The state of TNA Wrestling is still in absolute disarray. Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins was a part of the creative team and tried to gain control of the company. Dixie Carter refused to give him control, so Corgan is now out of the company. Anthem Sports & Entertainment has 85% of ownership over TNA with Aroluxe Marketing and Carter owning the rest of the company. Wrestlers have no certainty surrounding their futures and 2017 is not being met with optimism. Many are looking for plans outside of the company with the hopes of greener pastures and more stability out there.
A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode finding success in the WWE makes that an option with the company in need of finding enough talent for the brand split and NXT. Christopher Daniels and Jay Lethal are huge parts of the ROH roster, as the international independent scene is booming. There are plenty of places to work and make a living these days. Wrestlers leaving TNA can bet on themselves to make a better future without the stress of worrying about their company no longer existing any given day. We’ll look at some of the wrestlers that have either been rumored to or will be looking to abandon TNA’s sinking ship.
15 Drew Galloway
Drew Galloway has been on fire since he left the WWE. Galloway is a huge star on the independent scene with work in PWG, Evolve and ICW. His TNA run has been his crowning moment with the wrestler winning the TNA World Championship. Galloway’s stock is higher than ever with an amazing track record as a top star outside of the WWE landscape.
2017 should see him start to distance himself from TNA with their struggles. Galloway is in high demand with bookings all over the world. The combination of New Japan and Ring of Honor provides an outstanding option for him. ROH is rumored to have lots of talent leaving the company with contracts expiring soon. Galloway would be a force and set up a brighter future without wasting time in TNA.
14 Brandi Rhodes
Brandi Rhodes joined TNA towards the end of 2016, following her WWE departure. The beautiful talent never had the opportunity to wrestle or develop a personality on WWE television aside from playing a standard ring announcer. Brandi showed optimism leaving the WWE in hopes of becoming a wrestler, similar to her husband Cody Rhodes.
TNA has rarely featured the former ring announcer in relevant segments. Brandi’s feud with Maria Kanellis was very short-lived and TNA appeared to transition her out of it with Maria now focusing primarily on Allie. Basically, the writing is on the wall. Brandi was training at the Ring of Honor dojo with various ROH teachers, making it possible she joins the Women of Honor division in the future. TNA isn’t the right place for Brandi and she will be better off leaving to grow as a performer in other promotions.
13 Davey Richards
We have not seen Davey Richards on TNA television in quite some time following various injuries ruling him out for almost a year. Richards has been cleared and recently wrestled on a couple of independent shows. Richards has been flirting with retirement since 2010. Richards works as a paramedic outside of the squared circle and it won’t be too long until he officially retires from wrestling and pursues his other occupation regularly.
A recent announcement saw Richards claim 2017 would be his final year and no one wants to wrestle their final year in TNA. Richards’ partner Eddie Edwards is currently the TNA World Champion and has transitioned into a singles star, so The American Wolves can no longer exist as an active tag team. Richards working on the indies with no hints at returning to TNA may have already ended his time there, but we won’t know for sure until next year.
One of the brightest stars for TNA in 2016 has been Jade. The latest addition to the Knockouts Division completely freshened up the class with impressive performances against Sienna, Gail Kim and Rosemary. Jade has been a noteworthy performer on the independent wrestling scene for many years. TNA doesn’t deliver many great things for wrestling these days, but Jade getting to shine on national television is a positive sign.
WWE is rumored to be interested in investing a lot of time, effort and money into finding new female talent next year. A huge tournament is expected to take place consisting of the top free agents on the market. Jade is someone that could opt out of her TNA deal and go on to become the breakout star. WWE is in need of new women’s wrestlers to build in NXT for the future. Jade fits that perfectly.
11 Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes has not appeared on TNA television in many weeks, but is still listed on the official TNA roster. TNA has hopes of bringing him back into the fold as one of the biggest names on the free agent market today. The recent news of Rhodes making his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut as a member of the Bullet Club at Wrestle Kingdom is a game changer.
NJPW is the second biggest promotion in the world after the WWE. Rhodes' opportunity in the Bullet Club is massive and takes priority over TNA. NJPW also happens to hate TNA for their poor treatment of some of the Japanese wrestlers to come over years ago. Cody can potentially return to TNA to end his storyline with Lashley that was teased, but there’s no way he'd return in a full-time capacity. Rhodes will snub TNA in favor of the NJPW/ROH combination, along with various independent promotions.
Moose leaving Ring of Honor as a free agent to sign with TNA looked like a good idea at the time. Moose became a top player in TNA quickly and was involved in matches with main event stars Ethan Carter III, Lashley and Mike Bennett. However, things getting progressively worse for TNA financially has added less certainty for his future with the company.
Moose has yet to hit his potential after making huge improvements in a short time following his journey into wrestling. The former NFL star could return to ROH or once again enter talks with the WWE for a deal in NXT. Moose is business savvy and knows when to make the right move. TNA’s money offer in 2016 was too much to pass up, but the lack of faith in the company should see him ditch the promotion in 2017.
Despite a lack of television time, Tyrus is still a member of the TNA roster. The former Brodus Clay achieved success in TNA as the bodyguard of Ethan Carter III. However, Carter becoming a face left Tyrus with less purpose. TNA has not been able to find a suitable role for him, following the end of his relationship with EC3.
Tyrus has made a few appearances in recent months, but they have been few and far between. TNA doesn’t have plans for him at all at this point. Tyrus will officially leave the company at some point in the near future and he already does work with Fox News on talk shows. TNA has time to promote him there but refuse to make him relevant on the shows. It'll all culminate with Tyrus jumping ship.
8 Maria Kanellis
Maria Kanellis has been one of the most heavily focused characters of the year on TNA television. Following her departure from ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Maria signed a big contract to be one of the biggest characters on the show. Kanellis has cut promos on every show with frequently two-to-three noteworthy storylines going on with her role in the Knockouts Division and managing her husband Mike Bennett.
A recent post on social media saw Maria reference her time in wrestling coming to an end in the near future. The rumors of TNA’s future saw her express frustration and discuss her recent years of working towards a college degree to work in another field. Everyone has to be annoyed with how TNA has failed to provide relevant information for the future. Kanellis has little time left and her final years should come in a more reliable company.
7 Mike Bennett
Along with wife Maria Kanellis, Mike Bennett joined TNA at the beginning of the year with huge expectations. Bennett has been a main event heel for most of the year, but has started to tread water in a lower tier feud with Braxton Sutter. An interesting tweet from Bennett saw him unhappy when news broke that Billy Corgan was out of the company and Dixie Carter was still holding power.
Bennett speaks positively about his peers and the locker room environment in TNA. However, he clearly isn’t happy with how Dixie does business. The Kingdom is once again reformed in ROH and likely needing one more member to signify their four fingers gesture. Bennett is working with them on smaller independent wrestling shows. This all make it seem like he will ditch TNA for a return to ROH.
6 DJ Z
One of the longer tenured wrestlers in TNA to break out in 2016 was DJ Z. Formerly known as Zema Ion, DJ Z finally received an opportunity to showcase his in-ring skills as a singles star. His years of work in The BroMans stable made him look like a joke, but DJ Z reminded us that he is an incredible wrestler as arguably the top star in the X-Division.
As the current X-Division Champion, TNA will want to keep him happy. WWE’s Cruiserweight Division however should give him enough inspiration to leave TNA and bet on his talent. With 205 Live and Raw’s division, WWE needs many more talents to try out in the Cruiserweight class and DJ Z is a great option. He'll most likely leave TNA with enough temptation of WWE giving him a chance.
5 Dixie Carter
The only person currently in TNA that you can critically blame for the current state of the company is Dixie Carter. She is still a minority owner and the CSO of TNA right now. Sadly, Dixie positions herself as the face of the company behind the scenes, similar to Stephanie McMahon. Unlike Stephanie, Dixie’s company has been associated with failure due to her poor decisions.
Time is ticking on Carter and it’s only a matter of time before she finally steps down. The company can easily go out of business in 2017, but the most likely scenario is Dixie selling her remaining percentage of ownership. TNA’s best chance at success is changing the name and distancing the brand from Carter. Dixie has to realize this and give up her position in TNA. Maybe it will help her reputation to find another business venture instead of this TNA disaster that has gone on for over a decade.
4 Eddie Edwards
The shocking title change of Eddie Edwards defeating Lashley to become the TNA World Champion should have been a huge moment. Edwards is one of the most talented and hardest working wrestlers in the company. We witnessed him slay the unbeatable monster Lashley to capture the biggest prize in TNA. The sad truth about his title win is the fact that most people don't even know it happened.
The big moment saw very little attention and almost no discussion about it online. Edwards has worked his entire career to get there, but it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of the wrestling world. Edwards' talent could make him a main event star in NXT or Ring of Honor with less worry about the future. Edwards needs to get back on the grid and leaving TNA on top is the best way to do that.
3 Gail Kim
Gail Kim has remained insistent on staying loyal to TNA and never going back to the WWE. Things change in wrestling and Gail's body of work could lead her to a great opportunity elsewhere. The women’s revolution in the WWE along with the brand split has made the need for credible female wrestlers more important than ever.
WWE could offer Gail two potential scenarios that are both tempting. As a now legendary figure in wrestling following her stint in TNA carrying the Knockouts Division for years, Kim could return to Raw or SmackDown Live in a veteran role to help add depth in dream matches against the current top stars. The more likely scenario would be joining NXT. Kim could help make up for the losses of the women moving up to the main roster, work a light schedule and have her own creative freedom to provide great content.
2 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy's star power is still there as one of the most popular names outside of the WWE. Fans still support Hardy based off his superb work in the WWE over the years. Jeff left the big company at the height of his popularity as a main eventer. The current landscape of the WWE with the brand split in play can only benefit him into getting a great contract offer.
Hardy will become a free agent towards the end of February and TNA might not have enough funds to keep him. Goldberg’s successful return to the WWE should have the company value former stars more than ever, especially the ones that can still perform at a high level. Jeff has a couple of strong years left in him and the smart money is on him ditching TNA for a final run in WWE.
1 Matt Hardy
Along with his brother Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy is hitting the free agent scene with his value higher than ever. 2016 saw him reinvent his career with the inception of the Broken Matt character. Fans have never viewed Matt as a bigger singles star than he is currently is today. Triple H has been rumored to have strong interest in bringing Hardy back to the WWE when his TNA contract ends.
Matt has been vocal about his desire to test the market. TNA is his main priority, but he wants more control and a huge contract. Neither of those appears to be a likely scenario. WWE aggressively pursuing the free agent market in 2017 means Matt has to be one of the top names on their list. The table is set for Broken Matt to make his way back to the WWE for what promises to become must-see television.