Total Nonstop Action Wrestling has sort of become a running joke among wrestling fans for seeming as if it is always on the verge of collapse. It wasn’t always this way, though. When the company got its start in 2002 as a pay-per-view only wrestling show, it actually did pretty well for itself for a long time. It wasn’t true competition for WWE, but even to this day, as it bounces from one television network to another with lackluster ratings and suffers from rumors of inability to pay its employees on time, TNA remains the biggest alternative to WWE for wrestling fans.
TNA has been compared to the defunct World Championship Wrestling in this regard. Just like TNA, WCW was once doing really well, although it actually did so much better than TNA that the company was beating WWE in the ratings for a time. Eventually, though, a lack of having made new stars began to tank WCW, as the company relied too heavily on wrestlers who had been previously established in WWE. TNA has suffered from this problem as well, at times being accused of favoring wrestlers the company acquired who were coming out of careers in WWE where they were already well known.
Some say it’s only a matter of time until TNA finally goes down for the three count, although that’s been said for many years now and the company somehow manages to stay afloat. Having recently gotten a new President in Billy Corgan, the vocalist for the legendary rock music band Smashing Pumpkins, hopes are high that things will begin to turn around for the company in a positive way and that they’ll once again reclaim some of their lost glory. TNA still employs plenty of people who came from WWE, though many of them now are lesser known personalities who TNA can make (or has made) into its own stars. Here are some TNA wrestlers you may not have known previously worked for WWE.
15 Baron Dax
Baron Dax is a rather recent addition to the TNA wrestler roster, participating in a tag team with Basile Baraka, who we will discuss momentarily, and managed by WWE legend Al Snow. Unless wrestling fans have followed WWE’s development territory NXT for some time, it probably escapes them that Dax actually once worked for Vince McMahon for quite a while. In fact, Baron Dax worked for the company until his recent debut for TNA, dating all the way back to 2013.
During his time in NXT, Dax was known as Marcus Louis and he competed in both the tag team division and in singles action. At one time, Louis had his head shaved bald following a hair versus hair match he wasn’t even involved in and he completely snapped. This is when he saw his greatest singles success, as he embarked upon a new gimmick. However, success would not last, as Louis was used more and more sparingly as time went on until his eventual release, when he sought employment with TNA Wrestling.
14 Basile Baraka
Much like Baron Dax, Basile Baraka also worked for WWE for some time before coming to TNA. It’s no coincidence that Dax and Baraka are teaming together in TNA as The Tribunal; it’s a direct result of their chemistry as a team in WWE’s developmental wrestling program NXT. Baraka had been with WWE and NXT since 2012 and went by the name Sylvester LeFort, associating himself with Rusev, who was then still competing for NXT, but eventually LeFort found himself in a tag team with Marcus Louis, who would obviously go on to be his teammate in TNA, where he's known as Baron Dax.
During their time in NXT, the WWE futures for Sylvester Lefort and Marcus Louis looked promising. However, when Lefort lost a hair versus hair match, he ran away from ringside and left Louis to be the one to have his head shaved bald, which resulted in Louis turning on LeFort and disbanding the team. The two never found much success and in 2016 they were both released from their WWE contracts.
13 Aiden O’Shea
Aiden O’Shea has competed sporadically for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling since 2013 when he first participated as Jay Bradley in the TNA Gut Check, a tryout program for future TNA wrestlers. He received a contract with the company and went on to compete in the company’s long running Bound for Glory Series, which leads up to TNA’s biggest show of the year. He was released by TNA in 2014 but soon returned under the Aiden O’Shea name. As O’Shea, he would compete for a brief time before again apparently disappearing. He’s not been seen on TNA television in a while, though he's apparently still under contract.
O’Shea actually competed for WWE for several years before coming to TNA. Getting his start in the mid 2000s in WWE’s former developmental territories Deep South Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling, he eventually made his debut on the main roster. He competed in 2008 as Ryan Braddock on the SmackDown brand and was involved in confrontations with many big stars, including Big Show, before being released.
One of TNA’s newest additions to its women’s roster, known as the Knockouts division, is Raquel. Though Raquel has yet to really have any time to accomplish much of anything in the company, she has aligned herself with the team of Jessie Godderz and Robbie E, known as The BroMans. With Raquel being so new to her wrestling training, it’s hard to say what kind of future she’ll have in the industry, but if you’re not getting your start in WWE, there’s no better place for exposure than TNA.
Although, technically, Raquel did get her start in WWE. She participated in the 2015 WWE Tough Enough competition as Gabi. In this sixth season of the program, Gabi finished in tenth place, but wasn’t actually signed to a contract.
TNA fans probably know the gigantic Tyrus as the former bodyguard of sorts of Ethan Carter III. This was during Carter’s rise to the top of TNA and throughout Carter’s World Heavyweight Title run, which made it easily the most high profile role Tyrus had ever had in wrestling to that point. Tyrus was one mean bully of a character, known not for his wrestling acumen but for his power moves and big splashes onto downed opponents.
WWE fans, however, will probably always know Tyrus as Brodus Clay, that is if they haven’t forgotten he was once a thing. His theme song was likely better known than the wrestler himself, with his dancers Naomi and Cameron, known as The Funkadactyls, declaring him “the only living, breathing Funkasaurus in captivity.” This would be followed by the monster dancing his way to the ring to disco music. Needless to say, Brodus Clay and Tyrus look the same, but are nothing alike.
Jade has had some measure of success in TNA since her debut for that company in 2015. She started as a part of The Dollhouse, a trio of wrestlers which also included Marti Bell and Taryn Terrell, but has since gone on to a singles career which saw her become the TNA Knockouts Champion. She’s competed against some of the biggest female names to have wrestled for TNA in recent years.
Before coming to TNA, Jade had been wrestling for years on the independent circuit as Mia Yim, winning the Shine Championship while working for the Shine Wrestling organization. What probably ended up going by unnoticed was the fact that Jade made a few appearances for WWE. She wrestled a match against Charlotte in NXT in 2014 and once was one of the “rosebuds,” an eclectic group of dancers and partiers who would accompany former WWE Superstar Adam Rose to the ring.
9 Gregory Shane Helms
In what might seem obvious to some fans, newer and younger wrestling viewers may not remember that current TNA personality Gregory Shane Helms once enjoyed a lengthy and lucrative stay in WWE and once even competed for WCW before that company closed its doors. Helms is currently in TNA as the head of The Helms Dynasty, a team of two wrestlers by the names of Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee, whom Helms trained and brought into TNA to rule the X Division.
While Everett and Lee are on their way to becoming two of TNA’s biggest stars, the career of Helms himself is nothing to sneeze at. He rose to fame in WCW as one third of the cheesy boy band team “3 Count,” and later in his WWE time became the longest reigning Cruiserweight Champion of all time, but the peak of his career would be during the time he played the “Hurricane” character, an overly confident superhero wannabe. The Hurricane was undoubtedly Helms’ most popular character and what he will likely always be remembered for.
8 Eli Drake
In recent times, TNA has been doing a noticeably better job of creating new stars to invest in its own future. Among those new stars is a man known as Eli Drake and he might just be one of the men to carry the company. Drake is excellent in the ring, but perhaps even more important in modern professional wrestling is his natural charisma. Few TNA stars can hang with Eli Drake on the microphone, and he brings to mind the likes of former WWE and TNA wrestler Ken Anderson. Drake has competed in TNA’s famous “Feast or Fired” match and became the King of the Mountain Champion in 2016, feuding with TNA legend James Storm over the title shortly before it was retired.
If you blinked, you might have missed the fact that Eli Drake actually wrestled for WWE very briefly at one time. You can count his matches with the company on one hand, as around the mid 2000s he wrestled a couple of matches as a local enhancement competitor. In 2014, he actually trained at the WWE Performance Center under a developmental contract as Slate Randall, but was shortly released and wound up with Impact Wrestling.
7 Maria Kanellis-Bennett
Along with her husband, Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis-Bennett is one of the hottest things going in TNA Wrestling. Together, the couple was an indie sensation in Ring of Honor and other organizations, and Dixie Carter capitalized on the hype. On his current trajectory, Mike Bennett could most certainly be the future face of the company, helping lead the charge alongside the likes of Ethan Carter III and others for TNA to be around for a long time to come. As good as Mike Bennett is, he’s only half of the equation, as his mouthpiece, Maria, sells the whole package and has even made her own mark on the Knockouts division.
It’s been a few years now since she left, but Maria was actually once in WWE. In fact, that’s where she first came into the spotlight via the WWE Diva Search. Initially getting her foot in the door as a backstage interviewer, Maria eventually transitioned into a wrestling role, something she’s continued to work on sporadically since leaving WWE.
6 Drew Galloway
This one is a little bit difficult to miss if you watched WWE at all before a few years ago. Drew Galloway is one of TNA’s more recent signings, joining the company in 2015 and becoming the TNA World Heavyweight Champion in relatively short order. Galloway has remained consistently in or near the main event picture, feuding with the likes of Bobby Lashley, Ethan Carter III and others. He’s one of TNA’s top stars, which is a far cry from his treatment when he was a WWE Superstar.
Not that his WWE tenure was all bad. In fact, the early days of Galloway’s time as Drew McIntyre were hugely successful. It appeared that he was on track to become one of the next great main event players for Vince McMahon’s global wrestling giant, but somewhere along the line something went terribly wrong. Someone in WWE didn’t see a star in Drew anymore and he began being used less and less. Eventually he was sloppily thrown in with two other forgotten stars, Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal, as a stable of overly cocky air guitarists named 3 Man Band, or 3MB for short.
5 Gail Kim
As the first female inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame, to say that Gail Kim has broken the mold of what is expected of female wrestlers would be an understatement. Kim was wrestling for the company well before it actually established a women’s championship and she was there to become the first ever holder of that title. As a several time Knockouts Champion, Gail Kim has essentially dominated a usually well respected women’s division in TNA and she’s only ever been absent from helping build that division once.
Before TNA, Gail Kim had already competed for WWE once in the early 2000s. She wasn’t what WWE was looking for, which turned out to be looks over skill in their female competitors at the time, and she was released. Many years later, Kim would leave TNA to return to WWE for what became a disastrous run in its Divas division. Once Gail was fed up with the mistreatment women received in WWE, she walked out in the middle of a match on live television and returned to TNA, never looking back.
Bram is a guy who has been a consistent part of TNA since he signed on with the company in 2014. He’s been involved in storylines with former TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus and his wife, former TNA Knockouts Champion Mickie James. More recently Bram has been embroiled in an angle with the group known as Decay, consisting of Abyss, Crazzy Steve and Rosemary. Bram has proven versatile, which has led him to a King of the Mountain Championship and will likely see him to future successes.
But that’s not to say Bram hasn’t had his share of troubles. In 2015, he was involved in a domestic abuse situation that got him suspended from TNA. Bram once competed for NXT as Kenneth Cameron as a part of the original version of The Ascension, which now consists of Konnor and Viktor, and he was once married to current WWE Superstar Charlotte. Bram was released from his WWE developmental contract in 2012 after being arrested for intoxication and battery of a police officer.
3 James Storm
Any fan of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling can tell you that James Storm is one of the most legendary performers in the company’s history. He’s held Tag Team Championship gold in the company more than any other wrestler with several different tag team partners, including perhaps his most popular tag team which was with current NXT star Bobby Roode as Beer Money. Storm is a former King of the Mountain Champion and a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion and has been involved in some of Impact Wrestling’s biggest storylines.
As a longtime TNA mainstay, it could escape some fans that Storm has actually competed for WWE. Though Storm technically left TNA very recently, he wrestled a few matches for NXT in 2015 and many wrestling fans were hoping that Storm might return to NXT to make WWE his permanent wrestling home. However, Storm quickly did a 180 and returned to sign in TNA, where he continues to wrestle.
2 Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley has sort of become TNA’s version of Brock Lesnar. Some fans think that is lame and that Lashley is a poor imitation, but others prefer Lashley’s apparently deeper devotion to wrestling to Brock Lesnar’s “do it for the money” attitude. In recent years, Lashley has certainly been TNA’s go-to guy, as he’s feuded with just about every big star to have been under contract with the company and TNA put enough faith in him to give him a victory over Hall of Famer Kurt Angle in Angle’s final match with the company.
It’s hard to imagine how Lashley’s wrestling career could have gotten any better than the way it’s gone with Impact Wrestling, but he actually got his start with WWE and it did seem as though Vince McMahon saw something special in the big man. In just a few years, Lashley had his big WrestleMania moment involving the late Umaga, Vince McMahon himself and Donald Trump, and he had even been a dominant ECW World Champion under WWE’s banner. He was all over the main event scene and challenging for the WWE World Championship at the time of his release, so there’s no telling how far Lashley may have gone if not for the mutual split between the two parties.
1 Ethan Carter III
In case you’ve not watched TNA in the past few years, Ethan Carter III, otherwise known as EC3 for short, is sort of the Seth Rollins of the company. He captivated the audience as a heel, playing the nephew of then TNA head honcho Dixie Carter, and very quickly skyrocketed to the main event picture. Carter has managed to capture the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on more than one occasion and is, perhaps, the biggest star in the company. He’s certainly an internet darling, and rightfully so, as he’s one of TNA’s best talkers and a master inside the ropes.
What EC3 fans may not know is that he was very nearly a part of WWE’s new era. After making a few random appearances on WWE television, he began working under a developmental contract with WWE for several years, competing in NXT when it was still a seasonal competition program and even hung around for a short time after NXT became a weekly episodic wrestling show. EC3, who was known as Derrick Bateman in WWE, was released by WWE in 2013, but he could have easily become one of a number of NXT stars who made the transition to the main roster and went on to big success in WWE.