World Wrestling Entertainment is the undisputed biggest professional wrestling company in the world, an organization that is actively branching out to different countries and that may have “territories” in multiple nations before the current decade comes to an end. With that said, there are only so many available gigs as it pertains to working underneath the WWE umbrella. Editions of Raw and SmackDown only have so many hours to feature talent on a weekly basis, and the NXT brand is an interesting combination of proven veterans who made their names and found fame away from the WWE and also developing wrestlers who are not yet ready for the big lights that come with wrestling on shows that air on worldwide television and that take place in massive arenas.
Fortunately for individuals looking to make it in the wrestling industry, there remain multiple places to work away from the WWE. Impact Wrestling has apparently defied odds and found a way to remain in business for the foreseeable future, and you may be surprised to learn a plethora of former WWE Superstars are currently working for that company. Some other performers who once worked for the WWE have landed gigs wrestling overseas for companies such as New Japan Pro Wrestling. The hope is that these promotions that currently have no association with the WWE will only grow in popularity, as it’s a good thing for the industry, in general, for wrestlers to have a plethora of potential employers. Then again, it’s possible the WWE could swallow-up each of those promotions before 2020 rolls around.
16 Matt Morgan: Impact Wrestling
The sun rising in the east and setting in the west, grass being green and pro wrestling companies trying to turn Matt Morgan into a star; you can set your watch to each of these. The former WWE star who flopped while with that company and also with what used to be known as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling returned to Impact in the spring of 2017, and he made headlines in early June when he defended WWE Champion Jinder Mahal regarding Mahal’s look and the fact that some out there may believe Mahal is somehow getting around the WWE’s Wellness Policy.
Essentially, Morgan’s point was that the WWE has, in the past, popped star wrestlers with the policy, and, thus, it wouldn’t make sense Mahal wouldn’t get nailed. Not for nothing, but Morgan isn't wrong here.
15 Yoshi Tatsu: Overseas
Perhaps the best thing about the former WWE star known as Yoshi Tatsu wrestling in NJPW today is that he goes by Yoshitatsu, which is a brilliant way for any worker to get around concerns over a trademark. While he has not grown a reputation for being part of memorable five-star matches as have others working overseas, Tatsu has been associated with multiple stables in recent memory.
Unfortunately for Tatsu, it turns out that the Hunter Club group was not as powerful or popular as the Bullet Club group that is seen in multiple promotions all around the world and that has been teased by the WWE since early 2016. Perhaps he should have considered having the group named “BulletClub” with either the T or C silent. Just a thought.
13 Scott Steiner: Impact Wrestling
It seems unlikely that we will see “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner back in the WWE anytime soon because he has been rather outspoken about the company, and other matters, since his last stint with the promotion, but those who miss seeing the master of the “Steiner Recliner” on national television can follow him on Impact Wrestling.
We can only guess how long Steiner will remain with the company this time around, as it’s not a stretch to suggest he's no longer in his physical prime. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and somebody at Impact Wrestling will give Steiner a live microphone during a segment. If nothing else, that could make for must-see TV, especially if Steiner is particularly annoyed about a topic at that time.
12 C.J. Parker: Overseas
There are some instances where a wrestler who doesn’t make it in the WWE finds new life for his career by wrestling overseas. While in NXT, the performer known as C.J. Parker was a floundering character who wasn’t having memorable matches and who was going nowhere in a hurry.
After moving overseas, though, he has established himself as a solid performer wrestling as Juice Robinson. Robinson has vastly improved as a member of the NJPW roster, so much that it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he became a star. It’s possible, in time, the WWE will consider reaching out to Robinson about bringing him back to the company. If that happens, he’s hoping he won’t have to play that awful Parker character. That gimmick did him no favors.
11 Shane Helms: Impact Wrestling
We're admittedly bummed that Shane Helms cannot play the Hurricane gimmick on a full-time basis in Impact Wrestling for obvious legal reasons, but it’s been interesting to see him as part of the promotion while running The Helms Dynasty heel faction.
Admittedly, the best part about Helms’ current run in the promotion involved the part he played in the “Total Nonstop Deletion” edition of the Impact television show. Helms not only fought against “Broken” Matt Hardy and Brother Nero during that tag team war but he reverted back to the 3 Count character he played in World Championship Wrestling after he was tossed into Matt’s infamous “Lake of Reincarnation.” Truth be told, there are a variety of wrestlers currently working for the WWE that could use the services of such a lake.
10 Lance Hoyt: Overseas
WWE fans will likely remember Lance Hoyt as either Lance Archer or Vance Archer during his time with the promotion. While he seemingly had the goods to become a star in the WWE due to his look and his potential, Hoyt was unable to get past a certain level before he and the company parted ways.
It’s possible that was for the best, as Hoyt landed work wrestling overseas and in multiple promotions, most notably NJPW. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a herniated disc in his lower back in February. He's currently still working to make a full recovery from that injury and from surgery, and the hope is that he'll be able to make a return to in-ring action before the end of summer.
9 James Storm: Impact Wrestling
If you're looking for me I'm not hard to find No it don't take a genius or a mastermind I'm drinking straight from the bottle You can Keep your glass I'm the one they call COWBOY whopping that ass....... # When the lights shine their brightest this guy always steps up and delivers. #longnecksandrednecks #Cowboy @impactwrestling @ironidolfitness @buckycovington @biggvinnymack
If you're somebody who only watches WWE programming that airs on TV and the WWE Network but who doesn’t actively read wrestling news stories online, you may be confused about what happened to James Storm.
Storm seemed on the verge of becoming one of the top stars of the NXT brand en route to joining the company’s main roster, but he then vanished from NXT during the 2015 holiday season. It turns out he decided to make a return to Impact Wrestling in early 2016, which is somewhat ironic in that Bobby Roode, his former tag team partner, ultimately linked up with NXT and is now serving as that brand’s (glorious) champion. We can’t help but wonder if Storm is having second thoughts about this business decision.
8 Trent Beretta: Overseas
There’s little doubt Trent Barreta was never going to become a massive solo star on the WWE main roster or in NXT even though he was a solid in-ring worker. He never found a long-term home in Impact Wrestling, but he has become somewhat of a mainstay overseas in NJPW.
Those who remember seeing him in the WWE have probably noticed the wrestler now working as Beretta has improved and become more than just a jobber to stars and big names in that company. Knowing what we know about the WWE bringing former workers back because the company wants depth on every brand, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Beretta working with the WWE at some point. Don’t scoff at the notion. Such a move worked out well for Jinder Mahal.
7 Chris Masters: Impact Wrestling
Some fans who only follow WWE programming may be scratching their heads upon seeing the name Chris Adonis. Adonis wrestled as the “Masterpiece” Chris Masters during his stint with the company, and there was a time when it appeared as if the promotion was prepared to make him a main-event heel and a worker capable of holding the WWE Championship.
That, of course, never happened for a variety of reasons, and the former Masterpiece has had multiple stints in Impact Wrestling. Adonis wasn’t known for having the most entertaining matches during his heel run in the WWE, so you may be surprised to learn he has gotten better in the ring. We aren’t necessarily saying he can be the face of a company, but he’s a solid hand.
6 Brandi Rhodes: Impact Wrestling
If you haven't checked out One Night Only Knockouts Knockdown I hope that you do! My match against @santanagarrett is being talked about as one of the best of the night! I'm excited for people to see that there is more to me than mixed tag matches. I'm glad to see nay-Sayers finding nothing bad to say about the match except "must have been luck". Yeah my first TV singles. Maybe it was luck. Or maybe you were wrong to judge me so hard off of my first ever 2 tag matches in the first place 🤷🏽♀️ Either way, I had a great time going toe to toe with such a fierce competitor! Hope there's a next time! 💪🏾 Glad to have done my fans proud in this outing. There's a lot of talent out there but you guys stand by me because you're true. Love you all! More to come! Remember that BIG thing I keep teasing??? My contract still has me sworn to secrecy but the news will be out SOON and I hope you guys will be super excited for MORE BRANDI 😘🤗💪🏾🍾🥂💋 (📸 @bobmulreninphotos )
For reasons that make little sense to those of us on the outside and who don’t work for the WWE, the company never paired Brandi Rhodes with real-life husband Cody Rhodes for a storyline before both left the promotion. What’s most baffling about this is that Brandi Rhodes picked up quite a significant following as an announcer, which is impressive when you consider the company didn’t give her any push, nor did it give fans a reason to care about her over other similar employees.
During her time with organizations such as Impact, where she is currently signed, Brandi has shown she can be a solid promo worker when given an opportunity. Perhaps things could have gone differently for both individuals if the Rhodes’ were allowed to be a unit in the WWE.
5 Cody Rhodes: Overseas
Cody Rhodes has joined Brandi for Impact Wrestling shows, but he's now more so known as a freelancer who works in companies such as NJPW overseas and also Ring of Honor. Currently, Cody, who now just goes by his first name because of legal reasons, is a member of the Bullet Club faction, and he supposedly has a list of dream opponents he’d like to wrestle during this portion of his career.
Do not, however, think that Cody has forgotten about the WWE. We can’t type the words here, but go on Twitter and look for the hashtag #FTR. Cody clearly has his reasons for mentioning The Revival at shows, on the “Being the Elite” YouTube program and at signings. Are you more for Bullet Club or The Revival?
4 Brodus Clay: Impact Wrestling
Brodus Clay is yet another example of a potential star who was wasted by the WWE even though it appeared he was on the cusp of becoming a top heel in the company. Turning Clay into a comedic figure probably didn’t help his cause, and he failed to rise to the top of the NXT brand as a heel before parting ways with the promotion.
He eventually found work in Impact, and he now goes by the name Tyrus. Some of the best Impact segments featuring the Tyrus character have involved him being a “fixer” who accomplished jobs for other wrestlers for fees. He has also appeared as an on-air contributor for Fox News since leaving the WWE. Maybe he can become the next JBL if he can make money via the stock market.
3 Low Ki: Impact Wrestling
As soon as the WWE paired Low Ki, known as Kaval while in the promotion, with Michelle McCool and Layla for the second season of the original NXT, just about everybody could tell he was not in for a long run at the company. Following his brief stay with the WWE, Low Ki resumed working in different independent promotions, and he also made multiple returns to Impact Wrestling.
His latest occurred in the spring of 2017, and it resulted in him winning the X Division Title. Now that Finn Balor is on the main WWE roster, it is somewhat weird, not to mention disappointing, to see Low Ki do the double foot stomp finisher on Impact shows. Imagine what could have been had the two been able to feud over the move in either NXT or on editions of Raw?
2 Harry Smith: Overseas
Harry Smith, or Davey Boy Smith Jr., wasn’t known for being the best promo dude during his days in the WWE, but that, alone, wasn’t enough of a reason to justify why the company didn’t give him an opportunity to thrive as a solo act.
These days, Smith may see that as a blessing more than a curse, as he has vastly improved wrestling overseas for companies such as NJPW and Pro Wrestling Noah. Along with working on those shows, Smith has made returns to the United States to wrestle on independent shows as recently as this spring. Smith is still relatively young and in his early 30s, so there is a chance the WWE could erase this mistake and bring him back to wrestle either in NXT or the main roster.
1 Matt Sydal: Impact Wrestling
Known as Evan Bourne by WWE fans, the wrestler actually enjoyed quite the run with McMahon's company unlike most on the list. He was over big time with the audience and it led a championship run as a tag team act alongside Kofi Kingston. He was insanely talented, but his run would come to an end due to injuries and multiple Wellness Policy violations.
He's continued his journey ever since. He recently made headlines for signing a new deal with a major wrestling company. No, sadly that promotion was not the WWE as he'd be a great fit with NXT. Instead, it's a little known fact that he joined Impact Wrestling. His debut bout took place in late April defeating Trevor Lee. Still relatively young at the age of 34, don't rule out a WWE return just yet.