It is understandable that some fans of professional wrestling living in the United States would only keep track of a couple of organizations. World Wrestling Entertainment produces hours upon hours of new and original television programming each and every week, and that does not even account for shows such as NXT that are available via the WWE Network on a weekly basis. Throw in editions of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and Ring of Honor, and one could not blame a fan for only paying attention to what he can easily access via cable television and On Demand services that provide wrestling content.
There are, of course, numerous noteworthy pro wrestling companies that are headquartered outside of North America. Diehard WWE fans who are not all that familiar with New Japan Pro Wrestling are getting somewhat of an introduction to that company due to the fact that several performers are going to the WWE. A.J. Styles made his official debut in the WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble, and he will, sooner than later, be joined by at least three other wrestlers. The WWE has already leaked that Shinsuke Nakamura will become a member of the NXT roster and potentially be wrestling Sami Zayn during WrestleMania weekend.
There are a plethora of recognizable wrestlers who are still active and working for companies overseas. Some are individuals who, for one reason or another, never made it to the top of cards while working in the WWE. They eventually either moved on or were pushed out of that company. Others, however, are true legends of the industry who are still able to go inside of the ring. The WWE has, in the past, welcomed some of those veterans to work the occasional event for the company. One such individual was featured at the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn event that was arguably the best WWE show of 2015.
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15 Alex Shelley
Fans who followed Total Nonstop Action Wrestling when it was actually watchable probably remember Alex Shelley from his time working with that company as a solo act and as a member of the Motor City Machine Guns. Along with still being an active wrestler overseas, Shelley is also making appearances for Ring of Honor these days. Shelley has dealt with injuries over the past couple of years, but he is still able to put on entertaining matches for ROH and other organizations. He would be a good get for the NXT brand if the WWE would be interested, as Shelley still has plenty left in the tank.
14 Masato Tanaka
Yes, this is the same Masato Tanaka who became famous among North American pro wrestling fans because of those legendary battles with Mike Awesome and because of his run in Extreme Championship Wrestling. You can, if you are lucky enough, catch Tanaka working a show in the United States every now and again. Tanaka is still active overseas, working for Pro Wrestling Zero1 in Japan. We have to admit that we are rather impressed with the fact that Tanaka is still able to go in the ring considering all of the damage that his body has suffered over the years. That man is a warrior.
13 Kaz Hayashi
Not everything from the dying days of World Championship Wrestling was a complete bust. Sure, a performer such as Kaz Hayashi being placed in a group known as The Jung Dragons probably would not fly these days in a company such as the WWE, but the late 1990s were a different time. Hayashi never got a real chance to shine as a member of the WWE roster once WCW closed its doors for good, and thus he found work overseas. Along with being featured by New Japan Pro Wrestling, Hayashi has also worked for Wrestle-1 as a wrestler and also as a trainer.
It is no surprise that Tajiri was able to find work once he and the WWE parted ways. The superstar who first made his name working overseas and in Mexico showed in Extreme Championship Wrestling that he had the goods to be a top babyface character. Tajiri has worked for multiple organizations since leaving the WWE. He has wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Wrestle-1. While he had what would have to be considered to be a successful stint in the WWE, one can't help but wonder if he could have been more for the company had he been properly utilized.
11 Yuji Nagata
Yuji Nagata was one of several talents brought to the United States by WCW in the 1990s only to then be sparingly used before he disappeared off of television as if he had never been there in the first place. We'll always be able to play as Nagata in Nintendo 64 game WCW/nWo Revenge. After working in WCW, Nagata returned overseas to work for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Nagata is still working for that company as of February 2016 and the veteran of the ring is showing that he can still go at his age. Look for Nagata on older editions of New Japan Pro Wrestling or on websites such as YouTube.
10 Trent Barreta
Some guys are seemingly doomed from the start. That was the case with Trent Barreta, as there was never a time when he was presented as a legitimate superstar who could win matches when working on the main WWE roster. His career has not been a complete bust, though, as Barreta found work with multiple companies after he and the WWE parted ways. TNA Wrestling and ROH both featured Barreta. Barreta has also been active overseas working for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Search for a video of a ROH match featuring Barreta, the Young Guns and A.J. Styles. You won't be let down.
9 Ultimo Dragon
There was a time, decades ago, when the argument could have been made that Ultimo Dragon was the best worker in the world. Age and injuries have slowed Dragon down from when he was in his prime, but he has nevertheless continued on working for multiple companies overseas. The biggest shame of all is that Dragon signed with the WWE after the death of WCW and after he was at his very best. Those who never before saw Dragon work never saw just how great he was, as he never had a five-star match while working in the WWE. Things sometimes just don't work out.
8 C.J. Parker
The performer now known as Juice Robinson has landed on his feet and found work overseas with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Fans of the WWE who have been faithful watchers of NXT better know Robinson as C.J. Parker. Parker was a character who loved the environment and hated what we in society were doing to the planet. It is not all that surprising that such a gimmick was more so annoying than one that drew real heat with fans. Before he and the WWE parted ways, Parker was largely a jobber who was used to put other talent over. He requested to be released by the company in 2015.
7 The Great Muta
Even if you are a younger wrestling fan, you have probably at least heard of The Great Muta. Muta is now known as the founder and owner of the Wrestle-1 company, but he did engage in matches for that organization and also TNA Wrestling in 2015. Muta, now in his 50s, is obviously not the performer that he was when working for companies such as the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1980s, but he is nevertheless a respected legend of the industry. Those who were never able to watch Muta when he was in his prime can go back and re-live his career via outlets such as the WWE Network.
6 Jushin Thunder Liger
Just like The Great Muta, Jushin Thunder Liger is a proven icon and legend of the wrestling business who is still able to go in the ring even though he is in his 50s. Liger is working in 2016 for New Japan Pro Wrestling and there is no indication that he is going to have to hang up his wrestling boots for good anytime soon. WWE fans were treated with an appearance from Liger in August 2015 when he wrestled at the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn show. Liger and Tyler Breeze opened up the Takeover edition of the night with a basic yet entertaining match that was won by Liger.
5 Vance Archer
One would think that the character known as Vance Archer would have been one pushed to the stars by the WWE. Archer had the size that is supposedly such a plus for performers who are signed by the WWE, and he also had a unique look that made him stand out from other wrestlers. Archer never got far when working for the company, though, and those who did not follow the re-branded ECW or the WWE's developmental system may have even missed that he wrestled for the company. Archer has since worked for companies such as New Japan Pro Wrestling and Global Force Wrestling.
4 Evan Bourne
You may remember Evan Bourne as being the high-flying WWE superstar who allegedly was unable to follow certain company rules about what he could and could not put into his body. Such issues likely prevented Bourne from possibly becoming a top superstar in the WWE. Now wrestling as Matt Sydal, the undeniably talented athlete has worked for multiple companies since he left the WWE. Sydal has, over the years, wrestled for Evolve, New Japan Pro Wrestling, ROH and Dragon Gate. Would Bourne have ever been pushed to the top of WWE cards had he followed the rules? We'll never know for sure.
3 Harry Smith
Odds are that Harry Smith, the real-life son of “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith who now wrestles as Davey Boy Smith Jr., never would have been the next John Cena while working in the WWE. Smith was nevertheless a talented wrestler while with the company and he was a tag team champion on multiple occasions. While he did not make it as a singles act in the WWE, Smith has found success working overseas for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Smith has won tag team gold working overseas, and he is still young enough that he could again work in the WWE if the two sides were interested in such a reunion.
2 Taka Michinoku
When he was first introduced to WWE viewers, Taka Michinoku was presented as a serious wrestler who was worthy of respect and of championship matches. It did not take long until Michinoku was turned into a comedic character who performed in missable matches and segments. Yes, the WWE did get things wrong during the “Attitude Era.” After leaving the WWE, Michinoku worked for companies such as All Japan Pro Wrestling and also New Japan Pro Wrestling. If nothing else, Michinoku will always be known by fans for being the innovator of the “Michinoku Driver” finishing move.
1 Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin is finding work overseas wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling. While it is nice that Benjamin has landed gigs with New Japan and other companies such as ROH, wrestling fans have been somewhat robbed by Benjamin not being a member of the WWE during a time when the company is pushing the NXT brand as something special. Just imagine the NXT matches that Benjamin could have had with talents such as Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and others. Benjamin has had great matches outside of the WWE, contests that those who only really follow that company have missed.
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