Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson once said, “Success isn’t always about greatness, it’s about consistency. Consistent hard work gains success, greatness will come.” Every pro wrestler on this list has worked their tails off day in and day out to be recognized as the greatest in their industry. Most of these wrestlers haven’t touched the WWE Universe, however, they've triumphed at their craft without the help of the machine.
If you’re watching the WWE now, you know they’re trying to make new changes and bring in fresh stars for all three brands (RAW, SmackDown, and NXT). We’ve seen the WWE sign wrestlers from several prominent promotions, including New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA. Indie stars performing around the globe have also been signed for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. In the past, the WWE may not have even thought of signing these superstars, let alone mentioning other promotions on their television programs. Due to The New Era, we’ve seen the WWE let their Universe know that there’re other promotions out there with top talent.
All the wrestlers on this list have pulled their weight and deserve a shot in the WWE. They have won championships, helped promoters fill the seats, and even made global headlines for their skills. Here at TheSportster, we firmly believe, if given a chance, these 15 superstars would be WWE Champions.
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15 Hiroshi Tanahashi
Hiroshi Tanahashi has put on some unbelievable matches throughout his career. He’s been the face of NJPW wrestling for a very long time and you can even make a claim that he’s the "John Cena" of the company. They go together like salt and pepper or Mick Foley and thumb tacks. Tanahashi is a world class pro that has a pure-wrestling move set. He’s a perfectionist and his emotions can explode during a match, making him a fan favorite. At the age of 39-years old, Tanahashi may not be what the WWE is looking for, however, if he was in the WWE, we guarantee you he could be their champion.
14 Kyle O'Reilly
Kyle O’Reilly and his tag team partner, Bobby Fish, have made a tremendous impact as reDRagon outside the WWE. They have won many championships together and arguably rejuvenated the tag team scene. With Fish being 39-years old and O’Reilly only 31, a split could be seen down the road. Both wrestlers have already worked many single matches and it wouldn’t be a surprised if O’Reilly claims a singles championship somewhere. O’Reilly's style uses mixed-martial-arts with a great grappling game, bringing a unique move-set to the table. He has the size and work rate to make it as a champion in the WWE. There've already been rumors over the years that the WWE are pursing reDRagon, so anything can happen down the line.
13 Michael Elgin
Despite being under six feet tall, Michael Elgin has raw strength and the look to make it at the WWE. His grapple game is on point and his charisma is always improving. He tried out for WWE back in 2010, but couldn’t make the cut. Since then, he has made a major name for himself in the States as well as on the international level. He has performed for Ring of Honor and recently signed with NJPW, which will only help Elgin in the long-run if he wants a contract with WWE.
12 Zack Sabre Jr.
The WWE has been lacking in English talent as of late and the departure of Stu Bennett, formerly known as Wade Barrett, hasn’t helped the situation. Let us introduce to you Zack Sabre Jr. He’s one of the best technical wrestlers not in the WWE and has been compared to Daniel Bryan. He knows how to tell a story, is very smooth with his in-ring ability, and has a high work rate. At 28-years old, he has already made a name for himself on the international scene and has made waves stateside, performing for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. WWE already has an eye on him, offering a freelance gig in the up and coming Crusierweight Classic.
If you believe WWE’s Kalisto can fly, check out Lucha Underground’s Fenix. Literally the sky is the limit for this young up and comer. The way he can elevate, twist and turn, and finish a spot is unbelievable. He’s accomplished a lot for only being 25-years old by winning major titles in Lucha Underground, AAA, Chikara, and The Crash. Not only is he a high flier but he can move on the mat as well. His feuds in Lucha Underground are some of the best we’ve seen this decade. He has the potential to be the face of luchador wrestling for years to come and should be a part of the WWE.
10 Tetsuya Naito
He’s the IWGP Heavyweight Champion of NJPW and rightfully so. Ever since his heel turn last year and becoming a member of the stable Los Ingobernables, Naito has rocketed to the top of the promotion. His charisma is of the same vein as WWE’s Shinsuke Nakamura and his in-ring ability is absolutely awesome. His cocky attitude doesn’t interfere with him selling a bump and he can make fans love him or hate him. With WWE signing more Japanese talent as of late, Naito, only in his early thirties, could still be on WWE’s radar after his contract is up.
9 King Cuerno
Also known as El Hijo del Fantasma, King Cuerno is one of the better workers in the world. He is a technically gifted wrestler and could have the best suicide dive in the business. King Cuerno always finds success, as he's had championship reigns where ever he's been. His lucha based wrestling has evolved into a well-rounded wrestler that doesn’t have many weaknesses. The dirt sheets have reported that WWE is interested in his talents but AAA and LU don’t want him performing in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic. His English isn’t too shabby either, which helps when the WWE needs you to hold down the mic.
8 Jay Briscoe
Man up and reach for the skies boy. Briscoe may look like someone who would date their sister, but his look is perfect for his character. An ROH legend, Briscoe has done it all in the tag team and singles divisions. He's very charismatic, can get the fans in a fever, and knows how to have a technical match, Briscoe is one tough S.O.B. Many say WWE's Dean Ambrose is similar to Stone Cold Steve Austin, however, Briscoe could definitely be molded into an anti-boss/authority figure as well. His punches look real and his work rate is one of the best in the business, so what's not to like?
You may have known who Ricochet was before he made global news in a match with Will Ospreay at a NJPW event recently, but if you didn’t, just realize Ricochet puts on performances like that all the time. Another wrestler who finds success wherever he goes, Ricochet became the flag bearer of Lunch Underground as their first Champion under the name Prince Puma. He’s a high flier, can work the ground, and has an unbelievable amount of energy. If it wasn’t for contract issues, he would most likely be in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic.
6 Adam Cole
Adam Cole Bay Bay!! It feels like Cole has been around for decades, but the 26-year old hasn’t even reached his prime yet, which is scary considering the amount of success he’s had over the years. Cole can do everything, from a high flying maneuver to a technical ground based attack. He truly is a five-tool wrestler. It’s not just his moves-et that makes him a great asset, but the amount of charisma that shoots out of him. He can make you hate him or make you love him. One of the newest additions to The Bullet Club, look for Cole to tear up the Japanese scene while still making an impact in PWG and ROH.
Formerly known as Derrick Batemen in WWE, EC3 has blossomed into an absolute beast outside the WWE. He took the rejection, put it into a truck, and drove it off a 100 foot cliff. EC3 is a TNA champion and probably the best guy in the company on the mic. He has the look, a solid wrestling game, and is proven to carry a promotion. WWE would be insane not to bring him back when his contract is up. If EC3 can get over being released once by WWE, we believe he can be a champion for years to come. With former TNA champions such as Bobby Roode and Eric Young jumping over to WWE, it’s plausible EC3 follows suit.
4 Jay Lethal
His career in TNA didn’t pan out the way he wanted, however, since he’s returned to ROH, Lethal has lit a fire underneath the company. He became the longest reigning World Television Champion in ROH and is their current World Champion, making him the face of the promotion. He may not be the greatest wrestler, but he’s well rounded in everything. WWE has been rumored to have interest in Lethal, but he recently signed a new deal with ROH this year. At 31-years old, Lethal is just entering his prime and could smash all the records at ROH.
3 Kenny Omega
You either hate him or love him, but can’t deny his ability to work the ring and speak on the mic. When it comes to charisma, the guy is absolute gold. He’s a trendsetter and is always trying new things to revolutionize the industry. On top of his charisma, the guy is jacked up and could probably suplex Big Show. He is the counter culture of wrestling when it comes to his antics in the ring. He also gets the people talking whenever he tweets or uploads a video. Just ask Jim Cornette. The only thing going against the WWE is the bad taste they left in his mouth after his departure from WWE’s developmental organization Deep South Wrestling. Regardless, the leader of The Bullet Club and The Elite would be a great addition to the WWE roster.
2 Kazuchika Okada
TNA royally messed up when they let Okada slip through their fingertips in 2011. “The Rainmaker” has been one of the most popular wrestlers in the world for several years now. At only 28-years old, he’s been a three-time IGWP Heavyweight Champion and now you know why he makes it rain. He has the size, 6’ 3”, the strength, the look, and the technical ability to run circles around the ring. Who wouldn’t want a guy that has a “Clothesline to Hell,” and “Tombstone” in their repertoire? Recently, Okada has made statements that he will never go to WWE, but if the guy really wants to make the heavens reign money, we doubt believe he would accept a contract worth a lot of money.
1 Bobby Lashley
Maybe this is a cop out, however, Lashley would continue to be a champion if he remained with the WWE. Probably the greatest MMA fighter in pro wrestling not named Brock Lesnar, Lashley has held it down for WWE’s competition, TNA. He was the ECW Champion and there’s no reason he couldn’t be a WWE Champion because he’s improved so much since then. He has the look, the actual background of a fighter, and can put on a good show. The only thing holding him back is his weak mic skills, but hey, that’s why you give these guys Paul Heyman.
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