There was once a time when World Wrestling Entertainment was the place to be if you were a professional wrestler looking to earn a decent living and be a superstar on television. With WWE winning the Monday Night War and purchasing WCW back in 2001, one would assume that being released from WWE would mean the end of one’s pursuits of being on television.
That’s why there was a lot of attention when TNA Wrestling would occasionally sign former WWE Superstars to their roster. Over the years, they had some major acquisitions that led to them being given main event pushes that might not have been possible in the WWE. With the ever evolving world of professional wrestling, it has become clear that being in WWE doesn’t always mean you have found success in professional wrestling.
Sometimes, many wrestlers have made the transition from WWE to TNA and benefited from the change. Cody Rhodes, who is expected to debut soon for TNA, is just another example of that, but he’s not the first, nor will he likely be the last, as the WWE seems to be bringing in those who have flourished in TNA.
The following are the top 15 wrestlers who left WWE and found success working in TNA Wrestling.
15 15. Taryn Terrell
Taryn Terrell was one of the numerous women who signed up for the WWE Diva Search. Many were models who were interested in the big six-figure contract that came with winning the competition. While she didn’t win in 2007, she was offered a developmental contract and reported to Florida Championship Wrestling. She struggled in her time as the general manager of ECW before being eventually released in 2010.
14 14. Kazarian
Frankie Kazarian is known as one of the better superstars who had plenty of success in TNA Wrestling before coming to the WWE in 2005. There was some excitement about how the former TNA X Division Champion and pioneer would fare as part of the WWE roster, but he was rarely seen beyond some dark matches and episodes of Velocity. During an interview on Talk is Jericho, Kazarian would talk about how he kept trying to get booked for shows while under WWE contract.
13 13. Ethan Carter III
Well before he had a historic undefeated streak in TNA Wrestling, Ethan Carter III was once a developmental talent in WWE’s system. He was first signed to WWE in 2006 and spent a few years in Florida Championship Wrestling before being selected to participate in the fourth season of the NXT show. Daniel Bryan was a perfect fit as his coach/mentor with the two having some very entertaining segments.
12 12. Gail Kim
Gail Kim is someone who has jumped from WWE to TNA on two different occasions. Both times, one could say that Kim was underutilized under WWE, which was extremely noticeable in 2011 when she was barely seen on WWE television. However, Kim has been one of the more consistent athletes in the ring for TNA. She’s been able to use a mixture of technical submissions and strikes to go along with a bit of a high-flying style that made her a fan favorite.
11 11. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley was definitely a great athlete that the WWE brought in after his time with the U.S. Army and athlete under their World Class Athlete Program. He would come to the WWE in 2004 and was placed in an undefeated streak as a powerhouse. His time in the WWE included wins for the United States championship, as well as defeating The Big Show for the ECW Championship in 2006 and a feud with Umaga at WrestleMania 23.
10 10. Mickie James
After years of competing on the independent circuit, Mickie James brought something different to the WWE women’s division with the stalker story line involving Trish Stratus. That would lead to her being one of the most decorated women’s wrestlers in WWE’s Ruthless Aggression Era. However, her final days with the company were marred with the “Piggy James” story line with Michelle McCool and Layla El. Since 2010, James became one of the bigger stars in TNA’s Knockouts Division.
9 9. Drew Galloway
Since 2003, Drew Galloway has made himself one of the best professional wrestlers to come from the United Kingdom. The Scottish-born wrestler toured Europe for several years before he was signed to WWE in 2006. He would be developed over the years in Ohio Valley Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling before he was brought to the main roster as “The Chosen One” in 2009. This change included being introduced by Vince McMahon as a future world champion.
8 8. Rob Van Dam
Putting Rob Van Dam on this list is not claiming that he was terrible in the WWE. He was actually one of the top talents on the WWE’s mid-card shortly after the shutdown of both Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. Known for being one of the faces of ECW, RVD won a lot of titles, including six reigns as the Intercontinental Champion. He would eventually win the WWE Championship at ECW One Night Stand in 2006.
7 7. Ron “R-Truth” Killings
A lot of the younger wrestling fans may not realize how extensive the overall career of R-Truth really is. While he has developed a reputation of a comedic character in recent years, he debuted as “K-Kwik” and won the WWE Hardcore Championship a couple of times. He also had a tag team with Road Dogg Jesse James in the later years of the Attitude Era. In 2001, he was let go from his contract and would go to the independent circuit.
6 6. Bobby Roode
This one might be a bit of a stretch considering that Bobby Roode was never officially signed with the WWE before his current contract brought him to the NXT brand. However, he was often seen in several dark matches and a few on Heat and Velocity from 1998 to 2004 under WWE. They were usually considered tryout matches where he tried to land that first contract with the biggest company in North America.
5 5. Bubba Ray Dudley
As a member of a tag team with D-Von Dudley, Bubba Ray Dudley would win multiple world tag team championships for virtually every major promotion you could think of. It all started in ECW and also included runs in WCW, WWE and TNA. He’s won tag team gold in other parts of the world, but he was never able to get beyond the mid-card as a singles competitor. The WWE did have him challenge Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship in 2002, but that was about it.
4 4. Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy is the older sibling of the Hardy family, as he hasn’t quite had the same success outside of teaming with Brother Nero. Before leaving the WWE, he did accumulate plenty of championships and even the ECW Championship. His first run in TNA didn’t work out well, as he was released in 2011 due to a DWI arrest, but his most recent return to the company has yielded some of the best work he’s done for several years.
3 3. Christian
Christian was one of the most underrated superstars of the Attitude Era. He and his long-time partner Edge were definitely a tag team dynasty with seven runs with the WWE World Tag Team Championship. Christian won plenty of gold since then with the European, Hardcore, Light Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles. He also won more tag team gold with Chris Jericho and Lance Storm, but Captain Charisma never received a main event push, which was likely the reason for his departure in 2005.
2 2. Jeff Hardy
This is more of an example of someone who has been successful for multiple wrestling promotions. During his first run with the WWE through the Attitude Era and into 2003, Jeff Hardy had won virtually every possible championship – except for a world title. His first run with TNA did not yield any championships, but some memorable moments in feuds with guys like Jeff Jarrett and Abyss.
1 1. Kurt Angle
The former Olympic gold medalist was easily one of the better all-around athletes to have competed in a WWE ring. Since 2000, Angle had won every possible championship in WWE that also included six world heavyweight championships. However, he and the WWE decided to end their relationship in 2006. There were concerns about his overall health that led WWE to feel he was not going to be a main event factor moving forward.
Angle then took that as a challenge and had some good years in TNA Wrestling from 2006 to 2016. During that time, fans can recall five-star matches with the likes of Christian, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles. Once again, it wasn’t long until Angle had won every championship belt in TNA at the time. This included winning the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on six separate occasions. While his time in TNA seems to be over, he will likely be considered one of the most successful professional wrestlers in the last 15 years.
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