It is crazy to think how much talent there is outside of the WWE today. With the uprising of NXT, more and more tremendous talent is being recruited and given an opportunity to be a future WWE superstar. With this being said, the NXT brand is perhaps the greatest thing that has happened to the WWE in a really (really) long time. We are now seeing more and more wrestlers that are finally being given an opportunity to shine on a stage that is strictly meant for wrestler development. With this in mind, there are a number of wrestlers in the NXT brand that are due for a call up to the big leagues, and many of these wrestlers will be featured in this article. Though it should be noted that NXT is not the only place developing great wrestlers, as other wrestlers on this list come from all over the world. Wrestlers from various promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling, Lucha Underground, Pro Wrestling Noah, Ring of Honor, TNA Wrestling and other wrestling promotions that you will see in this article will be featured. Let’s now begin to take a look at the top 20 wrestlers the WWE desperately needs on their roster, enjoy.
20) Ethan Carter III
ECIII was a rare case in where the WWE passed on a young up and coming talent. Carter wrestled under the name of “Derrick Bateman” for the WWE’s developmental territory “NXT”. ECIII never really gained momentum in his 3 year stay with the NXT brand, and in May of 2013 he was released from his contract. After spending some time on the independent scene, ECIII signed with TNA and made his official debut at “Bound for Glory” in October of 2013. Since then, the self-proclaimed “Hardcore American Icon” has been the hottest talent in TNA, beating the likes of Sting, Bully Ray and Kurt Angle. The 32 year old was set to take on Kurt Angle at “Slammiversary” for the World Championship. ECIII captured the TNA World Title against Kurt Angle, cementing his legacy as one of wrestling’s brightest stars today. Looks like the WWE missed out on a great gem.
19) Becky Lynch
The 28 year old from Dublin, Ireland, is a major part of the reforming of the Divas division down in the developmental brand of NXT. Despite being only 28, from the age of 18, Becky started wrestling all over the world debuting with an Irish wrestling promotion in 2005. Later, Becky began to travel all over the world wrestling in France, England, Germany, Canada, Japan and later back to the United States signing a 2 year deal with NXT. Since debuting in November of 2013, Lynch’s matches continue to improve. Lynch featured in two spectacular NXT matches, one being a fatal-4-way for the women’s championship and the other a singles match for the women’s championship against Sasha Banks at “NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable”. The singles match between Lynch and Banks is said to be the greatest women’s singles match in the territories history.
18) Adam Cole
The former ROH World Champion is a tremendous talent and still young at the age of 25. Cole has been wrestling on the independent circuit since the age of 19. Cole made his debut for Combat Zone Wrestling, and later wrestled for various promotions before signing with ROH in 2009. Cole is still wrestling for ROH and also working with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Cole just got back from his first serious injury of his young career. Cole fought AJ Styles in an excellent match just recently in his return to the ring. Cole’s dream is to make the WWE one day, but his focus right now is on getting better with ROH. In recent rumor news, it is said that WWE officials are looking closely at Cole and are interested in signing the young ROH star very soon to the NXT brand.
17) Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore
The tag team from Queens New York (Cassady) and Hackensack New Jersey (Amore) offer an entertainment value outside of the ring that the WWE’s tag division desperately needs. WWE’s current tag division is littered with great talents lacking a great gimmick, enter this dynamic and entertaining tag team from NXT. Amore came to the WWE with no in ring experience, just a great amount of love for the business and a great gimmick. Cassady on the other hand, had wrestled for a while and just needed a little boost in his gimmick; enter the pairing of the two which caught immediate heat with the audience. Adding Carmella to the duo added even more popularity for the duo. The late Dusty Rhodes was very influential in helping the trio with their promos and characters, something the main roster desperately needs in their tag team division today. The team is extremely over with the audience and as of late, it looks like it may be time for a call up to the main roster.
16) Cheerleader Melissa
You may recognize Melissa Anderson as Raisha Saeed or Alissa Flash from her time spent with TNA wrestling. The highly talented 32 year old has wrestled all around the world. Anderson has wrestled for ChickFight, Shimmer Women Athletes, NWA, Extreme Canadian Championship and many other independent promotions. She also had a try-out match against Victoria in 2006 on an episode of “Sunday Night Heat”. Just recently, Melissa returned to Japan to wrestle for World Wonder Ring Stardom. Melissa is a tremendous wrestler, she ranked number 1 in 2013 for PWI’s top 50 women wrestler of the year. This past year she came in 4th behind Paige, AJ Lee and Gail Kim.
15) Zack Sabre Jr.
Wrestling fans may not be familiar with this name; Sabre is currently wrestling for “Pro Wrestling Noah”. The UK born wrestler spent time wrestling all around the world and is still young the age of 27. Sabre Jr. is regarded as the best technical wrestler in the world right now, and he was also voted number one this past year as the world best technical wrestler according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. WWE would certainly benefit a great deal from a gifted technical wrestler. Look for Sabre Jr. to potentially be on the WWE’s roster one day.
A wrestling fan since the age of 11, Pamela Martinez (aka Bayley) began to wrestle at the young age of 18 years old. Martinez debuted and trained with “Big Time Wrestling”. After 4 years of wrestling independently, Martinez was signed with WWE’s developmental territory NXT. After a bit of a character struggle, Martinez finally found great success under a new gimmick as “Bayley”, a fresh new enthusiastic character which has turned out to be a major fan favorite amongst the NXT crowds. At the age of only 26, the sky’s the limit for Bayley. This future star can potentially play a huge role in re-shaping the Divas division in the future.
13) Ricochet, Prince Puma
Trevor Mann (aka Prince Puma, aka Ricochet) is regarded as the most talented performer outside of the WWE today according to many pro wrestling critics. Just recently I was able to catch his matchup against former WWE star John Morrison, on a match which took place on an episode of Lucha Underground, and I must say this match was truly something special to watch. Many fans of Mann were shocked when the high flyer was not offered a deal after his tryout with the WWE. Officials in the WWE claim it was a situation in where Trevor was trying out at the wrong time, as the WWE already had way too many high flyers on the roster during the time of his tryout. Despite this, Trevor’s work continues to speak for itself, wrestling for Evolve, Dragon Gate USA, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Lucha Underground. In 2014, Trevor took home the honors of the world’s best high flyer via the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Still remarkably only 26 years old, don’t be surprised to see this guy in a WWE ring one day.
12) Tyler Breeze
Still only 27 years old, Mattias Clement has a tremendous future ahead of him gaining a massive amount of popularity in WWE’s developmental system NXT. Clement based his Tyler Breeze character on his two wrestling idols: Shawn Michaels and Gorgeous George. Not Zoolander, despite what everyone thinks. In addition to having an outstanding gimmick, Clement was trained by Lance Storm before being signed by the WWE, so his wrestling abilities are quite sound as you can imagine. Clement has all the characteristics to be a future WWE Intercontinental champion one day, but for now he is continuing to enjoy tremendous success with NXT. And also don’t forgot, “BREEZE IS BEAUTIFUL”.
11) Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett continues to succeed despite never wrestling for the WWE. Bennett’s gimmick is supported by his real life spouse, former WWE diva Maria Kanellis, and the duo have been quite the villains together, lately spending time in ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Bennett is considered to be one of the top heels outside of the WWE today. A couple of months ago, Bennett appeared on New Japan Wrestling’s invasion show, where Michael teamed up with Matt Taven to win the IWPG Tag Team Championships against the Bullet Club. Bennett, along with Kanellis, are still a crucial part of ROH as well.
10) Young Bucks
The Young Bucks remain wrestling’s hottest tag team outside of the WWE. The team continues to dominate the independent circuit, taking a similar road that past superstars like Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and wrestling’s current hottest commodity Kevin Owens, took. The team has been together for over a decade (all around the world except for the WWE). The tag team is currently part of one of the most popular groups outside of the WWE, the “Bullet Club” (a faction that appears in New Japan Wrestling and at times in ROH). The question wrestling fans want to know is if this duo will ever take their talents to the WWE? As of right now, no. The team is enjoying their work and schedule while providing for their families. Though it should be noted that the team hasn’t completely ruled it out and believes that one day, when the timing is right, they may step into a WWE ring.
9) Baron Corbin
Despite his limited wrestling experience, Baron Corbin has perfected a dominant look amongst his NXT counterparts. The former Indianapolis Colt signed on with NXT in 2012, despite his limited experience (Corbin had experience as a former grappling champion). After initially failing to hit the mark with the brand, Corbin was repacked and enjoyed tremendous success under his new dominant dark gimmick. The 6’8 monster is a perfect example of an ideal Vince McMahon prototype; a big man with a strong look. While he still needs some work and fine tuning, look for Corbin to be a strong villainous heel character in the WWE one day.
8) Hideo Itami
The 34 year old journeyman is best known to Japanese wrestling fans as “Kenta.” The name stems from his real name, Kenta Kobayashi. For WWE fans Kenta is quite new, but for pro wrestling fans, Kenta has been around for quite some time gaining popularity through the ranks of All Japan Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Noah and Ring of Honor. In Pro Wrestling Noah, Kenta went from a top junior heavyweight champion to a top heavyweight champion, a rare transition that not many wrestlers can make. Before signing with NXT in 2014, Kenta ranked 22nd on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s top 500 singles wrestlers of the year in 2013. After singing with the WWE, Itami claimed he had already fulfilled his lifelong dream which was to take part in a WWE workout. Itami received huge praise for his work with NXT, and he was later awarded as being the winner of the “WrestleMania Axxess NXT Tournament”, allowing him to enter in a Battle Royal at the biggest stage of them all. Hideo is currently sidelined with an injury and is scheduled to return in 3-4 months. Expect to see Itami as a full timer with the WWE in the near future. Itami has a chance to be the first ever wrestler out of Japan to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship. What an accomplishment that would be for Itami and Japanese wrestling.
Despite her limited wrestling abilities prior to signing a deal with NXT , Charlotte had wrestling in her blood, something you just can’t teach. The daughter of the Nature Boy Ric Flair is excelling tremendously with NXT at the moment, putting on great match after great match every Wednesday night. Charlotte’s performances have not gone unnoticed, as she took home the honors of “Rookie of the Year”, given out by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. What makes this accomplishment even more special is that her father took home the honors 39 years ago. Look for the former NXT Women’s Champion to revolutionize the Divas division once she gets called up to the main roster.
6) Sasha Banks
Remarkable to think that the NXT’s women’s champion is still only 23 years old. Despite her age, Mercedes Varnado has been performing since the age of 18. Mercedes made her debut with Chaotic Wrestling in 2010. After working a couple of years for other independent promotions, Varnado was granted a tryout with the WWE. After a successful tryout Mercedes was signed to a contract with NXT, and her in-ring name was later changed to Sasha Banks. After a bit of repackaging, Banks changed her gimmick to “the boss of NXT”, and this new gimmick generated a great amount of heat amongst pro wrestling fans. Banks holds a fresh gimmick, something the Divas division desperately needs at the moment. Her arrogance is greatly backed by her tremendous wrestling ability. Banks is currently closing in on her 5th month as the NXT’s women’s champion. No doubt that this diva will be the future of the WWE in the upcoming years to come.
5) Jay Briscoe
Briscoe continues to perform at such a high level outside of the WWE. Just recently, Jay Lethal and Jay Briscoe fought in an epic clash at ROH’s “Best in the World” event. Briscoe finally lost the title in a champion versus champion clash against Lethal. Jay is not only a great singles wrestler, but also a tremendous tag team wrestler, tagging with his brother Mark Briscoe. The Briscoe brothers held the ROH tag titles eight different times. The brothers are currently in the midst of the prime of their careers at the age of 30 and 31. Surprisingly the WWE passed on them after a failed tryout in 2009. The Briscoe’s later revealed that they were turned down because they were not “cosmetically pleasing” to suit the current WWE program. Despite the rejection, the Briscoe brothers are constantly being linked to the WWE. One rumor suggested they turned down an offer to wrestle for NXT. Despite the speculation, the brothers are happy with ROH and look to improve themselves everyday as wrestlers with the promotion. One thing’s for sure, with the state of the tag division at the moment, the Briscoe brothers would certainly give WWE fans something new and refreshing the division desperately needs at the moment.
4) Kazuchika Okada
When talking about Japanese Pro Wrestling, the name Kazuchika Okada, most probably will always come up. The 27 year old was trained by the great Ultimo Dragon. Okada has thus far enjoyed a tremendous career, winning the New Japan Heavyweight Championship on two different occasions. Okada has wrestled in North America making a pit stop in TNA during the 2010-2011 campaign. His time with TNA was forgettable and Okada returned back to New Japan Pro Wrestling less than a year later. After returning to Japan with a chip on his shoulder from his failed stint with TNA, Okada elevated his abilities to new heights. In 2012, Okada took home the Wrestling Observer’s award for most improved wrestler. This was only the beginning. In 2013, Okada took home the honors for his work with Hiroshi Tanahashi, winning “Feud of the Year” and “Match of the Year”. Okada is currently ranked as the 5th best wrestler in the world according to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The former IWPG Heavyweight Champion is regarded by many pro wrestling fans as the best talent outside of the WWE today.
3) Finn Balor
No doubt this guy will be a huge face of the company one day. Fergal Devitt (aka Finn Balor) has perfect blend of a tremendous never-before-seen gimmick, along with a great in-ring skill set. Devitt definitely paid his dues working on the indy scene over the years. Fegal spent nearly 14 years wrestling all around the world, including his time spent in New Japan with the “Bullet Club”. His call up to the main roster is inevitable, the only unfortunate part is wrestling fans may have to wait a little longer than anticipated. With injuries to Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami, and the recent call-ups of Kevin Owens and Neville, Balor’s stay with NXT may be extended to keep some star power for the developmental brand. One thing is for sure, Balor will eventually come up and make a huge impact in the WWE as one of the new faces of the company.
2) Uhaa Nation
It’s only a matter of time and development before this guy becomes the face of the company. The young 27 year old from Atlanta, Georgia, has a perfect blend of power and high flying abilities, something that is very rare in today’s generation of wrestlers. Sesugh Uhaa was always a terrific athlete growing up, and while training his coach gave him his current wrestling name “Uhaa Nation”. The intent with that nickname was that Sesugh was as strong as a single nation. After working independently, Uhaa earned a tryout with Dragon Gate USA, and he was quickly asked to join the promotion. Uhaa also worked for affiliates Dragon Gate in Japan, Evolve and Full Impact Pro. His stock began to rise enormously and in October 2014, he was signed to a developmental deal with the WWE after a successful tryout. Nation joined real life best friends Kevin Owens and Finn Balor. Uhaa is set to make his NXT debut in the near future, so get ready to be amazed if you haven’t seen his work yet.
1) AJ Styles
Out of all the wrestlers in the world, AJ Styles remains the most popular name to never sign a deal with the WWE (angering many fans as to why someone as talented as Styles hasn’t signed a deal with the company). At the age of 38, what is absolutely remarkable is how Styles managed to change his entire gimmick around. AJ managed to change his whole gimmick for the better just so he would not be remembered as the “TNA guy”. Styles had a tremendous run with TNA and won every title there is to win, along with the World Championship 3 times. Despite all his success though, Styles wanted to re-create himself and generate a different buzz around a new character. After wrestling independently, Styles finally found a new home with ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling. AJ caught massive heat quickly in New Japan by joining the “Bullet Club”, becoming a huge heel in the company. Styles captured the IWPG Heavyweight title on two different occasions. His new found success and his ability to recreate himself at the age of 38 is truly special. Styles is currently regarded as the best wrestler outside of the WWE today. With Samoa Joe finally making the move, it may be only a matter of time before Styles joins his buddy in a WWE ring. This is certainly something pro wrestling fans have been waiting a long time for.