The independent wrestling scene can be a scary entity for many WWE fans. The shows aren’t in 15,000 seat arenas, there aren’t multi-million dollar lighting rigs or a huge production team, but there are still amazing promotions with brilliant story lines, sensational wrestling, and performers who are out of this world.
One of the up and coming independent wrestlers who has been making waves in promotions throughout America is Matt Riddle, and he is someone you shouldn’t sleep on.
Matt Riddle’s Background
Riddle is a unique entity on the wrestling scene. He started as a Mixed Martial Artist, using his high school wrestling background and self-taught Jiu-Jitsu Riddle began to make a name for himself in The Ultimate Fighter 7. While he was unsuccessful there his potential caught the eye and he was given a UFC contract. Riddle was fairly successful in the Middle and Welterweight divisions but multiple positive tests for marijuana led to his release from UFC in 2013. While he would fight for Bellator and Titan FC, Riddle soon turned his eye to professional wrestling though, and in October 2014 began training.
His Career To Date
While Riddle officially debuted February 2015 it wasn’t until October 2015 that he started to find his feet. He debuted in the east coast promotion ‘Evolve’, which has strong ties with WWE. It is thought that a WWE tryout led to Riddle’s involvement with Evolve. Since then he has gone on to make his debut in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, which has had champions such as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and recent NXT signee Roderick Strong, this summer and take on Cody Rhodes at a House of Glory show.
Riddle plays to his background in the ring, using an amateur wrestling and shoot-fighting style to break down his opponents. There is a lot of grappling and submission exchanges in Riddle’s matches along with some hard strikes and a few laughs as well. Riddle is a laid back guy, and that comes across well in his matches, making them all enjoyable.
Stand Out Matches
Riddle first came to my attention at EVOLVE 59, part of their WrestleMania weekend series, in a match against Zack Sabre Jr. His ability to keep up with the ‘Technical Wizard’ really impressed me, and his ability to interact with the crowd kept the slower moments fun. He had a good match with TJ Perkins at EVOLVE 69 before Perkins left for WWE full-time and then put on a wonderful show against Kyle O’Reilly at the 2016 Battle of Los Angeles for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
Riddle’s future is extremely bright. His well honed athleticism and combat experience have shot him up the ranks of the independent scene and he is now an in demand performer throughout America. Where he goes from there will be interesting to see. Japan would feel like a natural next step given their penchant for hyper-real, shoot-style matches although after Matt Sydal’s recent brush with the law thanks to marijuana he may avoid that route and head to Britain and Revolution Pro Wrestling like Chris Hero has.
When Will WWE Come Calling?
That’s the question really isn’t it. The obvious comparison, given his UFC background, is Brock Lesnar, but Riddle’s physique and drawing ability is not on that level. With a billed weight of 170lbs he would fall into the Cruiserweight division, but given WWE’s problems getting the division off the ground they would probably be unwilling to invest in more Cruiserweight talent any time soon. NXT always needs new blood but I have a feeling Riddle will be waiting a while for his call from WWE, which is just fine because there is still plenty for him to achieve on the indies.