WWE would look mighty different without a small wrestling company across the ocean—Irish Whip Wrestling.
A company that is just over a decade old and based in a country not known as a wellspring of wrestling talent has left an imprint on WWE. IWW has fed WWE a handful of stars and been a training ground for prospects looking to launch themselves forward from NXT.
In a building where the concrete walls nearly kiss the ring ropes or in a gym where a basketball hoop seems to watch over the in-ring action from the wall, men like Sheamus were cultivating WWE dreams.
WWE recently detailed on its website just how many of its stars have come from Ring of Honor. IWW alum have played their own part in writing WWE's history and will continue to do so.
Take away the folks who began their wrestling journey in IWW out of WWE and you take the current United States and Intercontinental champ from off the screen.
The Irish promotion was also one of the stops that some of NXT's top workers made before heading to Full Sail University. PAC (now Adrian Neville) wrestled for IWW, as did Sami Zayn when he was still El Generico.
While not the talent pool that Ring of Honor has been for WWE, the list of wrestlers who came from IWW leads one to wonder what WWE titleholder will emerge from Ireland next.
When fans in Ireland watched The Foreign Legion step into the ring to challenge Sheamus O'Shaunessy, no one could have predicted that four of the men involved in that standoff would years later be a part of WWE.
Drew Galloway from Scotland, Pierre Marceau from France and Stu Sanders from England were the blend of cowards and jackals that is a typical wrestling heel.
Galloway, the brashest of the three, was the leader. His and O'Shanuessy's rivalry became a centerpiece for IWW, the Scotsman defeating the powerhouse for the IWW International Heavyweight Championship on August, 27, 2006 in Dublin.
O'Shanuessy, of course, would later drop his surname and become a top-flight WWE star.
Galloway became known as Drew McIntyre, winning the Intercontinental Championship and the tag titles with Cody Rhodes before becoming one third of the comedy group 3MB. His Foreign Legion comrades also followed him to WWE. That company renamed Sanders "Wade Barrett" before eventually dubbing him "Bad News Barrett."
Marceau is now Marcus Louis in NXT, one half of The Legionnaires.
WWE hasn't often allowed McIntyre to be the vicious gladiator that he was in Ireland. He spends most of his screen time today getting pushed around by his opponents or being the center of spots inspired by America's Funniest Home Videos.
With IWW, though, he was a jerk on the mic and a warrior in the ring. Whether he was cracking the Irishman's back against the ring apron or wrenching on his arms, McIntyre gave Sheamus some of his most physical matches.
Today, Sheamus gives every one of his WWE foes a flesh-reddening battle, employing a hard-hitting style much like what fans saw glimpses of back in Ireland.
Before NXT had become the streamlined machine that is today and before WWE erected its Performance Center, Sheamus was preparing for the future in Ireland. A Superstar emerged over time, both between the ropes and on interviews.
Had WWE never discovered Sheamus in Dublin, had IWW not been around to serve as his cocoon, WWE would be one top babyface short.
Without IWW, who knows what Barrett's development would have looked like. Had he not honed his craft in Ireland, perhaps he would never have caught WWE's attention. It would then be without its current champ, official bearer of bad news and a wrestler with the potential to be an elite villain.
Barrett, bolstered by his new "Bad News" gimmick and another run with the IC title, is thriving. As fantastic as he has been at irking the audience as of late, it's hard to imagine him as McIntyre's shy sidekick.
"Thee Drew Galloway" was clearly The Foreign Legion's biggest star. He was the most confident and compelling of the group.
Standing within earshot of him, Barrett must have picked up some nuances of the trade. He has since surpassed McIntyre in terms of stage presence.
IWW was also where Barrett sharpened his in-ring skills.
Sheamus vs. Barrett, a match that would be featured on Raw, SmackDown and Main Event several times over, was one that first happened in IWW. The two bruisers have since refined their mat games, but their IWW work looked a lot like the clashes they have put on for WWE since then.
Louis could be the next IWW alum to carry old grudges stateside, to make the trek from the Irish promotion to the global powerhouse that is WWE.
He's 6'4'' and 244 pounds, a former kickboxer with the kind of mean streak that grabs hold of the audience's attention.
He hasn't yet appeared often for NXT. New opportunities arise in WWE's developmental system, though.
Bo Dallas, Rusev and Adam Rose have all departed for the major leagues, opening room for new prospects to rise. Should Louis impress alongside Sylvestor LeFort in NXT's top-heavy tag team division, IWW will be even more well-represented in WWE.
Sheamus and Barrett's success, McIntyre's comic relief contributions and Louis' potential force fans to rethink Irish wrestling. WWE's next champion may be toiling in Dublin right now, battling in front of a few hundred people, a dream of the big time still alive.
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