TNA used the NWA Championship for the first five years of their existence. The title picture was often dominated by Jeff Jarrett, the owner of TNA. The first champion was surprisingly Ken Shamrock. Even more surprisingly, he dropped the title to Ron Killings. The belt was tossed around often in the early days. In 2007, NWA and TNA ended their business relationship and TNA was forced to create their own championship. What developed was the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Kurt Angle was the first ever champion and the current champion is Bobby Lashley. The belt has changed hands 39 times to 20 different men in almost ten years. To put that in perspective, the WWE Championship changed hands five times in ten years. Only five former TNA Champions are still with the company today. Those five men are Lashley, Ethan Carter III, Eddie Edwards, James Storm, and Magnus who recently made his return. Hopefully under new (old) management the company will regain some legitimacy and credibility and become some competition to WWE.
Here are 15 former TNA Champions and where they are now.
15 Chris Sabin
Chris Sabin may be known for best as one-half of The Motor City Machine Guns. He and Alex Shelley won the TNA Tag Team Championship on one occasion. Injuries derailed the tag team and both are no longer with the company. Shelley was the first to go and left Sabin on his own. He won the X-Divison Championship and was allowed to cash in his title for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship. He defeated Bully Ray, but lost the title shortly afterward. Sabin left the company in 2014. Since then he had a public breakup with his ex-girlfriend Velvet Sky and returned to ROH. Velvet Sky is ironically in a relationship with Bully Ray. In ROH he reunited with Alex Shelley and the two have feuded with another former TNA tag team The Addiction.
14 Drew Galloway
Drew Galloway was better known as Drew McIntyre in WWE. He was released after being wasted in a stable with Jinder Mahal and Heath Slater. He went to many independent promotions such as WCPW, ICW, and PWG. He also went to TNA to defeat the Beat Down Clan. TNA pushed him straight to the top after that feud ended and Galloway headlined Bound For Glory in 2015. Although he lost, he would get his run with the World Championship in early 2016 after he defeated Matt Hardy. Galloway left TNA in late 2016 and returned to WWE recently. Despite being on the main roster for years he is wrestling in NXT. Galloway gets a new chance to right the wrongs that occurred in his first run.
13 Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy left the WWE in 2010 after having a rough year. His weight was made fun of on the internet and WWE cut ties. He wrestled in ROH for the majority of the time in between his release and his return to WWE but he is most known for his TNA run. TNA reunited the Hardys and gave Matt a push in the main event. Hardy won the World Championship at Bound for Glory 2015. He then lost the title and won it back from Ethan Carter. His second reign was ended by the aforementioned Drew Galloway. He proceeded to lose his mind and form The Broken Hardys. The Hardys had a bad breakup with TNA and know they won't let him use the Broken gimmick. The Hardys return to their vanilla gimmick in the WWE as nothing no longer stands out about them.
12 Eric Young
Eric Young is currently a member of the NXT roster and is the leader of Sanity. However, he made his name in TNA. TNA copied WWE's storyline in the most clearest way possible by using Eric Young. Daniel Bryan was over like no other and WWE made him atotal underdog who had to overcome every obstacle to win the WWE Title. TNA tried to do the same with Eric Young but it made no sense as Young's entire career was comedy. The only common thing between the two were big bushy beards. Eric Young ended the reign of Magnus despite wrestling earlier in the night similar to Daniel Bryan. His reign lasted 70 days and he lost the title Bobby Lashley.
11 Bully Ray
TNA finally split up Team 3D (The Dudley Boyz) and did it correctly in 2010. Brother Ray turned into Bully Ray and became one of the best talkers in wrestling. He was given his first run with the title in 2013 and he won it for a second time later in the year. Ray lost the title to AJ Styles later in the year. After feuding with Dixie Carter he left TNA and returned to WWE where he reunited The Dudley Boyz. Their return surprised many fans. After the initial surprise it went downhill week-by-week. They left in 2016 and we never got to see Bully Ray in WWE. Ray currently uses the Bully Ray character on the independents and he has wrestled for ROH.
10 Austin Aries
Austin Aries is now a staple of WWE's Cruiserweight Division. He wrestled in the indies for years before making it to WWE. Before rejoining TNA in 2011, Aries considered retirement but chose to have a run with TNA. He won the X-Division Championship and cashed in the title for a chance at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Most wrestling fans were caught off-guard when Aries put an end to the long run of Bobby Roode. While Aries was very over, they turned him heel so he can drop the title to Jeff Hardy. Aries would go on to win the X-Division Championship a few times before he departed for NXT. After a not-so memorable time Aries had the match of the night at WrestleMania against Neville. Sadly it was reduced to the pre-show.
9 Bobby Roode
Prior to becoming the "Glorious One," Bobby Roode was a TNA original. He was a member of Team Canada as well as the popular tag team Beer Money. Roode won the TNA Championship after shattering beer bottle over the head of his former partner James Storm. His reign lasted 256 days. Roode defeated the likes Sting, Rob Van Dam, and Jeff Hardy. Austin Aires ended his reign to the surprise of many. He won the title for a second time almost three years after his first reign. This reign was not as memorable as the first one. Roode went to WWE in 2016 and became a top performer immediately. He is the current NXT Champion and has defeated Shinsuke Nakamura twice.
8 Mr. Anderson
Mr. Anderson's WWE career should have been more than what it was. He was supposed to be the illegitimate son of Vince, but a drug bust put an end to that. Anderson was released after accidentally dumping Randy Orton on his head and Orton throwing a fit backstage. He joined TNA under the Hogan regime and had many heel and face turns before his departure in 2016. Anderson defeated Jeff Hardy in his second match of the night to win his first TNA Championship. His second title reign came after he beat Sting at Slammiversary 2011. He then lost it back to Sting. Anderson now at the age of 41 wrestles in the independents and has been signed by Ring of Honor.
7 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy came back at WrestleMania 33 after a long stint with TNA. The Hardy Boyz made one of the biggest moment of WrestleMania with their return. Hardy joined TNA in early 2010 and TNA did something with Hardy that was never done before. They turned him heel. They gave him the World Championship at Bound for Glory 2010. After first reign ended, he won the title three more times. However, all the title reigns pale in comparison to The Broken Hardys. What the Hardys are doing in WWE now is horrible. We can thank TNA for that as they are suing for the rights to the gimmick. Hopefully they win the lawsuit and are able to use the gimmick in WWE sooner rather than later.
6 Rob Van Dam
Mr. 420, The Whole Damn Show, RVD is one of wrestling's most underappreciated talents in wrestling. Van Dam was extremely talented at wrestling especially before his WWE run. His run in ECW was pure gold. Unfortunately, his TNA run was lackluster and didn't look great in the ring. He was given the TNA Championship from the jump and never lost the title. He was forced to drop it due to a kayfabe injury. He left the company in 2013 and returned to WWE. Van Dam was used mainly to put younger guys over. His return included an awesome match with Neville in NXT. Van Dam is now wrestling younger independent wrestlers in various independent promotions.
5 AJ Styles
The greatest professional wrestler in the world left TNA on ugly terms. That seems to be a recurring pattern with most TNA stars. It shouldn't be that way as Styles is TNA's biggest star ever. Styles won his first TNA Championship in a Fatal Four-Way match involving Sting, Kurt Angle, and Matt Morgan. He lost the title on an episode of Impact to Rob Van Dam. His second reign wouldn't happen for another three years when he took the title off of Bully Ray. He was stripped of the title when he left TNA. Styles as we all know is with WWE and has already held the WWE World Championship. Styles was the "The Face that Ran the Place" for all of 2016. He is scheduled to face Kevin Owens for the United States Championship after Owens finishes Jericho at Payback.
4 Mick Foley
Mick Foley wrestling in TNA was not a pleasant sight. He left WWE because he didn't like Vince telling him how to commentate so he went to TNA and continued to deliver punishment to a body that was already severely mangled. He defeated Sting at Lockdown 2009 after he landed on the ground a split second before Sting. He lost the title in the King of the Mountain match against Kurt Angle and wrestled rarely after that. In 2016 he was the General Manager of Raw until recently. He was fired by Stephanie McMahon and replaced by Kurt Angle. His time as General Manager saw him look better than ever but his screen time made him feel like every other authority figure WWE ever had.
3 Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe was one of the many wrestlers TNA ruined. ROH built him like a proper destroyer as he should be. TNA started giving him losses left and right as if losing isn't important. Prior to becoming an afterthought, Joe was TNA's monster. Always dominant and never lost. His first two losses came against Kurt Angle which makes sense. He won the title against Kurt Angle at Lockdown 2008. He lost it to Sting of all people and then it goes downhill. He reverted back to the X-Division and lost matches more often than not. After becoming the BDC's lackey he left for NXT and he gained back some credibility. He won the NXT Championship twice and has only lost to Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura. He has yet to be pinned on the main roster.
Sting is an example of one of the rare times TNA utilized someone better than WWE. Sting rarely lost clean in TNA even though he was over 40 and the focus should have been on the younger stars. He won the TNA Championship four different times over Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, and Mr. Anderson. His time in WWE saw him wrestle three matches to completion. He lost to Triple H at WrestleMania 31 in a match filled with run-ins. He wrestled a tag team match with John Cena against Big Show and Seth Rollins which saw Sting and Cena victorious. At Night of Champions 2015, Sting was injured by Seth Rollins because of a Turnbuckle Powerbomb. Sting has since joined the Hall of Fame and retired from professional wrestling. Although, he does continue to make wrestling-related appearances.
1 Kurt Angle
The first ever TNA Champion is number one on the list. Kurt Angle won the title at Slammiversary 2007 in the King of the Mountain match. Angle would go on to win the championship six times more than any man in the company's history with Lashley second most with four. He's beaten for the title on more than one occasion. His final reign came when he defeated Lashley shortly before leaving the company. After leaving, everyone was hoping for a WWE return which were given. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame and had one of the most memorable inductions ever where he went over prior stages in his career. He was chosen to replace Mick Foley as the Raw General Manager.
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