For an organization that is considered by many to be the second most popular wrestling company in the world, TNA Impact Wrestling is not in the best of shape right now. A lot of that has to do with financial troubles and a nasty legal case with the now former TNA President, Billy Corgan, but many of TNA’s problems stem from the poor decisions that they made with their company in years prior. Whether it had to do with pushing the wrong stars, not pushing the right stars, poor storylines and booking decisions, or what have you, there are a lot of things that TNA could have done better with their programming and probably would do better if they could go back and fix some things. It can be argued that many of those poor decisions came as a direct result of Vince Russo’s influence on TNA Creative, but even if that was true, we’re not here to point fingers at any one individual with TNA. We are here to look at the company as a whole and look at the missed opportunities they have made as a whole company unit.
It is easy to look at a few blunders and missed opportunities on behalf of TNA and create what-if scenarios surrounding the intrigue they could have created around TNA’s product, but it is more important to analyze such missed opportunities for how they could’ve turned TNA around for the better. There’s a lot of those instances on this list. In the past, TNA have squandered storyline opportunities that were dangling right in front of them to create new stars. TNA’s over-reliance on pushing ex-WWE talents passed their prime instead of their young, homegrown talent is another thing that has hindered TNA’s growth over the years. We’re going to look at many of TNA’s wasted opportunities and look at how these opportunities could have helped TNA for the better.
15. Aces & Eights
It seems that the wasted potential of the Aces & Eights storyline has been talked about at length constantly by now, but seeing how badly TNA wasted a great storyline, it deserves another mention. When they debuted as masked assailants with the objective of taking over TNA, it created a lot of buzz for TNA. Given that the group debuted at a time when TNA had long become the butt of a joke and lost much of their core audience, buzz was a big deal. Unfortunately, it seemed like expectations would kill the group’s momentum. People expected huge mega-stars to surprisingly turn up under the masks, but week after week, the group members proved to be a bunch of schmucks. D-Lo Brown, Garrett Bischoff, Mike Knox, Wes Brisco, etc. Nothing against either of these men, but they weren’t exactly the huge stars that TNA fans expected to be under the masks. Their biggest names of Bully Ray, Devon, and Mr. Anderson weren’t big enough to add credibility to the group. The group may have been initially intriguing enough to reel new fans in, but the payoff was too disappointing to keep fans watching for the long run.
14. Paparazzi Productions
Originally conceived as a gimmick where Alex Shelley would record all of his matches, in a strange turn of events, Paparazzi Productions would become a stable of sorts led by Kevin Nash as a means for him to help wrestlers in the X Division find their characters. Both in front and behind the camera, Nash would work as a mentor to the young X Division stars and helped many of them find their own characters. His involvement led to Austin Aries briefly becoming Austin Starr and Sonjay Dutt found his prolific Guru gimmick after working with Nash. Most successfully, Nash helped Jay Lethal find his Black Machismo moniker that he would be known for during most of his TNA run. Along with the entertaining segments and characters, Paparazzi Productions was useful because it allowed for an in-ring veteran in Nash coach up and coming stars backstage and helped them hone their characters. If used longer, Nash could have helped produce some more stars out of the stable. The stable also showcased the potential of the underrated Alex Shelley as a singles star, who TNA really should have took a shot with before releasing him.
13. Chris Harris
Yeah, I know. It’s laughable to think that Chris Harris could have been anything other than a flop in TNA. After all, he’s Braden Walker and we all laughed at him as he tried to knock some brains out in ECW around 2008. But if we were to try to think back to Harris’ initial run during the early days of TNA, we would remember the potential he showed in the ring. While, admittedly, he wasn’t as charismatic as his America’s Most Wanter partner, James Storm, the guy was incredibly polished in the ring. His solid in-ring work alone is why TNA tried to push Harris following his incredible Texas Death Match with Storm at Sacrifice 2007. The problem was that TNA didn’t know what to do with Harris afterwards. Harris found himself developing a bit of a losing streak until he would transition into a whiny heel character. The de-push, this new character, and his impending TNA release led to Harris becoming increasingly unmotivated in the ring and he got out of shape, turning into the Braden Walker who walked into ECW. If TNA used Harris correctly, maybe we wouldn’t have ever seen Braden Walker and we would be remembering Harris’ career more fondly.
12. Billy Corgan as President
Who would have ever thought that the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins would be the one to turn TNA around? Or at least he could have been. After Billy Corgan joined TNA’s creative team in 2015 and eventually became their President the next year, TNA’s programming became significantly better thanks to the creative decisions made by Corgan. Most notably in Corgan having enough faith in Jeff and Matt Hardy’s feud to help produce The Final Deletion. This improvement in programming has helped garner new eyes on TNA’s product as well as bring back old fans who had long given up on TNA before Corgan arrived. As President, Corgan was planning to make even more improvements which included rebranding TNA as new majority owner, but because Dixie Carter and co. never got around to paying some generous loans from Corgan that helped keep TNA afloat, Corgan sued the company he was being primed to own. Feeling lied to about being paid back eventually, Corgan left the company after finalizing their settlement. Corgan could have helped continue to steer TNA into the right direction, but it looks like we’ll never know the full extent to what Corgan could’ve done as TNA’s majority owner.
11. Monty Brown
When the former NFL linebacker entered TNA in 2002, Monty Brown struggled to connect with fans and would leave the company quickly after not finding his footing in the wrestling world. He would return to TNA in 2004 as the repackaged Alpha Male from the Serengeti and suddenly, the man was instantly hot with crowds. Whether it was his infectious predator persona or his vicious Pounce finisher, audiences with light up in cheers and roars whenever Brown walked through TNA’s tunnel. He had the charisma and the fanbase fit for a World Champion. Unfortunately, the World Champion at the time was Jeff Jarrett, whose run as Champion was akin to Triple H’s reign of terror throughout the 2000s. For that reason, Brown never won a World Title in his TNA run and to add insult to injury, he turned heel as a sidekick to Jarrett afterwards. His popularity would diminish soon after before leaving the company.
10. AJ Styles: TNA Champion (2005)
In 2005, TNA had been planting the seeds to make AJ Styles their big franchise player – the face of their company. After fighting tooth and nail to become #1 Contender after a brutal Steel Cage match with Abyss the month before, Styles defeated the company’s top heel in Jeff Jarrett to win his 3rd NWA Championship. Given that TNA went as far as to book a huge star like Tito Oriz as the match’s special referee, TNA clearly wanted us to think this was a big deal. Styles won to a massive ovation and he seemed to be re-christened as the face of the company. Except within a month’s time, Styles lost the belt to Raven of all people. Nothing against Raven, but after creating a new star in Styles only to have the new star drop the belt to Raven seemed like taking 2 steps forward and 5 steps back. Suddenly, Styles’ main event push vanished as he would re-join the X Division and the Tag Division thereafter. Styles career would pick back up a few years later, but TNA would have benefited more from continuing to build the company around a young star.
Most people regard him now as the less entertaining (though still immensely talented) half of his Bad Influence/Addiction tag team with Christopher Daniels, but there was once a time when Frankie Kazarian was getting the biggest pops of the night on TNA Wrestling. In 2007, TNA opted to push Kazarian (then Kaz) as a singles star following an underrated feud with Raven that helped put the young upstart over with the fans. Afterwards, Kaz seemed to be on the cusp of joining TNA’s main event scene after winning a #1 Contenders Ladder Match against Christian Cage in a Genesis match many considered to be TNA’s best match of that year. For whatever reason, despite the immense fan support Kaz was building, TNA seemed hesitant to book Kaz as a serious main event player. His World Title shot against Kurt Angle came not on pay-per-view, but on an episode of Impact where Angle barely won. From there, Kaz dwindled in the midcard, losing much of his matches, was repackaged as Suicide, and then returned as Kazarian in the midcard. While he’s now a successful tag team specialist, he could’ve been so much more if TNA let him.
There was something about Tomko that just screamed “it” factor. Whether he was Christian’s “Problem Solver” or one-half of a great tag team, he was getting huge reactions. He had a unique look, he could wrestle surprisingly well for somebody his size, and he had the support of backstage management. Jim Cornette still rants and raves how TNA dropped the ball with this guy. The sad part here is that Tomko being wasted isn’t all TNA’s fault. As mentioned, Tomko had backstage support and it seemed like TNA were on the verge of giving him a big push, at one point pinning TNA Champion Angle on an episode of Impact. Unfortunately, when NJPW and TNA still had a working relationship, Tomko frequently found himself wrestling in Japan, mostly in a tag team with Giant Bernard, aka Tensai. All of Tomko’s Japan dates were taking Tomko away from his TNA commitments and that may have soured TNA on him, which may have led to some poor booking of Tomko. The poor booking would lead to Tomko parting ways with the company in 2008. He would briefly return in 2009-10, but by then, the ship had long sailed on Tomko being wrestling’s next breakout star.
7. Matt Morgan: TNA Champion
When TNA picked up Matt Morgan after his stammering career in WWE, they wasted no time pushing him as the next big thing. Despite being impressive for a big man, TNA seemed all too hesitant in actually making Morgan their next big thing. Which is strange given how many backstage suits were behind pushing him. Morgan even got Hulk Hogan behind him at one point. Morgan has expressed in interviews how Hogan often vouched to TNA Creative that they were using Morgan wrong. In Hogan’s opinion, Morgan’s size, stature, and overall look was different from anyone else on the roster by wasting Morgan’s potential as a bodyguard to Joey Ryan wasn’t getting their money’s worth out of the guy. While Hogan isn’t exactly notorious for making great creative decisions, this was one of the rare instances where he was right. Too bad TNA Creative couldn’t make up their minds. One week, Morgan would be booked in one-on-one segments with Hogan while the next week, he was back in his bodyguard role. This flip-flopping hesitance to push Morgan confused fans until they eventually stopped caring about him and eventually, his momentum sniffled because of it. Which, in turn, inspired Morgan to ask for his release papers and retire.
6. Misusing Future Stars
Before they wound up in WWE, there were several future WWE top talents who found themselves in TNA at one point. You name it: CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Mickie James (in 2002), MVP, etc. All (among others) found themselves on TNA’s doorstep either for a brief run or for a tryout match. In either case, there must’ve been something that TNA didn’t see in these young guns. Perhaps TNA was right to deny these guys the right to climb TNA’s ladder. Perhaps these future stars, at the time, missed a certain moxie to them that made them breakout stars years later in WWE, but the fact remains that if TNA hung onto these future stars, maybe they wouldn’t have jumped ship to WWE in such a big way. Maybe they would’ve generated the same success in TNA. Kudos to TNA for righting some of the wrongs made by WWE with their own misused talents (i.e. EC3), but TNA really lucked out on some huge names and future WWE Champions.
5. TNA/NJPW Talent Exchange
A few years ago, TNA and NJPW formed a unique relationship that allowed NJPW’s stars to occasionally appear on TNA programming and vice versa. This could have been something huge for both companies, but a few poor decisions on TNA’s behalf helped destroy the relationship. There is wide speculation as to why their relationship became fractured after only a couple years. One issue may have been due to Vince Russo’s involvement with TNA. Another being that TNA were still sour about a 2010 incident where NJPW needed TNA to loan them their IWGP Tag Team Champions, Team 3D, so they could defend their belts at a NJPW show, but TNA refused on account of needed the team for an angle with The Nasty Boys. NJPW may have not liked how TNA re-branded their rising star, Kazuchika Okada, as Okata, a parody of The Green Hornet’s Kato and Samoa Joe’s lackey. It could’ve been a combination of each reason as to why the NJPW-TNA deal ended, but the fact remains that TNA had access to some of NJPW’s top acts and instead of doing something bit, they made them into irrelevant jokes.
4. James Storm’s Singles Run
There was once a time in TNA where James Storm was insanely over with the fans. And with good reason. After all, he’s a creek swimming, moonshine sippin’, deer skinnin’, beer drinkin’ Johnny Cash listenin’ son of a gun. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Kind of like a Stone Cold Steve Austin-esque character, right? Suddenly, it makes sense as to why fans gravitated so strongly towards Storm. Given all of the success that WWE found with Stone Cold as their top star, it would’ve made sense for TNA to build their company around Storm in a similar manner, or at the very least make Storm one of their big main event players. It must’ve made too much sense for TNA as they never even tried to market Storm as a big star. The most Storm was ever pushed was in 2011 when he unexpectedly won the TNA Championship only to lose it to Bobby Roode a week later. Him and Roode had a bloody good feud that culminated with Storm winning their blowoff match at Bound for Glory 2012. Instead of capitalizing on Storm’s increasing popularity and huge win, TNA had him flounder in the midcard.
3. Christopher Daniels: Singles Star
For a worker with as much in-ring talent and charisma as Christopher Daniels, he never got his due in TNA. In a wrestling career spanning nearly 25 years, we have seen Daniels go from a preaching cult leader of sorts to an appletini drinking narcissist. His ability to evolve his character with the times is akin to how Chris Jericho has morphed his own character every couple years. That sounds like someone who deserves a main event singles run, but he was always held back from a variety of bad booking decisions on TNA’s part. While Daniels could have easily struck gold with his Fallen Angel gospel gimmick, the big problem was that TNA was always afraid to let Daniels go all the way with that gimmick and so the gimmick never saw its full potential. Eventually, not knowing what to do with him, TNA just settled on leaving Daniels in the Tag Team and X Divisions. Granted, he excelled in both divisions, but when you see the promos he’s capable of cutting, he had the grace and confidence of a singles star. Ir’s a shame that not only TNA never found a use for him in their main event scene, he would leave TNA never to win a World Title.
2. Samoa Joe’s Undefeated Streak
One of the hottest acts in TNA’s earlier days was Samoa Joe and his undefeated streak. For 18 months, Samoa Joe bulldozed through TNA’s roster before creeping his way into the main event scene. At one point, at No Surrender 2006, Joe got a non-title victory over the reigning NWA Champion at the time, Jeff Jarrett. Logically, that should’ve set up Joe winning his first World Title in the company, but instead, it was used to set up a dream feud with Kurt Angle. Joe lost his first match to Angle at Genesis. TNA squandered the opportunity to have an undefeated, popular act in Joe as their World Champion, but the main issue here isn’t even that he lost to Angle. Joe was still over when their feud was finished, but was never given a substantial feud or storyline afterwards. The real shame is that without an undefeated streak, Joe was put on TNA’s back burner in favor of guys like Christian Cage and Kurt Angle. He became an afterthought. TNA wasted an undefeated monster’s potential as their top star in favor of ex-WWE guys and thus, Joe’s popularity cooled down. He would win the World Title in 2008, but it was two years too late.
1. Paul Heyman on Creative
In 2010, TNA made a major acquisition in Hulk Hogan, but they were pretty close to having Paul Heyman instead in a role on TNA’s creative team. That year, Spike TV reached out to Heyman to take over TNA Creative and Heyman seriously considered it. Heyman wanted a hefty salary, full control to oversee production, and to own a percentage of the company. One of Heyman’s ideas was to make TNA a youth-oriented brand that pushed young talents while bigger names like Sting were part time special attractions; kind of like how WWE use guys like Brock Lesnar nowadays. That last part was the dealbreaker for TNA who weren’t keen on phasing out bigger names in favor of young talents. It’s easy to criticize Heyman as a businessman given his poor money management was the reason why ECW fell into the gutter to the begin with. But let’s not forget that it was Heyman’s creative decisions behind the scenes that kept the company striving for so long. Besides, as long as TNA kept the checkbook out of Heyman’s hand, they would’ve been fine. Not like it matters anyway, given how bad TNA’s financial situation is right now without Heyman. Heyman as part of Creative would’ve helped TNA much more than Hogan’s backstage influence ever did.
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