Over its 13 years of existence, TNA has found a way to consistently beat the odds. They’ve endured various issues from the early weekly PPV model to moves to other networks. They’ve handled the departures of talent, behind the scenes mix-ups, legal issues and more. It’s truly remarkable how the company has endured despite all against it and even give us some fun stuff to boot.
Sadly, it looks like their luck may finally have run out. It was one thing when Destination America announced they were cancelling TNA programming. Worse was that within day, the network made their grand announcement of taking on ROH instead. The message was clear: We want wrestling, just not TNA’s. Unless they find another network fast (which is unlikely given how Destination was seen as a low step down), it’s pretty clear the company is dead, which sucks for so many of those who work there but it’s not like it wasn’t clearly coming.
The problem with TNA is that from day one, the folks in charge have labored under the delusion that they’re keeping Vince McMahon awake at night when the truth is that WWE has barely even acknowledged TNA exists. The company had (and still has) a great mix of talent and a loyal fan-base and if they just concentrated on their strengths, might have been able to build up slowly. But their obsession with turning into WWE-level instantly shot themselves in the foot time and again. Trying to limit yourself to only the big dumb stuff of TNA is a hard process but here goes. Some of these are stupid moves with talent, others truly bad business decisions but all combined to help put TNA in the spot they’re in. WCW can at least boast to long success, including being on top of the industry for a while before the bad stuff set in. But TNA can’t even say that so when the final chapter is written (and it may be coming soon), this company will sadly be remembered more for the bad they did than the good.
25. Abyss’ storylines
With his hulking build, strength and ability to take punishment, Abyss has always had the look of a guy ready to take off well as a monster. He was pushed as such for a few years with James Mitchell as his mouthpiece and brutal battles with Jeff Hardy and others. But things soon got bad as the silent monster was allowed to talk and put into idiotic storylines such as a rip-off of the Undertaker/Kane saga with Mitchell as his “father”, turned into a goofball believing Hulk Hogan’s Hall of Fame ring would give him super-strength and the entire nutty “Joseph Parks” identity that went on way too long. The guy put up with all the crazy stuff so you can’t fault his loyalty but a shame a promising star was put through so much stuff.
24. Don West
I know he has some fans and supporters but frankly, Don West has to rank among the most annoying announcers wrestling has ever known. He was fine running the merchandise side of the company but he just came off shrill as hell on the mic with his constant “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” among other exclamations that made the product seem even more second-rate. That’s not to mention the “heel turn” that went nowhere as he was removed in favor of Taz. But keeping him around even that long was enough to turn folks off on the product.
23. The Johnsons
When you’re kicking off a brand new wrestling promotion, if you want to appeal to old-school fans with the NWA connections, you have to make a big splash to kick it off. So what do you present? A tag team dressed in all-white outfits and clearly meant to be wrestling penises. Wow. No wonder TNA looked like such a joke from the start as pushing such juvenile antics got the entire company off on a bad foot, a sad trait they would continue to follow for the next decade.
22. Orlando Jordan
This one….Man. It’s not like Jordan was doing that great in WWE but at least he had some support. He was getting buzz for coming out as bisexual, a pretty daring move for any profession, let alone wrestling. So TNA’s big idea for him was to have him come out with a look that made Johnny B. Badd look macho – wrapped in yellow tape with a yellow carnival mask, squirting himself with cream he would rub onto his chest and licking lips at the camera. Bad enough on its own but worse for how Mike Tenay and Taz talked about it being so uncomfortable and off-putting. Any chance Jordan might have had was ruined right off the bat thanks to this terrible character.
21. Cheerleader Melissa
This one still blows my mind. We’ve seen a lot of promotions over the years managing to drop the ball on hot prospects but seriously, how do you mess this up? One of the most talented and frankly gorgeous female wrestlers in the world, someone who can easily spice up the Knockouts division, a major coup for TNA…and they decide to have her dress head to toe in veil, robe and hood, the name Raisha Saeed and just be the manager for Awesome Kong. That was a massive waste of a true star and even her later runs as Alissa Flash were too short and showing that TNA could blow a sure thing as well as anyone else.
20. Brooke Hogan
She’s not the first person to get a major role in a promotion because of their dad and she won’t be the last. But unlike, say, Stephanie McMahon, Brooke had pretty much nothing to bring to the table besides her looks. She was stiff on the mic, had no authority at all so making her the head of the Knockouts was a complete joke. That’s not to mention her “wedding” to Bully Ray which played into the insane Aces & Eights storyline with Brooke at one point seeming to forget it was all an angle talking about it in interviews. Losing her was a boon for the company but having her even be there in the first place was ridiculous.
19. The Reverse Battle Royal
TNA is no stranger to wild gimmick bouts. Sometimes they work (Ultimate X). Other times they don’t (King of the Mountain). But in what fevered dream was this one cooked up in? You had the participants outside the ring with the idea of them fighting to get into it. So you had to accept guys unable to do a simple activity even with all the brawling, just an ugly mess that came off as laughable. Now if it had been just one winner, maybe it could have worked but the fact the rules allowed seven guys to get just made it worse. You would then have those seven go at it like a regular battle royal until the last two guys who would then wrestle a standard match. Believe it or not, TNA actually gave us two of these, setting a new standard for convoluted wrestling bouts.
18. Claire Lynch
TNA was actually looking up a bit in 2012 with Austin Aries and Bobby Roode feuding for the World title and a new focus on the tag teams. But in the middle of it all came, without a doubt, one of the absolute most idiotic storylines in wrestling history. After teasing the idea of A.J. Styles cheating with Dixie Carter, a terrible actress came out claiming A.J. was the father of her baby. True, it gave us Bad Influence but we had to endure several bad moments of this woman on camera and it became more laughable when she quit after only a few weeks after so many nasty comments by fans. So we had a “lawyer” announce that the woman had made the whole thing up as she went back to her job as Olive Oyl at the Universal Studios theme park. Yes, seriously.
17. Sharmell vs. Jenna
Let’s call it what it is and that’s the worst women’s wrestling match of all time. Indeed, it may rank among the absolute worst PPV bouts in history. For God knows what reason, TNA hired Jenna Morasca, the winner of a season of Survivor that aired years previously for a wrestling gig. She had no training, no skills and yet she got a feud with Booker T’s wife, Sharmell, that culminated in a bout that was awarded “minus five stars” by most reviewers. Watching it is to know an agony unlike anything else in wrestling, utterly horrible on every level imaginable and a few you didn’t know could exist. In so many ways, a summation of how bad TNA could be.
16. World Champion Eric Young
Now, this is not a knock against Young himself who is a good worker with charisma and damn funny guy. Maybe him becoming world champion wouldn’t have been a bad thing with a little build to it.
The brutal truth is that TNA was looking for a way to capitalize on Daniel Bryan winning the WWE title and Eric was picked just because he had a big thick beard. Hell, they made no secret of it with Dixie doing a speech on the beard being a “trademark” and such. The guy had been doing goofy comedy stuff and suddenly winning the belt out of nowhere over Magnus wasn’t a “grand struggle,” just too sudden to get into. The fact he was made to drop it as soon as Bryan went out just shows the real reason behind it. It’s a shame that a nice guy like Young was forced into a move that tarnished what should have been a highlight of his career.
15. Jesse Sorensen
There are harsh moves and then there’s stuff that makes Vince McMahon look like a saint. Jesse Sorensen was a rising star for TNA, challenging for the X Division title and seemingly ready to spark things up. At Against All Odds 2012, Sorensen took a bad hit from Zemma Ion and suffered a severe spinal enema, close to being paralyzed for life. That got him instant fan support as he began the road to recovery, talking about being better than ever and Carter openly saying the man had a “job for life.”
He was finally cleared in 2013…just in time for him to be cut as part of the massive wave of layoffs the company made at the time. Yep, the guy was nearly put into a wheelchair for this company, promised employment afterward and they just cut him without a second thought and it turned out never gave any support for Sorensen to pay his medical bills. That’s cold.
14. VKM’s Million-Dollar Challenge to DX
So after some ups and downs, the former New Age Outlaws, Road Dogg and Kip James (the former Billy Gunn) finally reunited to try and push themselves as a real team in TNA. So how do they get things going? By taking on the name of the Voodoo Kin Mafia, a name obviously chosen for the initials to go against Vincent Kennedy McMahon. This soon led to them issuing an open challenge to the reunited DX with a million dollars for them to collect. Everyone with a brain knew this would never happen. Well, everyone except Dixie who actually ‘froze the million dollars’ expecting WWE to answer this. And then, years later, the two made their way back to WWE and become tag team champions again. Wrestling is weird, folks.
13. Lockdown 2007
Everyone knows the infamous “Chamber of Horrors” match from WCW is one of the worst bouts of all time. Why the hell TNA would try to emulate that is beyond my understanding. Earlier, the card saw a Chris Harris/James Storm blindfold match that, even by blindfold match standards, was utterly atrocious and generally agreed as the worst match of 2007. But that may have been topped by the big event of Team 3D vs LAX in an “Electrified Six Sides of Steel” match.
Naturally, the cage wasn’t really electrified so the house lights had a bluish glow and whenever someone touched the cage, the lights would flicker on and off and the wrestler acting like they’d been shocked. It was like watching Ed Wood direct a wrestling match and hurt more by showing wrestlers outside touching the cage without the shocks. Shocking that this was even conceived, let alone put on TV.
12. Dixie Does Twitter
So in July of 2013, amid massive layoffs of workers, budget cuts and yet still pushing older guys like Sting and Hogan, Dixie Carter decided to open herself up to anyone asking questions on Twitter. The result was a carnage of comments unlike anything you can imagine as #AskDixie was seriously trending around the world. Many of the comments were brutal and uncalled for but many had a wild sense of humor (“How does it feel to get worse ratings than Cops reruns?”) while still asking biting questions on what the hell this company was trying to do.
Dixie was driven off Twitter before coming back to only respond to questions that weren’t overtly negative. If nothing else, it was a massive showcase of how out of touch Dixie could be to believe folks would use social media to say nothing but nice things.
11. Jeff Hardy
I can’t deny Jeff Hardy’s skills as a worker but it’s damn obvious the man has some serious self-control issues amid his other addictions. Hiring him in 2004 seemed a goof move by TNA but it soon led to problems as Jeff would no-show a few events in 2005, disappear for months and return later. After a few years back in WWE, he would return in 2010 and be involved in the crazy Immortal stuff, his heel turn never really going well with fans.
Rumors abounded of him in trouble backstage with his personal demons and it came to light in the now infamous Victory Road 2011 where he showed up for a PPV main event obviously stoned out of his mind and had to be forcibly pinned in less than a minute. And yet TNA still took him back and slapped the title back on him fast. This is a guy who clearly needs some serious help but TNA keeps cutting him breaks and he rewards them with stuff like breaking his leg driving a dirt bike so he and Matt have to vacate the tag titles and ruin weeks of programs. He may be a star but his daredevil antics have clearly caused more hassles for this company than solutions.
10. Kurt Angle
Nabbing Kurt Angle was a great coup for TNA, an established star and terrific worker to give them some prominence. Sure, they blew the seemingly perfect feud with Samoa Joe but it still had a lot of promise. However, Angle’s personal issues have been overwhelming what good he does for TNA. He’s been arrested five times over the last eight years for substance abuse and domestic violence charges, each time shaking up TNA’s plans for him.
There’s stories of his short temper and of course, his real-life soap opera of his wife Karen leaving him and eventually getting together with Jeff Jarrett. Plus, his numerous injuries are having a clear effect, his ring work slower and poorer. Yet he’s now the World Champion, showing TNA just doesn’t know when it’s time to cut an investment loose.
9. Celebrity Use
When you think of how much money TNA has spent on “celebrities” while their actual talent is struggling to make ends meet, it boggles the mind. It started right from the beginning of Toby Keith eliminating Jeff Jarrett from a gauntlet battle royal and it just gets worse: Jeff Hammond in a wrestling match; Johnny Fairplay as Dusty Rhodes’ would-be assistant; the aforementioned Jenna and folks from ‘The Jersey Shore’ and of course Pacman Jones. That one is truly the most idiotic as a man suspended from the NFL for drunken fighting was signed to a big contract without anyone at TNA realizing that he couldn’t actually wrestle so he just stood around the ring and yet still became one-half of the tag team champions.
None of these did anything to boost the ratings and while WCW had the money to waste on this stuff and still pay talent, TNA did not, just making them more of a joke. Meanwhile, when Brooke Tessmacher and Robbie E made it to the quarter-finals of The Amazing Race, an Emmy-winning major network hit, TNA made absolutely no reference to it whatsoever, showing they cared more for a brief appearance by a reality “star” than their own performers making it onto a big show.
8. Screwing Over the Knockouts
When the Knockouts started, it seemed just the thing TNA needed to compete with WWE, a women’s division that was built on real wrestling with Gail Kim leading the charge. However it soon began to fall apart with some ludicrous stuff that made the Divas look fantastic like the infamous Lockbox Challenge and more. But worse is the behind the scenes stuff as the women got some of the worst treatment like Roxxi Laveaux released despite praise for working through an injury and let go after a brief comeback. Taylor Wilde was rising but supposedly she was so embarrassed by a fan recognizing her in her second job at Sunglasses Hut that she quit the entire business the next day. Daffney was fired after suffering an injury and sued the company for an unsafe working environment and several promising folks were cut in the 2013 layoffs.
Meanwhile, after Bubba the Love Sponge trashed Hati after its earthquake, Awesome Kong gave him a massive beatdown that led to her own firing. She may be back now but all this just shows that TNA’s treatment of its ladies may be among the worst in wrestling.
7. Monty Brown
Probably the greatest dropping of the ball with talent in TNA history. Brown was rising high in 2004 and 2005 in TNA with some good ring work, good on the mic and the crowds responding to him well. He handled himself in a main event program against Jarrett and seemed poised to win the NWA world title with the backing of the fans.
So when he turned heel with no build or warning to align with Jarrett, it made absolutely no sense to anyone and was a massive blow to his career. He was soon lost teaming with Kip James in tag bouts, his ring work suffering and never became the huge star TNA seemed to be building him up to be. He’d leave the company in 2007 for a forgettable WWE run and remains the biggest “could have been” the company failed to properly utilize.
6. Obsession with finding the new nWo
The Kings of Wrestling. SEX. The Main Event Mafia. Aces & Eights. The Beat Down Club. Time and again, TNA has gone to the idea of a mega-group of heels battling to dominate the company. Yes, the nWo was a huge thing but guess what? That was in 1996 and the way it fell apart showed how these things don’t always last. Yet TNA continues to go in that direction time and again, often with the exact same guys involved with the nWo in the first place like Bischoff and Hogan. It’s annoying as hell as there’s only so many times you can hear “we’re taking this place over!” and such and the obsession of TNA to replicate a period long gone in wrestling rather than try new stuff just shows why they’re in the position they’re in now.
5. Dixie on Camera
Okay, it’s not like she’s the first owner to put herself on TV, but from day one, it’s been obvious Dixie Carter is much better behind the scenes as her “acting” makes Linda McMahon look like Meryl Streep. Already bad, it just got worse as she pushed herself as the “evil owner” yet was reduced to literally getting on her knees to pull at Hogan’s leg begging him not to leave. Yeah, that’s just the evil figure meant to inspire hate by fans.
Sure, Rockstar Spud and Ethan Carter have gotten good but Dixie herself was awful, especially when she pushed herself being put through a table as the number one moment in TNA history. If anything, it shows her baffling business sense translates as well on camera as off to make her a figure to ridicule.
4. Hiring Hogan
When you hire Hulk Hogan, you take on an ego combined with possibly the greatest backstage politician in wrestling history. Vince McMahon could handle that well but Dixie Carter was played like a fiddle from day one of Hogan’s arrival and it showed. Letting him have huge camera time, pushing his old buddies like the Nasty Boys and Bubba the Love Sponge, agreeing to programs like Immortal/Fortune taking over and such.
The worst was Bound for Glory 2011 when Hogan’s offhand remarks the day before the card on how he thought Bobby Roode wasn’t ready for the big time led to TNA nixing the title change they’d been planning for weeks with Angle retaining the belt. That led to the whole bit of Storm beating an injured Angle then dropping the belt to a newly heel Roode despite the weeks of promos setting Roode up as a big face so Hogan single-handedly shifted the company for the poorer. That’s not including the mess of Brooke and Aces & Eights and such as TNA became the Hogan show and when he left in 2013, he did so in a way that made the company look even worse. Hogan claimed he would change TNA when he came on, and in that sense, you can’t say he didn’t deliver there.
3. Planet Jarrett
As bad as Hogan could be, Jeff Jarrett may have challenged him in terms of ego-driven antics. Jarrett has always been an interesting case; a decent upper mid-card guy who honestly thinks he’s on the same level of stardom as Hogan or Flair. It was bad enough in WCW but it was worse with TNA as his owning of the company from the early going meant he got pushed big time as NWA champion. That included bits like 2003 where the crowd was hot for Raven winning the belt only for Jarrett to retain after a battle against odds that would make John Cena roll his eyes.
It got worse in 2004 and ’05, with Jarrett constantly holding onto the belt despite some great challengers like Monty Brown and Jeff Hardy and the fans openly chanting “drop the title” at him. When he did lose it to A.J. Styles, it was thanks to ref Tito Ortiz and Jarrett made sure he stayed in the spotlight afterward ranting about conspiracies against him and challenging new champ Raven. He got the belt back just in time for the Spike debut and just continued to hog the spotlight way too much. The loss of his wife to cancer did seem to shift his priorities so his return wasn’t as bad but the fact remains that at a time TNA was trying to break out on its own, Jarrett was hogging the limelight in a way that made HHH look humble and hurt the company’s persona.
2. The New Monday Night “War”
Driven by the signing of Hogan, TNA announced that “Impact” would run head-to-head with RAW on Monday nights in January of 2010. I don’t know what’s crazier, that they thought they could do this but that they honestly believed they’d actually win. Going against RAW at any time is hard but January through spring is worse as WWE is always on a creative high, building toward WrestleMania. The first outing had a terrible X-Division dome cage match, the Nasty Boys getting winded doing a promo, the return of Hall, Nash and X-Pac, Hogan acting the savior of the company…and all against the return of Bret Hart to WWE.
For the next few months, Impact would present such gems as RVD pinning Sting in less than a minute, Bischoff playing a guitar in the ring, the Lockbox Challenge, Hall and Nash acting like it was still 1997, Samoa Joe kidnapped by ninjas and more. The highest Impact rating in that period was a 0.99, completely crushed by RAW’s Mania build and aftermath and so TNA was forced to announce that “due to popular demand,” they were going back to Thursday nights. A massive lesson in hubris that TNA sadly failed to learn from.
1. Working With Russo
It’s a bit unfair to say Vince Russo killed WCW but he sure as hell helped hasten it into the coffin. So for TNA to not only hire him but give him massive creative control several times is utterly stunning. His touch was clear when they started from women in cages to the Johnsons and more crazy antics that made the company seem second-rate from the start.
It was far worse when he returned in 2007 as TNA had been on an actual creative high only to crash hard into even more dumb ideas (Reverse Battle Royal), ridiculous storylines and idiotic gimmick matches that led to “Fire Russo!” being a popular refrain among the Impact Zone crowds. Throwing him together with Hogan and Bischoff just made it worse with short-lived programs that made little sense.
But far worse was his secret hiring as a consultant in 2013 which Dixie openly lied about to Spike TV officials, so when it came out at last, it derailed the negotiations to keep TNA on the network. So by keeping this guy on, TNA ended up ruining what little network presence they had which means it’s quite possible Russo can soon boast to having put not one but two wrestling promotions on life support. Sad but really, TNA had no one to blame but themselves for their own fall.
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