The Indie Night Wars: WWE and Impact Start New Buzz

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Part of the magic of the famed Monday Night Wars era of professional wrestling – including WWE, WCW and ECW – was that air of the unknown. With both Raw and Nitro dominating the ratings, and ECW bubbling as a hotbed of excitement, the anticipation in the air of “who will show up where” was an equal part of the atmosphere. Moments like Scott Hall first appearing on Nitro after the Curtain Call, Big Show debuting on Raw through the floor of the ring, The Radicalz sitting ringside at WWE shows…knowing that the wrestlers weren’t afraid to move around companies meant that the rosters were always fluid as teams competed to keep their stride.

But for the entirety of the 90’s, the movement was nearly exclusively restricted to former WWE stars showing up in WCW or former WCW stars showing up in WWE (with the occasional ECW turn up). The independents hadn’t rebuilt enough out of the territorial collapse to offer much in competition for talent. But all that changed following the collapse of both WCW and ECW as threats to the WWE Universe. With the WWE now heads and tails above everyone in terms of wealth and production, everyone assumed it would be the end of professional wrestling as we know it. But it was the complete opposite.

With the emergence of organized promotions in large markets, the territories were renamed the independents by journalists and fans alike. Which is ironic, as technically, the WWE was one of the first indies in the America – prior to the mid-90’s, an “indie” was any promotion not under the NWA banner, as in “independent of NWA authority”. But nowadays, it seems to imply any promotion that is not owned by a major corporation – which is essentially everyone but WWE, Impact Wrestling (owned by Anthem Sports & Entertainment since 2017), Ring of Honor (owned by Sinclair Broadcasting since 2011), NJPW (owned by Bushiroad, since 2012), and Lucha Underground (owned by United Artists Media Group, since 2014).

These indie promotions have gained huge ground in become top tier competition talent wise with the major promotions, just with lesser production (albeit more intimate performance opportunities). The early groundbreakers, like Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) (’99), CHIKARA (’02), Ring of Honor (’02-’11), TNA (’02-16), and Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) (’03), shared a variety of talent in some manner, similar to how territories like Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic, Georgia Championship and others did under the NWA banner in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They covered various regions of the country – East Coast (CHIKARA, ROH), West Coast (PWG), the South (Impact) and the Hardcore (CZW). Since then more indie companies have joined in the surge, such as Beyond Wrestling, WrestleCircus, AAW, AIW, and Smash Wrestling have emerged in North America, with the United Kingdom’s indie scene joining in in the past few years, with the widespread awareness of promotions like Progress, ICW, and RevPro becoming easier to access. The indie promotions were the true pioneers of wrestling on the internet, as the were born as the internet boom was exploding, bringing a younger, smarter wrestling fan along for the ride.

Between tonight’s live edition of Impact Wrestling to the reports coming out of NXT’s latest tapings last night, one thing is apparent. You never know who is going to show up in either the WWE Universe of the Impact Zone. But unlike the Monday Night Wars era, it’s not the jumps of ex-WWE stars to Impact or ex-TNA stars to WWE that is gaining the most buzz online. It’s when the indie wrestling elite – or darlings – make their surprise appearances and enter one of the two major promotions in North America.

Photo: WWE

Because thanks in large part to WWE’s NXT brand and under the leadership of Triple H, William Regal and the late, great Dusty Rhodes, the WWE has been slowly turning more to the already crafted wrestlers who have worked on their characters and skill sets in strong indie promotions, rather than employing bodybuilders, fitness models, and failed football players. The WWE Way can be taught to anyone. But if they come in with all the other stuff already in their wheelhouse, then it’s a quicker return on their investment. And with Billy Corgan‘s initial influence last year, Impact Wrestling all began utilizing the independent scene with more attention than the latest future endeavours in the Stamford Want Ads. That will only increase with the addition of Scott D’Amore back to the Impact fold – he’s an indie promoter himself, running Border City Wrestling in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and a trainer of some of the indie’s top graduates.

Photo: NOAH

And while a large vocal portion will always lament when their indie favourite shows up in NXT or on Impact, there’s ever more who are happy for these talents – after all, it’s not like they’re forced to sign with either of them. The Young Bucks, Joey Ryan, Brian Cage and Sami Callihan (amongst others) have shown it’s quite possible nowadays to make a solid living if you work hard throughout the top indie promotions and with merchandise online. These indie stars who head to the Bright Lights or Big City of either WWE or Impact Wrestling are doing it because they want to and that is something that should be respected more than it is. These men and women probably started off as WWE fans when they were kids and it’s always been their dream to step in that ring at least once. Sure, they may get told to cut a few moves, but keep in mind, they just want them to wrestle longer than some of our indie stars have lasted. And sure, they may not work out, but think of the bright side. If they don’t work out, we’ll see them back in the indies soon enough.

Photo: WWE

So here’s a quick look at all the indie stars that the WWE is employing on their current rosters (for both the main roster and NXT) and how many Impact Wrestling now employs (this is in relation to working deals, not one off enhancement/try out matches). It’s impossible to deny now – the Indiefluence in pro wrestling is real.

SPOILERS: There are some names that may be spoilers from the NXT Tapings from April 19, 2017 and the Impact Tapings from April 20 & 21, 2017

WWE

All Photos: WWE
  • James Ellsworth ’16 (Jimmy Dream; CZW ’06, Big Time ’13)
  • Jinder Mahal ’16, ’10-’14 (Tiger Raj Singh; Stampede ’04, PWA ’05)
  • Akira Tozawa ’16 (DragonGate ’05, PWG ’10, CHIKARA ’10)
  • Ariya Daivari ’16 (Mustafa Bashir; F1rst ’07, CWE ’10, ROH ’15)
  • Cedric Alexander ’16 (ROH ’10, NEW ’10, PWX ’11, PWG ’14, EVOLVE ’16)
  • Drew Gulak ’16 (CZW ’05, CHIKARA ’05, wXw ’10, EVOLVE ’12, Smash ’14, PWG ’15)
  • Gran Metalik ’16 (Mascara Dorado; CMLL ’07, NJPW ’10)
  • Ho Ho Lun ’16 (Pro Wrestling ZERO1 ’11, CWE ’12)
  • Jack Gallagher ’16 (FutureShock ’06, NGW ’08, ICW ’14, Progress ’15)
  • Mustafa Ali ’16 (IWA Mid South ’08, DREAMWAVE ’09, AAW ’10)
  • Noam Dar ’16 (British Championship Wrestling ’08, ICW ’10, Progress ’12, ROH ’14)
  • The Singh Brothers ’16 (The Bollywood Boyz; ECCW ’05, Ring Ka King ’11)
  • Tony Nese ’16 (NYWC ’05, ROH ’09, EVOLVE ’10, CZW ’12, PWG ’13)
  • Shinsuke Nakamura ’16 (NJPW ’02, CMLL ’05, NOAH ’09, ROH ’14, RevPro ’14)
  • Luke Gallows ’16, ’05-’10 (Doc GallowsTNA ’11, NOAH ’12, NJPW ’13, ROH ’14)
  • Karl Anderson ’16 (NWF ’02, NJPW ’06, PWG ’07, ROH ’07)
  • AJ Styles ’16 (ROH ’02, TNA ’02, PWG ’03, NJPW ’14)
  • Rich Swann ’15 (MCW ’09, CZW ’09, EVOLVE ’10, wXW ’10, PWG ’12, Smash ’14)
  • Samoa Joe ’15 (ROH ’02, PWG ’03, IWA Mid South ’04, TNA ’05)
  • Kevin Owens ’14 (Kevin Steen; PWG ’04, CZW ’04, ROH ’05, IWA Mid South ’05, wXw ’06, AAW ’13, CHIKARA ’13, Smash ’13)
  • Finn Balor ’14 (Fergal ‘Prince’ Devitt; NWA UK Hammerlock ’02, NJPW ’06, wXw ’12, CMLL ’12, RevPro ’12, ICW ’12)
  • Apollo Crews ’14 (Uhaa Nation; DragonGate ’11, EVOLVE ’12, Full Impact Pro ’13)
  • Dash Wilder ’14 (Steven Walters; Anarchy Wrestling ’07, PWX ’12)
  • Bayley ’13 (Davina Rose; Big Time ’08, Shimmer ’11, SHINE ’12)
  • Becky Lynch ’13 (Rebecca Knox; ECCW ’05; NEW ’05; IPW:UK ’05; WAW ’05, Shimmer ’06)
  • Kalisto ’13 (Samuray del Sol; AAW ’07, DREAMWAVE ’08, AAA ’11, EVOLVE ’12)
  • Sami Zayn ’13 (El Generico; PWG ’04, CZW ’04, ROH ’05, IWA Mid South ’05, wXw ’05, IPW:UK ’05, EVOLVE ’12)
  • Emma ’12 (Tenille Tayla; ECCW ’09, Shimmer ’09)
  • Luke Harper ’12 (Brodie Lee; CZW ’07, ROH ’08, IWA Mid South ’08, wXw ’08, EVOLVE ’10)
  • Neville ’12 (PAC; IPW:UK ’06, wXw ’06, PWG ’06, DragonGate ’07, NJPW ’12)
  • Paige ’12 (Britani Knight, Saraya; WAW ’06, ASW ’08, EVE ’10, Shimmer ’11)
  • Sasha Banks ’12 (Mercedes KV; NECW ’10, Chaotic ’10, Beyond ’12)
  • Scott Dawson ’12 (KC McKnight; CWF ’05, PWX ’06)
  • Cesaro ’11 (Claudio Castagnoli; wXw ’00, IWA Mid South ’02, CZW ’04, ROH ’05, CHIKARA ’05, PWG ’05, NOAH ’08)
  • Dean Ambrose ’11 (Jon Moxley; HWA ’02, CHIKARA ’06, ROH ’07, IWA Mid South ’08, CZW ’09, wXw ’09, EVOLVE ’10)
  • Erick Rowan ’11 (Thoruf Marius; NOAH ’07, F1rst ’08)
  • Rusev ’11 (Miroslav Makarov; New Wave Pro ’08)
  • Seth Rollins ’10 (Tyler Black; IWA Mid South ’05, AAW ’05, PWG ’06, ROH ’07, F1rst ’07) 
  • Natalya ’07 (Nattie Neidhart; Stampede ’02, ECCW ’05, Shimmer ’06)
  • Sheamus ’07 (Sheamus O’Shaunessy; Irish Whip ’04, British Championship ’05)

NXT

  • Candice LeRae ’17 (EWF ’03, ROH ’07, CHIKARA ’07, PWG ’08, Beyond ’13, Smash ’13, CZW ’13, Shimmer ’14, SHINE ’14, WSU ’14, AIW ’14, AAW ’14, Queens of Combat ’15)
  • Cheree Crowley ’17 (Evie; IPW ’08, PWA ’12, Shimmer ’13, SHINE ’13, Stardom ’15)
  • Drew McIntyre ’17, ’07-’14 (Drew GallowayBritish Championship ’03, IPW:UK ’04, ASW ’05, ICW ’05, EVOLVE ’14, TNA ’15, PWG ’15, AAW ’15, WCPW ’16)
  • Kassius Ohno ’17, ’12-’13 (Chris Hero; IWA Mid South ’00, wXw ’02, CHIKARA ’02, CZW ’02, PWG ’04, AAW ’05, ROH ’06, NOAH ’07, EVOLVE ’10, Smash ’13)
  • Kimberly Franke ’17 (Kimber Lee; CZW ’11, WSU ’12, Smash ’13, SHINE ’13, CHIKARA ’14, Shimmer ’14, PWG ’14, MCW ’15)
  • Mark Andrews ’17 (ATTACK! ’11, ICW ’11, Progress ’12, SWE ’13, RevPro ’13, CHIKARA ’14, Smash ’15, TNA ’15, PWG ’15)
  • Mary Kate ’17 (Andrea, Betsy Ruth, Rosey Lotta Love; ACW ’09, TNA ’10, SHINE ’15)
  • Pete Dunne ’17 (ATTACK! ’11, SWE ’12, Progress ’14, RevPro ’14, WCPW ’16, PWG ’16, ICW ’17)
  • Ruby Riot ’17 (Heidi Lovelace: AIW ’12, SHINE ’12, Beyond ’12, Shimmer ’12, CHIKARA ’13, Queens of Combat ’13, AAW ’13, Smash ’14, Stardom ’15)
  • Thea Trinidad ’17 (WSU ’10, TNA ’11, SHINE ’15, Stardom ’15, Queens of Combat ’15)
  • Trent Seven ’17 (Fight Club PRO ’11, ICW ’15, CHIKARA ’15, Progress ’16, RevPro ’16, WCPW ’16, OTT ’17)
  • Tyler Bate ’17 (Fight Club PRO ’13, SWE ’14, CHIKARA ’15, Progress ’15, wXw ’15, OTT ’16, WCPW ’16, ICW ’16, RevPro ’16)
  • Aleister Black ’16 (Tommy End; wXw ’05, PWG ’06, CZW ’10, Progress ’13, EVOLVE ’15)
  • Bobby Roode ’16 (BCW ’01, ECWA ’02, TNA ’03)
  • Eric Young ’16 (BCW ’00, TNA ’03)
  • Killian Dain ’16 (Big Damo; SWA ’05, British Championship ’08, ICW ’10, IPW:UK ’14, wXw ’14, WCPW ’16)
  • Lacey Evans ’16 (Macey Evans; APW ’14)
  • Nikki Cross ’16 (Nikki Storm; SWA ’08, ICW ’10, WAW ’10, EVE ’10, WSU ’13, Shimmer ’13, SHINE ’13, JWP ’13, AIW ’13, Stardom ’15)
  • Andrade Almas ’16 (La Sombra; CMLL ’07, NJPW ’10)
  • Rachael Ellering ’16 (SHINE ’16, Queens of Combat ’16, TNA ’17)
  • Roderick Strong ’16 (ROH ’03, TNA ’04, CZW ’04, PWG ’05, IWA Mid South ’05, NOAH ’09, PWX ’11, NJPW ’14, EVOLVE ’14)
  • Sarah Bridges ’16 (Crazy Mary Dobson; AIW ’12, DIANA ’13, Shimmer ’13, Resistance Pro ’13, SHINE ’14, Queens of Combat ’14, ROH ’14)
  • TM-61 ’16 (Shane Thorne & Nick Miller) (The Mighty Don’t Kneel (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls); NOAH ’11, EPW ’03, PWG ’09, ROH ’12)
  • Tomasso Ciampa ’16, ’05 (Chaotic ’05, ROH ’11, PWG ’13, AAW ’14, wXw ’14, EVOLVE ’16)
  • Aliyah ’15 (Jasmin Areebi; AIW ’13)
  • Asuka ’15 (Kana; Pro Wrestling SUN ’07, JWP ’07, Ice Ribbon ’08, NEO Ladies ’08, WAVE ’08, Shimmer ’11, REINA ’14, NOAH ’14)
  • Billie Kay ’15 (Jessie McKay; Shimmer ’08, ROH ’08, CZW ’08, SHINE ’13)
  • Johnny Gargano ’15 (AIW ’05, CHIKARA ’08, DragonGate USA ’09, AAW ’09, EVOLVE ’10, PWG ’13, Smash ’13, DREAMWAVE ’14)
  • Ember Moon ’15 (Athena; ACW ’08, Shimmer ’10, WSU ’11, SHINE ’12, AAW ’12, ROH ’13)
  • No Way Jose ’15 (Manny Garcia; CWF ’13)
  • Peyton Royce ’15 (KC Cassidy; PWA ’09, Melbourne City ’11, Shimmer ’14, SHINE ’14)
  • Hideo Itami ’14 (KENTA; NOAH ’00, ROH ’06)

Impact Wrestling

  • Alisha Edwards ’17 (Alexxis Nevaeh; NECW ’06, Chaotic ’06, WSU ’10, Beyond ’12)
  • Ava Storie ’17 (Brandi Lauren; ACW ’16, SHINE ’16, ROH ’17)
  • Christina Von Eerie ’17 (NWA ’09, AAA ’10, PWG ’10, Shimmer ’11, ACW ’11, WSU ’12, SHINE ’12, GFW ’15)
  • Dezmond Xavier ’17 (MCW ’13, CZW ’15, AAW ’16, IWA Mid South ’16, Beyond ’16)
  • Diamante ’17 (Angel Rose; Independent Championship Wrestling ’08, IGNITE ’16, Queens of Combat ’16, SHINE ’17)
  • Fallah Bah ’17 (IWF ’05, Chaotic ’07, WrestlePro ’16)
  • Garza Jr. ’17 (AAA ’15, The Crash ’16)
  • Hakim Zane ’17 (NWA ’09, XICW ’13, ROH ’13, Superkick’d ’16, BCW ’16)
  • Homicide ’17, ’07-’10 (Jersey All Pro ’97, ROH ’02, CZW ’03, IWA Mid South ’04, NJPW ’11, AAW ’16)
  • Idris Abraham ’17 (C4 ’11, BCW ’11, Smash ’12, XICW ’13, AIW ’14) 
  • Jake Holmes ’17 (Jake Something; XICW ’15, BCW ’15, Superkick’d ’15)
  • Joe Coleman ’17 (XICW ’14, BCW ’14, Smash ’16, EVOLVE ’16)
  • Jon Bolen ’17 (BCW ’05, All-Japan ’14, Pro Wrestling Rampage ’14)
  • KM ’17 (Kevin Matthews; Chaotic ’03, WXW ’04, WrestlePro ’16)
  • Kongo Kong ’17 (EWF ’04, Mid-Ohio ’08, IWA Mid South ’09, JCW ’10, BCW ’13, AAW ’15, XICW ’16)
  • Laredo Kid ’17 (AAA ’05, NOAH ’07, AIW ’16, WrestleCircus ’16, The Crash ’16)
  • Low Ki ’17, ’02-’03, ’06-’07, ’14-’15 (Jersey All Pro ’98, TNA ’02, ROH ’02, NOAH ’04, IWA Mid South ’06, PWG ’07, NJPW ’07, DragonGate USA ’12, EVOLVE ’12, AAW ’16)
  • Magnus ’17, ’09-’15 (Nick Aldis; WAW ’06, ASW ’06, SWE ’17, WCPW ’17)
  • Mario Bokara ’17 (WXW ’03, Jersey All Pro ’06, ACE ’08, PWS ’12, WrestlePro ’16)
  • Matt Sydal ’17 (Evan Bourne; Gateway ’02, IWA Mid South ’03, ROH ’04, PWG ’06, WWE ’08, RevPro ’15, NJPW ’15)
  • Ortiz ’17 (Angel Ortiz; Beyond ’14, GCW ’15, C4 ’15, CZW ’16)
  • Reno Scum (Luster The Legend & Adam Thornstowe) ’17 (APW ’07)
  • Santana ’17 (Mike Draztik; Beyond ’14, GCW ’15, C4 ’15, CZW ’16)
  • Wilcox ’17 (Jax Dane; NWA ’12, NJPW ’13, WrestleCircus ’16, ROH ’16)
  • Allie ’16 (Cherry Bomb; GCW ’06, C4 ’08, WSU ’10, Shimmer ’11, SHINE ’12, CZW ’12, Smash ’15)
  • Braxton Sutter ’16 (Pepper Parks; HWA ’00, ESW ’10, ROH ’12, CZW ’12, Smash ’14)
  • Cody Rhodes ’16 (WWE ’06, NEW ’16, EVOLVE ’16, WCPW ’16, PWG ’16, ROH ’16, NJPW ’16
  • Eddie Kingston ’16 (CHIKARA ’02, IWA Mid South ’03, CZW ’04, ROH ’06, AAW ’13, AIW ’13) 
  • Laurel Van Ness ’16 (Chelsea Green; ECCW ’14, Queens of Combat ’15, SHINE ’16, Stardom ’16, RISE ’17)
  • Marshe Rockett ’16 (Windy City Pro ’06, IWA Mid South ’08, CHIKARA ’08, DREAMWAVE ’10, Chicago Style ’11)
  • Moose ’16 (BCW ’13, ROH ’14, PWX ’14, EVOLVE ’14, Full Impact Pro ’14, NJPW ’15, WCPW ’16, NOAH ’17)
  • Rosemary ’16 (Courtney Rush; BCW ’08, GCW ’08, Shimmer ’10, SHINE ’13, Smash ’14, RISE ’17)
  • Sienna ’16 (Allysin Kay; AIW ’10, WSU ’11, Shimmer ’11, SHINE ’13, Smash ’14, AAW ’15)
  • Suicide VI ’17 (Caleb Konley; Anarchy ’07, PWX ’07, CWF ’08, ROH ’10, EVOLVE ’10, DragonGate USA ’10, CZW ’12, WrestleCircus ’17)
  • Andrew Everett ’15 (CWF ’07, CHIKARA ’07, PWX ’09, PWG ’13, EVOLVE ’14, AAW ’16, SWE ’16)
  • Eli Drake ’15 (Shaun Ricker; HWA ’03, CWH ’12, NXT ’13)
  • Trevor Lee ’15 (CWF ’09, PWX ’10, CHIKARA ’13, PWG ’14, EVOLVE ’14, CZW ’14, AAW ’15, Smash ’15)
  • Bram ’14 (Kenneth Cameron; ASW ’08, Full Impact Pro ’13, WXW ’13, ICW ’15)
  • Davey Richards ’14 (PWG ’05, ROH ’06, NOAH ’07, NJPW ’10, AAW ’10, CZW ’12, NXT ’13)
  • Eddie Edwards ’14 (NECW ’03, NOAH ’05, ROH ’06, PWG ’12, PWX ’12, Beyond ’13, NXT ’13)
  • Grado ’14 (SWA ’04, ICW ’12, British Championship ’12, Progress ’13, WCPW ’16)
  • Rockstar Spud ’13 (IPW:UK ’05, Fight Club PRO ’11, SWE ’11, ICW ’15, Progress ’17)
  • Aiden O’Shea ’12 (Jay Bradley; IWA Mid South ’01, AAW ’05, WWE ’06, Resistance Pro ’11)
  • DJ-Z ’11 (Zema Ion; International Wrestling Cartel ’04, CHIKARA ’05, AIW ’06, AAW ’09)
  • Robbie E ’10 (Rob Eckos; IWF ’00, ECWA ’03, NYWC ’04, NEW ’05)
  • Madison Rayne ’08 (Lexi Lane; OCW ’05, Shimmer ’07, ROH ’08)
  • Angelina Love ’07 (Angel Williams; BCW ’02, WXW ’03, IWA Mid South ’04, DSW ’05, WSU ’08, SHINE ’13)
  • Gail Kim ’06 (AWF ’01, BCW ’02, WWE ’03)

And while we may think this list is a large chunk of the indie stars and that it’s unfair that WWE and Impact Wrestling can raid the indie circuit whenever they feel like it, just remember that there is a list ten times this of stars who have no interest in signing with either at this stage, as well as hundreds of young wrestlers hungry to take the spots that open when these top indie stars when the take the next step to a major promotion. And no matter how much we complain that we hope they never leave, there’s still a moment of excitement when we see them step out of the curtains on NXT, Raw, Smackdown Live or Impact Wrestling. Because no matter what, we’re proud of them for furthering their dreams.

 

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