Since WWE owner Vince McMahon purchased his competition, World Championship Wrestling, in 2001, most sources would agree there has been no clear “number two” organization in professional wrestling. This is the despite the existence of a company original named NWA: Total Nonstop Action, which later dropped the NWA, then changed its name entirely to Global Force Wrestling in a failed rebranding effort. Nowadays, it’s called Impact Wrestling.
Whatever you call it, the promotion still has a higher profile than any American sports entertainment franchise in America not owned by Vince McMahon, the confusion over the name alone begins to explain why fans don’t take it all that seriously. From the very beginning, Impact Wrestling (sometimes still colloquially known as TNA for short) has been one of the most shockingly mismanaged companies not only in pro wrestling, but perhaps all of business.
Of course, it’s not only the business side of Impact Wrestling that has been a complete mess. The wrestling product created by said organization has also been all over the map from a quality perspective. Original ideas are few and far between, with stealing from WWE treated as the primary goal, actually producing good wrestling coming in a distant second.
This isn’t to say that the TNA/Impact/GFW/etc. roster was devoid of talent, as if anything, the exact opposite is true. Well, was true anyway, as more and more talent is desperately fleeing from that sinking ship and looking for employment elsewhere. Given what the company has begun, a good portion of former Impact talent would rather pretend they never worked there. To find out who they are, keep reading for 15 wrestlers who want you to forget they ever worked for TNA.
15 Mick Foley
More so than average for a former WWE superstar heading to TNA, Mick Foley’s arrival in the Impact Zone was extremely controversial. The issue wasn’t just that Foley is a former WWE Champion a little bit past his prime, but rather the fact he had for all intents and purposes retired from in-ring competition a solid eight years earlier. Granted, this is pro wrestling, and “retirement” usually means wrestling two or three matches per year for at least another decade. However, Mick did a whole lot more than that for TNA, making a full-fledged return to the ring and even winning the TNA World Championship. Despite his obvious success, Foley never seemed all that happy about his time in the company joking about how house shows resembled “empty arena” matches on Twitter and openly complainingly about the harsh language used in the Knockouts division. These mountain complaints eventually lead to Mick leaving TNA and patching things up with WWE to ensure he’d never have to return.
14 Jeff Hardy
Truth be told, Jeff Hardy has more to be proud of re: his work in TNA than most other names on this list. At the same time, though, he’s also solely responsible for what is without any question the most embarrassing main event in TNA history, if not all of sports entertainment. It was the night of Victory Road 2011, when Hardy was set to challenge Sting for the TNA World Championship in a much-anticipated rematch. To prepare for the challenge, Hardy did an outrageous, overwhelming amount of drugs, even for him, such to the extent he was clearly in no shape to compete from the second he hit the ring. After an unscripted pow wow with TNA producer Eric Bischoff, Sting pinned Hardy in less than a minute, mostly so the drunken fool wouldn’t hurt himself. Although Hardy soon went to a rehab facility and later recovered his fame and fortune, we strongly believe he’d give it all up if it meant he could undo the damage done at Victory Road.
13 Dustin Rhodes
Crawling around the ring painted in his namesake color, there’s no denying Goldust was a pretty weird character. That said, the weirdness of Goldust was a weirdness Dustin Rhodes was complicit in creating. The absolute bizarre failure that was Black Reign had less to due with Dustin’s own contributions and was more a result of the fact he made Jeff Hardy’s Victory Road appearance seem like a mild buzz on a nightly basis. By his own admission, Dustin was taking 60-70 painkillers per day during his second run in TNA, chasing it with equally massive amounts of cocaine and alcohol. Unsurprisingly, his weight ballooned out of control, his interviews fell into incoherence, and his matches were amongst the worst he ever wrestled. That said, the failures he was experiencing in the ring have little to do with why he hates this period of his life so much. By and large, Rhodes simply hates the memories of being bombed out of his mind 24/7, and wishes his fans never saw him in that state.
12 CM Punk
Never mind whether or not CM Punk wants his fans to forget about his short stint in TNA—most of them probably already have. Punk only spent about a year working for the promotion, usually in much lower profile matches than he would later wrestle for WWE. This was somewhat appropriate, considering Punk was still just a rookie at the time, but TNA nonetheless made a very bizarre choice in pairing Punk with Raven in The Gathering. While their characters do have quite a bit in common, they were also engaged in a blood feud in Ring of Honor at the exact same time. If Punk’s fans want a look at what he was capable of at that point in his career, there’s no better place to look than his war against the former ECW Champion, which in many ways defined his future character. Ignoring all that so they could be buddy-buddy in TNA didn’t make sense when it was happening, so if we could all just forget about it in retrospect, that would probably be for the better.
11 Xavier Woods
Technically speaking, “Xavier Woods” never competed for TNA, being a name created by WWE for a wrestler named Austin Watson. That said, Woods had a whole lot in common with a TNA character named Consequences Creed, most notably the fact the same athlete was performing them. Similar to what Woods is doing today in The New Day, the Creed character was a loud and flamboyant hype man, with a slight tweak in that he was stylized after Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies. While his All-American gear made Creed come off a little cartoonish at times, he nonetheless achieved modest success as a one time TNA Tag Team Champion, teaming with Jay Lethal. Of course, this in no way compares to the worldwide acclaim Woods has since achieved as a member of The New Day, let alone the extra fame he earned the second he signed with WWE. He may not hate his time in TNA as much as others on the list, but we’re sure he’d rather fans think about his more recent history.
10 Samoa Joe
Admitting he was “loyal to a fault,” Samoa Joe has spoken more positively about his time in TNA than almost anyone else on this list. However, he was also quick to point out he “wasn’t unhappy” about the decision to leave back in 2015, mostly because his career has gone significantly better since making that choice. That’s really saying a lot considering how well things went for him when he worked there, from his 18-month undefeated streak to his status as a TNA Grand Slam Champion. Apparently, none of that compares to wrestling Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship on a major Pay-Per-View, something Joe has done twice thus far in 2017. Because of his high profile in the WWE Universe, Joe hasn’t done that much talking about TNA recently, those comments about not regretting his decision from back when he was still new to NXT. Given the fact his success and popularity have only skyrocketed from there, it’s hard to imagine he feels any differently.
Unlike just about everyone else on this list, Ron Killings was demonstrably more successful in TNA than he ever was in WWE or anywhere else. Throughout most of his career, Killings, or R-Truth, has been treated like an absolute joke, yet in TNA, he twice reigned as NWA World Champion, and picked up the Tag Team belts three times. In WWE, Truth has only even competed for the World Championship once or twice, and never came close to winning it. Despite this, he seems to vastly prefer his current status in wrestling to what he was doing in TNA, where he was never all that happy. Sure, the couple months he spent as NWA Champion must have been nice, but as soon as Killings lost the gold for a second time, he was shunted down the card something fierce, not treated like a true threat ever again. Feeling this was disrespectful to his talents, Killings eventually decided to leave the company to pursue his options elsewhere, finding a seemingly permanent home back in WWE.
8 Booker T
Rumor has it Booker T left WWE in late 2007 due to the company’s drug policy. TNA, on the other hand, has been notoriously lax about allowing wrestlers to use whatever substances they want, so in that regard, it was a perfect fit for the former five time WCW Champion. True to expectation, Booker regards most of his time at TNA as “a vacation,” noting he only worked 50 days a year, and the rest of the time he was mere miles away from Disneyland. Booker was also treated like a star in TNA, quickly asserting himself in the Main Event Mafia and reigning as Legends and Tag Team Champion. So what went wrong? Well, although he was presented as a star on TV, TNA apparently treated Booker like a low level employee. They never paid for a driver when sending him out to media events, and much worse, they would “forget” to hire a catering staff for overseas tours, leaving Booker and the other wrestlers to fend for themselves. No wonder he’d rather pretend it didn’t happen, perks be damned.
7 Mickie James
Quite frankly, we’re not sure how Mickie James feels about her time in TNA, aside from the fact it’s clearly over. This is despite the three time TNA Knockouts Champion having spent a significant amount of time in the promotion, from her various stints with the gold to her formative early days as Alexis Laree in Raven’s Gathering. There are two things we do know, however, that made her a lock for this list. First, she’s back in WWE today, occasionally competing for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in a decently high profile role, so her career is doing just fine after leaving TNA behind. Second, and far more importantly, she was involved in one of the dumbest moments in TNA history when, we swear we’re not making this up, James Storm murdered her by pushing her in front of a moving train. That’s the kind of stupid so severe it’s probably better people just forget she was ever there.
Having been the one talent to stick it out through the worst nonsense WCW threw at him, Sting obviously has a higher tolerance than most when it comes to working for a mismanaged company. His time in TNA was similarly flawed from beginning to end, the nadir of which being his horrible TNA Championship “match” against Jeff Hardy at Victory Road 2011. Just like Hardy must feel, Sting would probably throw away the baby with the bathwater and erase his entire TNA career just to undo that one atrocity. To tell the truth, we’re not sure how much of a role Sting himself played in the decision, but it looks like that’s exactly what WWE has done since he signed with the company. In the build to Sting’s matches against Triple H and Seth Rollins, the company’s narrative suggested Sting had been out of the ring over a decade, completely ignoring anything he did in TNA and acting like it never happened. Even if it wasn’t Sting’s idea to do this, he clearly signed off on it, so it’s not like he’s worried people are missing out on anything important.
5 Kurt Angle
One thing that WWE left out of Kurt Angle’s epic return in early 2017 is that he lied to the company about needing time off to get his release, only to immediately sign with TNA. That shocking act of disloyalty paid off for Angle over the next nine years, when he became one of TNA’s flagship performers and a six time World Champion. Now that Angle is back in WWE, he hasn’t quite swept it all under the rug and pretended it didn’t happen, but his boss Vince McMahon is trying to edge him into doing just that. The WWE Network special “Homecoming” actually mentioned the fact Angle wrestled for TNA, leaving out all the important details and simply pointing out he was constantly injured and broken down at the time. Sure, the matches might have been top notch, but the damage he put on his body was so severe it may not have been worth it. With that being the current narrative, Angle probably wishes he didn’t put himself through all the torment.
4 Seth Rollins
Of all the names on this list, Seth Rollins’s stint in TNA was by far the shortest and most forgettable. Therefore, it’s really not asking much of fans that they pretend it never happened—how hard is it to erase a whopping 37 seconds from one’s mind? Wrestling as Tyler Black, Seth’s lone TNA appearance took place in October of 2006, teaming with Jeff Watson to get squashed by Latin American Xchange’s Homicide and Hernandez. This was of course a far cry from what Rollins has achieved today, as a former two time WWE Champion who could easily add a few more reigns with that belt to his resume before it’s all said and done. Because he was only in TNA for a matter of seconds, Rollins hasn’t felt the need to comment on his time there whatsoever, but there’s really no explanation needed as to why a main event star would want people to forget the time he was mere a jobber for the inferior competition.
3 Ric Flair
To most wrestling fans, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair is one of if the greatest pro wrestlers ever to live. Unfortunately, though, this hardly means he lead a perfect career, free of any mistakes. Speaking to Shawn Michaels for an episode of his podcast, Flair has actually gone on record as saying his “number one regret” was working for TNA. This is despite Flair admitting there were plenty of reasons to justify the choice: he got paid a whole lot of money to do very little work, and he made some good friends in Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, and AJ Styles. Not only were the wrestlers good to him, but Flair also admits that the TNA management always treated him extremely well. Nonetheless, in no way did this justify going back on his promise to retire after losing to HBK at WrestleMania 24, especially considering the incredibly embarrassing performances he was giving in the ring. Not that fans should have expected anything else from a man in his mid 60’s.
2 Road Dogg
Aside from the fact they all worked for the closest thing WWE has to “competition,” there’s really no reason why Vince McMahon should have hesitated in rehiring any of the wrestlers on this list after they came to their senses—except for one. Now a WWE producer, Road Dogg, or BG James as he was known when working for TNA, was openly hostile towards his future employees pretty much the entire time he was there. Alongside his New Age Outlaw companion Billy Gunn, then calling himself Kip James, the two formed the Voodoo Kin Mafia, or VKM, repeatedly making insulting references to McMahon and his company. They were especially harsh to Triple H, who Road Dogg has since made amends with and credits with his current job. Given how petty and offensive they were acting, there’s no doubt Road Dogg would rather fans forget all the bad jokes he and Billy were making at the time.
1 AJ Styles
For eleven long years, from the company’s very first weekly Pay-Per-View to his highly publicized exit in 2013, AJ Styles was in many respects the heart and soul of TNA. By the third episode of television TNA produced, Styles was a double champion, with the X Division and Tag Team titles. In due time, he also won the TNA World Championship five times, and was the only TNA wrestler ever to be named the top superstar in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine. Even so, AJ was often unhappy with his position in TNA. The first notable incident leading to his departure came in 2010, when he lost the TNA Championship to Rob Van Dam with almost no build. This made AJ feel like TNA itself was admitting inferiority to WWE, throwing away everything he had done to boost the company’s standing in wrestling. Though he toughed it out another four years after that, now that he’s finally free and proving that yeah, WWE is better, he probably doesn’t spend much time thinking about the past, nor is there much reason for his fans to do the same.