As the upcoming battle between WWE and AEW builds, it’s been easy to ignore TNA. The company has managed to survive despite numerous problems and limited TV deals and actually still has a cult audience to it. Sadly, TNA is better known for all the amazing missed opportunities they had to get better and lost them. A key problem was their obsession with taking just about any WWE castoff and push them hard rather than build their own stars. It’s more telling by how several TNA guys have been able to find massive success in TNA such as A.J. Styles.
However, as amazing as it sounds, TNA has been able to use talent very well. In fact, there are several guys TNA did much better with than WWE did. Meanwhile, some guys who were major deals in TNA failed to find that success in WWE. These are the 10 best cases of WWE wrestlers who were really better off in TNA to show that company wasn’t the massive failure some contend it is.
10 Johnny Impact
After winning the tag titles a few times with MNM, Johnny Mercury changed his name to John Morrison and began winning fans over with his fun act. He had success as ECW and IC champion and a great tag team championship pairing with the Miz. Many thought his act and parkour skills deserved a much bigger run but somehow WWE just wasn’t that hot on Morrison as a main eventer.
He left the company to make a mark in Lucha Underground then joining TNA as Johnny Impact. He’s finally gotten his main event run as World Champion and done great to spark TNA up. His WWE run was good but TNA allowed Johnny to be the main event star fans had wanted to see for years.
9 Bobby Roode
Granted, Bobby Roode was getting up a bit in age when he finally joined WWE. Even so, his work for the company pales next to his long career in TNA. He was with the company almost from the start, rising up with Team Canada before a single run as an arrogant rich guy. He and James Storm were paired together to become fantastic as Beer MOney who held the tag titles six times.
After a heel turn, Roode was a massive success as TNA World Champion, holding the belt twice and his arrogant ways making him a top star. While his WWE career isn't bad per say, it's nothing compared to his TNA run.
8 Austin Aries
Austin Aries had been working on and off for TNA since 2005 but just seemed down on his future chances. Thankfully, his perseverance paid off as in 2012, Aries exploded to stardom. He first won the X Division title then used the “Option C” to challenge for the TNA World title which he won.
Aries was terrific as champion and did well afterward. He left TNA in a cloud to head to WWE and it looked like he was set to be the NXT champion. But then Aries left and made a return to TNA to win the belt again. He once more left suddenly (you might be sensing a pattern) but Aries has openly stated that TNA was a better fit for him than WWE was.
The problem with Christian is that as good as he was, he was always in the shadow of Edge. In 2005, just as Edge was moving into main event status, Christian headed to TNA and was one of the first big ex-WWE guys brought into the company. He was soon a major star and in a few months had won the NWA title.
Christian really came into his own as a main eventer and did well with TNA for a few years. He eventually returned to WWE and while he had runs as ECW and World Champion, it somehow seemed lacking. Christian really did a lot better free of Edge in TNA who made him the main event star WWE never could.
6 Bobby Lashley
It was easy to see why Bobby Lashley was hired in WWE. The powerful muscleman was just the guy Vince McMahon likes and got a serious push. He was put into the “Battle of the Billionaires” and winning the U.S. title. But Lashley had his problems with the company and left for an MMA career.
He joined TNA who did much better booking him not as a smiling babyface but a monster heel and he took off. He was soon World Champion and his drive pushing the company very well facing all comers. While Lashley has had some decent stuff in WWE since his return, TNA was better making him the powerful presence he should have been from the start.
5 Eric Young
Eric Young’s path in TNA was always odd. At first, he was a solid worker, holding the tag team titles with Team Canada and a fun guy. He was then transformed into a total goofball with antics from winning the Knockouts tag titles with ODB to being TV champion fighting Scott Baio. In 2014, TNA shocked everyone by making Young World champion which seemed to be a direct takeoff on Daniel Bryan’s push.
It was a good move by TNA but Young slumped a bit after losing the belt. In NXT, Young remade himself as leader of Sanity and holding the tag titles but has been lost on the main roster. While it wasn’t perfect, Young did do better in TNA.
4 Awesome Kong
With her incredibly imposing build and good skills, it was no shock Kong would take off huge when the Knockouts division was strong. She came in as a great force crushing almost everyone in her path en route to winning the title. She joined WWE as Kharma with the idea of her crushing the various Divas en route to the title and set as a monster.
But in a bad case of timing, she had to take time away to have a child. By the time she was back, her push had cooled and her appearances were sporadic before she was let go.
3 Eli Drake
Shawn Ricker worked for WWE in 2006, mostly doing dark matches and a brief bit in the new ECW. He popped up again in 2013 as Slate Randall and did some tryouts in NXT. He had promise but WWE just didn’t see potential in him to let him go. After time in the indies, he joined TNA as Eli Drake and managed to take off wonderfully. He won the GWF title that was renamed the Impact Global Championship and surprised many by being a great heel champion.
He brought some good matches against others and even an interview segment. While he left the company under a cloud in 2018, Drake speaks warmly on how TNA gave him far more of a shot than WWE ever did.
2 EC III
Michael Hutter had a try-out with WWE in 2009 but nothing came of it. After time in the indies, he joined TNA and given the character of Dixie Carter’s arrogant rich nephew. Despite how poor it seemed at first, EC III was soon rising up as a jerk fans loved to hate.
His reign as TNA champion was pretty good as he was terrific selling it as the top guy and later being Grand Champion as well. While he’s been okay in WWE, EC III just hasn’t come near that level of success to be a huge comedown compared to his TNA main event work.
1 Gail Kim
Gail Kim had a good breakout in WWE, winning the Women’s title in her debut. However, her pushes quickly faded and her heel turn went nowhere. Joining TNA in 2005, Kim was at first the sidekick for America’s Most Wanted. But when TNA got serious about a Knockouts division, Kim was soon the biggest star.
She held the title a total of seven times and the tag titles as well. Kim did make a brief return to WWE but felt so out of place and unused that she literally walked out in a battle royale.