Total Nonstop Action has long served as an Island of Misfit Toys of sorts for WWE castoffs, either a graveyard to go to in the twilight of their years or as the only nationally broadcasted alternative to turn to in the event of their WWE careers being abruptly cut short. Either way, the passage from WWE to TNA has historically been one way, with very few instances of TNA wrestlers coming to WWE since the company’s inception in 2002 through 2015. But the times they are a changing. With TNA alumni AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, and “Glorious” Bobby Roode hitting their stride in WWE in 2016, let’s take a look at some other TNA stars who could be assets to the WWE in the post-brand extension landscape.
5. “The Miracle” Mike Bennett, Smackdown Live
The Miracle signed with TNA after a successful run with Ring of Honor from 2008-2015. He was most recently known as one half of the tag team champions with Matt Taven in “The Kingdom”, which also included current Ring of Honor Champion Adam Cole (BAYBAY!).
Bennett’s arrival in TNA had immediate impact. He’s already a former X-Division Champion and is flirting with the main event picture. His work with Moose has been entertaining and with a noticeable lack in heels on the blue brand, Bennett has the look and feel of a guy who can linger in the Intercontinental Title picture almost immediately. Oh, and bring Maria with you, too.
4. Aron Rex, Raw
The “E” in WWE stands for entertainment, so I continue to be baffled that Vince McMahon’s crew didn’t take full advantage of what they had in the man formerly known as Damien Sandow. There isn’t a gimmick this guy can’t pull off, but my favorite Sandow memories were as a stunt double for The Miz. His mimicry was magical, and just when it felt like they were turning the corner with him… and we were about to get the payoff… The Big Show eliminated him from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Devastating. I would even settle for the WWE bringing him back for commentary only. Hell, anything has to be better than David Otunga.
3. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy has always been a fan favorite everywhere he’s been in the wrestling industry, even considering his personal struggles. His current storyline with his brother has earned TNA more attention that it has seen in years and making us rethink the definition of entertainment under the professional wrestling umbrella. Sure, the Final Deletion was strange but there wasn’t a moment where I could take my eyes away. Hardy mentioned in July that he wants to face the Undertaker at WrestleMania in Hell in a Cell. A day late and a dollar short, but I can tell you that I would have preferred him to Shane McMahon in April. And that’s coming from someone who watched it live in Dallas.
2. Drew Galloway, Raw
Drew McIntyre debuted on WWE TV in late 2009 and was called “The Chosen One” by Vince McMahon himself. McMahon even deemed him as a “future world champion” when McIntyre was only 24 years old. He won the Intercontinental Championship later that year but seemed to take a back seat after the WWE’s Nexus storyline really began to take off. A brand switch left McIntyre lost in the shuffle and an extremely lackluster run with 3MB ended his time in New York.
Enter Drew “Galloway”. Given the opportunity to reinvent himself in TNA, he is one of the few shining stars in a company whose struggles are well-documented. Although his wrestling style has stayed the same, his personality has evolved. Galloway feels like a well-rounded performer now and that couldn’t be said just two years ago. There was a time when the WWE blacklisted TNA talent, but those days are over. Additionally, the WWE had Galloway first. He can get over as a heel or babyface at this point, and the Raw brand could use someone with that versatility.
1. Broken Matt Hardy, SmackDown Live
Matt Hardy, for better or worse or somewhere in-between, may be the most talked about wrestler in North America. We hear often that kayfabe is dead and there’s merit to that, but Hardy has shown that our idea of professional wrestling can continue to evolve. It hasn’t “all been done before”, because what Matt Hardy is doing is something that has never been done in almost any realm. The WWE prides itself on being the first to do something and doing it well, but they showed their hand when they attempted to recreate The Final Deletion with The New Day and the Wyatt Family. They knew they had been beat.
TNA has been on its final breath for a long time and somehow, they continue to survive. There have been different reasons for that over the years, but the reason right now is a “Broken” man reinventing the wheel. You remember the brilliant run on SmackDown with the “Version 1.0” gimmick. There is no limit to his creativity. If I had to pick only one to pluck from TNA, I look no further than Matt Hardy. He’s 41 and there is still a lot in the tank physically and mentally.