Breakdown and Bold Predictions for the 2021 WWE NXT Breakout Tournament
On this week's episode of NXT, WWE will kick off the first round of the annual Breakout Tournament. The event was a great concept that the company introduced last year as a way to highlight rising stars and immediately give them a title opportunity.
The inaugural eight-man tournament featured a Who's Who of wrestlers who made an impact on NXT over the last year. Yes, the 2020 winner, Jordan Myles is no longer with the company after he fell out with WWE over a controversial T-shirt design. However, Angel Garza, Bronson Reed and Isaiah "Swerve" Scott have all held championship gold.
Even BOA, Dexter Lumis and Cameron Grimes have managed to find their niche and develop into interesting characters. Garza even became a mainstay on Raw as Zelina Vega's second client and Andrade's tag team partner.
For better or worse, it's an effective way to present an up-and-coming crop of newcomers to the fans. After all, the black-and-gold brand is stacked already, and a tournament is a concise way to put all eight participants on television at the same time.
The Field for the 2021 NXT Breakout Tournament
WWE hasn't released the official bracket for the 2021 NXT Breakout Tournament. However, all eight competitors were on hand last week at The Great American Bash.
The opening match will take place Tuesday, when Ikemen Jiro faces Duke Hudson for a chance to advance to the semifinals.
Carmelo Hayes: Indie fans will recognize Hayes as Christian Casanova. The athletic Boston native is probably the most notable participant in the tournament following his matches with Kushida and Adam Cole. In the latter, the 27-year-old replicated John Cena's debut against Kurt Angle and the start of the Ruthless Aggression era, making him an early favorite to win this year's tournament.
Andre Chase: As Harlem Bravado, Chase made his name as one-half of a tag team with his real-life brother, Lance. The duo disbanded in 2017 when his older sibling retired. The 13-year veteran used his grit and craftiness to defeat Guru Raaj and qualify for the tournament on the July 2 episode of 205 Live.
Trey Baxter: The high-flying wrestler formerly known as Blake Christian had noteworthy stints with GCW and Impact, where he competed in the 2021 Super X Cup. He also answered Kushida's open challenge on the June 15 episode of NXT. His array of acrobatic and crowd-pleasing moves guarantees that he will be one of the most entertaining competitors to watch.
Duke Hudson: Hudson debuted on NXT as Brendan Vink in 2019. He eventually teamed up with his former stablemate, Shane Thorne. The two appeared on Raw together last year as MVP's clients and even upset the team of Cedric Alexander and Ricochet on the May 4 episode. For whatever reason, Thorne was repackaged as a member of Retribution. Now, the Aussie will have a chance to reestablish himself in the opening match against Jiro.
Josh Briggs: Briggs is the tallest participant in this year's tournament. Standing at 6'8", the former Evolve champion has been a highly anticipated arrival for NXT since he signed with the brand in October. His imposing size and strength will make The Professional Disliker Of People a tough matchup for most opponents.
Joe Gacy: With 15 years of experience, Gacy will bring a lot of toughness to the field. The New Jersey native is known best for his time with Combat Zone Wrestling as a three-time CZW world heavyweight and wired champion. He also notably won the Evolve tag titles with AEW's Eddie Kingston.
Ikemen Jiro: The practitioner of Japanese Handsome Style is certainly the most eccentric and charismatic participant in this year's tournament. Jiro initially trained with ECW and WWE legend, Tajiri, when he was 14. "Ikemen" is a colloquial term for a good-looking man with metrosexual qualities in Japanese pop culture. It's usually used in reference to characters from anime, manga and dramas.
Odyssey Jones: Jones rounds out this list of participants as the heaviest competitor. Coming in at 6'5" and 405 pounds, the 27-year-old turned heads when he performed an 800-pound deadlift in the 2019 WWE PC combine. WWE seems dedicated to molding the former Division I football player into a homegrown talent like Big E, Bianca Belair or Mark Henry. In fact, he won his qualifying match with what looked like Henry's World's Strongest Slam.
Ikemen Jiro Is This Year’s Dark Horse
Ikemen Jiro is a relative unknown to most American fans, but he's so intriguing. When NXT unveiled the participants for the 2021 Breakout Tournament, his gaudy suit and infectious enthusiasm immediately stood out.
If you've seen any of his appearances on 205 Live, then you know how fun Jiro is to watch. One can see Tajiri's influences when it comes to strikes and mannerisms, but he also moves deceptively well and can execute some cool-looking handstands.
More importantly, the Japanese wrestler is reminiscent of the sort of colorful stars fans would see on 205 Live or NXT in their heyday. It's not hard to see comparisons to someone like Jack Gallagher, who helped to make the show so unique. As such, Jiro could easily become a fan favorite.
It might be a stretch to predict that the 28-year-old will win the tournament, but he will make the most of it like Angel Garza did last year. To that end, Jiro could parlay his position in the event into an eventual run at the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.
Josh Briggs Will Be the 2021 NXT Breakout Tournament Winner
As stated earlier, Carmelo Hayes is an early favorite to win this year's tournament based on the amount of screentime NXT has dedicated to him. On the other hand, that seems a bit too predictable.
After all, Swerve seemed like a shoo-in to win the inaugural event based on all the momentum he brought into the company at the time. Nevertheless, Jordan Myles was the right choice at the time. Of course, no one could've guessed that his relationship with WWE would sour after that, but he initially looked the part of a world title contender.
Hayes would be a great 2021 winner but Josh Briggs also makes a lot of sense. He's the last of the big acquisitions from Evolve along with Leon Ruff, Shotzi Blackheart and Austin Theory. As the promotion's final world champion, The Professional Disliker Of People brings a certain level of promise.
Given his size and inventive offense, Briggs definitely has a bright future. The 6'8" behemoth could easily fill the void Braun Strowman left behind as the company's next great giant character. Odyssey Jones could be a potential winner for the same reasons, but he isn't quite as polished.
Now, Briggs won't be a popular option in comparison to Hayes. But one could also argue that the 27-year-old will be a star no matter what so the loss wouldn't hurt him. The win could do more to cement the former Evolve champion as a monster heel.