The WWE has one of the greatest rosters in wrestling history. Between Raw, SmackDown Live and NXT, their deep talent pool consists of some of the best workers in the world. But because their are so many top-level talents, others are pushed aside, which leads to wrestlers taking their talents to other promotions.
And that’s where Impact Wrestling/Global Force Wrestling and Ring of Honor come into play.
Once known as TNA and then Impact Wrestling and now Global Force Wrestling, the Florida company has tried their hand at competing against the WWE and also has taken on a number of former talents. Once they get their hands on former WWE stars, they’re usually pushed to the moon, no matter how they were treated by Vince McMahon.
Ring of Honor, meanwhile, is largely considered the top independent promotion in the world, and their partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling furthers that narrative. They have a collection of amazing in-ring talents, and putting on fast-paced, high-octane matchups is their speciality.
There are WWE talents who can catch the eye of both Impact Wrestling/GFW and ROH. But who are they? Let’s take a look at 8 WWE stars who are Impact bound and 7 who are on their way to ROH.
15. Impact: Curt Hawkins
Despite what many people may believe, Curt Hawkins serves a purpose in today’s WWE product. Sure, everyone wants to be a star and become WWE Champion, but that isn’t the reality for everyone on the roster. Instead, talents like Hawkins are signed because of their ability to help get new wrestlers over and introduce them to a new audience. But because Hawkins does possess abilities to be more than an enhancement talent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him look for greener pastures when his contract is up.
And what better place for Hawkins to go to than Impact Wrestling, now known as Global Force Wrestling. The current WWE star wasn’t only a part of a tournament to name the inaugural GFW Global Champion but also held the TNA World Tag Team Championship in 2015. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the company loves wrestlers who’ve competed in the WWE.
14. ROH: Hideo Itami
Hideo Itami has had one of the most unfortunate WWE careers in recent memory. Once upon a time, he — along with Finn Balor and Kevin Owens — were signed as lucrative free agents that were brought in to change the landscape of NXT. While Balor and Owens have gone on to catapult the NXT brand while also making their marks on the WWE roster, injuries have limited Itami’s talents in a major way.
Since coming to NXT in 2014, he’s wrestled in just one NXT Championship match (NXT TakeOver: Chicago), and with new talents brought in, the case can be made that Itami will get lost in the shuffle. As a former member of the Ring of Honor roster, Itami can hit the reset button and revert back to his true Japanese style of booking, one that fits into ROH’s game plan more than it does WWE’s.
13. Impact: Curtis Axel
Over the first couple of years during his WWE career, it appeared as though the creative team had Curtis Axel pegged for stardom. He jumped onto the main stage as a member of the New Nexus. He was paired with Paul Heyman and captured the Intercontinental Championship. Hell, he even beat Triple H in his re-debut on WWE television. Despite receiving quality chances, however, Axel was never taken as a serious competitor, limiting his potential.
Nowadays, he’s floating in lower mid-card level, an area no wrestler wants to be in. After working as a comedy figure with his Axelmania gimmick and with the Social Outcasts, he’s now being used as an enforcer for The Miz. With no real upside in sight, it would make sense for Axel to follow in his former partner Damien Sandy’s footsteps and head to Impact Wrestling/GFW as an upper mid-card act.
12. ROH: Luke Harper
There may not be anyone on the WWE roster that’s more pigeon-holed than Luke Harper. While he has cleaned up his look, he still resembles the wrestler that was a part of the Wyatt Family, which limits his upside. But at the same time, Harper has the unique blend of size and agility, as he’s incredibly quick and skilled despite being on the larger side of things. The WWE kicked the tires on a Harper push in the months leading to WrestleMania 33 — and even though it was positively received, it was halted after the Showcase of the Immortals.
Because Harper struggles to get television time — let alone a push — it wouldn’t be surprising to see him look for new opportunities. Before taking his talents to the WWE, Harper spent two years with Ring of Honor. His star power, and most importantly, his wrestling ability, is exactly what ROH looks for.
11. Impact: Tony Nese
When Tony Nese was added to the Cruiserweight Classic, many fans were excited to see him due to his high-flying ability that he showcased throughout the independent scene. While he doesn’t have the best promo skills, there aren’t many wrestlers who are better than Nese when it comes to getting inside the squared circle. Unfortunately, his time spent on 205 Live hasn’t helped his stock, as he’s been relegated to secondary feuds.
There aren’t many things that Impact Wrestling/GFW do better than the WWE, but they do a great job in making their smaller talents stand out. The company’s X-Division has been a staple since their inception and it continues to be a high point to this day. Nese — who was a part of the X-Division between 2011 to 2013 — would be a tremendous fit with their current roster of cruiserweights.
10. ROH: Kassius Ohno
As 2016 transitioned to 2017, it was obvious that NXT was not the hotbed that it once was. With the WWE Draft taking place the previous July, the developmental brand was gutted, creating a low period for arguably the best brand under Vince McMahon’s umbrella. Because of this, Triple H was looking for a new influx of talent — one of which was Chris Hero, who wrestled for the brand as Kassius Ohno back in 2012 and was considered one of the biggest names on the independent circuit.
His return garnered much attention, as he immediately confronted NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura upon his arrival. But when the WWE also brought in Drew Galloway, Tommy End and others, Ohno has been — once again — lost in the shuffle. A former veteran of Ring of Honor, it shouldn’t shock fans if he finds his way back to the promotion if/when his time with NXT concludes.
9. Impact: Zack Ryder
Nothing stopped Zack Ryder from climbing the WWE’s depth chart. Whether it was being booked like a goof or being left off television for weeks on end, Ryder always did his best to bring attention to his side, as he used various social media tools to do so. The fans have always been by his side — but despite receiving decent pushes in recent years, he hasn’t become the upper mid-card star he has the potential to be.
It seems to be a matter of time before Ryder realizes that his potential can be met elsewhere. Because he isn’t a terrific in-ring performer, it’s hard to imagine him as a standout performer all over the world. But because of his strong character, he seems like a perfect fit with Impact Wrestling/GFW. If he was to switch sides, Ryder would have a much greater chance to wear World Championship gold, something that’s much deserved at this stage of his career.
8. ROH: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
In January of 2016, the WWE pulled off a talent raid that hadn’t been seen since the days of the Attitude Era, as Vince McMahon and Triple H were able to poach AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson from New Japan Pro Wrestling. While Styles and Nakamura were seen as potential superstars as solo acts, many hoped that Gallows and Anderson would come in and help revitalize a tag team division that has struggled in recent years.
Unfortunately, however, things haven’t worked out in their favor. They have held the Raw Tag Team Championships and have also shown signs of re-enacting Bullet Club, but for the most part, Gallows and Anderson haven’t done much of anything with the WWE. As members of the NJPW roster, they spent their fair share of time in Ring of Honor — and if the duo wants to regain their popularity from a couple of years ago, signing with ROH would be a step in the right direction
7. Impact: Austin Aries
Unlike the rest of this list, Austin Aries will definitely be wrestling somewhere other than the WWE in the coming months. After all, the two sides agreed to part ways a couple of weeks ago. While Aries did have some quality moments during his short stint on the main roster, being relegated to the 205 Live brand was a supposed reason behind the two sides parting ways.
As a former member of both Impact Wrestling/GFW and Ring of Honor, it will be interesting to see where Aries winds up. An educated guess would be the former, as Aries would be a big fish in a small pond and his traveling would be limited greatly. A Double is one of eight Triple Crown Champions in company history, and it’s safe to say he would be treated as a main event-level talent from day one.
6. ROH: Neville
At this time last year, Neville was dead in the water. Despite being one of the most talented wrestlers in the world, the creative team seemingly had nothing for him, as he was usually seen in dark matches or tapings of Main Event. But if 205 Live has done one thing right, it’s the portrayal of Neville. Ever since he joined the cruiserweight-exclusive show, he’s been the most dominant figure of the brand — and it doesn’t look like he’s losing his Cruiserweight Championship anytime soon.
The biggest problem with Neville, however, is that he shouldn’t be relegated to 205 Live. If anything, his time spent on the show proves that he has the ability to be a main event-caliber heel. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon. Because of this, Neville may look for wrestling opportunities outside of the WWE, and Ring of Honor would be a tremendous landing spot for him.
5. Impact: Tye Dillinger
Tye Dillinger gained national stardom over the last year because of his tremendous performance as a member of the NXT roster, but for those who don’t know, he’s been a product of WWE’s developmental system since 2006. But because of his “Perfect 10” gimmick, he’s become one of the more popular wrestlers in the company. Unfortunately, the Vince McMahon thinks it’s just hype as Dillinger hasn’t received must television time since being promoted to SmackDown Live.
Like Zack Ryder, Dillinger has a ready-made character that is over with the audience and he also a very good professional wrestler. Impact Wrestling/GFW has brought in a number of older WWE stars and pushed them to the top — if Dillinger gets tired of his standing with the WWE and leaves, they could give their fan base a fresh — but familiar — face at the top of the card.
4. ROH: Dolph Ziggler
When hasn’t there been speculation that Dolph Ziggler was on his way out of the WWE? Time and time again, The Showoff has proven that he could be a main event star. He has the looks, the charisma and the in-ring ability that screams WWE World Champion. Unfortunately, Vince McMahon seems to never have been a fan of Ziggler’s act, as he’s consistently pushed down the card despite being one of the most popular stars in the last five years.
What better place for Ziggler to end up than Ring of Honor? He fits right in with their high-octane in-ring product, exudes star power and would bring a number of new eyeballs to the company. He can even follow in Cody Rhodes’ footsteps and become a new member of Bullet Club, where he would fit perfectly in between The Young Bucks as the newest participant of the Superkick Party.
3. Impact: Enzo Amore
At one point, Enzo and Cass were seen as the future of the WWE’s Tag Team division. Even though they never held NXT or WWE gold, the duo was the definition of fan favorites, as the WWE Universe has grown to copy their introductory promo word for word. Despite being so popular, Vince McMahon sees money in Cass, and the tandem has broken up and gone their separate ways.
Cass is expected to be a big time player for years to come, but Enzo’s future isn’t as certain. Far from a technical wizard, his best attribute is mic work while everything else is secondary. Impact Wrestling/GFW are looking to bring new viewership to their product; if Enzo doesn’t last in the WWE and is eventually released, he’d be the perfect fit on their roster, as he will bring a fan base with him.
2. ROH: Daniel Bryan
Wouldn’t this be something to see? Everyone knows Daniel Bryan wants to return to the squared circle. That won’t be happening with the WWE, as Vince McMahon made the executive decision to have Bryan retire due to a number of brain injuries. As long as he’s the commissioner of SmackDown Live, Bryan won’t have a match — but once his contract is up, all bets are off.
Bryan has already stated that he plans on wrestling again. He’s also seen as one of the greatest independent wrestlers of all-time. Not to mention, he made a name for himself in Ring of Honor as The American Dragon Bryan Danielson. Seeing as though he already called out ROH World Champion Cody Rhodes, ROH seems like a natural fit for his post-WWE career. The promotion would get a massive boost of business if Bryan finds his way back home.
1. Impact: Paige
The final member of this list is also arguably the most obvious. Paige is currently under contract with the WWE but is also one strike away from being permanently terminated from the company. She’s also in a relationship with Alberto El Patron, Impact Wrestling/GFW’s current World Heavyweight Champion. Their toxic relationship has been well-documented, but it’s safe to say that she will follow his footsteps as long as she’s with him.
But the WWE’s loss will be Impact Wrestling/GFW’s gain. Despite what goes on outside of the squared circle, Paige is considered one of the best female talents in the world and is still in her mid-20s. She has a bright future ahead of her, and Impact Wrestling/GFW may very well be the place where she showcases her talents.
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