Total Nonstop Action is viewed as a joke by a large percentage of the wrestling community despite being in business for over 13 years as the primarily (but distant) #2 promotion in America behind the WWE. Perhaps it’s the ridiculous acronym TNA or more likely the continuous poor decision making, but most people snicker when discussing their history. Early on, TNA stocked up on many former WWE and WCW talent to try to create a new product that could catch the wrestling fan’s attention by spotlighting established wrestlers. That was a smart business plan to get things started.
The problem arose when the company continued to go after boring names released by WWE instead of focusing on building their own stars. Some of the WWE signings turned out to be big successes for the company. Christian Cage enjoyed his first main event stint in TNA with a tremendous run for the company. Bobby Lashley reinvented his career and showed how much he improved from his WWE days. Gail Kim evolved into one of the best female wrestlers of all time. Kurt Angle became the face of TNA and added credibility to the promotion. Those are the rare exceptions, as the multitude of failed WWE stars is a far larger list.
TNA is currently in limbo as rumors state the company is losing their second television deal in less than a year as Destination America is bailing on the promotion the same way Spike TV did. With the future in doubt and as they struggle to make new stars, it feels like the plan to rebuild is too late and you have to wonder how different things would have been if TNA didn’t spend as much money and effort as they did on failed big signings. Taking a look back at the overall history of poor decisions when it comes to signing talent, these are the 20 worst signings of ex-WWE talent made by TNA.
20 Jeff Hardy
It’s tough to call Jeff Hardy’s run in TNA a complete failure because he did clean up his act and have a nice run in the last few years, showing that he still can perform at a high level, but his prior days in the company were rough. Hardy had a short stint in the early years of TNA that did not go well due to no-showing multiple events, resulting in suspension and a firing. After another run in WWE ended, Jeff tried TNA again as their new star signing after Hulk Hogan came on board. Instead, we got Hardy's worst moment, as he performed in a PPV main event against Sting while intoxicated in one of wrestling’s lowest moments.
19 Matt Hardy
Much like his brother Jeff, Matt Hardy has been doing a very good job of showing he’s still a good performer during his last year in TNA, but his first run with the company was also a trainwreck. Looking worse than WWE fans remembered him, Hardy gained weight and randomly added dreadlocks to his look. The older Hardy also faced personal demons, making controversial YouTube videos, getting arrested for a DUI and eventually getting released from his contract. Both of the Hardy boys have become successful members of the roster in the last year, but at the time TNA needed them most, they were at their worst.
18 Josh Matthews
Earlier this year, TNA removed Mike Tenay from commentary for the first time in the company’s history as they attempted to go younger with Josh Mathews. Fresh off a release from WWE, Matthews was hired to work in multiple fields for TNA, including becoming the voice of the company. Shortly after debuting on television, Matthews and his broadcast partner Taz had a falling out before Taz left the company. Matthews has been an extremely disappointing addition to TNA, failing to develop chemistry with any of his commentary partners and sounding bland on the headset. It also doesn’t help that he makes petty, insulting comments about WWE, which comes off as extremely tacky.
Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett were having a storyline about the real life scenario of Karen Jarrett leaving Kurt for Jeff. This was already questionable considering how uncomfortable watching something like that could be for the fans, let alone for the performers. TNA made one of their classic mind boggling moves by doubling down on the ridiculousness by adding Chyna to the mix. While she had a history with Jarrett on WWE TV to add to the storyline, Chyna also was going through a lot of personal problems, leaving many wondering if she was fit to wrestle again. Chyna would only appear on a couple of Impact shows and have one PPV match, teaming with Angle vs. the Jarrett’s, and she looked like she no longer belonged in the ring.
16 Val Venis
The gimmick of Val Venis being a ladies man was already a bit of a stretch in the 90s during his most relevant WWE days. Then, TNA tried bringing it back when he was a balding 39 year old man. When Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff seized control of TNA, Venis was one of the old faces to come along with them. During his short run in TNA, going by his real name of Sean Morley, he spent his time playing strip poker with The Beautiful People and entering a short feud with Christopher Daniels. On the first PPV of the new regime, Morley defeated Daniels which incited the crowd, who didn't wan to see the forgotten WWE midcarder defeat the established TNA star.
15 Rob Van Dam
You can't really blame TNA for this one, as most would've assumed that Rob Van Dam would be a success for them. Known for his unique style and superb matches, many could picture dream matches of RVD facing top TNA stars like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Chris Sabin. When Van Dam arrived in TNA, he was given every opportunitym including a World Championship reign but he just couldn’t perform at the level he did in WWE and ECW. It didn’t help that he also had one of the worst debuts in a new promotion of all time, when he was destroyed by Sting just minutes after being introduced to the company.
14 Chavo Guerrero
The signing of Chavo Guerrero wasn’t particularly bad, but the way they used him was downright terrible. When coming to TNA, Guerrero was introduced on the program as a legend. We all respect Chavo. We all know he was a great talent. However, don’t insult our intelligence by trying to pass off the guy who feuded with Hornswoggle on WWE TV as a legacy star of the wrestling business. Guerrero was used in tag team action with Shawn Hernandez and had a hard time keeping up with younger stars in the ring while failing to deliver on the microphone.
13 Matt Morgan
During his days in WWE development, Matt Morgan was thought to have huge potential as Jim Cornette said he would be the next Undertaker. With his massive size and impressive athletic gifts, Morgan was signed to TNA when Cornette had some stroke in the promotion with the hopes of reaching his potential after a failed WWE run. During his six years in TNA, Morgan was unable to show significant improvement as a wrestler with very few memorable moments aside from a couple of matches with Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles. The time invested in Morgan ultimately evolved into nothing but wasted time.
12 Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn was a very good tag team wrestler and a solid midcarder in WWE, but any time he was given a singles push, he failed to deliver. Of course, TNA signed him in 2005 with the intentions of adding him to a main event storyline with Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Nash. Going now by Kip James (after WWE threatened to sue after he used the name The New Age Outlaw), Gunn would reunite with The Road Dogg to reform the legendary WWE tag team. TNA would have the two go by the name Voodoo Kin Mafia (VKM) and cut worked shoot promos taking shots at Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon. It resulted in terrible television, did nothing to help the company and both men went back to WWE for office jobs under Triple H.
Andrew “Test” Martin was a talent that the WWE saw a lot of potential in due to his muscular build, height and athleticism. Test was given many chances in WWE before his final one ended due to him violating the “Wellness Policy.” A year and a half later, Martin showed up in TNA in a big storyline as a member of Sting’s team of top babyfaces. Martin was involved in the silly “Doomsday Chamber of Blood” match, consisting of many weapons including broken glass. It was his only big match in the company as TNA released him shortly after, as they were afraid he was using steroids and congress was investigating TNA at that time.
10 Mr. Anderson
Many forget just how high the potential was for Mr. Anderson during his WWE run and his early TNA days. WWE pushed him right away as Mr. Kennedy before injuries and negative interactions with Randy Orton and John Cena caused the company to lose faith in him. Given a chance in TNA as an instant main eventer, Anderson did some good things and was in the main event picture for quite a bit, but he couldn’t step up as the top talent the company needed to move forward. As cliché as the term has become in wrestling, Anderson was a B+ at best that declined into a C or D level wrestler over the years.
The recently inducted member of the WWE Hall of Fame was another one of the desperate signings by TNA to try to own the market of former WWE stars. Rikishi signed with TNA in 2007 as Junior Fatu and was involved right away in matches vs. established TNA stars like Christian Cage and Bobby Roode. At one point in a promo, Fatu referred to Bobby Roode as “Rick Rude,” the late wrestler who has no association to the TNA star. While Rikishi is known as a great locker room presence, this showed a lack of respect and dedication to the company that signed him. Rikishi was quickly released after wanting a pay raise.
8 Vince Russo
Aside from going after former WWE talent, TNA also has a poor reputation of making the same mistakes as WCW. One person that fits the criteria of both criticisms is writer Vince Russo. One of the most hated figures in wrestling due to his style of crash booking with asinine characters and convoluted storylines, Russo would have multiple stints with TNA. While there, he'd have a rocky relationship with many of the wrestlers and ultimately proved himself to be an overrated member of the Attitude Era WWE once again. TNA employed Russo as a secret consultant behind the backs of Spike TV executives that played a part in losing their television deal.
7 Booker T
Similar to Rob Van Dam, Booker T looked like a great signing on paper for TNA after the respected veteran ended his time in WWE. However, Booker earned the reputation for not showing much passion during his time in TNA and some wrestlers had the impression he was just there to collect a very handsome paycheck. Despite working angles against the company’s top stars, like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode, Booker did not have any standout matches during his time in TNA. Booker T’s best work in TNA came when providing comedic commentary when his faction, the Main Event Mafia, took over the show.
6 The Nasty Boys
TNA booked The Nasty Boys on television in 2010. That might be enough to understand why the company is in the terrible shape it currently is. The Nasty Boys looked over the hill in WCW about 13 years before their TNA debut. Brian Knobbs is a close friend of Hulk Hogan which explains why the Nasty Boys debuted on the first night of the Hogan regime. The out of shape veterans were brought in for a feud with Team 3D and were quickly taken off television after rumors were circulating that the Nasty Boys embarrassed themselves in front of Spike TV executives at a TNA function. It’s inexcusable they were even a chance over young promising acts like The Young Bucks at the time.
5 Ric Flair
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff convinced Ric Flair to defect to TNA following his retirement from WWE. Flair was introduced as the new mentor of A.J. Styles, which was a fine idea on the surface but the booking completely made Styles look like a mediocre talent relying on Flair. Also, after his tremendous WWE sendoff at WrestleMania XXIV, it was incredibly disappointing to see him wrestle in bad matches at TNA. It felt like any time he appeared in a match on TNA, Flair bladed and the visual of a 60 year old man bleeding was not easy to stomach. Aside from the uncomfortable matches and ineffective use of him, Flair’s out of ring behavior was a disaster, as he was pulled off an overseas tour for getting drunk, acting inappropriately and requesting the company to pay off his bar tab.
4 Goldust/Black Reign
Quite possibly the worst TNA gimmick in history, Dustin Rhodes was repackaged as Black Reign for a chuck of his time there. The new character was a demented side of his split personality that came to life after a segment that was presented as a nervous breakdown. Wearing darker face paint than his Goldust persona and a black wig instead of blonde, the gimmick was meant to be scary but turned into a joke. Black Reign was introduced as hailing from “the deepest darkest corner of his mind" and formed a team with Rellik (Killer spelled backwards). Surprisingly, this idea somehow failed and Rhodes was out of TNA a few months after the gimmick was introduced.
3 Scott Hall
Scott Hall was actually the first person promoted on advertisements for TNA’s first PPV, which was a good idea given his star power but that was the best use of Hall in TNA. Hall would have three stints in TNA following the debut PPV that all ended terribly. Trying to reform a version of the nWo with Kevin Nash and Jeff Jarrett in 2005, it failed to get extra eyes on the promotion. In 2007, Hall returned again to team with Nash and Samoa Joe but no-showed a PPV leading to Joe cutting a vicious promo on Hall that created controversy. Finally during the Hulk Hogan era, Hall was given another chance to reform “The Band” with Nash and Sean Waltman but he was in a terrible physical and mental state, creating another embarrassing flop in TNA.
2 Orlando Jordan
The former SmackDown midcarder came to TNA with a ridiculous character based on a real life fact about him. Orlando Jordan is a bisexual man in his personal life which means he has a romantic interest in both men and women. TNA decided that means he should be an oversexed creep that made a fool of himself on national television. Jordan would dress provocatively and stalk Rob Terry as these were apparently the acts of a bisexual man, according to the minds who wrote for TNA. From a strictly wrestling stand point, Jordan was extremely lackluster and was given a win over Samoa Joe in his first match. Not only did TNA add tasteless stereotypes to a character, but they made sure to slight their originals along the way.
1 Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff
Eric Bischoff isn’t added to the list on his own because he was part of the Hulk Hogan signing as his sidekick. When Hulk Hogan and Bischoff arrived, they completely demeaned the history of TNA by publicly ripping up a script from the former regime and burying the six-sided ring. These things would be fine if it was followed with success but ratings stayed in the same range and the only thing that grew was the budget. Hogan buried A.J. Styles and Bobby Roode in public interviews, claimed Abyss would be “the next John Cena” and made many more terrible decisions to harm the future of the company... which they are still paying for today.
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