A number of today's top wrestling stars earned their stripes competing all over the world before they made it to a major promotion. You may have heard how the likes of Dean Ambrose faced countless men around the world and acquired scar upon scar on their bodies before coming to WWE. Surely many of the most well-known performers asked themselves during their early days if they would ever get their chance. They had to wonder if their body of work would be seen beyond the small audiences they performed for. The doubtless asked, would they be rewarded for their efforts?
With time and effort, many that did all they could to pay their dues finally got their chance, and have thrived in WWE. However, before they could get to that point, they were independent wrestlers, traveling the roads and trying to make a name for themselves. Today, there is a new crop of young talent that is still working to earn notoriety around the world. Perhaps they have competed for Ring of Honor, or New Japan Pro Wrestling, or other promotions that have a platform to give performers wider exposure. Regardless, these independent wrestlers are turning heads and making fans and promotors around the world stand up and take notice. Who are they, and which one is making the biggest impression on fans? Here are fifteen current indie wrestlers that you need to know about.
15 Jason "The Gift" Kincaid
A veteran of fourteen years, Kincaid first established himself in the southern parts of the United States. During his career, he has not only faced the likes of AJ Styles, Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno), Kyle O'Reilly, Johnny Gargano, Jimmy Jacobs, Davey Richards, and Matt Hardy but for the most part defeated them as well. Much like a number of independent wrestlers around the world, he has earned a name for himself competing at countless venues, big or small, to garner attention. It has been a long time coming for Kincaid, who has faced challenges throughout his career, but ultimately stayed the course and shown just how good he is in the ring. In 2016, he was part of Ring of Honor's Top Prospect tournament, though it is hard to call someone that has been in the industry so long a prospect. However, that simply reaffirms that Kincaid is someone fans need to know about.
14 Dragon Lee
Though his name suggests he is a star in Asia, fans would be surprised to know that he is a second-generation wrestler of Mexican descent. Lee began training at the age of 14, and in 2013 began competing for CMLL in Mexico. Lee continued to work incredibly hard to establish himself and gain the respect of the those around him, facing the likes of Puma and Tiger. In 2015, he participated in a feud with Kamaitachi, AKA Hiromu Takahashi, that culminated in a match where the loser would be forced to unmask. As many know, the mask in the luchador wrestling culture is held with great pride, and to lose it brings shame. Today he competes for Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. His future is bright, and to be receiving so much exposure after only competing for a few years says a lot about him.
13 El Ligero
While his name suggests he is of Latino descent, this British-born performer has been as prominent competing around the world as he has in Mexico. In fact, he has competed for more than 100 wrestling promotions. As a veteran of sixteen years, it is a surprise that more hasn't been made of him, but El Ligero has quietly earned recognition simply based on the names of those with whom he has been in the ring. From a masked Sami Zayn to legendary Japanese star Ultimo Dragon, to contemporary stars such Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll, Ligero has quietly earned the respect of his peers. He has competed for such companies as Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan and has also helped young, developing talent in companies such as WhatCulture Pro Wrestling as well. Graced with a high flying luchador style, El Ligero is certainly an independent wrestling fan need to see.
12 Mike Orlando
This "elite athlete" is one of the biggest talents on our list, standing at over 6'5 and weighing nearly 280 lbs. A native of New Jersey, Orlando has an uncanny ability to ignite a crowd and turn heads. In an interview with f4wonline.com, he did not hide his career aspirations. Much like the others on this list, Orlando has a star quality about him and it will only be a matter of time before WWE takes notice. He played college football and attempted to make the NFL by trying out for the Oakland Raiders, but his true calling has proven to be wrestling. Orlando craves the spotlight and definitely shows it. He has his sights on the brighter lights that major promotions provide, and it is only a matter of time before someone scoops him up.
11 David Starr
Starr is one of the brightest stars on the independent wrestling scene. Trained by former WWF world tag team champion Samu, of the Anoa'i family, Starr quickly learned the fundamentals needed to turn him into a star. While undergoing training, Starr caught the eye of Supreme Lee Great, who took him under his wing and worked with him to develop a persona known as "The Product." A veteran of five years, Starr has earned notoriety competing in promotions such as Combat Zone Wrestling. Starr has earned as much acclaim for being on the big screen as he has for being in the ring, having appeared in the movie Noah, which starred Russell Crowe. Starr learned from working with the likes of former Ring of Honor champion Adam Cole and CZW owner DJ Hyde and has become a young star to keep an eye on.
10 Travis Banks
The 30-year-old New Zealand native actively competes today in the United Kingdom. His time has been spent in such promotions as Attack! Pro Wrestling, ICW, and Revolution Pro. However, it has been during his time in What Culture Pro Wrestling that Banks appears to have earned the most notoriety. He first competed in the promotion as part of a tag team, challenging for the championship in a tournament, and while he may have been unsuccessful in his efforts, it doesn't diminish his overall effort and impact as part of the tag team division. He has faced several notable challengers, such as El Ligero at WCPW's Refuse to Lose event. Banks once worked alongside current WWE United Kingdom tournament competitor, the Bruiserweight Pete Dunne, against former WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio. Banks had been in the ring with some of the best in the world today and would be a welcomed addition in the WWE.
9 Dave Mastiff
A fifteen-year veteran of the ring and native of Dudley, West Midlands, he stands under six feet but weighs over 300 lbs. He has competed all over the United Kingdom and turned the heads of opponents and fans. His character has often been described as a "throwback," one that would have been very successful in the 1970s and 1980s. He is a tough and hard-hitting wrestler that will stop at nothing to be successful, carrying a take no prisoners attitude regardless of who he is in the ring with. At a time where wrestlers are admired for their physique and tanned look, Mastiff is a broad and thick challenger that doesn't fit the typical mold. We can see his style fitting well on the WWE's NXT brand, where he could definitely earn a name for himself.
8 Zack Gibson
Another promising English star, Gibson has been wrestling since the age of 16 years of age. In fact, he had the foresight to create his own promotion, known as Infinite. As a veteran of the ring for 11 years, he has earned a name for himself both as singles and a tag team wrestler. Much like another talented English wrestler, the aforementioned Dave Mastiff, Gibson has a style that is often described as a throwback. Many have considered him a very unassuming and underrated wrestler that isn't receiving the due that he deserves. He is considered among the best there is today in the United Kingdom. He is someone whose look and promos exemplify what a heel is all about. Much of Gibson's growth and development have been attributed to his continued dedication to improving and his hard work. He may just be the UK's best-kept wrestling secret.
7 JT Dunn
A native of Cranston, Rhode Island, Dunn has quickly gained popularity competing all over the United States. His most notable matches have been in Southern California's Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, but this veteran of eight years is catching the attention of everyone that sees him compete. His career was almost for naught, as early in his wrestling training he suffered a nearly catastrophic injury that caused serious facial injuries. He was dropped on the back of his head, and his knee came up and hit him in the face. Much like others mentioned above, Dunn has worked hard to achieve the success he has achieved. He has been in the ring against notable talents such as: The Young Bucks and Chris Hero, who is known in WWE, as Kassius Ohno. Kassius Ohno. Be sure to keep an eye out for Dunn, he is a special kind of talent.
6 John Skyler
If you haven't seen Skyler compete you are truly missing out. A veteran of the NWA, he has actively been competing for that promotion in various tournaments and matches around the mid-Atlantic area. In 2013, he competed in Europe as well, facing such opponents as current ROH television champion Marty Scurll and Japanese sensation Kamaitachi, (Hiromu Takahashi). The growth and development of any talent comes from whom you compete against, where you compete, and how often you compete. Two of the most notable areas that stand out about Skyler are his in-ring ability and his in-ring persona. He may be overlooked simply due to exposure and stature, but after being a recent competitor in Ring of Honor's Top Prospect Tournament, that may quickly change. The sky truly is the limit for Skyler, and it may be sooner rather than later that fans see him as part of WWE's NXT brand.
5 Curt Stallion
Despite being only 26 years of age, Stallion has competed in the United States and two other countries. Using an array of moves that is reminiscent of Seth Rollins and Triple H, Stallion manages to blend them together, offering a different spin. For instance, his pumpjack pedigree manages to use the ring ropes to aid in its effect, and he does a seated foot stomp as well. One of the most consistent character aspects of Stallion is his ability to use his Texas roots to construct his in-ring persona. Whether it is as The Lone Star, Captain Texas, or The Gold Collector, Stallion doesn't stray too far away from home. Stallion's most recent accomplishment was being the first entrant in Ring of Honor's Top Prospect tournament. He is turning heads in the southern United States, and it is only a matter of time before WWE takes notice.
4 Flash Morgan Webster
This Welsh-born wrestler would be a welcome addition to WWE's Cruiserweight division. He is listed at just under 6'0 and less than 160 lbs, which would fit in perfectly. His in-ring style would best be described as high-flying, the best example being his signature 450. One of the more notable moments in Webster's career was being part of the parody group known as The NeXXXus, which was intended to poke fun at the former WWE stable The Nexus. He has slowly built a name for himself competing as part of the UK's PROGRESS Wrestling promotion, and his growth has been evident throughout the years. He has been described as a combination of Dean Ambrose and Neville, which is quite a pairing considering how different those men's ring styles are, and how different their characters are. One has to wonder what will transpire for Webster for the rest of 2017.
3 "All Good" Anthony Greene
Trained by former ECW and WWE superstar Spike Dudley, Greene may be considered relatively new to the world of pro wrestling, but that doesn't mean he should be taken lightly. With only a handful of years of in-ring experience, his ring style is best described as being an all-round approach. His ascent has been so quick and so smooth that some may consider him a prodigy. He has captured multiple tag team champions along the Northeast and competed once for Ring of Honor as well. What stands out about him is his ability to achieve a great amount of success as part of a team, but there was the question of what he can achieve as a singles wrestler. Greene put that to rest as he captured his first singles championship recently. Only time stands in the way of him earning more attention because it is coming.
2 Pastor William Eaver
William Eaver brings a church pastor character to the ring, wearing traditional ministerial attire and uses moves with religious connotations such as his Crucifix Powerbomb and his Clothesline from Heaven. Facially, Eaver resembles Jesus Christ with his long hair and beard. He began to train at the age of 18, but that came to a stop when he was incarcerated for four years. During that time, while rethinking his life, he discovered who he was to become. Today, Eaver lives a straight edge lifestyle after overcoming alcohol addiction. His story is one fans should be excited about, as he overcame personal tribulations to achieve success. As part of the PROGRESS Wrestling promotion for the past few years, Eaver has captured their championship and faced such notable challengers as Tyler Bate, Marty Scurll, and Noam Dar. Eaver's personal resurrection should be celebrated.
1 Matt Riddle
He first began to turn the heads of sports fans while competing in Mixed Martial Arts, and Matt Riddle has shown that what he could do in an octagon translates well when carried over to another form of competitive art. After a few years of competing in MMA, he began to train to be a pro wrestler in the fall of 2014. Although he tried out for WWE, it was EVOLVE that brought him in and enabled him to develop his craft. Other promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Progress Wrestling have also been keen to feature Riddle on their shows. His widespread presence on the indie scene suggests that he has a lot of respect for the business. Riddle is the one guy that wrestling fans without question need to make an effort to see if they have not already.