For years if not decades, the vast majority of WWE superstars competed for the company under exclusive contracts. They weren’t allowed to wrestle anywhere else without explicit approval, though there were a few exceptions here and there.
Jerry Lawler continued to work in the Memphis area despite being signed. Vader worked All Japan’s first Tokyo Dome Show in 1998 despite being signed to WWE. Several superstars worked a tribute show for Yokozuna shortly after his passing.
And most recently, Shinsuke Nakamura wrestled The Great Muta in Muta’s final appearance at a NOAH show in January.
Perhaps taking it as a sign of a changing landscape, WWE appears to be moving away from its locked-in exclusive contracts and will allow its wrestlers to compete elsewhere while still under contract.
Or at least, the wrestlers on one specific brand will have this luxury going forward.
New WWE rule on independent wrestling limited to NXT wrestlers for the moment
The announcement came from Bryan Alvarez of The Wrestling Observer/F4WOnline, who posted to Twitter that this change appears to be limited to NXT wrestlers only at the moment.
Per this announcement, the yellow brand’s wrestlers will be given the freedom to wrestle for “select” independent wrestling companies moving forward.
The specific companies in question and details on which companies actually constitute “select independents” have not yet to be confirmed.
However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time NXT wrestlers were able to wrestle for independent promotions while being signed to WWE contracts.
Johnny Gargano was one wrestler that had this freedom; during his time teaming with Tommaso Ciampa, he also wrestled for promotions like SMASH, CHIKARA, Absolute Intense Wrestling, EVOLVE, Beyond Wrestling, and Chaotic Wrestling.
Speaking of Ciampa, he’s another wrestler that had this benefit. During the same period, Ciampa wrestled for indy promotions such as AWE, VIP Wrestling, PROGRESS, XICW, and of course, Beyond Wrestling and EVOLVE.