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Ask 411 Wrestling: Where Are the TNA Originals Now?

July 12, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
AJ Styles TNA Image Credit: Impact Wrestling

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This week, we’re going to do something that I don’t do too often and that frankly I don’t even really likely doing. However, occasionally, I start to answer a question and realize that I’ve gotten in over my head, with the answer running as long as a full column. As a result, we’ve got one and only one question this week.

That question comes to us from Shaun, who is is hemorrhaging money:

What’s everyone up to nowadays that wrestled on the first ever TNA show?

For those who weren’t around at the time, the first-ever TNA event – which aired exclusively on pay per view – took place on June 19, 2002 and, even though the early days of the company are associated with the Nashville fairgrounds, the inaugural event actually took place at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also, there were actually two different TNA PPVs produced out of the same show, so for this answer I am going to address everybody who was on either the first or second pay per view, since it was technically all one big event.

Here goes.

Sadly, there are four individuals who wrestled on the show who are now deceased. They are Scott Hall, Brian Christopher, Malice (who had previously been The Wall in WCW), and Daffney (who appeared under her real name of Shannon in the lingerie battle royale that aired on the second TNA PPV).

Speaking of that lingerie battle royale, let’s knock out the other wrestlers who were involved in that fiasco. One of them, Miss Joni was later repackaged by TNA as Priscilla and used as a valet for the TNA trio of the Flying Elvises – more on them later. She has had not other involvement in wrestling as far as I know. From what I can tell, this may have been the only pro wrestling appearance ever for the similarly-named Miss Sasha as well as another competitor who was just referred to as Tyler. Another mononymous entrant in the match, Erin, a.k.a. Erin Bray, was a former NFL cheerleader who did some low-level modeling and acting after her one TNA appearance. ECW alums Francine and Elektra were both in the match as well, with both of them leaving wrestling by the mid-2000s. Francine did get a brief run in the WWE relaunch of ECW, while Elektra worked on independents and apparently appeared as a stripper in several episodes of The Sopranos. The winner of the match, Taylor Vaughn, who was previously B.B. in the WWF and Papaya in WCW, did one tour of Europe for Nu Wrestling Evolution (a company tied to the Anoa’i family that booked cards outside of the U.S. loaded with former WWE stars) in 2008 and then appears to have left wrestling. Though Vaughn won the match, perhaps its biggest eventual star was Alexis Laree, who is now well-known as Mickie James. Her most recent matches were, coincidentally enough, earlier this month for TNA.

There was also a men’s battle royale on the first show, or more specifically a Royal Rumble-style match. There were some wrestlers in that bout who did not have much two do with TNA afterwards. One of those was Del Rios who had previously been the wrestling magician Spellbinder in the USWA and Phantasio in the WWF. After TNA, he became part of a tag team called Shock and Awe in Memphis Wrestling in the early 2000s and has not wrestled regularly since 2005. Former WCW Tag Team Champion Lash Leroux also popped up in the rumble. He wrestled on indies through 2006, including three appearances on TNA’s syndicated show Xplosion in 2004 ad a handful of matches in the WWE developmental territory DSW in 2005. Last anyone heard of LeRoux, he was working as a youth minister in Alabama. Devon Storm, a.k.a. Crowbar in WCW, has continued as an active wrestler to this very day. He has made occasional shots for TNA and ROH over the years and appeared on an episode of AEW Dark: Elevation last year. However, he makes most of his money as a physical therapist. Finally, the Vampire Warrior, better known as Gangrel, was in the match and has remained consistently involved in indy wrestling ever since, including some recent AEW cameos of his own.

Six men on the show are currently employed by WWE. AJ Styles and R-Truth (or K-Krush as he was known at the time) are still active in-ring competitors, while Jeff Jarrett recently took a job with the E working on promotion of their live events. Steve Corino and Prince Justice, who were in the battle royale on the first pay per view, also work behind the scenes, with Corino being a trainer and television producer for NXT and Justice being a main roster agent. Oh, by the way, Prince Justice later went on to be known as Abyss. Finally, Norman Smiley has been a trainer in the WWE developmental system for many, may years, including right now in NXT.

While five individuals are on the WWE payroll, only one works for AEW, and that’s Jerry Lynn, who is an agent for the company after his lengthy career working for just about every major promotion that’s existed since his debut.

One half of the Dupp brothers in TNA, Stan Dupp is currently the NWA World Heavyweight Champion under his better known moniker of Trevor Murdoch. The other half of that tag team, Bo Dupp consistently worked on the independent circuit, particularly in the Carolinas, on a regular basis until October 2019. He mostly used the name Otto Schwanz, which he also wrestled under for a few years before landing the Dupp gimmick. He had what appears to have been a one-off match in 2021, though I’m not seeing record of anything since then.

Low Ki continues on as an active professional wrestler to this day, though most of the shows he appears on go under the radar. The most recent promotion of note that he has been associated with is MLW.

There was a match involving two little people on the show, and they proved a bit difficult to keep tabs on. One of them, Hollywood, appears to have wrestled under a variety of gimmicks in Memphis for a few years prior to TNA, but I’m only finding one match listing for him after appearing on the weekly PPV, and that was in 2004. The other, TEO has a bit of a higher profile, as he was part of the Half-Pint Brawlers TV show that aired on Spike TV in 2010, and I found video of him competing in amateur boxing matches for the Barstool Sports-owned Rough n’ Rowdy promotion as recently as last year. A big part of the reason that there’s not much information out there about these guys’ wrestling careers is that a lot of little people wrestling is promoted and covered more like a special attraction at a bar or other event as opposed to a regular wrestling show, so there aren’t often results to come by.

Lenny Lane was one-half of early TNA tag team the Rainbow Express. He kept wrestling on indies somewhat regularly through 2013 but then retired aside from a one-off appearance in a battle royale in North Carolina in 2019. He also ran a business for a period of time in which he would take a wrestling ring to children’s birthday parties, set it up in the backyard, and let kids play around in it. Lenny’s Rainbow Express partner Bruce, who was better known as Alan Funk and Kwee Wee in WCW, has been out of wrestling since 2011 His notable post-TNA work included a run in All Japan as the Funkster, a Hulk Hogan parody gimmick, and in the short-lived Lucha Libre USA promotion as Chi Chi, a cross-dressing wrestler – a cross-dressler, if you will.

One of TNA’s most infamous gimmicks, the masked Johnsons tag team, were twins Mike and Todd Shane, who were longtime Florida indy wrestlers. After TNA, they went back to the indies, then were picked up by WWE in 2006 and lasted until 2007, wrestling as the Gymini alongside Simon Dean. After their WWE release, they did some work in Puerto Rico but ultimately stopped wrestling full-time in 2009. They’ve wrestled a couple of one-off matches in the years since but remain largely out of the game.

Let’s keep going with tag teams. The first-ever TNA match featured the Flying Elvises of Sonny Siaki, Jimmy Yang, and Jorge Estrada. Estrada has not wrestled since 2003, so he did not last long at all after TNA was done with him. Siaki stayed with TNA until 2005, at which point he was picked up by WWE and worked under a developmental deal for a couple of years, mostly in Deep South Wrestling. After being cut by the E, he wrestled for two more years before retiring in 2009 due to his decision to donate a kidney to his brother. Yang, owing to a friendship with Kaz Hayashi that he formed in his WCW days, wrestled regularly in All Japan Pro Wrestling before and immediately after his TNA appearances. In 2003, he signed with WWE and lasted until 2005, when he was cut and went to Ring of Honor. He returned to WWE as Jimmy Wang Yang between 2006 and 2010, after which he went back to AJPW and did some indies until 2013. It looked like he was going to retire after that, but he’s been back in the ring in 2021 and 2022 to form a tag team with his daughter Jazzy Yang as he seeks to jumpstart her career.

Christian York and Joey Matthews were also an early TNA tag team. They were competing in Ring of Honor around the same time as the first TNA show, and Matthews started to focus more on ROH, joining their Special K stable. Eventually he would join WWE, where he became better known as Joey Mercury of MNM and later J&J Security in addition to working as an agent for the company. He was released by WWE in January 2017 and wrestled on independents for a year-and-a-half before stepping away from the ring altogether. York, meanwhile, largely remained an independent guy with an occasional WWE appearance as enhancement talent, though he did have another run in TNA in 2012 and 2013, mostly competing in the X Division. He also had his final matches in 2018.

There were two guys on the first TNA shows who appeared to be pure enhancement talent. One was Frank Parker who had the ignominious distinction of wrestling Cheex (more on him later). Parker was a long-time indy wrestler who appeared on cards in Tennessee, the Virginias, and the Carolinas from 1994 to 2016, though he has not done anything more recently than that. The other is David Young, who actually went on to become somewhat of a name wrestler for TNA, though usually on the lower end of the card. Young’s last appearances as a TNA regular were in 2006, and he kept active on indies regularly until 2019. Most recently, he showed up for a nostalgia spot in the reverse battle royale held on the pre-show of 2022’s TNA Slammiversary.

Freshly minted WWE Hall of Famer Rick Steiner was mostly working for New Japan when he appeared on the first TNA pay per view, and he wrestled regularly there in 2002 and 2003 before jumping ship to Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2004 and 2005. He had a series of matches for TNA again in 2007 and was essentially an indy wrestler after that aside from some one-offs in major promotions in Japan. His last match was in the fall of 2019, and, of course, he has recently made some WWE appearances to help his son Bronson at the outside of his wrestling career.

Chris Harris and James Storm were both on that first card, defeating the Rainbow Express in a match taped for the second PPV. Their careers after that are fairly well-documented, with Harris having his last appearances as a TNA regular in 2007 and moving into his disastrous Braden Walker run in WWE. From there it was back to the indies, though he did a couple of appearances for TNA in 2011. He stopped wrestling regularly in 2018 but was on this year’s TNA Slammiversary show. Storm, meanwhile, was a TNA fixture until 2017. He’s essentially been a free agent since then, though he’s had noteworthy appearances with NXT, ROH, and the revived NWA before showing up in TNA again in 2020 and then again earlier this year.

James Storm’s first tag partner in TNA wasn’t Chris Harris, though. On the first PPV, he teamed with Psicosis. For most of his career after the initial TNA show, Psicosis has worked in Mexico, bouncing around between CMLL, AAA, and indy shows in Monterrey. This was broken up by his 2005-2006 WWE run as part of the Mexicools. Since 2015, he has not been seen as much in the larger lucha libre promotions, but he has continued to work independents. He has only wrestled sporadically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

Psicosis’s old running buddy Konnan was an in-ring regular for TNA through 2006, after which he began managing LAX. At the same time he was doing this, he was also working for AAA in Mexico and that is where he worked primarily after his time to TNA came to an end. In fact, he has remained involved in that promotion in non-wrestling roles to this day.

Slash had been a fixture on the Tennessee wrestling scene for almost a decade before TNA started up, mostly under the name Wolfie D. with the tag team of PG-13. He was part of the Disciples of the New Church stable in TNA through March 2004, at which point in time he went back to the same Tennessee indies that he had been on before, briefly continuing the Slash gimmick but eventually reverting to Wolfie D. and wrestling most of his matches under that name. His full-time career appears to have ended in 2016, though he, like some others on this list, showed up in a small role on the 2022 TNA Slammiversary show.

The career of Gran Apolo began in 1999 in his homeland of Puerto Rico, where he competed exclusively until getting a chance with TNA in 2002. He wrestled for the company in June and July of that year before returning to Puerto Rico for a spell. He resurfaced in TNA in 2004, initially being called El Leon but eventually reverting to the Apolo name. He disappeared again after an April 2004 TNA weekly PPV and came back in March 2005. That was his last run in TNA, which ended in January 2006, after which he wrestled for both IWA Puerto Rico (where his career began) and the other major wrestling promotion on the island, WWC. He was briefly under a WWE developmental deal from winter 2007 through spring 2008, and he continued to wrestle primarily on the mainland U.S. from 2008 through 2011. In 2012, he returned to WWC, which remained his home promotion through 2015. After that, he started globetrotting a bit, doing tours with different promotions in Chile, Mexico (with AAA), Peru, Qatar, Austria, and Germany. He has been active not that long ago, as I’ve seen records of him wrestling on Mexican indies as recently as February 2022.

Buff Bagwell was another one of the many former WCW stars seeking to find new success in the early days of TNA. However, his time there was fairly short-lived, coming to an end in 2003 aside from appearing on a couple of house shows in 2006. From that point on, Bagwell has wrestled mostly on under the radar independent cards with regular appearances coming to an end around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, though on April 1 of this year he did return to the ring for the first time since 2020 for a battle royale on a Game Changer Wrestling show. I should also note that, in 2014, he appeared on the Showtime reality TV show Gigolos, which documented the lives of male sex workers. Though news stories at the time reported on Buff having actually become a gigolo, in a tweet in March of this year, he stated it was “only for a TV show.” He also voiced support for sex workers generally.

The first NWA World Heavyweight Champion of the TNA era was Ken Shamrock, who captured the belt in the main event of the company’s first PPV. He was done with the company about two months later, and, between 2004 and 2018, he wrestled only seven matches. He had significantly more MMA fights during the same period of time, doing shows for UFC, Pride, and Bellator among others, though his record was not great during those years. In 2019, he wrestled on several shows for an Australian independent group, which included a bout with longtime rival Dan Severn. The same year, he returned to TNA for a run that concluded in January 2021 – which as of this writing is his last professional wrestling match.

And we’re going to concluded this obscenely long answer with perhaps the biggest name that was involved in that first TNA taping . . .

Cheex. At the time of his one and only TNA match, the 500-pounder had only been in wrestling for a few months. Though TNA did not invite him back, he did continue wrestling on independents in Virginia and West Virginia under the names Rolling Thunder and Mike Staples. Records of him competing peter out towards the end of 2016, though I did stumble across a Facebook post from ACW, one of the groups he regularly wrestled for, which reported that he had to have reconstructive surgery on his ankle in 2020. That, combined with his large size, leads me to believe that he’s probably not getting into the ring these days.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.

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Ask 411 Wrestling, TNA, Ryan Byers