The independent wrestling world is a difficult environment to succeed in. WWE pushes their top stars with heavy marketing and a platform to easily have the chance to convince the fan base that they are worth paying attention to. A smaller audience and the pressure on the performer make the variables completely different on the independent circuit. Wrestlers have to do it themselves to thrive on their own. Colt Cabana, The Young Bucks and Adam Cole have dominated the indies over the past few years due to building their brand and creating momentum through both their work and self-marketing.
Former WWE stars have also used the independent scene to rejuvenate their careers. Cody Rhodes, Drew Galloway and Rey Mysterio have all found paths to success on the free agent market in different ways. Not all wrestlers can make a name or freshen up their career with an independent wrestling run. Many struggle to build their own success without the help of a machine like WWE. We’ll look at current wrestling names that are not putting out impressive work, failing to create interest and flat out are failing in their environment. These are fifteen wrestlers that are doing terrible on the independent wrestling scene right now.
15. Frankie Kazarian
Frankie Kazarian stood out in TNA many years ago and fans wanted Kazarian to be positioned as a future main event star. Kazarian hit a home run any time TNA put him in the ring with a top talent like Kurt Angle, Christian Cage and Samoa Joe. The years have seen a regression with Kazarian no longer having the work rate that made him someone special in TNA.
Kazarian currently works for Ring of Honor and it has led to disappointing results. His tag team partner Christopher Daniels has been better on his own and is being given a singles push. That makes Kazarian a secondary player in the singles division and he’s have been among the more disappointing things in ROH these days.
14. Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio’s first firing from the WWE back in 2014 led to massive success on the independent scene. His work in Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground especially made fans want to see him perform for the first time in a long time. Del Rio made the decision to return to WWE in 2015 and it led to him losing all momentum before requesting a release.
His return to the free agent circuit has been less exciting than the last time. Alberto has his hands in other business ventures that have seen his wrestling hit a decline. Del Rio wrestles for promotions that are secondary in the independent wrestling world. His work is uninspired and the passion from his prior stint on the indies is missing.
13. Rob Van Dam
Lack of passion is something that has made Rob Van Dam’s final years in wrestling a huge disappointment and which hurt his legacy. At his peak, Van Dam was as great as anyone else in the industry. Years of the politics in WWE and his interests growing outside of the business have just made him care less about wrestling.
RVD has admitted on numerous occasions that he doesn’t have the drive or desire to wrestle full-time anymore. His rare independent wrestling appearances will see him get paid handsomely to have lackluster matches. A wrestler without passion is extremely difficult to watch, especially when it’s someone that was once a legend. If you see RVD on your local independent card, do not have high expectations and prepare to be disappointed.
12. Zahra Schreiber
Most known for being the ex-girlfriend of Seth Rollins, Zahra Schreiber has been involved in various forms of controversy. From the way her relationship with Rollins started and ended, to old social media posts with offensive content being revealed, Zahra found herself fired from WWE after a short stint at the Performance Center. It didn’t stop Schreiber from attempting to continue her career in the wrestling business.
Zahra returned to the independent circuit hoping to show her skills there. Unfortunately, her rare bookings failed to impress. The only recent appearance she has made was at REAL Pro Wrestling and she was a manager. Promotions don’t seem to have any interest in Schreiber and the time is ticking on her wrestling career. The independent circuit isn’t the place for her.
11. Cliff Compton
Diehard WWE fans will remember Cliff Compton’s time in the company as Deuce teaming with Domino. The horrible gimmick flopped badly, but Compton always stood out as a solid performer and was way better than his partner. Between his in-ring promise and colorful persona, Compton was given a chance in Ring of Honor as a part of the S.C.U.M. stable.
A feud with top ROH star Kevin Owens didn’t even establish Compton as someone fans wanted to see. Compton was exiled from the company, but still works actively on the independent wrestling scene. The promotions to book him don’t hold too much relevance in the world of wrestling, making it difficult to find his work unless it’s local to you. Compton could not rejuvenate his career the way others in his position have been able to.
10. Yoshi Tatsu
The popularity of Japanese wrestling has made North American fans pay attention to the wrestlers from Japan. Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi are huge stars with Nakmaura actually getting signed to WWE based off his popularity. One Japanese wrestler that received a chance in WWE many years ago was Yoshi Tatsu and he wasn’t at the level of the other names mentioned.
Tatsu has returned to New Japan in recent years and just doesn’t fit in. His talent level doesn’t match the work rate that has become associated with NJPW. Tatsu works on the American independent wrestling scene as well and trains in Florida. None of it has helped him improve and Yoshi is one of the least impressive performers in the business today.
9. Robbie E
The majority of TNA wrestlers are allowed to work the independent wrestling scene due to the company’s inconsistent schedule. TNA films months of television in one week of tapings, making the wrestlers’ schedules wide open most weekends. Robbie E is one of the wrestlers struggling to make it on the independent circuit after years of work there before signing with TNA.
Wrestling has evolved through the years and fans on that level expect a high level of action in the ring. Robbie E is one of the most standard wrestlers out there, with nothing of note that truly stands out. It makes him less desirable with the strong competition that exists on those smaller shows featuring wrestlers wanting to get noticed. You would be hard pressed to find someone attending a show specifically to see Robbie E.
WWE invested a lot of time and money in Carlito. They were rewarded with disappointment, so it only makes sense that the same thing happened on the independent wrestling circuit. Carlito is a forgotten man these days but he does still wrestle occasionally. His asking price makes him an expensive booking for independent shows.
Unlike many other high profile names on the indie level, Carlito doesn’t provide impressive matches. It’s clear he doesn’t care much for his place in wrestling and that sadly shows. Wrestlers have to work at a higher level on the independent shows to stand out and Carlito is failing badly to do so.
7. Chris Masters
Many wrestlers went to bat for Chris Masters when he was released from WWE. Masters was said to have improved during his final year in WWE ,but never had the opportunity to showcase it. CM Punk even referenced him in interviews as someone WWE dropped the ball with. Masters heading to the independent wrestling circuit after getting released from WWE didn’t do his reputation any favors.
His improvement was difficult to notice, considering he had very basic matches. Masters wrestles frequently for smaller promotions and struggles to create any momentum. A recent injury has kept him out of action for the foreseeable future to further damage his stock as a free agent. The independent wrestling run of The Masterpiece has sadly been a complete failure in the grand scheme of things.
6. Brandi Rhodes
Cody Rhodes has become one of the most successful stars on the independent wrestling scene, but it has become a tougher task for his wife, Brandi Rhodes. WWE stopped Brandi’s training to become a wrestler by placing her in the role of a ring announcer. Rhodes was successful in the new role and beame the most tenured at the role when Lilian Garcia left WWE.
Brandi also wanted to leave with her husband Cody to try her hand in the actual wrestling aspect of the business. TNA signed her to a contract and she works at various independent wrestling shows. Brandi has struggled immensely and is glaringly below most of her peers. Hopefully training can help her make up for lost time, but as of now, Brandi is among the worst wrestlers on the indie scene.
5. Bull Dempsey
WWE stars finding new motivation on the independent wrestling circuit is common, but wasn’t the case with Bull Dempsey. Bull claimed he would prove WWE wrong for not believing in him by aggressively looking for new places to work on the independent scene. Somehow, Dempsey’s work is even worse on the indies than it was in NXT.
WWE realized there was no strong upside for Dempsey and that is being further proven in various smaller promotions today. Bull’s biggest opportunities have come in Ring of Honor. Unfortunately for him, fans have reacted negatively and some have viewed it as the final strike in no longer caring about ROH’s state of affairs today. Dempsey is one of the most depressing stories in the independent wrestling world today.
Magnus could have been something special during his peak days in TNA. Magnus had the look, potential and momentum to move up the rankings, but just couldn’t back it up when it counted. A weak title reign saw his stock fall and he eventually left TNA in hopes of striking a better deal. His independent wrestling run has been a huge failure with his name becoming an afterthought.
Guys like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode used their life after TNA to become huge stars in WWE. Jay Lethal, Christopher Daniels and The Motor City Machine Guns are succeeding in ROH. Magnus is one of the rare guys to get worse after ditching TNA. The independent wrestling fans show no interest in his work and the relevant promotions don’t appear to want him on their shows.
A wrestler choosing to go to the independent wrestling circuit rather than being forced there usually means they will go on to achieve great things. The confidence is typically justified, but Ryback is one of the exceptions. Ryback spoke out against WWE on numerous occasions before his contract expired. Many fans had high hopes for Ryback on the free agent market, but it has not turned out like they thought.
Ryback has wrestled for smaller promotions that don’t necessarily have a strong roster or outreach. Ryback hasn’t been good enough to warrant him getting booked in places like ROH, PWG or Evolve. In fact, the only things about Ryback that tends to be discussed these days are his controversial comments on his weekly podcast. His actual wrestling career is floundering in independent wrestling.
2. Damien Sandow
Wrestling fans have wanted to see Damien Sandow without the restraints of WWE for many years now, as Sandow always appeared to have a special charisma about him. It matched his impressive matches that made him a valued name after leaving WWE. However, his work on the independent wrestling market has completely destroyed any value attached to his name.
Under the new name of Aron Rex, he’s a complete disaster on TNA television and with various independent promotions all over the world. Rex appears to be out of shape compared to his past look. His matches are very disappointing and everything regarding Rex is just failing. Fans no longer long for him to be “free” and wish they could be the ones free of him when witnessing him at an indie show.
1. Adam Rose
WWE and Adam Rose had a public dispute surrounding the drama of his suspension. It all culminated in him being released and going to the independent wrestling circuit. Rose claimed he would turn his career around and show WWE was always holding him back. Things have gone the complete opposite direction with his indie run being a huge flop.
Fans show no interest in watching him and his stock has seen him fall among the lowest of former WWE stars on the indie scene. Rose has experimented with a few new characters but all fall short in accomplishing anything of note. The sad state of his career could see his days of wrestling winding down unless something changes soon. Rose is among the biggest failures in independent wrestling right now.