WWE has continued to stockpile its developmental system, inking many of the top performers from the independent scene to contracts. The latest names to surface are ROH wrestler Mike Bennett, Dragon Gate USA/EVOLVE regulars Samuray del Sol and Sami Callihan and California-based wrestler Shaun Ricker (source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Rajah.com).
While obscure to the national wrestling audience, Mike Bennett is one name that may be the most familiar of the four. Bennett has worked for Ring Of Honor for several years. WWE fans may know him as former Diva Maria Kanellis' boyfriend.
He's long been considered a WWE target. At 6'1" and 220 pounds, he has a look, physique and charisma commonly sought after by the bigger, TV-centric promotions. He even worked as a heel character in Ring of Honor, playing the role of a guy that was only there to get ready to move onto WWE, talking down to smaller, more technically proficient wrestlers.
There isn't any word yet as to whether Maria will return as a package deal. She's worked as his valet around the country. Were she to join the fold, it would be a major boost to his prospects of reaching the main roster. However, WWE could tell Maria they want her to drop the boyfriend angle and do her Diva work solo.
I had the privilege of seeing Sami Callihan over WrestleMania weekend at the Saturday night Dragon Gate USA show. His match against Uhaa Nation was a personal highlight, despite it not receiving much acclaim online. Callihan is and old-school brawler who utilizes his eccentric look and a maniacal persona to compensate for what he lacks in ideal size and shape.
Who has the best chance to make an impact in WWE?
He's worked several dark matches for WWE over the last few years and has received good reviews.
Samuray del Sol is an interesting prospect, one I've long hoped would sign with the company. He's young, just 26 years old, but has already toured internationally with a number of promotions. He's a fluent Spanish speaker, working with one of Mexico's largest promotions in AAA since 2011. He's from Chicago, so we know he speaks English and could cut promos to different audiences.
He's just 5'6" but weighs a solid 180 pounds. He has the lucha background to follow in the footsteps of Rey Mysterio but isn't so small that he couldn't brawl when necessary. I'm a big proponent of Samuray being positioned as the heir apparent for Mysterio rather than Sin Cara due to his ability to speak English. To this point, Sin Cara has yet to cut a promo and it's reportedly because he doesn't speak English well enough to connect.
If Samuray can prove competent on the mic, he could be the next Mexican masked star WWE is looking for.
I'm generally unfamiliar with Shaun Ricker. The eldest of this group, he's 30 years old and has been working professionally since 2003. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, and not currently signed with any touring promotion, WWE may be looking to develop him itself.