For most professional wrestlers, the main goal in their career is to make it to WWE -- the top of the mountain for most superstars. However, there are many wrestlers who either haven't found a way to WWE yet or rejected the chance to work for the biggest wrestling company in America. Some of the best wrestlers on the planet right now are not under contract to WWE.
While WWE is the biggest wrestling company in America, New Japan has a larger fanbase in Japan than WWE and there are also smaller companies like Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor and the upstart AEW Wrestling that employ some of the world's best wrestlers. Here is a look at 10 of the best wrestlers in the world outside of WWE.
10 KENNY OMEGA
The best wrestler hands down who doesn't wrestle in WWE is Kenny Omega. He actually worked for the WWE developmental system before but asked for his release due to a bad experience with the trainers there at the time. He then went to Japan and became the biggest star in the world for New Japan Professional Wrestling.
He won the Sports Illustrated Wrestler of the Year award in 2017 and also topped the Pro Wrestling Illustrated list that year as well. WWE reportedly tried to sign him this year but he rejected their offer and chose instead to be one of the top names in the new All Elite Wrestling, as well as a member of that company's management team.
9 TESSA BLANCHARD
Charlotte Flair is one of the biggest stars in WWE, a second generation star whose father Nature Boy Ric Flair was the leader of the legendary Four Horsemen. However, Flair isn't the only second generation daughter of a Four Horsemen member tearing it up today, as Tessa Blanchard is the daughter of Tully Blanchard.
Tessa worked in WWE NXT for a short time, losing to stars like Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, and Carmella before taking one last shot at the Mae Young Classic, losing in the first round. Tessa didn't let that stop her, though, and she moved on to Stardom and then Impact Wrestling, where she won the Knockouts Championship.
8 KOTA IBUSHI
Kota Ibushi had a chance to sign with WWE and join them but turned down the offer. He did work with WWE for the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, making it to the semifinals. He had a chance to sign with All Elite Wrestling and join his close friend and former tag team partner Kenny Omega, but he also turned them down.
Kota Ibushi has made it clear he does not want to move to the United States and prefers his home in Japan. That works well for him, as it makes him happier to be there. He is now one of the top faces in New Japan with Omega leaving for All Elite Wrestling. He signed a new deal to go full time with New Japan this year.
7 JAY LETHAL
Jay Lethal made his name in Ring of Honor Wrestling before moving on to Impact Wrestling where he worked a variety of gimmicks, never moving past the mid-card. However, when Lethal returned to Ring of Honor, he was very different than when he left it. He won the ROH world title and held it longer than anyone in history --707 days as the champion.
While he lost his title at the G1 Supercard to Matt Taven, Lethal turned in great matches against anyone he faced and proved to be one of the best professional wrestling champions in the world for over two years.
6 KAZUCHIKA OKADA
Kazuchika Okada is a wrestler in New Japan Professional Wrestling -- one of their biggest stars. He is currently the IWGP Champion, a title he has held five times. His fourth reign holds the record for the longest reign ever for that title at 720 days -- and that is a title held by men like Brock Lesnar, The Great Muta, AJ Styles, and Kenny Omega.
His combined reign of over 1,500 days is also a record for New Japan. The Rainmaker, as he is called, also holds an interesting distinction. Wrestling expert Dave Meltzer gave his match with Kenny Omega in 2017 seven stars -- the most ever given to any professional wrestling match.
5 JEFF COBB
Most of the world got to know Jeff Cobb when he was wrestling under a different name. In the niche wrestling promotion Lucha Underground, Cobb wore a mask and worked as the monster villain Mantanza Cueto -- the hulking brother of the company's owner who would go into matches and "kill" his opposition.
It made him a star but there was much more to Jeff Cobb than his supervillain persona in Lucha Underground. He also worked in PWG and Progress before heading to New Japan and signing a deal with Ring of Honor Wrestling where he now holds the ROH TV title.
4 TETSUYA NAITO
Tetsuya Naito is another New Japan wrestler who has held a large number of titles while working in Japan. He has been the IWGP Intercontinental Champion three times as well the IWGP Heavyweight Champion once and the NEVER Openweight Champion once. A lot of fans took notice when he feuded last year with Chris Jericho in New Japan.
He also has solid tag team experience in the team No Limit with Yujiro where they won both the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship and the IWGP Tag Team Championship. He just lost the IWGP Intercontinental this year to Kota Ibushi.
3 ZACK SABRE JR.
Moving to the U.K., Zack Sabre Jr. is someone else who had a chance to impress WWE but chose, in the end, not to sign with the company. Like Kota Ibushi, ZSJ worked in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament but, just like Ibushi, he chose not to sign a contract and was eliminated in the semifinals.
ZSJ has since moved on to New Japan and then signed a contract to join Ring of Honor Wrestling, where he made his debut at the end of 2018. Zack is a British strong style wrestler and one of the best technical wrestlers on the planet and has held numerous titles all over the world.
Rosemary seems like the kind of wrestler WWE would love to bring in, and there were rumors for a long time that she was going to appear as Sister Abagail in Bray Wyatt's stable. However, she never showed up and remains one of the best female wrestlers in the world not wrestling in WWE.
Rosemary has been in Impact Wrestling off and on since 2016 and has held their Knockouts title once. She has also been a champion in Shimmer, holding the tag titles with WWE trainer Sara Del Rey. She is currently involved in some bizarre storylines in Impact Wrestling similar to what Matt Hardy was doing there before he left, but behind the paint and horror, she is one of the top wrestlers in the company.
1 JOHNNY IMPACT
WWE had Johnny Impact under contract for a number of years and he enjoyed some success under the name John Morrison. He was the ECW Champion, three-time Intercontinental Champion and held the tag titles with both Joey Mercury and The Miz. However, it seemed that he was pushed aside too soon while others moved ahead of him.
As a result, Morrison left WWE and reestablished himself as a top talent in other places. He went to Lucha Underground as Johnny Mundo and became a star again, winning their top championship, trios title and even the Gift of the Gods Championship. He then moved to Impact Wrestling where he is their current world champion.