WWE is the place every wrestler entering the business wants to end up at. The recent successful signings of Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, and Sami Zayn show that there are independent wrestling stars and international talents ready to make it on a bigger stage. Going a little further back, stars such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio have showed that if a talent has made a name in wrestling outside of WWE, they have a better chance at succeeding due to the experience. Chris Jericho constantly says on his podcast that he believes if a wrestler can get over in small promotion, they can get over in WWE. It’s an art that carries over.
The independents are currently very hot with many talented wrestlers outside of the WWE. Ring of Honor have always had a buzz of developing great wrestlers and many have gone on to become the biggest stars in WWE. PWG showcases the best of the best of the independent wrestling world and creates a special environment. Evolve has many impressive wrestlers and a newfound working relationship with WWE. Hell, even TNA has some appealing talent that you would love to fantasy book in WWE. You can argue TNA and ROH aren’t true independent companies but they’re still incredibly small when compared to WWE.
There are many talents that would be good fits for WWE but there are plenty of significant names that would not succeed. The talents we’re going to look at would not do well in WWE for various reasons. Many have styles that would not be completely accepted by the company, some would do better without WWE and there are a few that just aren’t good enough to make it. Examining some of the biggest names outside of WWE right now, these are the fifteen independent wrestlers that should not go to WWE.
15. Dalton Castle
It is nearly impossible to envision Dalton Castle’s eccentric gimmick making it to WWE. Castle has become one of the fastest rising stars in ROH and fans can’t get enough of his theatrics. Despite having an immense amount of talent, Castle would not be allowed to showcase his strengths in WWE. Most comedic characters get typecast to the point where you don’t get to see them wrestle with their full skill set and they don’t have the potential of moving up the card. Santino Marella, Fandango and Adam Rose are some of the more recent stories that would be comparable to what might happen to Castle.
14. Velvet Sky
Velvet Sky’s boyfriend Bubba Ray Dudley recently returned to the WWE and anyone who glances at social media knows he is petitioning for her to come to the company. Bubba has been pleading for fans to tweet WWE and retweet messages of support about Sky joining the worldwide leader in sports entertainment. The problem is Sky is not a great wrestler. In fact, she’s downright terrible. Despite her years of experience, Velvet still looks extremely unnatural running the ropes and is rarely found having a good match. The emphasis on good matches in the Divas division with the “Divas Revolution” destroys any possibility of Sky succeeding.
As a former NFL player, Moose entered the pro wrestling industry with a world of potential due to his natural athleticism. There were rumors that WWE was looking to sign Moose and have him compete on Tough Enough for a contract but he declined and chose to stay in ROH. It was the right decision as Moose is improving at a fast speed because he’s getting to wrestle long matches with different styles. The choice by Moose seems like more of an investment, as it appears he knows that he’s not currently ready for the WWE and wants to improve until the point that he’s sure to be a success there.
Another physically impressive ROH star is “War Beard” Hanson. With the intense look of a modern day Viking, Hanson shocks and impresses the viewer with his awe-inspiring aerial attacks. Hanson has the potential to be one of the top Ring of Honor stars but his WWE outlook would not appear to be as optimistic. Most wrestlers with his size aren’t encouraged to be as flashy as the moveset that Hanson uses to set himself apart. There’s already a bearded big man that flies around the ring in Luke Harper, so Hanson would definitely be forced to tone it down, which would diminish his chance of getting over with fans.
11. Colt Cabana
Colt Cabana tried his luck in the WWE as Scotty Goldman and it was a complete disaster. With projects such as The Art of Wrestling podcast and The Wrestling Road Diaries documentaries, Cabana has established himself as one of the most successful self-made independent stars in wrestling. The more glaring reason he should never even consider going back to WWE is his close friendship with CM Punk. WWE’s doctor Chris Amann is currently suing Cabana and Punk for Punk’s comments about him and the company on Cabana’s podcast. That would be an awkward working environment. If WWE ever did sign Colt, it would be with the purpose of burying and humiliating him to get revenge on CM Punk.
10. Kyle O’Reilly
As one of the biggest stars in ROH, Kyle O’Reilly has become a top performer due to his in-ring work. O’Reilly mixes athleticism, speed, flash and an MMA background into his wrestling and it provides a perfect mix to create memorable matches. He shows a great ability to adapt with success in both tag teams and singles, as well as working both face and heel roles. His main issue is that he’s not overly charismatic and doesn’t have the larger than life personality that WWE looks for in its stars. Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Daniel Bryan all have the ability to let you know who they are and what they’re doing in very little time. O’Reilly and many indie wrestlers lack that skill.
9. Drew Gulak
Plenty of rumors suggest Drew Gulak is the next in line to join Rich Swann and Biff Busick as the Evolve stars to sign with WWE. Gulak wrestles a slow speed style with an extra emphasis on grappling and rest holds. WWE fans have opened their eyes to new wrestling styles over the last decade but that’s usually because the wrestler has an exciting array of moves. Sadly for Gulak, in terms of what WWE fans look for, he’s kind of boring. The style he has is appealing to a small section of fans, but he would probably be met with silence in WWE.
8. Trevor Lee
Between PWG, Evolve and TNA, Trevor Lee is keeping busy and has become one of the more successful young wrestling stars at just 22 years old. Lee was respected enough by Kevin Owens for Owens to “do the honors” and lose to him in Owens’ final PWG match before heading to WWE. With his exciting style and great potential, Lee would seem like a no-brainer for WWE to invest in but there are some variables holding him back. Lee’s look is unconventional and he has very little experience talking on a microphone. In his rare promos, he struggles and will need to work on that before entertaining the notion of going to WWE.
7. Michael Elgin
Michael Elgin is a former ROH Champion and his contract recently expired with the promotion. There were some rumblings that he would go on as a free agent with the hopes of WWE signing him for the NXT touring brand. Elgin has talent but his upside is pretty low for various reasons. His promos are terrible, his look does not stand out and his matches often feature very little selling. The biggest issue is his mental makeup as he had a terrible run as ROH Champion and alienated the locker room due to making foolish public comments. These little things become huge in WWE and they likely wouldn’t be as understanding as ROH.
On The Ross Report podcast with Jim Ross, Abyss stated that WWE offered him a contract in 2007 to wrestle The Undertaker at WrestleMania 23 but he turned it down for TNA. That’s difficult to believe but a poor decision if true. There’s no way Abyss should join the WWE at this stage of his career as it would not benefit him or them. The company would have no use for him other than as another Wyatt Family goon, which would place him as the fourth or fifth most important person in the faction. Abyss would most likely end up as a part-time jobber on NXT and it would be a waste of a roster spot.
5. Chris Hero
Chris Hero was signed to a WWE deal but failed to make waves in NXT before getting released. Triple H did not like Hero’s look and felt he was not part of the future of NXT. Since his release, Hero has once again become a top flight star in the indies. Many would argue he is the top wrestler currently in both PWG and Evolve, along with his occasional trips to Japan for Pro Wrestling Noah. Hero is the perfect case of a wrestler who just does not fit well in the WWE. Both parties are completely better without each other. Hero is having great matches, selling merchadise and getting booked every week. There’s no reason to return to WWE.
4. The Briscoes
The Briscoe brothers are ROH’s longest tenured act and one of their more successful ones. Jay and Mark have been stars on the independent wrestling scene for over ten years and many thought they would become WWE stars by now. The brothers have been in the news, with rumors of them being brought into NXT but they chose to commit to ROH instead. It was for the better, as it’s hard to imagine that Jay and Mark could keep their personalities in WWE. There’s also the potential PR nightmare as Jay Briscoe has made foolish comments in the past that caused him and ROH grief. WWE would be taking a risk for the talent but it would not be ideal.
3. The Young Bucks
Another tag team of brothers that should not go to the WWE is The Young Bucks. Matt and Nick Jackson are one of the hottest independent wrestling acts due to their incredible matches and entertaining personas. The Young Bucks are members of the New Japan, ROH and PWG rosters, as arguably the top tag team for each. Matt and Nick also have an interesting history with WWE as the company trademarked the “too sweet” gesture to stop them from selling merchandise with it. The WWE also has used the term “superkick party” on television numerous times after the Bucks created it before they filed a trademark of their own, so WWE couldn’t get to it. The slight heat between the two sides would harm the potential of a good run.
2. Davey Richards
Davey Richards was one of the biggest stars for ROH and PWG before signing with TNA. Richards has an explosive wrestling style that has created many great matches and given him success. Along with tag team partner Eddie Edwards, Richards appeared on an NXT show but the duo ultimately chose to sign with TNA. Richards would be a horrible fit for WWE, as he’s known for being moody and a flake. There are many occasions of him criticizing others in wrestling during interviews and he’s no-showed dates he was booked to appear at. The attitude issues and lack of reliability would cause instant problems between Davey and WWE.
1. AJ Styles
The hottest free agent on the market has to be AJ Styles. After Sting signed with WWE, Styles became the best North American wrestler to never spend time in WWE. Styles left TNA in 2014 and it was the best decision of his career. He’s now one of the biggest stars in New Japan and ROH with main event level matches on both company’s biggest shows coming up in the next few months. Styles is reportedly making great money and has become a big star after irrelevance during his final years with TNA. It would be a big risk for AJ to go to WWE and once again put his success in the hands of others, rather than continue to cash in on his body of work and name value.
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