As we approach 2020, the top free agent in wrestling is Luke Harper. The former WWE Intercontinental Champion and multi-time Tag Team Champion will have to contend with WWE's no-compete clause for a few months, but we will see him in the wrestling world sooner than later. Harper recently filed for a US trademark on his former ring name "Brodie Lee", suggesting that he will return under that alias. At 6'5" and 275lbs, Harper will be one of the largest men not in WWE which will immediately make him stand out in whichever company he chooses to wrestle for. Harper turned 40 years old this month but is fully healthy and motivated to wrestle a full schedule for at least several more years.
The rumors about Harper being held back in WWE say that it was because of his inability to do a convincing southern accent, which rubbed Vince McMahon the wrong way and there is a rumor that Vince hated a dark match that Luke Harper and EC3 had at a SmackDown taping on September 4th 2019 in San Diego. It should be noted that there is no public record of any wrestler saying anything bad about Luke Harper whatsoever and that he has no record of arrests or anything that would deter someone from wanting him as an employee. On episode 197 of Talk Is Jericho, Chris Jericho mentions that Harper is "one of the most popular guys in the WWE locker room".
Harper put on tremendous performances in tag matches as a part of The Wyatt Family and The Bludgeon Brothers and had spectacular singles matches with Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler on the main roster. Harper gave Dominik Dijakovic his best match in WWE at the 2019 Worlds Collide event at WrestleMania Axxess - seriously, watch this match to see what Harper is capable of doing with an athletic opponent. Harper hails from Rochester, New York and is married with two children, making it more likely that he'll stay on the east coast but he also has worked in Japan for Dragon Gate and has no record of statements loathing travel outside of being trapped in Saudi Arabia (#NotTop20), a bad tour of England years ago, and he loves his family and wouldn't like to be away from them all the time. No company outside of WWE would really keep him away from his family as much as WWE has, so the market is wide open. Below are the top five potential paths forward for Luke Harper in pro wrestling. In the comments below, share who you'd like to see Luke Harper wrestle and for which company.
Although every executive in AEW has gone on record saying that they don't want to fill up their roster with retreads from WWE, Luke Harper is unlike anyone on any roster outside of WWE. Harper would immediately add to AEW's programming and has worked well with Jon Moxley, PAC, & Cody Rhodes in the past. The thought of Harper working with any of the men on AEW's roster in singles or tag team action is incredibly enticing. His combination of athleticism, power, storytelling, and experience in the wrestling business is invaluable. Harper can be used as a top guy and then moved to a player/coach type role similar to Kassius Ohno & Dustin Rhodes' roles in their respective companies. Last week, Cody Rhodes told Talk Sport's Alex McCarthy "[Harper] would be great as part of AEW. He's a name that when you hear they've asked for their release, you definitely think about that and the next steps, for sure. I think he's going to flourish with what he does next, he's very special."
2. Impact Wrestling
The team of Scott D'Amore, Josh Matthews, Don Callis, and Jimmy Jacobs has been churning out a fascinating wrestling product for the past year as Impact works hard to earn back their fans' trust after years of mismanagement by previous regimes. Luke Harper has a great history of working with Jimmy Jacobs in the ring in ROH & Dragon Gate USA and behind the scenes in WWE while Jacobs was on the creative team. Although Impact isn't on the level of AEW, do not underestimate the allure of working for a great boss in a healthy locker room. The team that Impact has right now is full of joy and creative freedom and it is translating in their product. The vibe coming out of Impact is very positive as they continue to build their brand behind stars like Sami Callihan, Tessa Blanchard, Brian Cage, Taya Valkyrie, & Rich Swann and veterans like Rob Van Dam, Ken Shamrock, & Rhino. Harper would be given the creative freedom to establish whatever persona he's got in mind as he builds Brodie Lee into a brand that he can ride for the rest of his career. If Harper wants to get creative and try things that no one in wrestling has tried before, Impact is establishing itself as the most experimental company in wrestling.
Luke Harper publicly voiced his discontentment with WWE prior to his match with Dominik Dijakovic in a Tweet. In that Tweet, Harper noted that he had been medically cleared for 2 months and was not being used by WWE until this match. Harper stated that this made him start to doubt himself and that the lack of activity made him think that others were doubting him too. If Luke Harper goes to NJPW and brings the fire he had in that match with Dijakovic, no one will doubt him ever again. NJPW is the place to showcase how physical he can get in the ring while telling a story. New Japan World is readily available online and the company looks to be forming the beginnings of an alliance with AEW. Luke Harper would match up well against the likes of Okada, Ishii, Tanahashi, KENTA, Kota Ibushi, Minoru Suzuki, and Will Ospreay. Harper's resemblance to the legendary Bruiser Brody could also get him even more over in Japan. Harper could also be used in a stable or a tag team to help elevate other Japanese talent that could use some extra attention. Although NJPW's wrestling style is more physical than WWE's, their schedule has fewer dates and will hopefully extend the former WWE Intercontinental Champion's career.
NWA Powerrr has made a splash since its debut on YouTube two months ago. NWA Champion Nick Aldis has carried the banner honorably for the company but he would certainly benefit from having Luke Harper as a challenger. Marty Scurll is another free agent in wrestling that has been making waves and his appearance at NWA Into The Fire shocked the wrestling world this past month. Scurll is much smaller in stature than Harper, but his reputation as a wrestler and entertainer is quite large. NWA Powerrr also boasts talent like Aron Stevens, James Storm, Eli Drake, Colt Cabana, Royce Isaacs, Tim Storm, and Mr. Kennedy. If Harper has a soft spot for studio wrestling, NWA Powerrr's taping schedule would allow him to scratch that itch while still competing on independent shows throughout the globe. Harper would immediately enter the NWA as a threat to the world champion and could help establish Luke Harper as a main event talent in the eyes of the fans. NWA Powerrr tapes in Atlanta, which is convenient for travel and has opportunities in film and television if Harper wanted to test those waters a bit more as well.
Luke Harper only wrestled in ROH for a little under a year in 2008-2009 but his former stablemate, Delirious, is now the head booker, Senior Producer of Ring Of Honor television, and head of the ROH Dojo. If Luke Harper still has a good relationship with Delirious, he'd be a great fit at Ring Of Honor. Luke Harper would match up well with PCO, Bandido, Jeff Cobb, Jay Lethal, and Brody King (who is almost a clone of Luke Harper). A lot of that crew still competes regularly in PWG in Los Angeles, which is known for its "best bout" style of wrestling that Harper seems to be wanting to wrestle. PWG also can open doors for wrestlers in Hollywood as it is attended by many in the entertainment industry. Harper has only appeared in one TV show and one film, but a 6'5" 275lb man like Harper could find some opportunities available to him outside the ring in LA. On episode 197 of Talk Is Jericho (which is definitely worth a listen), Harper mentioned that he feels that he has so much more to give as a performer and it looks like we'll finally get to see what he has to offer very soon.