With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting travel and rosters for all major wrestling promotions, it has also created opportunities for indie talents that may not have occurred at this stage of their careers. All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has utilized many regional and national indie talents on episodes of both AEW Dynamite and AEW DARK over the past few months, while IMPACT Wrestling has used various Canadian indie wrestlers in segments involving The North. In the WWE Universe, EVOLVE star Leon Ruff has quietly become a WWE Superstar and has appeared on nearly every WWE program since March of this year. After his debut on 205 Live on Friday night, he’ll have appeared on Raw, SmackDown, NXT, Main Event, and 205 Live, with only NXT UK left as the sole WWE brand to appear on.
A student from the World Wrestling Alliance 4 (WWA4) Wrestling School in Atlanta, Georgia, Leon Ruff was trained by EVOLVE Champion AR Fox. Making his debut in the summer of 2017, it didn’t take long for the young star to get noticed. By the end of his first year, he was already working under the World Wrestling Network (WWN) umbrella with Full Impact Pro and American Combat Wrestling (ACW).
In 2018, he expanded into the Northeast, working with Rhode Island’s Wrestling Has A Tomorrow (WHAT) and into the Mid Atlantic with Carolina Wrestling Federation (CWF) Mid-Atlantic. In June of 2018, a year after his start in the business, he made his debut with EVOLVE Wrestling at EVOLVE 106 in New York City. In short time, he was reunited with his mentor, AR Fox, and became part of the faction The Skulk, alongside fellow WWA4 students Liam Gray, Adrian Alanis, and Tommy Maserati. The Skulk began appearing outside of EVOLVE as well, showing up in Beyond Wrestling, ACTION Wrestling, and Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW).
On July 13, 2019, on the EVOLVE 10th Anniversary show, EVOLVE 131, Leon Ruff & AR Fox captured the EVOLVE Tag Team titles, defeating The Unwanted‘s Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy live on the WWE Network. They would hold onto the titles for 147-days. Ruff made his WWE debut on NXT on December 4, 2019, when he and fellow Skulk member Adrian Alanis faced off against The Forgotten Sons‘ Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake.
With EVOLVE Wrestling’s alliance with WWE, which began in 2015, WWE scouts have had a first-hand account of watching Leon Ruff grow into the wrestler he is today. And they must like what they see, as Leon Ruff found himself on WWE television in singles action on the March 20, 2020 edition of WWE Main Event, where he faced off against Aleister Black. Only a few days later, he had a re-match with Black, but this time on Monday Night Raw on March 23, 2020.
His next appearance came on SmackDown on May 1, where he faced Sheamus, before making his way to NXT. He made his NXT return on May 6 in a crushing loss to Karrion Kross in Kross’ in-ring debut and then returned on May 27 to face Tomasso Ciampa.
While on one hand, Ruff has so far managed to step in the ring against some pretty big names like Aleister Black, Sheamus, Karrion Kross, and Tomasso Ciampa in his run with WWE so far, sadly he’s been pretty heavily dismantled in almost every instance. But all that may change on Friday when he makes his 205 Live debut, this time in tag team action. He’s teaming once again with his longtime Skulk partner Adrian Alanis to take on a newer team in WWE, Ever-Rise (formerly CHIKARA‘s 3.0), in tag team action. Leon Ruff may not see his first win for a few more matches, but it’s evident that WWE has seen some promise in the EVOLVE star and it may only be a matter of time before his residency as a WWE Superstar becomes a little more permanent (especially if Friday’s rumors of EVOLVE being acquired by WWE prove true).