The latest reset of what is now Impact Wrestling might be marketed as something of a new beginning, but it sure looks familiar. 15 Wrestlers Who NEED To Leave Impact Wrestling While They Still Have Some Credibility Whether its been the Jarrett family involved, the Carters and Panda Energy or a TNA built around Hulk Hogan, there remain some common themes to how each of these reboots have gone, even as they try to distance themselves from their predecessor. It seems that each time TNA looks to start anew, old, familiar faces are brought back into the limelight (Magnus, LAX), old WWE stalwarts are trotted out in a bid for 'big names' (Alberto Del Rio, Chris Masters) and the powers that be indulge in egocentric, nepotistic vanity projects (authority figure Karen Jarrett, the push of GFW), all the while empty buzzphrases like "take Impact to the next level" are tossed around.
Since Jeff Jarrett has retaken the helm, Impact Wrestling hasn't gained any noticeable traction, which is a shame when you consider how much respectable talent they actually have on hand. The combination of incumbent talent carried over from the past regime and both GFW guys and incoming roster additions have bolstered the promotion with depth and front line star power in every division. Too bad that solid feuds for the World Heavyweight Championship, Grand Championship, Tag Team titles, X Division title and Knockouts crown - I'm ignoring the GFW titles - seem to constantly get drowned out by the grating heel announce work of Josh Matthews and the constant need for rallying cries when fans really just want to see compelling stories play out in the ring.
For now at least, Anthem Sports & Entertainment seems to be offering some solid financial backing to keep Impact Wrestling firmly on its feet. But even so, it continues to spin its wheels while seemingly remaining content as a distant secondary promotion where it once aspired to rival WWE. For all the talent that the Anthem/Jarrett takeover ushered in, it also spelled the end for some pretty key TNA roster members, including The Hardys, Drew Galloway, Jade, Maria Kanellis and Mike Bennett. Sure enough, all are reportedly in the process of landing on their feet with WWE. The Hardys are Raw tag team champions after returning at WrestleMania, Galloway is on a fast track towards the top of NXT, Jade is rumored to be a part of the upcoming WWE women's tournament and Kanellis and Bennett have reportedly signed deals.
With so little actually changing at Impact Wrestling despite a wealth of in-ring talent and so many new opportunities awaiting in an expanded WWE Universe that includes a 205 Live cruiserweight roster and the aforementioned NXT, you couldn't blame some Impact wrestlers if they put some thought into the path of their former contemporaries. Here are 15 more Impact wrestlers who need to get out - and fast.
15 James Storm
In this era of wrestlers bouncing around promotions, there is something both noble and admirable about James Storm's continued dedication to TNA. The Cowboy's loyalty to the promotion traces back all the way to 2002, when he and Chris Harris formed America's Most Wanted, and has extended through to his current feud with ECIII. But that doesn't mean that Storm hasn't been tempted to fly the coop. He dipped his toe in the big ocean that is WWE late in 2015, making two appearances on NXT TV as an unsigned free agent before deciding to stick with the familiar. Given the pop he received from NXT faithful, however, it became clear that the WWE Universe was well-versed on Storm's body of work. Now pushing 40, a lengthy run in WWE appears unlikely, but wouldn't a short-term push for the beer-drinking Texan that reminds some of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin be fun?
14 Rockstar Spud
Before you jump all over me for suggesting that WWE needs a diminutive mouthpiece to act as yet another bad comedy figure, let me explain. No, I don't expect the mouthy, brash Rockstar Spud to be pushed as a serious wrestler in WWE, nor do I hope for him to fill the token funny midget role vacated by Hornswoggle (whom he happens to be feuding with right now). Instead, I see Spud's colorful personality helping inject a dose of life in the new UK brand that has seemed imminent ever since the WWE Network tournament back in January. The likes of Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne will still need help getting over and drawing the attention of fans, which is where Spud could come in handy. His size may serve as a drawback to any upward movement within the company, but he has already shown with TNA that he can generate plenty of heat as a slimy heel but also evoke sympathy as a scrappy, undersized babyface targeted by villainous, bullying types.
One of the unique challenges posed by having NXT function as both a site for development of future main roster Superstars and a brand in and of itself is that any arriving character is already a known quantity when they debut on Raw or SmackDown. This means that NXT stars who may seem to fit a specific niche on the main roster are compromised by their NXT identity. Fans have long speculated on who might be brought in to personify Bray Wyatt's long-talked about guiding light Sister Abigail, but prospects like Ruby Riot, Nikki Cross and Sarah Bridges who might fit the bill of a spooky female valet already have WWE-established personas of their own. Enter current Knockouts champion Rosemary, who is enjoy a lengthy title run at Impact Wrestling but lacks storyline direction on account of the dissolution of her Decay stable. She can definitely bring the creepy and may have an in via her former partnership with NXT trainer Sara Del Rey during their time in Shimmer.
12 Dezmond Xavier
The high-flying Dezmond Xavier is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential and stands as a talent to watch in the near future. He remains something of an unknown quantity, having only started his wrestling career in 2013 and getting his first mainstream exposure as a new addition to Impact Wrestling's X Division. Thus far, he has been given a moment to showcase some of his stunning move set before ultimately serving as the fall guy in multi-man X Division matches. I'm not saying that Xavier would immediately be pushed to the moon in WWE, but he could add another wave of athleticism to 205 Live while offering another African-American star to build around alongside the likes of Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander. As part of 205, he could be afforded the chance to develop as both a performer and on the mic while gaining increased TV exposure. Plus, you know that WWE would do something with those initials...
With The Undertaker all but retired and Kane appearing set to follow his Brother of Destruction out the door, there seems to be an opening for a new resident monster to reign in WWE. Abyss is not that monster. With all due respect to the long-time TNA staple, he is already 43 and, as such, isn't much younger than 'Taker or Kane. Still, one final run in WWE for Abyss would be a long time coming and shouldn't be entirely ruled out. He doesn't seem to have much left for him in Impact Wrestling now that Decay has disbanded and Kongo Kong seems to be filling the monster heel void. Conversely, fans have been clamoring for an Abyss run in WWE ever since a pitched program with the Undertaker reportedly fell through back in 2006. Coming in as a hired gun to help an emerging heel could help him serve WWE's objectives while also knocking off a few mini-dream matches and giving Abyss a sense of purpose. A run as part of Sanity alongside former TNA running buddy Eric Young would be pretty interesting.
A fascinating "what if?" to explore within the annals of WWE history would be what if the company had gone the expected route and pushed Brodus Clay as a menacing monster heel instead of the infamous Funkasaurus? Though fun for a period, the Funkasaurus gimmick simply left no room for growth within WWE, even though Clay gamely put up with the silliness of it. Impact Wrestling has got it right with the man now known as Tyrus, both with his 'Fixer' gimmick and his partnership with mouthy Eli Drake. Though entertaining, the duo is unmistakably villainous and has enabled Tyrus to maintain some degree of mystique. In that sense, there remains a future in Impact Wrestling for the big man, although one can't escape the sense that he still has unfinished business in WWE. Could Clay have held his own in a main event program with, say, John Cena? We still haven't gotten a chance to find out.
9 The Wolves
It seems strange to talk about the Wolves as a packaged tandem when, as any Impact Wrestling watcher knows, they are currently embroiled in a vicious and deeply personal blood feud. But regardless of how Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards are booked, they will remain intrinsically linked through their firmly established roots as a popular tag team. The duo had a cup of coffee with WWE through an NXT tryout, but failed to wow management following a disappointing match against the Ascension. Still, if Triple H truly is extensively scouting independent talent across the globe, surely he knows of the potential of Edwards and Richards beyond one bad match. By demonstrating their equal adeptness at tag team wrestling and singles competition, they've shown that they can be multi-dimensional contributors to WWE.
Unlike the Women's division in WWE, Impact Wrestling's Knockouts division seems to be emphasizing entertainment over athleticism. While WWE is showcasing meaningful matches and feuds between the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley, Impact has Laurel Van Ness drunkenly stumbling around in a wedding dress and smeared makeup and ODB patting her own boobs while drinking from a flask. With Gail Kim gone, you could argue that the only serious female wrestler on the roster is the hard-hitting heel Sienna. Even with mouthpiece Maria Kanellis gone, Sienna has continued her upward ascent and even recently claimed the GFW Women's Championship. But what, exactly, is her long-term outlook in the promotion? There isn't really a mat classic to be had amidst feuds with the likes of Allie, Brandi Rhodes or ODB. You can't really blame her for looking at the women's roster for WWE or another promotion and seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence.
7 Bobby Lashley
Now, this might seem like an odd fit considering a) Bobby Lashley seems to be doing just fine for himself as an ass-kicking world champion in Impact Wrestling and b) his WWE stint wasn't exactly a smashing success. But its been nine long years since Lashley's WWE run and his time as a headliner with Impact Wrestling has helped him evolve as a wrestler. Though always a physical force, Lashley has developed some charisma over time and can even handle some mic time thanks to his grasp on his no-nonsense heel character. This comfort level, something that Lashley failed to show during a babyface run in WWE, could serve him well should he seek one last run with his original promotion. Lashley is now in his 40's, so the window on a WWE run might be closing fast. You couldn't blame the guy for leaving the company in his rear view mirror, but a reunion could be an awfully compelling prospect.
6 DJ Z
Through his first five years with TNA, the high flyer formerly known as Zema Ion drifted between the anonymity of multi-competitor X Division matches and serving as the lackey in the BroMans faction. It was only last year that Ion, now going by the moniker of DJ Z, finally gained some traction as a babyface anchor of the X Division. He won the division's title, stood up against an anti-X Division Mike Bennett and provided a face to what once seemed like a generic group of spot monkeys. But early this year, DJ Z lost both the title and all the momentum that came with it. Low-Ki has become the X Division's focus, leaving DJ Z without much to do. His flashy, EDM-based character could play well on 205 Live, although it may need to be tweaked so as not to overlap with TJ Perkins' character.
5 Veterans of War
The recently debuted tandem of Wilcox and Mayweather (former NWA champion Jax Dane and former TNA store Crimson), collectively known as the Veterans of War, seem like something out of a Vince McMahon wet dream. A pair of muscled up tough guys wearing Shield-like camouflage gear while doing a pro-American patriotic gimmick. They're currently being built up for a feud with Konnan's red hot reboot of the LAX faction, suggesting that Impact Wrestling might just have some plans for the group. But WWE usually gets what it wants, and you can almost picture the VoW duo mixing it up with the likes of Sheamus and Cesaro in an overtly xenophobic feud. Maybe I'm being a tad cynical here and WWE has moved away from that type of act, but it won't take much to get Wilcox and Mayweather on their radar screen.
There appears to be a strong loyalty connecting Magnus to Jeff Jarrett. The former TNA World Heavyweight Champion left the promotion in 2015 and joined Jarrett's GFW start-up. The real-life Nick Aldis was repaid as the first GFW champ before recently following Jarrett back to what is now Impact Wrestling (where he recently dropped the belt to Alberto Del Rio). That deep link between the men might seem pretty strongly forged, but is it stronger than the one between man and wife? Aldis' wife, Mickie James, is currently enjoying a strong revival run, having recently been drafted over to WWE's Raw brand. One would imagine that the company would welcome her hubby into the fold with open arms. After all, his multi-dimensional presence as a skilled technician with a main event look and ample charisma would play well in NXT and especially in the coming UK brand.
When Mike Bennett left ROH to join TNA at the end of 2015, Moose wasn't too far behind in making the same jump. Is it possible that the seven-year NFL veteran might continue that trend by following his reportedly WWE-bound colleague? The real-life Quinn Ojinnaka was rumored to have expressed interest in joining WWE as a free agent in 2016, but the PG-friendly promotion grew reluctant given domestic violence allegations made against him back in 2009. While that could still be a major hurdle, there's a sense of inevitability to the agile, athletic 6'5" big man ultimately finding his way between the ropes in WWE. You could almost picture Vince McMahon salivating over the prospect of the WWE Universe taking part in the "Moose!" chant in unision, not to mention the fantasy booking of a Moose/Brock Lesnar or Moose/Roman Reigns showdown.
2 Eli Drake
Has any Impact Wrestling superstar come as far over the past few years as mouthy heel Eli Drake? Consider that his tenure began just two short years ago as a practically invisible background member of Drew Galloway's forgettable Rising stable. While few would be clamoring for a reunion between Drake and Galloway, a recent NXT addition and WWE returnee, the 'Dummy' button purveyor's mic skills could make him a coveted commodity outside of Impact Wrestling. With Impact, Drake has worked his way up to knocking on the door of the main event picture thanks to really gaining a firm grasp on his obnoxious, arrogant heel character. Paired alongside Tyrus, Drake has enhanced practically every segment he's been involved with, particularly making for a memorable feud with ECIII late in 2016. Though he may not be the best known Impact Wrestling standout, Drake could quickly gain a following in WWE, or in any promotion for that matter!
1 Ethan Carter III
Say what you will about WWE, but they rarely get burned on talent that they allowed to slip through their fingers. There may be cases of relationships being severed (just ask CM Punk about that one) and wrestlers being dropped for reasons that extend beyond in-ring ability (see Alberto Del Rio), but it isn't often that they get rid of a developmental hopeful that goes on to shine elsewhere. That distinction does, however, apply to our top two entries on this list, Eli Drake and ECIII. While Drake used his run in Impact Wrestling to truly realize his potential, it's unclear how WWE missed the boat on the one-time Derrick Bateman. The NXT standout gained a following for his comedic persona while being given precious few opportunities to do anything else. With TNA, he was immediately pushed to the top of the card and has since found his groove as both a main event babyface and heel. So why would Ethan Carter go back to the company that so badly botched his first run? With a lengthy TNA Heavyweight Championship run on his resume, he's achieved just about everything that he can with Impact Wrestling. A return to WWE would come with far more fanfare than his first run.