Published Apr 8 2020 By Hakeem Fullerton of Wrestlingwithwrestling.com
Intro: Kurt Angle, Gail Kim, Scott Steiner, Christian Cage these are the names that people think of when you talk about wrestlers who either started in or found popularity in the WWE only to jump ship to TNA/Impact and achieved far more success and accolades than they ever did in Vince McMahon's house of Sports Entertainment.
So, here are ten former WWE wrestlers who managed to find success in TNA/Impact...
10. Mr. Anderson
In the mid 2000's Mr. Anderson (then known as Mr. Kennedy) would become a rising star on both Raw and Smackdown but things began to change for Kennedy/Anderson as he rack up a number of injuries and drug suspensions that ultimately derailed his career, including the now infamous Vince McMahon illegitimate son storyline.
The final straw came when Anderson delivered a back suplex maneuver on Randy Orton during a May 25th 2009 episode of Raw which ended up being Kennedy's return to in ring action but also his last appearance in the WWE.
The story has it that John Cena and Randy Orton complained to management over Kennedy's recklessness in the ring after the latter took what he believed was a botchback suplex during a 10 man tag team match and Kennedy was released from his contract on May 29th 2009.
Anderson debuted in TNA at the Genesis 2010 PPV where he defeated 'The Monster' Abyss in one-on-one action.During the early beginnings of the Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff regime Anderson was treated like a mega star thanks to his feuds with Abyss, Kurt Angle, RVD, Bram, Eli Drake and Jeff Hardy while embracing an attitude that can best be described as being a complete and utter asshole (in kayfabe) to those who crossed his path both in and outside of the ring.
Anderson would win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on two different occasions in 2011 before engaging in a Philadelphia Street Fight with former WWE alumni Bully Ray at Bound for Glory of that same year and then again in 2013 on few episodes of Impact during the finals months of the Aces & Eights Storyline.
Impact's resident asshole would be around until March of 2016, when he failed a drug test that ultimately got him released from the company.
After returning to the independent scene for a few years, Anderson would head to Billy Corgan's NWA promotion where he has become a popular name alongside former Impact talents Nick Aldis, James Storm and Eli Drake however, he was recently announced for the One Night Only TNA show happening in April so Impact fans both old and new will get the chance to see the former TNA world heavyweight champion in action.
9. Mickie James
First things first,Yes Mickie James did appear in the early days of TNA before making a name for herself in the WWE but since she's more well known for her time at the latter than the former is why she appears on this list.
Mickie James was just a handful of women who became great in ring workers during a period of time when women under the WWE banner were more valued for their looks than wrestling ability; James would win the Women's and Divas championships a number of times until a number of issues that ultimately led to her departure from the company.
The first, was her backstage affair with John Cena which led to Mickie going from Raw to Smackdown after things between James and Cena got awkward after the leader of the Cena-Nation planned on getting married to a woman named Elizabeth Huberdeau, which allegedly made James become little obsessive.
The second, was the infamous "Piggy James" storyline which saw Michelle McCool and Layla make fun of James' weight.
The angle saw the Michelle and Layla body shaming Mickie on her looks all while shoving cake in her face and having Layla dress up like Mickie in a fat suit whilst making piggy noises...Yeah it's safe to say this s##t would not fly well today let me tell you.
Thankfully, Mickie James would be gone from the WWE in early 2010 and she would appear in TNA as the special guest referee for a knockouts title match at Bound For Glory 2010 under the nickname "Hardcore Country".
Mickie would begin a feud with Tara (formerly Victoria in WWE) which allegedly stems from Tara believing the reason she was released from the WWE in 2009 was thanks to James. The feud saw these two ladies brawl with each other for months both in and outside of the ring eventually leading to their classic steel cage match on Impact in late 2010.
James would be the top babyface in the knockouts division from 2010-12 but she also won the knockouts championship a few times, battled names like Angelina Love, Winter, and Madison Rayne. Mickie would also turned heel on Velvet Sky in 2013 (the first time she turned heel since her feud with Trish Stratus back in the WWE) and she even met her current husband and NWA superstar, Magnus aka Nick Aldis during this time as well.
But Mickie also kept herself busy when she wasn't in the square circle as she released her own country album called "Somebody's Gonna Pay" including songs like "Best Damn Night", "I'm Gone Song", "Goin Fast" and "Hardcore Country" with the latter becoming Mickie's theme song during her second run with Impact.
While many of the smarky fans tend to remember that time James Storm infamously pushed Mickie onto some train tracks when they talk about her time in TNA. But, that was just a small blimpish James' TNA run as she would continue to be apart of the knockouts division until her departure.
8. John Morrison
The most recent entry on this list, John Morrison has returned to the WWE after being away from 8-9 years following his public future endeavoring by WWE executive VP of talent relations, John Laurinatis on an episode of Monday Night Raw.
Before all of that, Morrison achieved success as Johnny Nitro in the WWE's tag team division with MNM (Melina, Nitro Mercury) before heading to WWE's ECW brand and became not only the ECW world champion but also formed a partnership with The Miz and created their own YouTube show called "The Dirt Sheet".
He'd then change his name to John Morrison where he would win the Intercontinental title from Rey Mysterio in 2009 and later demonstrated a lot of great pakour style of wrestling before losing a match to his former tag partner the Miz in the early 2010's.
After spending time wrestling in various promotions including Lucha Underground, Morrison now known as Johnny Impact debuted in 2017 taking part in a gauntlet for the gold match to crown a new world champion, while Impact didn't win the title he did face against the winner of this match Eli Drake in the main event of Bound For Glory 2017.
Most notably during this time saw Impact battle Austin Aries in the main event of Bound For Glory 2018 which resulted in Impact not only winning the world title but also one of the most controversial finishes to match where Aries no sells his injuries from the match and gives Don Callis and the fans in attendance the middle finger.
Other highlights include his matches with Moose, Killer Kross, and Fenix, turning heel on Brian Cage with real life wife Taya Valkyrie, giving Cage a career threatening back injury at the Rebellion PPV and culminating in his amazing final match in the company with Rich Swann for the X Division championship at Slammiversary 2019.
Fun fact, Morrison's contract with Impact Wrestling had expired weeks or months before his match with Swann but he stayed with the company long enough to make sure that the storyline ended with a conclusive finish, talk about being a professional.
While Impact/ Morrison's run in Impact may have lasted a couple of years, he ended up being a big time player during that time something that he wasn't able to do during his first run in the WWE.
7. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley's first and current run in the WWE can be seen as a disappointments with Vince McMahon not being able to book the former ECW Champion into a megastar that the fans could get behind.
But as the old saying goes "Your Loss, Is My Gain." and that's exactly what happened when Lashley jumped from WWE to Impact.
While his first run in the company was nothing special, his second run from 2014-18 was great time to be Bobby Lashley as the man known as "Walking Armageddon" ended up winning the TNA world heavyweight championship a number of times whilst having competitive matches with Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, EC3, Drew Galloway and more.
Speaking of competitive, Lashley also took part in MMA around this time and had an impressive track record with 15 wins and 2 losses, a track record which by the way is far better than the individual people keep comparing Lashley to (Brock Lesnar).
Lashley would also go on to hold the X Division and King of The Mountain titles as well as the world title at the same time (a feat that was first done by Kurt Angle both in the WWE and in TNA).
Lashley's final days with Impact saw him feud with newcomer Brian Cage in a serious of remarkable matches which saw Lashley put over the future X Division and world champion before heading back to the WWE the next night on Raw after WrestleMania...but the less said about his current run the better.
6. Matt Sydal
Another wrestler who first appeared in TNA before becoming famous in the WWE was Matt Sydal. Best known as Evan Bourne, Sydal worked in the WWE from 2007-14 winning the WWE tag team titles with Kofi Kingston as part of a tag team known as "Air Boom", besides from that and having an amazing shooting star press finishing maneuver Sydal didn't do much of anything that really was memorable during his seven years with the company.
After his release from the WWE in 2014 and a few stints with Evolve and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Sydal returned to Impact Wrestling on April 27th, 2017.
During this time Sydal competed in the X division where he won the prestigious title in early 2018 after defeating New Japan star, Taiji Ishimori in a title vs. title on Impact; Sydal would also have some high profile matches with names Eli Drake, Bobby Lashley, and Petey Williams before adapting a gimmick that saw the former tag team champion take on the role of a spiritualistic zealot, who believed the path to enlightenment will lead to success in pro wrestling and all you had to do was "Open your Third Eye" (It's wrestling just go with it).
Sydal would try to convert Rich Swann to his enlightened beliefs but Swann refused, this began a rivalry that eventually reintroduced/introduced the Impact Wrestling fans to "All Ego" Ethan Page and Willie Mack respectively leading to one of the best opening matches in recent Bound For Glory history.
Sydal's final appearance with the company came after losing a qualifying match to his protégé, Ethan Page with the winner participating in an Ultimate X match for the vacant X Division Championship at Homecoming 2019.
While his tenure was short compared to others on this list, It safe to say Matt Sydal had achieved more accolades in his 2-3 years with Impact than he ever did during his sevens years in the WWE.
5. Taryn Terrell
If you don't remember anything that Taryn Terrell did in WWE aside from being the smiling generic blond haired general manager of WWE's ECW brand than I don't blame you.
From 2008-10 Taryn took part in a number of forgettable matches before becoming the general manager of WWE's version of ECW; So when she first appeared in TNA in 2012 many remembered Taryn as that blonde chick in WWE and not much else but by the end of her time with the company she became a new wrestler that everyone was talking about.
After starting her TNA run as the new referee for the Knockouts Division Taryn would eventually get into a feud with Gail Kim which lead to their critical acclaimed Last Knockouts Standing Match at Slammiversary 2013, which was a career defining match for her as the fans began to respect Taryn as her progression within the company continued following her feud with Gail.
Taryn would go on to defeat both Gail Kim and Jessicka Havok in a triple threat match to become Knockouts Champion for the very first time in her career and she would hold onto that belt for a record breaking 291 days becoming the second longest reigning champion in the company's history before Taya Valkyrie's year plus title reign overshadowed Taryn's.
Terrell would also turn heel in the mid 2010's creating and leading the all female stable known as "The Dollhouse" until the group split in 2016.
Taryn would make a couple of returns to the company with the most recent one being her brief time in 2017.
While some of the names on this list achieved some level of success and notoriety before or during their time in the WWE, Taryn Terrell didn't have that kind of luck, she started out in TNA as just another WWE reject who was probably looking for a easy paycheck but, in the end she became as one of the best female wrestlers of the early 2010's.
4. Matt Hardy
Probably the one entry on this list who has the most pro wrestling achievements to his name before coming to TNA/Impact is Matt Hardy.
Matt Hardy's time in WWE saw he become a major success in the tag team scene and one half of the Hardy Boys during the attitude era whilst also achieving championship gold as a singles competitor on Smackdown and WWE's ECW.
After his contract ran out in 2010, Matt joined TNA in 2011 but aside from calling himself "Cold Blooded" and rocking some dreadlocks he didn't due much of importance, however his second run within the company is what I'll be talking about today.
After reteaming with his brother, Jeff to take on teams like The Wolves, Team 3D and winning the tag team titles as well, Matt would go on as a single competitor in 2015 defeating EC3 and Drew Galloway in a triple threat match in the main event of Bound For Glory that year.
Hardy would later become champion again in 2016 after a double turn which not only saw Hardy become heel but also become a two time world champion after defeating EC3 in a last man standing match before calling himself "Iconic" Matt Hardy or "Big Money" Matt.
While these achievements weren't too bad it's what happened in 2016 following an I Quit match with his brother Jeff Hardy that helped defined Matt's career and legacy moving forward.
A weeks after the aforementioned I quit match with his brother, Matt Hardy would return as "Broken" Matt Hardy, a damaged but eccentric side of Matt who was looking to "Delete" his brother Jeff Hardy and did so in the acclaimed or infamous (depending on who you ask) Final Deletion which became to most talked about thing in Wrestling at the time and the gimmick continued to evolve so much that Matt finally did two things he was never able to do during his time in the WWE: Be treated like a main event star and become more popular than his brother.
Matt and his brother Jeff would leave Impact in 2017 before returning to the WWE at WrestleMania. While issues involving the trademark of the "Broken" Universe drove a wedge between the Hardy family and Impact's parent company Anthem Sports and Entertainment, the issues would be resolved in early 2018 with Impact Wrestling naming Matt and Jeff Hardy's Final Deletion match, the best match of the decade to which The Deleter of Worlds would express his appreciation for this honor on Twitter a few days later.
3. Ron "The Truth" Killings
It'd be hard to imagine R-Truth wrestling anywhere except the WWE, but from 2002-07, that wasn't the case. From the very first event to feature the TNA name, Ron "The Truth" Killings became a fixture for the company up until his departure.
Killings would be released from the WWE after his partner Road Dogg's issues with drugs lead to both men getting fired. Killings would appear in NWA TNA on it's very first show in 2002 and a few months later he would go on to defeat Ken Shamrock to become the very first black man to win the NWA world heavyweight championship (I should point out this was at a time when Killings was not only heel but a time when he was taken seriously before as a competitor).
Killings would become NWA champion for a second time whilst being apart of the memorable 3 Live Kru stable alongside Road Dogg and Konnan. Killings would also hold the TNA tag team titles with NFL star, Adam "Pac Man" Jones in 2007 before leaving TNA to return to the WWE in 2008 where he's been ever since.
While Truth seems be enjoying his time in the WWE as his been one of the longest tenured in the company, his time in TNA proves that R-Truth is more that just a comedy wrestler.
Much like Taryn Terrell, Ethan Carter the Third aka EC3 came to TNA as another named people sort of remembered from the WWE but didn't really do much of importance until he arrived to Jeff Jarrett's company.
After his run in the original NXT which saw EC3 (then known as Derrick Bateman) become known to many fans, the WWE failed to use him properly as an up-and-coming star before leaving with little fanfare. After a number of video packages hyping his debut, Bateman became EC3, the nephew of then TNA president Dixie Carter and debuted at Bound for Glory in 2013.
From here, EC3 would become one of the best home grown talents in TNA (even though he never started his career in the company); Carter would have an impressive 100 plus day undefeated streak whilst facing Matt and Jeff Hardy, Lashley, Aron Rex, Rockstar Spud, Bully Ray, Sting, Drew Galloway, Mike Bennett and Kurt Angle with the later of which resulting in EC3 having the first of his many TNA world title wins.
Carter would win the TNA Grand Championship and feud with names like Matt Sydal and Fallah Bahh before leaving the company in early 2018; EC3 would return to the WWE appearing on the NXT brand before heading to main roster...sadly EC3's current time in the WWE is a far cry from what he did in the TNA/Impact Wrestling.
1. Sami Callihan
Considering his time in NXT saw him appear almost exclusively on WWE live events with even the man himself saying that WWE tried to turn him in a b###h, is it any wonder why Callihan makes top spot on this list.
After making his debut at Bound for Glory 2017 and becoming the leader of OvE, Sami Callihan became one of the most controversial but in demand wrestlers by the end of the 2010's.
While Callihan's participation in the OvE vs. LAX feud was a good way for him to start his time in the company, it was his infamous baseball bat shot on Eddie Edwards that changed everything.
During the March 1st 2018 episode of Impact, Sami Callihan lost a match to Eddie Edwards however the events that happened after the match is what people remember but for all the wrong reasons.
Following the match Sami grabbed a steel chair, unfolded it, and placed it on top of the face and head of Eddie Edwards; Though it's hard to know exactly what Callihan was going for the end results were pretty graphic as Sami hit Eddie in the face with a baseball bat completely missing the chair and fracturing the orbital bone in Eddie's in right eye.
The incident unsurprisingly drew a hell of a lot of criticism from fans, journalist and wrestling personalities alike but the incident also turned Callihan into the most hated and talked about wrestler outside of the WWE.
The publicity of this incident somehow managed to end up helping Impact Wrestling as the publicity from the baseball bat shot coupled with the growing resurgence that Impact was facing thanks to a new regime, got everyone wondering: Whats going to happen next?...and there answer came in the form of Slammiversary 2018.
What is regarded as one of the best PPV's of the 2010's, Slammiversary 2018 allowed Impact management to turn the publics angry over the baseball bat incident into a platform to demonstrate the new and improved product that Impact had become under the Callis/ D'Amore regime.
And let's not forget the matches that Callihan has had with names like Pentagon Jr., Brian Cage, Rich Swann, Eddie Edwards and his most recent feud with Tessa Blanchard, which has led to the first ever intergender main event in a major wrestling promotion but the first ever world title intergender main event match at Hard To Kill(the first impact PPV of the 2020's).
Simply put it without the help of Sami Callihan and a number of others names that are currently still working with the company, Impact Wrestling would not be enjoying the boom period they are having right now...and that's why I say "The Callihan Death Machine", "The Draw" Sami Callihan is one of the best examples of a former WWE superstar doing better for themselves in TNA/Impact Wrestling.
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