Professional wrestling fans have, over the years, referred to the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling promotion as “World Wrestling Entertainment Lite” for a variety of reasons. TNA Wrestling has a long history of pushing former WWE performers to the tops of cards and hoping that those wrestlers will be what makes TNA a true force in the sports entertainment industry. That, of course, has never happened, as TNA has never even flirted with becoming as successful as World Championship Wrestling was during the 1990s. While TNA continues to defy the odds and remain in existence, the harsh reality is that nobody on the roster is elevating any championship to the point that he or she would draw a significant amount of eyes and attention to the company. It could, thus, be said that it literally does not matter who holds the TNA World Championship or any other title in the company as of the summer of 2016.
TNA is not some victim in a wrestling war, nor is the company merely unfortunate to have to compete with a media conglomerate such as the WWE. Time after time, TNA dropped the ball with awarding certain performers with championship runs that, quite frankly, they did not deserve. It should be pointed out that no one wrestler can be blamed for the state of TNA Wrestling as of July 2016. The company is where it is today because of a plethora or miscues, curious business decisions and an inability to reach legitimacy in the eyes of casual wrestling fans and viewers. With that said, we would not be surprised if you either forgot or never knew that some of the wrestlers mentioned in this piece actually held TNA championships at one time or another.
15 Kurt Angle
What everybody has to remember about Kurt Angle is that there were serious concerns for his health and his well being when he and the WWE parted ways in 2006. That did not stop TNA Wrestling from immediately scooping Angle up and then pushing him in main events and as a World Champion. Things worked out alright in the end in that disaster and tragedy did not strike.
Angle, thankfully, is still with us today, although there are concerns that his body is in rough shape following many years working as a wrestler. Did Angle deserve to be a champion in TNA? Absolutely, but preferably after spending a considerable amount of time away from the limelight and away from the business. Just because things did not go horribly wrong a decade ago does not mean that TNA making Angle a World Champion was a good idea at the time or with the benefit of hindsight.
14 Mr. Anderson
The wrestler known in the WWE as Ken Kennedy did not make it as a World Champion in that company for a variety of reasons. He once claimed that wrestlers such as Randy Orton and John Cena campaigned against him behind the scenes in the WWE. He had no such worries as Mr. Anderson in TNA Wrestling, though, and thus he made it all the way to the top of the promotion as its World Champion.
It turns out that Anderson had other worries, most notably that he could not serve as the top heel or top babyface in a company such a TNA. You know why the WWE never made “Road Dogg” Jesse James World Champion? It’s because that company knew that a guy having an entertaining entrance routine was not enough for him to be a top star for a promotion. TNA would have done well to realize that with Mr. Anderson.
13 Rob Van Dam
The issue here is not so much that Rob Van Dam was given a run with the TNA World Championship. It is that Van Dam won that title in 2010. That was roughly nine years after the original Extreme Championship Wrestling went out of business for good and it was well after Van Dam squandered a golden opportunity in the WWE because he was allegedly unable to follow certain rules regarding substances he could and could not use.
The height of Van Dam’s popularity among the bulk of wrestling fans in North America was merely a memory by the time TNA Wrestling made him the company’s World Champion, and Van Dam working in main events and at the tops of cards did little positive for the promotion. Perhaps things could have gone differently had TNA Wrestling acquired Van Dam in 2002 when it seemed as if he was being buried by the WWE.
This is not at all meant to be any kind of knock on Raven as a wrestler or on his contributions to TNA Wrestling during his time with the company. In fact, Raven was responsible for several entertaining programs in the first few years of TNA’s existence. By 2005, however, the original ECW was dead and buried, as were the best years of Raven’s in-ring career. TNA had a real opportunity to do something different and forge its own path in the pro wrestling world. The company instead decided to make Raven its World Champion for a time.
Raven is one of the many examples of former WWE stars given pushes in TNA Wrestling that they did not deserve and that did not help the company grow in popularity. Wrestlers such as Raven could have done so much to help build future stars in TNA, but the company instead chose to go a different route. It’s a shame, because we’ll never know what could have been for TNA.
11 Christian Cage
Christian Cage may be the personification of “jack of all trades, master of none” as it pertains to the pro wrestling industry. Before injuries and physical setbacks prematurely ended Christian’s career, the man who made his name as Edge’s tag team partner in the WWE was a good in-ring worker. Christian was also skilled on the microphone. He, simply put, lacked something, perhaps the often-discussed “it factor,” whenever he was pushed as somebody worthy of winning a title such as the TNA World Championship.
Christian jumping ship from the WWE to TNA created some buzz online, but it was essentially a non-factor for business when all was said and done. A company trying to distinguish itself from the WWE should not have presented Christian as its World Champion. It may be harsh to say, but Christian as a World Champion just did not work in TNA Wrestling or in the WWE.
10 Ken Shamrock
There was a time when a company pushing Ken Shamrock as a World Champion and as one of its biggest stars would have made sense. The shine was off of the figurative apple by 2002 and when TNA made Shamrock the company’s World Champion, however, as Shamrock had already flopped out of the WWE well before the birth of TNA Wrestling. Shamrock was a great fighter when in his physical prime and he was a big star in the WWE in the 1990s.
The biggest issue was that Shamrock failed to dramatically improve in the ring and on the microphone, and wrestling fans did not take to Shamrock as they did performers such as The Rock, Steve Austin and Triple H. Sometimes, a pro wrestling experiment does not work out even when all indications are that it should. That was the case with Shamrock during his stints with the WWE and TNA Wrestling.
9 Main Event Mafia
Not everything about the Main Event Mafia faction that included former WWE and WCW stars was awful. Without that group, we may have never been gifted with Scott Steiner yelling about Samoa Joe being fat during an on-air segment (look it up if you’ve never seen it). With that said, Steiner and Booker T were two performers who had overstayed their welcomes in TNA Wrestling when they won tag team gold in 2009. This was a decision straight out of the dying days of WCW, as older wrestlers who did not deserve to be champions were pushed ahead of younger performers who could have possibly become stars while working in TNA.
The Main Event Mafia did not kill TNA, but that faction became a reason for fans to stop bothering with TNA and stop hoping that the company would one day get things right and not resort to pushing wrestlers who made their names in other organizations.
8 Jeff Jarrett
It is actually easy to forget how much TNA Wrestling pushed Jeff Jarrett during the early days of the company and when TNA had a working relationship with the National Wrestling Alliance. Jarrett, who was largely responsible for the existence of TNA following the death of WCW, was repeatedly given the company’s championship and pushed as the top heel in all of TNA.
The argument could be made that Jarrett serving as the “face” of TNA did more harm than good to the brand, as doing so made TNA look like a company where WWE castoffs went to work and win titles they would never win if wrestling in the top promotion in the world. Jarrett certainly had a place in TNA starting in 2002, but those making the decisions should have realized right away that Jarrett was not going to carry TNA to the mountaintop. One title run would have been plenty for good ol’ Double J.
7 Eric Young
Eric Young is a lot of things as a professional wrestler. Young can have solid matches with multiple members of any decent wrestling roster. Young showed throughout his career that he could play a comedic role that made him an underdog and babyface in the eyes of fans. One thing Young never was in the eyes of those looking for an alternative to the WWE was a World Champion, and Young probably didn’t deserve an opportunity to carry that title at any point during his run in TNA.
Young made his debut in NXT in 2016 and we hope to see him work entertaining programs with the likes of Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and others who are currently signed to the WWE brand. Young just shouldn’t be the guy who is tasked with being the face of that or any other wrestling promotion. Not everybody can be champions, after all.
6 Angelina Love
It may surprise some casual fans to read that there was once a time when the women’s division in TNA Wrestling was far superior to that offered by the WWE. Angelina Love was an entertaining on-air character back in 2009, but she was also below average in the ring compared to other female performers working in TNA Wrestling at the time. Love nevertheless was given multiple runs with the TNA Knockouts Championship and the TNA women’s division fell far beneath the WWE’s as it pertains to quality of matches.
Love was not a horrible champion in that she played her heel role well enough to generate heat from fans. There were simply better options, particularly for a company that was attempting to prove that it was serious about pushing women as wrestlers and not just as eye candy. For what it’s worth, Love wouldn’t receive a run with the NXT women’s title in 2016.
One of the ideas behind the original presentation of TNA Wrestling in the fall of 2002 was that the company was different than WWE and WCW. That notion, on its own, was fine, but pushing former WWE performers such as Syxx-Pac to the tops of cards did not help the company.
Sean Waltman, working under the name Syxx-Pac in TNA back in 2002, was still solid in the ring. The problem was that he was merely just a guy who landed work because of his time spent wrestling in the WWE and WCW in the eyes of those who tuned in to watch the early days of TNA. The company had plenty of talent on the roster at the time, and individuals such as A.J. Styles were looking to earn breaks they would not receive in the WWE. Syxx-Pac winning a TNA Championship did not fit with what the company was attempting to achieve.
4 The Band
The famous saying teaches us that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. That was the case with TNA Wrestling in the spring of 2010 when the company chose to award Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, known as “The Band” at the time, with the Tag Team Championships.
Neither Hall nor Nash were anywhere close to their primes roughly 14 years after the New World Order first debuted in WCW, and neither man deserved to hold a major title at that stage of their careers. This was neither the first nor last time that TNA attempted to catch fire by running with a former WCW storyline and making The Band champions did not result in the company making any real money. You have to give guys such as Hall and Nash credit for being able to cash checks from TNA. They were the only winners created by this decision.
3 Mick Foley
Mick Foley is a legend of the professional wrestling industry, a man who legitimately sacrificed his body, and likely years of his life to the business, and an icon of hardcore wrestling. With that said, Foley had no business holding any title in 2009, let alone the TNA World Championship. Even seven years before the posting of this piece, Foley physically was a shell of his former self and somebody who probably did not belong working significant matches.
It was difficult to watch Foley perform at that time and doing so is no easier many years after the fact. Foley deserves to be in multiple wrestling Hall of Fames and to be honored by promotions for his contributions to the industry. He did not, however, deserve to be a champion in 2009 and nothing that Foley did in the past or could have done while holding that title changes that reality. We’re just glad Foley left TNA with his body intact.
2 Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy was awarded the TNA World Championship in 2016. Even typing that sentence is astonishing for multiple reasons. Perhaps you are a wrestling fan who has enjoyed the TNA Wrestling program involving Matt Hardy and his brother Jeff, one that generated quite a bit of buzz online in the spring and summer of 2016. That’s fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that neither Hardy brother was ever moving the needle as it pertained to business when TNA decided to put the strap on Matt.
It doesn’t matter in the long run, as the numbers tell us that the majority of wrestling fans who actively follow WWE programming don’t even know that Matt Hardy won a World Championship in 2016. That right there says all you need to know about the current state of TNA Wrestling and about Hardy as a World Champion in that promotion.
1 Team Pacman
It was back in 2007 when TNA Wrestling thought it wise to sign National Football League player Adam “Pacman” Jones to a deal. Jones was in the headlines because of some unfortunate off-the-field matters, but TNA did not care that signing Jones would -- and did -- earn the promotion some negative press. The company even decided to put the Tag Team titles on Pacman Jones and Ron Killings. There was just one problem: The Tennessee Titans were not all that keen on Jones, who was signed to the Titans at the time, participating in matches, and thus the original storyline was scrapped almost as quickly as it was introduced.
No disrespect meant to the artist currently known in the WWE as R-Truth, but the team of Killings and Jones did not deserve to hold any TNA Championship at any point, and this gimmick did zero favors for TNA Wrestling in the long run.
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