Best Potential WWE Prospects from the Indys and Japan
WWE continues to add promising prospects to NXT, but potential megastars still populate independent and Japan promotions.
Talents like Michael Bennett exhibit great upside while performing elsewhere. He is among the best potential pickups for WWE, a list of wrestlers who have the physical ability and "it" factor to make an impact on a bigger stage. Being in their 20s or early 30s adds to their value as well.
Pro Wrestling Noah star KENTA could be on his way to the United States to fulfill a dream of wrestling for WWE, per Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com).
Who does that leave as top talents around the world? Who would fit in with WWE the best and most improve the product?
The following is a look at wrestlers from places like Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate USA and New Japan Pro Wrestling with bright futures ahead of them, men WWE would be wise to bring aboard.
Young, magnetic and well-rounded, Adam Cole is someone WWE should look to snag from the independent circuit and develop for itself, despite his not having ideal size.
On his website, Cole writes that he is 6'0'' and 201 pounds, but as Daniel Bryan did during his WWE tenure, he could certainly fill out more.
In the ring, he's fluid, quick and confident. He's only been wrestling since 2008 but shows ring awareness and stage presence that belie that lack of experience.
There's a compelling energy to his promos as well.
To hear him berate his opponents or wax on about his own greatness is to witness a blossoming star. That, along with his impressive movement in the ring and the fact that he's only 24 years old, makes him an intriguing option to bring to Full Sail University.
Mark and Jay Briscoe
Mark and Jay Briscoe are a pair of pit bulls who would add fire to the tag team division.
The Briscoe Brothers have an enthralling edge both when they are armed with a mic and when they go hunting heads in the ring. Aggression and intensity are the biggest assets wrestling-wise. Both men are good athletes as well.
Each brother is about 6'0'', with Jay being slightly heavier at just over 200 pounds, according to OnlineWorldofWrestling.com.
Their "it" factors and charisma set them apart from other similarly sized and similarly gifted duos on the independent circuit. When the Briscoes speak, it's only natural to slide forward in one's seat.
Jay is 30 and Mark is 29, so they have plenty of good years ahead of them whether they continue to work for Ring of Honor or eventually move to WWE.
At 5’11, 190 pounds, Kota Ibushi is the smallest prospect on this list. He makes up for that with wizardry in the ring.
His speed and athleticism jump out at you first, but he's also a high-level mat wrestler, striker and in-ring storyteller.
He's made a living in Japan (for Dramatic Dream Team and New Japan Pro Wrestling) as one of the best high-flyers in the business. In fact, Wrestling Observer Newsletter has named him Best Flying Wrestler four times. His leaping ability is comparable to Kofi Kingston, while his quickness is on Sin Cara's level.
Being a smaller wrestler will likely keep him out of a headlining gig, but WWE can add excitement to its product by bringing in Ibushi.
Power meets athleticism with Uhaa Nation.
Nation is a bit raw thanks to beginning his pro career just five years ago, but he's a rare physical specimen. He can lift men above his head with ease and follow that up with a standing Shooting Star Press.
His explosiveness with remind WWE fans of Bray Wyatt and Big E.
Nation was one of Dragon Gate USA's rising stars before he suffered a major leg injury in 2012. The 26-year-old wrestler has since returned to the ring, challenging for the promotion's major titles.
He possesses a store of upside and would move quickly through the NXT system.
Michael Bennett catches one's eye before he even steps between the ropes.
He's a handsome dude with a great physique. That alone has earned other wrestlers a shot.
During his time with Ring of Honor, he's shown off power and agility in the ring. The 6' 1'', 225-pound Massachusetts native has put on impressive matches against Kevin Steen and Jay Lethal.
WWE officials showed interest in him last year, as he told the folks at the "Monday Night Mayhem" podcast (h/t WrestlingInc.com). Expect them to come calling again at some point. He's too valuable of a prospect to ignore.
One of Michael Bennett's rivals in Ring of Honor is one of the most compelling prospects on the indy circuit today.
Kevin Steen is far from the prototype wrestler. He's stocky and has a less-than-intimidating build.
He doesn't move as you'd expect someone of his size to move. Steen is surprisingly quick and agile, filling his matches with flips and dives more often seen from a cruiserweight.
His matches are marked with a fun energy as well. He's a showman and storyteller, as evidenced by how many standout bouts he's had during his career.
Some of his best work has come against El Generico, who is now NXT's Sami Zayn. Pitting those two together again and seeing how Steen's style meshes with other prospects are ventures worth taking.
If there's ever going to be a Japanese wrestler who wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, it's going to be Kazuchika Okada.
Okada's showmanship has seen him stand out from other Japanese talent. There's an electricity and pizzazz to how he carries himself and how he wrestles that would have him succeed in WWE.
At 6'3'', 236 pounds, he's bigger and stronger than most of his New Japan Pro Wrestling peers.
He had a brief, unmemorable run with TNA a few years ago but has since grown as a performer. From 2012 on, Okada has more effectively mined his talents. His bouts with Hiroshi Tanahashi have been some of the best in wrestling over the last few years.
Being just 26 only adds to his value as a prospect.