Independent wrestling business is currently riding a nice upswing. Dream matches are happening outside of the WWE such as Kenny Omega versus Chris Jericho in NJPW. A non-WWE star, Kazuchika Okada, was named the best wrestler in the world by Pro-Wrestling Illustrated. And independent wrestlers have become popular enough on their own to support themselves without the backing of the biggest wrestling company in the world; just take a glance at the Young Bucks and Bullet Club.
But WWE has noticed this and have started to capitalize on wrestling’s popularity outside of their organization. Recent signings of Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Mike Kanellis are perfect examples of this new mentality in the WWE offices. And the popularity of these new stars lead many to believe that the WWE isn’t done signing the hottest free agents on the market. Here are a few that seem well positioned for a new start in NXT.
One half of The World’s Cutest Tag Team with the infamous Joey Ryan, Candice LeRae isn’t unknown to the WWE or NXT audiences. LeRae, a popular star in Shine and PWG, was entered into the WWE’s Mae Young Classic this past summer where she won her first and second round matches before eventually losing to finalist Shayna Baszler. LeRae was so popular that she was invited to the live finale of the tournament as well as included in a NXT battle royal to determine one of the contenders for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: WarGames. Married to current NXT Superstar Johnny Gargano, LeRae is the size of Alexa Bliss, has the personality of Bayley and the work ethic of Shawn Michaels. She has all the tools she needs to succeed in the new female-friendly WWE and it’s only a matter of time before LeRae’s a permanent fixture in NXT.
With his Lucha Underground contract completed and his no-compete clause finally coming to an end, Ricochet is poised to make a massive splash with whichever company he signs with. An incredible high-flyer, Ricochet is a 14-year veteran at only 29 years of age. He’s competed with current WWE roster members Finn Balor, Cesaro, Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, Rodrick Strong and Sami Zayn (to name just a few). His style has been described as a mix between Finn Balor & Neville while also showcasing incredible strength for his 5 ft 10 in frame. Even the folks at Sports Betting Dime foresee Ricochet as the next Indie Star coming to the WWE with odds of 2/3. If WWE is truly serious about making the Cruiserweight division something to watch, the addition of Ricochet would be a game-changer.
The daughter of original 4 Horsemen Tully Blanchard and stepdaughter of NWA legend Magnum TA, Tessa Blanchard is the epitome of a wrestling pedigree. Starting her career only three years ago at the age of 19, Blanchard has steadily become one of the hottest professional wrestlers (male or female) on the independent scene. Blanchard has flirted with the WWE numerous times over the last few years, most recently losing to eventual winner Kari Sane in the Mae Young Classic. Now wrestling with World Wonder Ring Stardom in Japan, Blanchard is paying her dues, honing her craft and proving she has what it takes to be successful in the WWE Universe.
One of the most popular female wrestlers on the independent circuit today, Britt Baker has everything the WWE is looking for in their vaunted Women’s Division. She’s strong, confident, technically gifted, attractive and is OVER! Trained by Candice LaRae and Johnny Gargano, Baker says she’s just wrestling while she attends dental school but for those who have seen her in the ring, Britt Baker has that “It Factor” that could make her a major star in this business. The fact that she’s in a serious relationship with new signee and current NXT main eventer Adam Cole doesn’t hurt her stock either.
The man this writer wants to see the most in the WWE, “Switchblade” Jay White is a 25-year-old out of New Zealand with about 5 years of experience already around the world. After learning his craft in the New Japan dojo, White left Japan to hone his craft in the UK for Revolution Pro Wrestling and in the United States for Ring Of Honor. It was in ROH that White met Alex Shelley, moved to Detriot to live with him while in the States and formed the stable Search and Destroy with Shelley & Chris Sabin, The Motor City Machine Guns. In November, White returned to NJPW’s Power Struggle event with the new mysterious “Switchblade” persona & in the best shape of his life, to challenge Hiroshi Tanahashi to a match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the Tokyo Dome. White is riding the strongest momentum of his young career and as the young Jay White was originally recruited to NJPW by Finn Balor, Bad Luck Fale and Shinsuke Nakamura; it only seems logical that this new, developed, experienced and jacked Jay White will appear on NXT TV in due time.
Kenny Omega – Obviously
Hangman Adam Page – Biggest upside in Bullet Club not named Omega
Rachel Ellering – Another second generation star
Marty Scrull – WWE could always use a good “Villain”
Kenny King – Honestly it’s surprising he isn’t in NXT already