Hello! We’re finishing the month of July looking at the hottest free agents in wrestling today. With all of WWE’s releases over the past 15 months, there remains many options for returning superstars & professional wrestlers to continue their careers. Never have I seen this amount of talent sitting at home! We could make a new company out of this lot, and that’s not including all the promising independent talent.
Before we begin, there are four names I’d like to highlight for different reasons.
– While Brock Lesnar & Ronda Rousey are technically classed as free agents, there’s no sign of them ever working for anyone other than WWE. As much as they are legit athletes, it would be as legitimately shocking to see them pop up elsewhere. So for this reason we don’t need to put them on the list, because they are taking a break or are considering retirement.
– Tessa Blanchard & The Velveteen Dream are tough to talk about for different reasons. Blanchard, while her father Tully is respected as a manager in AEW, the bullying & racism allegations left more than a blemish on her career. Her work spoke for itself. Impact did everything they could to showcase her star power. It was up there with some of the best, but it’s hard to know if she can ever come back from this.
As for Patrick Clark, formerly known as Velveteen Dream, the allegation of grooming underage fans is something he’s fighting. But much like Tessa, there’s no way of knowing if or when he can prove otherwise. His charisma on TV is unquestionable, but so long as his actual character is, there is no room in wrestling for “The Dream”.
We could have had a top 20, but for the sake of keeping it light, let’s go over some of the other top free agents:
The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce): I loved this team because their confidence shone through and they were getting heat every time they got an opportunity. As heels you’re supposed to annoy the audience, and I can’t remember anyone in the woman’s division being this bad since Vickie Guerrero. It wasn’t all about that though; they had chemistry in the ring. While Peyton Royce carried them, I think Billie Kay was more natural on the mic. Together, they covered each other’s weaknesses and had all the fun in the world being iconic.
B-Team (Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas): Much like The IIconics, the B-Team were a group doing everything they could with what WWE gave them. They took a gimmick which had no right getting over, and made something of it. Becoming tag team champions was never on anyone’s radar, but it somehow came crashing down around them for no good reason.
Shortly after, they disappeared from television and were never seen again. It could be because the gimmick never intended to get over, Vince McMahon thought the theme was too annoying (which is why they changed it), or creative felt they couldn’t do any more with it. Either way, they were finally coming out of their shell, but they need someone to give them a chance to undergo metamorphosis. All we gotta’ do is BO-lieve.
Authors Of Pain (Akam & Rezar): Watching them as a tag team in NXT was drastically different to their run on Raw. Having Paul Ellering as their manager was great because he sold them as a threat, and they backed up his words with their dominance in the ring. AOP might need a team of workhorses to cover their weaknesses, but they can produce excellent outings which sadly were too few on the main roster. They’d flourish more in a wrestling environment, but they need Ellering to sell them again. AOP can talk for themselves, but being the strong, silent types suits them. Wrestling is lacking big men teams to counter balance the abundance of high-flyers.
Ever-Rise (Chase Parker & Matt Martel): Originally called 2.0, and later 3.0 on the independent scene, Ever-Rise slowly found their feet in WWE on 205 Live and NXT. Following in the footsteps of The Rougeau Brothers, they became the first French-Canadian team in WWE for many years.
Whenever I saw them they impressed me with their work rate, chemistry and charisma. They were also a hit with Kevin Owens (who wore their merchandise on SmackDown) and other WWE Superstars. I think they were close to becoming contenders in the NXT tag team division, but for whatever reason they were let go. It came as a shock to them and others because they were featured every week and their future looked bright. WWE pulled the rug from under them, but luckily for another promotion, they will pick up a team who will forever rise to the top.
Killian Dain: One of my favorite heavyweights to work in NXT, Killian Dain (fka Big Damo) struggled in WWE. When it looked like he might get a push, he would lose and fall down the pecking order. With his wife Nikki Cross, he was one of the standout performers of Eric Young’s Sanity stable, but when it disbanded, he went back to NXT while she stayed on SmackDown. It never looked like he would become NXT Champion because of the fierce competition, and they soon placed him in an oddball comedy duo with Drake Maverick. I feel like management did this to test his character, to see if he could show another side to him.
Dain excels as a monstrous heel because he doesn’t have the looks to play a baby face. He’d have to get over first, but he was never booked strongly enough to be taken seriously, nor was he given regular mic time. I know he’s one of the best heavyweight workers in the game, so if someone can figure out his character, they will make him someone fans want to see. In the meantime, he serves as the biggest cheerleader a (almost) super hero can have.
Miro loves life because he has a double-jointed wife. That was the latest of his many humorous compliments directed at his wife Lana, real name CJ Perry. There was a time not so long ago that we hailed her as “The Ravishing Russian”, one of the best managers in WWE. She helped Rusev to many victories, including against his arch nemesis John Cena. However, over time she started losing her Russian accent, and WWE split her away from her husband on TV.
The creative team wrote her in to ridiculous storylines, like marrying Bobby Lashley, and being smashed through a table by Nia Jax nine times in nine weeks. I think there’s still much she could do in this business, but she has to be with her husband. Lana isn’t much of a wrestler, yet she still has appeal. There’s something about her as a character which makes people listen, because she sells. Lana proved this in the early days with Rusev, and I believe she still has it in her. It would take time and a lot of motivation to get her back to a place where confidence can be her ally. When that happens, she can return to ravishing form.
#9. Allysin Kay (fka Sienna)
She is a former Impact Knockout & NWA World Women’s Champion. Kay announced she was leaving the NWA back in November, four days before making her debut at AEW’s Full Gear PPV. Since then, she has worked primarily for Shine, GCW and AAW as a free agent on the independent scene.
This surprises me because Kay has achieved so much in her 13-year career. Either she has been overlooked or there’s something else stopping her, but at least she’s finding work. I wonder if it has anything to do with her calling Tessa Blanchard a liar when she looked to defend herself against the bullying allegations? That’s just me theorizing though. She has done nothing wrong, but she has struggled to make any headway ever since. Wherever she ends up, Allysin Kay would be beneficial to any women’s division. Her match against Thunder Rosa at NWA Hard Times remains one of my favorite women’s matches of the past two years.
After writing this, I found that she is working with Ring Of Honor in a tournament to crown a new champion. I wouldn’t be surprised if she won the whole thing. She would make history by becoming the first woman to win the ROH, NWA and Impact titles.
“I spit in the face of people who don’t want to be cool!” – Remember when WWE brought him back for a minute and then he disappeared? Pepperidge Farm remembers. He was ripped and looked ready to get back in to the flow, but WWE didn’t keep him on. Carlito’s absence from global television remains a mystery, because he has what it takes to do it all.
He might not be the best worker, but his heel character is up there. Yeah, I guess you can’t go around spitting apple at people during a pandemic, but he wasn’t all about that. If anyone ever takes a chance on him, Carlito would be a valued member of any roster. And it’s not like he couldn’t work as a tag team with Chris Masters, Primo, or anyone really. He doesn’t need to be a solo act. Is he difficult to work with or something?
#7. Ruby Riott
WWE’s main roster destroyed what was once a promising career. Ruby Riott is an exceptional worker, but I can only say that of her time on the indies and NXT, because management didn’t allow her to wrestle. Riott worked as an enhancement talent, despite the roster knowing she was one of the best. WWE didn’t understand her appeal, and because they wouldn’t get behind her, the WWE Universe had no reason to either.
Just as it looked like The Riott Squad would become tag team champions, Sarah Logan went on maternity leave and was later released. Over a year later, just as it looked like Ruby & Liv Morgan were gaining momentum as contenders, WWE let Ruby go. It’s crazy that someone so talented between the ropes could be so misused, but it’s all about having something management can get their hands on. In their eyes, she wasn’t entertaining enough outside the ring, but that won’t matter as much elsewhere. Whether it be in AEW, Impact, NWA, or the indies, the newly named Ruby Soho will prove why she’s one of the best in the world.
#6. Tyler Breeze
His NXT character was super over, but like many others, it didn’t translate to the main roster. Tyler Breeze has a ton of creativity in his mind and athleticism in his body, but the thing which puts him above the rest is how influential he is backstage. He makes a great friend and mentor, so having those qualities means any locker room would be lucky to have him.
Breeze could work with anybody, anywhere, and make them look good, but he’s not carrying a company on his shoulders. You don’t always sign someone based on whether they can be World Champion, but on the qualities they can bring to your company. Tyler Breeze is a big thumbs up, and I hope he ends up somewhere he can enjoy being himself, because he’s #SimplyGorgeous.
#5. Buddy Murphy
Buddy Murphy stood on top of 205 Live as its champion for many months, and along the way he worked some of the brands best matches. As a character, he has a long way to go, but as an athlete and wrestler, he’s one of the best in the world. He isn’t lacking on the mic, he just needs consistency and to not be someone else’s servant.
You could pit Murphy against any of AEW, Impact or New Japan’s finest, and he’d wrestle their socks off. He’s smart and physically gifted, so when WWE released him, it came as quite the shock. Especially after they had invested so much time pairing him up with Seth Rollins. Maybe they just wanted to forget the whole Aalyah Mysterio thing? Either way, he has been heavily linked to Impact, but I would prefer to see him show up in AEW, Impact and Japan, just to keep the possibilities open.
#4. Rob Van Dam
No one gets higher than Rob Van Dam, not even Matt Riddle, bro. Yeah, he might be at the end of his career, but don’t count out the Whole F’N Show going anywhere he wants to prove he still is one of a kind. Rob’s Hall Of Fame speech really impressed me, because he didn’t look right in Impact. He was slow and looked high all the time, which was probably the case. Seeing him look somewhat clean and talking articulately was refreshing. He’s so open about his weed business, I wasn’t sure how he would go about it. Luckily for WWE, he kept it as clean as he could, and at least we didn’t get Katie Forbes twerking in the background. That would have been fun! If you like that kind of thing.
He shared a story about Vince McMahon and Triple H complimenting the way he changed the business, so don’t count out them giving him one last run. He’s all about money these days, so if he could handle that, I’m sure he’ll do his best. Ironically, Rob’s not the most patient guy, which means he could decide to return to Impact, because he knows they would give airtime to his girlfriend. I don’t think AEW would have him though, because they know he wouldn’t care enough to stick around for the long term. He’s very honest about the fact it’s all about the money.
#3. Braun Strowman
One of the most shocking releases to many people was the “Monster Among Men”, Braun Strowman; probably because WWE had been using him in the main event scene not so long before. It’s no secret however, that WWE struggled to figure out what to do with his character. This became clear when they stuck him in a feud with Shane McMahon, where he’d be called “stupid” every week for no reason. The only stupid thing about it was how anyone thought it was a good idea. As predicted, the angle tanked on its way to a steel cage match, where it quietly faded away in to the history books. They were looking to garner sympathy for Strowman and build heat on Shane, but no one cared because it didn’t come across as genuine.
When I heard the news of his release, it didn’t shock me as much as it should have. This is a former Universal, Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion. How do you put that much effort in to someone and still have no clue how to use them? The problem was that they let him talk too much, when he isn’t a promo guy. Braun always worked best when he kept things to the point. It’s like expecting Goldberg to cut a fifteen minute promo, when it’s illogical. This week, Strowman let us know he has a choice to make. He has offers coming in from all sides, and which contract he signs will have no choice but to “get these hands”. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, but at least I didn’t add train sound effects.
#2. Daniel Bryan
I don’t enjoy wrestling rumors, but the next two are so rampant they are hard to deny. After all, when someone makes a false report, the affected person often comes out to deny it. When deals are looking to be made, nothing can be said, so the very least we can surmise is that Daniel Bryan is negotiating. What is difficult to predict about this though, is that WWE has done well by him and wife Brie Bella. For a while they wouldn’t clear him, but when this changed they were happy to have him back. In saying that, Bryan hasn’t held a WWE title since before his absence, and the feeling is that they don’t see him as a top guy anymore.
This would be further cemented by how the fans reacted to him being slotted in to the Triple Threat WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. I don’t think it was his fault, though. Many fans assumed Edge would get his one-on-one shot, and they didn’t think Bryan had earned the opportunity. He was being professional by following what creative told him to do, so he became a victim of their booking. I still think the fans support him, and many would love to see him return to WWE, but it depends what he wants to do.
Bryan knows he only has so much left in the tank, and does he want to spend the rest of his career helping WWE? Or does he want to try something else? Does he want new matches? Fresh opportunities? The freedom to do what he wants with his character? While also having the contract to allow him to work in Japan? A WWE contract would ensure security. He wouldn’t need to work so hard and he’s established. Returning to pro wrestling, while so many others are looking to make their mark, could prove to be more difficult than expected. He may also work with some using a stiffer style, which may not suit him because of his history of concussions.
There is no guarantee he would be a World Champion if he moved on to AEW, but at least he would be somewhere he can mentor the next generation of professional wrestling. His career would come full circle, and it’s not like he couldn’t return to WWE if things don’t work out. There would be nothing wrong with giving it a go, even if it were for a year or two. Is it a resounding Yes?! Or will it be an emphatic No?!
#1. CM Punk
Did someone mention Best In The World? Remember when all we ever heard was CM Punk chants, even after he was long gone? AEW Dynamite was treated to this chant for the first time in its history, all because of the rumors circulating online. When AEW announced that the First Dance of Rampage would be in Chicago, it was almost an admittance that he would be there. Darby Allin further teased this by talking about the “Best In The World” straight after. However, while there is a lot of hype surrounding this, I think we have to sit back and think about it subjectively.
How long has it been since he wrestled? Over seven years, but I don’t think it’s a question of if he can still wrestle, but how often he will. Would he negotiate a part-time deal where he works now and then? Or is he the type to go all in by doing everything? Anyone who knows CM Punk knows he’s a guy who gives his all. He isn’t content doing things half-heartedly, so by signing with AEW, he will be there for every show. It wouldn’t take him long to get back in the flow, because he’s the best in the world at wrestling.
However, unlike Bryan, I don’t think Punk is the type to put guys over without reason. There needs to be logic, it needs to be leading somewhere, or he will start questioning the creative team. After all the years fighting WWE’s ways, he’s too headstrong to sit around and not say something. He will speak up if anything isn’t right, and I think AEW would benefit from this. They are the type of people who would take his feedback to heart, instead of dismissing it as stubbornness.
Punk is generous in getting guys over, but he also knows his value, and he isn’t about to hurt his or other’s reputation. He understands business, and he’s only wrestling guys who have earned the right to be in the same ring. This isn’t a knock on him, but merely pointing out the way he gets others over differs to someone like Daniel Bryan. Punk would want to wrestle against the best of the best, he needs something to sink his teeth into. I don’t think he’s showing up to wrestle indie guys on Dark, but he would work tag matches on Dynamite, so long as he’s involved with the main storylines.
When he isn’t wrestling, he has the experience to get talent over on commentary. He isn’t a one-trick pony, he will want to have a go at everything, and AEW would let him do that, while WWE probably wouldn’t. I don’t think Punk would turn WWE down if the offer is right, but money isn’t his only motivator. After all the years away, he just wants to be appreciated. It’s hard to say how he would fit in to the quickly changing landscape of AEW, but it would be exciting to find out.
There’s so many potential dream matches here, but til it happens nothing is set in stone. Please don’t take the reports to heart, because it could lead to disappointment. There is always a chance that negotiations break down and Punk decides not to return. After all, he could star in movies and TV shows, he doesn’t need to make money in wrestling. All we know is they are talking, otherwise it would have been denied by now. Let’s wait patiently to see what happens. 2021 is turning out to be one of the most exciting years, don’t you think? Imagine what 2022 will be like. If it all goes down like reports suggest, the possibilities are endless, but we also can’t get ahead of ourselves. And with that said, thank you very much for reading.