Over the past decade the reach of the WWE in their recruitment efforts have gone more international in scope. We have seen this in particular with heavier recruitment from Europe with wrestlers such as Adrian Neville, Sheamus, Finn Balor and Becky Lynch. Sprinkle in a mix of latino talent from Mexico, the international influence of Japan as well as a solid mix of the best experienced and homegrown talent from Canada and the United States and you have a pretty dynamic combination of talent. The WWE has people that will not only deliver in the ring, but also appeal to a wide range of consumer demographics as well.
The challenge is, without the territory system or even regional television coverage for most of the independent organizations around the continent, some of the most promising talents may be lost in the shuffle of this global recruitment effort. In seeking a broad-based talent roster, the WWE may be missing some spectacular talents that could be a great fit and help usher in the next era of the WWE.
Some of the stars featured on this list have had some interactions with the WWE in the past but for one reason or another, a deal wasn’t struck. It may be time to re-convene those negotiations in hopes of finding some common ground. Others on this list have not crossed the threshold of Titan Towers, but should be considered as among the top free agents up for grabs in the industry right now.
16. Danny Duggan
There are few independent wrestlers in North America that have maintained as aggressive a schedule as Danny Duggan over the past five years. Danny has been touring consistently in North America. On top of his own wrestling, he has been leading his own touring promotion in Canada, Duggan defines paying dues on a whole new level. Regularly competing with some of the top free agents in the sport, Duggan started his career in Winnipeg community centres as a teenager and has emerged as one of the most accomplished wrestlers to ever come out of Winnipeg. If it is true that good things come to those who wait, whatever lies ahead for Duggan should be fantastic. It is encouraging to know that Duggan was recently called up to a WWE assessment camp in Orlando. Maybe we`ll see him in a WWE ring sometime in the future.
15. Gisele Shaw
Though still in her first year in the sport, Gisele Shaw has cause the wrestling world to sit up and take note. Originally from the Philippines, Gisele migrated to Canada with her family. They were settling somewhere in the Canadian arctic before moving on to Calgary where Gisele had the opportunity to train under former WWE star Lance Storm. Within a few months of her debut, she was touring across Canada and has recently signed a contract to appear in Japan. Shaw’s exotic appeal, Diva looks and proven determination to drive forward on her career should see her ascend to higher levels in the sport in the coming years.
14. Tyler Colton
Winnipeg’s Tyler Colton is on the WWE’s radar and, in fact, created a stir in 2015 as a contender for the Tough Enough intake. Standing 6’3” and weighing 280 pounds, Colton has also won gold in strongman and power lifting competitions outside of his wrestling career. An articulate speaker, a proficient wrestler and a committed fitness enthusiast, Colton possesses all of the qualities necessary to find success at the top tier of the wrestling game. All he needs now is opportunity.
13. Bambi Hall
Fans of this second generation Vancouver wrestler have declared that she’s “Cute as a doe, tough as a buck.” It’s hard to imagine that this youthful firecracker has already been wrestling for five years with appearances across Canada and the United States. Just weeks after her professional debut, she appeared on the reality TV series World of Hurt with the late Roddy Piper, who dubbed her with the name Bambi. Her schedule has included surviving the gruelling Tony Condello northern Canadian tour, as well as campaigns from coast to coast. She brings a fresh-faced innocence to the table which would set her apart from the high gloss divas division now and perhaps expand the appeal of the roster to new audiences.
12. Mike Hughes
When you consider the success that Mike Hughes has seen in Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, Canada, and most recently in India, it is difficult to fathom why we haven’t seen him on television with a major American organization. Hughes, a native of Prince Edward Island, stands 6’6” and cuts an imposing figure. We can’t escape the notion that he could well become a top heel in the WWE and be a perpetual thorn in the side of any of the top fan favorites. In the mean time, Hughes continues to dominate in competition against a wide array of opponents wherever his travels take him.
11. Cougar Meat
There is little doubt that the current tag team scene in the WWE is not what it was in the 1980s, which featured a renaissance for that genre of wrestling. Currently, what the tag team division lacks are dedicated tag teams that aren’t comprised of a pairing of two successful solo competitors. To make the tag team division great again will require an investment in teams that have an interest and a focus on that discipline. Kelowna, BC’s Cougar Meat evolved when Kyle Sebastian and Collin Cutler found themselves on the road and sharing a lot of the same locker rooms. Their chemistry as a team was immediate and difficult to ignore, so promoters had little choice but to put them together and the result was a roster-changing dynamic that saw them rise to main event status wherever they appeared. In addition, the duo tapped into their creativity and the power of social media to generate an even stronger following with an episodic podcast called “The Meat Market”.
10. Brody Steele
In the days before guaranteed contracts which have locked in talent for the long term, one of the most compelling parts of wrestling was the introduction of a new imposing threat, who came from nowhere to threaten the champ. After unsuccessfully failing to wrest the title from the champion, that challenger might disappear for a while and re-emerge sporadically to wreak havoc. Brody Steele is the perfect villain for that role. A proven headliner in England and Canada, Steele has been called to action around the world, including recently drawing 60,000 fans in India to see him oppose the Great Khali. A monster at 6’10”, with internationally developed experience, and a fearsome visage means that Steele could shake things up in the WWE.
9. Team Tabernac
Not since the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers has a tag team from Quebec shown as much promise as the pairing of Mathieu St. Jacques & Thomas Dubois. The duo, who has found themselves holding championship belts for most every independent circuit in their native Quebec, have also been sought out by Ring of Honor. However, we can’t escape the notion that their lively crowd engagement and high impact tag team style is a perfect fit to meet the needs of the WWE’s stagnant tag team division.
8. R.J. City
If you’ve seen R.J. City perform, you know that there is something very distinct about this promising Ontario wrestler. A perennial favorite in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 rankings over the past few years, R.J. has been a performer that has gotten himself visibility through a number of channels including appearances on the Canadian national television network YTV. Among his talents include a great ability to croon, which is sure to get under the skin of opponents. Come to think of it, he might make a great vocalist to accompany New Day’s instrumentation, a white sheep for the faction similar to Owen Hart’s fit in the Nation of Domination a decade ago.
7. Scotty Mac
If you had asked most of the wrestling veterans and industry experts, they would have predicted that Scotty Mac was on the fast track to be picked up by the WWE ten years ago. Always in impeccable shape and possessing a dynamic ring repertoire, Scotty has been a headliner almost since he first stepped through the ropes in 2001. During his career he has seen action across Canada, the American Northwest, Ireland and most recently an extended tour in South America. Scotty did make one sole appearance on Smackdown a few years ago, but it may be time to take another look.
6. Bobby Sharp
Declared a future legend by the Cauliflower Alley Club in 2013, Bobby Sharp has been one of the true road warriors of the sport of wrestling over the past decade. Starting his career when he trained in the under 18 division for Edmonton’s Monster Pro Wrestling at 14 years old, Sharp spent his first four years in the ring close to home. As soon as he reached adulthood, Sharp started to spread his wings on a national scale. Quite simply, wrestling is this guy’s life as evidenced by his aggressive travel schedule and participation in multiple extended tours per year. The WWE did take a look at him in a development camp a few years ago, and it’s time for them to bring his resume back to the top of the pile.
5. The Flatliners
The team of Matt Burns and Asylum have been a dominant force as a dedicated pairing for more than a decade. Recently, they parlayed that partnership into being participants on the reality television series, The Amazing Race Canada (where they finished second). On the independent scene, there is nothing that this duo hasn’t accomplished. Their multiple appearances on Ring of Honor’s have also demonstrated that they can hang with the big dogs of the sport. If they got looked at by the WWE, this is a team that could set the tag team division on fire.
4. Kyle O’Reilly
New Westminster, British Columbia’s Kyle O’Reilly could well have made the list with his ReDragon tag team partner Bobby Fish. The team has seen success as champions both America and Japan. However, O’Reilly has a story of resilience and grabbing hold of opportunities when they present themselves that is compelling all its own. O’Reilly broke into the sport under mat veteran Michelle Starr and has forged an impressive path to embed himself into the American wrestling culture. It is hopefully just a matter of time before O’Reilly can crack into the upper echelon of the sport’s ranks.
3. The Bollywood Boyz
Professional wrestling is full of stories of wrestlers who were never earmarked for success, yet through dogged determination and unwavering vision, they cracked open the door for themselves and created their opportunity. Such is the story of Gurv & Harv Sihra, two wrestling brothers from Burnaby, British Columbia, who were told that they had great hearts but that they were too small to achieve success. Older brother Gurv initially trained at the Hart dungeon alongside such classmates as Tyson Kidd and Davey Boy Smith Jr. before returning home to Vancouver to polish up. Younger brother Harv joined him in the ring two years later and the pair was mentored by celebrated Canadian ring great Vance Nevada in the formative years of their career. Their first big break came when they were signed to appear on Jeff Jarrett’s Ring Ka King tours, where they snatched the tag team championships. More recently, they became the first Global Force Wrestling tag team champions in Las Vegas and they continue to woo audiences with their flashy ring presence and adaptable ring skills.
2. Kenny Omega
John Laurinaitis had originally discovered Kenny Omega at a training camp hosted by Harley Race in Missouri and felt he had something that resembled the great, Brian Pillman. Laurinaitis signed Omega and sent him to their short-lived developmental territory Deep South Wrestling where he was left for months without any hope of ascending to anywhere. Eventually after feeling that he was being molded into a cookie cutter expectation of the developmental territory, Omega requested his release. His success in the years since speaks to the potential that was undiscovered while in the WWE’s developmental system. Omega has been a great competitor with Ring of Honor, and most recently has had a great rise of popularity in New Japan. Omega could well have been signed alongside A.J. Styles and other recent recruits and we can only hope that his number will be pulled sooner than later.
1. Bobby Roode
Not many people may realize that in 2002 Bobby Roode was destined for the WWE. The native of Ontario, Canada was touring in the Atlantic provinces when he was called up for a meeting and the WWE had actually signed him to a contract. However, the next day, they called Roode back that they had changed their minds. Instead, Roode has gone on to great success with TNA as both a memorable tag team with James Storm and further as TNA World Champion. We have no doubt that Roode would readily adapt to the schedule and culture of the WWE and would make a solid addition to their roster. The WWE just needs to be able to smooth over whatever previous mixup led to Roode’s release in the first place.