In this article, I’m going to take a look at five prospects who are currently flying under the radars of many people in the SoCal wrestling scene but deserve more attention heading into 2020 and beyond.
Since debuting in 2017, Michael Hopkins has spent most of his still-fledgling career working various shows in the San Diego area. Hopkins, who is a student of B-Boy, has performed in promotions such as Finest City Wrestling, Ground Zero, Baja Stars USA, SoCal Pro, and has been on Level Up Pro Wrestling School’s showcase events. This past year, Hopkins began branching out of his home area, having appeared in LA area promotions such as MPW and Amped Up Wrestling. Hopkins will also be making his AWS debut on Saturday night.
As a performer, Hopkins has a lot of strengths. He’s got a good amount of athleticism, which is something many wrestlers with more experience than him lack. It also really adds to his ability to perform inside the ring and pull off certain moves in more advanced ways. If he continues to grow and diversifies his moveset with more creative stuff, he could end up being one of the next top SoCal stars in the next decade. On top of that, he’s got a good amount of charisma and has some personality, which makes him a natural babyface.
At the moment, Hopkins has a lot of potential to be one of the better performers in SoCal over the next few years. He’s still got some time ahead of him and some work to do before reaching that potential, but he’s progressing very well under B-Boy’s tutelage. While I don’t foresee him breaking out as a main event guy this upcoming year, I do think of him as a guy people in SoCal should keep an eye on in 2020 to see how he develops. After 2020, I can certainly see him being a potential main event star in SoCal.
Over the last decade, the Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy has produced the best pro wrestlers in the SoCal scene. Except for 2014, every SoCal Rookie of the Year winner since 2012 has come from Santino Bros. To this day, the school continues to produce new prospects that gives the SoCal scene a solid core of talent to build around for years to come. One of the latest prospects the Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy has recently produced is RJ Santos.
Much like his fellow Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy graduate Eli Everfly, RJ is a smaller worker who does a lot of cool high-flying stuff. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of experience performing in front of live audiences, he has shown that he’s capable of pulling off pretty cool moves that are more advanced for a worker of his level. If he were booked in matches with workers who have more experience doing higher-level stuff, RJ could end up being a top star here in the SoCal scene very quickly. It’s just a matter of whether or not promoters in the area can showcase him the right way.
Heading into next year, I’d like to see RJ get more opportunities to showcase his skills in matches with workers who have more name recognition. I’d also like to see him booked on shows put on by more distinguished promotions. I bet if he debuted in Bar Wrestling or a place like Ground Zero put him in more high-profile matches, he’d become THE breakout star of 2020 in Southern California. If he can live up to the potential that I believe he has, he could also be a PWG-caliber worker soon and possibly a guy AEW would want to take a look at.
Of all the workers on this list, I think Brendan Divine is the best overall performer on this list. As an in-ring worker, he’s one of the best in his home promotion of Millennium Pro Wrestling. Whether he’s in singles or tag team action, Brendan’s matches are usually the highlight of MPW shows. In the next few years, he could become one of the best in-ring talents SoCal has. Even at this stage of his career, Brendan would be a valuable commodity for any local promotion. His performances are usually strong, and he keeps showing improvement with every match he has.
Along with being a good worker inside the ring, he’s developed a lot of personality over the last year. As a member of The Millennials with Daniel Moon and his brother Danny Divine, he’s got a great contemporary heel character where he portrays an obnoxious, self-entitled millennial who spends too much time on his phone. Brendan plays his character very well and comes off as such a natural with it. Nothing about his persona feels forced, and it’s an act that can generate a good amount of heat. In the right hands, Brendan could be booked as a top star in promotions outside of MPW just based on his character and personality alone.
Between being a good in-ring worker and having a strong character, Brendan is a worker most promoters in this scene should start investing in. He’s got tons of upsides and keeps showing improvements whenever he steps into the ring. Brendan is also showing lots of potential to be a top star in the near future. As I mentioned above, he’s a valuable addition to any promotion right now. His stock is going to rise quickly soon and he will eventually become a main event star sooner rather than later. Don’t sleep on Brendan Divine, or you will miss out.
From one MPW regular to another. While I think Brendan Divine is the best overall performer on this list, I think Diego Valens is the best in-ring performer on it. Originally known as B-Minus, Diego has become one of the most exciting performers on the scene right now. He is an amazingly talented worker who has a fan-friendly style that can get him over with any audience he performs in front of. His matches are loaded with high-flying moves and cool athletic sequences, which always makes for exciting performances on his part.
Of all the workers mentioned on this list, I think people are probably most familiar with Diego’s work. He’s appeared on recent Bar Wrestling shows in matches involving Luchasaurus and John Hennigan. Diego has also appeared in Ground Zero, Maverick Wrestling, and various shows in the SoCal region. While he has appeared in Bar Wrestling, he has yet to make a big name for himself in the SoCal scene. Despite that, he’s proven that he’s capable of being a top, credible champion in MPW and that he can hang with high-level talent. Along with that, he’s also shown vast improvement inside the ring and continues to develop at a good pace.
I’ve said it before in a review of an MPW show earlier this year that Diego Valens is a guy bookers can build a promotion around in 2020. As a decorated champion in MPW, he’s shown that he’s capable of being the top guy in a promotion. He is also a guy I could see doing well in a place like PWG in the next few years if he ever gets a chance to perform there. In my mind, that’s how good Diego is and can end up being. He’s another guy people in the SoCal scene should not sleep on because he’s going to be an elite-level performer someday soon.
When he first started out, Cameron Gates (along with his Bomb Squad tag team partner Dylan Kyle Cox) was a background character/lackey for Jake Atlas. After starting out as a lackey character who was fodder for Jake Atlas, Cameron broke out this past year and became one of the SoCal wrestling scene’s most gifted prospects. His style was very advanced for someone of his experience level. He also put together a collection of innovative moves, which really set him apart from other prospects in SoCal early on in his career.
Unfortunately, Cameron Gates experienced a setback this past summer after suffering ACL and meniscus tears. Since suffering the injuries, he’s been out of action in the latter part of 2019. Before that, he kept growing as an in-ring performer and continued to show improvement both as a singles worker and as a tag team worker each time he stepped into the ring. You could always see how he kept getting better with every match he had and how he was showing tons of promise.
Cameron’s comeback story will be an interesting one to follow in 2020. Can he pick up where he left off? Will he be able to live up to his full potential when he comes back? Will his injuries have a negative impact on his in-ring skills? The only way we’ll find out is when we see Cameron Gates back in a ring and in front of a crowd. Given that he’s a graduate of the Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy, I have no doubt he’ll work hard to make a strong comeback and that he can get back to form. For now, I just hope he makes a full recovery and comes back as soon as he’s 100%.
Overall, think these are the five best overall up-and-coming prospects in the SoCal wrestling scene right now. That isn’t to say there aren’t more good prospects in SoCal. It’s just that I don’t think other prospects match up to the ones I listed. Of course, by this time next year, some unknown prospect could blow all these guys out of the water and surprise everyone, but right now these are the five workers I’d put my money on as being the next batch of breakout performers from the SoCal scene.