2017 is bound to be a fascinating year for World Wrestling Entertainment and the pro wrestling industry, in general. WWE is looking to expand its reach in areas such as the United Kingdom and China, and it’s no secret the company has not been shy about raiding other promotions for talent as of late. It seems like it will only be a matter of time before some of the hottest acts in organizations such as Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling will be working on either NXT, Raw or SmackDown shows at some point within the next 12 months. Roster spots will need to be opened up for this influx of talent, and that’s one reason why it’s fun to think of some WWE and independent wrestler trade-offs we’d make if offered.
Perhaps most noteworthy about these imaginary WWE and indie wrestler trade-offs it that it’s possible every independent talent spotlighted in this piece could end up working underneath the WWE umbrella before the night of WrestleMania 34. While it must be acknowledged some of the trades offered here are unrealistic because WWE would never purposely part ways with certain performers, there are pockets of wrestling fans out there who would happily move on from such recognizable names in order to complete transactions that would be best for business. Besides, WWE desperately needs to rebuild the NXT roster following the brand split of the summer of 2016, and a handful of trades could help fix things overnight.
15 The Undertaker for #BROKEN Matt Hardy
You don’t have to be an industry insider or some sort of trainer to see Undertaker’s best days inside the ring are well behind him, and it's possible his match versus Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 was his last in a WWE ring. A version of Matt Hardy playing the “broken” character he and his brother, Jeff, utilized in Impact Wrestling could make for the ideal Undertaker replacement to feud with the likes of Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor’s “Demon King.”
The Undertaker is well respected as an icon of the industry, but all good things must come to an end. Matt’s “Broken Brilliance” is the better option among the two these days, and that is why we’re willing to start things off with such a blockbuster trade-off. Now, we're aware that Broken Matt has already returned to WWE, but we wanted to emphasize how we hope they use his Broken gimmick and not anything else!
14 Jinder Mahal for Mahabali Shera
No disrespect meant to Jinder Mahal, but it’s been made clear to WWE viewers that the company brought him back following the brand split that occurred in July 2016 mostly because the promotion needed bodies to feud with real stars on the Raw brand. Mahabali Shera may not find much more success while working for either NXT, SmackDown or Raw, but he could at least bring the “Shera Shuffle” to one of the WWE shows.
Those of you potentially scoffing at such a notion should remember that No Way Jose has gotten over in NXT because of a similar gimmick. We think this trade-off is worth a shot if only to watch Jose and Shera show their dance moves off in the middle of a future Takeover event.
13 Sanity for The Briscoes
The brand split badly watered-down a tag team division that seemed to be on the rise in 2015 and the first half of 2016, and that portion of the WWE roster needs an influx of talent. While we have yet to see what Sanity will or won’t become within the promotion, we’re confident in saying the majority of wrestling fans out there would be just fine with trading two members of that stable for The Briscoes.
Jay and Mark Briscoe may not generate as much positive buzz as they did earlier this decade, but they could help energize the tag division in NXT before joining up with either Raw or SmackDown. Imagine the fun matches we could see with the Briscoes, and a couple of other indie tag teams, added to the overall WWE roster.
12 Dana Brooke for Allie
The WWE has done well to bury the Dana Brooke character in both NXT and on the main Raw roster, and the company needs some truly talented female babyfaces to work alongside the likes of Bayley and Becky Lynch. Allie would admittedly be a project when compared to other women currently signed to the WWE, but the NXT women’s division needs all kinds of help following WrestleMania 33.
That’s especially the case if Asuka is going to receive a deserved call-up to the main roster before the push toward SummerSlam begins. Allie is a recognizable face among wrestling fans who could be NXT’s next Bayley so long as she's booked properly on that brand, and that alone makes this trade-off good value for the WWE.
11 The Brian Kendrick for Jushin Thunder Liger
Bringing The Brian Kendrick back for a run in 2016 with a storyline that involved the veteran trying to save whatever may be left of his career was fine for a brief amount of time, but the idea ran its course before the start of 2017. Jushin Thunder Liger is a veteran of the industry who isn’t the wrestler he was in his prime but who can still go, and Liger unquestionably has some name value that would bring attention to NXT, Raw or SmackDown and/or 205 Live.
Having Liger work with younger individuals on the WWE roster for even six months or so could make this trade worth it in the long run, as it wouldn’t be shocking if Kendrick was taken off WWE programming before 2017 comes to an end.
10 HoHo Lun for Zack Sabre Jr.
There’s a pretty good chance even HoHo Lun would admit this is one of the most one-sided trade-offs mentioned in the piece. Zack Sabre Jr. is a talent who's growing a reputation for putting on entertaining matches all around the world, and he was one of the best overall workers to feature in the Cruiserweight Classic that aired on the WWE Network in 2016.
Sabre and the WWE did not come to terms on a contract at that time, but that doesn’t mean the company couldn’t use his services as part of the cruiserweight division or even NXT. Lun, meanwhile, has become somewhat of a forgotten figure. This trade-off is a no-brainer even if it's realistically only a matter of time before the WWE signs Sabre.
9 Heath Slater for Will Ospreay
Heath Slater did well to take an opportunity and run with it as a member of the SmackDown roster following the brand split, but Slater’s time as one of the main characters on that program ended almost as quickly as it began. That’s only one reason why this trade-off makes all kind of sense.
Will Ospreay is undeniably the better worker of the two, and Ospreay has yet to even show what he's fully capable of working for a major promotion. It would probably be best for all involved if Ospreay began his WWE stint in NXT, and that would be a bonus for the developmental brand. Considering his talent, it likely wouldn’t be long before Ospreay graduated from the company’s developmental brand, and later, thriving on the main shows.
8 James Ellsworth for Alex Shelley
The story involving James Ellsworth was fun for a time, and the creative portion of WWE deserves credit for turning such a wrestler into a babyface fans wanted to cheer. Nobody should kid themselves, however, and suggest Ellsworth would mean all that much if the company wanted to use him on the NXT brand or on SmackDown.
Alex Shelley comes to mind for such a trade-off because of what he could mean to WWE developmental and also because he could one day evolve into an announcer for the company. The harsh reality of the situation here is that Ellsworth has no lasting place on the WWE roster unless the company chooses to begin utilizing managers at some point in the near future, so this trade-off is a win for the WWE.
7 Baron Corbin for Lashley
Baron Corbin and Lashley are both big men who have backgrounds in real sports, but the similarities essentially end right there. Corbin remains a project who is nothing special in the ring and who still needs a lot of work on the microphone, while Lashley cemented himself as a true Superstar during his run as the top man in Impact Wrestling.
Best of all, Lashley carries himself like a star who could handle his business if a real fight were to break out, something that’s missing among a plethora of WWE characters these days. Lashley may never equal what Brock Lesnar has accomplished during his second run in the company, but the Impact star remains an upgrade in any trade-off that includes Corbin.
6 Titus O’Neil for Matt Riddle
Both Titus O’Neil and Matt Riddle have good looks, and both seemingly have personalities that would allow them to become stars in a promotion such as the WWE. It just hasn’t worked out with O’Neil for whatever reasons, and it doesn’t appear he’ll be breaking through the figurative glass ceiling anytime soon.
Riddle, meanwhile, could quickly evolve into a star if given a solid push and the right opportunity to thrive. This trade-off would bolster the NXT brand and allow Riddle to get his feet wet in the WWE until the time came when those making roster decisions were ready to add him to either Raw or SmackDown, although some may argue he wouldn’t need to spend more than a couple of months in developmental after signing with the company.
5 Dolph Ziggler for Ricochet
This trade-off may actually be best for all involved. The Dolph Ziggler character has been absolutely decimated on WWE programming, so much so that the only way to salvage it might be if he goes away for a lengthy period of time. Meanwhile, the WWE would need to find a way to add Ricochet to the roster in this simulation, and he would be able to step in and do a better job than Ziggler at stealing the stow.
Ricochet is a bigger star in the eyes of wrestling fans than Ziggler was ever allowed to become on either Raw or SmackDown. It’s a shame because Ziggler deserves better, but maybe he'll be able to find it in another promotion.
4 Eva Marie for Reby Hardy
This trade-off is being suggested before Eva Marie and the WWE part ways assuming rumors about her supposed inevitable departure from the company are accurate. This isn’t just a way to get Reby Hardy on the WWE roster, as Hardy could be valuable commodity if given a chance to learn down in NXT.
Hardy has shown that she can play either a heel or a babyface as a valet, and she has in-ring experience. At the very least, Hardy is just as good of a wrestler as Eva Marie, and the wife of Matt Hardy has been in more entertaining television segments than “All Red Everything” over the past 12 months. It would be hard to argue Hardy wouldn’t be a noteworthy upgrade in such a trade-off.
3 The Ascension for the Young Bucks
Perhaps this trade-off should be reconsidered if the WWE chooses to repackage The Ascension as the Surf Dudes with Attitudes from Southpaw Regional Wrestling. Assuming the WWE won’t actually be that creative and have some fun with the idea, the company should happily make this trade to bring the Young Bucks over to either Raw or SmackDown.
The Young Bucks would, at worst, be one of the top teams in the company before the ink on their WWE contracts dried, and the Bucks finally joining the WWE would allow the company to truly run with its own version of Bullet Club. Any group featuring the Bucks, A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson would be too sweet, and it would probably sell a ton of merchandise in the first year.
2 Hideo Itami for Kazuchika Okada
Sometimes, things just don’t work out for one reason or another, and it feels that is the case for Hideo Itami and his time with the WWE. Injury woes have prevented Itami from making a full-time trip to the company’s main roster, and it also hasn’t helped that Itami never got over in NXT like Shinsuke Nakamura has since debuting for that brand in 2016.
Nakamura should be on either Raw or SmackDown sooner than later, and the NXT brand could use a similar star to carry the flag for that touring group for 12 months or so. Enter Kazuchika Okada, a performer who put on a match for the ages with the final indie wrestler featured in this piece earlier this year.
1 Bo Dallas for Kenny Omega
Both Bo Dallas and Kenny Omega have proven they can play comedic roles for a promotion, which is one reason this trade-off comes to mind. Unlike Dallas, though, Omega is one of the finest workers in the world today, and it’s likely he will be working main events on either Raw or SmackDown as soon as 2018 if he decides to join the WWE before WrestleMania 34.
Omega versus A.J. Styles, Omega versus Shinsuke Nakamura, Omega versus Finn Balor and even Omega versus Roman Reigns are all matches that should excite casual and diehard WWE fans. Pardon the pun, but all out there should Bo-Lieve this is a trade-off WWE executives would happily make if given the option. Much like Styles, Omega should make his debut on a major show and not part of the NXT roster once he signs with WWE.