TNA is still struggling to find an identity and investors to fund the company existing another year. 2016 saw TNA reach new lows with the money owed to various companies, the public war between Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan, and the continued lack of confidence in being able to run more shows. This isn’t a new thing. TNA had plenty of opportunities to create a unique brand that served as an alternative to WWE. They unfortunately put all of their eggs in the baskets of minds that let them down. Carter, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo are the most popular names associated with sinking the company.
The decision makers wasted away the talent of many great talents through the years. You can’t blame the talent scouts. Some of the best wrestlers in the world worked for TNA at various points. The company just managed to use them ineffectively. Most of the wrestlers were put in terrible gimmicks, used inconsistently or just didn’t value their talents. WWE has signed a couple of the wrestlers that TNA failed with and made them into bigger stars. Other wrestlers have found new home in other promotions and a few have left the business. We’ll look at all of the stories to find out what fifteen of the top wrestlers TNA dropped the ball with are doing today.
15. AJ Styles: WWE Main-Eventer
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. AJ Styles was used well in TNA at times and achieved enough to be considered the face of the company for many years. Most name Styles the greatest star in TNA history yet they never treated him that way. Styles was jerked around with over the hill performers from other companies coming in and getting top priority over him.
It made complete sense when AJ chose to leave TNA for the free agent market in 2014 when asked to take a pay cut. Styles rejuvenated his career and reminded us all he was among the best in the world in New Japan. WWE took note and signed him earlier in 2016 to debut at the Royal Rumble. Styles is one of the very few wrestlers to bypass NXT in recent years. WWE understood his value and have made him a huge star. Styles is currently the WWE World Champion and a huge star on Smackdown Live.
14. Petey Williams: Retired
The X Division was the first big concept in TNA to make them stand out as a different product from WWE. TNA placed the younger, smaller, athletic wrestlers in their own division with the freedom to show exactly how talented they were. That ended after some time with the wrestlers being used poorly. Petey Williams was the perfect example of this. During the Fox Sports Network television years, Williams had standout performances as the heel X-Division Champion in Team Canada.
Williams had classic matches against AJ Styles and Chris Sabin on the first live three-hour pay-per-view events. Fans reacted well to Petey but TNA did not think he was worth pushing as they went through various changes. Williams saw his career sink lower and lower through the years. TNA fired him unceremoniously in 2009. Williams tried continuing his career on the independent circuit but retired in 2014 to find a more stable income with a child on the way.
13. Kazuchika Okada: NJPW Main-Eventer
TNA had working relationships with various international promotions. New Japan and TNA exchanged talent back and forth. Kazuchika Okada was one of the most talented younger stars that NJPW sent to TNA. It was an excursion for Okada to learn the art of wrestling by living in the United States for a relevant promotion. TNA never took him seriously and rarely used him well. Okada would appear on Xplosion tapings and dark matches rather than Impact most weeks.
The most noteworthy time of Okada’s time in TNA was the rebranding of him as Okato. It was meant to be a character based off of The Green Hornet character Kato. The movie was in theaters and Vince Russo apparently felt it was time to racially stereotype him. When Okada left TNA, New Japan was livid at the company failing to help their talent progress or use him well. Okada went on to become one of the biggest stars in recent Japan history. NJPW has made him the face of the company and he is the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
12. Daffney: Wrestling Manager
The women’s division in TNA had early relevance with many of the female matches and promos leading to the highest rated segments on Impact. TNA signed the majority of top independent female wrestlers. Daffney joined the company in the most bizarre of ways playing a parody character of controversial politician Sarah Palin. It got her foot in the door and she eventually was able to work under her own name.
Daffney always provided entertainment with her unique character, great look and awesome matches. The hardcore matches proved to be a bit much with Daffney suffering multiple serious injuries during her TNA tenure. Daffney sued TNA for her hospital bills and money lost during the time they didn’t pay her. The wrestling career of Daffney is all but over. Shine Wrestling is the home of Daffney these days, but she primarily works as a manager. Daffney’s in-ring career sadly ended in TNA.
11. Homicide: Indie Wrestler
Many of the legendary Ring of Honor stars during the mid-2000s have become huge stars. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Kevin Owens are just three of the many names to achieve success in WWE. Homicide was one of the most popular names at the time, but he couldn’t find the same greatness as the others. At one point, wrestling legend Terry Funk pitched the name of Homicide to WWE for their ECW brand launching.
Homicide didn’t get the WWE spot and chose to work for TNA instead. Along with Hernandez and Konnan, he was a part of the very successful LAX group. TNA changed their characters too early and were forced to end LAX much earlier than they should have. Homicide’s career floundered in TNA for many years with little to no support behind him. While Homicide still wrestles occasionally on the independent circuit, his career is basically over and TNA wasted his best years.
10. Christopher Daniels: ROH Wrestler/Booker
Christopher Daniels is one of the faces most associated with the history of TNA. If you listed the top 100 matches ever to take place in TNA, Daniels may possibly be the most frequent name featured on the list. Daniels always delivered the best of his abilities regardless of the position he was put into. TNA never viewed him as a main-eventer or top level performer.
Fans booed Val Venis out of the building during his TNA debut match because he defeated Daniels on the first PPV under Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s regime. Daniels was in and out of the company with TNA firing him multiple times. In 2014, Daniels decided to leave on his own after years of frustration for a spot in Ring of Honor. Daniels has wrestled consistently in ROH since then and is now working in creative backstage as one of the most important people in the company.
9. Amazing Red: Wrestling Trainer
Another former X Division star that helped make TNA stand out is Amazing Red. The early days of TNA at the Asylum venue in Nashville saw Red have classic matches on a weekly basis. Red helped influenced a lot of the future stars with his fascinating innovative style. While he did hold the X Division Championship, Red always seemed positioned in the lower tier of the wrestlers in the division.
The most time TNA put into pushing Amazing Red was assigning Don West as his manager. Red eventually was let go from TNA and it worked out for the best. He was allowed to find his new passion. Red runs the House of Glory school training inspiring wrestlers and he puts together shows with them under the HOG name. WWE star Sasha Banks even trains there whenever she is in New York City. Red wrestles occasionally, but his school is the top priority.
8. Consequences Creed: WWE Star
Not many casual fans remember the time of Consequences Creed in TNA and you can’t blame them. The debut of Creed in TNA saw him replace NFL player Pacman Jones in a match because the Tennessee Titans wouldn’t allow Pacman to wrestle. Creed was quite talented and became a fixture of the X Division for a few months. TNA lost faith in him after his first push. Creed was out of TNA within less than three years.
This man that TNA dropped the ball with turned out to be Xavier Woods. WWE signed him due to his obvious potential and placed him in developmental for a few years. It took some time but he was finally called up to the main roster to team with his former TNA partner R-Truth. Woods is in a better spot loving life as a member of New Day. Along with Kofi Kingston and Big E, Woods is enjoying being in a highly popular act.
7. Generation Me: ROH/New Japan Stars
The TNA tag team division has been met with various ups and downs through the years. Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money were the top teams around the time Generation Me aka the Young Bucks entered the company. It was a nearly unmatchable top three tag teams that could have created memorable matches for years. TNA did very little with Generation Me. Aside from a few great matches against MCMG, they were relegated to Xplosion.
After requesting their release, the Young Bucks went back to the independent wrestling circuit and it changed their careers for the better. Matt and Nick Jackson started showing their personalities in PWG. It landed them spots in New Japan as the newest members of the widely popular Bullet Club. Everything started to grow from there. The Bucks are now currently tag champs in NJPW, PWG and ROH. Many consider them the best team in the world and they are going to be hot free agents on the market next year.
6. Awesome Kong: Actress
The rivalry between Awesome Kong and Gail Kim was one of the most intense and compelling in TNA history. Kim being the underdog with skills battling the monster heel stole the show every time they were put on a card. It was the first big feud for the TNA Knockouts Championship. Kong watched her value rise due to the success coming from her work. TNA eventually fired her for knocking out racist radio host Bubba the Love Sponge.
Following a failed run in WWE, Kong returned to TNA in 2015 six years after her original departure. Kong was still solid but failed to recapture the magic. Another ugly ending saw her get released for having a locker room fight with Reby Sky. Kong did appear at TNA again to celebrate Gail Kim’s Hall of Fame induction at Bound for Glory 2016. Things are looking up for Kong these days as she landed an acting role on the upcoming Netflix series G.L.O.W. about the legendary all-female wrestling company.
5. Desmond Wolfe: ROH Commentator
WWE signed ROH legend Nigel McGuinness in 2009 along with Daniel Bryan in hopes of both standouts becoming huge stars. We know how things worked out for Bryan but sadly they went the opposite direction for McGuinness. An injury prevented him from getting his WWE contract and they turned him away. TNA wasted no time snagging him up. Under the name of Desmond Wolfe, he was actually used perfectly off the bat in a feud with Kurt Angle.
The matches with Angle made Wolfe one of the fastest rising stars in the company. Despite being a heel, he won an online fan vote for a title shot over all of the bigger names and popular stars in the company. Winning that poll appeared to the end of the line for Wolfe as a singles star. Wolfe contracted hepatitis B working in TNA through blood being spilled in the ring making it even worse. Following the end of his TNA career, he returned to ROH as a color commentator and has a job in the field of video production. McGuinness is officially retired from in the in-ring portion.
4. Monty Brown: Personal Trainer
One of the early stars created in TNA was former NFL player Monty Brown. The athletic talent had the combination of the look and intriguing personality. Brown had impressive performances against respected names like Sting, Jeff Jarrett and Christian Cage. Before Sting and Christian came to the company, Brown was the top face in the main event picture. TNA turned him heel to feud with the new stars and it ended up hurting him in the long run.
Brown turned into a lackey of Jarrett struggling to remain relevant. When his TNA contract ended, Brown chose to leave the company. WWE signed him a couple of years later but it didn’t go well either. Under the name of Marcus Cor Von, he wrestled on the ECW brand. Family issues forced him to leave television for a few months before getting released. Brown left wrestling in the past following the WWE relationship ending and has moved into other fields. Today, he works as a personal trainer and is running the athletic clothing line Scripture Clothing.
3. Alex Shelley: ROH Wrestler
The skillset of Alex Shelley showed someone that had it all. Shelley was one of the best overall in-ring performers in the world during his peak. His promos were captivating when TNA allowed him to showcase personality. The young age of Shelley should have made him someone that TNA built around but they just didn’t think he had star potential. Aside from the Motor City Machine Guns tag team with Chris Sabin, everything Shelley had to endure in TNA was a waste of his talent.
Shelley left TNA and wasn’t shy to discuss how miserable he was working there. New Japan is where Shelley’s career took off again with new tag partner KUSHIDA as the Time Splitters. Shelley is back teaming with Sabin again as the MCMG primarily in ROH. There are rumors of Shelley replacing Steve Corino as the lead color commentator for the company in 2017. It is a shame we never got to see him in WWE during his best years rather than the pointless TNA time.
2. Samoa Joe: NXT Main-Eventer
Samoa Joe is a former TNA World Champion and regarded as one of the best TNA stars of all time despite the fact that they dropped the ball with him. We can only imagine what he could have done with the company truly supporting him. Joe’s undefeated streak in the X Division made him an instant star and the most popular star in the Impact Zone arena. TNA waited far too long to give him the ball to run with.
Joe lost multiple title shots and played second fiddle to Kurt Angle for quite some time. The eventual Joe title win over Angle gave TNA its most successful buy-rate ever for the Lockdown 2008. Despite the numbers saying Joe was a star, they booked him as a second rate champion. The rest of Joe’s time in TNA was a blur and he never had another world title reign. Joe made the best decision of his career to leave TNA in 2015. It led to him getting signed in NXT as one of the faces of the brand. Joe will be on the main roster soon enough in a major role.
1. Jay Lethal: ROH Main-Eventer
The worst booking in TNA history has to be the career of Jay Lethal. At the young age of 20, Lethal signed with TNA following a successful stint in ROH. The potential of Lethal was tempting. Sadly, they had no idea what to do with him. Lethal won the X Division Championship on a few occasions and even defeated Kurt Angle at one point. They just never followed up with anything of note to help his career thrive.
Lethal was fired by TNA in 2011 despite delivering every time he was allowed to shine. The heartbroken Lethal picked himself back up and continued his career in Ring of Honor. Lethal blossomed into one of the faces of the company and had a year-long title reign as ROH World Champion. His work has improved to another level in ROH.
As one of the best wrestlers in the world, Lethal has made TNA look like fools for dropping the ball with him. There are rumors he will join WWE in 2017 when his ROH contract expires. As long as he doesn’t go back to TNA, everything will be fine.