The history of TNA is often maligned for the errors in judgment and poor decisions by those in charge. The company failed to ever develop a true mind in charge of creative and the various teams coming in and out led to different philosophies. For as many chefs that were in the kitchen, the result always managed to be the same. TNA was bound for mediocrity and to fail to meet their potential as an alternative to WWE. While the company let the performers down on many occasions, the amount of tremendous talent to work for TNA is actually impressive. The wrestlers have never been the problem.
TNA had a mix of past legends and future stars. The older veterans from the days of 90s WWE and WCW television were supposed to bring more viewers to television and interest in attending live shows. This never helped spike the ratings higher than the usual 1.1 area the company resided in for years. In fairness, fans are more likely to try out a product for a familiar face but when that’s all you’re selling, it’s hard to see the viewers coming back. The future stars were plentiful with a wide array of talented young workers with different styles and personalities.
Most of the problems arrived because the company failed to put the wrestlers in the best position for success. Today, TNA is in a dreary process of attempting to rebuild on Pop TV but the work of having to regain the trust of the fan base is going to be a difficult task. Almost all of the elite TNA talents have gone on to win the world title. Some have been too late, some have been too early, but it’s great that A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode were at least allowed the chance to swim or sink with the title. There are still many great talents that the company never pulled the trigger on and we’re going to look at the fifteen best stars to never hold the TNA World Championship.
15 Scott Steiner
TNA relied on legends from the past to generate name value and brand recognition for their product. Scott Steiner worked for TNA under a couple of different regimes and always provided entertainment. Some of it was unintentional but it still gave us great results. Steiner was placed in a few main event storylines with Sting, Kurt Angle and Christian Cage but never entered the world title picture. It was a bit surprising considering all the past stars of the 90s to hold the world title. Steiner being the champion would have at least been more entertaining than Mick Foley or many of Sting’s reigns.
14 Drew Galloway
One of the more recent stars in TNA that should have won the TNA Championship is Drew Galloway. Despite only being in the company for less than a year, Galloway gives TNA something it has lacked for quite some time - passion and youth. The impressive talent has finally been given an opportunity to showcase his skills on television and Galloway is the best face in TNA. Bound For Glory 2015 was built around the main event of Galloway challenging Ethan Carter III for the title. Matt Hardy was added to the match a week before the show and ended up winning the title. Galloway was the right man at the right time, but it slipped away.
Hernandez will never be looked at in the same light as A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin or Bobby Roode, but he played a great role in the success of TNA during its better years. The company delivered exciting matches with a variety of styles. Hernandez was one of the strongest wrestlers and showed off his power with the most stylish of moves. Sadly, TNA dropped the ball with Hernandez’s singles push on multiple occasions. The biggest moment came when Hernandez won a “Feast or Fired” briefcase (TNA’s version of Money in the Bank) and used it in the worst of ways. Hernandez entered a fatal four-way match for the world title but was attacked on the stage shortly after entering the match. Obviously, he never won the title after that and quickly jumped the shark.
As the tag team partner of Hernandez in LAX, Homicide is one of the more forgotten top talents of the time. Homicide held his own against the likes of CM Punk, Samoa Joe and Daniel Bryan in Ring of Honor and even outshined them a couple of times. TNA signed him for his tag team work but failed to truly get the best of his potential. Homicide could have been a singles star if pushed with the correct booking and support. His singles runs were never spectacular, but you could see the glimpses of greatness within him. Considering how well his peers took off, Homicide could have entered the world title picture if TNA used him better.
11 Rockstar Spud
The last few years of TNA have been a disaster with very few signs of optimism. One of those select few bright spots was the ascension of Rockstar Spud. TNA’s best match of 2015 came early in the year with a tremendous bout between Spud and Ethan Carter III. The character work and emotion portrayed by both was something TNA desperately needs more of going forward. Spud has become one of the best recent signings as the ultimate underdog that fans organically support. TNA needs to do a better job of removing him from comedy filler and putting him into the main event picture. As one of the rare stars that can get fans to emotionally invest in him, Spud probably should have won the title in 2015.
10 Chris Harris
Please don’t think about the out of shape version of Chris Harris in WWE known as Braden Walker when reading this selection. Harris was one of the brightest stars in the first few years of TNA and could be argued as being on the same tier as A.J. Styles, Bobby Roode, and James Storm before his departure from the promotion. Between his work in America’s Most Wanted with Storm as one of the best tag teams in company history and his face run as a singles star, Harris showed the potential of a future top star. His singles matches against Storm, Christian Cage and a few others showed someone that was worthy of a world title run, but stalled pushes and his decision to leave ended those chances.
9 Low Ki
The early days of TNA featured the rise of the X-Division with A.J. Styles, Jerry Lynn and Low Ki. Aside from Styles and later Samoa Joe, most of the X-Division athletes were never able to break into the main event scene. Low Ki could have been a great world champion if the company ever decided to do anything more with him than just making another X-Division guy. Considering the future stars from the ROH core that have made it in WWE, TNA could have struck gold with Ki, but he was never high on the pecking order. It was another example of TNA ignoring someone that could have been world title material.
Don’t laugh but Devon was actually a very popular singles star for the TNA fan. Team 3D achieved more success in TNA together but the company decided to eventually split them and put each into singles roles. Bully Ray became one of the top heels in the company and rejuvenated his career to the point where he won the world championship. Fans would chant “Devon’s better” at him because they truly wanted to support the more likable brother of the team. Devon turned heel and never was in the world title picture but there was a small window of opportunity there that the company didn’t look to take advantage of.
7 Petey Williams
The ascension of A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe from being popular in the X-Division to becoming the most over men on the roster should have made the X-Division title a stepping stone to the main event picture like the Intercontinental title was for WWE. Petey Williams was one of the consistent sources of production in the X-Division for years and was always over because of his tremendous finisher. Williams used the flipping piledriver known as The Canadian Destroyer and there was never a time fans didn’t eat it up. There should have led to his elevation up the card for Williams but he never sniffed the world title.
6 Alex Shelley
Alex Shelley has to go down as one of the most underappreciated talents in TNA history. The young prospect saw his best work in tag team action with Chris Sabin as The Motor City Machine Guns. Sabin and Shelley were arguably the best act in the entire company for a good few years but Shelley was never viewed as a singles star. There’s no doubt if Shelley was in his prime today, he would have been signed by WWE for the NXT brand and possibly made it to the roster. Unfortunately, he wasted his best days in TNA and instead of being one of the cornerstones of the company, he was just put in midcard matches.
The young talent in TNA was spectacular but very few were able to have a big moment that could lead them to the next level. That was partly due to the lack of opportunity, but one X-Division star broke out in a singles match that didn’t get him anywhere. Kazarian delivered great work in TNA for years with his breakout performance coming in a ladder match victory over Christian Cage. Many believed the win would lead to a big singles push for Kazarian but there was once again a glass ceiling. Kazarian was never even treated as a realistic contender for the world title and that was a big mistake.
4 Booker T
Booker T makes the fourth spot on this list for his historical place in wrestling and his tremendous career. While he is a definitely Hall of Fame wrestler, Booker didn’t put forth his best effort in TNA. Many wrestlers felt Booker treated the company like a vacation but he was still one of the bigger names there. Besides, Booker T at 75% is still better than most wrestlers at their best. One title the veteran didn’t capture in his storied career was the TNA World Championship. Booker almost won the title in a match against Samoa Joe that ended in a no-contest. Sharmell counted the three count and Booker took the title but it was not a title change but rather a story advancement.
3 Jerry Lynn
One of the most underrated talents in wrestling history would have to be Jerry Lynn. If you watch ECW shows today, Lynn’s work stands the test of time and is better than most of the wrestlers pushed harder than he was. The same can be said about the early days of TNA. Lynn would have been a great choice, as the perfect mix of a veteran presence with a strong work ethic. Lynn was almost as important as A.J. Styles to the development of the X-Division and that was the first concept to put TNA on the map. The company should have made Lynn one of the first world title holders to send a message.
2 Jay Lethal
Many would argue Jay Lethal shouldn’t be this high because his body of work in TNA was not as strong as some of the other choices. The main reason for his selection is that he was always a can’t miss prospect. From the age of 21, Lethal showed he was a future star when he looked tremendous in a match against world champion Jeff Jarrett. Another big match against Kurt Angle years later showed just how great he could be but TNA viewed him as a comedic X-Division act rather than a future world champion. Lethal was somehow released and became a star in ROH. As the current ROH Champion, Lethal is one of the hottest names in the industry with rumors of WWE interest.
1 Christopher Daniels
The clear choice for the best wrestler to never hold the TNA World Champion in company history is “The Fallen Angel,” Christopher Daniels. While A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe deservedly became the top stars in TNA due to their classic X-Division matches, Daniels was equally important in this equation. The three took TNA wrestling to new heights in the mid-2000s with must-see matches on every PPV and episode of Impact. Daniels was a loyal and tremendous wrestler in TNA for years, but was never given the honors of winning the world title. No matter how many times he improved or rebranded himself, the company didn’t believe in him and he turned into the best TNA star to never win their world title.