It’s no surprise to wrestling fans that TNA has had…issues. The company has survived for 14 years but hasn’t really grown, facing serious issues involving paying talent and losing several TV networks. Many have said that what holds the company back is their obsession with becoming WWE-level and even believing they’re similar to one another. There’s also been this obsession with grabbing just about any ex-WWE guy they can get their hands on, and boosting them over their homegrown talent. It makes TNA look even more like a secondary joke with many fans and the addition of guys like Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo hasn’t helped either.
The clearest example is how the company has constantly gone to the idea of “an evil group of heels trying to take over,” often using the exact same rebels fans once saw in this role. They often don’t wait long; right after WWE does something, TNA will do their own version, which is often poor. Repeating ideas in wrestling happens a lot but it’s pretty obvious where these came from, and TNA’s just makes them look weaker than WWE. It’s not copycat acts like Jay Lethal’s “Macho Man” gimmick or Shark Boy imitating Stone Cold. These are ideas, characters and storylines that TNA has pushed as original, when they are blatant rip-offs of stuff WWE has done. Here are the 15 biggest examples of TNA taking stuff from WWE and why this company still has its issues with breaking out on their own.
15. Roode & Aries
The idea of “whacky tag team partners who can’t stand each other” is a popular one in wrestling. Not long after Kane and Daniel Bryan came together to form Team Hell No!, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode were soon partners in a similar way. They didn’t get along, yelling and clashing with one another yet hung together to win the belts and have some offbeat promos. Having a team like this so soon after Kane and Bryan made it seem more a rip-off and while Aries and Roode were great as a team, the timing seemed a little too close for comfort.
14. Super Eric
Eric Young spent a lot of time as a goofball in wrestling, often shown as a coward and a bit nuts. In 2007, he did a gimmick where he dressed up as a super-hero called Super Eric and paraded around in this outfit. It was more than a bit reminiscent of Hurricane Helms, acting as a hero constantly and refusing to call himself Eric Young. In fact, he and Kaz won the tag titles but were stripped when Super Eric refused to break up his act. It was eventually dropped, yet this showed you can have too many superheroes in wrestling after all.
13. Holding All The Belts
Back in 1995, WWE did a bit where World champion Diesel and IC Champ Shawn Michaels faced Owen Hart and Yokozuna with all four titles on the line. The same thing happened in 2001 when WWE Champ Steve Austin and IC champ HHH beat the Brothers of Destruction for the tag titles. In 2007, TNA did a bit with World champion Kurt Angle and X Division champion Samoa Joe facing Team 3-D with the tag belts on the line; if a Team 3-D member pinned either opponent, they’d get a singles title, too. It ended with Joe and Angle holding the belts and then facing off in a “winner takes all” battle with Angle winning all the belts. Having one guy holding all the gold was a bit much, even by TNA standards.
The Montreal Screwjob is one of the most famous moments in wrestling history, a fantastic mix of reality and storyline that boosted things up majorly. TNA naturally thought doing their version would be perfect, missing how the reality portion was key. In 2010, AJ Styles was facing Kurt Angle for the World title in an up and down battle that ended with Styles reversing the Angle Lock into his own maneuver. After just a few seconds, Earl Hebner rang for the bell, despite Angle not submitting, and awarded AJ the belt. Angle spat at Hulk Hogan just as Bret Hart had spit at Vince at Montreal. This was another case of TNA trying to make a big deal out of a major moment and failing.
11. TNA Galaxy
WWE has gotten a bit of flack over their talk of “the WWE Universe” to describe their fandom with some saying they should just say “fan base.” Leave it to TNA to think that’s a great idea to emulate, as they began to discuss their fans as being “the TNA Galaxy.” It just doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well as the WWE term. Also, TNA seems to miss the boat sometimes, given that a galaxy is far, far smaller than a universe. So by taking on this nickname, TNA is acknowledging they can’t be as big as WWE, making this even more laughable.
10. Sting Vignettes
In 2011, WWE fans were treated to mysterious videos of a figure in a long black coat walking through the rain and a date burning in flames that read 2.2.11. This led to massive belief that Sting was finally making his long-awaited WWE debut. It turned out be the Undertaker, as fans felt let down since Sting decided to stick with TNA. Naturally, TNA thought the best way to hype his return was…to do pretty much the exact same video with Sting walking through rain and a date that read 3.3.11. WWE fans would have to wait a few more years for Sting to come to the company, while TNA barely showed any sense of originality with this bit.
9. Gut Check
The idea of Gut Check wasn’t bad: rookie wrestlers given a chance to try out for TNA with some training and then a televised match against a TNA star. A trio of judges (including Taz and Al Snow) would then judge whether they were worthy of getting a contract. WWE had done this a decade earlier as Tough Enough and later with NXT. TNA tried to give pushes to Sam Shaw and Joey Ryan, and they did find some good talents like Taeler Hendrix, but as it turned out, just about all the new faces were cut in the wave of company in 2013.
8. AJ Styles Walks Out
In 2013, AJ Style was about to challenge Bully Ray for the World title while doing promos slamming Dixie Carter for her mishandling of the company and threatening to take the belt with him when his contract expired. That’s right: Styles was doing his version of CM Punk’s infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo from 2011 and also taking the belt with him. The problem being Punk was far more over than AJ was and TNA’s lack of mainstream attention meant Styles’ “bomb” was more like a small firecracker. AJ did win the belt and left for Japan. In one of those twists that proved wrestling really is odder than real life, Styles would leave the company months before Punk walked out on WWE.
7. Abyss & James Mitchell
Pushed as a great mute monster, Abyss really took off in 2005 when James Mitchell became his manager. It was a good mix, but then in 2008, it was revealed that Mitchell was actually Abyss’ father who (according to previous backstory) had been shot by Abyss’ mom. Claiming to have been using Abyss for years, Mitchell then turned to aid from his other son, Judas Mesias. If this sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: it was the exact same deal with Kane, Undertaker and Paul Bearer and the fact this came when Vince Russo took over writing for TNA is no coincidence. Abyss was soon talking on his own in promos and his feud with Mesias was nowhere near great.
6. ECW Revival
In 2010, for some reason, TNA decided they could revive ECW better than WWE did. So Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Mick Foley, Raven, Steven Richards, Rhino and others came to form EV2 (as in “Extreme Version 2”), setting up a major new force to fight Fortune. They were the faces, highlighting the Hardcore Justice PPV, but trying to sell these guys long past their prime as a major force didn’t come off very well. Fans ripped TNA for trying to replicate 1996 all over again with the same guys, and their matches were just ugly brawls with nothing serious to offer. They were disbanded one by one with guys leaving the company.
5. Feast or Fired
Money in the Bank is one of the best innovations WWE has had in the last decade – an exciting ladder match with a briefcase guaranteeing a World title shot. The idea of who gets it and when they can cash it in has been popular ever since its inception. In 2007, they had the first “Feast or Fired” match, in which four briefcases were locked around the ring with guys fighting for the keys. Three had contracts for a shot at the World, X Division or tag titles, while the fourth had a pink slip (making you wonder why guys would risk a one in four chance of getting fired). The latest instance was when Drew Galloway used it to win the TNA World title and while the set up is a bit different, it’s a blatant rip-off of WWE.
In 2011, WWE was pushing Mexican sensation Sin Cara, with promo packages describing him as the next Rey Mysterio. TNA decided to repackage the Amazing Red as Sangriento, a masked man whose outfit bore a slight resemblance to Sin Cara’s and pushed him as a massive new “masked sensation.” It didn’t last long, as Sin Cara’s injuries led to his push ending, which was why Red was soon dropped from TNA.
3. The Menagerie
Formerly Mike Knox in WWE, Knux wasn’t getting much success in TNA until early 2014 when he returned to his home to a carnival. The revelation was that his father hated Knux for turning his back on carnival life to be a wrestler (the irony speaks for itself). Somehow inspired by the visit, Knux was soon showing off his “carnival family” of Rebel, Crazy Steve and the Freak, coming out to odd music, acting bizarre and producing strange promos. The timing makes it more than a bit suspicious that this would debut so soon after the Wyatt Family, a group of backwoods freaks who became one of the hottest acts in WWE. While TNA had a unique touch on the carnival, it was clear how they were just trying to take from a hot WWE act.
2. Dixie Carter As The Authority
Many have said Carter is a problem for TNA. For some reason, Dixie felt the best idea was to have herself become the evil boss on camera, running as an egotist throwing her weight around. The key problem with having her as an Authority figure is that Dixie’s on-air acting makes Linda McMahon look like Meryl Streep. She would rant about how AJ Styles or Eric Young didn’t help the brand, and you could tell she was dying to use the “best for business” line herself. It also didn’t help with Hulk Hogan walking out on the company, and this ruthless heel was seen literally clinging to his leg and begging him to stay. Bad as Dixie may be behind the scenes, her attempts to be the on-screen boss just makes things worse for the company.
1. World Champion Eric Young
Eric Young is a good guy, funny and a great worker, so this is not a slam on him. Rather it’s that in 2014, with absolutely no warning, Young, who had been doing pretty much just comedy antics as a total idiot, was boosted to the main event. He won a gauntlet match on Impact and then defeated the seemingly unbeatable Magnus to become the TNA World champion. TNA wanted to take advantage of Daniel Bryan’s WWE title win with their own “undersized bearded worker becomes champ.” They made no secret of that as the next week, Young got “You deserve it!” chants. Then Dixie came out to claim “the beard was trademarked,” as if saying WWE were the ones ripping off TNA.
When Bryan had to give the belt up due to his neck injuries, Young lost the TNA title to Lashley while Magnus (never given a decent run as champ) was soon shoved out of the picture. In their attempt to be original, TNA just made themselves look weaker.