2016 is rapidly approaching and will be a significant year for the pro wrestling industry. WWE will be attempting to change the downward trend of poor ratings and attendance as WrestleMania 32 approaches. TNA is in a completely different position with a new television network and a cold product. 2015 was a terrible year for Impact Wrestling due to many stars leaving, fans not buying tickets or watching the shows and another television deal falling apart. The company is heading to Pop TV in 2016, where they’ll hope to get things back on track and get fans to enjoy their product enough to support it.
Things look very bleak for TNA but they can choose to be optimistic and use this as a rebuilding period. Most sports teams aren’t in a position to win a championship and be at the top of their sport but fans find excitement in watching the process of rebuilding. The ability to watch new faces come in and find out what sticks or works is always an exciting proposition. TNA needs to change the entire brand perception in 2016 and part of that is adding new names.
There should be plenty of debuts or returns in 2016 for the company to show fans that they need to come back and give TNA another chance. Management and other positions may need some upgrading as well but the talent on television is where everything begins. Most of the top talents today have deals with other companies,with Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Lucha Underground becoming viable options. Still, with the current free agent market, there are plenty of talents available to bring in and try to build around. This list will look at the fifteen top talents TNA should bring in to rebuild in 2016.
15. Maria Kanellis and Mike Bennett
There are rumors of the real life couple of Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis leaving ROH to start with TNA in January 2016. The couple worked the final dates on their ROH contracts at Final Battle and are officially free agents. Both performers provide great needs for the Impact roster. Maria is one of the more famous female wrestling personalities on the market with the ability to promote and use her strengths in other avenues to bring attention to the company. Bennett is a very talented wrestler with a high upside that has never been in WWE. The company needs that type of wrestler badly.
14. Joey Ryan
The work of Joey Ryan can be pretty hit or miss, depending on what you want in your wrestling. Many will look at him and instantly dislike him, but a larger number of fans have still displayed an interest in him. Ryan has become one of the most successful independent wrestlers due to his will to work all over the world every weekend and sell merchandise. TNA tried signing Ryan a few years ago and it was a flop, but they have a new writing team in place. Ryan’s newfound fame after trending on social media a few weeks ago due to his humorous spot in a Japanese wrestling promotion will make him more valuable and a hot commodity.
13. Candice LeRae
Joey Ryan’s tag partner should also be brought into the company but as a singles performer. TNA used to be known for having the best women’s wrestling division in the world. WWE has blown them away with the rise of NXT and improvements of all of their female workers. TNA’s female division has had ups and downs with Gail Kim being their only consistent top talent in the division. LeRae has the potential and personality to become the next breakout star. On the independent scene, she has been spotlighted in many matches against the top male performers, showing that she has the ability and presence to hang with top stars. The female division in TNA desperately needs a new face and they should look to LeRae.
12. Brad Maddox
Brad Maddox’s upside is questionable because he rarely wrestled on television for WWE. Maddox was actually entertaining at times in the general manager or crooked referee role, but once he transitioned into a full-time worker on the main roster, he got lost in the shuffle before getting hurt. Even after recovering, he was used in dark matches until getting fired for using the term “cocky pricks” in a promo. Maddox is still young at 31 and could be worth the flier. He could turn into one of those rare ex-WWE signings that succeeds in TNA, similar to Ethan Carter III and Drew Galloway.
11. Veda Scott
Ring of Honor has one of the most underrated female performers in pro wrestling right now with Veda Scott. She primarily works as a manager for Cedric Alexander in ROH with working the occasional match. When not in ROH, she wrestles most weekends for other independent promotions. TNA used Scott once on a “One Night Only” Knockouts special in an impressive outing against Gail Kim. Scott’s strengths come from her promo work, as very few female talents in wrestling speak with as much confident or poise as she can, but her wrestling work is also quite impressive. Rebuilding the women’s division should be one of TNA’s main goals in 2016 and signing Scott would be a great start for them.
10. Jim Ross
Jim Ross has downplayed interest of a job with TNA, but if the offer was sweet enough, he would definitely take it. TNA desperately needs a new commentary team. One of the major issues with the current product is the team of Josh Mathews and The Pope making a mockery of the show with their lack of chemistry and poor humor. The voice of the company sets a tone and can turn the viewer off from a show they are already not sure of. Ross would add credibility and become a voice that gives fans a reason to give TNA another chance. In recent weeks, JR has talked about wanting to announce a show for ROH or NJPW, so he’s clearly showing signs that he wants to return to the announce table.
9. CJ Parker
Many fans have condemned TNA for going after too many ex-WWE talents but that wasn’t the actual issue. There’s a huge difference between signing someone solely because they were in WWE and signing someone that has something valuable to offer the company. CJ Parker was an enhancement talent in NXT and requested to be released so he could gain experience in other companies. The young star has been working for New Japan and has looked like he could develop into something special as he improves. TNA needs more new stars that haven’t peaked yet to build the brand around and someone like Parker would be a great prospect worth trying.
8. Chris Hero
Wrestling has changed and fans are more accepting of different looks. Companies no longer have to seek out bodybuilding physiques or action figure bodies. Kevin Owens has become a huge success in WWE due to his talent and it shows that fans just wants to be entertained. Chris Hero falls under the same category. After working as Kassius Ohno for WWE, he was released due to having a larger body. Hero has been on fire in 2015, having great match after great match. TNA has not been able to deliver great matches on a consistent basis the way WWE, NXT, ROH and just about every other promotion has. The roster needs to upgrade with better workers and signing Chris Hero would help them significantly.
7. Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson has been referencing the fact that his contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling is expiring at the beginning of 2016. While Anderson is a big star in Japan and is well taken care of, the appeal of being able to work back home full-time and no longer having to take long trips has to be a positive. TNA could sign him to become one of the new stars of the company. Anderson has great in-ring skills and impressive promo skills, but he’s yet to showcase it in America. You’re basically getting a seasoned pro that will be new to the majority of the audience. Anderson is a no-brainer for TNA if he decides to test the free agent market.
6. Sami Callihan
Sami Callihan was recently released from WWE, where he was known as Solomon Crowe, which was a surprise to many. Callihan showed a lot of potential on the independent circuit but failed to develop a presence in NXT like many of his peers did. Following the release, Callihan has become one of the hotter free agents and TNA should already be in contact with him, as gis unique look and wrestling style would be a great fit for them. Despite his flaws likely preventing him from ever being a future world champion, Callihan can work with anyone’s style and give you a good match. Callihan serves as a super role player for the roster and TNA desperately needs more depth.
5. Zack Sabre Jr.
TNA used to be known as the company who gave a platform to the future stars of the wrestling industry. A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal, Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley made you feel like you were watching special young stars right before they became the top performers of their craft. One currently unsigned wrestler that shows the ability to become an elite performer is Zack Sabre Jr. With impressive work in PWG, EVOLVE, Japan and the UK scene, Sabre is at the top of the list when it comes to the best workers in the industry and very few wrestlers can top him in technical wrestling right now. Sabre’s look is great and TNA has a large British audience, so the signing makes plenty of sense.
4. Matt Sydal
Matt Sydal has become one of the best performers in pro wrestling after getting released by WWE. Sydal was impressive in WWE as Evan Bourne but suspensions and injuries ruined any chance of him returning in a relevant way. The firing was probably best for his career, as Sydal has gone on to have great matches for ROH, NJPW, PWG and various promotions all over the world. The gifted talent is performing at a level very few wrestlers can match. Sydal is endearing so he gets you to invest in his work before blowing you away with unbelievable aerial displays. That is the kind of performer TNA needs to throw whatever money they have at and hope it’s enough to lock him up.
3. AJ Lee
The selections on this list were all supposed to be on the realistic side, but AJ Lee may be the sole selection that is nearly impossible. Lee considers herself to be retired and has shown no interest in returning to wrestling. She achieved everything she wanted to in WWE and isn’t on great terms with the company following their falling out with her husband, CM Punk. On the surface, it seems like she would never go to TNA, but a quality offer might be able to change her mind (it doesn’t hurt to try!). TNA could gain interest if they offered her enough pay and they could certainly use her. Lee is one of the most popular female wrestlers in wrestling history and it would help make their women’s division relevant again, while bringing over new fans that will support Lee and the product.
2. Rey Mysterio
Most of the performers on this list are in their prime or full of potential, but that doesn’t mean veterans don’t have a place in TNA. With a limited schedule only having him wrestle a few times per year, Mysterio would be a great attraction. Mysterio made a lot of money for WWE with his merchandise and TNA badly needs more performers that can get fans to financially support the product. Every wrestler has wonderful words to say about Mysterio and he is viewed as one of the best locker room leaders in the business. There are plenty of ways for Mysterio to contribute to the company.
1. Jay Lethal
The top talent that TNA should go after is one of the many rising stars they dropped the ball with. Jay Lethal showed unlimited potential in TNA for years, but he was saddled with comedic gimmicks and poor booking. After a shocking release, Lethal went to Ring of Honor and rebuilt his image in pro wrestling. With improvements in every aspect of his work, Lethal has become one of the best wrestlers in the world and is the current ROH World Champion. There are rumors his contract is ending in early 2016 and TNA should chase him with the intentions of making him one of their top stars. At just 30 years old, Lethal has plenty of years left in the tank and represents everything that TNA lacks.
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