Hi folks. Today we’re looking at five wrestlers who are either unsigned free agents, or are set to become available when their contacts expire at the end of 2019. Where are they likely to go? And what can they offer the wrestling world?
#1. Bandido (ROH/NJPW)
After five years wrestling under the names Magnifico II and Cielito, he split from his tag partner and adopted the new name El Bandido in 2016. Having gained popularity in Mexico working for The Crash promotion, his work caught the eye of The Young Bucks. In 2018, they invited Bandido to work in the main event of their historic All In PPV; on the same team as other prolific luchadors Rey Mysterio and Rey Fénix. While he ended up on the losing side in their tag match against The Golden Elite, Bandido proved he deserved the opportunity to showcase his skills to the world.
One year ago, he declined contract offers from both WWE & AEW. Instead, in a move which Bandido said likely defied logic, he signed on the dotted line with Ring Of Honor. Part of the allure of this deal was being able to work for New Japan as well. In April, he appeared at Madison Square Garden for the first time on the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard show; losing out in a triple threat to Dragon Lee with the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship on the line. He racked more wins than losses through the rest of the year, but was unsuccessful when challenging for the ROH TV, and ROH Tag Team Championships (w/ Mark Haskins).
This young 24-year-old luchador has a long way to go, but his athleticism and adaptability makes him a hot commodity. When I watched him at All In, the way he moves around the ring reminds me somewhat of Sabu in his prime; only without the tendency to sacrifice himself. The fact he’s already impressed The Young Bucks means AEW has the edge when negotiating a new deal, but we also know that WWE is keen. They know this kid is a future star and AEW would benefit greatly from it for years. After all, a popular luchador sells tons of masks, which is what a company in its infancy desperately needs. But is he ready to step up to the next level?
#2. Kelly Klein (Fired by ROH)
You might have read about what happened between Ring of Honor and their Women’s Champion Kelly Klein, but in case you haven’t? Here’s the cliff notes:
- Klein recently revealed on Twitter that ROH does not pay her well, and considering she’s the focus of their women’s division.. expects to be earning (at least) the living wage.
- She also claims ROH does not have a concussion protocol, nor would they give her time off to rehab her concussion.
- ROH announced they would not renew Klein’s contract while she still suffers from a concussion, and while holding the Women’s Championship.
She’s gone a little under the radar this year, likely due to some of the controversies surrounding ROH, along with other female stars making great strides with promotions that seem to care more for women’s wrestling. I’m not going to lie and say I’ve seen much of Klein, but I have seen a few matches and she has potential; I was impressed by her win over Mayu Iwatani at the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard.
Honestly though, this could be quite a steal for AEW. Her husband BJ Whitmer already works there as a producer, so you can say he’s already left the door half open. I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to try her luck in the NXT Women’s division, but it’s super competitive and she might get lost in the mix. AEW is still trying to connect the dots in their division, so if she can get in there and impress enough to become a mainstay? She’ll easily enjoy a good 4, maybe 5 years before she starts thinking about calling it a day?
#3. Killer Kross (Impact Wrestling Contract Dispute)
One of my favourite wrestlers not to be anywhere right now (and hasn’t been in months), is the man known as Killer Kross. His rise to fame has been exceptionally quick, as no one knew who he was before he debuted for Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling promotion. From there, he perhaps became better known for his promo and character work. Impact Wrestling gave Kross a shot in the summer of 2018, and he quickly became one of their most recognized stars. Even more so while allied with Austin Aries & Moose in a Triple Threat type stable. They were split up shortly after Aries left, and the last we saw of him on Impact was in a losing effort to Eddie Edwards in a First Blood match (where he refused to blade, so they had to use fake blood) at Slammiversary XVII.
Since then, he has not been booked and the two sides have been stuck in negotiations. When asked about the situation, he had to be very careful about commenting too much about it (legal reasons), but he did hint it had something to do with merchandising. He was meant to be given something.. but it never happened, which led to the rocky relationship. A month ago, Kross got in to an exchange with his former stablemate Moose over Twitter:
Moose: “I hope that corny slogan (tick-tock) is you preparing to come back to work. Or is that corny slogan you preparing to post another tweet bitching about your contract disputes with impact wrestling.”
Kross: “Ok. Well, you either need prescription glasses- or the noticeable brain damage you have is definitely permanent. Water will not help you at this point Quinn. I’m sorry.”
A week later, Moose chimed in again. His response to Kross agreeing with a fan suggesting he should work for NOAH and face Takashi Sugiura.
Moose: “Disagreed…… just because of the fact that you’re a huge pussy ….. but carry on Kevin have a great day. “
Kross: “Pure class bud. Bring that same energy in Dayton when you see me in person.”
Moose: “I guess @realKILLERkrossis supposed to be this psychopath …..says scary things and threatens to show up unexpectedly to hurt people. (What a joke) how about i play this game with you. Maybe I’ll show up to one of your shows this weekend and beat the f*** outta ya.”
Kross: “If you’re as hammered as you are now when you show up, I won’t be very concerned to be honest.” #DontDrinkAndTweet
As the Revolver promotion is owned by Sami Callihan, Moose sent him a little warning too.
Moose: “No disrespect Sami I’m letting you know now I’m going to f*** him up when see him. Or you can just take me off the show now to avoid Drama”.
Needless to say, much of his year has been surrounded with controversy. The only thing not so, was his girlfriend Scarlett Bordeaux being allowed her release from Impact Wrestling. She recently made her NXT TV debut consoling Candice LeRae after she was attacked backstage, but has yet to make her wrestling debut. Kross is likely to join her in NXT if WWE is interested, unless he & Impact can somehow settle their differences. AEW should try to get him if they can, but he’s likely to sign with the highest bidder.
#4. Marty Scurll (ROH/NJPW)
As a British fan, nothing makes me happier than to see a UK talent doing well for himself. And when Scurll decided not to go with AEW, I felt he’d made the right decision. Marty needed to prove he can be a star in his own right, but has he accomplished that? Well, I can’t really say as I don’t see ROH or New Japan often (my weekly wrestling TV schedule is already too long!), but I think he’s done alright.
Not so much in the singles department, but in becoming the leader of Villain Enterprises. He’s enjoyed a few ROH World title shots, and a chance to take the NWA title from Nick Aldis. Yet, Marty’s biggest success has been leading his stable to be the longest reigning (over a single reign) ROH World Six Man Tag Champions. When his contract expires, will he decide to stay on? Or will he leave them to reunite with his former Bullet Club buddies? There could be WWE interest, and while he’d easily be a leader on the NXT UK brand, I’m sure Scurll would prefer mixing it up on the original NXT.
His future is probably the least certain of those listed, but I’m leaning more towards his continued relationship with ROH and New Japan. He could be enticed, but I know it would have to be a sweet deal with a few perks. I think he’s one of those who needs to know they are gonna’ be used. He doesn’t want to be sat on the bench a year from now, waiting yet another year or two for his contract to expire. Where do you think he will go? And should he bring Villain Enterprises along for the ride?
#5. Taya Valkyrie (Impact Wrestling)
I remember when she first showed up in Impact Wrestling, and right away I knew she had the look. But did she have the skills? Technically, the answer was no. You could see she had skills.. but she’d yet to put them all together. She was also struggling from a weight issue, which she got over after some time away.
Currently, Taya’s in fine shape. So much so that Impact management made her the longest ever reigning Knockouts Champion this year. And yes, we all know that wouldn’t be the case had they kept Tessa Blanchard in the same division; but it’s still impressive nonetheless. She’s played the classic closet champion, defending the belt as rarely as she can legally get away with. And it seems to be working, as the division has no answer for her dominance. Taya enjoyed a great deal of exposure while her husband Johnny Impact (Morrison/Mundo/Nitro etc.) was the Impact World Champion; which made them the first real-life couple to hold both titles simultaneously.
With the news breaking this week about her husband signing a multi-year deal with WWE, it seems likely she will follow. I believe they know what she has to offer and will show interest. Honestly, her only weakness is her ring product; which can easily be improved on in the Performance Center. Taya’s quite the draw in Mexico, as that’s where she originally got over til Impact took notice. In Mexico she is known as “La Wera Loca”, which translates to “The Crazy Blonde”.
As well as being the longest reigning champ in Knockouts history, she’s currently in her third AAA Reina de Reinas title reign. And so you know, she has less than 200 days til she claims the top spot from Faby Apache. If that is the case, Taya will be able to say she’s the longest reigning women’s champion in AAA & Impact Wrestling history. But with her contract reportedly ending very soon, will she be around to enjoy this feat? I’m predicting not.
As The Rock N’ Roll Express said on last week’s NWA Powerrr, “You’ve Got To Be In The Right Place, At The Right Time.” And with so many choices available for wrestlers today, the decision isn’t easy to make. It’s not always about the money, as creative freedom and opportunities (or lack thereof) have become deal makers in negotiations. Wrestlers also like to know they have stability and will be looked after by their employer. Having so many options hands power back to the talent, as they can still make a living (without signing the biggest contract) working for the many independent promotions out there.
And why is that? Because the indies survive on star power. Those who perhaps aren’t ready, or no longer fit the mold, won’t feel the need to give up on their dreams as there’s places to work. This tells us wrestling is in a healthy place, filled with diversity and untapped potential. The market for free agents is likely to heat up over the next few years, and I’m hoping it leads to many memorable moments. I’ve spoken about where I believe the wrestlers are most likely to go, but where do you think they should land? And are there any other free agents who you would like to see broadening their horizons in 2020? Please let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!