After WCW and ECW both folded in the early 2000s, Jeff and Jerry Jarrett took it upon themselves to attempt to create an alternative to WWE programming, and thus was born Total Nonstop Action (TNA), an upstart promotion run out of Nashville, Tennessee. The promotion gained steam for featuring some amazing cruiserweight talent (AJ Styles, Petey Williams, Jerry Lynn, Amazing Red) known as the X-Division, and turned into a 6-sided ring, which gave it an even more alternative feel.
Between the years 2006-2008, TNA was running a full, year-length TV schedule, as well as regular PPV events, putting them in a promising position to compete with WWE. This came crashing down when Hulk Hogan, Dixie Carter and Eric Bischoff destroyed the alternative feel for the company, making it WWE 2.0, and making the majority of the same mistakes that WCW did in its epic downfall.
They are still active today but are seen as the third biggest American promotion behind ROH and WWE, but they are gradually getting better with the help of Billy Corgan. Like all companies, there have been good and bad moments with TNA, so here are the 7 best and 8 worst wrestlers in the history of Total Nonstop Action.
21 Lacey Von Erich - WORST
With a name like Von Erich, no one can blame TNA for signing the disappointment that became Lacey, but at the time they out bid WWE for her services, so it seemed like a win for the young company. She would debut as a part of the Beautiful People, but this only further highlighted her shortcomings, as they weren’t amazing, but Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne were two very talented performers. Despite winning the TNA Knockouts Tag Titles alongside Velvet Sky, Von Erich just failed to stand out, and couldn’t work an entertaining match alone, which was probably all the more disappointing due to the stock and lofty expectations that were placed on her by management. She retired after just 3 years in the wrestling business, so not exactly something TNA wants you to remember from someone with such legendary lineage.
20 Austin Aries - BEST
The ‘Greatest Man that ever lived’ is one of the most talented and versatile performers in wrestling, as proven by his recent, fantastic run in NXT, which TNA tried to capitalize on when he joined them following a stellar run in Ring of Honor. Despite being of smaller size, Aries has the charisma and ability to overcome that, even today in a size driven WWE promotion, and he constantly stole the show for TNA. He could also work with any opponent of any size, from the smaller X-Division performers to larger men like Abyss and Bully Ray, Aries had the uncanny ability to get the best out of any opponent he faced. Whether you like him or hate him, it is impossible to deny the amazing talent that is A Double.
19 Garett Bischoff - WORST
This is nepotism at its finest, as somehow, the son of Eric Bischoff not only found his way into TNA, but became a part of the biggest group in the company, Aces and Eights. With most cases of nepotism, the beneficiary has some redeeming qualities that make it somewhat understandable, but it seems that Garett’s only genuine asset is his father. Thankfully for him, he came into TNA at it’s weakest point in time, meaning that most people will forget his pitiful run as a performer, instead of coming during their strongest time and standing out even further. Maybe with time, Bischoff will improve to a point where he can become a viable performer due to still being quite young, but he was definitely rushed to TV much quicker than he ever should have been.
18 Sting - BEST
Sting was rightfully the first inductee into the fairly new TNA Hall of Fame (alongside the likes of Team 3D, Gail Kim, Earn Hebner, Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett), as he was the fist big name to join the company, giving them the confidence to go out and try be legitimate competition to WWE. Although he would later join the Main Event Mafia and become the head of the top heel group in the companies history, Sting played a fan favorite for the most part, and showed why he was beloved in WCW, as he put on fantastic matches well into his 40s. Although he ended up in WWE for a few programs, and is remembered most fondly for his WCW days, Sting will no doubt be proud of the work he put in during his almost decade long run with TNA.
17 Jenna Morasca - WORST
Despite only wrestling in one match for the company, the former Survivor competitor happened to wrestle in what was widely regarded as the worst match in TNA history. Once again, TNA was looking to capitalize on popular culture, much like WWE, but there was one problem, Morasca hadn’t been relevant since her performance on Survivor that was over a decade before. Her lack of star power and wrestling ability wasn’t the only problem however, as she was put in the ring with another non-wrestler, when she was made to wrestle the wife of Booker T, Sharmell. It doesn’t help that the company paid her around $750,000, but after the performance the two put on at Victory Road, there is no doubt TNA regret this one match signing.
16 Chris Sabin - BEST
Sabin may come as somewhat of a surprise to some people reading, but simply put, Sabin did about everything you can do in TNA, all while spending over a decade with the company. He was a stand out in the early years of the X-Division, having amazing matches with everyone, with the most memorable being a Triple Threat Ultimate X match with Petey Williams and AJ Styles. He then went on to be one half of the most impressive and exciting tag team in TNA history (while not the most accomplished, from an in ring stand point the best), with Alex Shelley as the Motor City Machine Guns. In the later years, he won the World Title in a rivalry with Bully Ray, and although it wasn’t as impressive as other performers, it solidified Sabin as one of the greatest performers in TNA, if not the world over the past decade.
15 Adam "Pacman" Jones - WORST
This was, and forever will be one of TNA’s most head scratching signings (and trust me folks, there has been a whole lot of them), as NFL cornerback Adam Jones was not only signed to a TNA contract, but he even won the TNA Tag Team Championship with Ron Killings (R-Truth) of all people. The worst part about all this is that due to his suspension from the NFL, Jones was under a no-compete clause in his contract meaning he could not get physically involved, even in the slightest in any of his matches. While yes, there has been worse performers in TNA, but to sign someone who has been disgraced from the NFL and everyone knows can’t get physically involved just seems completely pointless.
14 Gail Kim - BEST
Gail Kim is the first and only female inducted in the TNA Hall of Fame, happening at their most recent PPV, Bound for Glory, and throughout her several runs with the company, proved why she has the talent to match any female competitor in any wrestling promotion around the world. TNA doesn’t have a plethora of memorable female rivalries like the WWE, but there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, which for some, was the highlight of programming. Gail Kim vs. Awesome Kong in TNA’s best days could be considered the best female rivalry in wrestling over the past 15 years (excluding Lita vs. Trish and Sasha vs. Bayley), and shows just how talented a performer Kim is. She is the only wrestler on the list still active with TNA, and with her recent title win, will be looking to build on her already historic TNA accomplishments.
13 Black Reign - WORST
Gold dust was a WWE character that was suited for its time, but just doesn’t have a place in wrestling these days, which makes it more confusing as to why TNA signed the man and then pulled a WCW by changing him to an even more odd gimmick. On top of losing basically every match he competed in, against the likes of Abyss, Raven and Rhyno, the character was just completely bizarre, and not in a good way. The character wasn’t necessary, and just felt like a poor rip off from his previous characters, and TNA were coming up to their golden age, meaning a 40+ year old Rhodes just wasn’t needed to further the company. He left in 2008 to little fan fare, and made his return to WWE to mixed success.
12 Samoa Joe - BEST
Samoa Joe debuted in TNA after an astounding run in ROH, where he had amazing matches with the likes of Austin Aries and CM Punk, and just got better and better, going on a legendary undefeated streak to begin his career. He dominated the X-Division, the World Championship division and showed his versatility throughout, becoming one of the most beloved and under rated wrestlers in the world over the last 15 years. He may not have had the consistent 5 star matches like he did early in his ROH days, but Joe has more than a few memorable, historic matches, namely the triple threat with AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, and his huge steel cage match with Kurt Angle. He was another who TNA couldn’t afford to keep, but was one of the biggest parts of TNA’s best days.
11 Mahabali Shera - WORST
Similar to WWE’s pushing of The Great Khali, from a fans perspective, TNA is only pushing the green, Indian performer to tap into that market which they have become connected with, and it’s embarrassing to this day as he still can’t stand out, at all. Granted, Shera is only 26 years old, meaning there is plenty of time for improvement, but at this point in time, he is a sure thing for a list featuring the worst performers in company history. He is now 5 years into his wrestling career, so hopefully vast improvements will be coming in the near future (teaming with a fan favorite like Grado can only help both his popularity and someone to share the spot light with), but for now, this list wouldn’t be complete without Shera.
10 Kurt Angle - BEST
The Olympic Gold Medalist was an integral part of the Attitude Era in WWE, but has spent the vast majority of his career in TNA, until he left as a company legend earlier this year. He turned up when TNA was getting hot, and began to prove to everyone why he is in many peoples (including my own), the greatest in ring performer in wrestling history. During his TNA run, Kurt channeled his versatility again, changing from conquering hero to evil, dominant villain, back to conquering hero, all while gaining the fans and peers admiration and respect. He left after all the turmoil and doubt surrounding TNA, but gave almost 10 years and everything he could to the up and coming promotion, and will go down as one of the best to ever walk through their doors.
9 Orlando Jordan - WORST
Orlando Jordan wasn’t good in WWE as part of JBL’s cabinet, but TNA had a habit at the time of picking up disgruntled former WWE employees whether good or bad, and this one definitely qualifies as the bad side. Coming to the company with many former WWE employees when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff took the reigns, Jordan decided to show off more of his sexual side, performing with a bisexual gimmick that WWE had shot down. He lasted with TNA from 2010-2011, and did barely anything of note during his time. Towards the end of his run however, his character work just got sloppy and hard to watch, and with his below average skills in the ring, Jordan was one of the least memorable and worse workers to ever spend an extended amount of time with TNA.
8 AJ Styles - BEST
Despite recently winning the WWE Title, AJ Styles will forever be known as ‘Mr. TNA’, as he carried the company on his back for the better part of 12 years. He joined the company after WWE didn’t pick up his contract when WCW folded, and put the company on his back, making it at one point, serious competition for Vince McMahon. From legendary matches with Kurt Angle, Chris Sabin and the Main Event Mafia to TNA’s only 5 star match, a triple threat with Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels in 2005, Styles always represented what TNA was meant to be when he stepped through the ropes. He left TNA on bad terms and continued his amazing career in Japan and now WWE, but most will remember AJ for his legendary run as a TNA original.
7 Insane Clown Posse - WORST
To some, the Insane Clown Posse are enjoyable and have their fans, but to most, including me, they are horrible, and should never, ever be involved with any wrestling promotion again. It got so bad at a particular Ring of Honor show in its early days that the fans took it upon themselves to chant at the duo “Don’t come back”, a telling sign that the late 90s and their usefulness in the wrestling business was well and truly done. They only appeared a few times in the early days of TNA, when older stars like Randy Savage, Shane Douglas and others were turning up, meaning they were very out of place. TNA were just finding their footing at the time, meaning not many people will remember this brief appearance, but like any other company that used the terrible ICP, TNA will no doubt like it if you forgot it.