AEW, after just a single Pay Per View, have solidified themselves as a major player in the professional wrestling world. Between WWE, ROH, IMPACT, NJPW, and now AEW, there are so many viable locations for any wrestler to compete in the world. All Elite Wrestling is definitely the freshest of these entities at the moment and that adds a certain longing for future free agents in wrestling.
We have already seen Jon Moxley shock the world and join the upstart brand, expect more superstars from all promotions to follow the former Dean Ambrose. Here are five potential indie wrestlers who could thrive in the All Elite Wrestling roster.
1. Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack Sabre Jr. has really solidified himself as one of, if not, the best technical wrestlers in the world. He has wrestled in WWE, Ring of Honor, New Japan, and PWG so he has a great feel of all different styles in professional wrestling today. In an environment that looks to be so heavily favoured towards letting the wrestlers control their own character and direction, this seems like a great place for a wrestler whose style is becoming rare in today’s fast paced wrestling world. So many matches are based on brawling and high flying, so it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone with that old school, technical wrestling gimmick.
We have seen Sabre Jr. compete in fantastic matches against the likes of AJ Styles, Kota Ibushi, and Adam Cole. He seems to mesh so well with wrestlers of all different styles and that shows the characteristics of a great performer. Never having matches with Jon Moxley, Adam Page, and Chris Jericho, there is potential for some classic matches that people have yet to see. Sabre Jr. has always been a guy who hasn’t put himself in a position to be tied down to one specific promotion. With the free spirited nature seen in AEW so far, this seems like a perfect opportunity for the Brit.
2. Joey Ryan
There have been many “sexual” gimmicks in the world of professional wrestling, but very few have gained the mainstream focus of Joey Ryan. The native of Hollywood has brought out some extremely risqué moves in the squared circle and he has garnered a massive fanbase due to this. In today’s world, it seems that sexual acts and taboo subjects gain much more traction with people. We have seen Joey Ryan’s “highlights” featured in various non-wrestling news sources such as TMZ and Fox Sports.
This is the game for independent wrestlers now. They don’t typically have weekly television to keep their face prevalent in the fans minds every week. Huge stories like creating a move where he defeats his opponent simply by using his manhood, proposing to his girlfriend inside a wrestling ring, and even signing a deal with one of the larger adult film companies in the world have made Joey Ryan a global star just from trending videos.
The King of Dong Style wouldn’t just be a hot commodity on a wrestling standpoint for AEW. Ryan can offer some great tips on how to market themselves correctly and come up with some huge stories for the upstart promotion. He has competed practically everywhere from WWE shortly, to Impact Wrestling, to Ring of Honor, and everywhere in between. He has a vast knowledge of all styles of professional wrestling and this opens up a vast realm of future matchups for him such as Sonny Kiss, Joey Janela, and MJF. From either a comedy or serious perspective, Joey Ryan can succeed at either side of the spectrum and add a bit of charisma to the future All Elite Wrestling roster.
3. Sami Callihan
Since leaving the WWE NXT brand, the former Solomon Crowe has reinvented himself with returning to his former persona, Sami Callihan. Most people will agree that Impact Wrestling has dropped off over the last decade but it is hard to ignore the ‘impact’ that Callihan had there. His rivalries with Eddie Edwards and LAX were highly praised, and showed off a new vicious and demented side of himself. The change in character was definitely seen once Callihan was given a little bit of freedom with developing the character himself. Being in a company that offers that same freedom definitely has to be a viable option for a creative person.
Aside from Jimmy Havoc, AEW doesn’t have a wrestler that is so familiar with the hardcore style of wrestling. This is still a prime market for wrestling fans who crave a bit of violence and bloodshed. Adding Callihan to the roster would give the fans an opportunity to see some insane street fights with the likes of Jon Moxley, previously mentioned Jimmy Havoc, and maybe even an Impact Wrestling rematch with Penta El Zero. We haven’t seen many wrestlers, let alone in the independent wrestling world, where they have had huge news press surrounding them. Callihan was subject to this when he struck Eddie Edwards with a baseball bat and nearly shattered his entire face. This was shown throughout news broadcasts over the world and many people who weren’t even wrestling fans had been taken aback by the graphic footage. Callihan played off of this and really created a persona based around having no remorse for the situation. This kind of drama and marketing savvy would fit perfectly in the world of AEW.
4. Tetsuya Naito
We have often seen massively popular Japanese wrestlers become completely wasted once coming over to an American based wrestling promotion. Whether it is non Japanese speaking fans feeling unable to connect with them, bad booking situations, or just not being there at the right time, this isn’t just a one off occurrence. We have seen superstars like Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, and even the subject of this entry, Tatsuya Naito. Naito has become one of, if not, the most popular wrestler in all of Japan. His matches with Chris Jericho, Kota Ibushi, and Kazuchika Okada are all revered as classics. Naito and Okada have both briefly tried the American scene out to very little success. Both wrestled for just a handful of months in TNA back in 2009 before returning to the Japanese scene.
Many people, when not succeeding at something, keep thinking about conquering their goal sometime down the road. Naito could still have the dream to succeed in America and prove that Japanese born wrestlers can thrive there. Now with a reputation backing him up, Naito could have a much easier time gaining television time and wind up on top of the show. What better place to start off than a company that is brand new and has the entire professional wrestling world already talking about it. The Japanese wrestling scene in America is surprisingly dry at the moment with mostly just Shinsuke Nakamura representing the group. When there is a scarcity in any role, the right person can still make a huge statement. The promos will be arguably the biggest issue if Naito looks to head towards the states. Given the right build and entrance, Naito can make a huge splash in his return to America.
5. The Briscoe Brothers
The tag team scene in AEW is still coming together. Being mostly built up of the Young Bucks, the Lucha Brothers, and SoCal Uncensored with a few other smaller teams spread in there, there is great potential for a great tag team division. Adding one of the most decorated tag teams in professional wrestling would just solidify the point of a “tag team revival”, as the Young Bucks put it.
Mark and Jay Briscoe have solidified themselves as both tag team specialists and single wrestlers. Jay has been a multiple time ROH World Champion and Mark has been in many interesting single rivalries, so they aren’t specifically tied to the tag team division. The name value of having an almost 20 year veteran duo in the fold shows how serious AEW can be. The brothers have really wrestled in every major professional wrestling promotion except WWE (apart from a short month of tryouts) and Impact Wrestling. People talk about needing to build the company with the younger stars to keep it going but adding veterans is still essential to any business. Having over 20 tag team championships through various promotions is such an impressive feat that most casual fans will be instantly drawn to the legacy of the team. The Briscoe’s feelings towards their current situation with ROH will determine if they will even want to leave. Given the opportunity, the Briscoes could use AEW to further pad their legendary resume.