TNA has been home to many talented wrestlers over the years, but the better stars find their greatest success in other promotions. The struggles of TNA’s vision to become a viable threat to WWE have led to them falling apart. It appears they find themselves in worst shape every single year. The level of talent in the company has never the problem that caused them to go downhill. In fact, TNA management frequently wasted their best talents in favor of pushing over the hill veterans. Quite a few noteworthy wrestlers have selected to leave TNA and it paid off with massive success.
Other stars have not achieved the same breaks. The negative stories of life after TNA have seen wrestlers retire, wallow away in obscurity or crawl back to the failing company. We'll take a look at both sides of the history of wrestlers to depart TNA. Ten of the greatest stories of wrestlers to succeed immensely after leaving TNA and showing their full potential will be examined. Another ten tales of the wrestlers to fail trying to continue their career after leaving TNA will also be a part of the list. All twenty examples show how risky life can be after leaving TNA.
20 Success: Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe recently won his first WWE PPV main event and is schedule to battle Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Great Balls of Fire. The current position of Joe shows just how big of a deal he has become in WWE as a viable competitor to Lesnar. Joe made the decision to leave TNA after a long run of disappointment.
TNA did make Joe an occasional main eventer but his potential could have made him the face of the franchise. Joe’s TNA Championship win over Kurt Angle still set the record for the most successful PPV in TNA history. The company never appreciated what Joe gave to them. It was perfect karma when WWE signed Joe to be one of the faces of the NXT brand before moving to the main roster in a major way.
19 Fail: Hernandez
LAX was the hottest tag team act in TNA during their early days on Spike TV. The feud between LAX and the team of A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels created huge success in establishing them as the top heels in the company. Both Homicide and Hernandez had great talent but never could fulfill it. TNA hurt LAX by taking away their manager Konnan away due to an ugly split.
Hernandez suffered the worst fate with a terrible run after TNA. The tall, athletic beast was under contract with Lucha Underground when he returned to TNA for a second run. This put TNA in legal trouble forcing them to remove all taped segments and matches involving Hernandez. Both companies black-listed him due to his error and Hernandez is struggling to get any bookings in general.
18 Success: Kazuchika Okada
TNA did not respect their younger talents enough to give them viable careers. The foreign talents also received minimal confidence to showcase their skills. Kazuchika Okada is the perfect example of both situations. New Japan sent Okada to TNA as a learning excursion in hopes of improving as a performer by wrestling top talent in the company. TNA instead turned him into a complete joke.
Okada primarily worked as Okato based off The Green Hornet character Kato. NJPW was livid to find out how poorly TNA treated one of their top prospects and ended their working relationship. Okada ended up being more than alright evolving into the top star in Japan. As a four-time IWGP Champion, Okada is currently holding the prestigious title. The current title reign of Okada is on pace to be a legendary one in New Japan showing just how special of a talent he is.
17 Fail: Nasty Boys
Many veterans used TNA as their one last chance to get on television. Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff gaining power to control the company led to the highest number of washed up wrestlers returning. The Nasty Boys tag team of Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags made their way into TNA for a feud with Team 3D (aka the Dudleyz.)
Sags and Knobbs struggled to move around the ring and their run provided complete embarrassment. Hogan and Bischoff couldn’t even talk their way into keeping the Nasty Boys around. The veterans continue wrestling on the independent circuit humiliating their once credible legacy with some of the worst matches you’ll ever witness. TNA was the last relevant company that would even entertain bringing in the Nasty Boys at their age.
16 Success: Awesome Kong
The success of Awesome Kong is one of the rare stories that feature a former wrestler finding a gig in the entertainment world. Kong is one of the stars of the upcoming G.L.O.W. series on Netflix that is already getting rave reviews. We all know she is credible enough for the wrestling part of the show. Kong dominated TNA as one of the best female performers in the company.
Gail Kim and Kong having tremendous matches is what put the Knockouts division on the map. Kong unfortunately got fired twice to end both of her TNA tenures for getting in fights with Bubba the Love Sponge and Reby Sky. The wrestling career has not gone too well after leaving TNA, but she may be able to leave it in the past with her acting career on the rise.
15 Fail: Shelly Martinez
One former TNA Knockout hoping to branch out into the acting world is Shelly Martinez. The post-TNA career of Martinez has been a tough task trying to get booked consistently by relevant promotions. Shelly’s WWE career ended following the public controversy of getting into an argument with Batista. It likely blocked her from ever returning there.
TNA has brought her back for One Night Only PPV tapings that ultimately lead nowhere. The wrestling skills of Martinez are not up to par to work with her fellow women’s wrestlers. Shelly’s last hope was trying to get a gig with Lucha Underground but they just weren’t interested. A recent announcement saw Martinez officially retire from the wrestling business with hopes of becoming a full-time model and actress. Her final TNA match will be remembered as an all-time worst in the debacle against Rebel.
14 Success: Jay Lethal
Jay Lethal showed incredible potential in TNA after being signed at the young age of 20. A few big matches against the likes Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle and Ric Flair throughout his TNA career showed just how good he could be. The best wrestlers step up to the occasion when in a big match situation. Lethal also provided consistency as one of the better wrestlers in the X-Division always finding a way to stand out.
TNA unceremoniously fired Lethal during the Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff era. The few diehard fans that remained were livid but Lethal had faith in his future. A few appearances in Ring of Honor landed him a new contract and a new home. ROH has made Lethal one of the faces of their company over the past few years and they're in better shape than TNA. Lethal is thriving as a main event star after being given the chance.
13 Fail: Elix Skipper
One talented X-Division star that never received the opportunities deserved of him in any promotion was Elix Skipper. The athleticism of Skipper made him one of the standout young performers in the final years of WCW as part of Team Canada. TNA showcased his talent in the Triple X stable with fellow talented performers Christopher Daniels and Low Ki.
Skipper’s most memorable moment came when he tight-walked the top of a cage to perfectly execute a hurricanrana. The great risks taken by Skipper proved to be nothing as TNA eventually released him. Skipper failed to find consistent work in wrestling after leaving and has since unofficially retired from the business. The timing especially hurt him since someone with the skills of Skipper would have been a hotter commodity if entering his prime today.
12 Success: Taz
A non-wrestler that got fed up with TNA and made a great decision to leave TNA would be Taz. The late payments annoyed Taz enough to request his release from TNA as the lead color commentator. Taz already had a radio show deal with CBS Radio that became a daily show once he left TNA. Unlike other wrestling audio shows and podcast, Taz does his show every morning similar to a normal sports radio show.
CBS is a huge platform and allows Taz to get his voice out there. The aftermath of the big four WWE PPVs sees Taz host a live post-show on various national CBS stations. It's a pretty big deal for a wrestling personality to get a gig on such a respected platform. Taz leaving TNA helped him thrive as he entered his new career as a radio host while remaining in wrestling by once again, letting his voice be heard.
11 Fail: Petey Williams
Petey Williams was always a very talented part of the X-Divison. The best days of Williams’ career came when he was a member of Team Canada as the dominant heel X-Division Champion feuding with A.J. Styles. Williams would get a massive pop every single week when executing the Canadian Destroyer finisher. It became the most popular move in wrestling and that helped Petey stand out.
Unfortunately, TNA didn’t believe in his talent enough to find enough inspiration to book him strongly. Following the end of Team Canada, Williams did little of note aside from dressing as a mini Scott Steiner. Williams was eventually fired from TNA shocking both him and the fan base. ROH and a few other independent promotions booked Petey after his TNA departure but no one was impressed enough to sign him. Williams elected to retire and support his family through a more stable living.
10 Success: Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods is someone that never really was treated with any credibility in TNA. They clearly viewed him as nothing than a secondary X-Division talent as seen by the lack of stories in his tenure. Woods wrestled under the name of Consequences Creed and achieved the most success in TNA with a tag team alongside Jay Lethal.
It only makes sense Woods would find his great success in WWE in a tag team as well. WWE however at least allowed Woods the opportunity to showcase both his talent and his personality. The trio of New Day gives Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E the stage to pull off hijinks and bring the humor. Woods is one third of the longest reigning Tag Team Champions in WWE history proving TNA once again dropped the ball with a great talent.
9 Fail: Matt Morgan
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The wrestling career of Matt Morgan may have been a different story if he broke into the business during the 80s or 90s. Morgan is nearly seven feet tall and a great athlete that made him a huge prospect. Jim Cornette was Morgan’s biggest supporter bringing him to TNA after his WWE tenure ended. TNA kept Morgan around even after Cornette was gone with the hopes of pushing him into a main event role.
Morgan could never get over the hump and always appeared lesser than the other top stars in the company. The obvious writing on the wall that Morgan would never be a difference maker led to him leaving TNA. No other wrestling promotions tried to sign him to a contract and Morgan left the wrestling business for a new career. TNA came calling back a few months ago with Jeff Jarrett back in control and Morgan took the offer. This is the case of someone that will never make it outside of TNA.
8 Success: Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode remained loyal to TNA for many years before realizing he had to save his career. The talent and potential of Roode was obvious from day one. TNA took quite some time before giving him the main event run as the TNA World Champion. Roode matured into the role as the top heel in the company and represented the title greatly.
WWE always appeared to be the perfect fit for Roode and he finally made it happen when leaving TNA in 2016. The signing of Roode saw him debut in NXT with huge fanfare. Roode’s “Glorious” entrance became one of the hottest things in wrestling and he would be the man to end Shinsuke Nakamura’s NXT Championship reign. Roode is currently the champ and the face of NXT as he likely moves up to the main roster sooner or later.
7 Fail: Samuel Shaw
Samuel Shaw was one of the young talents the company looked to build around following the Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff debacle ended. The character of Shaw featured him playing a creepy stalker that would not leave Christy Hemme. It all culminated in a wacky segment showing Shaw still lived at home with his mother that also happened to be named Christy.
The ridiculous nature of the reveal hurt any potential for the character of Shaw. TNA would use him in a smaller role for quite some time before eventually releasing him. Shaw has tried to continue his wrestling career on the independent circuit but struggled to get bookings. TNA did recently bring him back in an Xplosion dark match. Shaw doesn’t appear to be back in the company and his wrestling career is up in the air.
6 Success: Christopher Daniels
The 47 year old Christopher Daniels has delivered a tremendous career with most of his greatest moments coming in TNA. However, TNA never gave Daniels the respect he earned with his performances helping put TNA on the map. Unlike his peers A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe, Daniels never had a TNA World Championship reign and rarely ever touched the main event scene.
TNA fired Daniels numerous times and now has a home in Ring of Honor. Daniels recently accomplished his goal of winning the big one by winning the ROH World Championship by defeating Adam Cole. ROH has made Daniels an important figure in the company both in the ring and behind the scenes. Daniels is a more relevant champion than anyone in TNA today which is the ultimate revenge.
5 Fail: Tomko
Another former WWE talent to land a contract with TNA was Tomko. TNA found good use for him during his first stint by reuniting him with Christian Cage. All of Tomko’s best career moments came from being paired with Christian. The opposites of Christian’s humor and Tomko’s straight laced personality made them a perfect unit.
TNA however saw what Tomko was like without Christian when trying to push him as a singles star. Tomko floundered in TNA before getting released. The post-TNA life for Tomko led to failure in the form of a lack of bookings and out of the ring issues. Tomko’s lowest point came when getting arrested for stealing oxycodone from CVS. The wrestling career of Tomko is forgotten despite his attempts to continue working on the independent circuit.
4 Success: Young Bucks
The Young Bucks provide one of the most inspirational stories of wrestlers choosing to leave a bad situation. TNA paid Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson on a per appearance rate that ended up hurting them badly. The talented tag team had a few months of impressive work on television before the company kept them home for a long time.
It culminated with the Young Bucks requesting to be released from their contracts and the rest is history. Matt and Nick dominated the independent circuit becoming the hottest tag team in the industry. PWG, ROH and New Japan all built their tag team divisions around the Young Bucks and their success speaks for itself. Matt and Nick are arguably the most popular members of the Bullet Club and sell a ridiculous number of merchandise to become huge successes after ditching TNA.
3 Fail: Magnus
An extremely disappointing wrestling career would be the aftermath of Magnus leaving TNA. The talent and potential of Magnus made him stand out enough to evolve into a top player. Magnus was given the big win of being the person to defeat A.J. Styles in his final TNA match to win the TNA World Championship. Following the end of his reign and the issues of TNA starting to grow, Magnus left after his contract expired.
Magnus talked a big game about TNA’s flaws and promised to make waves in the industry as the face of the new brand Global Force Wrestling. Both GFW and Magnus failed badly to get established as relevant brands in that time frame. Jeff Jarrett returning to TNA brought Magnus back with him. Many fans forget Magnus is still in the wrestling business despite prior rumors of him being on WWE’s radar.
2 Success: A.J. Styles
The greatest success story of a wrestler leaving TNA is clearly A.J. Styles. Any educated fan would name Styles as the biggest name in TNA history due to the accomplishments and work put in by him. Styles was the first breakout star that wasn’t already established in a prior major company. TNA should have been loyal to A.J. after all the terrible storylines they booked him but instead tried to underpay him.
Styles made the business decision to leave TNA for the first time since its inception. New Japan and ROH signed Styles and his career changed for the best. Styles reminded the world just how special of a talent he is after it was taken for granted by the end of his TNA reign. WWE could no longer ignore the name value of Styles with him now being one of the biggest stars in the top promotion in the world. All TNA had to do was offer his usual salary and he would have been theirs.
1 Fail: Mr. Anderson
TNA invested way too much time and money into pushing Mr. Anderson after he was released from WWE. Anderson definitely had charisma and name value following the end of his WWE tenure, but it all went downhill during the TNA time. Unlike Kurt Angle, Christian Cage and Jeff Hardy, Anderson was a forgettable lower tier name by one or two years into his TNA time.
Anderson remained employed for many years before his release in 2016 after failing a drug test. The first post-TNA appearance of Anderson saw him curse them out at an independent show for firing him. Anderson has failed to make an impact elsewhere with his only noteworthy booking being a one-off in ROH. WWE has looked at all former talents in the same tier as Anderson for the brand split, but he has never been rumored showing just how far he's fallen.