Can you believe that TNA is a 14 year old company at this point in time? After WCW was bought out by the WWE machine, TNA slowly rose up with the hopes to be a successor of WCW and tried desperately to be taken seriously as a viable number 2 global wrestling promotion. Though they’ve had some successes, overall TNA just could not make a serious stand against WWE in terms of budget, production value and mass appeal. Now with all this talk of lawsuits, financial woes and power struggles we may very well be seeing TNA in its dying days as it struggles to stay alive.
One of the big knocks on TNA was it was gaining the reputation of being essentially a scrap heap of established stars from the WWE who either burned their bridges with the company or were burnt out by the gruelling schedule. These guys would leave the WWE and TNA would almost immediately scoop them up with hopes that WWE-only fans of the star would jump ship to continue seeing their favorites. Unfortunately, the change of scenery never really did anything to increase TNA’s legitimacy long-term and demonstrated that you need more than WWE cast offs to win viewership and support.
While there are some notable WWE established stars that you know had a much publicized run with TNA like Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam or are currently there like the Hardy Boyz, there may be some stars who had stints with TNA which may surprise you.
20 R- Truth
R-Truth is one of the longest tenured WWE guys on this list having been with the company for nearly ten years in two combined stints. However, before he was rapping “What’s Up” and being an overall goofball comedy character in the WWE, Truth had a solid stint in TNA where he did his best to be seen as a serious competitor. Going by his real name, Ron “The Truth” Killings, Truth wrestled in TNA for six years between 2002 and 2008. This was after a short forgettable initial stint with WWE as K-Kwik. Truth showed his wrestling chops in TNA, demonstrating that he could pull off some great performances in the ring which earned him a spot as a main eventer for some time. He even captured the World Heavyweight Championship on 2 occasions. If you were to look back at footage of him, he basically had the same shtick in TNA that he has currently in WWE but was treated as less of a joke.
19 CM Punk
Before he became a household name in the WWE, CM Punk was a well-traveled Indy star that hardcore fans got behind. His biggest non-WWE fame came from ROH but few remember that he had a short run with TNA. Punk joined TNA while he was still a part of ROH as both promotions had an agreement to let contracted stars wrestle on eachother’s show. Punk had a brief alliance with Raven before turning on him. This looked to be the start of a feud on TNA television but it quickly evaporated after TNA changed its rules on talent being able to wrestle for other promotions. Once that happened, Punk would quit, not wanting to exclusively wrestle for TNA.
17 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
Yes, the late and great Hot Rod had a stint in TNA although it did not involve any in ring action. Piper has always been a legendary talker on the microphone and TNA thought they could use his pipes to get some controversy on the show and get people tuned in. Piper was used in TNA sporadically to host Piper’s Pit in TNA and while they were largely unmemorable, his first Piper’s pit segment was memorable for the wrong reasons as Piper proceeded to turn it into a uncomfortable shoot on Vince Russo, using the stage to criticize Russo for ruining wrestling and being responsible for Owen Hart’s death.
16 Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods has found success in the WWE as part of the delightful trio the New Day wih Kofi Kingston and Big E and his video game channel UpUpDownDown but before the long-time W (Swivel) W (Swivel) E (Swivel) Tag Team Champion was a part of the company, the young Woods was even younger as a part of the TNA roster. Xavier Woods wrestled for TNA between 2007 and 2010 starting the tender age of 20. What’s even more surprising was that he started out as a tag team with R-Truth—the same way he debuted for WWE in 2013. In TNA he was known as “Consequences” Creed and his team with R-Truth was known as Truth and Consequences. Clever. Woods would capture tag gold but do little else of significance before being released in 2010 and picked up by WWE developmental.
Dustin Rhodes is one of the longest tenured WWE superstars, wrestling on and off with the company for over 20 years. At the age of 47, Goldust still looks to be in great in-ring shape and is still a part of Monday Night RAW. However during tougher times, Goldust has some blemishes on his career sheet when he was away from the WWE. There’s the failed “Seven” character he had in WCW. Then in TNA he was known as the Black Reign, which was intended to be a darker version of his Goldust character. The persona bombed as Rhodes was in bad shape at the time and it was revealed after the fact that he was doing drugs and even wrestling under the influence of them. Rhodes would be canned from TNA in less than a year but luckily cleaned up his act and his life and returned to WWE.
Andrew “Test” Martin, a once promising star in the WWE had fallen out of favor with the company after violations with the WWE wellness policy. Test was released from the company in 2006 and would jump to TNA in 2007 for a lightning quick “test run”. Test would go by his real name in the company and appeared as an ally of Sting. Test would wrestle only one match in TNA, winning a tag team contest as part of Sting’s team. Rumors of steroid usage and worry about his health was a factor in the quick release. With the market from both TNA and WWE not showing interest in him any further, Test would soon retire from wrestling in 2008 and unfortunately passed away in 2009.
WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi made a big name for himself in the WWE during the Attitude Era, but after WWE was looking for a youth movement, Rikishi was shipped out and signed with TNA in 2007 as Junior Fatu. The stint with TNA would last a little over a month. He would wrestler another WWE established star Christian in his debut match and would get into a short rivalry with Bobby Roode. Rikishi’s age showed in TNA as he wrestled as a shell of his former self. After getting into it with TNA management over a pay raise, TNA would release him.
9 Val Venis
The Attitude Era was all about pushing the boundaries with often raunchy characters and storylines and one of those characters which became a staple during that period was Val Venis who played a womanizing porn star. Val’s run in the WWE had some memorable moments but his momentum and his act got stale quickly and soon enough he was old news. By 2009 he was out of the company and in 2010, TNA swiped him up in their attempt to battle RAW on Monday Nights. It didn’t last long as he was instantly perceived as a WWE reject grasping for the limelight and got flack for defeating an established TNA star in Christopher Daniels in his first match under his real name Sean Morley. Venis was gone within months, making his TNA run a dud.
8 7/6. The New Age Outlaws
In the WWE the Road Dogg Jesse James and the Badass Billy Gunn were one of the most entertaining and successful tag teams in WWE history. They were at the height of their popularity during the Attitude Era but after that time period, the WWE was changing and they were old news. Angry and bitter over their WWE departures, Gunn and James would go to TNA and do much of their same shtick there. The Outlaws would rip into their former employer, Vince McMahon, every chance they got and would even rename their team as the Voodoo Kin Mafia as a play on McMahon’s initials. The Outlaws also tore into former DX buddies HBK and Triple H but would do little else of any importance under the TNA banner.
7 D’Lo Brown
We’re talking about the Real Deal now! D’Lo Brown established himself in the WWE as a impressive in-ring worker during the attitude era of the WWE but going into the Ruthless Aggression era, the WWE seemed to have moved on from the once hot commodity. D’Lo would move onto TNA in 2003 where he would team with AJ Styles on several occasions in attempts to win the TNA Tag Titles. D’Lo would then have a singles run but would challenge for the TNA World Championship numerous times but fail to capture the Gold. D’lo would leave TNA in 2004 but would return in 2009, working as a talent agent for several years and briefly becoming a member of the Ace and Eights stable.
Many WWE stars fail to repeat the success they have in the company on a different stage. Either they are washed up versions of themselves or just aren’t able to build any momentum after leaving the company where they became a household name. Christian is one of the rare few who used his time in TNA to prove that he could be a legitimate singles star that could be taken seriously. After WWE failed to commit to Christian in their long-term plans after Christian parted ways with Edge as a successful tag team, Christian went to TNA largely to prove to his old company that he can be a success on his own. Christian would legitimize the company in a way and was a solid part of the roster and main evented for some time with the company. The momentum Christian built followed him back to WWE as he was given a bigger role than he had previously with the company.
During the Attitude Era, Chyna made herself a household name and one of the most recognizable stars in the company with her look and physique. But unfortunately after WWE gave her the boot in late 2001, Chyna’s life would become pretty grim as she struggled with life after stardom with drug abuse. In 2011, after ten years away from wrestling and lots of ups and downs in her life, TNA would sign her to play a role in a feud between Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett. Chyna would side with Angle and would only wrestle a handful of matches that made her look like a shell of her former self before departing.
2 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
WWE Hall of Famer and legend, "Macho Man" Randy Savage is one of the most recognizable wrestlers of all-time. His glory days were always with the WWE and even while in WCW, he looked out of place away from the company where he made his name. After WCW was bought out, many thought there would be a possibility that Savage would return to his old home, but old grudges with Vince McMahon prevented that. Instead he would appear in TNA in late 2004 with his sights set on TNA Champion Jeff Jarrett. Savage would wrestle only one match, a six man tag with AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy against Jarrett, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. He was slated to have a main event Championship Match with Jarrett in early 2005 but due to health concerns, backed out of the match and effectively retired from pro wrestling.
1 Ken Shamrock
Another staple of the Attitude Era, the World’s Most Dangerous Man was already a known star from the early days of UFC and MMA when he entered the WWE, having memorable matches and feuds with the likes of The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. But did you know he was TNA’s first World Champion? In 2002, Shamrock had returned to wrestling after leaving the WWE with an itch to get back into the octagon. After a few MMA fights, Shamrock desired a WWE return but things fell apart on the contract as he didn’t get the schedule he desired.
Shamrock wanted to dabble in both pro wrestling and MMA but WWE wouldn’t allow it so he went to TNA, a brand new promotion at the time. Shamrock would appear on the inaugural show and capture the NWA TNA Championship, going into the record books as TNA’s first World Champ. Shamrock would have a brief reign, dropping the title to R-Truth before heading back to MMA full-time. He’d briefly come back to TNA in 2004 as well before leaving again.