It's pretty clear that most professional wrestlers desire to eventually make it to the bright lights of World Wrestling Entertainment, but without question, Impact Wrestling is definitely a worthy second option, as the company once called TNA has created many big stars who now work for WWE such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Bobby Roode, just to name a few. As many in the business will attest to, timing is everything in sports entertainment, and sometimes the timing simply isn't right for a particular Superstar to succeed in WWE - we have seen this many times where wrestlers who "flopped" in WWE resurrected their careers in Impact Wrestling. For many years, TNA always had the reputation of signing "WWE rejects", because, at one point in time, the roster was almost entirely made up of former Vince McMahon guys and gals.
However, despite the fact Impact Wrestling has usually been very kind to former WWE wrestlers, not all talent who transitioned from WWE to TNA succeeded. In fact, quite a few wrestlers failed to make an impact (no pun intended) in both WWE and Impact. With that said, considering the WWE is currently home to a number of successful Impact Wrestling stars who are now big deals on Raw, SmackDown and NXT, there are also lots who have managed to do well for themselves in both mainstream American wrestling promotions. Let's take a closer look at the following 10 wrestlers who succeeded in both WWE & TNA, and 10 who didn't.
20 Succeeded In Both: Bobby Roode
While it's clear that Bobby Roode isn't anywhere near as relevant as many fans believe a talent like Bobby Roode should be on the WWE's main roster (Monday Night Raw), it's impossible to deny the fact that "The Glorious One" has succeeded in both WWE and TNA. Prior to becoming a huge hit in NXT, Roode spent over twelve years in Impact Wrestling where he was a member of the popular "Beer Money" tag team alongside James Storm, as well as a breakout main event Superstar who had two reigns as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
Lots of people drew the comparison between Bobby Roode and Triple H, and many proclaimed Roode was the "HHH" equivalent of TNA. When Bobby had signed with WWE, Roode was immediately thrust into a high profile spot in NXT where he succeeded with flying colors, and without a doubt, Bobby Roode was a fantastic NXT Champion.
19 Didn't: Justin Gabriel
Justin Gabriel was definitely an underrated wrestler in both WWE and TNA, but the South African high-flyer failed to make a lasting impact in either company. The overall highlight of Justin's career in WWE would have to be his involvement with The Nexus and Corre stables because, besides that, Justin Gabriel was nothing more than an enhancement talent - Gabriel was squashed by many up-and-comers including Wade Barrett and Rusev.
It's obvious that Justin, aka PJ Black, could've been a bigger star in WWE had he been given a chance, though it's reassuring to know that Gabriel's now doing well for himself in Lucha Underground. However, before becoming a well-known name in LU, Justin Gabriel had a brief (and uneventful) run in Impact Wrestling back in 2015, where the highlight was a reign as the TNA King Of The Mountain Championship (a title most fans despised).
18 Succeeded In Both: Mickie James
When you're as gifted in the squared circle as the women's wrestling legend Mickie James is, it really should come as no shock or surprise that Mickie did well for herself and thoroughly succeeded in both WWE and TNA. In WWE, Mickie was an integral part of the Divas Division throughout the mid-2000s, and she had five solid reigns as the Women's Champion, and one reign as the Divas Champion. Nowadays, Mickie James is now once again a member of the WWE roster, though she has been vastly underutilized since her return.
In TNA Impact Wrestling, Mickie James was a prominent Superstar in the company's "ahead of their time" women's division, and Mickie ended her tenure with Impact as a three-time Knockouts Champion. Mickie James is currently scheduled to face her old rival, Lita, at the upcoming all-women's Evolution pay-per-view event which is definitely an exciting addition to the card!
17 Didn't: Hornswoggle
Hornswoggle has accomplished more in sports entertainment than we believe anyone could've possibly imagined, and the former WWE leprechaun is still performing inside the squared circle to this day on the indies. However, if there's one thing for certain about good old 'Swoggle, it's the fact that the former Cruiserweight Champion saw most of his success in WWE. While it doesn't seem as though Hornswoggle is struggling to find decent indie bookings nowadays, Vince McMahon's former illegitimate son flopped big time in TNA.
Following his surprise release from WWE in 2016, Hornswoggle attempted to continue his craft in Impact Wrestling, but for the entirety of his one year uneventful run with TNA, 'Swoggle was nothing more than a comedic enhancement talent. Apparently, Hornswoggle was never actually signed to an Impact Wrestling contract, so it's not very surprising as to why he was gone from the company within a year's time.
16 Succeeded In Both: Bubba Ray Dudley
For the entirety of his WWE career, Bubba Ray Dudley was always dubbed a "tag team guy", and by all means, Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley were very successful as a duo - The Dudley Boyz are amongst the greatest tag teams in WWE history. However, it can be guaranteed that Bubba Ray was somewhat interested in trying his luck as a singles competitor, and while Dudley didn't succeed on his own in WWE, things were much different in Impact Wrestling for Bubba Ray.
In TNA, Bubba Ray Dudley continued his tag team with D-Von for a period of time, before finally getting his shot at success as a solo act in the mid-2010's. Ray ended up adding two TNA World Championships to his already impressive wrestling resume, and unlike D-Von, "Bully" Ray went down as a success story in TNA on his own.
15 Didn't: Luke Gallows
Much like Bubba Ray Dudley, Luke Gallows was undoubtedly dubbed a tag team wrestler by most fans, and while Gallows has succeeded as a tag team specialist all over the world, the same certainly cannot be said for Luke's time spent in TNA Impact Wrestling as one of the Aces & Eights stablemates. One year after his unfortunate WWE release in 2011, Luke Gallows made his debut in TNA, and following a couple of dark matches, Gallows joined the Aces & Eights stable.
For the duration of Luke's two year run in TNA, nothing of note was accomplished, thus establishing his TNA career as a flop by most standards. However, Luke Gallows didn't let his failed Impact Wrestling career get to him, as he found plenty of success in NJPW for three years following his leave from TNA. Although Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson haven't been utilized to the extent most fans believe they should in WWE, in any case, Luke has done well for himself in Vince McMahon's empire.
14 Succeeded In Both: Bobby Lashley
"The Dominator" Bobby Lashley unquestionably had all the tools required to be a big star in sports entertainment, and as such, Lashley made a name for himself both in WWE and TNA. While Bobby did achieve some success in WWE (the ECW Championship being one), it cannot be argued that Vince had much higher hopes for the big man. However, a backstage altercation with Michael Hayes would end up cutting Lashley's WWE run shortly before McMahon had the opportunity to give Bobby a real World Title reign, and some fans were unsure of how Lashley would fare elsewhere.
Besides his respectable MMA career, Bobby Lashley would also try his hand in TNA, and by all means, Bobby succeeded to a great extent - Lashley is definitely one of the most successful WWE to Impact Wrestling transitions ever. Bobby ended up becoming a four-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, and Lashley is now back amongst the Monday Night Raw roster after gaining some much-needed experience in Impact.
13 Didn't: Mike Knox
While many of the wrestlers featured on this list succeeded in at least one of the two wrestling promotions (WWE and TNA), the same cannot be said for the generic and somewhat underrated big man, Mike Knox. Though Mike spent four years of his career performing in WWE, absolutely nothing of note came out of his run, and he was an afterthought for most of it. Vince tried giving Mike a solo push for a while between 2008-2010 as a gruff monster heel, but as expected, Knox flopped within short order.
Similar to Luke Gallows, once Mike Knox was quietly released from the WWE in 2010, he too would fairly quickly join up with TNA and become a member of the failed Aces & Eights stable. Mike was also involved with another stable storyline in Impact (The Menagerie), but neither of Knox's gimmicks led the 280-pounder to any success.
12 Succeeded In Both: Gail Kim
Much like Mickie James, Gail Kim was undoubtedly a women's wrestler way ahead of her time, and it cannot be argued that Kim would've been a perfect fit in the WWE's current women's division, where in-ring talent is extremely important. Although Gail Kim accomplished enough to be considered a "WWE success story," without question, Gail's career really took off in TNA Impact Wrestling where women's wrestling was already becoming a big deal.
Gail had an illustrious career in TNA, and she's arguably the best female talent in the company's history - she is well deserving of her TNA Hall Of Fame induction back in 2016. Throughout her two runs in Impact, Gail Kim captured the Knockouts Championship seven times. In WWE, Gail only managed to capture the Women's Championship once, but this is mainly because Kim was not on board with Vince McMahon's treatment of the "Divas."
11 Didn't: Orlando Jordan
For those of you who've since forgotten about the former WWE United States Champion, Orlando Jordan was a Superstar most fans hated with a passion. Orlando Jordan was nothing particularly special inside the squared circle, and his gimmick, especially in TNA, left a lot to be desired. Regardless, despite his many shortcomings, Orlando Jordan somehow managed to catapult himself into a brief United States Championship reign, but as expected, many fans rank Jordan as being one of, if not the worst US Champions in WWE history due to his low ranking status and overall lack of talent.
The highlight of Orlando's WWE run would likely be his extremely short consecutive losses to Chris Benoit, but things weren't any better for him in TNA. For Orlando Jordan's short and uneventful TNA run, he portrayed a bizarre gimmick, and by all means, it didn't get over whatsoever.
10 Succeeded In Both: Ethan Carter III
As we summarized in the intro of this article, many failed WWE Superstars have successfully resurrected their careers in TNA, and without a shadow of a doubt, Ethan Carter III (also known as Derick Bateman) is one of those said stars. Prior to getting his big break in TNA, EC3 was struggling to make his mark in the WWE with his extraordinarily limited and generic Derick Bateman shtick, and for the three years he spent in WWE, Ethan floated around the low mid-card on SmackDown, as well as performing the odd match in NXT.
Ethan Carter III definitely got his big breakout in Impact Wrestling as Dixie Carter's entitled nephew, and he ended up becoming a solid upper midcard talent with two TNA World Championship reigns to his credit. Now back amongst the WWE roster as of January, EC3 has been doing well in NXT, and it's only a matter of time before he's either declared a contender for the NXT Title or is called up to the main roster.
9 Didn't: Ezekiel Jackson
Ezekiel Jackson was certainly reminiscent of former WWE wrestler Ahmed Johnson, and fittingly, they both captured the Intercontinental Championship before eventually getting pushed to the sidelines in favor of better talent. Taking a look at Ezekiel, the former ECW Champion unquestionably possessed the size Vince loved in his top monster heels, but in every other aspect, Ezekiel was fairly generic and didn't stand out very much.
Regardless, some fans would still consider Ezekiel Jackson a success story in WWE due to his multiple title reigns, but towards the end of his run, Jackson was nothing more than fodder for mid-card talent. For those unaware, Ezekiel Jackson would then try his luck in TNA to potentially resurrect his dwindling career following his WWE release in 2014, but unfortunately, nothing of note came out of this one-year run whatsoever.
8 Succeeded In Both: Matt & Jeff Hardy
Matt and Jeff Hardy rank among the greatest wrestling tag teams of all time, but both Hardy's have managed to have great solo careers as well - in WWE and in TNA. As far as WWE is concerned, it cannot be denied that Jeff Hardy was far more successful than Matt was, as Jeff was positioned in the main event, vying for the company's World Titles, whereas Matt was a permanent mid-card title contender.
However, they were both successful WWE Superstars in their own way, and things were pretty much the same when they jump-shipped to TNA Impact. Unlike their careers in WWE, Matt Hardy had actually begun to outshine Jeff towards the later years of their runs in TNA with his incredibly popular "Broken" gimmick, and he ended up capturing the TNA World Title twice. Matt and Jeff Hardy have truly done all there is to do in sports entertainment, and both Hardys are worthy future WWE Hall Of Famers.
7 Didn't: Brodus Clay
Brodus Clay (now known as "Tyrus") was and still is an absolute gargantuan of a human being, and he definitely had an intimidating appearance. However, despite his potential, the WWE never committed to Brodus over the long haul, and Vince ended up dropping the ball with Clay as a solo act - this tends to be the case for most monster heels. The highlight of Brodus' WWE career would be his alliance with Albert aka Tensai (Tons Of Funk), though they never did capture the Tag Team Titles.
In TNA Impact Wrestling, things weren't any better for the 350-plus-pound behemoth, because despite garnering a couple shots at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Tyrus failed in his attempts to capture the gold and was eventually released in April 2018. Let's hope Brodus Clay has a backup plan in case his wrestling career doesn't take off anytime soon, but at 45 years of age, it's unlikely we'll ever see Brodus back in a WWE ring anyways.
6 Succeeded In Both: Drew McIntyre
Considering Drew McIntyre was dubbed Vince McMahon's "Chosen One", it's not very surprising that Drew was given many opportunities to succeed in WWE - McIntyre is undoubtedly making the absolute most of his opportunities in 2018 heading into 2019. Regardless, despite the fact that Drew's first run with WWE ended with McIntyre being a member of the comedic 3MB faction, McIntyre still did achieve quite a bit of success in WWE before things hit the fan.
Once released from WWE, Impact Wrestling would eventually reach out to "The Scottish Terminator" for a contract, and without a doubt, McIntyre made the most out of this opportunity and thoroughly succeeded in TNA, where he used his real name of Drew Galloway. The WWE has since brought McIntyre back to the company, and following a successful stint in NXT, Drew looks to be headed towards a major, major push on Monday Night Raw heading into 2019 - McIntyre will likely be a challenger for Roman Reign' Universal Title.
5 Didn't: Matt Morgan
As we have discussed in previous articles, Matt Morgan could've been a much bigger deal in the WWE had Vince McMahon given Matt the right opportunities at the right time. However, Matt simply entered the business at the wrong time, as there were far too many monsters in WWE Vince had his eyes on to push, including Dave Batista and Brock Lesnar. The nail in Matt Morgan's WWE coffin was undoubtedly "The Blueprint's" stuttering gimmick because that was a flop of a persona if we've ever seen one.
Following his WWE release and a couple of short runs in Japan and Europe, Morgan would join up with TNA, like many WWE "rejects" or "flops" do, but much like the WWE, Impact Wrestling never really committed to Matt Morgan as a top-tier star either - Matt spent six years in TNA with only two Tag Team Title reigns on his resume. Matt Morgan was very solid in the ring and had a great look, so it's pretty unfortunate that neither company utilized Matt to his fullest potential.
4 Succeeded In Both: Samoa Joe
Ever since Samoa Joe had established himself as a top-tier Superstar in TNA, fans had been dying to see the Samoan badass make an impact (no pun intended) in WWE. Samoa Joe had all the tools required in a top-level guy, and besides his relatively unflattering physique, Joe is everything companies like Impact Wrestling and WWE look for in monster heels. Throughout his lengthy run in TNA, Samoa Joe proved to be an extremely gifted in-ring submission machine, and he put on countless great matches against the likes of AJ Styles - fittingly, one of Joe's most recent WWE rivalries.
After such a decorated TNA career, it was undoubtedly a huge signing for WWE to acquire Samoa Joe, and he has been on a tear ever since his NXT debut in 2015. Samoa Joe may not have a WWE Championship reign under his belt yet, but the time will come sooner rather than later. Apparently, Vince wasn't a fan of Joe's at first, but "The Bossman" has since come around to Samoa Joe.
3 Didn't: Damien Sandow
Damien Sandow easily ranks among the most underrated and underutilized WWE Superstars of all time, because "The Intellectual Savior To The Masses" had everything the WWE needed in a main event player - a great gimmick, charisma, mic skills, and a decent moveset. Regardless, despite his pushes early on which led Sandow to capture the Money In The Bank contract in 2013, once his cash-in attempt on John Cena resulted in a loss, Sandow's WWE career was unceremoniously halted.
Damien never recovered from his MITB cash-in fail, and for the remainder of his career in WWE, Sandow was forced to portray the entertaining yet comedic "Damien Mizdow" persona - a slap in the face for someone as gifted as he was. After his surprising release from WWE in 2016, Damien Sandow, real name Aaron Haddad, tried his luck in TNA Impact Wrestling like many other former WWE Superstars, but unfortunately, Sandow floundered miserably in TNA as "Aron Rex."
2 Succeeded In Both: AJ Styles
AJ Styles has been one of sports entertainments most valuable assets for well over a decade now, and he was arguably the "face of TNA" - a guy most fans never believed would jump ship to WWE. "The Phenomenal One" spent eleven years performing at an extraordinarily high level in Impact Wrestling, and he truly was the cornerstone of the entire company.
Following his successful run in TNA, AJ Styles would continue his success story in ROH and NJPW, before finally making his way to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2016. Over the past two years, AJ Styles has become the face of SmackDown Live, and he is undoubtedly one of the top five Superstars in the company - the current WWE Champion (the longest reigning WWE Champ in SD history to boot). Without question, AJ Styles has to rank in as the wrestler who succeeded to the highest degree in both WWE and TNA.
1 Didn't: Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy is a case of a wrestler who had loads of potential, yet simply piddled his opportunities away with costly mistakes. In WWE, Vince McMahon had very high hopes for Mr. Kennedy to break-out as a top-tier Superstar, and for a period of time, Kennedy did just that and was quickly establishing himself as an emerging star. However, Mr. Kennedy was reportedly dangerous in the ring, and he was apparently released from the WWE in 2010 due to the fact Randy Orton and John Cena complained to Vince that Kennedy was reckless, dangerous and had the potential to end their careers.
Mr. Kennedy would then jump ship to TNA shortly following his release, and while the newly renamed "Mr. Anderson" was thrust into a high profile spot, Anderson always played second fiddle to Impact Wrestling's top stars even during his World Title reigns. In 2016, Mr. Anderson was fired immediately for failing a TNA drug test - this pretty well ended Kennedy's career. He was an unfortunate flop all around.