It seems hard to fathom now but there was a time when TNA (or Impact Wrestling as even they seem to be unsure what they should be called) was considered the hottest wrestling company around by many. Clearly those days are long gone. A shadow of their former selves, the company now exists amid constant rumors of financial peril, ever slipping ratings and worst of all they are ignored by a large portion of their industry’s loyal fan base. It has left us pondering how things could have gone so wrong.
If you look at the caliber of wrestlers TNA has managed to employ over the years you’ll find that they’ve had their fair share of potentially game-changing talents step into their ring. With so many former lynchpins fleeing for the higher ground of ROH, Japan, NXT, and WWE, it has afforded wrestling fans the opportunity to see what they are capable of if they’re allowed to flourish. The sheer quantity of former TNA talents that are currently working for the WWE, in some capacity, shows the degree to which TNA management missed the ball. Funnily enough, a principle reason they let so many talented workers slip through their fingers is because they obsessively pushed former WWE talent over their homegrown stars.
The TNA Hall of Fame is the perfect symbol of everything that made this list so easy to populate: there hasn’t been a single person inducted who didn’t have a significant WWE run prior to joining TNA. With that said we’d like to mention a wrestler who seemed poised to be a major difference maker for the company, Desmond Wolfe AKA Nigel McGuinness. He didn’t make our list despite falling short of expectations. Suddenly retiring from in-ring competition due to being diagnosed with a serious disease, we can’t blame TNA for his departure.
When Magnus was brought in as the Modern Day Warrior, Brutus Magnus, with very little experience under his belt, it was clear his look and time on the UK’s version of Gladiators had a job. Fast forward to his departure in 2015 and the company was losing the type of talent that could have served as their backbone. A former world Heavyweight Champion who’d also been a multiple time tag team champ, he had developed a great deal of gravitas in his role.
The sad part is that Magnus was never really put into a position to matter all that much. Sure, time in The Main Event Mafia, his various tag team runs, and his 128-day heavyweight title reign made it seem like he was one of their major cogs but the reality was a different matter. His time in TNA was a story of a company that always saw him as the star of tomorrow. Typically putting him a position to look fairly good, when they finally got to him, somewhere down the road, they wanted to make sure he didn’t look like a chump but he also never looked like a champ. By the time he had his reign on top, the company was nowhere near as relevant; years in the middle of the pack made him look somewhat undeserving and it made zero difference. Had he been given a shot, years earlier, he could have been capable of so much more.
An intensely talented in ring performer who was a part of the knockouts division when it was taken a lot more seriously, Hamada's only accomplishment in TNA was being a two-time Knockouts Tag Champion, belts that were once held by Eric Young and ODB and vacated three times during the minuscule amount of time they were active, it’s safe to say she deserved better.
Her first run as champion ended when she and her partner, Awesome Kong, were stripped of the belt due to not defending it in thirty days. The only problem, they had defended the titles a mere three weeks earlier, which according to our math is twenty-one days. Taken off TV for four months, she then returned and once again won the belts with a new partner before she was largely ignored again. Moving back to Japan, she requested her release and once again was stripped of her championship, an unceremonious end to an underwhelming run. This talented grappler should have had a significant turn with the singles women’s title, where she could have added to the prestige women like Awesome Kong and Gail Kim lent it.
13 Kenny King
A contestant in the second season of Tough Enough, Kenny wound up working as a jobber for TNA, whom he wrestled for without winning a single match. Leaving their employ, Kenny found success when he began working for ROH, a company that is renowned for unleashing previously looked over talent. He then returned to TNA only to fall short of everyone’s expectations. Used as an X Division wrestler for much of 2012 and 2013, he received a run with the belt that would last just over three months before disappearing again for six months.
Returning and beginning a feud with MVP that resulted in one match that was ruled a no-contest, the two men would form an alliance with others called The Beat Down Clan. His run with that group was the only time during the entirety of Kenny’s multiple runs with the company that they began to actually make good use of his natural charisma. Initially positioned as the workhorse of the trio, before too long he began to steal attention from his more esteemed colleagues when he proved he could hold his own with them on the mic and in the ring. Then, despite bringing in more men to fill out the BDC’s ranks, every member of the group either went out on their own -in Lashley’s case- or left the company outright which left Kenny in the lurch. If only TNA had gotten out of his way at any point. The X Division has long been dogged by accusations of lacking personality; Kenny could have fixed that problem almost entirely on his own.
12 Roxxi Laveaux
When Roxxi debuted in the company as the Voodoo Queen, the valet of the Voodoo Kin Mafia, one of the crappiest groups the company ever created, which is saying something, we were left perplexed. Looking like someone from the height of the hippie era, there was nothing about her garb or the men she walked to the ring (the once and future New Age Outlaws) that looked supernatural. Thankfully, she dropped that silly gimmick before too long, left VKM and began taking part in some great matches. Rechristened the hardcore knockout, Roxxi served as a fantastic opposition to The Beautiful People, the leading female heel faction in the company at the time.
Dedicated enough to her character to have her hair shaved off in the middle of the ring, she received a standing ovation from the fans in attendance and from that point on, had a real crowd connection. Unfortunately, as is often the case in wrestling, that only went so far and despite her clear commitment, she was never given a role of true prominence. Released from her contract, seemingly due to a backstage altercation with Rhaka Khan, a wrestler with a horrible reputation, her fans bemoaned her wasted potential. Returning to the company a few times over the years, she has never been put in a position to make a difference. A woman with an innate ability to make the crowd adore her, Roxxi’s charisma came from the fact that you could tell she loves what she does. We’ll never understand why wrestling companies have such a hard time capitalizing on performers who enjoy a mutual love affair with their fans, just like them.
11 Christopher Daniels
Daniels spent years as The Fallen Angel, a character that even he has said publicly was not a good fit. Even though he was amazing in the ring during that time and took part in the match that is roundly considered the best in company history, he hadn’t put it all together yet. A wrestler who first hit the indie circuit in 1993, it wasn’t until he started having fun that things really turned around. Taking part in a feud with AJ Styles that is known as one of the worst ever (Becky Lynch), the overwrought and mellow dramatic story seems to have set him free.
Creating a team with Kazarian, the duo became known as Bad Influence, the absolute highlight of the wrestling world at the time. Gone were the overly emotional stories and characters that he’d tried to create in the past, to be replaced by setups designed to entertain. Dear God, did it work. Whether they were coming out in the suits from Dumb and Dumber or if they were dressed like Mel Gibson from Braveheart, everything they did seemed to work. So, why in the world were they not placed in a position of greater importance, let alone allowed to leave the company outright. We don’t think Daniels was ever destined for the Heavyweight championship but had they put the modern version of the man in a position to make those around him look as good as him, things could have been much better.
We’ve already discussed how amazing Kaz’s team with Daniels was but unlike his partner, we think he could have found a home at the tip top of the card. A man with a great look who is as good in the ring as nearly anyone, he has everything wrestling promoters have ever looked for but size. TNA isn’t the land of McMahon though so that shouldn't matter too much, right? Unfortunately, it is the land of McMahon cast offs so it has made all the difference in the world.
Made to wrestle under a full body suit and mask as Suicide (a fate his partner Daniels has suffered as well) at one point, Kazarian never received the push even half the men on this list enjoyed. We think he could have found a home as world champion, he was never treated like a true star and yet we’ve only placed him in the tenth slot on our list. If we were you, we’d be pretty confused. Today, he is regarded as one of the best guys to have in your locker room since he wants nothing more than to have a good time and a great match. That wasn’t always the case, though. The man, himself, has spoken about not being ready for the spotlight in the first several years of his career. Best evidenced by his dismissal from the WWE, due to attitude issues, a rumor he confirmed on a recent episode of Talk is Jericho, it seems he is somewhat responsible for his fate early on. That changed over time though and he should have received another shot.
9 Santana Garrett/Brittany
When Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were given the keys to the castle in TNA, they brought in a bevy of former WWE wrestlers, including Orlando Jordan, a man who was most famous as JBL’s lackey. Creating an interesting persona, Jordan a bi-sexual man in real life, turned his sexuality into his entire character in an over the top manner. Coming to the ring flanked by a man and a woman, he seemed to be romantically linked to both, which was supposed to be edgy, we guess, but came off as desperate. The woman that accompanied him to the ring was Santana Garret, who left TNA after merely a few months when Orlando failed to catch on.
Returning three years later, she renamed herself Brittany and began to exhibit an obsessive character that lusted after Madison Rayne and then Samuel Shaw. Pulling off the character in spades, she was defeated by Madison and the planned duo with Samuel Shaw went nowhere because both left the company. Having recently made a few appearances for WWE’s NXT brand, she has proven during her short tenure there, despite lacking a character of any kind that she has all the skills needed to succeed in this business. We really hope that she gets signed by the WWE, which would be the ultimate happy ending in our minds, but the fact that TNA let her go proves that they have a hard time identifying true talent.
8 Alex Shelley
When we decided to make this list, one of the first people we thought of was Alex Shelley. Brought in to bolster the X Division, he was there when Kevin Nash, from an on-screen perspective, got his claws all over his peers. Stating outright that the personas of the division, who were best known for their in-ring work, were bland, Nash proceeded to assign men like Jay Lethal, Austin Starr and others new personas. Alex on the other hand, who’d created Paparazzi Productions, where he’d film other wrestlers in various situations while providing amusing commentary, was left alone. We can’t think of a better testament to the fact that even his myopic viewed bosses at TNA recognized that he was rather enthralling.
Still, his tenure in the X Division hit a ceiling, which led to him and Chris Sabin forming the Motor City Machine Guns, one of the most popular tag teams in years. Although we had always hoped that Alex would enjoy singles success at a big league level, we rejoiced that he would finally be used in a role that was worthy of his talents - or would he? Only winning the tag titles once over the several years they were together, the duo was often fed to the likes of Team 3D and others. Worst of all, Alex was forced to wear a turkey suit on national television. One of the most charismatic men to enter a TNA ring, Alex seems like the type of guy we’d love to be friends with or at the very least see be treated like the star he was born to be.
7 Jay Lethal
Remember when we mentioned that Jay Lethal was given a new character at the hands of Kevin Nash? Well, in the short term it turned out to be a boon to his career but long-term, it decimated his TNA chances. After spending much of 2005 and 2006 under his own name pursuing the X Division title, one random week he revealed on television that he could do an awe-inspiring “Macho Man” Randy Savage impersonation. Once that cat was out of the bag his dye was cast and Jay Lethal became Black Machismo, a multi-coloured outfit wearing man that brought to life Savage’s character for the first time in years.
One of the best personalities to ever call the wrestling world home, we all rejoiced at an opportunity to see a Savage imitation of this caliber. We assumed that he would be Black Machismo until it ran its course and then would be given a fresh opportunity to perform as himself. For the briefest of moments, that seemed to be true. After playing the character for several years, the façade was finally dropped and Jay was thrust into a feud with one of the best wrestlers of all time, Ric Flair. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the feud was largely based on Lethal’s ability to mimic Flair and despite the promos and feud really cooking, Lethal was not long for the company. We can’t even fathom the type of decision making that would make a company think that Lethal, a man who held his own on the mic with Ric Flair, wasn’t worthy of, at least, a major push.
6 James Storm
In the history of TNA’s tag team division, a lot of people would argue that the two best homegrown teams the company has created were America’s Most Wanted and Beer Money. The one thing they have in common is James Storm, a man who has won tag gold in TNA a remarkable fourteen times. Putting James’ amazing tag credentials aside, the reason why he finds himself here is because of how hugely his singles run was bungled.
At the very height of Beer Money’s popularity, the team came to an end as both men, James and Bobby Roode, were promoted to the main event division. Built up over four months on television as one of the main competitors in the Bound for Glory series, fans around the world were chomping at the bit to see either Storm or Roode win the Heavyweight title. Then it happened, James managed to pull it off, he defeated Kurt Angle for the belt. Giving his friend and partner a shot eight days later, Storm was hit in the head with his own beer bottle, lost the title we were all so invested in him winning and never, ever got it back. Sure he wrestled his new foe for it a few times but he quickly was thrust right back down the card, never to sniff the main event again. What kind of genius do you have to be to book a man to be the personification of the fans hopes and then firmly crush them? Vince McMahon never worked in TNA, right?
5 Samoa Joe
The current NXT Heavyweight champion, Samoa Joe spent ten years in TNA, in which he accomplished very little except at the beginning. After his initial, three-year run, which included taking part in the company’s best match, going undefeated, winning the world title and giving Kurt Angle arguably his best feud ever, it all started to fall apart. Joe began to be weighed down by one horrible story after another. Being kidnapped out of nowhere, only for his captors never to be revealed, sounds great. Coming to the ring wearing facepaint and brandishing a massive knife that he clearly could never actually use, yeah that makes sense.
Turns out you can only swallow so much crap before it starts to catch up with you. Joe, one of the most intense wrestlers ever, seemed to lose passion for what he was doing more and more each week. It is nearly impossible to blame him when we think back to the endless amount of garbage he was fed, but still, the fact that he all but gave up for a period has relegated him to only fifth place on our list. Had he kept his morale up (a feat that may have been impossible for almost anyone) he may have taken our top spot. Thinking back to when he stood forehead to forehead with Kurt Angle, the company’s biggest-ever acquisition, it is abundantly clear that he should have been so much more.
4 Raisha Saeed/Alissa Flash
How is it that TNA can recognize that a wrestler is talented enough to pull off two characters but still not have the wisdom to make either of them actually mean much of anything? One of the best wrestlers of this generation, no matter the gender, this grappler who is best known as Cheerleader Melissa was brought into TNA as the manager of Awesome Kong. Taking a woman who was that talented in the ring and making her spend months and months standing at ringside while women who can’t tie up her shoes perform is a disgrace.
Then, it seemed as though they finally saw the error of their ways but of course, she wouldn‘t have found her way on this list if that were true. She created a new character, named Alissa Flash, and lost her debut and then kept the ball rolling by teaming with Daffney and losing that effort. Great stuff TNA. We could go on about how she was poorly used from there on out under multiple personas, but suffice it to say she never amounted to much. A gifted performer who proved that she was capable of nearly anything, if she was ever given a shot to be herself and not perpetually lose, she easily could have been their best female performer ever.
3 Bobby Roode
Joining TNA as a member of Team Canada, when that stable imploded it was clear to nearly everyone that nobody was better positioned to be a star than this man. Having been compared to former stars like Rick Rude and Ted Dibiase, Bobby was given an old school style gimmick that should have made him the man. Instead, he languished around the mid-card before being put in a tag team. That’s alright, though that team was Beer Money, one of the best duos in years and he had plenty of time to make it to the top.
Since you’ve already read James Storm’s entry, we won’t retread the greatly flawed tale that led to Bobby becoming heavyweight champ. We will say, that despite the dubious nature of his ascent, including losing to former champ Kurt Angle, we rejoiced to finally see one of our own take his rightful spot. Of course, our joy didn’t last too long as before long it became clear that his time on top would dissipate almost immediately after he lost the belt. One of the few men you could reasonably believe had the tools to be your flag bearer, Bobby Roode was never given a real shot. Instead, he ultimately became an afterthought before he unceremoniously left the company in 2016. How sad is that?
Montel Vontavious Porter is a man you just want to watch. Amazing on the mic, he was one of the hottest free agents on the market, based off his beloved time in WWE and Japan, when he joined TNA in 2014. The leader of The Beat Down Clan, a group that ran roughshod over the company for several months, he served as the mouthpiece for Lashley, the world champ at the time, and we knew they’d feud eventually. At least, we assumed that would happen but we forgot this is TNA, the land of unreached potential.
After reportedly convincing TNA to sign Hernandez, who would go on to join the BDC, news came to light that Lucha Underground had their new recruit under contract still. Once they enforced their legal right, it forced TNA to edit out every segment they’d filmed with the man, which meant all of MVP’s recent work was excised. Leading to a dispute TNA and MVP, Porter left the company, never to return, which suddenly put an end to the biggest faction in the company. Considering the fact that The BDC was the biggest thing going, the fact that TNA brought a man with a questionable contract into the company is about as stupid as anyone could be. Letting MVP, one of your most talented performers go in that wake makes that mistake all the more mind boggling. They should have pushed him to the moon instead of using him as the mouthpiece of an inferior worker and stopped at nothing to keep him.
1 A.J. Styles
A.J. Styles is everything that is wrong with TNA Wrestling. We know how that sounds but remember what this article is about and stick with us. A former Legends, Global, and Television Champion, who won Tag gold six times, reigned supreme in the X Division six times and was world champ five times, he did it all. No really, the guy was even the first person who won the X Division title so it seems impossible to think he should make it on this list, let alone top it.
The thing is that he deserved all that and so much more. He should be a Hall of Famer who has had the most and longest reigns in company history. The company should have made him their calling card and rallying cry. Nobody in the history of TNA made more of a clear argument that they should be the man. He didn’t owe his fame to a run in WCW or WWE. He wasn’t a day past his prime. There is zero question in our minds, A.J. should have been TNA’s Hulk Hogan or John Cena. Instead, he was the guy TNA turned to once or twice a year to make it look like they’d built stars themselves. TNA did not build A.J. Styles. TNA was lucky enough to have A.J. and his many fans built under their nose and too foolish to ever take advantage of the gift they’d been handed. A.J. Styles is everything that is wrong with TNA Wrestling because he is everything that is great about their fans ability to see through the crap they were fed again and again.