Many hard times have been weathered over the past few years from TNA. From network changes to big names exiting the roster to backstage rumblings of late payments, there definitely have been occasional moments where fans have sweated a little. Despite those times in which the future seemed uncertain, 2016 turned out to be a very peculiar year for Dixie Carter's wrestling promotion - it was peculiar because they seemed to have found their way.
To be fair, TNA haven't totally found their stride in all aspects of business and television but looking solely at the on air product, it's solid. The main event scene has become occupied with talent that feels fresh and can go from bell to bell. They've also made some good choices in bringing in some ex-WWE talent that are worth building a company around for years to come. And of course, those wild Hardys have found a way to become the most delightfully reinvented veterans on any modern wrestling show.
All of these reasons and more build to one undeniable truth: any wrestling fan who isn't watching TNA right now is simply missing out. There have been more water cooler moments than could've been imagined in 2016 and the roster has told great stories with these rivalries. The way things are going, their future seems like it's in good hands.
14 New Management, Maybe
The volatility of the fate of TNA is still up in the air at the time of the writing of this article, so this reason to watch will be mentioned first in case a sour deal goes down. The interested parties give credence to optimism, but nothing's for certain until someone signs the dotted line.
The first interested party is WWE, who may or may not buy TNA's library. There are tons of speculation to affirm that they are in fact interested, which would be great for the preservation of the company's history. From the early days of the X-Division to the many years of content from some of the biggest stars on WWE's current roster, there's plenty to appreciate from TNA's past. The WWE Network is undeniably the best home for that library to retire with dignity.
The other interested party is Billy Corgan. Prior to Bound For Glory 2016, he made the promotional podcast and interview rounds stating plainly that he was trying to make a deal happen where he would take control of the company. The former Smashing Pumpkins frontman very much wants to run TNA - possibly under a new name - which is the best outcome for existing talent. The better part of 2016 has been a darn good year for TNA and if Corgan gains more control, it will likely keep getting better.
14. Second Chances
Before singling out any specific wrestlers who are excelling in TNA, it needs to be pointed out that they've had a pretty good track record in revitalizing the careers of many WWE sendoffs. Wrestlers like EC3, Drew Galloway, and Bobby Lashley all spent time under the Vince McMahon banner and by the time they left that company they simply could've shrugged their shoulders and told themselves "at least I tried." Thankfully, that's not what they chose to do.
There was still plenty of grappling left for those three and look at them now. They're all highly regarded and have all been TNA World Champions. It helps that they're still young and have plenty of career ahead of them, which is smart of TNA to bring in ex-WWE talents that they can build around and not those who are in the twilight of their careers. This should give hope to guys like Cody Rhodes and Aron Rex, who only really needed an opportunity to succeed but for some reason never really go it.
13 A Talented X-Division
There's no reason to over embellish here and say that the X-Division hasn't ever been better, because it has. TNA has handled the genre-defying class of grapplers in a way that better showcases their talents in the past, but even in a weak time in the division's history it's still booming with can't-miss talent.
DJ Z sits atop the no limits ladder while wrestlers such as Trevor Lee, Eddie Edwards, Andrew Everett, and Rockstar Spud are frequently vying for his Championship. Even though a little more creative care could be given to the X-Division, it's undeniable that any combination of these guys could be matched up for a potential show-stealer for any card.
The big reason while the division has felt second tier, storyline-wise, is that TNA has not treated the talent as contenders who are as important as the other singles wrestlers. Bobby Lashley won the belt and threw it in the garbage just earlier this year. This belt has too much history as well as loads of talent currently in the ranks. If TNA gets that the X-Division can have value again then it could be the buzz of wrestling that it once was.
12 Dummies, Dummies, Everywhere
Eli Drake is not only one of the most up and coming talents in TNA but he might be the most need-to-watch talent in all of wrestling. Ever since turning heel on Drew Galloway since the disbanding of The Rising, Drake has proven himself over and over again to be one of the most skilled guys that can carry a microphone.
Eli is currently most known for his "Fact of Life" talk show segment that includes his infamous Dummy button. The "Dummy, Yeah!" recording that plays when he slams the red button is one of the funniest catchphrases in modern wrestling and begs to be a cell phone text message tone. The more that TNA can let this guy promo the better. In addition to Drake's abundant mic skills, he's a good hand in the ring as well. An example of his ability to turn something that could've been a disaster into highly entertaining would be his recent Cage Match with Odarg The Great. Odarg is Grado's alter ego, whom Drake feuded with after a briefcase mishap.
Whether in the ring or on the microphone, Eli Drake is a consistently entertaining performer in TNA who keeps getting better and better.
11 The Only U.S. National Outlet For Grado
Grado has been one of wrestling’s hottest acts over the past few years, thanks in large part to his association with the booming British wrestling scene. He’s been the focal point of the ICW documentary Insane Fight Club which has streamed in the U.S. via Netflix, but other than that his phenomena has largely been missed by American wrestling fans.
Thankfully, TNA has brought this hilarious personality across the Atlantic and given him screen time. Sure, he’s been treated as a side act as best and tag teaming with Mahabali Shera isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire, but some Grado is better than no Grado at all.
At the recent Bound for Glory event, Grado did his best Bushwhacker homage by entertaining a battle royal flamboyantly only to be thrown out almost immediately upon arrival. This is just one example of the comedy that he brings and there’s always room for humor in wrestling.
10 The Impact Grand Championship
TNA recently made the wise move of getting ride of the King of the Mountain Championship and in its wake they've given us the new Grand Championship. This is a huge upgrade. There are plenty of new rules to try to sift through with this gimmicky belt but it brings back the presentation of competition in wrestling, which is very much a good thing.
There are three 3-minute rounds for each one of these contests unless it is a title match - those bouts get 5-minutes per round. Judges score each round based on physicality, aggressiveness, and control of the action. If a pinfall or submission occurs before the end of the final round, the match is over. If the bout goes the distance then the victor is decided by the panel of judges.
Each Grand Championship round gives a reset to the action, so it's sort of building in a 2 out of 3 falls feel to each match. Flooding this division with technically savvy athletes could give value to the Grand Championship Title and offer a prize that the best in-ring workers in the world would want to vie for. It could be an updated take on Ring of Honor's old Pure Title. The opportunity to create a division for wrestling purist fans is being carved out and it's a treat to watch it unfold.
9 Allie Will One Day Snap On Maria
By all accounts, Allie should be simply annoying. She entered TNA as Maria’s aid who would do anything for the tormenter of the Knockouts Division. Even worse, she has the shrillest voice in the world. She can initiate chalkboard-scratching effects if she wishes.
Allie, however, isn’t annoying – in fact, she’s becoming one of the most sympathetic people on the TNA roster. This is due to the face that the one woman who suffers the wrath of Maria far more than anybody else is the faithful follower at her side. In one of the worst offenses from Maria, Allie inadvertently won the Knockouts Title and even though she was thoroughly tickled to be Champion, she was made to lie down and drop the title to her boss.
It’s a wonder that Allie has put up with so much mistreatment, but it has caused the fans to root for her more and more. There will one day be a payoff in which she turns on Maria and that will be a very satisfying day.
8 The Wolves
Davey Richards may be out recovering from an ACL injury that he suffered while on TNA's UK tour from earlier in the year, but he and Eddie Edwards are still TNA talent that happen to be one of the best tag teams on the planet. Just knowing that they're on the backburner, waiting to return and challenge again for the tag gold should be enough to put opponents on notice.
The returning Wolves (when they're both healthy) might be more of a long term reason to tune in, but Eddie Edwards is still healthy and competing regularly so that's a big short term win for the ratings. Eddie has found success in the X-Division as a singles competitor and has also had a few tussles with Bobby Lashley.
More recently, Eddie Edwards has even defeated The Destroyer Lashley and claimed TNA's top prize as his own. That's a huge stamp of endorsement for this talented wrestler. Both men are technically gifted and it's good that one of them is actively wrestling and thriving, but it will be even better when we once again have them both.
7 The Rise of Moose
When Moose’s contract was coming up in Ring of Honor earlier this year, there was plenty of buzz that he might wind up in NXT. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. WWE’s loss became TNA’s 6’5’’, 300 lb. gain.
In storylines, Moose came into TNA thanks to Mike Bennett and was more or less a lackey of his – at least, that’s the way Mike perceived it. Moose clearly had his sights set on bigger prizes than what being The Miracle’s right hand man would’ve allowed, so the inevitable turn happened. Moose and Bennett collided at TNA’s Bound for Glory 2016, defeating the man who gave EC3 his first pinfall loss ever. Moose is already on his way to the top tier of the card.
The massive size of this former NFL player gives him instant credibility whenever positioned opposite of any opponent. Moose also has tons of babyface appeal, especially with his catchy theme song and hand gesture. The man is rising to the top of the wrestling world and if you aren’t watching TNA then you are simply missing out on Moose.
6 The Miracle And His Bride
When Mike Bennett and Maria left their Kingdom in Ring of Honor to join the ranks of TNA, few could've predicted the impact that they'd make. Mike self-proclaimed himself to be the Miracle that TNA has needed and to be fair, he's filled that moniker well. Booking-wise, he was given a huge vote of confidence when he became the first competitor to give Ethan Carter III a clean pin in the middle of the ring. This one win established him as a top tier talent and gave him the credibility to go face to face with TNA main eventers like Bobby Lashley.
Maria has already earned herself the Knockouts Title and it seems inevitable that The Miracle will one day capture the TNA World Championship. This power couple could be wreaking havoc against their opponents for quite some time in the Impact Zone and as much as it's fun to hate them, their talent gives a huge boost to the program.
5 Aron Rex
When the wrestler formerly known as Damien Sandow left WWE, it felt like one of the biggest business blunders in quite some time. This man clearly knew how to endear himself to an audience if simply given a chance and for whatever reason, he was refused that opportunity. Why wouldn’t the biggest wrestling company in the world give this guy a shot when he was so over?
One company’s loss is another’s gain, specifically TNA. Now known as Aron Rex, he was put in the tournament for the brand new TNA Grand Championship title and won the final match at Bound For Glory 2016. He’s the inaugural champion in what we've already established as the beginning of a new chapter in TNA’s history books. Rex is an example of a talented guy being given a chance to shine, which is a great reason to watch wrestling on PopTV.
4 Cody & Brandi Rhodes
Cody Rhodes shook up the wrestling world when he voluntarily walked away from WWE for the sake of rekindling his love for professional wrestling instead of that sometimes yucky sports entertainment stuff. His pursuit through the untamed paths outside of Titan Towers has now taken him to Dixieland (or Corgan City or whatever) and it's massively intriguing. Brandi Rhodes, the former Eden Stiles in WWE, has accompanied her husband into the Impact Zone and apparently has aspirations that will take her into the ring as well. This adds another layer of intrigue for this couple.
Cody & Brandi are easily one of the best reasons to watch TNA right now just for the sake of seeing what they can do in what hopefully is more of an unchained environment. He's already showed up at Bound For Glory 2016 and got into a scuffle with Mike Bennett, who was on that check off list image he shared on social media over the summer. Moose and Trevor Lee are also TNA talent who were on that list, so Cody shouldn't be bored during his time in TNA.
3 The Real Faces Of Fear
Crazzy Steve, Abyss, and Rosemary are everything that an evil stable should be. The titling of this entry is a slight knock on the Wyatt family, who's only major setback has been inconsistent booking. Just imagine how much better Bray and his buddies could've been if they were allowed to win championships. TNA has not made that same mistake. This creepy trio have proven themselves to be legit contenders thanks to a recent TNA Tag Team Championship reign.
As Decay were dominating the tag ranks, TNA saw a huge explosion of interest in the revitalized Hardy clan. Broken Matt, Brother Nero, and their whole gang needed proper rivals and Steve, Abyss, & Rosemary benefitted from a disease called "Right Place, Right Time-itis." They got to battle as the villains in Delete or Decay and also The Great War, two huge chapters in the recent Hardy saga.
Another great aspect of The Decay is that Abyss is a veteran working with two younger talent, so they're accomplishing the task of making new stars. Crazzy Steve's clown gimmick wasn't really clicking before this stable, but now he's a heel that's found his way. Rosemary came into TNA as this character and is now one of the more recognizable females on their roster. Abyss continues to prove his longevity while giving his younger peers a rub. It's a win for everybody.
2 Bobby Lashley Will Hurt You
Throw out every preconceived notion of Bobby Lashley that you’ve had before because 2016 has been a very good year for him. Thanks to his jacked size and his MMA background he’s become the heel that he was always meant to be. The current TNA Champion can and will maim people.
At one time Bobby held not only his TNA Title, but also the King of the Mountain Championship and – astonishingly – the X-Division Championship. He was probably also lusting after the Knockouts and the Tag straps as well but the man only has so many hours in a day.
The Destroyer Lashley has continued to be the top dog in TNA (minus the recent loss to Eddie Edwards) and that’s a very good thing. He’s a got a bad attitude that gives his challengers a real Goliath of a personality to play off of. He’s also very good in the ring, so expect him to dominate the singles competition for the near future until he gets another shot at the title that his Wolves foe took from him.
1 The Broken Brilliance Of Matt Hardy
The number one reason you should be watching TNA should be no shock to anybody. Matt Hardy has completely reinvented himself into the most entertaining personality in all of wrestling and he’s taking everyone in his family with him. This Broken character is the leader of the Hardy Clan, which includes his Brother Nero, wife Reby, son Maxel, gardner Senor Benjamin, and drone Vanguard-1. There's also a giraffe with that harbors the soul of George Washington but he's yet to compete in the ring.
A war that started between Matt and Jeff in the now iconic Final Deletion moved on towards a feud against the demonic stable, The Decay. This spawned the Delete of Decay war on the Hardy compound and then the TNA Tag Team Title Match at Bound For Glory 2016, called The Great War. Who knows what ridiculous direction Broken Matt and his family take us in next but one thing will be for sure – it will be brilliant.