In its infancy, TNA was no different than any other indie promotion. It became a haven for any wrestler who was looking to earn a quick payday and, during that time, several WWE cast-offs worked a few dates with TNA. However, around 2005, TNA brokered its first true television deal and the company gained a measure of legitimacy. Since then, the company has still been a haven for WWE cast-offs, hoping to increase TNA’s viewership by featuring names that wrestling fans might know from WWE.
There have been several former WWE stars that, in TNA, have had equal or greater success to their time in WWE. Names like Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy and Bobby Lashley have all gone from being stars in WWE to being stars in TNA. On the other hand, there have been several stars that went to TNA, particularly during the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff era, that have struggled to match their success or some who have flopped altogether. In creating a list like this, it is necessary to separate TNA’s indie period from the post-2005, network television period. So here is a list of individuals who previously worked in WWE before coming to TNA during the company’s post-2005, network television period.
14 Dustin Runnels
When Dustin Runnels arrived in TNA in 2004, his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, was working as the booker for the company. Runnels, wrestling as Dustin Rhodes was promoted as a top star, and even competed for the NWA World Title, but his stay was very short. He returned in 2007, this time with a split personality gimmick where he was both Dustin Rhodes and Black Reign, claiming that Black Reign had been scaring him since he was a child.
The gimmick never really took off, even though he was placed in a feud with Abyss and Raven. Black Reign was teamed with Rellik, played by the former Johnny “The Bull” Stamboli, but the duo was never able to gain any traction in TNA. After losing a feud to a young Frankie Kazarian and “Super” Eric Young, Black Reign was taken off of television and quietly removed from the TNA website.
Test was positioned in WWE as a top star, as evidenced by his being placed in a storyline with Triple H, feuding over the affections of Stephanie McMahon. Once that feud was over, Test became a mid-carder who occasionally found himself in the main events. His WWE career ended with a wellness violation suspension and a mutually agreed upon release.
In TNA, Test was thrust directly into the top storylines, working with Sting, Christian Cage, Abyss and A.J. Styles. However, Test would only have one actual match, but soon after, the company would become suspicious of Test because his overall size seemed to indicate that he might not pass a drug test. Test was released from TNA and would retire from professional wrestling, leaving the company with a one-third victory, as his win came in a six-man. His total tenure in the TNA Wrestling was less than three weeks in duration.
12 The Bashams
The pseudo-brothers and former two-time WWE Tag Team Champions, The Bashams, ventured to TNA after a short but reasonably successful stint in WWE. The showed up in TNA as enforcers for Christy Hemme against The Voodoo Kin Mafia team of BG & Kip James, the former New Age Outlaws. The Bashams faced the VKM at three consecutive Pay-per-view events and emerged with a record of 1-2 from those three matches.
Following the third match, The Bashams left TNA after a three month stint with the company. Since the VKM was a top ranked tag team, and was a top act within the company, it would seem that with a good showing against the team, The Bashams had positioned themselves to work with the tag champs, but the company felt differently. The Bashams total duration was three months and the team would move on to other things, seldom being heard from in the wrestling world.
Rikishi entered TNA without much fanfare, but he was placed against top talent right away. His first match in TNA was against Christian Cage, which Rikishi lost due to interference from A.J. Styles. From there, Rikishi was entered into TNA’s Fight for the Right Tournament, in which the rosters competed for the right to face the TNA Champion at the time. Rikishi’s time with TNA ended during the Fight for the Right, even though he was being pushed as a top talent.
Rikishi had survived the first round of eliminations in the tournament, and then he defeated Bobby Roode to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, but because Rikishi felt like he was being underpaid, Rikishi left the company in the middle of his push. Rikishi’s total tenure with TNA was around 45 days, but Rikishi recovered and some years later, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
10 The Nasty Boys
On January 4th, 2010, when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff arrived in TNA, the duo brought several of their friends with them, including the team known as The Nasty Boys. The Nastys entered the company and immediately targeted Team 3D (formerly The Dudley Boyz) for their first feud, while also helping Hulk Hogan in his feud with Kevin Nash and The Band. The Nastys gained a victory over Team 3D with help from their former manager Jimmy Hart, another friend of Hogan’s who was brought into the company.
The Nastys’ feud with Team 3D would end with The Nastys being defeated, but their time in TNA ended three months after it started. Knobbs and Sags would be released from the company due to the team’s bad behavior at a company function in the presence of Spike TV executives. At the time of their departure, it was clear that Knobbs was no longer able to perform as he used to, but because of his association with Hogan, he was able to get a paycheck from TNA.
9 Sean Morley
Sean Morley, otherwise known as Val Venis in WWE, was another one who entered TNA on January 4th, 2010, the date of Hogan’s debut with the company. Morley was brought in with a gimmick where he was no longer an adult film star, but was in fact an adult film producer. Morley’s character never really took off and he found himself stuck in the lower mid-card of the company.
Morley left TNA two months after his debut because of a scheduling conflict that would affect his other commitments. Morley had committed to appearing on shows for CMLL, but because Impact Wrestling was scheduled to begin airing live on Monday Nights, the same night of the week as the CMLL shows, Morley chose CMLL over TNA and requested a release from TNA, just two months after joining the company. This proved to be just one of many ill-fated signings by Hogan and Bischoff that has haunted TNA.
8 Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan also made his TNA debut on January 4th, 2010 as one of the new additions to the company who were brought in by Hogan and Bischoff. Jordan originally feuded with “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero, but soon after debuting, Jordan unveiled his bisexual gimmick, to go along with his actual lifestyle. Jordan also premiered an interview segment, as a vehicle to further his gimmick, but the talk show did not last very long.
Soon after his debut, Jordan was partnered with Eric Young, who was working a storyline where he was suffering from brain damage caused by a botched move in the ring and his mental problems caused him to be unstable. The team was unsuccessful in climbing the tag team ranks and was dismantled after a few months. Eric Young went on to win the TNA Television title, while Jordan was removed from television in anticipation of his being released from the company.
Shawn Daivari had a modest debut in TNA, as a member of the international team in the 2008 World X-Cup Tournament. From there, under the name Sheik Abdul Bashir, Daivari used an anti-American gimmick to rise fairly quickly within the company, as he would capture the X-Division Title after only three months in the company. Unfortunately for Daivari, his push would be halted as his character would go from X-Division Champion to feuding with a TNA referee.
Daivari was able to recover some of his earlier momentum when he became a member of World Elite, an anti-American Faction that feuded with many of the top stars in the company. However, just as he was negotiating a contract extension, Daivari discovered that Jeff Jarrett’s power within TNA was about to be limited, so Daivari opted not to re-sign with the company. Daivari left TNA just as Hogan and Bischoff were about to gain control of the product.
MVP was one of many wrestling stars who ventured to TNA during the company’s indie promotion days. After a successful stint in WWE, MVP returned to TNA as a bigger star and as a known commodity that the company had high hopes for. He was placed in a storyline as an investor who fought Dixie Carter for control of the company, but as soon as he won control as a face, he turned heel and used his power to name himself number one contender for the TNNA World Title. However, a failed physical forced him out of the match just as the company was set to put the title on him just a few months into his return to the company.
MVP would form the Beat Down Clan as a Four Horseman-like unit designed to protect reluctant member Bobby Lashley and Lashley’s World Title. Unfortunately for MVP, he was released because he helped push TNA into a legal battle over the availability of Hernandez, who had violated his Lucha Underground contract in order to sign with TNA. Sadly, MVP would sign with LU, only to be released for violating the terms of his own contract with the company.
5 Doc Gallows
After a terrible stint in WWE, Doc Gallows was brought into TNA as a member of the Aces and Eights stable. Doc was one of the key members of the group and though he was never the leader of the clan, Gallows did much of the heavy lifting for the group, as he was featured in main event matches against Sting, Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Abyss, Samoa Joe and others.
Once Bully Ray was unveiled as President of the stable, Doc’s role was reduced, as the storyline focused mainly on Bully, Devon, Ken Anderson and D-Lo Brown, with all of the other members fading into the background. Doc spent two years in the Aces & Eights storyline, but left the company after his contract expired, with the reason being given that since he could not become Vice President of the club, he left the club altogether. Gallows left TNA, moved to New Japan than WWE, and the rest, as they say, is history.
4 Chavo Guerrero
Chavo wemt to TNA and was immediately placed into a tag team with former LAX member Hernandez. Chavo and Hernandez immediately became top contenders for the TNA tag titles and after failing to win the titles in several attempts, won the tag titles, giving Hernandez his sixth tag title reign under the TNA banner with his fourth different partner. Chavo and Hernandez would carry the titles twice, but once the second title reign ended, Chavo’s time in TNA would come to an end as well.
Chavo and Hernandez would face each other in a Bound for Glory Series match and then Chavo competed in the Feast or Fired match, where Chavo would grab the briefcase that contained the pink slip, meaning that he was fired from TNA. Following the match, TNA issued a press release stating that Guerrero had actually been released from the company, ending Guerrero’s tenure with the company.
3 Ric Flair
The greatest professional wrestler ever has spent some time in TNA. As with many on this list, Flair made his TNA debut on January 4th, 2010. The difference between Flair and the others is that Flair was not brought in to actually wrestle. He was brought in because he is Ric Flair and just having him in the company was supposed to increase ratings because there was a belief that there weren’t many talents in TNA who would have been recognizable in an airport. This is despite the fact that Flair stated that he was signing with TNA while he waited to hear from WWE regarding a new deal.
Flair’s time in TNA will be remembered for his attempting to recreate The Four Horsemen with the Fortune group, complete with A.J. Styles adopting a Ric Flair impersonation gimmick, and for Flair losing a feud to a then mid-card Jay Lethal. Flair would also wrestle his last ever match during his TNA tenure, ironically, it would be against his greatest rival, Sting.
2 Scott Hall
In TNA’s early days, Scott Hall made a few sporadic appearances, as he was taking indie dates after leaving WWE. Then Hall was re-signed in 2007, but he was released for no-showing a PPV event. Finally, on January 4th, 2010, Hall returned to reunite “The Band,” which was what the nWo reunion was called. Hall teamed with Sean Waltman in most of his TNA matches, but the duo was usually on the losing end of their contests.
The Band’s storyline saw Hall turn on Nash, Nash turn on Eric Young to rejoin Hall, and then Eric Young turn on Team 3-D to rejoin The Band, all in a four month span. TNA would also manage to incorporate Hall’s real-life issues into storylines, even stripping him and Nash of the Tag titles due to Hall’s off screen problems. The day after The Band was stripped of the tag titles due to Hall’s personal problems, Hall was released from TNA.
2. Sean Waltman
Sean Waltman’s first run in TNA was actually better than his second. He appeared at some of the company’s first shows and even won the X-Division title and competed for the NWA World Title. However, it is Waltman’s second run which places him on this list. Just as with his nWo brother Scott Hall, Waltman returned on January 4th, 2010 to reunite “The Band,” but the storyline was doomed from the start and Waltman’s stay in TNA was as short as Hall’s.
During The Band’s run in TNA, Waltman was replaced by Eric Young, partially because of Waltman’s health problems and partially because of Waltman’s personal problems. Just as with Hall, once Hall and Nash were stripped of the TNA Tag titles, Hall and Waltman were both released from their TNA contracts. Sadly, Waltman’s second run will be remembered more than his first, which saw him near the top of the company.
1 Hulk Hogan
Obviously, the number one entry on this list had to be Hulk Hogan. Of all the former WWE stars to make their way to TNA, Hogan had far and away the worst impact on the company, not bringing in new viewers, while alienating former fans who loved the product. He and Eric Bischoff came in on January 4th, 2010, with actual power in the company, and decided to move Impact! to Mondays to compete with Raw, as the two men seemed to be stuck in the 90s and thought they actually could compete with WWE, which they couldn't.
Hogan stayed in TNA for three years, occasionally participating in matches and generally not doing a great job of it, as he wasn't really able to move around the ring anymore. In 2013, he refused an offer to become Dixie Carter's partner (in a storyline) and left the company worse off than when he got there.
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