster alongside Sonya Deville, another Tough Enough alum from her season.

    At first, a lot of fans treated Rose badly. She was viewed as only being hired for her looks and as a remnant of the Divas era. Those insults never stopped her from working to improve every aspect of her game, though.

    She is one of the few talents we have gotten to see grow from a rookie with zero knowledge of the business into a well-rounded performer. Her promo ability has improved, but it's in the ring where she has shined brightest.

    Her storyline with Otis was praised before WWE cut it short, and her feud with Deville helped both women in a lot of ways. 

    She might not have the experience of Becky Lynch, the pedigree of Charlotte Flair or the striking ability of Asuka, but she doesn't need to have any of those things to make her own path. She is getting better right before our eyes, and anyone who can't see that isn't looking hard enough. 


    These are just some of the people who have improved over the past year. Who do you think has seen the most growth in WWE and AEW?