Pro wrestling is not exactly known for its original ideas; often times, gimmicks or stories are taken either from real life events/people or a mixture of previous gimmicks – taking the best of what worked back then. For the few times a promotion does think outside the box with something completely different, it usually bombs horribly. So, rather than taking a chance on something unique, companies will look to each other for what has already worked with wrestling fans.
For companies like WWE and TNA, why reinvent the wheel? If something ends up going viral, just take the basic premise, put your own spin on it and off you go. Most recently, Matt and Jeff Hardy have been embroiled in a feud for the ages, thanks mostly to Matt’s “Broken Matt” gimmick, where he’s basically gone insane, with a white streak in his hair and a multitude of accents. They got the wrestling world buzzing with their outrageous segments (most notably, “The Final Deletion”), giving TNA a nice boost in the process.
TNA has been rebuilding its brand with a new roster of wrestlers in attempt to change the negative image they’ve cultivated over the last five years. This has not been ignored by the WWE, as they decided to put out their own very similar feud, which has been not nearly as good. This is not the first, nor the last time either company will steal from each other, so let’s take a look at previous times both companies have committed theft.
15. The Compound vs. The Sanctuary
Starting out with the inspiration for this entire collection is WWE’s poor attempt at copying Jeff and Matt Hardy’s “Final Deletion” match. Matt has gone a bit crazy and has fixated on deleting Jeff, who he refers to as “Brother Nero” (Nero is Jeff’s actual middle name). The two ended up fighting in a ring on Matt’s property, where fans got to enjoy fireworks, a dilapidated boat, and Jeff jumping off of high things. It’s so over-the-top that fans went absolutely nuts for this entire feud – so WWE decided to put their own spin on it.
The New Day and Wyatt Family have been verbally sparring for weeks until Bray finally invited the group to the family’s compound. Unfortunately, their segment was marred by not really being humorous or over-the-top at all. WWE’s usual “shaky cam” was in full effect, as was this weird dark mustard video filter that was used for the entirety of the segment. This was a big miss by WWE, which is typical, when they try to capitalize on something that’s trending.
14. Bad Brothers
There have always been similarities between Kane and Abyss, and in a way you could say TNA actually copied the WWE, which was until Director of Operations, Kane suddenly developed a split personality. At times, he was just a behind-the-scenes crony who was in The Authority, while having no memory of becoming Demon Kane, the evil side that would destroy wrestlers, and then go right back to the smiley Director of Operations.
Abyss (who was also masked and has a creepy father for a manager) went through a similar event two years earlier, when he ditched the mask and starting coming out as Joseph Park – the brother of Abyss. In what was a pretty popular story, Joseph would come out as this happy guy that just wanted to find his brother, not knowing he was actually Abyss. It was a refreshing change for fans, as Abyss had been basically the same monster gimmick since 2002. The similarities were so strong between these stories that Joseph Park tweeted out “Wow, it seems other families share the same problems my brother and I did!”
13. Beautiful People Everywhere
Back in 2007, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky made their TNA debuts as The Beautiful People (their inspiration stemmed from both Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton), a duo that was initially seen as good and doing favors to others via makeovers. Well, it didn’t last too long, as the makeovers were soon used as a humiliating tactic by Love and Sky on almost all of the women in the division. They were not only a hit with the fans, but incredibly dominant almost right from the start of their alliance.
After about a year and a half of being on top, WWE finally took notice and decided to create their own version, putting Layla and Michelle McCool together, also known as LayCool. They pretty much acted the same (mean girls) who were also quite dominant for almost all of their time together. This formula was again utilized by WWE in NXT when they paired up Sasha Banks and Summer Rae as The BFFs (Beautiful Fierce Females). The mean girls act continued on with these two as they eventually added a third member, current WWE Women’s Champion, Charlotte.
12. Is It Really A New Day?
MVP, Bobby Lashley, and Kenny King found commonality when they decided to go after Eric Young (who was TNA World Champion at the time) and take the title away from him. Debuting as The Beat Down Clan, the trio was able to work together to get Lashley the title, and bring some credibility to the group. It wasn’t but two months after their debut that Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods started to have segments together; although, it wouldn’t be another four months until the group formally came together as the New Day.
Aside from the groups being both all African-American trios and heels, there wasn’t much in common otherwise. WWE had nothing for their guys individually, so maybe seeing what TNA was doing helped formulate The New Day stable. These similarities didn’t get past Lashley, though, when he tagged both of his teammates and tweeted out, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” After adding Low Ki, Samoa Joe, Homicide, and Hernandez, their stable ended after just about a year, while The New Day is still going strong as one of WWE’s most popular acts.
11. The “Other Woman”
In one of TNA’s worst stories ever, AJ Styles got wrapped up in something awful with Dixie Carter, Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, and a woman who accused Styles that he was cheating on his wife and was the father of her unborn baby. This angle actually lasted weeks where Styles had a match against Daniels and earned the right to have a paternity test with the baby. Well, come to find out, “Claire” didn’t have a baby at all; it was just a way for Daniels and Kazarian to blackmail Styles, which bought a prompt end to a horrid story.
That storyline happened back around June 2012. Fast-forward to July 2014, and WWE did the same thing when Stephanie McMahon was feuding against Brie Bella. A large reason for their strife was because of how poorly Stephanie (and The Authority) had been treating Daniel Bryan. Since Brie is his wife, she didn’t appreciate the treatment and ended up getting targeted, as well. On a random Raw episode, they tried to bring in another woman named Megan Miller, who was Bryan’s physical therapist (played by Tough Enough competitor, Chelsea Green). It literally came out of nowhere that Bryan was “cheating” and fans were so bothered that thankfully, it only lasted that one show. In an interview, Bryan even said that part of Brie and Stephanie’s story was “stupid.”
10. Line Stealing
Melina had a solid six year run with the WWE, not only managing MNM, but winning the Women’s and Divas Championships a total of five times. During one of her promos, Melina proclaimed that she is “not just another pretty face,” which in itself is not really a big deal. The problem was that ODB had been saying that exact phrase for months over on TNA and plenty of fans took notice.
During this time, the WWE’s Women’s division was at a fairly low point where they were still doing pudding wrestling matches and were considered a “bathroom break” for most fans. It’s tough to blame them, though, as hardly any stories were engaging and most matches stayed under five minutes. TNA has almost always put together a strong women’s division, where only a year ago, WWE took steps towards making it a serious place for its women to wrestle.
9. Feed Her More
It’s always been amazing how good Gail Kim has performed (and has been treated) in TNA, while looking so mediocre during her multiple runs with WWE. Well, in October 2013, there was yet another example of fraud when Kim won her third TNA Knockouts Championship and proceeded to do an “Open Challenge” as a way to shake up the division and bring in all kinds of women to wrestle in TNA.
It was only weeks later that Ryback started doing his own “Open Challenge” to whoever wanted to come out, being met by guys like the Great Khali and Mark Henry. Is this some earth-shattering (and possibly coincidental) move by the WWE? Hardly, but again, sometimes it can be the most basic idea that gets snatched up and used. In this case, Kim’s challenges were much more beneficial to herself and the division, while Ryback just fell further down the ladder by getting Curtis Axel as a tag team partner.
8. Angle’s Accusations
From 1998 until 2006, Kurt Angle was a staple of the WWE roster, as he was almost always in the mix for one of their titles. Angle was a rare talent that could work both face and heel, while also performing incredibly serious or funny segments, without missing a beat. Unfortunately, due to health issues, Angle had to ask for his release from the company so he could heal up. TNA quickly swooped in, signing the former Olympian who worked for them from 2006 until 2016.
During his tenure there, Angle had been known to rant against the WWE, once in particular about the way WWE filmed one of their 3MB segments in a noticeably different way by using multiple camera angles and close-up shots (which mimicked how TNA did a lot of their backstage segments). Angle actually tweeted out “WWE production team using Eric Bischoff’s innovative multi-camera backstage filming technique with OneManBand segment?” More than likely, WWE was just trying to give it a different feel (kind of like VH1’s Behind the Music) and afterwards, went back to their usual filming style.
7. Cruiserweights Finally Get Some Love
WCW was a promotion that gave Cruiserweights plenty of TV time and WCW was rewarded handsomely with some of the finest matches ever seen by guys like Brian Pillman, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio Jr. That all came to a sudden stop when WWE bought out WCW, and took the Cruiserweight Championship with them. Unfortunately, WWE never really took the title too seriously, as it was never really a focal point for the promotion. Proof of this would be that Hornswoggle was the final champion as WWE quietly retired the title in 2008.
TNA’s X-Division has been going strong since 2002 and has been a great showcase for a number of smaller wrestlers like AJ Styles, Austin Aries, and Jay Lethal. For eight years, WWE has pretty much ignored this division up until recently when they put together the Cruiserweight Classic, a 32-man single elimination tournament. Is this exactly the same? Maybe not, but between fan interest and TNA continuing to own this style of wrestling, WWE finally decided to give it a go.
6. A Knockout Revolution
The Knockout Championship didn’t debut until 2007, but TNA had been running a strong division since 2003, bringing all the top indy wrestlers at the time like Cheerleader Melissa, Alexis Laree (aka Mickie James), ODB, and Mercedes Martinez. Once the title came into play, things just got better as women like Kim, Angelina Love, Brooke, and Awesome Kong all became dominant forces within the division.
Sure, TNA had some goofy stories, but they gave way to some great wrestling that was given plenty of time, unlike WWE who seem to really lose sight of things once Lita and Trish Stratus‘ generation left the company. TNA would consistently make headlines for their Knockout PPVs, tournaments, and quality matches, while WWE continued to be trashed by the fans on social media for their lack of initiation with their women. Thanks in part to all the great matches in NXT, WWE finally ditched the butterfly belt, while also putting a more serious twist to how people like Charlotte and Becky Lynch interact with each other. Maybe it wasn’t theft, but WWE finally realized they needed to tighten up an area that another promotion had dominated for years.
5. It’s Got To Be The Beard
Now switching to what TNA has copied, we start with Daniel Bryan and Eric Young’s stories. Bryan’s story will go down as one of the best underdog moments ever in wrestling, as fans literally brought him up the card until WWE had no choice but to put their biggest title on him. After months and months of getting antagonized by The Authority, Daniel Bryan beat not only Triple H, but also Randy Orton and Batista to win the WWE title at WrestleMania XXX.
Obviously, this was a massive story that took over the wrestling world, so, in an attempt to get some eyes on them, TNA put their biggest title on Eric Young – literally four days later. Young was a smaller-sized underdog with a beard; clearly fans wouldn’t even know the difference, right? Oh, they did, and TNA got ripped badly for attempting the same story, thinking people would react in the same joyous manner. Not that Eric Young wasn’t deserving of it, but his first title reign was just poorly timed, as he held the title only 70 days before dropping it to Bobby Lashley.
4. The “Montreal” Screwjob
Back at the 1997 Survivor Series, Bret Hart was defending his WWE title against Shawn Michaels, which would be a great main event on most nights. This night was different, though, as Hart was to be shipped off to WCW and Vince McMahon was incredibly paranoid that Bret would take the title with him. So, Vince ended up telling referee Earl Hebner to say Bret tapped out (even though he didn’t), stopping the match, and giving the title to Michaels.
This was a huge event that is still talked about by fans today, so naturally, TNA gave it a go by literally copying what happened in Montreal. The match was between AJ Styles and Kurt Angle, and Earl Hebner was again the referee who called the match early, saying Angle submitted (he didn’t). Therefore, the title went to Styles. Much like Bret spit on Vince McMahon post-match, Angle did the same to Hulk Hogan, who was the “power” during that time in TNA.
3. AJ Punk?
Back in 2011, CM Punk had an amazing story where his WWE contract had almost expired, so his plan was to defeat then WWE Champion, John Cena, and take off with the title afterwards. Truthfully, he did this same story when he was working for Ring of Honor and was about to head off to the WWE, but a lot fewer fans had seen the story in ROH.
About two years later, TNA booked AJ Styles to do the exact same thing, even doing his own version of Punk’s “Pipebomb.” Unfortunately, Styles’ mic skills aren’t quite as good and nobody really cared about TNA, so Styles leaving wasn’t as big as they had hoped. Indeed, Styles won the title in his last TNA match (just like Punk), but Styles actually did go off to Japan where he wrestled for the next few years. TNA ended up stripping him of the title, and held a tournament for the vacant title (Magnus defeated Jeff Hardy in the finals). Styles returned on the same show, claiming he was still champion, so Magnus fought and defeated him to become the true TNA champ.
2. Abyss: Modern Kane
The joke on Abyss has always been that he’s basically the lovechild of Kane and Mankind, and while his look is more Mankind, his size and story is more like Kane. Before the whole Joseph Park split-personality story came into play, Abyss was mostly known for being an evil monster that had a sinister manager named James Mitchell, and he was eventually revealed to be Abyss’ father. If this sounds familiar, Paul Bearer was also revealed to be the same while managing The Big Red Monster.
Abyss eventually realized his father was just using him to do his bidding, as the two separated, and Mitchell found a new monster to take out Abyss – his half-brother, Judas Mesias. A creepy brother, you say? Well, that sure sounds familiar, as Kane’s brother was none other than the Deadman himself, The Undertaker. TNA has done their best to not totally copy WWE with this gimmick, but there sure are a lot of similarities that are hard to ignore. Props to Abyss, though, as he’s been with TNA almost since its inception, which is no small feat with so many other promotions out there.
1. Team Hell No Rip-Off
Depending on how much you believe in conspiracies, Team Hell No was basically a way to cool down the white-hot Daniel Bryan. Whenever a guy was put into the tag division (as a comedy duo, no less) it’s usually a sign that his WWE career trajectory is going to take a nose dive. This was not the case for Bryan, though, as both he and Kane became one of the most popular tag teams in recent memory. With their “Yes!” and “No!” battles, these two hated being around each other, but worked well in the ring, winning the tag titles once.
The dysfunctional tag team idea went over to TNA, when they teamed Austin Aries and Bobby Roode together as two heels that needed to get their careers back on track. Thanks to their massive egos, both men would argue intensely with each other, which would come off as hilarious to the fans. In fact, this wasn’t a bad pairing by any means; it’s just funny after months of Team Hell No, TNA decided to forego originality for something that would guarantee success.