The legacy of TNA is viewed with mixed reactions, between those that appreciate the great talents that worked there and those that remember how badly the company used some of them. However, many of the great talents in TNA did not get used better during a run in WWE. Quite a few wrestlers would end up working for both promotions in their career.
Current WWE stars like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Xavier Woods all had stints in TNA before landing with WWE. This didn’t hurt their futures, as WWE uses them all well today. Unfortunately, these are rare instances of former TNA talents thriving in WWE. Others have struggled, due to the presentation of their work on WWE television and questionable booking behind them that left fans wondering. We will look at ten wrestlers to make the jump from TNA that WWE did not want to succeed.
The most recent instance of a former TNA star failing in WWE is EC3. TNA pushed him hard as Ethan Carter III, a character who was the nephew of Dixie Carter. The elevation of EC3 would see him become one of the biggest stars for the promotion.
WWE signed him to join NXT in 2017 as an important new addition. EC3 would get called up to the main roster in early 2019, but faced a huge struggle to get television time. Today, he is a part of the 24/7 Title picture, involved in the background of comedic segments.
9 Chris Harris
Chris Harris was one of the first few breakout stars for TNA, as part of the America’s Most Wanted Tag Team with James Storm. A singles run helped showcase his potential to become a star for any wrestling promotion.
WWE signed Harris with a spot on the ECW roster in the late 2000s. Harris performed under the name of Braden Walker but appeared out of shape. WWE did nothing of note with Harris and his run with the company ended faster than anyone could have predicted.
8 Frankie Kazarian
The work of Frankie Kazarian has seen him work for almost every major promotion like TNA, ROH, NJPW, WWE and now AEW. Kazarian made his name in TNA as part of the X-Division for multiple runs. WWE signed him in the mid-2000s as a new rising star.
Kazarian struggled to get television time as he was used primarily on the C-show Velocity on Saturday nights. WWE reportedly soured on Kazarian when he refused to get his hair cut as per their request. Kazarian would never return to WWE, as they didn’t view him as a relevant star.
7 Awesome Kong
The women’s division in WWE is impressive now, but that wasn’t always the case. Earlier years saw few credible wrestlers in the division. Awesome Kong signing with WWE was a huge addition, and her segments as Kharma delivered great entertainment.
WWE slowed down on her push and struggled to find long-term booking for her. Kharma would get released from WWE amidst some controversy. The company never brought her back and probably just didn’t want to have her on the roster any longer.
6 Low Ki
The young stars of the X-Division helped TNA create an identity in the early years. Low Ki specifically had a unique wrestling style, one that implemented the Japanese strong style: vicious kicks and agility that led to exciting matches. Various runs in TNA throughout the years helped him become a relevant name in the industry.
WWE signed Low Ki and introduced him as Kaval in one of the early seasons of NXT. The run was a huge disappointment, as he did nothing of note after winning the NXT competition. Kaval had one impressive match against Dolph Ziggler on PPV, but WWE did nothing to follow it up as they had no use for him.
5 James Storm
James Storm had a very short run in WWE as part of the NXT brand. A few matches against lower-tier names broke him in gently, but the company showed little interest in signing him. TNA outbid WWE by a lot to get him back on their roster, rather than let him remain with NXT.
Storm would have a mediocre return to TNA with little to no momentum. A few interviews have featured Storm revealing that he wanted to stay with NXT, but they did not provide a respectable offer compared to the market.
4 Eric Young
The long run of Eric Young in TNA featured him in just about every role possible. Young worked well as a face or heel, singles or tag team, serious character or comedic character and as a main eventer and mid-carder. An amazing run for Young culminated when he won the TNA Championship.
WWE would come calling when he hit free agency and offered a spot in NXT. Young found some success as part of the Sanity faction, getting called up from NXT to the main roster. Sadly, WWE did nothing with the group and Young is now a secondary member of the 24/7 division, struggling to get television time.
3 Monty Brown
A throwback name who found success in the early days of TNA is Monty Brown. The former football player looked like a million bucks and had charisma to give him the blueprint for success. Brown thrived in TNA until names like Christian Cage and Sting joined the company, leading to Brown’s main event push ending.
The move to WWE would see Brown get the new name of Marcus Cor Von as part of the ECW brand. Brown did little of note for ECW and would quietly get released, ending his time with WWE faster than expected. He made the choice to leave wrestling once the WWE experiment ended in disappointment.
2 Austin Aries
The long career of Austin Aries would see him finally get to WWE after runs with both ROH and TNA. Aries had a solid start in NXT, involved in feuds with the likes of Baron Corbin, Hideo Itami and No Way Jose. 205 Live would become his new home as part of a feud with Neville.
Aries would get a bad reputation backstage for constantly complaining about his booking. WWE released Aries, not thinking he was worth the headaches that came from dealing with him. Aries was never someone they expected to become a top star, which is why he was never booked as such.
1 Gail Kim
Gail Kim went back and forth between WWE and TNA a few times, for two stints with each promotion. The talent was always there, but she didn’t get a chance to showcase it until she was released from WWE. Gail’s first stint with TNA made her the first Knockouts Champion, with classic matches against Awesome Kong among others.
She returned to WWE, with the hope that her past success with TNA would give her a fair chance this time around. However, she struggled once again struggled to get television time and was used poorly. WWE had no interest in pushing her, which led to her getting released and having another great run with TNA. Gail still works for Impact Wrestling as a producer today.