It has been said that popularity isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. In the case of these 15 wrestlers, popularity for them is slowly growing. Their collective achievements and skill in the ring are only matched by their aspirations to succeed in their profession. For some, recognition is already apparent, whether from competing on the independents in North America, Japan, Mexico, Canada or Puerto Rico. Each of these athletes has spent time developing their craft. To some, there isn’t anything you may not already know about them; for others this is an introduction to the careers of wrestlers who have yet to appear on a global scale, but are on the verge of breaking through. They are far from overnight sensations; some have been competing for over ten years making a name for themselves. It hasn’t come easy for them, but with time, patience and hard work, they are slowly getting noticed. It is only a matter of time before fans unaware of their work know what they are all about.
Fortunately for some of these wrestlers, they have recently been signed by WWE and fans will be exposed to these names on a regular basis. For these 15 wrestlers, they all have something in common: not that they haven’t been heard of, but rather they haven’t been heard from enough. Over the course of this article, familiarize yourself with these talented men and women from all over the world. Fans of popular larger promotions may not have the access to watch them compete, but take a moment and explore this collection of stars and they will show why they may just be wrestling’s best kept secrets, and thankfully the secret will be out. Here are the 15 lesser known wrestlers you should probably know about.
15. Matt Cross
Matt Cross is a well-seasoned wrestler who has seen a great deal of success on the independent circuit. He debuted in 1999 at the age of 18 and notably he was part of the fifth season of the WWE reality program Tough Enough in 2011. His achievements in the ring are complimented by a tremendous amateur gymnastics career, where he won medals in both the rings and vaults for the Junior Olympic Games. He initially used the M-Dogg 20 moniker, but now on the independent circuit, he is Matt Cross. When he performs for Lucha Underground, he wears a mask and is known as Son of Havoc.
14. Biff Busick
He was trained by former WWE wrestlers Lance Storm and Sho Funaki. While a great deal of information about Busick‘s early career isn’t documented, he has been active on the independent circuit for almost twelve years. Busick first competed for CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling) in the fall of 2012. When he started there, he immediately joined a faction known as The Front. Over the past couple of years he has garnered a great deal of exposure with CZW, competing in several events and tournaments for the promotion. He is now part of WWE’s NXT brand, using his real name, Christopher Girard.
13. Drew Gulak
Drew Gulak combines an old-school look with a new school feel in the ring. He has actively competed for independent promotions like CZW, PWG, Dragon Gate USA, Chikara and Evolve. In the earlier part of his career, he achieved tag team success with Andy Summer, winning the CZW world tag team championships. Once the team separated, Gulak achieved singles success, capturing the CZW Wired TV championship and his title reign lasted a remarkable 429 days. He is currently a tag team champion in Evolve, alongside partner Tracy Williams.
12. Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano continues to light the independent wrestling world and NXT on fire. He has competed for such independent promotions as Chikara and Pro Wrestling Guerilla and major promotions such as Ring of Honor, TNA and even WWE. The Cleveland, Ohio native began competing at the age of eight! He joined the Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling school to develop his skills, and trained under J.T Lightning and Josh Prohibition. Early in his career, he defined his style of wrestling as being a hybrid of British chain wrestling, Lucha Libre and Puroresu. He is a former Evolve Tag Team Champion (with Drew Galloway) and current Smash Wrestling champion.
11. Rich Swann
Rich Swann had wrestling aspirations as early as the age of 14, and they were not deterred, despite a great deal of tragedy early in his life. His perseverance with the aid of family has helped make Swann the wrestler he is today. After training for three years, Swann debuted in the ring in 2008. Swann has competed for Dragon Gate, Dragon Gate USA, Chikara, CZW and PWG. In the past he has incorporated the importance of money into his character, such as calling himself Rich Money and being billed from Moneyville. He is currently part of WWE’s NXT brand.
10. Sebastian Suave
Sebastian Suave’s development and recognition on the independent circuit has grown by leaps and bounds. He was initially trained at Squared Circle, under Rob Fuego, and received subsequent training in Mexico and Japan. However, it is his longstanding relationship with Tyson Dux that stands out about above all. Since his debut in 2006, he has faced the likes of Paul London, Brian Kendrick and Chris Hero. As a prominent part of the Smash Wrestling promotion based out of Toronto, Suave has achieved great success as one half of The Overdogs, first with Josh Alexander and then with John Greed.
9. Zack Sabre Jr.
Zach Sabre Jr may not be well-known to mainstream fans in North America, but he has created quite a name for himself in the United Kingdom. A product of the NWA-UK Hammerlock promotion, he first began to train at the age of 14. As technically sound as anyone, Sabre Jr uses an array of wrestling holds and strikes. He is currently the Pro Wrestling Guerilla champion. He is a multi-time tag team champion both in Japan and the United Kingdom. He has faced everyone from El Generico (who many claim now competes as Sami Zayn,) Jimmy Havoc, Finn Balor and Daniel Bryan.
8. Chuck Taylor
The buzz about Chuck Taylor is quickly beginning to grow. He has actively been competing in such independent promotions as Chikara, Evolve, Dragon Gate USA and PWG. Taylor now also competes as part of GFW. Taylor first began training at the age of 15 and in Chikara became part of The Kings of Wrestling team. Although young in age, Taylor is not new to his profession. Taylor has defeated the likes of current independent and mainstream stars Neville and Ricochet. He has also competed actively with Chikara, achieving championship success and receiving opportunities to win the Chikara Grand Championship.
7. Marty Scurll
Much like his former tag team partner Zack Sabre Jr, Scurll is well traveled in the United Kingdom. Scurll has had a role in the development of a number of wrestlers, most notably Sabre Jr. He actively competes in Frontier Wrestling Alliance, All Star Wrestling and International Pro Wrestling. He has faced talent from Japan and the United Kingdom, including former TNA champion and current GFW champion Nick Aldis. Scurll and Sabre Jr captured the IPW:UK tag team championship in the fall of 2009; in what was considered a match of the year against then champions The Thrillers.
6. Trent Baretta
Trent Baretta is among the most highly regarded wrestlers in the world. He has competed in promotions such as the WWE, TNA, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor and Global Force Wrestling. However, despite competing for all these promotions, Baretta still doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves. Baretta is one half of the tag team Roppongi Vice, alongside veteran tag team specialist Rocky Romero. They are currently the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champions. Baretta initially was part of the WWE’s developmental promotion FCW. Despite being a solid singles wrestler, Baretta has seemed to thrive as part of a tag team.
5. Trevor Lee
While Trevor Lee may not be known to some, he has certainly moved up the ranks of wrestlers under the age of thirty. At 22 years of age, Lee has been an active competitor for several wrestling promotions in the United States, including Global Force Wrestling, PWG and, most notably, TNA. Despite achieving great success as a tag team wrestler, Lee has notable singles wins over wrestlers such as Cedric Alexander and former ROH World Champions Michael Elgin and Adam Cole.
4. Candice LeRae
Best known for her work on the North American independent circuit for promotions including PWG and CZW, Candice LeRae is a firecracker in the ring. She boasts an incredible combination of aerial maneuvers and mesmerizing looks, and she is tougher than most men. She is one half of the reigning PWG World Tag Team Champions with Joey Ryan, as The World’s Cutest Tag Team. She has competed against both men and women and through it all become stronger. Her accomplishments include: Alternative Wrestling Show (AWS) Women’s Champion, Dreamwave Wrestling Tag Team Champion (also with Joey Ryan), and Fighting Spirit Pro Wrestling (FSP) Tag Team Champion.
3. Kimber Lee
Kimber Lee has set the independent world ablaze with her high flying, contemporary skill set in the ring. Debuting in 2011, Lee has achieved great success throughout North America, including being Delaware Championship Wrestling (DCW) Tag Team Champion, Shine Wrestling Tag Team Champion and one-half of the Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) Tag Team champions. She was trained by Drew Gulak, who she regularly tags alongside. Her ability to receive incredible amounts of punishment and demonstrate tremendous heart and perseverance cannot go unnoticed. Her versatility in the ring shows her ability to develop and improve. Only in her mid-twenties, Lee’s development will no doubt continue.
2. Will Ospreay
Will Ospreay’s growth and development over the past few years has been remarkable. Whether competing for Progress Wrestling, Revolution Pro Wrestling or NWA: UK Hammerlock in singles or tag action, his work is undeniable. A number of today’s wrestlers will often point to the level of competition in the UK as being something to look out for in North America. He has met a number of other talented wrestlers on the independent scene including Ricochet and Rich Swann, along with the late Kris Travis. Ospreay has also had incredibly competitive matches against the likes of Zach Sabre Jr and current WWE superstar Apollo Crews.
1. Tommy End
Earning notoriety all over the world, particularly the United Kingdom, this Dutch wrestler is a true stand out to keep an eye on. He has competed for several notable promotions including Revolution Pro Wrestling, Chikara, Combat Zone Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. He has an extensive background in multiple disciplines of the martial arts including kickboxing and has stated that kickboxing is the biggest influence on his style. End has held championships for several promotions and yet is still considered relatively unknown. We can safely say, if you’ve seen his work and what he can do, he’s arguably the best kept secret in the industry.
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