10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021

Allysin Kay at AEW Full Gear 2020
Photo: All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Wrestling didn’t have the easiest start to its first year as an international television show, what with having to operate amid a world-altering pandemic. However, the fledgling wrestling company has succeeded despite these setbacks, quickly adapting to unforeseen circumstances and providing some of the most consistent entertainment on TV.

One of the highlights of AEW in the past year has been its frequent use of independent wrestlers. Between Dynamite on TNT and Dark on YouTube, AEW has featured over 130 unsigned performers, not only providing employment but giving a platform to these talented men and women at a time when independent wrestling is suffering.

All Elite Wrestling Champ Jon Moxley on Bringing Stability to an Unstable WorldSee Also

All Elite Wrestling Champ Jon Moxley on Bringing Stability to an Unstable World

Moxley will defend the gold November 7 against Eddie Kingston at AEW 'Full Gear' on pay-per-view.

Some of those indie stars, such as “Powerhouse” Will Hobbs, gritty veteran Eddie Kingston, energetic tag team Top Flight, and impressive rookie Anna Jay, have since been signed to full-time AEW contracts.

As the young company looks to establish itself further in 2021, with a promised second TV show set to debut soon, we thought we would take a look at 10 of the hottest free agents in independent wrestling that we’d like to see showcased in AEW this year.

AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: James Musselwhite

"Speedball" Mike Bailey

In another timeline, Mike Bailey would already be a top star in a major U.S. promotion. Unfortunately, work visa issues in 2016 saw the Canadian athlete banned from the States for five years. This setback didn’t slow the “Speedball” down though, as he continued to ply his craft throughout Europe and Japan, stealing shows with a captivating combination of martial arts strikes and high-flying Lucha libre. With his U.S. ban set to be lifted in the coming months, Bailey should be a top prospect for AEW. Imagine him tearing it up with the likes of Rey Fénix, PAC, and Jungle Boy. Not to mention, current AEW World Champion Kenny Omega is stillawaiting a rematch.

Match To Watch:“Speedball” Mike Bailey vs Keith Lee (Over The Top Wrestling)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Robert Bellamy

Killer Kelly

After establishing herself in Germany’s wXw promotion and delivering a standout match against the legendary Meiko Satomura in the 2018 Mae Young Classic, Killer Kelly was quickly signed to WWE’s NXT UK brand. However, underutilized in her role, Kelly chose to part ways with WWE in early 2020 for new opportunities. Sadly, the pandemic curtailed a planned tour of the U.S. indies, leaving Kelly locked down in her home country of Portugal. She eventually made it to America in late 2020, putting on an instant classic with Allysin Kay atBloodsport and briefly appearing on IMPACT Wrestling. Kelly’s badass look and hard-hitting style, plus her TV experience, would add immediate legitimacy to AEW’s growing women’s division. Also, how good would Kelly look as a member of Team Taz?

Match To Watch:Killer Kelly vs Meiko Satomura (Mae Young Classic)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Ryan Loco

Lee Moriarty

If there’s one man that didn’t let the pandemic kill his buzz in 2020, it was the highly-gifted Lee Moriarty. The 26-year-old Pittsburgh native has been making a name for himself in the Northeast since 2015, but it was a series of matches with veteran Alex Shelley in late 2019 that put Moriarty on the map. “The Apex of Combat” took that momentum into 2020, debuting for the popular Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), appearing on IMPACT’sXplosion, and being the workhorse of The Collective (a weekend of wrestling shows that took place in Indianapolis in October 2020). With his self-coined “TAIGASTYLE,” inspired by his love for Wu-Tang Clan and Japanese wrestling icon Tiger Mask I, Moriarty and his impressive hybrid skillset would make a perfect fit in AEW.

Match To Watch:Lee Moriarty vs Alex Shelley (Absolute Intense Wrestling)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Robert Bellamy

Holidead

Holidead is one of those wrestlers where it’s hard to believe she hasn’t been snatched up yet by a major company. She brings an eerie yet enigmatic presence to the ring with an eye-catching look and an impressive commitment to character. A seven-year pro who was trained by the likes of Gangrel and Rikishi, Holidead has been representing the darkside all around the world, from Stardom in Japan to Ring of Honor (ROH) stateside. She’s also a frequent tag team partner of AEW regular Thunder Rosa (as the brilliantly named Twisted Sisterz). Given that Rosa currently has her hands full with AEW’s Dr. Britt Baker and her sidekick Rebel, it would be ideal timing to bring in Holidead for some back-up.

Match To Watch:Holidead vs Deonna Purrazzo (Ring of Honor)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Ryan Loco

Chris Dickinson

Indie stalwart Chris Dickinson feels like he’s on the verge of superstardom, especially after his recent New Japan Pro Wrestling debut as part of the NJPW Strong show. Wrestling since a teenager, Dickinson has the gritty, old-school appeal of a territories-era veteran, despite being only 33. Whether he’s powerbombing foes or cutting heartfelt promos, there is an authenticity to this 235-lb. bruiser that makes it easy for audiences to connect with him. A mainstay of GCW, the self-described “Dirty Daddy” had arguably the biggest match of his career this past October in the main event ofBloodsport against former AEW World Champion Jon Moxley. We certainly wouldn’t mind seeing that match again on AEWDynamite.

Match To Watch:Chris Dickinson vs Brian Cage (Beyond Wrestling)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Nick Karp

Allysin Kay

Allysin Kay is the one person on this list who has already had a brief taste of AEW, fighting against Serena Deeb for the NWA Women’s title at Full Gear back in November 2020. A 12-year veteran who has competed everywhere from IMPACT to the NWA to the WWE’s Mae Young Classic, Kay brings with her an obvious star presence wherever she goes. Her size and power, combined with her MMA experience, make her a lethal competitor who could introduce a different dynamic to AEW’s women’s division. Having recently become a free agent, Kay is a must-have signing for AEW; she has the name value to elevate the division plus the industry experience to be a great locker room leader.

Match To Watch:Allysin Kay vs Miyu Yamashit (Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Scott Lesh

AR Fox

AR Fox might be one of the most criminally overlooked wrestlers working today. He’s been performing at a consistently high level for years, wrestling everywhere from Combat Zone Wrestling to Dragon Gate to Evolve; he even had a stint in Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s former developmental territory. But it was his run in Lucha Underground in 2016 (as Dante Fox) — where he had a series of incredibly brutal matches with Killshot (now WWE’s Isaiah “Swerve” Scott) — that seemed to position him for greatness. Unfortunately, Lucha Underground was canceled, and Fox returned to the indies, where he continues to deliver high-octane matches, including a fantastic battle at The Collective against the legend 2 Cold Scorpio. It’s about time Fox got to shine on a bigger platform.

Match To Watch:AR Fox vs Willie Mack (AAW Pro)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Scott Lesh

Willow Nightingale

The super talented Willow Nightingale has all the tools to be the next breakout babyface in pro wrestling. With her colorful attire, big hair, and an even bigger smile, it’s hard not to be drawn in by this young grappler and the positive energy she exudes while in the ring. Making her debut in 2015, Nightingale has the size and strength to deliver big power moves but isn’t afraid to bust out top rope moonsaults and missile dropkicks when she pleases. Whether in singles competition or as one-half of The Bird And The Bee with Solo Darling, Nightingale knows how to get a crowd on her side. Recent appearances for GCW and Beyond Wrestling have seen Nightingale continue to attract new fans, and it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the world falls in love with “The Babe With The Power.”

Match To Watch:Willow Nightingale vs Holidead (Full Hybrid Wrestling)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: JayLee Photography

O'Shay Edwards

O’Shay Edwards might not be as recognizable as some of the others on this list, but that’s certainly not for lack of talent. At 6′ 3″ and 270 lbs, Edwards is a big, beefy brawler who cuts an imposing figure when he steps into the ring. But as intimidating as Edwards can be as a monster heel, he also has the likability factor to be a huge fan favorite. He has such an amazing backstory, a firefighter for 15 years who struggled with his sexual identity until he discovered wrestling, where he found the freedom and acceptance to come out as bisexual. Edwards has a clear passion for the craft, continuing to hone his skills at the ROH dojo while perfecting his promo work in his “Seat At My Table” vignettes. Let’s see the “Big Bad Kaiju” against some of AEW’s hosses like Brian Cage and Wardlow.

Match To Watch:O’Shay Edwards vs Anthony Henry (Southern Underground Pro)

10 Independent Wrestlers AEW Should Sign in 2021
Photo Credit: Sadiel "Speedy" Ruiz

Trish Adora

Trish Adora featured on the list I wrote last year about women AEW should bring in to challenge Hikaru Shida, and I will continue to bang the drum for “The Afro-Punk” until she’s signed. A military veteran who decided to pursue her dream of becoming a wrestler, Adora has quickly cemented herself as one of the industry’s top rising stars. She is creating a legacy for the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship, defending it in promotions across the U.S., including in a show-stealing match at The Collective against Suge D. Also, she has the best named finishing move in wrestling: the “Lariat Tubman.” Whether AEW comes calling or not, I feel confident Adora will be signed by a major promotion before 2021 is out.

Match To Watch:Trish Adora vs Lindsay Snow (Queens of Combat)