The free agent market is hotter than ever for the wrestling business right now. Many contracts have expired in various companies and interesting names are getting ready to test the market. WWE always sees its wrestlers go back and forth with various variables causing talent to get released or want to leave. Other wrestling promotions have recently started to see shifts in talents leaving or wanting to find a new home. TNA is currently in a complete overhaul thanks to Jeff Jarrett taking over and adding new stipulations to contracts. A few names have left to add depth to the free agent market.
Ring of Honor has been known to create stars that eventually progressed to WWE in the natural order of things. Wrestlers have begun to grow frustrated with the stagnant state of things in ROH over the past year or two and a few names have left to find new alternatives rather than wait on WWE. Lucha Underground has a cool concept for their company, but the lack of a consistent schedule has seen some names recently depart leaving a contract on the table. There are many names available now and we'll look at the best with fifteen of the hottest free agents on the wrestling market today.
15 Mike Bennett & Maria Kanellis
The one year contracts of Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis with TNA have expired. Bennett and Kanellis are a real-life married couple that show their chemistry with an entertaining heel act. Kanellis has especially shined in TNA as one of the best heel personalities over the year, while Bennett was used as a top level heel for the majority of his run there.
Both performers were valuable separately and together. TNA did not reach an agreement with them and they recently hit the free agent market. Kanellis and Bennett worked together in ROH and New Japan before TNA. It'll be interesting if they return to their prior homes or look for a new promotion to sign with. Bennett and Kanellis are great together and they should find success if they stick together.
14 Kelly Kelly
Kelly Kelly is a polarizing name in the wrestling community. Unlike the majority of female wrestlers currently employed by WWE, she has little to no wrestling ability. Many viewed Kelly as the face of the disappointing women’s division of WWE's past. A couple of tweets and a backstage appearance at WWE has led to rumors circulating of Kelly's return to the company.
The reports have made her a hot topic in wrestling again. Kelly could very well be a fixture on the WWE roster again, but maybe TNA swoops in to sign her before. Regardless, the stock of Kelly has risen to the highest it's been since leaving WWE. The more she teases coming back, the more interest her fans will have wanting to see her return to the wrestling industry.
13 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger's value is higher than ever after he requested a release from WWE. Swagger was tired of not being used and wanted to continue his career elsewhere. WWE granted Swagger’s wish and he's now a free agent. The wrestlers that choose to leave WWE typically have more interest attached to their names after leaving. Cody Rhodes is the best example of this after making headlines for leaving the biggest company in the world.
Swagger will have to prove himself wherever he goes, but there will be interest. Swagger's athleticism was never the problem. Promotions outside of WWE see his charisma and mic skills as less of a factor, making the indie scene a better place for Swagger. For the first time in his career, Swagger is a hot commodity.
12 Veda Scott
Veda Scott is one of the most charismatic free agent wrestlers today. The talented performer made her name in ROH as a manager while wrestling all over the country for various independent promotions. Scott recently decided to leave Ring of Honor for more freedom in her bookings. Any wrestling company would be lucky to have Veda join their women’s division.
WWE having a rumored tournament coming this year featuring all of the top female wrestlers in the world could see Scott make her debut. A signing with WWE for NXT would not be surprising, but she can really shine anywhere she wants. TNA, Lucha Underground or even ROH finally getting serious with their women’s division could also create intriguing options for Veda as a free agent.
11 Donovan Dijak
The size and athleticism of Donovan Dijak makes him one of the most interesting free agents in quite some time. Dijak is 6’7’’ and towers over most of his opponents on the independent scene. Unlike others in his size range, Dijak has the athleticism to keep up with and actually match his opponents. Dijak is one of the rare wrestlers that can adapt to any style needed depending on his character and the style of wrestler he's working.
Something shocking about Dijak is realizing he has only been wrestling for a few years now. His ability to learn at such a fast pace and already become one of the best indie wrestlers is highly impressive. Dijak felt the time was right to leave ROH at the beginning of the year and is betting on himself in free agency.
10 Candice LeRae
Women’s wrestling has become more important than ever in the industry following WWE’s move to make their division based around talent. With that, Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor are all looking to find credible female talent. Someone like Candice LeRae is a dream to have as the center of a women’s division.
Many of LeRae’s best matches have come against against the top male wrestlers in the world like Adam Cole, The Young Bucks and, her own husband, Johnny Gargano. That shows just how talented of a wrestler she is. Lucha Underground could use her for inter-gender wrestling as a major part of the show. WWE, Impact and ROH all would have their women’s division significantly improve with Candice on the roster.
9 Kota Ibushi
WWE signed most of the wrestlers to shine in their Cruiserweight Classic tournament. One huge name that chose to remain a free agent was Kota Ibushi. His dazzling moves make him one of the best high flying performers in the wrestling industry today. Ibushi still primarily wrestles in Japan as one of the biggest stars in his home country.
His skills translate well to the North American wrestling scene. Fans love him anywhere he wrestles and Ibushi has proved he could get over in ROH, Evolve and NXT. Any promotion would instantly improve with the addition of Ibushi. There’s no doubt he's one of the best in the world and that is why he is testing the market in free agency.
8 Lio Rush
The scary thing about Lio Rush’s talent is that he’s only 22 years old. Rush has been wrestling for fewer than two years but already stands out among the best independent wrestlers in the world. Ring of Honor signed him to a one-year contract after a tryout camp, but it has recently ended. Rush is still working for ROH, but has yet to agree to a new deal making him a hot free agent.
You get the perfect combination of great work right now and a long term improvement with Rush. His potential could see him fit in at the Performance Center as a valuable member of NXT. Other promotions could use Rush as a top main event star despite being one of the younger wrestlers on the roster. The can’t miss prospect is a special talent that will command a lot of attention.
7 Mia Yim
Formerly known as Jade in TNA, Mia Yim is out on the free agent market looking for a new place to work. Yim has consistently been one of the best independent women’s wrestlers for many years now and took it to the national television scene in TNA. As Jade, she helped add new interest to the women’s division with memorable matches against Gail Kim, Rosemary and Sienna.
Jeff Jarrett’s new regime did not agree to a contract extension with her, forcing Yim to once again become a free agent. The options are out there and her talent definitely puts her on the radar of any relevant promotion. WWE having their women’s wrestling tournament will likely give her an in if both sides agree to a deal.
6 Kyle O'Reilly
Kyle O’Reilly's shocking decision to leave Ring of Honor still has the company in shock. O’Reilly’s contract expired in January right after ROH decided to make him the World Champion with a huge victory over Adam Cole at Final Battle 2016. Cole would regain the title a few weeks later at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom due to O’Reilly choosing not to sign a new contract with ROH.
O’Reilly reportedly wanted to become a free agent in hopes of signing with WWE for the NXT brand. No deal has been reached yet and Kyle still remains a free agent. O’Reilly has slowed down on taking bookings and appears to be on a break before making his next move. His talent has made him a top elite independent wrestling name for many years now and he has a lot to offer.
Ricochet is truly a top name outside of WWE after he was turned down following a tryout. WWE didn’t think he was ready to make a splash in NXT just yet and he used that as motivation to take his game to the next level. As the masked Prince Puma, Ricochet dominated Lucha Underground as arguably the top star through its first three seasons.
His contract with Lucha Underground has finally ended allowing him to hit the free agent market. It is unknown if the former contract has a stipulation that will make him wait until the third season finishes airing before he can sign elsewhere. Regardless, Ricochet as a free agent is huge for all promotions looking to add to their roster. The high flying master is a must-see performer right now.
4 Zack Sabre Jr.
PWG and Evolve Wrestling are arguably the top two independent wrestling promotions in the world right now. Zack Sabre Jr. happens to be the World Champion for both companies. Another impressive feat for Sabre is being voted the two-time winner of the Bryan Danielson Award, as the Best Technical Wrestler in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Sabre uses his technical wrestling skills to entertain audiences all over the world on an independent level. WWE did use him for the Cruiserweight Classic and he made it all the way to the final four. Sabre didn't sign a contract with WWE and it ended up being for the best. His stock has raised in recent months and a lot of fans consider him the best in the world. Sabre is a huge get for anyone that can sign him.
3 Jeff Hardy
The name value and star power of Jeff Hardy is second to none on the free agent market. Hardy was up there with John Cena in terms of overall popularity when he was last in WWE as a singles star back in 2009. His decision to leave the hectic WWE schedule and join TNA led to many ups and downs. Hardy is currently in a great place after cleaning up his life following the birth of his first child a few years ago.
Jeff and Matt Hardy both left TNA after Jeff Jarrett disrespected them in contract negotiations. WWE is rumored to have interest in both men, especially Jeff. Most of the legendary talents to return can’t keep up with the younger stars. However, Jeff is a rare exception that can still perform at a high level and bring star power. Ring of Honor has The Hardys booked for WrestleMania weekend, but WWE could easily have them in the long term.
2 Matt Hardy
For the first time in his career, Matt Hardy has become a bigger name than his brother, Jeff Hardy. Both are huge stars, but Matt resurrected his career with the inception of the “Broken” character. Matt actually made TNA television relevant with his innovation and found a way to become the hottest name outside of WWE in 2016.
Along with Jeff, Matt is signed for a ROH appearance and he's teasing an appearance in New Japan. It'll be interesting to see if The Hardys sign together or take separate deals. Matt has stated he loves the creative freedom outside of WWE, but WWE offers the biggest platform with the opportunity to show his “broken brilliance” to the world. This will be one of the bigger stories as we enter the hottest time period for WWE during WrestleMania weekend.
1 Drew Galloway
The top name on the free agent market is another wrestler that left TNA. Drew Galloway did not feel he was offered a fair contract after all his work for the company and decided to enter free agency. Following his WWE departure, Galloway has turned his career around with outstanding work all over the world. WWE signing Kassius Ohno back proves that they're willing to give second chances to those that prove themselves and Galloway has done that.
At 31 years old, Galloway is actually younger than Roman Reigns to put it in perspective. The talented star has a long career ahead of him and WWE should take note. New Japan and ROH also provide a good fit where he could rule as a dominant big man working against the smaller wrestlers with a stiff style. Galloway is the best overall free agent on the market and we should all take note on where he ends up.