There was a time in the not so distant past that WWE would not touch TNA wrestling free agents with a ten-foot pole. There were probably a lot of company reasons and philosophies behind the decision to stay away from these talented wrestlers. Among those reasons may have been the feeling that signing them might some how validate TNA as competition. But that was then and this is now. AJ Styles’ debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble match broke down any remaining TNA barrier (imagined or unimagined) to wrestling in WWE. Any concerns of how a TNA alumni would be treated in WWE was also put to rest when Styles became WWE Champion.
The message being sent was loud and clear. TNA alumni would sink or swim in the dangerous waters of WWE based on their own talents and not where they came from. There are now quite a few TNA alumni on the WWE roster. Styles and Samoa Joe are two of the most high profile. There are also NXT Champion Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Austin Aries, TJ Perkins, and Tony Nese among others. WWE has a much greater fan base than TNA and as a result for many in the WWE Universe these TNA alumni are like meeting brand new wrestlers. With that said, let’s take a look at 15 things you didn’t know about TNA alumni currently in WWE.
15 The Phenomenal Champion
WWE fans knew AJ Styles was a huge free agent signing when he debuted during the 2016 Royal Rumble match. Just how good is AJ Styles? His resume is as impressive as they come and might include a few things that some WWE fans weren’t aware of. Styles was the first ever TNA Wrestling Grand Slam Champion and the feat was acknowledged on TNA television. He is the only TNA wrestler to hold the TNA World and Tag Team Championships as well as the NWA World and Tag Team Championships as a part of their Grand Slam. It’s a feat that probably won’t be duplicated. Styles also holds a unique and unofficial Grand Slam Championship that includes the WWE Championship, IWGP Championship, TNA Championship, and NWA Championship. No other wrestler can make a claim to this unofficial Grand Slam. Lastly, Styles is the only TNA contracted wrestler to be named the number one wrestler on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s PWI 500. The Phenomenal One accomplished that in 2010.
14 Creed Blows Chunks
Consequences Creed was the TNA Wrestling persona of current WWE Superstar and member of The New Day, Xavier Woods. As Creed, Woods was more or less an Apollo Creed (Carl Weather’s character in the first four Rocky films) knockoff character. He was briefly in a tag team with R-Truth, which was appropriately named Truth And Consequences. Creed was also in another tag team with Jay Lethal called Lethal Consequences. Unlike Truth And Consequences, Lethal Consequences captured the TNA Tag Team Championship. In between tag team runs, Creed was a top contender in the X Division but was never able to capture the gold. Before leaving TNA, he was involved in an embarrassing moment on live television. During an episode of Impact Wrestling in 2009, Creed vomited in the ring after receiving a hurricanrana driver from the Amazing Red.
13 Power Couples
Pro wrestling fans are always interested in what pro wrestlers are up to outside the squared circle. In particular, fans love to hear about the real life girlfriends and wives of the wrestlers. To take it a step further, fans are even more fascinated when the couples consist of two pro wrestlers. They might start to wonder if the relationship will bleed over into the unreal world of pro wrestling angles. Or in some cases, they might wonder if the relationship could lead to one debuting in the company of the other. That is the case with two couples in which one is on the WWE roster and the other is not. Both involve TNA alumni on the WWE roster. Mickie James is married to former TNA World Champion Magnus. Austin Aries is currently in a relationship with Thea Trinidad aka former TNA Knockout Rosita. Maybe down the road fans will get to see Magnus and Trinidad debut full time in WWE.
12 Women's Triple Crown
Although Mickie James is more synonymous with WWE, she actually received her first national exposure in TNA Wrestling. It was a brief run under the ring name Alexis Laree. During that run, she didn’t capture any gold but did catch the attention of WWE. James probably got on WWE’s radar during her run with Raven’s group known as The Gathering and her subsequent inclusion in the Clockwork Orange matches. She went onto a tremendously successful run in WWE as Mickie James. She started as Trish Stratus’ stalker but ended up becoming one of the most decorated women in pro wrestling history. From 2005 to 2010, James captured five WWE Women’s Championships and one WWE Divas Championship. She returned to TNA Wrestling as Mickie James and captured three TNA Knockouts Championships. James is the only pro wrestler to win this Triple Crown consisting of those three major women’s championships.
11 Hello Ladies
Sean Morley is best remembered for wrestling during WWE’s Attitude Era as the controversial porn star character Val Venis. Venis is billed from Las Vegas, Nevada but Morley is actually a native of Ontario, Canada. It was in Ontario during the late 1990s that Morley helped train a TNA Wrestling alumni currently on the WWE roster. He helped introduce current NXT Champion Bobby Roode to the world of professional wrestling. During an interview with The Art of Wrestling, Roode said that he and Morley met at a local gym. Ironically, Roode lived just ten minutes away from Morley. They became friends and Morley trained Roode in his backyard ring for free. After one lesson with Morley, Roode instantly knew that he wanted to be a pro wrestler. Roode was also trained by Shane Sewell who would later be a TNA Wrestling referee in 2008 and 2009.
10 Dream Match
John Cena is one of the primary WWE Superstars brought up in dream match conversations. Pro wrestling fans were recently treated to a great series of dream matches between AJ Styles and John Cena. Fans are once again gearing up for another potential dream match for Cena. The debut of Samoa Joe has fans buzzing about the potential of John Cena vs Samoa Joe headlining some big WWE pay per-view down the road. However, some fans might not be aware that the two have already crossed paths very early in their careers. In the early 2000s, Joe and Cena were both signed to WWE developmental organization, Ultimate Pro Wrestling based in California. They actually had a feud with each other while in UPW. Outside the ring, Joe and Cena were reportedly friendly and hung out together.
9 Who Was That Masked Man?
TNA Wrestling’s Suicide character was originally created for the TNA Impact video game in 2008. By the end of 2008, Suicide moved from video game character to an active part of the TNA Wrestling roster. Suicide went on to become a two-time X Division Champion. However, the character has been portrayed by a number of different wrestlers over the years. Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels, Kiyoshi, and Jonathan Gresham have all donned the Suicide costume. Current WWE Superstars TJ Perkins and Austin Aries also had stints as Suicide in TNA Wrestling. Aries and Perkins were actually in an angle together revolving around the Suicide costume. In the angle, Aries stole the costume and used it to win the X Division Championship. Perkins’ run as Suicide was also unique because it featured a slight change to the gimmick. Perkins briefly transitioned into a new costume and went under the ring name Manik.
8 Styles In WCW
AJ Styles is a well-traveled veteran of the pro wrestling ring wars. Styles has wrestled just about everywhere in the world. In recent years, Styles has made a reputation for himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world in companies such as TNA Wrestling, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and WWE. However, very early in his career, he had a great opportunity to wrestle for one of the greatest pro wrestling companies of the 1990s. Some fans may not realize that Styles made a brief stop in WCW right before it was purchased by WWE. He was part of the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Division in a team called Air Raid. Air Raid was the team of Styles and Air Paris. Unfortunately, the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship was abandoned by WWE and Air Raid was not brought in for the infamous Invasion Angle.
7 Television Host
Eric Young is a very talented wrestler. Young has excelled as a heroic baby face, arrogant heel, and as a source of pro wrestling comic relief. He is one of four TNA Grand Slam Champions and was also hilariously a co-holder of the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship with his squeeze ODB. Whether it’s in a faction, a tag team, or flying solo, Young has always been a valued member of any wrestling roster that he has been a part of. In recent years, he has shown quite a bit of talent away from the squared circle. Young might be setting up for his career after wrestling with his ventures as a television host. He was the host of Animal Planet’s Off The Hook: Extreme Catches from 2012 to 2013. Young also hosted a show called No Limits on Animal Planet.
6 Shooting On The Outsiders
Scott Hall no-showed TNA Wrestling’s Turning Point 2007 pay per-view and it led to a chain reaction of events that resulted in one of the most controversial nights in the career of Samoa Joe. Joe was to team with Hall and Kevin Nash in the main event against the team of Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, and Tomko. TNA officials decided to find a way to deflect heat from them for the no show and put it squarely on Hall. As a result, Joe was asked to make a worked shoot promo disparaging Hall and praising TNA. However, Joe went too far (in both length and content) and drew the ire of both Nash and TNA President Dixie Carter. Some of what transpired behind the scenes following the promo is up for debate and might differ a bit depending on who is telling the story. The bottom line was that Joe and Nash had a heated backstage altercation, which may or may not have involved a slap. Joe eventually apologized for his worked shoot promo gone wrong.
5 Nese Release
Tony Nese is a talented member of WWE’s Cruiserweight Division. Nese received his first national exposure in TNA Wrestling from 2011 to 2013. Unfortunately for Nese, he was in TNA Wrestling during the failed Hulk Hogan-Eric Bischoff era. This era saw TNA lose a lot of the identity that made it unique. It was also an era that saw some strange booking which included the push of Garett Bischoff. With that said, Nese was grossly underutilized and kept off television for long stretches while under contract to them. However, he was granted his release because he wanted to wrestle The Great Muta. Nese took an independent booking with Pro Wrestling Syndicate, which called for him to team with Sami Callihan against the team of Muta and KAI. However, when the card was changed to an IPPV, Nese’s TNA contract wouldn’t allow him to wrestle the match. When Nese asked TNA if he could wrestle in the match despite the restriction, they agreed upon his release. TNA’s loss ended up being WWE’s gain.
4 TNA Grand Slam Champions
WWE currently has three of the four existing TNA Wrestling Grand Slam Champions on their roster. A Grand Slam Champion is one that has held every major championship in TNA Wrestling. The three Grand Slam Champions that are currently in WWE are AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Eric Young. Styles’ Grand Slam is the most impressive because it not only includes the TNA World and TNA Tag Team titles but also includes the NWA World and NWA Tag Team titles. He was also the first to become a TNA Wrestling Grand Slam Champion. The only Grand Slam Champion that isn’t in WWE is The Monster Abyss. Abyss is still wrestling in TNA Wrestling. With WWE’s new willingness to bring in former TNA stars, one has to wonder how long it will be before they have all four.
3 Roode Awakening
When thinking of TNA Wrestling originals, most pro wrestling fans will blurt out two names which are AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. It is with good reason. Both, through their unique styles, became the embodiment of TNA Wrestling. However, when putting together the TNA Wrestling originals Mount Rushmore, Bobby Roode must be in the conversation and with good reason. Roode is a two time TNA Wrestling Champion and his first reign of 256 days is the longest in the title’s history. His combined reigns of 367 days is second only to Kurt Angle’s 608 days in six reigns. Roode is also the second most decorated tag team wrestler in TNA history behind only James Storm. Roode has held the TNA Tag Team Championship six times for a combined 590 days. His five reigns with Beer Money at a combined 514 days is a TNA record. Beer Money also holds the record for the longest reign at 212 days. Roode sometimes flies under the radar but is right there with Styles and Joe as one of the most successful TNA Wrestling stars of all time.
2 A Starr Is Born
Most pro wrestling fans remember Austin Aries’ time in TNA Wrestling as extremely successful and it was for the most part. Aries is a former TNA World Champion, tag team champion, and also a six time X Division Champion. However, all those titles came during his second run with TNA. Aries was far less successful during his first run with the company from 2005 to 2007. He was repackaged as Austin Starr and was saddled with the ridiculous tagline, “A Starr is born.” He became a part of Kevin Nash’s Paparazzi Productions. Aries probably saw how ridiculous this all was too and around this time he became identified as having a “bad attitude” by TNA. As a result, Aries was suspended for 90 days and eventually released ending his first failed run with TNA.
1 WWE Jobbers
Pro wrestling is a tough business to break into and it’s even tougher to get on television. And what’s even tougher than getting on television is getting on WWE television. Pro wrestling superstars have to start somewhere and have to take the breaks when they can get them. So, if WWE comes knocking with an opportunity to get on television then most will jump at the chance. With that said, there are four veteran former TNA Wrestling stars in WWE that were actually WWE jobbers years ago before getting a chance to shine in TNA. Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Eric Young, and Bobby Roode were all briefly WWE enhancement talents earlier in their careers. Styles squared off against The Hurricane on an episode of WWE Metal in 2002. Samoa Joe locked horns with Essa Rios on an episode of WWE Jakked in 2001. Bobby Roode ,under the ring name Rudy Rude, tangled with Perry Saturn on an episode of Metal in 2001. Eric Young wrestled Sean O’Haire on an episode of WWE Velocity in 2003. Also on WWE Velocity in 2003, Young and Roode actually teamed together for a match against the FBI (Full Blooded Italians).