Inside the Indies Special Edition: Getting To Know Your New Developmental Prospects

Big news keeps hitting the net today that WWE has signed or is looking to sign a whole slew of indie workers to developmental contracts. After a few years where the policy seemed to be rooted more in signing untrained guys based on their look and breaking them into WWE style, the new NXT is shaping up to be a breeding ground for the hot indie talent in the country right now that are hoping to follow in CM Punk and Daniel Bryan’s footsteps. Since, as always, I’m a proponent of independent professional wrestling and the talented men and women who have made it their life’s work, I’d like to take this opportunity to give anyone who isn’t familiar with these workers some insight into who they are, and what qualities to look for when they become the stars of the future.

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–To start with, one person who signed back in April and is just now breaching the world of FCW/NXT: “Big Rig” Brodie Lee, who will be known in developmental by his infinitely less interesting name Luke Harper. Who gets the feeling someone was reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” there? Anyhow, Harper is a Rochester native who differs from most indie standouts: he’s 6’7 and 280 lbs. He’s got a great physique and does a decent mix of power moves. He has that great aura that combines a little bit of redneck swagger with a darker side; he at once could remind you of Diesel (hence the truck driver gimmick) or The Undertaker (hence the awesome choice of entrance music in the indies, Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”. ) I think now’s a great time to start using him. Everyone by now has heard about the awesomeness that is Bray Wyatt, the former Husky Harris’s Waylon Mercy-esque character. Unfortunately, Wyatt just tore a pec, and he’ll be out for roughly six months. They also just let go his former lackey Eli Cottonwood. And honestly, the thing everyone loves about Bray Wyatt is the creepy promos, not Husky’s ring work. Easy solution here is to just make Bray Wyatt a manager for the duration of his injury and let him back Luke Harper. You keep the Wyatt character fresh, you give Harper some of the rub from that, and when Wyatt’s healthy again you have an evil Southern Gothic tag team ready to go. Wins all around. Check out some Brodie from his time in CHIKARA:

–Also from CHIKARA, as well as SHIMMER, Jersey All Pro, and formerly of ROH, they’ve signed Sara Del Rey. Del Rey is probably the top female wrestler in America right now, or at the very least in the independent scene. She’s made her mark by being a dedicated student of wrestling, and has spent time training with Daniel Bryan. She’s also been notable for competing in intergender matches, even challenging CHIKARA champ Eddie Kingston. At one time she was aligned with the Kings of Wrestling in ROH, better known as current Smackdown superstar Antonio “Claudio Castagnoli” Cesaro and NXT star Kassius “Chris Hero” Ohno. (Now they should sign Shane Hagadorn as, like, a referee or something, just to get the complete set). It’s hard to say what role she’ll fill in WWE, but she’s damn sure going to be one of the most talented Divas they’ve had. Check her out:

–“The Man That Gravity Forgot”, PAC, is another signee. Hailing from Newcastle-upon-Thyne, England, this man is without a doubt one of the most insane high flyers working today. While he’s not very big, his acrobatic moves are crisp and really unique, something that will set him apart from all the other high flying cruisers. Signing to WWE will have one benefit for him: He can ditch that stupid name. “PAC” makes you think of 2-Pac, X-Pac, or Pac-Man, not necessarily a British cruiser who’s whiter than Sheamus and most likely doesn’t eat ghosts. However, “The Man That Gravity Forgot” has that really epic 60’s sci-fi, Philip-K.-Dick-by-way-of-Flash-Gordon vibe to it, and they should think about letting him keep it. Other than that, his best bet in WWE is if they actually launch the all-cruiserweight show. If not, he needs to bring a move to WWE that has never been seen there before and really blow everyone away. His corkscrew shooting star is a personal favorite, but I gotta say, it’s high time someone brought the 630 Splash to WWE. Clear a spot for your jaw on the floor and check out PAC:

–Matt Taven has been appearing in ROH lately, and has made a bit of a name for himself around the indie world. He’s one of the latest signees to developmental, and of all of them, he’s the one who could benefit most from some developing. He’s got a good look, and some of his offense looks great, but he doesn’t have a huge moveset yet and he needs polish. He does, however, have the Shawn Michaels-style underdog face selling routine pretty well down, where every offense move he scores looks like it was out of desperation. And that ain’t bad. Take a look at Taven, especially if you like arm drags:

–Mercedes Martinez is allegedly on the bubble for getting signed right now. She’s another SHIMMER alum who’s worked for a variety of companies, including ROH, Afa Anoa’i’s WXW, Jimmy Hart’s Wrestlicious, and many others. I’m not going to lie, I’m not an expert on Mercedes but I’ve heard a lot of good things. She seems to be another woman who’s very dedicated to professional wrestling and she brings a little Latin flavor to the table. I could see feuds with some of the other Hispanic Divas, such as Eve, Rosa, and even Vickie Guerrero in her future. Let’s all take a look at what she can do: 

                                    
                                   
And two more names that I’ve heard are rumored to be in talks with WWE:
–I hyped up Johnny Gargano last week in my Inside the Indies. He has a goofy charisma that he backs up with some serious skills in the ring. As a member of F.I.S.T. he’s part of one of the top heel teams of CHIKARA, and he’s made his name in DGUSA/EVOLVE and plenty others. He’s another maybe for the all-cruiserweight show, although he has the ding against him of vaguely resembling Trent Baretta, who’s supposedly a John Cena pet project. Baretta’s awesome but still, he’s not The Bee’s Knees, The Cat’s Pajamas, and The Whole Shebang:

                                 
 
–“The Callihan Death Machine” Sami Callihan has been all over the indie & international scene in the last few years: CZW, ROH, PWG, EVOLVE, DGUSA, PWS, AAW, WXW, 2CW, Big Japan, Fight Club Pro, and even Wrestling Retribution Project. With that kind of pedigree you know this guy is no joke. For a young guy he has a decent pedigree, having trained with Les Thatcher in HWA and working with the likes of Jon “Dean Ambrose” Moxley, Chad Collyer, and Nigel McGuinness. He’s done hardcore as well as technical wrestling, and he’s developed a great Goth gimmick for himself without going too far over the top. He’s got a great future ahead of him if he does get signed to WWE, and at only 24 he’s got plenty of years to hone his craft and work on his physique (he’s only about 200 lbs., but he looks like he’s got the kind of frame that can accommodate more muscle.) Given some seasoning he could be a solid mid-card hand or more. His Headlock Driver, from the corner or the ground could be a great finish for him that he could do to anyone.

                              
                                    
–So that’s the current crop. Of all of them I think Brodie Lee has the best chances for success because, well, he’s the big one, but all of them are talented wrestlers who have something to offer WWE. Until next installment, remember, support your local indie scene.