If we go back ten years ago, the independent wrestling scene was physically “around”, but you really had to go looking for it. If you weren’t a part of the WWE, you weren’t really a big deal. Sure, we’ve had alternatives such as TNA, Ring of Honor, and New Japan was just starting to become a bit of a known name thanks in part to the transition of a certain Beast Incarnate.
Now we can look at the wrestling scene and we realize that the independents are in the best position that they have been in since Vince McMahon took over the WWE. British wrestling is having a huge resurgence, and stars from all over the world are wrestling in North America, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Australia has seen the largest contingent of wrestlers in the WWE landscape come through in the last handful of years, and the Asian market is continuously growing. However, while the market is great, some of the wrestlers are better suited to the indie scene instead of being based out of a technological university in Florida, or wrestling house shows in Charleston, West Virginia.
Here are five former WWE superstars who are better off in the independent wrestling scene:
Rhodes is probably one of, if not the most popular and most in-demand wrestlers within the whole wrestling scene. Rhodes left WWE after death of his father, Dusty Rhodes, as well as some character issues with his gimmick. The man who was known as “Stardust” was languishing in the lower mid-card, doing absolutely nothing before leaving the WWE. What has the son of the American Dream done since he left the supposed “Be all and end all” of the wrestling business?
Well, he has joined Bullet Club, which is only the most over wrestling faction since the turn of the decade. He has had incredible matches with the likes of Kurt Angle, become the Ring of Honor World Champion, and has had numerous great matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
One would think that Rhodes may come back to the WWE prior to his retirement to potentially link up with old ROH alumni such as Adam Cole, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, but only time will tell.
Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio has had two stints with the WWE, and both have been relatively successful, his first being more than the second. His first run was solid, with a WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship run, a Royal Rumble victory, and a Money in the Bank win as well.
After getting fired for an incident backstage, Del Rio returned for a second run where it is probably best forgotten, in which he won the US Championship. His time with the “League of Nations” wasn’t well planned out, and once he left, his stock has risen. He hasn’t done himself any favors by getting into some drama outside of the wrestling world, but he has shown why he is one of the best inside a ring since his departure.
Del Rio has been a Global Force Wrestling World Champion, a WAW Champion, and he has wrestled in AAA and Defiance Wrestling (the former WCPW) all in the space of one year. If he gets his head in the game prior to his retirement, Del Rio/Rhodes could be a dream match at one of the bigger Indie promotions.
I had to look up Jimmie Jacobs after the Young Bucks invasion of WWE RAW, and does this man have a resume or what? He spent over a decade in Ring of Honor, where he was a five-time World Tag Team Champion, as well as winning the World Tag Championship Tournament twice. He competed in WSX, and has won over 25 titles in his time within the circuit, and was a writer in the WWE for a couple of years.
After his release, Jacobs came back at WrestleCircus, interrupting Sami Callihan, as well as making a cameo at Ring of Honor, making a joke at his firing from the WWE. He is also involved with Impact Wrestling, debuting at Bound for Glory, as well as challenging Ray Fenix for a title shot in AAW. Jacobs is in the best spot of his independent career here, especially with the aspect of him being around the Bullet Club.
Here is the one that might cause a little bit of controversy. Emma was the most recently released superstar, along with Darren Young and Summer Rae. Everyone who even remotely followed NXT knew that she could wrestle. Emma and Paige had one of the best women’s wrestling matches in 2013, if not the best match in all of 2013.
She had a gimmick during her later time in the company that could’ve been one of the best, alongside someone like an Alexa Bliss or a Nia Jax. Unfortunately, she was released without being able to showcase that chance.
In saying that, Emma has one of the best chances of her career to go out, improve, and expand her knowledge in the business of the North American, UK, and Australian scene. If she finds the right opportunity, Emma could be one of the most prominent female wrestlers.
The master of the 619 hasn’t been seen in a WWE ring since 2015, but that has not stopped the former WCW/WWE/ECW wrestler from doing his thing around the world. He was a former World Heavyweight and WWE Champion, on top of being a Tag Team Champion, Cruiserweight Champion, Intercontinental Champion, Royal Rumble winner, and a triple crown winner.
Mysterio was an accomplished wrestler before leaving, and has had fantastic matches since with Alberto Del Rio, Kurt Angle, Will Ospreay and AJ Styles. He did have that unfortunate incident with Perro Aguayo Jr, which took his life, but his time in AAA has been fruitful in the time between then and leaving in 2016. Most recently, he had competed in the WCPW World Cup as a part of the Mexico team, losing in a match to Ospreay.
In time, it is almost a certainty that more former independent wrestlers will end up back in the indies. Some of them may come out after winning championships or having infamous feuds that will stand the test of time.