Adding the indie promotions of wXw, ICW, PROGRESS, and EVOLVE to the WWE Network has allowed fans to unearth some of the earlier works and incarnations of many of WWE's current top names. Digging through these archives can be a treat, and if you look hard enough, you might be surprised at what you uncover.
The atmospheres within these promotions are often loud, uncensored, and teeming with passion for this great sport. Crowds are electrified, and unafraid to drop more than a few curse words. Likewise, competitors wouldn't hesitate to respond in kind. Honourable top-draw, Drew McIntyre dropping multiple f-bombs? You better believe it!
Most importantly of all, was that many of the matches were career-defining moments in the wrestling underground, with yet-to-be household names injecting boundless creativity and an all-or-nothing attitude towards their performance. For all the understandably low production values compared to the big brands of wrestling, the likes of PROGRESS and EVOLVE contain some of the most fun and mind-blowing contests to be found on the Network.
Here's a rundown of some of the best, featuring the now WWE stars of today...
10. Tommaso Ciampa VS Killian Dain (PROGRESS, 2015)
Preceding this match on the WWE Network compilation is a brief testimony from Tommaso Ciampa, stating that this contest was a game-changer for his career back in 2015. He and the then Damo O'Connor unanimously decided that they were going to give it their all, and prove themselves worthy. It showed.
Here we had a cocky showman version of Ciampa's character, a little more wise-cracking than his grittier gimmick of recent NXT years. He works the crowd into a frenzy for the better part of the match, and begins the windups early on, when getting busted by the ref for concealing a hidden pair of hair clippers. A suitably hairy Damo expressed no amusement.
The dynamic of the two athletes made for an extremely pleasant mix of brutal hard knocks and high-flying escapades throughout the match, with Damo relentless in his joyless nastiness and Ciampa never failing to show the world his worth as a star-attraction. After his closing slam to Damo and the resulting three-count, the fans are well fed, and express their gratitude loud and clear.