Vince McMahon has been the lead power on top of WWE since he bought the company from his father in the 1980s. He has had other influential people around him. Whether it was Pat Patterson helping to assemble key matches, Stephanie McMahon and Bruce Prichard having had pronounced creative input, or Kevin Dunn acting as Vince’s purported right hand man in terms of production, these figures have had Vince’s ear. Guys like Jim Ross and John Laurinaitis have headed up talent relations. While these guys had some autonomy and brought in some talents Vince McMahon wasn’t totally on board with, their were limits to their powers, as some of their darlings floundered, and they could always be overruled by the boss man.
Nowadays, Triple H heads up Talent Relations and Developmental, and the prevailing theory is that Vince is grooming him to eventually head up managing talent and the creative direction of the company. While the two clearly respect and like one another, there remain some central points the two of them seem to disagree on.
In heading up NXT, Triple H has afforded opportunities to indie darlings like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, as well as international stars like Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor. While no one outside the inner circle will know quite how Vince thinks, the prevailing theory is that Vince favors big guys like Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns, with a particular penchant for home grown talents brought up in the WWE mold.
In looking at potential new signees, there are those talents Triple H likes, and those Vince likes; meanwhile there are those with such overwhelming or diverse dimension of appeal that both men agree on them. This article looks at eight wrestlers both Triple H and Vince would want to sign, and seven they’d disagree on.
15 Both Would Want: Ricochet
In recent years, Ricochet, also known as Prince Puma, has been that rare indie star to achieve a high enough level of success across diverse enough platforms to get rise to the attention of even those fans who really only follow WWE. The man has thrived in key roles for Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Lucha Underground, and most recently New Japan. These are some of the hottest non-WWE promotions in the world, and that he’s risen to prominence in each of them speaks volumes about his talent and ability to connect with fans.
Word is that Ricochet has stopped taking independent bookings moving into the new year, and he’s rumored to be on his way to WWE now. That signing would be no surprise, as a guy with his talent, even of his relatively small size, has proven his ability to get himself over. Whether he goes through the NXT system, or is that rare guy to shoot straight to the main roster, he’s the special kind of talent Triple H and Vince can both get behind.
14 Disagree: Kazuchika Okada
Kazuchika has made headlines this year for putting on a classic match with Kenny Omega at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 show, and later becoming the first Japan based wrestler to be ranked number one in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s annual PWI 500 ranking feature. As a skilled, thoroughbred worker he’s exactly the kind of talent Triple H is interested in for the purposes of amassing the top talents in the world under one roster.
Vince may be a little colder on Okada, though. The top two recent imports from Japan--Shinsuke Nakamura and Hideo Itami—haven’t entirely flourished in WWE. Whether it’s the fault of the booking, his opponents, or the man himself, Nakamura has largely floundered in his main event run on the main roster. Itami’s NXT run has been riddled with injuries, limiting what the promotion can do with him. WWE doesn’t yet have a proven track record with Japanese talents, and particularly those with unproven abilities to cut a promo in English, so it’s far from a sure bet Vince would be interested.
13 Both Would Want: Piper Niven
One of the appealing factors for the Mae Young Classic was the legitimate diversity of talents in the bracket. Scotland’s Piper Niven came across as a legitimate heavyweight bruiser. She wouldn’t have fit in in earlier eras of WWE programming that focused on hiring beautiful women first and foremost, with wrestling skill as a distant secondary consideration. Today, though, Niven has the tools to fit in with talented, fast working women on the roster, and the potential to really thrive as a unique monster heel threat opposite acts like Sasha Banks and Bayley, capitalizing on some of the potential Nia Jax has demonstrated, by complementing it with in ring talent.
Niven has the talent to impress Triple H, and as Vince opens his mind about female performers, a capable monster heel may be just the thing to appeal to him, too.
12 Disagree: Son of Havoc
Matt Cross had a shot with WWE, working dark matches and being cast for the 2011 Tough Enough revival. For reasons that were never clear, he got cut from the show early, and never got another shot with the company. The next time he appeared for a regularly televised promotion, it was under a mask as Son of Havoc for Lucha Underground.
Son of Havoc went from a relatively generic masked luchador to a crowd favorite in less than a year’s time. To have worked a brand new gimmick and without the benefit of fans getting to see his face, Havoc faced more challenges than the average wrestler in connecting with an audience. Via his surprising athleticism, fun promos, and fun storyline with work a variety of partners and opponents, Havoc succeeded in getting himself over.
These successes would likely be enough for Triple H to take a chance on him. Whether it’s his indie style or relatively small size (listed at 5’7: and under 180 pounds), the guy’s just not Vince’s cup of tea, which is probably why never got a full-time contract in the past.
11 Both Would Want: Will Ospreay
Through his efforts for Progress, New Japan, and Ring of Honor, Will Ospreay has arrived as one of the to prospects the indies have to offer. The British light heavyweight has proven his abiity to get over around the world, and to put on exciting matches against a wide spectrum of opponents.
There’s little question Ospreay’s technical and aerial abilities would get him over with Triple H enough to at least earn entry to NXT. With the relaunched Cruiserweight division, Ospreay would have no shortage of potential to thrive on the main roster as well. His real credentials from outside WWE and diverse experiences may help him get over there, too, distinguishing from the rest of the roster and setting him up as a recognizable champ to replace Neville as the face of the division, and step in as the focal point of 205 Life if or when fans tire of Enzo’s shtick.
10 Disagree: James Storm
There were quite a few indie based wrestlers who starred for TNA, but who fans had generally written off as WWE prospects given the company’s tastes and the advanced stage of the wrestlers’ careers. A number of these guys, like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Bobby Roode made the leap in recent years as WWE’s foundation has shifted and company has grown more open to talents that aren’t as homegrown.
Though James Storm did make a handful of appearances for NXT, he wasn’t signed to a contract. While Storm has indicated it was his choice and he had good reason to return to TNA, there those with doubts about how far Storm could have gotten in WWE if he had stuck around. Besides his indie aesthetic and his less than imposing physique, Storm’s cowboy gimmick and alcohol driven persona aren’t a great fit for McMahon’s more modern and PG-oriented visions for the company today. So, it’s unclear if Vince would welcome Storm into the fold.
9 Both Would Want: Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack Sabre Jr. appeared for WWE in the Cruiserweight Classic. He performed well, and rumor had it that WWE originally tapped him as the tournament’s winner, or at least a finalist. His earlier exit from the bracket was reportedly a result of him not agreeing to sign a deal with WWE. This choice did not jive with the company’s vision for crowning the winner of the tournament as the first champion in the relaunched Cruiserweight Division.
Sabre is a pronounced enough talent in the ring with enough buzz across the wrestling world around him to appeal to both Triple H and Vince. It will be interesting to see if he might come around to working with WWE in time, as one would have to expect WWE would still welcome him if he were willing to sign.
8 Disagree: Taya Valkyrie
After making a name for herself in lucha libre circles, Taya Valkyrie rose to the consciousness of U.S. fans first through a starring role in the Worldwide Underground with Lucha Underground (paired with her real life hubby Johnny Mundo) and more recently with TNA. She’s one of the most polished all around female wrestlers working today who has never had a shot with WWE, and disclosed on a visit to Chris Jericho’s podcast that she almost signed before her deal was pulled at the last minute, without a reason given. So can we expect to see her in WWE now, as a more polished and experienced performer?
While Taya’s performances are likely good enough to have impressed Triple H, it’s unclear if Vince would give her a shot. It doesn’t look great that she wasn’t in the Mae Young Classic. Additionally, she may represent the uncomfortable spot of neither being an established enough name to be immediately over in WWE, but being too established to brand as the kind of totally fresh new star Vince loves to promote.
7 Both Would Want: Moose
Moose is a guy with an NFL pedigree who got over big time with Ring of Honor, and has since transitioned to a starring role with TNA/GFW. He’s a powerhouse for sure, with impressive athleticism to boot. Most important of all, he has a certain brand of magnetic charisma that has made him a crowd favorite along his every stop on the wrestling landscape.
Could Moose succeed with WWE? The jury is still out, as no one’s success—particularly on the main roster—is guaranteed. However, his size, skills, personality, and legitimate background as a professional athlete all check key boxes to appeal to both Vince and Triple H and get his foot through the door as soon as he contractually able and interested.
6 Disagree: Rosemary
Rosemary rose to fame with TNA as part of The Decay. The three person stable revitalized the career on monster heel Abyss, gave new light heavyweight Crazzy Steve a starring role, and introduced fans to Rosemary as a conspicuously monstrous villainess. As the team rolled along, they increasingly proved that they weren’t just a freak show novelty act, but actually a collection of very good wrestling talent.
Rosemary has gone on to thrive as a singles act for TNA and elsewhere, and has enough interest around her, and enough talent to reasonably land on Triple H’s radar. From Vince’s perspective, however, she may still be a little too out there to consider signing. While Vince has expanded his view of what a female talent might look like, Rosemary would test the limits of what he’d be on board with, while not resonating as a profound enough talent to justify the gamble.
5 Both Would Want: Pentagon Dark
It’s been said time and again that Vince McMahon is willing to put aside all manner of personal distaste or even grudge for the benefit of working with a wrestler who can make him money. With the possible exception of Prince Puma, Pentagon Dark was the biggest star Lucha Underground introduced to its fans and built up to stardom. His sharp in ring skills, vicious demeanor, and intangible sense of magnetism made him an irresistible star for the promotion.
While Pentagon only speaking Spanish might limit his ability to connect with the WWE audience, given his proven ability to get over, there’s reason to speculate he would find ways to cross the language barrier. Additionally, he’s been affiliated with Konnan, whom it’s widely rumored Vince wants nothing to do with. That’s where a willingness to do business to make money comes in.
Given Triple H and Vince’s shared interest in bringing in the next Latino star to both appeal to that demographic and diversify the types of talents the company presents, Pentagon looks like a solid recruit.
4 Disagree: John Morrison
From the mid 2000s to the early 2010s, John Morrison was a staple performer for WWE, rising up from the ranks of Tough Enough to work tag teams and as a mid-card heel, before really finding his groove as an upper mid card face. The guy’s remarkable athleticism and charisma earned him a fan base and there was a point when he looked bound for a more permanent main event spot.
Rumor had it that Vince was never sold on Morrison, though, thinking he didn’t look like he’d really win a fight, and not buying into his act on the whole as a top star. Morrison wound up choosing not to re-sign with WWE, and has since worked with a spectrum of smaller promotions—most recently as Johnny Impact for TNA—and done some acting work as well.
Morrison is a proven enough commodity in the ring, whose ability to project personality has only evolved since leaving WWE. He’s the kind of guy Triple H would be all too eager to bring back, while Vince would likely still consider him a mid card acquisition at best.
3 Both Would Want: Texano
When you look at the ranks of Lucha Underground, there were a lot of tremendous talents introduced to the American audience. Incredible athletes. Tremendous personalities. Workers more than capable of matching the efforts of the WWE roster.
For a lot of these talents, however, the limiting factor is their size. WWE is traditionally the land of the giant and while 205 Live and a recent surge of talents rising up from the independent circuit, it’s far from a hard and fast rule that the company won’t consider a smaller performer. Just the same, a talent has to be that much better, or represent other impressive talents in order to get a spot as a relatively little guy.
Texano may not be a heavyweight by WWE standards, but he was a powerhouse for Lucha Underground and wouldn’t be out of place on the WWE roster (not to mention that he’s looked good for TNA thus far). Add on the drive for a new Latino star and Texano would certainly be worth the gamble of signing to at least a developmental deal.
2 Disagree: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Hiroshi Tanahashi is a top star for New Japan, who has also made a few good appearances as a star for TNA. Particularly since WWE has snatched up most of the top US-based independent talents, Tanahashi is on the very short list for best talents in the world never to have worked under a WWE contract.
Triple H would surely still give Tanahashi a shot based on his talents in the ring. With a language barrier and over the age of 40, however, it doesn’t look like Vince would want to gamble on him, in particular while guys like Shinsuke Nakamura and Hideo Itami still works in progress. Tanahashi may represent the Triple H to Vince divide in its purest state as a guy who objectively would deserve a shot based on talent, but whom its unlikely Vince sees as an asset worth investing in in WWE’s current context.
1 Both Would Want: Davey Boy Smith Jr.
There was a time when DH Smith was introduced to the WWE Universe, and he was immediately put over as not only The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith’s son, but the latest and potentially last star from the storied Hart wrestling family. After his initial push, he was rarely used on TV, and largely jobbed out when he was. He transitioned to teaming with Tyson Kidd, billed as The Hart Dynasty. The team’s run was uneven, peaking when they unseated Show-Miz for the Unified Tag Team Championship, but as often as not, being treated as lower card cannon fodder.
Smith was ultimately released, and his since worked mostly in Japan, honing his in ring game, while also dabbling in mixed martial arts training. Smith is the kind of talent whom WWE want to succeed, given his family background, and Vince purportedly even chastised the creative team for not doing more with him at one point. Add in Smith working hard to better himself since he left, and he seems like a slam dunk to return to WWE if or when he’s ready to revisit the conversation.