Back in 2002, Jeff Jarrett started up Total Nonstop Action Wrestling after becoming aligned with the NWA. Within a couple of years, TNA would become its own brand and this year was repackaged once again as Impact Wrestling. Along the way, TNA has used many stars that were once with their main competition, the WWE, while also sending some of their best stars over, as well.
Though TNA hasn’t been able to get close to the level of popularity that WWE has over the past 15 years, there has still been a lot of notable talent that has gotten over. With all of the wrestlers that have performed in both promotions, some have had more success on one side than the other. It seems that the list of those that have appeared with both companies is endless, but only a handful have been notable names on both sides.
Let’s take a look at some of those wrestlers that were able to appear both in WWE and TNA, winning titles at both stops. We’ll tell you which company furthered their careers more, and where they were better off in terms of development. Here are 15 of the most memorable wrestlers to meet that criteria.
15 Rob Van Dam
After a failed short stint with WCW, Rob Van Dam became perhaps the biggest star in ECW throughout the 1990’s. Once the company was purchased by WWE, Van Dam made the trek over and was taken seriously as a competitor. Van Dam would win an Intercontinental Championship, European Championship and a handful of Tag Team titles. Van Dam’s biggest moment came in 2006 when he won Money in the Bank, and beat John Cena for the WWE Championship.
Van Dam’s push derailed when he was arrested, and eventually was let go by the company. In 2010, Van Dam joined TNA and was there for three years. Along the way, Van Dam would win the World Heavyweight Championship and X-Division title. Even with those accolades, Van Dam’s career was more memorable in WWE (even considering the mild second run). The main reason...he pinned John Cena for the biggest title in the company, for crying out loud.
14 Bubba Ray Dudley/Bully Ray
This is one of those really tough wrestlers, because not many have found massive success with both companies in different capacities. Bubba Ray Dudley was an ECW legend before coming over to WWE in 1999 with tag team partner D-Von. The pair would be part of many of the most memorable tag team matches in WWE history. Along the way, they would win 10 tag titles, while Bubba Ray won eight Hardcore Championships.
After joining TNA in 2005, though, Bubba Ray became known as Bully Ray and finally got his chance to be a solo performer. Bully Ray won two World Heavyweight Championships, and even three Tag titles with Devon. As a wrestling fan, though, when you hear the name Dudley you automatically think of tag team ladder matches. While his career was more decorated with TNA, it was more memorable with WWE.
13 Bobby Lashley
With the success of Brock Lesnar, the WWE was looking for former successful amateur wrestlers to bring in. Among them was Bobby Lashley, a former NAIA champion that was brought up to WWE in 2005. Lashley received a big push, and would win the United States Championship and a pair of ECW World Championships on the third brand. However, he never really got over with the crowd, mainly because of his lack of microphone skills.
Lashley would join TNA in 2009, but it was short lived as he went into MMA. Lashley returned in 2014, however, and showed massive improvements overall. In the past three years, Lashley has won several titles, including the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (which he currently has as of May 2017). Lashley is getting the push he needed, just not with the company he expected, making his TNA career more significant.
12 Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner would get his mainstream start with WCW in the early 1990’s, but then came over to WWE with his brother, Rick. The two would win a Tag Team Championship during their run, which wasn’t very long as they left in 1994. Steiner’s best days would arguably come in WCW when he returned, but then Steiner came back to WWE in 2002 for a couple of years before finally making the trek to TNA.
Steiner had some main event level matches while in his final WWE run, but the matches were mostly forgettable. Steiner would find more success in TNA due to being given more free reign, especially on the microphone. Steiner’s TNA career was much more memorable than in WWE, if only for the memorable “Steiner Math” promo.
11 Xavier Woods/Consequences Creed
A lot of WWE fans didn’t even realize that Xavier Woods had spent time in TNA, so you probably know where this is going already. Woods (real name Austin Watson), made his debut in 2007 with TNA as Consequences Creed, a character that was basically a tribute to the flashy Apollo Creed from the “Rocky” film series. Creed worked his way up the ladder a bit, but his only title came with Jay Lethal as part of the Tag Team Champions.
After signing with WWE in 2010, he adopted the name Xavier Woods and would make his debut in 2013. Woods got off to a slow start when he couldn’t gather any steam as R-Truth’s tag team partner, and it seemed like his TNA career would be better. Then, things changed when Woods was teamed with Big E and Kofi Kingston, forming the New Day. Since then, The New Day has been a hit, and Woods’s career is much better off.
10 Austin Aries
Former Ring of Honor star Austin Aries made his way to TNA in 2005 thanks to an internet poll, and was then given a contract with the company. Aries asked for his release two years later due to issues with management, and went back to Ring of Honor. Aries returned to TNA in 2011, and the second run would go pretty smooth for several years, leading to several titles that included six X Division Championships and a World Heavyweight Championship.
Aries would leave once again, heading back to Ring of Honor for a brief time before being signed with WWE. Aries started out with NXT, but an injury would set back his push. He finally made it to the main roster in early 2017, taking on Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship. We’ll see what the future holds for Aries, but the fact that he hasn’t been able to get the Cruiserweight title makes us think that he was more of a main event talent in TNA, not WWE.
9 Samoa Joe
Interestingly enough, Samoa Joe started his career with WWE in the territorial game, and even feuded with John Cena before being let go. Joe would find success with Ring of Honor, before becoming a member of TNA that got off to a hot start. Over the course of a decade, Samoa Joe was one of the biggest stars in the company, winning a slew of titles that included a World Heavyweight Championship.
There was clamoring for years to bring Samoa Joe to WWE, and fans finally got their wish when he joined NXT in 2015. Joe won a pair of NXT Championships, and finally made the jump to WWE in 2017. So far, Joe has been injected into what should have been big feuds, but casual fans haven’t quite latched on. Hopefully Joe gets more of a push and more time for promos, but right now it looks like his TNA career will be more successful.
8 Drew McIntyre/Galloway
For those that started watching WWE once again during the recent renaissance that seemed to happen in 2011, you might have always thought that Drew McIntyre was a jobber. That was not the case when he made his WWE debut in 2009, however, as he was dubbed as “The Chosen One.” McUntyre would get some decent opportunities, eventually winning an Intercontinental Championship.
However, his push would end not too long afterward, and McIntyre was sent down the card. Eventually, he became part of 3MB and was released. Drew Galloway then joined TNA in 2014 and found instant success, winning a TNA World Heavyweight Championship and the Impact Grand Championship. Even though his time was brief, Galloway was taken more seriously in TNA, though there is a chance that could change. Galloway signed with NXT in 2017, so he could get back into the good graces of WWE fans.
7 Christian Cage
A trio of vampires isn’t really something that should have taken off, but it did during the Attitude Era when Edge and Christian were with Gangrel in The Brood. Edge and Christian would split away from Gangrel, drop the gimmick and become a massively successful tag team that was involved with some great matches. Eventually, Christian went solo, but didn’t find the main event success in WWE like Edge did.
So Christian went to TNA in 2005, and was given a much larger push as a solo performer for three years. As Christian Cage, he would win a pair of World Heavyweight Championships, winning several accolades around the way. Christian came back to WWE once again, and was given a couple of pushes, but they were quickly forgotten by fans. For that reason, the fact that Christian was “the” guy in TNA makes his run there better.
6 Gail Kim
In 2003, Gail Kim made her WWE debut in a battle royal where she would win the Women’s Championship. What should have been a successful run was pushed backwards quickly, and many fans felt that Kim was mishandled greatly by WWE brass. The rumor is that Vince McMahon was even hesitant to hire her in the first place because of her race. TNA didn’t have the same hesitation, though, signing her in 2005 after her release.
Kim has had two runs with TNA since then, winning six Knockouts Championships and several other titles. Kim also had a forgettable return to WWE from 2008 to 2011, though most of us don’t even remember that. Kim’s career was way better off in TNA, where she was named to the company’s Hall of Fame. It doesn’t look like Kim’s career is over, either, as she said she had plans to return to TNA in 2017.
5 R-Truth/Ron Killings
Ron Killings got his first taste of the big time when he debuted with WWE in 2000, though back then he was known as K-Kwik. Taking his real name over to TNA two years later, Killings would quickly win the company’s biggest title. Killings was involved with many significant storylines throughout his time with TNA, winning a second NWA World Heavyweight Championship and then adding three tag titles to his name.
Upon returning to WWE in 2008, Killings would adopt the name R-Truth, and was involved in some significant feuds during his first couple of years. When the name recognition started to wear off, Killings was designated to mostly comedy roles and tag teams that were thrown together seemingly at the last moment. For that reason, we have to say that R-Truth had a better TNA career.
4 Kurt Angle
Amateur wrestlers have had varying success in the WWE, but they struck gold when they signed Kurt Angle in 1998. Angle was at the top of his game, becoming a main event talent for several years. Angle had it all, with tremendous wrestling ability, fantastic charisma and the ability to play both a convincing heel and babyface. Along the way, Angle would win just about every title possible.
Angle would then join TNA in 2006, sticking with the company for a decade. Since he was still a big name when he made the leap over, Angle was a main eventer for basically his entire run. Angle would win a slew of titles with TNA, as well, but his character wasn’t quite as memorable as it was in WWE. It’s a bit of a coin toss, but Angle’s WWE career was more memorable, even if it was long in the past. At least he’s now back with the company as the General Manager of Monday Night Raw.
3 Matt Hardy
Along with his brother Jeff, Matt Hardy became part of a tag team duo that would become a staple of the late Attitude Era. Not afraid to put their bodies on the line, The Hardy Boyz had a long run as a team before going solo in 2001. While Jeff became more of a main event talent, Matt was sort of put on the back burner before winning some of the midcard titles several years later.
After a fling with TNA in 2011, Matt Hardy would return to the company in 2014. Two years later, Hardy established himself as a star once again thanks to his “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick that resonated with fans. Despite such a brief amount of mainstream success, Matt Hardy’s time in TNA was the most notable of his career. Now back with the WWE (and paired with his brother), he can make his WWE career better than the TNA version if he gets back to the gimmick.
2 Jeff Hardy
The other half of The Hardy Boyz didn’t have as long of an initial solo career in WWE because of drug problems that caused him to leave in 2003. After taking some time off, Jeff debuted with TNA the next year and would have varying success. The low point came in a match against Sting when it appeared that Hardy was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Still, his times in TNA was successful over the course of two stints.
While in WWE, Jeff was put into the main event picture during the mid 2000’s, and won the World Heavyweight Championship twice. Despite the success of being a main eventer in TNA and being part of the “Broken” gimmick with his brother, Jeff’s WWE career was certainly more memorable than Matt’s. Again, we’ll see if the gimmick goes back to what it was, as the Hardy Boyz as a normal minded tag team can only last for so long.
1 A.J. Styles
Over the past year and change, A.J. Styles has been the “face that runs the place” for WWE, and is already a one-time WWE Champion. That’s not too bad for someone in their first year, which many analysts have said was perhaps the best first year in the company’s history. Before that, though, Styles was wrestling with TNA from 2002 to 2013, and was the biggest star the company ever organically produced.
While most of TNA’s stars were WWE retreads, Styles was able to come up with the company to become a main event talent. Because of his decade long success in TNA, you have to say that part of his career was more significant for now. However, with Styles still on fire in WWE, it’s only a matter of time before you can say that his reign in WWE was much better.