wrestling / Columns

Top 7 TNA Wrestlers That Went To WWE

June 3, 2024 | Posted by Steve Cook
Impact Wrestling Mickie James Image Credit: Impact Wrestling

This is the time of year when everybody’s talking about the forbidden door between All Elite Wrestling & New Japan Pro Wrestling opening and allowing all of their wrestlers to interact. That’s all well & good, but it merits mentioning that AEW & New Japan aren’t the only promotions crossing over these days. WWE NXT recently saw one of TNA Wrestling’s top wrestlers make an appearance.

I’m old enough to remember when mentioning TNA on WWE television was a clear no-no. Now they’ve got TNA champions appearing on TV with their championships. It’s pretty wild stuff, but it’s also a partnership where everybody wins. TNA gets more attention, and WWE gets to use TNA’s talent. I don’t want to jump to conclusions and say this angle with Jordynne Grace is a sign that more TNA contracted wrestlers will appear on WWE television…but one can hope, right?

Plenty of wrestlers currently with WWE now have spent some time in TNA. Some at or near the beginning of their careers, others towards the end. Today, we look at the most magnificent TNA wrestlers to go to WWE sometime after their TNA stint ended.

7. Zelina Vega

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over thirteen years since Zelina started appearing in TNA as Rosita. Rosita was the storyline cousin of Sarita, and they teamed to win the Knockouts Tag Team Championship as part of the Mexican America faction. No, Rosita wasn’t from Mexico, but TNA wasn’t especially worried about such things.

Zelina was a pretty decent wrestler for her level of experience at the time, so it was a little surprising that WWE initally brought her in as a manager years after her departure from TNA. She eventually got her chance to shine in the ring, and is currently part of another Latino faction, the LWO. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

6. LA Knight

People like to say that LA Knight is nothing more than a knockoff of Steve Austin & The Rock. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I’ve seen him do basically the same promo for about a decade now. I’ve also seen him get over with that promo wherever he’s gone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. YEAH!

Before the name LA Knight formed three syllables, the name Eli Drake did the same exact thing. Eli debuted in Impact Wrestling as part of The Rising alongside Drew Galloway & Micah, who you may know under the names of Drew McIntyre & Tonga Loa in WWE. That didn’t last too long and Drake ended up being a despicable heel that happened to have a ton of charisma and some good catchphrases. Drake won the World Championship & held it for 146 days. He also teamed with Scott Steiner to win the Tag Team Championship. Drake had a very productive two years with Impact before moving on to the NWA, then eventually WWE.

5. Bobby Roode

Roode worked a pretty large number of dark/B show matches for WWE before making his way to TNA in 2004 and joining Team Canada. He established himself as one of the company’s top tag team wrestlers early on as part of Team Canada and then Beer Money Inc. After multiple runs as Tag Team Champion, Roode got the big singles push and a couple of reigns as the World Champion. I always thought Roode would be a guy WWE would want because his in-ring style reminded me of Val Venis. Val was used for years by WWE as the guy that would wrestle the young prospects and see if they had something worth investing in, and I thought Roode would work in that role as well.

After ten years with TNA/Impact, Roode made the move to NXT and became their top singles champion for several months before moving to the WWE roster. While Roode might not have found the same level of in-ring success in WWE that he did in TNA, he still had a solid run there and became a producer after injury hastened his retirement. He also got a memorable theme song that the Nashville Predators still use during their postgame ceremonies today, which is kinda fitting since TNA’s homebase was in Nashville for many years.

4. Samoa Joe

Samoa Joe has worked for every 21st century wrestling promotion of note. I first saw him in Ring of Honor, and still tend to associate him with that company more than any other. However, Joe actually spent more time with and wrestled more matches for TNA than any other federation. From 2005 to 2015, Joe was pretty much unstoppable in TNA, winning almost every championship available to him. There were definitely some weak points for Joe during his time with TNA, but I’ve successfully managed to push most of them out of my head.

Joe would arrive in NXT not long after leaving TNA, and after winning the NXT Championship twice would move to the main roster. His WWE run wasn’t exactly what everybody hoped for, but in fairness Joe had a lot of miles on his tires at that point. Joe did have some memorable moments in WWE, though not as many as he had in other promotions.

3. Xavier Woods

Xavier started out in TNA as Consequences Creed, a persona that mostly consisted of him dressing and acting like Apollo Creed. Hey, if you’re going to rip somebody’s persona off lock, stock & barrel, it might as well be Apollo Creed. That guy ruled! Creed formed the tag teams of Truth & Consequences and Lethal Consequences with Ron Killings & Jay Lethal respectively during his time there, and moved on to WWE’s FCW developmental territory after about two and a half years.

Woods would find fame as part of The New Day, as his trend of forming solid tag teams continued in WWE. He’s open to returning to TNA, as he stated on social media that he’d like to win their tag team championship with Kofi Kingston and do a song with Joe Hendry. Understandable goals.

2. Mickie James

Mickie made some waves in the indies during the early 2000s under the name Alexis Laree. She arrived in TNA and became part of the Gathering, Raven’s faction of minions. Other members were Julio Dinero and a guy named CM Punk that would get on WWE’s radar years later. Alexis got on WWE’s radar right away, as she got signed and sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling after a few months with the Gathering.

After a highly successful stint with WWE during the 2000s where she was one of the top stars of the women’s division, Mickie would return to TNA in late 2010 and become a multi-time Knockouts Champion. Mickie has made returns to WWE & TNA in subsequent years, with her most recent WWE appearance coming at the 2022 Royal Rumble…appearing with the Knockouts Championship that she held at the time. Mickie has blazed a trail between TNA & WWE for others like Jordynne Grace to follow.

Honorable Mention: R-Truth

Ron Killings was in the World Wrestling Federation before he joined TNA in its earliest days. To be perfectly honest, not many people remembered a heck of a lot about K-Kwik, Killings’ persona while he teamed with Road Dogg and competed in the Hardcore division during 2000-01. We knew K-Kwik could rap, and he was a decent enough wrestler, but it was never easier to get lost in the WWF shuffle than it was during that period. There was way too much going on, too many people coming in and out for a new wrestler that still needed some seasoning to get noticed.

In TNA, “The Truth” set Ron Killings free. Killings came in as a heel, but he wasn’t saying anything that was a lie. He became the first Black NWA World Champion early in TNA’s history, and was a staple of that company for the next several years before going back to WWE in 2008. In that time, R-Truth has gone through everything from comic relief to a main event heel run to countless reigns as the 24/7 Champion. He’s remained popular with the fans through it all, and finally got his first WrestleMania victory this year. Killings’ time in TNA helped him develop into a performer that could still be in WWE rings ten years from now. Dude hasn’t aged a day since 2002!

1. AJ Styles

He hasn’t been with TNA since 2013, but I can’t think of too many other wrestlers more closely associated to the company’s name than AJ Styles. Styles was one of TNA’s top performers from day one, winning every championship available to him on multiple occasions. While TNA brought in & featured countless wrestlers with names established in WWE, Styles was the one guy they could truly say was a homegrown star. A good chunk of TNA’s legacy when it’s all said & done will be the career of AJ Styles.

There was always the question of if AJ could make it big in WWE. Those of us who had watched him closely since 2002 didn’t have much doubt that his in-ring would translate but there was some concern about his charisma, or lack thereof. Early AJ Styles definitely had a rough time on the microphone, but in recent years he’s developed into a competent personality that can hold his own with WWE’s best stickmen. He says he has a lot left in the tank, so there’s a chance his time with WWE could end up longer than his TNA career.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up at [email protected] or on the social media with thoughts, comments or suggestions. Feel free to hit the comment section and tell us about whoever I forgot to mention. Until next time, true believers!

article topics :

TNA, WWE, Steve Cook