There’s some lament among wrestlers that the only true “big time” left is the WWE. Sure, their roster is bigger than it ever has been, but back in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, when you had organizations like AWA, WCCW, NWA, and WCW, not to mention a very healthy scene on the indies, there were hundreds of wrestlers making a living... except women.
While people point to the Attitude Era as degrading to women, what they seem to forget is that it was also the first time that a large group of women was featured regularly on television in "real" matches and with "real" characters. Without the audience proving they had no trouble being entertained by women, women’s wrestling wouldn’t be where it’s at today.
Between Smackdown and Raw, there are roughly 20 women employed in full-time jobs as wrestlers or major characters. It’s never been like that at any point in the business, so it’s understandable that there’s now a next generation looking to make their mark and get to the big show someday -- and a generation starting to reach the age where they may be passed by.
The lucky ones are the cheerleaders or fitness models who just get plucked out of obscurity by the WWE and report directly to the Performance Center and, eventually, NXT. The others have to work their way up, wrestling in what’s left of the indy scene, although it's admittedly also more favorable toward women these days. Let’s take a look at 15 of the hottest females wrestlers not on the WWE main roster.
If Santana Garrett was ever going to be signed full-time with WWE, it probably would've happened by now as this gorgeous indy talent has had more than her fair share of looks by the company, her latest, a first round loss in the Mae Young Classic. She also worked as “enhancement talent” on NXT’s TV show, losing three times in 2016. Her first appearance on NXT was in 2013, losing to Bayley. Garrett is only 29 and has the physical gifts -- both technical and aesthetic -- that WWE seems to go for in its women. Considering how devoid of good story lines the NXT women’s division is at the moment, she could be brought in even for a short-term gig to get Asuka’s next opponent over. It will be a shame if she never gets a real shot at the WWE’s main roster. She’s just too talented to slip through the cracks.
We always like to throw a real unknown or two onto these lists and to hardcore women’s wrestling fans. The name Barbi Hayden is probably one that sounds familiar but hasn’t left much of an impact. That’s OK because this blonde-haired beauty is still relatively new to the wrestling game. Her biggest honor was being named as the 12th Best Female Wrestler by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2014, but she fell to No. 29 in 2015. She wasn’t listed in 2016, but that shouldn’t make anybody think she still isn’t wrestling. She has a healthy schedule, most notably with the Las Vegas-based Women of Wrestling as Abilene Maverick. We like the name as much as Barbi Hayden and actually prefer her real name, Callee Wilkerson, to either of her ring names. Of course, should she ever get to WWE, they’d just give her another name. Only in her mid-20s, Barbi could be seen in the big show someday, and that shouldn't be that big of a surprise.
Maybe you’ve heard of Taeler Hendrix, as she’s kept a very busy indie schedule over the last five or six years while also being seen on both WWE and TNA television. She had a tryout with the WWE in 2015, but that didn’t lead to anything other than serving as a “Rosebud” for Adam Rose a couple of times. Undeterred, she keeps pushing forward with her pro-wrestling dreams with her most public run on a national scale being a run of just under two years with Ring of Honor that ended in early 2017. At some point, though, every dreamer hits a wall, and we’re hoping the fact that her website hasn’t been updated with appearances in six months doesn’t mean that she’s looking to phase out of the mat game. She’s 28, so it’s not like she’d be seen as a newbie, but there’s got to be a place for her at the WWE Performance Center. Another tryout should be in order, soon.
Mandy Leon’s story is a little like Taeler Hendrix's in that she was given a WWE tryout in 2015, but that didn’t lead to anything other than a few cameos as one of Adam Rose’s Rosebuds. Of course, Braun Strowman, Carmella, and Alexa Bliss all doubled as Rosebuds at one point in their career, so it probably seemed like the right move at the time. Despite the fact there's a Mandy Leon website that she appears to run, she says that there will be an official Mandy Leon website coming soon. She’s got a look that’s popular these days, so when she’s not wrestling, she’s modeling and trying to break into the acting world. She’s been seen with Ring of Honor a few times, but we think the WWE is crazy for not even including her in the Mae Young Classic.
We first got to know her as Eden Stiles, and then, we found out she was married to Cody Rhodes, which shows she’s into the lisping, least-talented male wrestlers. Love, apparently, knows no boundaries when it comes to pronouncing the letter ‘S.’ When Cody got fed up with WWE not letting him revert back to himself after a long run with the Stardust character, he and the real-life Brandi Rhodes asked for their releases. While she was best known in the WWE as a ring announcer, she's been serving as a valet for Cody and even appearing in mixed-tag matches here and there when the duo goes on the road. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Brandi, depending on what happens with her husband’s career. Her appearances have been becoming more sporadic as of late, so maybe she’s looking in other directions for a career, perhaps, as a real estate agent, a dental assistant, or an ice cream truck driver.
Sexy Star, the real-life Dulce Maria Garcia Rivas, could become the female equivalent of Rey Mysterio Jr. in America, but she seems content to focus on being the first Laila Ali of Mexico. Nothing against Muhammad Ali’s boxing daughter, but we’d rather have the career of Mysterio... except for the time he 619’d that guy who rolled out of the ring and then died. She’s always been cool with intergender matches, which we know the WWE isn’t cool with anymore, but she’s also held AAA’s World Mixed Tag Team Champion and the Reina de Reinas championship, which is their top women’s title. Before morphing into Sexy Star, Rivas wrestled for Mexico’s FILL, capturing both their women’s title and their mixed-tag championship. In a weird twist, though, she ripped off her mask at a boxing event during the summer of 2016 in Mexico City, said she was changing professions, and in April 2017, scored her first professional boxing win.
There are so many reasons Taryn Terrell will never see the inside of a WWE ring, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t dream it'll still happen. The first is that she’s currently retired, although she did do a couple guest spots with TNA in 2016. There were rumors in the Spring of 2017 that she was considering a comeback, but as of midsummer, she hasn’t yet resurfaced anywhere. Only 31, Terrell first came into the WWE through its horrible ECW brand, and we’ve not seen anybody who entered the WWE that way then left the company, ever come back to any success. She had a nice run with an extended feud against Gail Kim in TNA, including a run as Knockouts champ. But can you tell us the last time a TNA woman came to WWE and had success? She also did a bunch of Playboy pictorials back before she entered wrestling, and while the WWE generally doesn’t hold that against its wrestlers, it would now prefer they have a not-so-clothing-optional past. We can’t imagine her ridiculously short marriage to NXT mainstay Drew Galloway would help get her signed either... it's probably the opposite. She’s done some work in Hollywood on TV and movies, both as an actress and stuntwoman, so maybe that’s her future.
Lucha Underground is a cool show if you like Mexican tough guy movies of the 1970s or overacted telenovelas. If you don’t, you probably won’t find this brand of wrestling to be to your liking. While Vince McMahon has always claimed his was an entertainment show first, one where they tell stories, it's undeniable that Monday Night Raw is a wrestling show. Lucha Underground, on the other hand, is a soap opera. If we had one big gripe about the non-touring group, it's that they sign most of their talent to exclusive contracts. This means they don’t pop up on shows on the indies between seasons of filming. While the money is probably good and the exposure certainly can’t hurt, we wish that Ivelisse Velez could be out there more often. She was one of the major players when Florida Championship Wrestling became NXT, scoring victories against Natalya and Paige, but after complaining about mistreatment by then-trainer Bill DeMott, she was shuttled down the card and eventually left in 2012. Others eventually came forward, and DeMott was fired. It’s not too late for the WWE to use her again, but the clock is ticking.
We make a lot of predictions in these lists about who or what is going to be the next big thing. Two years ago, at this time, we thought that Aliyah was a blue chip prospect who was going to make it to the main roster of WWE well before people like Carmella or Alexa Bliss. Our bad. We still think this beauty who bears more than a passing resemblance to Ariana Grande is fantastic, but her stock has definitely dropped, and this was proven when she lost a Mae Young Classic qualifying match on NXT’s weekly television show. With her Indian heritage and the WWE seemingly loving to bring in additional people into Jinder Mahal’s story, if there needs to be a female at any point, it really should be the real-life Nhooph Al-Areebi, who gets the gig. She’s been toiling in NXT too long.
Liv Morgan, whose real name is Gionna Daddio, is a full-blooded Italian, and we’re going to guess that’s the reason she’s dating Enzo Amore in real life. Before becoming a wrestler, he once managed a Hooters, and she once waitressed at one, but it’s unknown if it’s the same New Jersey location. Morgan has been an NXT regular for a long time now but can’t seem to make her way up the card, similar to fellow hottie Mandy Rose. Maybe it’s something about the bleach WWE uses that stunts professional growth. She’s got charisma, although she doesn't allow her audience to forget she’s acting, and her matches seem to be a series of routines she’s going through in her head. We’ve got to think that the WWE is going to need to see some real improvement from her. Maybe she doesn’t have that ‘It’ people need to make it. Unfortunately, you can’t teach that.
Some shine seems to have come off of her star in the last 6-9 months, like many of the women in NXT who are all booked as weaklings next to Asuka, but for our money, the sexiest woman to ever wrestle in an NXT ring is Peyton Royce. With her partner, Billie Kay, we dare say they're the best-looking tag team that's ever been assembled, even if their four-way match at Takeover against Asuka and Nikki Cross didn’t make any sense. If the first person to score a pinfall or submission wins the title, then one of you could just submit to the other the moment the bell rings. It’s lapses in logic like this that frustrate us as wrestling fans, but we're also frustrated by the fact the WWE hasn’t called Peyton up to the main show, yet Carmella is running around with the Money in the Bank briefcase.
You may not know her name now, but you will after watching the Mae Young Classic. This gorgeous 21-year-old made it through the first round, which is probably a good sign for her future in the WWE, or they just wanted to give her a win to quiet down women from that part of the world and who haven’t been too fond of the way Emma has been handled as of late. The New Zealand native is the first women’s champion of the Progress promotion where WWE got most of its competitors for its UK Tournament. She’s like a smaller version of Becky Lynch back when Becky was allowed to really rip it up on the indies and in NXT. It’s a weird conundrum. You want to see new young stars -- especially ones this sexy -- but you want them to be able to perform to their fullest. Storm is amazing and is just barely old enough to drink legally in the U.S. She could improve so much more before being signed by the WWE and told to slow down. Let’s hope they don’t give her a stupid name like "Antonina Thunder."
It’s still a question mark whether or not she’s ever going to return to a wrestling ring, but if she's ever going to have a go with the WWE, the best time would be now since her husband is Matt Hardy. He wasn’t married to her during his first WWE run, so the time might be right for her to do something with the company. Of course, with the way she’s acted on Twitter against Matt’s former employer, TNA/Global Force Wrestling, it would be understandable if the WWE is a little leery of hiring Reby Sky. Had she come around even five years earlier, it’s hard to believe that Triple H wouldn’t have signed her to NXT, but that’s a story a lot of great indie female wrestlers who peaked just a few years too early can tell.
There's been a lot of talk over the last year that NXT is planning on building their future with a few key players who will never be brought up to the WWE roster. Samoa Joe was originally going to be one, but we saw how that turned out. Bobby Roode will likely be an NXT lifer simply because he’s come along to the big show a little late in life, and if we could nominate one woman to be an NXT lifer, it would be Candice LeRae. She’s part of the Mae Young Classic and has a developmental contract with WWE, but having been around so long, we can’t see her ever playing a big role on the main roster. It’s crazy to think, but LeRae looks that good and has been wrestling since 2002. Her best work was with Pro Wrestling Guerilla nearly 10 years ago, although she was in TNA for a blink of an eye. Hopefully, she gets to be a regular on NXT and gets the national recognition she deserves.
We have a feeling if you gave Veda Scott a solid 12-week run in NXT, this spitfire would have the fans eating out of the palm of her hands and would be promoted to the main roster faster than any woman who's competed. She just needs a big break, but those never seem to come the real-life Lindsey Kerecz’s way. Perhaps, the fact she’s entering her mid-30s -- a time when a lot of women wrestlers decide to take time off to have a baby -- is holding WWE back, but to not even extend an invitation to Veda to participate in the Mae Young Classic is pure heresy. She was one of the most consistent personalities in Ring of Honor for five years, is as solid a wrestler as you’re going to find on the indie circuit, and can talk better than 85% of the current WWE roster, men included. She’s also brilliant. They don’t let just anybody edit the Drexel Law School Review, which she did while studying to become a lawyer. We’re not worried about her real-life future; we just wish this cutie would get a shot at the big time.