Photo by @BeyondGorilla_
Back in January, in response to the mass signings being made by major companies thanks to the emergence of All Elite Wrestling, I wanted to display that despite so many names being scooped up by the biggest promotions in the world, independent wrestling was not in danger. To do that, I decided to compile a list of 25 of the best independent wrestlers out there today, showing that there is still a wealth of talent on the indies to keep the scene alive across the globe…
…Since then, as is the nature of pro wrestling in 2019, five of my selected list have been signed to major companies, and one of them sadly retired (Thank you, Kris). So with more and more wrestlers getting big time contracts (which is a brilliant thing by the way), I want to continue to show just how good and how safe independent wrestling will continue to be – here are another 25 Amazing Free Agents in Pro Wrestling.
The South Pacific Power House is quickly becoming one of the best and most consistent talents on the U.K. scene. TK is incapable of having a bad match. His combination of size and surprising aerial ability make for a thrilling viewing experience. But the true key to TK’s appeal is his ability to tell a story.
Not many free agents out there can grip people in a single promo like TK can. His direct-to-camera monologues have exploded on social media with how compelling and well-worded they are. And it was this level of storytelling ability that lead him to recently have an incredible match for Riptide Wrestling against his best friend, Chuck Mambo.
Whether you watch him in the ring or in his YouTube series, Escaping the Midcard, I’m sure it won’t take very long to realise that TK Cooper is something very special. (Also, he has a move called Aurora Borealis which automatically makes him a favourite. If his finisher was called Steamed Hams then he’d be the greatest of all time.)
Shigehiro Irie – @Tachimukau_Irie
Shigehiro Irie left his DDT contract to become an independent contractor in the hopes of performing around the world, quickly building a reputation for being a beast in the ring and an all-around absolute unit in the process. Everywhere Irie goes, he impresses with his high match quality, and athletic hoss style.
To me, Irie feels like Jeff Cobb when he first started emerging on the independent scene across the world. Watching him, the wealth of talent on display is more than apparent, it’s obvious he’s going to be a major deal in professional wrestling. He’s got the size to combat against the biggest opponents, with the speed and athleticism to keep up with the best of them.
Shigehiro Irie is something special, it’s probably only a matter of time before he starts picking up top championships in the biggest independent promotions out there. The next time I make one of these lists, it wouldn’t surprise me if Irie had been scooped up to an exclusive contract by then. (Side note: he loves Winnie the Pooh and he’s learning English by watching Disney movies, so how can you not love somebody that wholesome?)
A graduate of the Lance Storm Wrestling Academy, Gisele Shaw is making waves on the UK scene after travelling over from Canada back in January 2019. Although she is clearly glamorous, gaining her the nickname The Quintessential Diva, don’t let looks deceive you. Gisele Shaw is one hell of an athlete – she can hit one of the most gorgeous Avalanche Spanish Fly’s you’ll see in independent wrestling today.
Thanks to her athleticism and in-ring talents, Gisele is blowing audiences away all across the UK scene right now, racking up a major list of companies she’s worked for in such a short space of time. And there’s a reason for that: she seems to impress everywhere she goes, and she only needs one match to do it. Whether she’s wrestling women or men, Gisele Shaw can deliver one of the best matches of the night.
You hear the name Besties in the World, and you assume you’re about to watch a silly tag team. And then you hear them walk out to Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden, complete with actions (which is amazing by the way), and then you really expect them to be a comedy act inside the ring. But then the bell rings and, holy shit can this duo go.
The speed and explosiveness of Mat Fitchett is almost frightening at times, being able to stream together a combo of beautifully executed moves within a matter of seconds, whereas Davey Vega is a solid wrestler who’s personality radiates in the ring, creating entertaining, GIFable moments in every match. Together, they are one of the most exciting teams to watch in US independent promotions today.
The Last True Sick Boy is a horror movie connoisseur that has taken his love of violent, fearful theatre to a disturbing level. Always accompanied by his burlap sack of weapons and oddities, whether that’s mannequin arms or blood-filled VHS tapes, The Video Nasty is a vicious in-ring brawler that is never afraid to swing a variety of unique weapons at his opponent’s skull, or physical rip out a chunk of his foe’s flesh with his teeth.
The biggest appeal of Coyle isn’t necessarily what he does in the ring though, it’s the amount of care and effort he puts into his homemade promos that are some of the best produced speeches available today. With his library of tapes on full display, Coyle speaks directly to the camera with an eerie but captivating tone that is hard to ignore. Follow Coyle on Twitter for a regular helping of these wonderful offerings from a skilled talker and videographer.
You’d expect Coyle’s gory ways to make him an instant villain, yet surprisingly, this Sick Boy became a cult hit with NORTH Wrestling audiences, and has been their reigning champion for over a year. In 2019, Coyle picked up the Defiant World Championship, a belt previously held by Marty Scurll, Rampage Brown, and Austin Aries. Personally, I hope these recent successes are just the beginning for more opportunities for Rory Coyle, his video nasties deserve to have far bigger audiences.
Lucky Kid – @Real_LuckyKid
Lucky Kid is weird. Really weird. Maybe even insane. But in a good way.
The latest winner of wXw’s 16 Carat Gold tournament likes to play mind games with his opponents by screaming, smiling demonically, sticking his tongue at them, and laying on the mat in front of them with his face in his hands. Who knows if any of this is intentional or if he’s just a very unique performer.
Either way, Lucky Kid is so entertaining to watch. His unpredictable antics teamed with his great wrestling ability, and not to mention some brutally hard chops too, make him a delight to watch, and with a lot of recent success, it seems that Lucky Kid is going to gain more and more popularity in the near future, and it will be thoroughly deserved.
Yuu – @Yuu_TJP
As evident by her Twitter handle, Yuu is mostly known for competing in Tokyo Joshi Pro, yet for the last year or so, she’s been travelling around the world and winning audiences over everywhere. Yuu is a diverse powerhouse that loves to utilise an array of impactful slams, and hit some insanely fast hip tosses.
Yuu launches herself across the ring at the detriment of her opponents, whether they’re on the receiving end of a hard-hitting shoulder tackle or a crushing senton. Yuu is a gifted in-ring performer that continues to improve by the match, I cannot wait to see more of her throughout the rest of the year.
Joe Hendry – @JoeHendry
He has a YouTube series literally called “Free Agent” – I had to include him, right?
After sadly being released recently by IMPACT Wrestling (check out my interview with Joe during his time there), Joe Hendry is now a free agent once again, and is one of the most charismatic independent talents out there. He’s funny, he’s a great singer, he’s creative, he’s a solid pro wrestler, he’s a successful amateur wrestler, he’s been on TV, he’s good looking, he’s faced some of the biggest names in wrestling – he’s very easy to hate for all the reasons above, but also very easy to love.
Joe Hendry is best known for his parody entrance songs tailored for his opponents (if you haven’t seen them, you’re seriously missing out), but also his reliability as a grappler has gained him the opportunity to wrestle against the likes of Kurt Angle, Cody Rhodes and more, as well as be featured on international television shows.
Rickey Shane Page – @RickeyShanePage
Mainly known as a highly popular deathmatch wrestler, Rickey Shane Page shouldn’t be pigeonholed as a one dimensional performer. In my opinion, RSP is a fantastic wrestler that can go regardless of what the rules are or how many light tubes are in the ring. Sure, he’s great at the highly violent and gruesome style that he’s become so associated with, an advantage for RSP as that style of wrestling becomes more accepted across independent wrestling around the world, however for those that don’t enjoy deathmatches, don’t automatically dismiss Page completely.
RSP is gifted when it comes to punishing opponents, as well as punishing himself. RSP is a brawler that loves to throw his opponents around, with entertaining results. And whenever his foes decide to bust out an Avalanche Canadian Destroyer on him, it is a sight to behold. Watch the match below, it was one of the best I saw over WrestleMania weekend – I’m sure you’ll be impressed by Rickey Shane Page by the end of it.
Two legends of the British scene that continued to battle through some dark times on the independents are still going strong today, and still putting on fantastic matches. Either as singles wrestlers, or as a team, Storm and Fleisch continue to innovate every time they step into a ring.
I’ve seen these two live on several occasions, with impressive results every time thanks to a stream of new, inventive tag team moves. It seems that Fleisch and Storm have chemistry with just about every team in the world today, and after twenty years, they both still have plenty to give.
He may be a posh Tory bastard, but my god is he entertaining.
Put a microphone in front of Spike Trivet and it’s guaranteed gold every single time. He’ll make you hate his entitled, silver spoon-fed guts, but he’ll probably get a laugh or two out of you as well. Although he is one of the best talkers in the UK today, Spike is no slouch once the bell rings – after all he’s had the finest training money can buy.
Making a big impression in promotions like PROGRESS and Riptide, Spike is quickly climbing the ranks in independent wrestling. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time until international promotions begin booking him too. Whether he’s trying to escape the midcard or telling people not to resuscitate him, Spike Trivet is a gift to watch…. and a posh wanker.
Senza Volto – @SenzaVoltoReal
I don’t think there are many French luchadors out there, but Senza Volto has got to be one of the best. As you can imagine, purely judging by the fact he looks like an MK Scorpion cosplay, Volto is heavily influenced by Mexican wrestling. His crisp dives, lucha repertoire, and seriously smooth springboards make him a delight to watch.
As he begins to compete more across European promotions, I’m sure Volto will gain a reputation for being a solid in-ring performer, and hopefully hone his craft all over the world.
Maki Itoh – @Maki_Itoh
With less than three years experience, this young star is already on the path to greatness. Competing mainly in Tokyo Joshi Pro, Maki Itoh is a charming, charismatic personality that may look like a pure sweetheart, yet once the bell rings, it quickly becomes apparent that she’s a bird-flipping psychopath. Maki just has that X factor that draws people to her regardless of language barriers, with her bright, inviting facial expressions, all-around endearing personality, and warming presence which is impossible to teach.
Having seen Maki live, she is the type of performer that can instantly win over a crowd within 30 seconds. The sight of this beaming, pig tailed grappler sticking her middle finger up at everyone and violently attacking her opponents is absolutely wonderful. I’m sure that soon enough her wonderful personality and in-ring viciousness will rocket her to the top of the joshi wrestling scene.
Two young talents that have tonnes of potential. Whether they’re landing gorgeous Shooting Star Elbow Drops, or hitting Double Jump Avalanche Spanish Fly’s, Joe Lando and Harrison Bourne are bound to impress you inside the ring.
Fast, skilled in the aerial talents, and with so much time left to grow as performers, Addicted 2 Adrenaline will certainly be one of the top names in indie tag team wrestling within the next couple of years.
This wrestler’s kicks are so damn good they will snatch you bald (I hope I said that right).
Visage is quickly becoming one of my favourite independent talents in the U.K. Every time I see the Queen of Queens, Visage improves every single time. Implementing the art of drag into professional wrestling, Visage is just pure entertainment, and somebody you’ll definitely remember once a show is over.
If you’re wrestling against Visage, you need to watch out for that flying wig coming at your face, their impressively high kicks flying at your head, and their 6’1 frame leaping in your direction. As Visage continues to improve and compete more regularly for the likes of Defiant Wrestling, I’m sure the Queen of Queens will soon rule over the British independent scene.
Fast, fluid and full of spectacular moves, Robbie X is really exciting to watch. With an ability to combo moves together seamlessly (including a backflip into a powerbomb which is ridiculous), and compete at a staggering pace from bell to bell, X is a high flyer capable of putting on fantastic matches.
I feel like Robbie X is one opportunity on an international stage away from becoming a sensation for his reliability in regards to putting on a great show in the ring. If Robbie X is performing near you, make an effort to go and watch him – you won’t regret it.
NIWA – @NIWA_Pro
I was first introduced to NIWA at a live show back in January, and instantly I was impressed by this New Zealand prospect. After a lengthy run in CMLL in Mexico, NIWA is now living in the UK trying to make a name for himself, and with his solid fundamentals, impressive array of athletic maneuvers, and some absolutely beautiful dropkicks and enziguri’s, I’m sure as he becomes more experienced and gains more exposure, NIWA will be a top talent in the UK scene.
Shotzi Blackheart – @ShotziBlack
I wish I was as cool as Shotzi Blackheart. Just look at her: the moment you lay eyes on her you know she’s gonna be a badass. Based on her name alone, she deserves her own comic book. She’s the pro wrestling equivalent of Tank Girl, and it won’t be long until she’s a huge name.
With supporters such as IMPACT Wrestling’s Gail Kim, the sky is the limit for Blackheart. In the ring, she’s agile, vicious, and exciting to watch. With her look, presence and ability in the ring, Shotzi Blackheart is definitely a name you won’t soon forget.
Cara Noir – @Cara_Noir
Cara Noir is a beautiful combination of art and abs sculpted into a pro wrestler. Cara is a performer that you simply cannot forget once you’ve seen him. If Black Swan was a pro wrestler, it would take the form of Cara Noir.
Just watching him walk to the ring is an artistic experience, but don’t let the flamboyancy fool you, Cara is a very physical wrestler, a strong striker, and a skilled technician. Cara Noir is a diverse performer that brings something unique to independent wrestling, and this Black Swan deserves a much brighter spotlight than he’s currently being given.
Sugar Dunkerton – @SugarDunkerton
If you hear the name Sugar Dunkerton, and don’t immediately want to know exactly who that is, you have a problem.
Suge D oozes out entertainment and charisma. When you’re in the presence of Sugar, you will have a good time guaranteed. He’s the kind of performer that you just need to experience live. I’ve watched Shug do his thing at family-friendly shows, as well as in front of drunk fans in nightclubs, and he kills it every time, knowing exactly how to play up to the audience he’s in front of.
The best way I can describe The Sultan Of The Slam Dunk is that he is pure fun. He once got put into a triple threat match at a show I attended, and he tried to use Steiner Maths to figure out his chances of winning: that alone won me over. He’s a great wrestler and a student of the game that will have you smiling constantly throughout his matches.
Artemis Spencer is a seriously talented wrestler that sadly was stuck wrestling in his native Canada for the majority of his career. Now, he’s competing mainly in the UK, and quickly winning over fans all over the place. Not only is he the current Defy Pro Wrestling Champion in the US, he’s still one of the top names on the Canadian scene, and he recently competed in PROGRESS’ annual Super Strong Style 16 tournament.
Artemis is an inventive high-flyer that is criminally underrated. Once he finally gets seen by a wider audience, which he is slowly starting to do thankfully, he will become one of the hottest free agents in pro wrestling. (Oh, and he’s basically the reason why El Phantasmo started wrestling so you have him to thank for that too.)
John Klinger – @Lost_Rebel_BB
If somebody has their own logo tattooed on the back of their neck, you probably shouldn’t mess with them.
John Klinger, otherwise known as Bad Bones, is a pretty intimidating looking dude…. at least he was until he started dressing like Macho Man Randy Savage, but he’s still a great performer nevertheless. Having been a mainstay in German pro wrestling for more than fifteen years, Klinger is a former 16 Carat Gold winner, a three time wXw Heavyweight Champion, and has competed worldwide for promotions such as IMPACT, Defiant, EVOLVE, and ICW.
Klinger is a great heel that at times can bring out a great match, especially against larger opponents (watch the match recommended below against Mil Muertes for evidence of that, as well as a brief appearance from myself in the crowd). Whether he’s the devious heel leader of RISE cheating his way to championship gold, or donning tassles and sunglasses as “The Badness”, John Klinger is a surprising performer, yet always entertaining regardless.
A true veteran of British pro wrestling, James Mason has been going strong for over 25 years. For a quarter of a decade, Mason has been perfecting the mat wrestling style to the level of an art form, using it in inventive ways to ground and counter his opponents. If you love technical wrestling, you’ll be a fan of James Mason.
The best way I can describe Mason is smooth: rarely does he put a foot wrong or not execute a move to a textbook degree. When it comes to mat-based grappling, Mason is one of the best, yet can also break up the action with impressive bursts of speed and agility, and is more than skilled at comedy wrestling too, which is why he’s still competing on a regular basis for promotions such as RevPro, against opponents like Zack Sabre Jr. Oh, and he has a great collection of entrance jackets too.
At just 23 years old, Darius Lockhart is applying his craft around the world. With a strong social message and a high level of ability, Lockhart is a seriously promising talent that is a couple of years away from being a major star. Lockhart clearly favours technical wrestling, which he is definitely skilled at, yet he is also an all-around grappler proficient at many styles. Want a mat-based match? He can do it. A back-and-forth brawl with stiff strikes and throws? He can do it. An exciting spotfest? He can do it.
Darius Lockhart has the potential to be a top star wherever he chooses to go, and if he continues to work as hard as he is currently, I’m sure he will be a main-eventer across multiple regions within the next few years.
Mercedes Martinez – @RealMMartinez
Of course she’s best known for competing in both Mae Young Classic tournaments, but don’t forget that Mercedes Martinez is still an independent free agent, and she’s still a fantastic wrestler. Mercedes is a skilled ring veteran with so much passion and dedication to the craft of pro wrestling. Striking, brawling, technical, she’s proficient in it all. She’s an all-round badass that impressed many in the MYC, and the fact she never got signed by WWE after both performances is a crime.
She’s stuck it out as an independent female wrestler for nineteen years now, a role that produced very little opportunities up until a few years ago. And it’s because of the hard work of people like Mercedes during the last twenty years that have helped to get Western women’s wrestling to the place that is today, especially outside of WWE. To compete for that long just shows how dedicated she is, and the quality of her work inside of the ring is the ultimate payoff for that.
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