After the announcement that Viacom, the parent company of Spike TV, would not be renewing their deal to broadcast TNA Impact Wrestling (the wrestling promotion’s network television program), it left the company’s future incredibly bleak.
Dixie Carter’s wrestling promotion has been active for 14 years, but mismanagement with top stars, poor attendance figures, and dull programming could be some of the reasons why they’re not seen as a premiere source of wrestling anymore. With Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Guerilla gaining more notoriety in North America, it doesn’t help TNA’s cause.
The promotion’s flagship show was airing on Thursday nights over at Spike TV, but after rumors circulated that WWE SmackDown would be moving to Thursday nights from a Friday night slot, TNA magically shifted over to Wednesday nights. However, WWE’s supposed plan could be a mere coincidence in contrast to TNA’s move, considering the NFL draws big numbers on Thursday nights, too. It’s not where a wrestling company wants to be since the demographic will lean towards arguably the biggest sport in America.
As of this time, rumor is the company was offered a deal by Discovery’s Velocity channel, but there’s no guarantee TNA will still be in business past this current year. WWE may have rejuvenated wrestling by purchasing WCW and ECW in the early 2000s, but the Invasion angle wasn’t really a hit. It simply allowed them to own the rights to endless footage they could use to sell DVDs and construct highlight videos, besides picking up world-class talent. As great as it would be for WWE to buy TNA, it simply isn’t in the cards. TNA doesn’t even have the footage that would entice Vince McMahon.
Since there may be a crop of athletes looking for work if TNA folds, here is a list of 10 talents that WWE should consider bringing into the fold, without any of these talents poised to make a shift any time soon (except for maybe the guy in pole position):
10 Seiya Sanada
Sanada is a student of accomplished Japanese legend, The Great Muta, and he’s already been given a chance to shine in North America by capturing the TNA X-Division Championship. He won it over Austin Aries at a Wrestle-1 event, which is his mentor’s wrestling promotion over in Japan.
WWE have failed to build up top Japanese stars to their full potential in the past, including Taka Michinoku and Tajiri, but with the addition of Kenta Kobayashi on NXT, the company could start to pinch a couple more wrestlers from top Japanese promotions…and of course, TNA.
Bringing Sanada to WWE would require work, though, since he’s tied to both TNA and Wrestle-1. It seems unlikely for him to jump ship, yet it would be great for the fandom if he did.
9 Gail Kim
She’s no stranger to the WWE Universe, since Kim made history by winning the WWE’s Women’s Championship in her first televised appearance back in 2003.
Her initial WWE stint was a successful one, but her return years later turned sour fast, mainly because Kim was pitted against competition like Maryse, Melina, and Michelle McCool. Those Divas weren’t exactly superior to the Canadian when it came to wrestling skills, leading to boring matches.
In 2011, she eliminated herself in a Battle Royal due to officials telling her to get thrown out early on in the match. Shortly after, Kim found herself in a bitter contract dispute with the company, so she left to TNA. The current TNA Knockouts Champion may not be interested in a return to WWE, but the thought of her duking it out against the likes of Paige, AJ Lee, and Natalya is a salivating one. She’s one of the best female wrestlers of her generation, and now that WWE is paying more attention to the division instead of just looking at appearances, Kim could finally be used the right way.
8 Bobby Roode
Besides looking good for the age of 37, Roode is one of the most accomplished wrestlers TNA ever had, winning 8 titles during his stay. The Bound For Glory and Tournament of Champions winner enjoyed most of his success while hoisting tag titles alongside Eric Young in Team Canada, followed by four title reigns with James Storm as Beer Money, Inc.
He’s a great heel, too, even though he just recently turned face. Roode isn’t the biggest guy in the locker room, although he’s certainly a presence, being one of the most athletic and hard-working wrestlers in the game. He’s been in major programs over the years, but for some reason, he never turned into a superstar in the promotion’s world title scene.
He’s a veteran WWE could use, and he’s much better than a number of guys being pushed at the moment.
7 Team 3D
This is one of the easier entries on the list.
The future of Bully Ray (also known as Bubba Ray Dudley to WWE and ECW fans) is in serious doubt after his contract expired with TNA, and since Team 3D are currently reunited, this automatically leaves the future of Ray’s partner, Devon (also known as D-Von Dudley) up in the air, too.
The Dudley Boyz are regarded as one of the most prolific tag teams in wrestling history, winning the WWE, WCW, ECW and IWGP tag team belts throughout their careers. If they ever did return to WWE, a bonus would be them raising awareness for the WWE Network, much like The New Age Outlaws did earlier this year when they scooped up the WWE tag titles for a short period of time.
They have enough leverage in the wrestling world for immediate success, and they could help an ailing tag team division that can use all it could get.
Talk about a guy with the physique to make Vince McMahon happier than a pig in his own feces. Gunner is one of TNA’s most promising singles competitors, and it would be a shame for him not to reach his full potential on the big stage.
After short stints on the independent circuit, Gunner debuted in 2010, but who he is now is far more compelling than his character back then and his partnership and feud with James Storm is arguably some of his best work ever inside TNA. Carter’s company had also slotted him in the TNA World Heavyweight Championship picture, although he hasn’t captured the gold just yet. His looks are dashing, his mic skills have improved, and he’s a solid, well-rounded wrestler who could help the main event scene in WWE, if ever given the chance.
5 The Wolves
It’s almost a known fact tag team wrestling completely owns the independent circuit these days, and we have The Wolves to thank for that.
Both Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards are some of the most durable and spectacular wrestlers in the business, wowing crowds in Ring of Honor before jumping ship to TNA. Each had stints holding ROH’s World Championship, if you need further convincing.
They’ve wrestled against some of the best in the world while on singles duty, as well as on a unit, and now that they’re together in TNA, they’re milestones ahead of every other team on the roster.
TNA seems to have a weaker tag team division than WWE, but it may not be the case when you consider Team 3D, The Hardy Boyz, and even The Bro Mans, who have surprisingly had good matches against The Wolves. If The Usos are seen as the best team in WWE, then The Wolves would simply blow them out of the water if the champions ever worked under McMahon.
4 Jeff Hardy
He’s had his fair share of demons over the past few years, but most observers would relish at the opportunity of having Hardy return to WWE. This goes for his brother Matt, too, but Jeff had a little more success as a singles competitor, mainly because of his mad risks alongside his brother in the early 2000s.
Apart from the atrocious gimmick that was Willow, Hardy is no stranger when it comes to success in TNA, winning the world title on three separate occasions. Even if Hardy were to return to WWE, his popularity alone could escalate him to the top of the food chain, and fans don’t need to go back in time to relive some of his best work; his feud versus CM Punk a short while before his departure was one of the most refreshing battles in years.
If Team 3D can be used for promoting the troublesome WWE Network, Hardy can obviously be used as a marketing machine because of his spots in the Attitude Era, often being the highlight in TLC matches against The Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian.
3 Austin Aries
It would be an insult for Aries to debut on WWE NXT, since he’s accomplished great feats in TNA, and in smaller promotions, too. Then again, everyone has to do it, right?
Aries has been competing on the wrestling circuit and gaining the respect of fans for a decade, thanks to his work ethic, toughness, and desire to show the fans what the future of wrestling will look like.
Hell, if you’d ask him, he’d probably say he’s a product of the present.
We’ve seen former ROH guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins earn their chance to shine in WWE, and Aries was in the same boat as them while everyone climbed up the ranks. His first stint in TNA didn’t go over so well, but he went back to the company after working for ROH and Dragon Gate, winning a number of titles that propelled him to fame.
The only disappointment about Aries’ TNA run is that he didn’t have too much time with the world title, despite winning the TNA X-Division belt five times. It would be a shame to bury him on the mid-card in WWE, but matches against guys like Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, Tyson Kidd, and Sami Zayn could turn out to be sensational duels.
2 Samoa Joe
Why Samoa Joe hasn’t gotten a chance in WWE by now is a question very few can answer.
A close friend of Punk’s, Joe is a TNA Triple Crown and Grand Slam champion, winning nine titles in the organization. He’s wrestled for ROH (where he won two belts and exceled in matches against Punk, Kenta Kobashi, and Jay Briscoe), Pro Wrestling Noah and Ultimate Pro Wrestling, and many regard him as one of the best wrestlers in the world.
It’s hard to say why he was never given a real chance by WWE, since his stocky frame shouldn’t have been an issue. Maybe it’s because Joe works best stiff, and his style wouldn’t suit the PG-era that is now WWE.
Fantasy matches against Bryan, Dean Ambrose or Cesaro in a WWE ring would be incredible, and it’s not like Joe would have to prove much for recognition. If given a chance to showcase his skills in the juggernaut promotion, he would easily be placed at the top and inserted in major feuds right away.
Then again, it seems like Joe is content terrorizing his foes in TNA, but something’s got to give if they close up shop. The independent scene is thriving, and if ROH, PWG and NJPW aren’t his likely destinations, then WWE officials should at least give him a phone call and try to work something out.
1 Kurt Angle
A staple with WWE during the transitioning phases of The Attitude Era, Angle needs to go back to where he started.
It’s been a wild ride for Angle, who was in and out of rehab not too long ago to recover from his addictions. He’s arguably the best pure wrestler the business had ever seen, and the 45-year-old Olympic gold medalist has been doing a thoroughly good job under TNA management.
However, Angle had issues with TNA in the past, and apart from dinosaurs that came back to TNA for more television time when the promotion should have focused on the young, nobody really has a problem with Angle in the spotlight because of his work rate and ability to still put on a good match.
He’s feuded with the best TNA had to offer, but it’s time for him to go back home. There has been talk about Angle returning to WWE, however, it always seems as if there’s some sort of issue prohibiting a signing. There’s no secret Angle wants it, but word is WWE is mum on their end.
Angle won a number of belts shortly after making his WWE debut, proving he was as legit as they come. He also was a good source of laughter during promos and solid on the mic.
The problem is if TNA folds, it would be hard for Angle to resume his career on the indy circuit. NJPW could come calling, yet Angle is a family man who may not want to travel to Japan, or work twice as hard to make good coin in high school gyms across the country. If the ball is in WWE’s court, they need to look at the big picture.
Maybe officials aren’t so keen on Angle competing in the ring, but one off-match or a few appearances here and there could do the trick. He could even lend his services as a general manager on one of the shows, or even in the broadcast booth.
There’s definitely room for him, and there’s no doubt he deserves another chance.