With the advent of modern technology, wrestling fans are able to get a glimpse of the top talent throughout the world at the simple click of a button. With that comes less necessary reliance on the Goliath in the industry, in WWE. In fact, for most of the history of professional wrestling, many of the great wrestlers in the world have been found outside the confines of McMahon's organization. Both domestically and internationally, there have always been a host of worthwhile promotions to check out and find new top talent.
This is the case even today, and indeed, there are notable alternatives to the stars seen in WWE. Promotions like ROH, Dragon Gate, NJPW, and countless others are producing some of the best matches around today, featuring top independent talent throughout the world. Frankly, these in-ring performers deserve more recognition. Many of them are young, and their careers still have a significant shelf life, so they still have a chance to make it to the big-time ranks of WWE. Regardless, they are all currently excelling in the independent ranks, and as a result are the key players in wrestling's current underground landscape.
Ranked below are the 15 best wrestlers in the world who are not currently in WWE.
29 Kenny Omega
Omega has seen success in domestic promotions, as well as overseas in Japan throughout his career. Current member of the Bullet Club stable, he has seen consistent action in NJPW, ROH, PWG and DDT, and has established himself as one of the top Juniors in the world in all of those promotions. Possessing the rare ability to get over in both the States and Japan, his technical, high-flying style suits both wrestling audiences. Still in his early-30s, he still has plenty of great matches left in the tank, and with a new deal signed on for ROH, he'll be wrestling much more in America in the next few years than he had previously while in Japan. Stellar in both singles and tag competition, Omega is a versatile talent to keep a close eye on in the next five years, as he is in the prime of his career.
27 Kento Miyahara
While AJPW may not hold the clout they once did as a promotion, Miyahara is without a doubt there brightest young star, and has the talent to succeed in numerous other promotions. He's the current Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, and a two-time tag champ within AJPW. Though he he's wrestled in hardly any additional promotions (excluding of course AJPW affiliate Pro Wrestling NOAH), at the age of 27, he's barely in his prime, and will get his chance to expand in the coming years. Continued success in Japan in certainly possible with a promotion like NJPW, or he could just as likely make some stateside appearances in ROH or PWG. Either way, a current six-month champion in a renowned promotion is nothing to sneeze at, and Miyahara figures to be one of the rising stars in the business over the next five years.
25 Bobby Fish
A stable force in both ROH and NJPW, Fish is another cross-promotional star in both the U.S. and Japan. The current ROH Television Champion, Fish can definitely be categorized as a veteran of the squared circle. He's 39-years-old, and first cut his teeth for Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan, circa 2006. Further success followed in Japan, as he won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight strap on two occasions. In addition to singles competition, he's also a three-time ROH tag champ. At his age, and this juncture in his career, it's unlikely that he would ever make continued appearances in WWE, but he's without question one of the most notable Indy stars of the past decade. He still has plenty of life left in ROH, and many career highlights ahead. He may be out of his prime, but still has the ability to perform at a high level for several more years.
23 Tony Nese
Nese had a fairly sufficient run in TNA around 2011-12, but ended up being released from the company. It was arguably the best thing for his career, and in the past several years, he was flourished on the Indy scene, wrestling perhaps most notably for Dragon Gate USA. Nese is a fluid in-ring talent, with a penchant for an intense, stiff style that goes over immediately with any audience. While consistent appearances in ROH may be the logical next step for his career, a move to WWE may be on the horizon. Nese is currently a participant in the WWE sanctioned Crusierweight Classic tournament. While this doesn't qualify Nese as a member of WWE's roster, it does mean that they are at least somewhat aware of his presence, an impressive showing at the tournament could indicate a signing at some point in the future.
21 Briscoe Brothers
Jay and Mark Briscoe have been atop the Indy tag circuit for over a decade, and don't seem to be slowing down any time soon. They've won the tag straps in ROH (on eight occasions), CZW, Pro Wrestling NOAH, JCW, FIP and are the current IWGP champs in New Japan. Needless to say, with their almost uncanny ability to produce quality matches consistently, they've been recognized as two of the best in the world for years now. Their in-ring style encompasses all styles, and can shift from high-flying, to technical wizardry, to a ruthless brawl in a matter of minutes. They've been successful in many promotions as a result, and are able to adapt to specific types of audiences. In the mid-2000s, they were turned down by WWE after a tryout, but it seems as if that is McMahon's loss. The Briscoes have proven they are one of the best tag teams over the past 15 years.
A true up-and-comer in the industry and currently on the ROH roster, ACH is primed for a breakout very soon. He started in various Southern promotions before latching on to ROH, with stints in Mexico and Japan for AAA and Pro Wrestling Noah respectively. Just in his late-20s, there's plenty of room to grow, and he possesses a natural athletic ability, as well as charismatic elements to his character that is conducive to doing so. Frankly, at the smaller stature of 5-9, 190lbs, he's an unlikely candidate to ever have a consistent run in WWE. That may work to his benefit however, as he has all the makings of an underground superstar in the industry, and will be able to produce matches that showcase the best of his abilities. One of the rising stars in the business, ready for a breakout sometime in the next five years.
17 Adam Cole
A confirmed rising star, Cole already has two world titles in ROH and PWG respectively. Add a host of other belts to his resume, and he looks to be one of the major players on the underground circuit for the foreseeable future, at the age of 27. He has most of the characteristics of a WWE mid-carder, and time will tell if he's able to make it that far up the ranks. For now, the future looks bright for Cole, and he'll continue to work consistently in ROH and PWG, along with additional expansion on the international level. He'll need the ambition to top his two previous world title reigns, but there's little doubt that he'll be a key figure on the national and Indy circuits for the rest of his career.
Formerly known as Helios, as well as Prince Puma in Lucha Underground, Riccochet is one of the premier high-flyers in the business. He's had success as one of the top Juniors in numerous domestic promotions, notable Dragon Gate USA, and his style is really a testament to how far wrestling has come in terms of athleticism within the ring. He's seen his share of success in NJPW, and is a two-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight title holder. He has age on his side, at age 27, and he'll likely to continue to rise up the ranks in the proceeding years. Now done with Lucha Underground, a stop in ROH seems almost imminent, but that remains to be confirmed. Either way, Ricochet is bound to be one of the top stars in the business over the next ten years. His move set, and look is tailor made for this era in wrestling, and it's almost a given that he'll continue to excel wherever he goes.
For the past five years or so, KUSHIDA has been the top Junior in NJPW, capturing the IWGP Junior belt on three separate occasions. While he hasn't wrestled in many matches stateside on any kind of consistent basis, he recently appeared in Mexico for the CMLL promotion. He definitely has the ability to break in the underground scene in the U.S., but may prefer to keep up his international flair. Regardless, his status as one of the top Juniors in Japan certifies him as one of the best in the world, considering the quality of in-ring talent to be found over there. He slightly older than some on this list, at age 33, but shows no signs of exiting his prime quite yet. KUSHIDA is definitely worthy of keeping an eye on, particularly to see if any tours with a major American Indy promotion could be on the horizon.
11 Chris Sabin
As one half of the renowned tag team The Motor City Machine Guns, alongside Alex Shelley, Sabin has flourished on both the national and international, independent and big-time wrestling circuits. The casual fan will know him from his time in TNA, where he was an eight-time X Division champion, one-time Heavyweight champion, and one-time tag champ. He's had tag success in NJPW, and also was a focal point in ROH for numerous years. In short, he's a versatile, athletic in-ring talent that consistently produces quality matches. He's back in ROH now after a hiatus from the promotion, and looks to continue his dominance there for the rest of the year. He's got some quality years left in the tank, and fans should look for him to go on another run in Japan sometime within the next year, most likely in NJPW.
9 AR Fox
A staple of Dragon Gate USA and CZW, Fox is one of the most fluid wrestlers on the Indy circuit today. He really does have big-time potential, with the right situation and gimmick. A high-flyer, with a sound technical style, that also has the added benefit of high-impact maneuvers, Fox is one of the top rising stars in the industry. He's one third of the current Lucha Underground Trios Champions, the promotion where he's currently spending most of his time. A tour of Japan seems like a real possibility in the near future for Fox, but his style does admittedly seem to be more suited to a U.S. audience. Still, with a stellar move set, natural charisma, and time on his side, he's going to be a key figure in the scene for years to come. One of the most natural in-ring talents to come about in a long time.
7 Roderick Strong
Strong is one of the most renowned Indy competitors of the last 15 years, and his record really does speak for itself. Holding both the ROH and PWG Heavyweight titles at one time, he's been at the cream of the Indy crop, when it comes to American wrestling. He's toured briefly in Japan for Dragon Gate and Pro Wrestling Noah, but most of his ace performances and recognition has come stateside. This isn't a slight, as he's been involved with the top Indy competition, but it does open up the possibility for a real run in Japan at some point in the near future. He's also been reliable in tag competition, forming teams and winning titles with the likes of Austin Aries, PAC, and others. It's unlikely at this point that he makes a real run in WWE, but even without it, his resume speaks for itself.
5 Kazuchika Okada
Other than a brief run in TNA, Okada has spent all of his time in Japan, and is pretty much considered the go-to guy in NJPW. He's a four-time IWGP title holder, which is a rare quantity given the infrequency with which that belt changes hands. He's seldom wrestled for any other promotions, and for as much as a top talent as he is, he should really consider touring some major American Indys to gain some more recognition. Regardless, many feel that he is the top talent coming out of Japan at the moment, and at age 28, the sky really is the limit for Okada. Time will tell if he wants to make that stateside jump, but there's few better emerging young talents in the business at the current moment.
3 The Young Bucks
Next to the Briscoes, the Young Bucks have been the best tag team in the industry over the past decade. Winning tag belts in ROH, NJPW (five times), PWG (four times) and Dragon Gate USA, they have the resume to go up against anyone in the world. Right now, they're at the peak of their game, and there's many questions as to what they'll do next. The consensus says that they'll stay in NJPW, but given their appeal across the wrestling landscape, anything is really possible. They also have several tryout matches with WWE to their name, but haven't been signed, in all likelihood because of the perceived similarities they have to the Hardy Boyz. Nevertheless, as current members of the Bullet Club, there's plenty more for them to do on the Indy scene, domestically and overseas. Overall, they're the best tag team going at the moment.
1 Jay Lethal
The 31-year-old Lethal initially found traction in the industry with his Black Machismo gimmick in TNA, showcasing his charisma in the form of an homage to Randy Savage. Before that, he had a successful, if unnoticed run in JAPW, winning numerous titles there. Today, he stands as the current ROH Heavyweight champ, which pretty much determines him the most relevant champion in all of the American Indy circuit. Possessing both the charisma and in-ring ability, Lethal will almost certainly continue his dominance, as he expands his brand to overseas competition. A stint in NJPW seems like the obvious choice, but as the current ROH champion, he can go pretty much anywhere and draw at this moment. Consider Lethal at the top of his game, and one of the hottest tickets in underground wrestling as a whole. He's got the whole package to be a continued star in the business.