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5 Indie darlings who changed WWE for the better

Sanjay Dutta
Top 5 / Top 10
Published 03 Jan 2020, 21:30 IST
03 Jan 2020, 21:30 IST

Seth Rollins and AJ Styles
Seth Rollins and AJ Styles

On December 31st, we not only said goodbye to the year 2019, but also to the 2010s as a decade. The 2010s were interesting for WWE. The decade saw the launch of the WWE Network and the Performance Center, two of the company's most ambitious endeavors. We also saw a complete restructuring of the company's developmental system with the introduction of NXT. WWE also branched outside its home base, USA, by launching NXT UK and a Performance Center in the UK. 

The 2010s also saw the rise of Women's Wrestling in the company. Women went from having a 4-minute match at WrestleMania 26 at the start of the decade to main-eventing The Showcase of Immortals at WrestleMania 35 in 2019. 

Perhaps, the biggest change within the company in the decade saw a major shift in their philosophy of what constitutes a star. For the longest time, Vince McMahon & Co. stressed having homegrown talents as it's top stars. Superstars like Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Batista, whom the company build from ground up, were marquee names on WWE programming the decade prior. 

But, the 2010s saw the company bringing in talent who didn't fit the mold of a prototypical WWE Superstar. These were names who were renowned in the wrestling world for their in-ring acumen and had made a name for themselves prior to their arrival in the company. The landscape of WWE would have been entirely different had the company stuck to its guns. 

Here are five indie darlings who changed WWE for better: 

#5. Kevin Owens 

Owens is a heavy crowd-favorite to win the 2019 Men
Owens is a heavy crowd-favorite to win the 2019 Men's Royal Rumble match

With a career spanning almost two decades, Kevin Owens was one of the most renowned names during his time in the independent circuit. As Kevin Steen, Owens performed for every major independent company and held numerous titles in all of these promotions. Owens was the cornerstone of ROH and PWG, two of the most-renowned independent promotions in the states. Owens is a record third-time holder of the PWG World Championship and became the first Canadian to capture the ROH World Championship after he defeated Davey Richards for the title at Border Wars 2012.

Owens signed with WWE in 2014 and would immediately become one of the top stars on NXT, capturing the NXT Championship a mere two months after debuting on the Black and Gold Brand. He would debut on RAW while holding NXT gold and confront John Cena, laying him out with a Pop-Up Powerbomb. Owens would shock the world by defeating Cena in his debut match on the main roster at Elimination Chamber 2015.

Owens carried the momentum into 2016 by becoming the second man to hold the Universal Championship and held it for the next seven months. After almost two years of near-complete irrelevance, the Quebec-native seems to have finally found his groove as the top babyface on RAW.


Owens is one of the most charismatic Superstars on the roster today. Despite not having the build of a prototypical WWE Superstar, he more than makes up for it with his impeccable mic skills and performances inside the squared circle. 

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Modified 03 Jan 2020, 21:30 IST
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