Here’s a look at some of the top talents on the American Indy scene, with an eye towards guys who have a look, a level of potential or a polished set of skills that should get them a shot at the mainstream. Of course, I’d love to see these guys and gals make a better living, but also know that they can ply their craft more freely (and arguably, less stressfully in terms of using their talents) at the indy level.
I make no apologies to anyone I’ve overlooked, and will certainly try to bring new faces to attention down the road.
These are professional wrestlers that mainstream fans should know about, and if you don’t, you don’t know what you’re missing. My main purpose here is to get more attention to the Indy circuits, while perhaps opening eyes to talents that should be on everyone’s radar.
Presented in alphabetical order by last name, to avoid any rating argument:
“The Prodigy” is one of Ring of Honor’s several potential breakout stars. He has a look and is earning valuable experience in a place that has created big mainstream names. With ten years in the business, Bennett isn’t exactly a youngster, but he’s a fresh face and being involved with Maria Kanellis, there’s a few avenues of mainstream interest already.
Then again, that sort of thing creates dynamics in some circles that aren’t positive.
Bennett might be a better fit in TNA than the WWE, as a younger and more … interesting version of Mr. Anderson. But he is a guy that ROH could ride to bigger and better things.
While David Hart Smith is the biggest guy and the guy with the most potential in Resistance Pro, there’s another talent in that promotion with former ties to the WWE, who has an intriguing look, demeanor and style. Listed at six-four, Bradley toiled with OVW and appeared briefly (as Ryan Braddock) on SmackDown! but never went anywhere.
Which is odd, because Bradley shows a definite charisma in Resistance Pro, and while styling himself completely as Johnny Valentine may not get him over as much as I would want to wish, there’s something about his methodical, dead-pan, low key presence that brings something to the ring that so many others cannot catch no matter how hard they try.
While “Lonesome” – the same logic that you’d call a fat guy slim – inexplicably lost to Vader recently, there’s a wealth of potential here.
Ciampa is another one ROH’s potential stars. He’s been trained by some of the best (Killer Kowalski and Harley Race on his resume) and he’s relatively young at twenty-seven, and he’s gaining experience in ROH that will translate elsewhere. Ciampa has a strong, athletic look, piercing eyes and a Mohawk hairstyle that hasn’t gotten many guys over enough.
The drawback is that he looks a bit like Antonio Cesaro (the former Claudio Castagnolli), so his look does no favors in the WWE. He’s protected by The Embassy, with Prince Nana and a host of accompanying minions that do most of his talking.
But he is a guy ROH can build around.
Sara Del Rey
The “Rey- Gun” is a lady in the prime of her career, and it amazes me that neither the WWE nor TNA seem to think that having a supremely talented wrestler on the roster, to help put together better matches and to make their “Divas” or “Knockouts” more credible.
It’s obvious that Del Rey has undergone a makeover over the past year.
She’s also been wrestling guys in CHIKARA, and expanding her abilities, which were already at the top of the game on the indy scene – and not for lack of quality opponents. In SHIMMER , ROH and other top promotions that bring in top talent, Del Rey’s name is always around.
For those who wanted her to have a different look, Sara Del Rey seems ready for her shot.
The biggest breakout name of the year, so far, is Michael Elgin, after a vastly impressive match with Davey Richards. Elgin is a younger, slightly less wider version of Rhino. Perhaps not as vicious looking in the ring, but he has more potential and more passion for the sport.
The endorsement by Richards is no small praise.
Elgin nudges out Kevin Steen for a spot among those with the most potential because he’s in better shape. He may not be the complete package … yet, and there’s a big question about how he could handle himself on the mike, but he’s definitely got the talent and the drive.
Probably a better fit in TNA than the WWE, or could be a guy that ROH could build around in a year or two as a dominant Champion that raises comparisons and raises the promotion to the mainstream.
As CHIKARA’s Grand Master, Eddie Kingston is definitely the last of a dying breed, and has reached a pinnacle of his career, but has a lot more to offer. There are very few guys on the indy scene that can cut a promo like Kingston, and quite frankly, there aren’t very many in the industry who can match his pure emotion.
Kingston has good size, but only a slightly better physical appearance than Kevin Steen. Kingston also has that Stone Cold Steve Austin demeanor that makes him a babyface in this era no matter how heelish he wants to go. My ongoing comparison is Dick Murdoch, as Kingston has that ability to work stiff, work smart and work credibly even if he’s not a jumping bean.
Kingston would be a core member of any Latino faction, but his kick-ass style transcends ethnicity.
Speaking of ethnicity, it’s amazing to me that TNA never considered a true Hispanic woman and instead used a Canadian (albeit a talented one that actually wrestled in Mexico) and an American, instead of a distinctly Latina star.
Martinez may be too physical, too brutal for the baby dolls in the mainstream, but wow, isn’t that too bad.
Let’s see Kharma versus Martinez on Monday night, for more than five minutes (I know no one there has the balls to give them 10-15 because they would embarrass the roster more than the Luchadores embarrassed Hogan in WCW) and let’s see how those ratings look.
Yeah, she’s that good.
The legacy of the Dynamite Kid lives on in Davey Richards, and he’s obviously vastly aware of that legacy, when once again he threatens retirement in another year or two. He’s a guy with so much passion and talent and pure understanding of this sport that it will be painful to see him leave early.
Without a doubt, the dream match of my mind is Richards versus Rey Mysterio.
Even in a WWE ring circa 2012.
Davey Richards has everything to make him a standout in such a match, but we’re talking about a promotion that couldn’t book Low Ki against Mysterio, so there’s little hope of them coming to their senses. Like Low Ki, Richards would win over the audience in any competition, and with even five minutes in the squared circle.
The” Kentucky Gentleman” is one of my first picks if I were starting a promotion, and had to pick a young guy to build around. Taylor has size, athleticism and a knack for the sport. He’s a student of the game and has been around the indy world – EVOLVE, CHIKARA, Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and others.
Taylor reminds me a bit of Randy Orton, minus the baggage, in terms of working and in terms of a unique charisma. He has a touch of ingrate while maintain a charm that keeps him cool enough with his arrogance and his chip on the shoulder promo style.
Taylor is one of the more creative on the list, working in new moves as both a singles or tag team player. At 26, if Taylor puts his full attention to the sport, he has a huge amount of potential.
While his stints in Ring of Honor and EVOLVE have been hit and miss, his Championship run in Chicago’s AAW is vastly impressive. I’ve always considered Mercedes Martinez the best modern, old school type of Champion, but Silas Young’s ability to work the Championship style is at the top of the food chain.
His only detraction is that PeeGee Waja Plunge, which is a headstand into a moonsault, which is visually interesting but akin to the People’s Elbow in terms of what Mick Foley would call an abortion of a move.
Young is the nephew of Stan Hansen, which shows he has a legacy in the sport. He has ten years in the ring, and his storyline in the initial EVOLVE DVDs was compelling (regardless of how close it came to his personal life). Young can talk, can definitely wrestle with the best and has a solid look.