Every wrestling fan remembers when they first found out that there was more wrestling than just WWE or WCW. Whether it was when your father took you to a local indy because there was a former WWE star and he figured you would enjoy it or you were looking online and found a clip of a very violent CZW show. There is all one thing we have in common though, which is that wrestling wasn't the same for us after. There are so many options out there in the wacky world of wrestling now that we don't have to choose just one alternative - we can choose as many as we want.
You can go to almost any continent and find some kind of wrestling. People have their preferences, you can watch strong style, lucha libre, British technical or even hardcore wrestling. While WWE is the place where the best in the world meet, they have to go somewhere before they make it to WWE. Whether that be a armory in Texas, a bingo hall in Philadelphia or the Tokyo Dome in Japan, you have to come from somewhere. With this list, we'll take a look at the 15 best things happening outside of WWE right now.
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15 Texas Wrestling
Anyone that lives in Texas knows that for almost all of the 90s and 2000s, if you wanted to see live wrestling you had to wait for WWE to come to town. That has now changed and thankfully for the better. Mostly known for WCCW and the Von Erich's, Texas was the pinnacle of wrestling outside of the WWE in the 70s and 80s. Looking to rekindle that old flame, companies have started popping up in all areas of Texas looking to make an impact and put Texas back on the map. Featuring such great wrestlers as Keith Lee, Raymond Rowe, Jervis Cottonbelly and others, companies Inspire Pro, VIP and Wrestle Circus regularly hold shows that offer some of the best indy wrestling you can find in America today.
14 Rebirth of Joshi Wrestling
While there is a "Women's Revolution" going on inside the confines of WWE, there is also one happening in Japan. Producing such great stars like Asuka, Joshi is the female equivalent of Strong Style that is often times feared and admired at the same time by American wrestling crowds. Known for its brutal strikes and death defying leaps, it's something that is much different than what you will see on an episode of Monday Night RAW. Big companies like Stardom have set out to reinvigorate the almost dead practice of Joshi Wrestling and are succeeding. Often times they train their wrestlers starting from the age of 12-14, so being able to see wrestlers grow and develop and become great stars is a very unique experience.
13 Lucha Underground
While not at the peak it was at in 2015, Lucha Underground is still the best alternative to WWE on national television. Its mix of telenovela tropes and brutal fast paced Lucha Libre is the perfect mix for anyone that is tired of the often slow, badly written WWE shows that are on our TV screens for more than 10 hours a week. With stars like Johnny Mundo, Brian Cage, Price Puma, Fenix and Pentagon Dark at the top of the card, it's hard to mess up such a great thing. They treat wrestling as the be all, end all regardless of what the conflict is. Did a monster murder your family? Fight it out! There is no other television like it currently and that is why it earned a spot on this list.
12 Fred Yehi
While he has been wrestling for over four years now, he has had one of the best "rookie" years in a long while. Currently a member of the team "Catch Point" in Evolve, Yehi has been constantly getting better and hasn't had a bad match all year. He also competed against former Catch Point teammate and current WWE Cruiserweight Champion T.J. Perkins in a CWC qualifying match, which means he's made a big enough splash for WWE to notice him and that is not an easy thing to do. Yehi has competed on every EVOLVE show this year, which very few people have done. If Yehi continues on this path, he will easily become one of the best wrestlers in the world in the coming years. Pay attention to this young man!
11 Indy Streaming Services
In 2014, WWE introduced the WWE Network, the first of its kind for a wrestling company. Allowing for on demand streaming of every WWE event to ever take place at a low $9.99 was unprecedented and indy promotions realized they had to follow suit. In this year alone, streaming services have become a norm in the wrestling community and it sets your promotion above the bar if you have one. Companies like PROGRESS Wrestling, RevPro and others have gained traction because of the accessibility of the shows online that aren't in the UK. While there are still large companies out there that don't have a service like this (TNA. ROH, PWG), they would benefit greatly and could reach a larger audience by embracing on demand wrestling services.
10 NJPW Junior Division
While NJPW itself has had a rather lackluster year following its dome show (partly due to an exodus of talent to the WWE), one thing that has gotten better throughout the year is their junior division. Featuring great talents like Ricochet, Will Ospreay, David Finlay Jr., The Young bucks and others, there is a reason they are often sent out during a lull in the show so they can re-spark interest. The juniors in NJPW also took part in one of the most talked about matches of 2016, between Ricochet and Will Ospreay, which lit a wild fire under many legends and started one of the weirdest Twitter (and then real life) rivalries ever between Will Ospreay vs. Vader. Recently, the junior division has also added a new weapon in Tiger Mask W, which is Kota Ibushi, a man who has been away from NJPW since October of last year. With such great talents on hand, there is no doubt that the junior division is only heading up from here.
9 The Young Bucks
Possibly one of the most controversial tag teams outside of WWE right now, The Young Bucks have found their niche and don't mind being called out for sticking to it. The self proclaimed "Spot Monkeys," these boys are known for their high impact, high risk style of wrestling and are unapologetically aware of how popular they are. Two of the senior members of the Bullet Club, Matt and Nick Jackson don't mind pulling punches at other wrestling stars and have started a subliminal feud with The New Day that has become pretty entertaining. The Bucks work their niche very well and don't change how they wrestle regardless of where they go, which is both a pro and a con. Often times you'll be able to watch one Young Bucks match and you've seen the entire catalog, but there is something special about watching the duo use a super kick over 50 times in a match live rather than on your computer screen.
Home to one of the best crowds in the world, PWG is probably the most well known Indy company outside of Ring of Honor. Known for their loyalty to their 300 capacity building and staying true to their almost punk rock-like vibe, there is only one place you can see PWG and that is Reseda, California. Coming off of possibly their best wrestling show ever in Battle of Los Angeles Night 2, PWG rarely upsets and always delivers on its promises of being the most electric, intense, high impact, high volume wrestling show in not only America, but in the entire world. If you ever get the chance to attend one of their shows, which often times sell out in under a minute, take the opportunity because going to a PWG show is a completely different experience and can be likened to attending your own personal WrestleMania, with you and only a large handful of other people.
7 Kenny Omega
The current leader of the Bullet Club, Kenny Omega is the best example of someone saying no to WWE and having a lot of success. Having gotten multiple offers in the past couple years and having them all turned down shows that Kenny isn't in wrestling just for the fame, but he truly loves the art of it all. One of the most charismatic and bizarre wrestlers currently working for NJPW, Omega has made his mark in Japan as The Cleaner and is scheduled to have a match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Often times seen with his two partners in crime, The Young Bucks, his hard hitting style is perfectly complimented by his wacky promos spoken in English that very few NJPW fans can understand. He has taken advantage of the fact that NJPW doesn't care what you say in English and has taken shots at multiple WWE wrestlers, most notably The New Day (even going as far as to wear a New Day shirt during a NJPW event). While Kenny Omega has said that when the time is right, he will accept an offer from WWE and the way he is going now, he will never have to.
6 Matt Riddle
For having only started wrestling a year ago, Matt Riddle has improved immensely and is on a path towards greatness. Possibly the best wrestler that has ever stepped foot in an EVOLVE ring, Riddle is a former UFC fighter that got fired by Dana White while on a four fight win streak (though two were changed to NC due to testing positive for marijuana). While his love of weed is very public, he says that he has kicked the habit and is only focusing on bettering his already great in ring skills. Known for his wrestling style known as "GrappleF***" Riddle is very proficient in MMA and has already picked up on many of the nuances it takes to become a great professional wrestler. If this is what Matt Riddle is like after only one year in the wrestling business, imagine what he'll be like next year?
5 Chris Hero
Even though he has recently gained quite a bit of weight, Chris Hero can still go in the ring. The weight seemingly doesn't affect him and he gets better every time he steps in the ring. Experiencing a career renaissance at the moment, you would be hard pressed to find a bad match Chris Hero has put on this year. Having competed in multiple critically acclaimed matches with Matt Riddle and Zack Sabre Jr., at the age of 36, Chris Hero is still getting better. If his WWE run had gone better, who knows what he might be doing right now or if he would have reached the success he's experiencing at the moment. Competing for many Indy companies around the world, most notably PWG and EVOLVE, Hero is constantly putting on stellar matches and doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon.
4 PROGRESS Wrestling
Easily the best British wrestling company in the past 20 years, PROGRESS has helped revive the once dying UK wrestling scene. With deep and rich storylines and wrestling that never lets fans down, it's often times the talk of the town. With its streaming service, PROGRESS on demand, you never have to wait longer than a week to see their latest shows and most times they knock it out of the park. Recently they had their Super Strong Style Tournament, which could rival the G1 Climax when it comes to overall match quality. Featuring stars like the recently signed Tommy End and Big Damo, PROGRESS offers a host of talent that features many different skill sets. With PROGRESS on the rise, the international wrestling scene continues to get bigger and better with every passing year.
3 Zack Sabre Jr.
Just coming off a loss in the semifinals of WWE's Cruiserweight Classic, Zack Sabre Jr. is a shining example of this generation's version of a journeyman. He works on almost every continent, never letting his fans down with his signature style. Known for that classic British style of outworking your opponent and then going in for the final blow or submission, Sabre Jr. has perfected it and taken it around the world with him. Facing off against people like Ricochet and Will Ospreay are when his talents really shine through, but, despite that, he never slows down even when facing the likes of Chris Hero and Matt Riddle. If Sabre Jr continues on this path, he will go down as one of the greatest British wrestlers of all time.
2 "Broken" Matt Hardy
Even though TNA seems to constantly be on the decline (there have been rumors of them shutting down for two years now), there always seems to be a diamond in the rough. This year, that diamond happens to be Matt Hardy. Following a lackluster babyface run with his brother, he subsequently turned heel and had multiple great matches with Jeff. Following a storyline injury to his back, he claimed he was "Broken" and showed up sporting a disheveled hair cut with a blondish/gray streak in it. Since then he has become the single best act in wrestling at the moment and often times is the only reason to tune into TNA. His enigmatic antics and quips are some of the best mic work he has ever done and with momentum behind his character, it doesn't seem like Hardy will be leaving his broken state anytime soon.
1 EVOLVE Wrestling
Dethroning Ring of Honor as the best Indy company in the United States is a hard feat, but it was a feat that EVOLVE has found a way to do in the eyes of many. Offering up Match of the Year candidates almost every show is unheard of, but they seem to be able to do it every time. With blooming stars like Matt Riddle, Fred Yehi, Ethan Page and "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams, along with established stars like Drew Galloway, Zack Sabre Jr. and Chris Hero, EVOLVE doesn't put on bad matches. Whether it be a simple squash match or a 30 minute technical masterpiece, they never disappoint and always keep the fans engaged. There is no wonder why WWE chose to partner with them while hosting the Cruiserweight Classic. If EVOLVE keeps up its current momentum, there will be no stopping them and they will be one of the highest ranking companies in the world.
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