In the 1950s, professional wrestling exploded in popularity when a new invention known as the television, started showing up in households all across the United States. The number of people that would attend a professional wrestling show in person was nothing compared to the amount of eyes that could watch a pro wrestling show from the comfort of their homes.
The first professional wrestling show to air was Hollywood Wrestling, and it lasted from 1947 until 1955. That led to Wrestling from Marigold, Portland Wrestling, Saturday Night Wrasslin', Wrestling at the Chase, and Studio Wrestling. These shows broke the ground for something that exists to this day, and that is the ability to watch professional wrestling on television each week.
The most popular and successful promotion on television is the WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment. It has dominated the professional wrestling landscape in the United States including owning all the records and ratings on television. Because it has remained the best and biggest pro wrestling company in the United States, it has forced almost all of its' direct competitiors into bankruptcy because no one can compete on the same scale as the WWE.
TNA, Total Nonstop Action, is the second largest promotion in the United States for a few years now, but it has struggled and fought its' way into the second spot ever since the WCW was sold to the WWE. But everything TNA tries to do, has not worked so far. Their ratings are showing that since December of 2016, they average about 260,000 viewers each week compared to the WWE, which is averaging 3.5 million viewers on Raw alone.
This has led to Anthem Sports & Entertainment purchasing 85% of the company just a few weeks ago leaving many critics to suspect it is a last ditch effort for a dying brand. If they cannot rebound, chances are the company will fold.
So let's take a look at the roster of talented professional wrestlers they have and which ones have a future in the sport somewhere else.
15 Eddie Edwards: ROH
Most of the TNA World Heavyweight Champions stand a chance at finding a job elsewhere if the company were to take a leap into the abyss later this year, and that includes Eddie Edwards. Not only was he a one-time Heavyweight Champion, Eddie is a five-time World Tag Team Champion and two-time X-Division Champion. His best matches happened a few years ago, in 2014, when he was going up against The Hardy's while teaming up with his tag partner Davey Richards.
His time as a Tag Team Champion were his best in the business and it carried him for the last few years in TNA, leading him to the World Heavyweight Championship which he held from October of 2016 until just a few weeks ago when he lost it to Bobby Lashley. Because he has such a reputation with Ring of Honor, if things go South for TNA, Eddie Edwards will be best suited for ROH.
14 Gail Kim: Retirement Or Possible WWE Run
At 40 years young, Gail Kim has plenty more wrestling left in her tank following a short-lived career in the WWE, which lasted much shorter than it should have following a few injury issues. From the moment she left the WWE, Gail Kim became one of the hottest prospects for the TNA Knockouts Division. She would eventually leave the promotion and go back to the WWE before returning to TNA in October of 2011. She has remained with them ever since returning.
She is the only six-time TNA Knockouts Champion, having held the title for a combined 710 days between 2007 and 2016. She also owns the second and third longest reigns with the belt, in 2011 with 210 days and in 2015 with 232 days. Overall, TNA has not had a better women's champion yet. Gail Kim's future is either retiring altogether or heading back to the WWE since she has more than proven her value.
13 Davey Richards: Retirement
When a professional wrestler makes an announcement about retiring, there is a 50% chance that he will not be retiring from the sport completely. Most wrestlers announce their retirement and end up back on television not long after that, just not as much as before. Davey Richards came out last November, on Twitter, and told his followers that 2017 will be his final year wrestling. Not long after he posted it, the tweet was deleted and he has yet to confirm anything about it being true.
Surprisingly enough, he made a return to TNA on January 5th of this year and helped Eddie Edwards retain his World Heavyweight title belt before getting his first match since returning, the following night. He lost to Bobby Lashley at One Night Only: Live!.
If he planned on retiring before signing with TNA, he might be thinking differently now. But if TNA does fold, chances are he retires officially.
12 Andrew Everett: WWE
Andrew Everett is only 24 years old and is just in the beginning stages of his professional wrestling career. His name does not carry with it a ton of fans and, in fact, he is only known by the extremely diehard pro wrestling fans or TNA fans that have been around for a few years now. But that should not stop him from turning into something, having already been named by Pro Wrestling Illustrated as No.156 in the prestigious PWI 500 wrestler ranking list of 2016.
As a member of TNA's X-Division, Andrew Everett is a rare pro wrestling prospect that might benefit from a TNA closing because he could find work for just about any promotion he chooses. But expect the WWE to steal him first, maybe even before TNA folds.
11 James Storm: Independent Circuit
James Storm wrestles in many different promotions besides Total Nonstop Action wrestling. He has also wrestled in Capital City Championship Combat, Freedom Pro Wrestling, Global Force Wrestling, Preston City Wrestling, Imperial Revolution Wrestling, and about ten others since 2015. This year alone, he is 5-0 in his five matches between TNA and CCC. That winning streak actually dates back to August of 2016. Someone seems to think he is worth the time to invest in and he is taking advantage of the momentum they are giving him.
His career dates back to the late '90s when he wrestled for WCW in 2000 and 2001. He then appeared on the Independent circuit before starting his career with TNA in 2002. He has bounced around promotions but his best matches and moments all came from his time with TNA. If TNA does not last, he is a candidate to hit the Independent circuit until he retires, which could end up happening soon since he is 39-years old.
10 Tyrus: Retirement Or An Outside Chance At WWE
Many of you probably will remember Tyrus from his time with the WWE under the ring name, Brodus Clay. He began his wrestling career in 2005 with the WWE's developmental territories until 2014 when he showed up on Total Nonstop Action Wrestling under his new name, Tyrus.
He changed around gimmicks a few times since entering TNA until he finally landed the role he currently holds as "The Fixer," which he began in June of 2016. He is 43 years old and is a massive person, standing 6'7", 375 pounds. Most wrestlers of his size end up retiring around his age because of the various knee and leg injuries they end up suffering on a regular basis. That leads us to believe Tyrus is on the verge of retiring, if TNA collapses that is. If he does not retire, his time in the WWE could be enough to earn a contract with them.
9 Jeff Hardy: WWE
On March 13, 2011, TNA hosted the Victory Road pay-per-view and scheduled the main event match to be Sting, TNA Heavyweight Champion at that time, defending his belt against Jeff Hardy. The match later became known as one of the worst matches in TNA history because of Jeff Hardy, who has battled substance abuse for many years. Jeff arrived to the PPV completely out of his mind and just about everyone in the back knew it too. So Eric Bischoff came out and tried to stall and buy some time while warning Jeff to get it together. The match lasted just a few minutes and was the rock bottom of his drug use.
Jeff bounced back and has been clean and sober ever since, according to him, and it shows as he has risen to the top once again and is now known as Brother Nero, wrestling alongside his brother Matt Hardy. The rumor mills have been swirling since last year about a possible Jeff Hardy return to the WWE but that is all it is, a rumor. If TNA ends up shutting down, however, he would end up in the WWE, if not because he no longer has many options.
8 Eli Drake: Whoever Will Have Him
If you love Rosemary, you will love Eli Drake. And that is not because he is a male version of Rosemary, or something creepy like that. No sir! He is being compared to her because of his future potential in the business. He is already being rumored to be meeting with WWE officials to discuss possibly bringing him over sometime soon. But since rumors are nothing more than just that, we will pretend he is still wrestling with TNA and not shopping around.
He actually got his big break with the WWE back in 2006 when he wrestled the Big Show under the name, Shaun Ricker. He kept coming close to breaking out but never got over the hump. After 2006 failed, he tried again in 2008, then one last time in 2013. He has been working on cleaning up his technical skills and promos and is now considered one of TNA's hottest future stars. At 34 years old, he does not have much of a future to wait on a big break anymore so if TNA folds, chances are he grabs onto any ship that passes by.
7 Jade: WWE
If not for Rosemary's domination at TNA's Impact Wrestling: Genesis event last month, Jade would have been ranked much higher on the list. She is a Korean-American that is one of the sexiest female stars in the business today. But that is not even her greatest asset. Her greatest feature is her wrestling ability, which could take over the WWE if given the chance. She has some more polishing before she is ready for the top promotion but if TNA closes, it might be time to rush her to the top before she is swept away by one of a dozen other promotions.
She is a one-time TNA Knockouts Champion, having held the belt for a few months in 2016 before getting another shot earlier this year in a Monster's Ball match against Rosemary. Jade has just about everything needed to sell tickets for the bigger promotions so she is probably going to end up with another promotion before the end of the year anyways. She is too talented and beautiful to be denied the chance to turn herself into a leader in the women's world of pro wrestling.
6 Trevor Lee: WWE
What makes a wrestling match great? Is it the wrestlers or the architect behind the spots for the match? Or is it the venue?
It is fair to say that without a talented wrestler, or two, it is not easy to have a nearly perfect match, especially in the smaller arenas with the lighter crowds. But that did not matter when Trevor Lee battled Andrew Everett last summer at the Carolina Wrestling Federation, CWF, Mid-Atlantic Justice event. In front of a small crowd in Gibsonville, North Carolina, Trevor Lee and Andrew Everett put on one of the best matches in wrestling history and it is all thanks to the wrestlers performance. They took this opportunity and turned it into an exhibition of what real professional wrestling looks like on the indie circuit.
Trevor Lee is only 23 years old and is a wrestler in TNA's X-Division, basically their version of NXT. He just might be the most talented young star TNA has on their roster and he will, without a doubt, wind up with the WWE if TNA were to close its' doors. He might wind up in the WWE either way, to be honest.
5 Drew Galloway: WWE
One of the biggest names on the rumor mill lately is Drew Galloway. He has been rumored to be on the WWE radar for quite some time because of his wrestling abilities, charisma, and just about everything else needed to become one of the best wrestlers in the business. He just might be one of the best in the industry right now not only because he is talented but because he makes everyone around him better. He was a part of "The Rising" stable which featured Eli Drake, and helped push him up the line fairly quickly.
But for Drew, being one of the best in the business, means he gets to slowly make the right choice when he ends up deciding on it. He could be gone before TNA ever does close its' doors thanks to the heat behind him right now. As his value continues to grow, so does his choices. He wrestled in the WWE already but could return if TNA folds and the offer is right.
4 Ethan Carter III: Possibly WWE
By now you might realize that most of the best pro wrestling talents work for the WWE, Ring of Honor, or in Japan. That is not a knock against TNA's roster of wrestlers, just an observation based on potential. However, there are several wrestlers that have emerged from obscurity, or for the second time in their career, as incredible talents being wasted in a company that continues to struggle. As TNA keeps toeing the line of folding, wrestlers get little to no love and they wind up going unnoticed, or even forgotten about.
Ethan Carter III is a prime example of this idea. He began with the WWE and worked his way through the developmental promotions until he was a part of NXT between 2010 and 2013 before being released. He went on to wrestle the Independent circuit for a little while also finding a job with TNA shortly after the WWE let him go in 2013. He was a raw talent that has finally emerged in the industry and was the TNA Heavyweight Champion for 101 days in 2015. He has continued to remain a prominent figure within the company and should be able to find work just about anywhere he wants if something were to go wrong with TNA. Although, the WWE might be the last place he goes, he still might wind up back with the company where his career began.
3 Rosemary: WWE
Remember when ECW dominated the Hardcore Wrestling scene? It was the largest promotion on television that presented some of the most insane matches involving chairs, wooden 2x4's, barbwire, and thumb tacks. But it was not just those few hardcore items that made it so captivating for the audience, those were just the tip of the iceberg. The audience loved it because they wanted to see what else these men would do and what are human beings capable of doing in the wrestling ring.
Rosemary has brought that exact idea to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling with her hardcore attitude and demonic presence. She does not mind being bodyslammed into a pile of tacks or struck in the skull with a steel chair. She will do whatever it takes for the business, especially the Women's Division. She was recently a part of a Monster's Ball match that supposedly locked both wrestlers in a cage for 24 hours, without food, water, or even light, just to make the battle that much better. She has taken part in just about any match thrown her way and is now the TNA Knockouts Champion. If TNA were to fold, and it might, she will most certainly end up in the WWE. Think of her as Lita 2.0.
2 Bobby Lashley: Anywhere He Wants
Bobby Lashley got his career started with the WWE. He trained with them, worked out with them, and eventually became the ECW World Champion with them in 2006. He then got a push towards the WWE World Heavyweight title belt but fell just short following a shoulder injury that sidelined him for nearly six months. He ended up being released from the WWE in 2008, following the injury.
He found a home with TNA in 2009 and 2010 but ended up leaving for the Independent Circuit for the last several years. He did not return to TNA until 2014 and finally won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship a few weeks ago after destroying Eddie Edwards. He is considered the toughest man in the company and might be the title holder for a long time because of the lack of competition. So expect him to go just about anywhere he wants if TNA folds, including the WWE, who love to bring guys back to shock the fans.
1 Matt Hardy: WWE
If TNA does not fold anytime soon, they owe it all to Matt Hardy and his incredible comeback in the professional wrestling world. His first time with TNA was in 2011 but it ended shortly after he ended up with a DUI arrest in August of 2011. That was just the beginning of his problems. He spent the next few years dealing with a drug problem that nearly cost him his life. He was even arrested, along with his wife Reby Sky at a motel in Virginia following a fight between the two which got brutal, according to eyewitnesses. That was in 2014.
Since then, he has climbed back into the hearts of wrestling fans with his "Broken" Matt Hardy character. The character has been considered one of the most genius ideas in professional wrestling history and has gained so much popularity that it has saved TNA and helped grow their fan base, slowly but still growing them in the right direction. If TNA does end up failing, there is no doubt that Matt Hardy will be back in the WWE, he is just too talented not to be.