World Wrestling Entertainment has evolved a lot since over the past five years. What was once a land of bodybuilders and models is now filled with a mix of talents who have spent years winning championships around the rest of the professional wrestling world. There are high-flyers, technicians, strikers and powerhouses who have competed in front of thousands in places like Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Not only has the WWE brought in wrestlers like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn, but there has been an influx of international talent as well thanks to the addition of the Cruiserweight Division. Let’s not forget that the WWE has also recently brought in big names like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe.
The landscape of the WWE is continuing to change and more talents are likely on their radar. It means that wrestlers who might not have fit in WWE five or 10 years ago could one day get the invitation to the WWE Performance Center. There are even some who have once worked in the WWE before who are deserving of another chance.
Either way, the WWE has plenty of options within the independent wrestling circuit. The NXT brand surely needs some new talent to help maintain the level of competition set by Balor, Owens, Rollins and Zayn.
The following are the top 15 independent wrestlers who WWE should sign.
15. Gregory Iron
There’s something to be said about someone who inspires a sense that there are no limits against one’s determination. Gregory Iron is a talented wrestler on the independent circuit having worked as a face and a heel mostly in the Midwest, but what’s most impressive is how he doesn’t let cerebral palsy stop him from chasing his dreams of being a professional wrestler.
A wrestler with a disability isn’t necessarily a new thing. Zach Gowen competed in WWE after he lost his leg due to cancer as a child. Iron could have a similar run as a lower or mid-card talent to help with the Cruiserweight Division. The WWE would certainly be able to market Iron as someone who is a true role model for youths who might be going through similar physical disabilities.
14. Veda Scott
Women’s wrestling in the WWE has evolved over the last few years. With so many talented technicians like Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Paige, the WWE should consider looking to build on top of the momentum with scouting other top indie women. Veda Scott is someone who has about five years on the independent circuit, but she has grown so much in her abilities since then.
She has also been a very talented manager during her time in Ring of Honor, which means that she can play multiple roles if the WWE does decide to bring her in. This would be an acquisition that would help give a necessary boost to the women’s division in NXT, which has lost some star power in the last 12 months.
13. Chris Hero
Maybe the Kassius Ohno experiment didn’t necessarily work out for the current Chris Hero. Maybe Hero’s attitudes in the WWE led to him being released in 2013, but there’s no denying that he is one of the most talented independent wrestlers currently on the market. His first run with WWE developmental did include some great matches, but he wasn’t quite considered a perfect fit in the WWE style at the time.
Maybe a few years away from the company is going to be good for Hero, who has since been working for ROH and around the globe. This could be a great addition to the roster to fit in with other former indie superstars like Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. It’s just a matter of whether Hero can pay the proper dues. He is worth giving a second chance, but the leash shouldn’t be very long.
12. Prince Mustafa Ali
The inaugural Cruiserweight Classic not only created new stars for WWE’s Cruiserweight Division, but the WWE Universe was introduced to a number of talented independent wrestlers. One of them was Prince Mustafa Ali, who caught a lot of attention for his Spanish Fly in his first round match with Lince Dorado. While he lost, he was invited back for a match in NXT with Hideo Itami.
The WWE is likely keeping an eye on Ali, who is one of the top indie talents in the Chicagoland area in Illinois. Ali has unique traits related to his high-flying skills, including how he floats through the ropes into a roll and converts it into a neckbreaker on his opponent. Ali could be a great choice to help boost the NXT roster, or even help with the new Cruiserweight Division.
11. Jeff Cobb
After an amateur wrestling career that allowed him to compete for Guam in the 2004 Summer Olympics, Jeff Cobb has made a very successful transition to the world of professional wrestling. On the independent circuit, Cobb has been able to establish himself as “Mr. Athletic” with an impressive move set. In a lot of ways, he is similar to Apollo Crews. Cobb is a combination of powerhouse and cruiserweight.
While he’s competed for promotions around the country that include Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Cobb is also seen on television as Matanza Cueto on Lucha Underground. His debut on television was scripted perfectly and he was handed the ball by the writers of Lucha Underground. Since then, he’s made it count with his well-rounded in-ring work. Cobb has shown he can work with different types of characters in the ring.
10. Colt Cabana
This is another case of an independent superstar who didn’t have a successful first run in the WWE. Still, Colt Cabana is a lot better than the Scotty Goldman that was seen on WWE television between 2007 and 2009. It’s not like Cabana needed the WWE to be successful. He travels the world and entertains wrestling fans everywhere he goes. Cabana also hosts the successful podcast, The Art of Wrestling.
While he might not be completely interested in signing with WWE – due to the CM Punk factor – he would likely have a better chance to be himself. Scotty Goldman seemed forced and unnatural for Cabana. There’s a good chance that he would at least be a great veteran who could help be a mentor or coach for the NXT and the WWE Performance Center.
Lucha Underground certainly has a lot of potential talent within their roster. The WWE could be keeping an eye on a number of superstars from the El Rey Network promotion, but Angelico could be one of the brightest talents of them all. The South African high-flyer has found success wrestling in the U.S. and in Mexico’s AAA promotion, wearing tag team gold with Jack Evans.
Angelico could be a target for next year’s potential Cruiserweight Classic tournament, or even be able to help provide a necessary boost to the NXT roster. The minor league system for WWE is going to need to restock with the upcoming call-ups of Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe expected soon. Angelico is still pretty young at the age of 29, so there is time on his side.
8. Chuck Taylor
Another independent wrestler who is still in the prime years of his wrestling career is Chuck Taylor. During his time wrestling around the world, Taylor has developed a reputation of a heel who hates kids. This might be an interesting character to have on a wrestling promotion that is TV-PG, but Taylor interacting with children could be fun for the WWE Universe, as long as he doesn’t do the fake punch act.
Additionally, Taylor has always been fun to watch reacting to being hit with the crowd. He will likely be able to get over as a heel and could be a beneficial acquisition in NXT or the Cruiserweight Division. There might be some concern that WWE might water down some of his mannerisms, but there’s a chance he would be able to adjust to their style of work.
7. Will Ospreay
The United Kingdom is certainly getting a lot of attention with the amount of talent they have. Will Ospreay is one of those young stars that people have been talking about. All the evidence you need can be found by searching for video of him and Richochet. He’s done a lot this year from feuding with Vader to winning Best of the Super Juniors at New Japan Pro Wrestling.
While he’s interested in one day working for WWE, he feels the time isn’t quite right. The good news is that the WWE will probably be willing to have the patience for a talented cruiserweight like Ospreay. At age 23, he can still grow and become an even better overall wrestler before eventually making the move to WWE.
6. Taya Valkyrie
There’s a lot of reasons why the WWE would likely be scouting Taya Valkyrie. The Canadian athlete was trained by Lance Storm, who has also helped prepare a number of current superstars like Emma and Tyler Breeze. She was signed shortly after completing Storm’s training back in 2011, but she never made her debut with developmental.
Since 2012, she has been one of the best female talents in Mexico’s AAA, where she was named the Luchadora of the Year in both 2014 and 2015. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she is able to complete the three-peat. Many U.S. fans will know her for her role in Lucha Underground. It should only be a matter of time before Valkyrie makes a return to WWE. This time, she would likely appear on television.
5. Brian Cage
Maybe the WWE didn’t give Brian Cage a good look when he was originally with their developmental system in Florida Championship Wrestling from 2008 to 2009, but he’s made quite the development within the independent circuit. For one, he definitely has an impressive physique at six-feet tall and 278 pounds of pure muscle. More than that, it’s what he does in the ring that truly impresses fans.
While he showcases strength, he also displays agility and speed with moves like a a signature double jump moonsault. The WWE has been signing a lot of smaller wrestlers, but Cage is not the typical larger wrestler who has a small amount of wrestling experience. Cage has journeyed around the world for about seven years and is deserving of a second shot in WWE.
4. Adam Cole
Earlier this year, there were reports that Vince McMahon was really pushing for Adam Cole to be signed to a WWE contract. It was believed that they wanted to make the current Ring of Honor World Champion their next face of NXT, but Cole seems to be enjoying his time on the independent circuit and working for ROH, PWG and other promotions around the world.
It makes a lot of sense that the WWE would want to sign him. He’s proven to be one of the best to hold the ROH World Championship. WWE has had a lot of success in the last few years with former ROH headliners – Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and even Samoa Joe. While he’s currently with ROH, it’s only a matter of time before we see The Panama City Playboy make the jump to wrestling’s biggest spotlight.
3. Zack Sabre, Jr.
There were a few wrestling fans who were surprised that Zack Sabre Jr. didn’t win the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Classic tournament, but some would expect that’s because he made the decision not to sign a WWE contract, similar to Kota Ibushi. The reasoning seems to be that Sabre has a few things he wants to achieve first before making the jump to WWE.
The United Kingdom star is certainly one of the best technical wrestlers, not only in British companies, but also in the U.S. He is the current PWG World Champion and has won gold in various promotions around the world. While he has declined the opportunity in WWE for now, he’s likely going to be on WWE’s radar for a long time.
2. The Young Bucks
Certain professional wrestlers don’t need to join the WWE to make a decent living. Many of the people on this list technically don’t need to sign a WWE contract, including The Young Bucks. Matt and Nick Jackson are arguably the best tag team in professional wrestling who have never competed in a WWE ring. Let the list of championships won speak for itself, including winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship five times (and currently holding them).
They pretty much have what you would want in a successful tag team – in-ring abilities, charisma and personality. They had a 2011 tryout that led to no contract offer and also recently declined another tryout invitation. The WWE should find some way to bring in The Young Bucks, who would be a valuable addition to RAW’s tag team division.
1. Kenny Omega
The former IWGP Intercontinental and Junior Heavyweight Champion previously worked for WWE from 2005 to 2006. Early in his professional wrestling career, Kenny Omega was working in Deep South Wrestling on a developmental contract. After departing the company, he said the time he spent there was poor and cited Bill DeMott for many of his problems. However, he’s found plenty of success working all over the globe without the WWE banner.
Omega’s abilities in the ring and natural charisma has made him one of the biggest stars working in Japan – even before becoming the new leader of the Bullet Club stable after AJ Styles’ departure. He’s won gold with PWG in the U.S. and several championships for both New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling. If the WWE can sign names like Styles, there will likely be a day they can sign Kenny Omega.
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