Right now the wrestling world is undergoing its biggest boom since the Attitude Era. If you only have your eyes on the WWE product you may not have noticed, but things are quickly changing in the wrestling landscape. There isn't one company set to compete with WWE such as WCW or ECW. Instead, the entire independent wrestling scene as a whole is rising up and appears ready to take on the company, or at least provide a different option for fans and wrestlers.
This is a good thing for everyone, with fans having different styles of wrestling to watch, production and stories to pick from while the wrestling talent themselves have to worry about there being nowhere else to go. Wrestlers can have more freedom on the independent circuit, adapting their characters and becoming stars on their own. Just look at Cody Rhodes as the prime example of a wrestler who jumped ship on his own and has become an even bigger star.
The independent wrestling world can now provide a wrestler with a life, and there two of the biggest places to work are Impact Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Both have been around for some time and are once again on the rise, which might catch the eye of other WWE Superstars who have had enough of their current roles or simply want a change.
This list will look into those wrestlers who may have a wandering eye, picking eight wrestlers who might move to New Japan, and eight who could go to Impact in the near future.
16 Impact: Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel has never managed to quite live up to the legacy of his father (Mr.Perfect) and while that was always going to be a very tough goal to reach, sometimes you have to break the shackles to truly showcase your potential. That is exactly what Curtis Axel needs to, in a similar way to Cody Rhodes who was simply plodding along. Axel is a solid in-ring worker and has plenty of charisma which is being shown with his latest role alongside The Miz.
However, within WWE it is very unlikely that Axel will ever break out of the place he is in as a mid-card talent at the most. Yet in Impact, given his family history, there is no doubt the company would give him a stronger run.
15 NJPW: Brock Lesnar
This might seem like a strange one with Brock Lesnar having the perfect deal with WWE and it is clear that a passion for wrestling is something Lesnar doesn't fully have any more, but one more match in Japan may very well interest the Beast. With rumours about his WWE contract coming to an end, 2018 could be the year we see Lesnar pop up in Japan for one hard-hitting main event, where he would certainly make a good amount of money.
Lesnar would never work for New Japan on a full-time basis, but what is to say he couldn't go for a one-off match if the deal is right? He has worked in Japan before and before he officially retires, one more match might be of interest to him.
14 Impact: Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt should be a huge star in WWE, he is a great wrestler and one of the very best on the microphone with a unique character that, if booked right, could be wrestling's next big thing. But that is a big if, especially when it comes to the WWE who have tried and failed time after time when it comes to the Eater of Worlds. Impact has a proven history of monster characters, with Abyss being one of their greatest ever creations.
However, right now Impact is lacking something larger than life that is fresh and Bray Wyatt could be exactly that. Booked right as a main event star, it could easily be mutually beneficial.
13 NJPW: Goldberg
He might not be an active talent right now, but Goldberg has not officially retired from wrestling and is set to become a WWE Hall of Famer and is therefore still a member of the company, with his last match being at WrestleMania 33. There have actually been rumours that Goldberg and New Japan have been in communication over a deal, something that could play out after his Hall of Fame commitments. A Chris Jericho style deal could work out to be huge for both parties here and it is certainly a possibility.
It is unlikely Goldberg would knock the idea back straight away if the offer was correct. After seeing how much a wrestling legend can help it is certainly something that New Japan will consider again. There aren't many bigger names than Goldberg who can still perform at a good level, so a one-off match could be in his future.
12 Impact: Luke Harper
When it comes to wrestlers who are underrated, Luke Harper may just take the top prize. It might not be talked about as much as other people, but Harper is one of the best big men in the business. Watch any of his work from the Wyatt Family's early days and you can see just how good he is, yet for some reason WWE doesn't seem to know how to book Harper, simply seeing him as a tag team wrestler.
One thing that Impact is good at is booking big men, just imagine Harper as a major monster tearing through people at the top of the card? He deserves a solid run as a singles wrestler and a move could prove to WWE exactly what they could have with him.
11 NJPW: Dolph Ziggler
It's been said that many times at this point that it is like a broken record, but Dolph Ziggler really has been wasted in WWE. While he has had a solid career, the Showoff should have been a main event talent. With reports that he has signed a new deal with Vince McMahon's merry men, a move might be unlikely, but for years now people have been saying how good Ziggler could be in New Japan, and it's true.
Just take a look at the work of Cody Rhodes who took a gamble on himself, he is now a huge star. Ziggler is a much bigger name than Cody was in WWE and is certainly a better hand in the ring, so if he worked it right things could be even better for him.
10 Impact: Zack Ryder
Woo, Woo, Woo, you know it. Zack Ryder has been floating around in WWE for far too long, not reaching the brilliant potential that he has. Of course, he has won titles and had some memorable moments, but WWE has never gone all the way with him like they should have.
However, Ryder is still incredibly popular with fans and is the exact sort of wrestler that Impact would likely want to have on its roster and in the main event position. While he couldn't reach that level in WWE, there is no reason to believe he wouldn't in Impact. Finally getting the run at the top is something that Ryder deserves and with Impact's new product, now could be the ideal time for him to do that.
9 NJPW: Neville
Right now Neville is simply sitting at home waiting out his WWE contract, with the company not wanting to release him and Neville not wanting to work for them, it is a strange and sad situation, wasting one of the best wrestlers in the world. Before he left WWE television, Neville had nailed down the perfect character for the first time in his career and it is a shame he isn't putting on matches somewhere right now. Yet with his ability in the ring and his hard-hitting style, a move to Japan would make the most sense for him.
Imagine Neville becoming the King of the Super Juniors and having instant classics with the likes of Will Ospreay, the matches would be incredible. Not only a highflying wrestler, Neville can mix his style up, and given that he is going to be wrestling somewhere else soon, New Japan is the place many hope it will be.
8 Impact: Becky Lynch
While Becky Lynch has had a solid run so far in WWE, out of the four horsewomen, it is fair to say she has been given the fewer opportunities, with Bayley, Sasha Banks, and certainly Charlotte Flair all jumping ahead of her in the eyes of the company.
Lynch has simply been portrayed as Charlotte's best friend in recent months and that is a waste of her incredible talent and personality. While WWE might claim to have started the women's revolution, many wrestling fans would argue that Impact's Knockout division was actually the original game changer. Impact has always prided itself on being a company where women's wrestling is a priority and that much is true to this day. Perhaps for Lynch, a chance to be the number one star could see her make a leap to Impact in the future.
7 NJPW: Kassius Ohno
Kassius Ohno, f.k.a Chris Hero is one of the best wrestlers in the world and right now is simply floating about on NXT, not being used to his full potential other than putting over other wrestlers.
Now that may very well be something Ohno is happy doing, but it feels like he could be better used elsewhere and New Japan could be a perfect place for someone like him. Hard hitting wrestling is something NJPW prides itself on, just like Ohno does. The Knockout Artist could make a big splash in Japan and could have one final run as his career draws to a close being taken a little more seriously, which he deserves.
6 Impact: Curt Hawkins
When he was originally brought back to WWE when the draft returned, most fans didn't have huge expectations for Curt Hawkins, but nobody would have expected the ridiculous losing streak he has gone on to have. While you can say that at least he has a storyline in WWE, something to play on and a win could eventually give him a push, there will come a point where he wants to actually win a match and show the world what he can actually do.
A move to Impact Wrestling could provide Hawkins with that, at Impact would certainly not be putting him on a losing streak, which means he could finally have a chance at showcasing his ability.
5 NJPW: Lio Rush
Life as a WWE Superstar has been pretty difficult so far for Lio Rush, after signing for NXT there was plenty of buzz, but his comments towards Emma upon her release have derailed any momentum he may have had. Rumors speculated that he was getting put on 205 Live only for Buddy Murphy to be picked instead, showing that he isn't out of hot water yet. With this in mind, hitting the refresh button might be exactly what is needed here.
Heading to New Japan where his style would fit in brilliantly, Rush could make a name for himself in a similar way to Ricochet, gaining some more experience and then return to WWE down the line.
4 Impact: TJP
Ever since winning the first ever Cruiserweight Classic, becoming the Cruiserweight Champion in the process, TJP's career has only gone one way, downhill. While some of that is down to WWE's booking of 205 Live, TJP doesn't seem to have that same passion that made him stand out in the first place.
With new stars such as Buddy Murphy and some of WWE's UK talents now being heavily featured on 205 Live, the future of its original stars who failed to make the show a success is certainly in question. With TJP being a former Impact Wrestling star, who is to say he couldn't follow the path of the former cruiserweight, Austin Aries and head back to Impact and be featured as a prominent star?
3 NJPW: Hideo Itami
Speaking of WWE's cruiserweight stars, Hideo Itami is another name who has failed to make a real impact on the brand, not even making it past the first round of the Cruiserweight Championship tournament for WrestleMania.
At one point, Itami was being positioned as a big star in WWE, but injuries quickly derailed his NXT career and meant other talent leapfrogged him. His cryptic tweets have led many to believe he could be on his way out as he continues to find a spot in the company. With the amount of talent that Itami has and his history in Japan, now would be the perfect time to make the move to New Japan, as the company continues to rise he would be sure to be positioned the way he deserves to be.
2 Impact: Tye Dillinger
A lot of wrestling fans don't realize quite how long Tye Dillinger has been employed by WWE, originally signing for a development contract way back in 2006, it's fair to say that he has put in the time. After getting over with his Perfect 10 character with the fans it seemed like Dillinger was finally going to get his run with the company on SmackDown Live, yet now we are left wondering where he is and why he is never used.
Someone of Dillinger's talent deserves much better and it can only be so long before he gets frustrated himself, with Impact now offering a strong roster and a seemingly more stable product, this could be a perfect (pun intended) window for him to move.
1 NJPW: Daniel Bryan
If you thought Chris Jericho had a major impact in bringing eyes to New Japan Pro Wrestling, Daniel Bryan would be a totally different ball game. The former WWE World Heavyweight Champion is one of the most popular wrestlers in the world and would take a legion of new fans with him to the Japanese promotion.
Bryan has made it very clear that if he doesn't wrestle in WWE then he will go and lace up his boots somewhere else and there is no bigger spotlight for him to do that than New Japan Pro Wrestling. Just imagine a dream Wrestle Kingdom match between him and Kenny Omega? Bryan's style is perfect for New Japan and the number of incredible opponents that are waiting for him would likely excite him. Bryan has always been about his wrestling more than anything else and therefore it all seems to work
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