10 TNA Wrestlers Who Got to Keep Their Name/Gimmick When Joining WWE
10. Sting, alright let’s get the most obvious one, out right away. I’m only including him in the list this early because he was already Sting before joining TNA as he made his career in WCW. Sting officially joined TNA in 2003 but signed on full time in 2005. During his near 10-year journey with TNA Sting managed to capture the TNA World Heavyweight Championship 4 times, & the TNA World Tag Team Championship once with Kurt Angel as his partner. During his tenure in in WCW & TNA, Sting was referred to as “The Icon” a gimmick that WWE refused to mention as they did not come up with gimmick themselves. WWE referred to Sting as “The Vigilante” when he officially joined the WWE in 2014. Unfortunately, his WWE career was not as successful as his time in WCW or TNA due to his injury he suffered in a match with Seth Rollins forcing his early retirement.
9. EC3, when the news first broke out that EC3 would leave Impact Wrestling (TNA) and possibly join WWE NXT we didn’t know if he would suffer a name change? Having been in WWE NXT before as Dereck Bateman, the question on everyone’s mind was, would he go back to using that name? I know that I can speak for the majority of us when I say this, when EC3 showed up and appeared earlier this year on NXT Takeover Philly, we were all shocked with he was mentioned as EC3, effectively keeping his Impact Wrestling name. It’s too early to see what else from his Impact Wrestling days will stay with him in his second run in NXT. Will he be referred to as Ethan Carter the Third? Or will he be just simply EC3 with no meaning or backstory to it? Maybe his rich aunt Dixie will come along and join him?
8. James Storm, officially dawning the name James Storm while working for WCW in the year 2000 as enhancement talent, mostly on WCW Worldwide & WCW Saturday Night. Storm never was picked up to go and work for the WWE when WCW folded, instead he worked the indies and later in TNA. Working the first ever TNA show, Storm is truly a TNA original. Having won many championships during his 15-year period with TNA. Storm managed to capture a total of 16 championships during his official time with the company. During a brief time during his tenure with TNA, Storm made it over to WWE NXT in 2015 with his name and cowboy gimmick still in place. Storm would have been higher on this list if it wasn’t for his short run in NXT. Now that he is officially gone from Impact Wrestling, will Storm return to NXT? Only time will tell.
7. Eric Young, another wrestler who you would expect to see on this list and another reason why he’s a bit higher in this rating is because he technically wrestled on WWE programming first, on 3 separate occasions (mostly Sunday Night Heat & Velocity) before officially becoming a “TNA original”. During his brief run as let’s face it a jobber in the WWE he was mentioned as “Showtime” Eric Young before he again briefly used it in TNA. Nonetheless Eric Young became a star in TNA, eventually becoming a 1 time TNA World Heavyweight Champion in 2013. Eric Young returning to the WWE again as Eric Young just goes to prove that TNA built this star as he did not suffer a name change, because let’s face it no one remembers his first run in the WWE.
6. Austin Aries, originally getting started at the same time working both ROH & TNA. Aries being an accomplished world champion in every promotion he’s worked for (2 time ROH and TNA World Heavyweight Champion, 1 time NXT Champion) owes a lot of his success to his career during his run in TNA. Aries getting his first success as an X-Division star, later when transitioning to WWE he would be a major player in the Cruiserweight division (WWE’s attempt at the X-Division). In both WWE & TNA Aries was referred to as “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” something that really shocks true wrestling fans as again wasn’t a WWE creation. Unfortunately, Austin Aries time in the WWE was brief as he requested his early release from the company in July of 2017.
5. Bobby Roode, another superstar who technically wrestled in the WWE for a brief time before making to TNA under the name Bobby Roode. Making his first appearance in the WWE using his real name Robert Roode and also spelled as Bobby Rood with no “E” at the end mostly had matches on Sunday Night Heat & Velocity) before ultimately joining TNA in 2004. While in TNA Roode found lots of success early on as a tag team champion winning a total of 8 title runs as a tag team including 2 NWA Tag Team reigns with Eric Young, 6 TNA Tag Team Reigns 5 of which were with James Storm & 1 out of those 6 TNA Tag Team runs with Austin Aries. Roode would soon find success in the main event title picture becoming a 2 time TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Before dawning, his glorious gimmick which is now his gimmick in the WWE. He first came out with robe and extravagant entrance while in TNA working a long side Ric Flair. Again, when debuting on WWE programming after having a successful career in TNA Bobby Roode kept his name and is already solidifying his legacy already being a former NXT Champion and is the current United States Champion now that he’s on the main roster.
4. Samoa Joe, ask anyone watching WWE 5 years ago that a TNA guy who would join the WWE would be allowed to keep his name and gimmick and you laughed your ass off as WWE wouldn’t bring anyone in under their previous name. Especially someone who made their name working for TNA but, Samoa Joe is that guy in the modern era to do just that. Samoa Joe just like most of the wrestlers who are on this list also briefly worked for the WWE before he became a well-known star. Joe mainly worked Sunday Night Heat as well as Velocity. Fun fact Samoa even trained at the same wrestling school in California where John Cena had his start in. (Ultimate University AKA Ultimate Pro Wrestling) Joe went on to work ROH and then TNA where he found his most success. Samoa Joe from the start received a monster push and became known as the Samoan Submission Machine having a long undefeated streak. Samoa Joe was the first to face off against Kurt Angle who at the time was TNA’s biggest star to jump over from the WWE.
Joe went off to win multiple championships during his time with TNA. Winning every major championship within the company. Joe also has the bragging rights of being involved in TNA’s only 5-star match at Unbreakable 2005 featuring Samoa Joe, vs AJ Styles, vs Christopher Daniels for the X-Division Championship. When Samoa Joe finally showed up at NXT to everyone’s surprise he was still Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe being the first modern TNA Wrestler on this list to make the jump over to the WWE proved to be a successful move for him to make. Quickly becoming a legitimate badass just like his early days in TNA, Joe was able to capture the NXT Championship before ultimately making the jump to the main roster where he was found great success and matches with the likes of Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, & Braun Strowman just to name a few. Although he’s only been on the main roster since 2016 an injury has set back his full potential and I can say with lots of confidence that Samoa Joe is destined for great success.
3. Ron The Truth Killings, working for the WWE as both K-Krush & K-Kwik, he really never had his moment to shine, mainly being used in a tag team with Road Dogg or even having several singles matches, it wasn’t until he left the WWE and went over to TNA where he quickly rose to the top. Joining the newly formed TNA as “Ron The Truth Killings” it wasn’t long before Ron Killings solidified his legacy in pro wrestling when he became the NWA World Heavyweight Champion after defeating Ken Shamrock at an NWA-TNA event on August 7th, thus becoming the first-ever, and to date only, recognized African-American NWA World Heavyweight Champion in history. Shortly after winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship Ron Killings lost his title to Jeff Jarrett with the help from Vince Russo. Ron Killings would later go on to form a tag team known as “3Live Kru” with B.G. James AKA Road Dogg & Konnan.
Following the breakup of “3Live Kru” Ron Killings again tried his luck for the World Heavyweight Championship ultimately failing and shortly thereafter asked and was granted his release. Now re-debuting with the WWE in 2008 as R-Truth (A shortened name from his TNA run as “Ron The Truth Killings” the now R-Truth even debuted using his old TNA theme although now a more polished version but nonetheless the same theme song. R-Truth was one of the first to take a character who was made in TNA to come over to the WWE and start using the gimmick again. However, coming very close in the WWE in one night having a shot at the WWE Championship, he never won and he did not become successful as he once was during his time in TNA. R-Truth goes to show that a popular gimmick can come to the WWE.
2. Broken Hardy’s, now don’t get me wrong the Hardy Boyz became the Hardy Boyz in the WWE. Having made their mark in pro wrestling history during the attitude era. After leaving and then joining TNA the Hardy Boyz became the Broken Hardy’s. Matt Hardy started to go mad after losing his TNA World Heavyweight Championship to Drew Galloway. After losing his title Matt Hardy had a feud with his brother Jeff Hardy leading up to an “I Quit” match which ended in a no contest as both were badly injured which led to Matt Hardy being stretchered out. When Matt Hardy returned he had revealed himself as one of the imposter “Willow’s” who attacked Jeff Hardy. In the following weeks, Matt Hardy debuted a new persona as a “Broken” man with part of his hair bleached blonde along with a strange sophisticated accent, blaming Jeff who he now referred to as Brother Nero for breaking him and becoming obsessed with “Deleting” him. From there the popularity of the Broken Hardy’s exploded and really was the wrestling buzz of 2016 and also leading into early 2017.
The Broken Hardy segments produced some of the highest ratings for TNA while on their new network POP TV. The Broken Hardy’s while in TNA had “The Final Deletion” with Matt going against Jeff Hardy, “Delete or Decay” which was a feud with The Decay “Abyss, Rosemary, & Crazy Steve”, “Total Non-Stop Deletion” and before returning to the WWE they teased “A Great War” which during the time Total Non-Stop Deletion was going on The Broken Hardy challenged any team from time and space, calling for several public feuds which were directed towards ROH’s “The Young Bucks”, & WWE’s “The New Day” & “The Wyatt Family”. When it was announced that the Broken Hardy’s were not going to resign with TNA. The Hardy’s returned to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Now in a legal battle between The Hardy Boyz and Impact Wrestling over ownership of the Broken Universe, all The Hardy Boyz could do is tease and make their “Broken Mannerisms” without being 100% in character of their previous gimmick.
Now The Hardy Boyz wouldn’t have been on this list at all had it not been for the recent turn of events which led to a settlement with the new owners of TNA now Impact Wrestling which gave the wrestlers permission to use any Intellectual property used while working with TNA whether it be from the past or for future characters created while working for the company. The Hardy Boyz once again became “The Broken Hardy’s” while in the WWE. This is the first time in a long time that a full gimmick is now being used on WWE programming which came from another wrestling organization. Broken Matt Hardy just had a “Final Deletion” type match against Bray Wyatt. What really makes this special is that all the elements from their original TNA run was present here, we saw Senor Benjamin, Brother Nero, Vanguard One, along with Reby Hardy & King Maxell. WWE did the unthinkable by letting a full-fledged TNA creation crossover into the WWE Universe. Now with this great start and great success let’s see how else The Broken Hardy’s will continue to change the wrestling business.
1. AJ Styles, probably the most successful TNA original on this list who made it to the WWE. AJ Styles had his start in WCW in 2001, when WCW folded the WWE had made AJ Styles an offer for a developmental contract he ultimately chose not to as he didn’t want his family to move to another state. AJ would soon go to the independent wrestling scene and would join the now defunct World Wrestling All-Stars. This ended up being the perfect route for him to take as it led to his start with TNA. Working the first ever TNA show in company history. He became widely known for his tenure in TNA from 2002 – 2013, where he was dubbed “Mr. TNA”. While in TNA, Styles held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship 3 times and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice. He was also the inaugural X-Division Champion, which he held a total of 6 times. AJ Styles is the first professional wrestler ever to complete the TNA Triple Crown a total of 5 times and the TNA Grand Slam 2 times. In 2010, Styles became the first ever TNA wrestler to be ranked number one on the annual Pro Wrestling Illustrated “PWI 500 List”. AJ Styles also simultaneously appeared in ROH from 2002-2006, where he became the first ROH Pure Champion.
After all his success and long tenure in TNA, in 2013 he left TNA after not coming to terms on a new contract deal, citing pay issues. The unthinkable happened AJ Styles left TNA and went to the independents before signing with NJPW in 2014. While with NJPW he would go on to winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his debut match with the company, he would later become the leader of the Bullet Club a popular faction originally formed by Prince Devitt now known as Finn Balor in the WWE. After a brief and successful run in NJPW AJ Styles would headline Wrestle Kingdom 10 in a match against Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in a losing effort. Soon after this match it was confirmed that AJ Styles would soon be making his debut for the WWE but no one knew when that would be. There were early rumors that his debut would be at the 2016 Royal Rumble but nothing was set in stone as TNA was also trying to get AJ Styles, Doc Gallows, & Karl Anderson to come into TNA for their debut on Destination America as The Bullet Club. AJ Styles would eventually make his WWE debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble, in a historic debut as it was also for the WWE Championship. The WWE Championship was put on the line, the current champion at the time was Roman Reigns and he was defending it in the 30-man Royal Rumble match, a match that Triple H ended up winning.
Although he did not end up winning the Royal Rumble the simple fact that his debut match for the WWE was technically for the WWE Championship which goes to shows how much of a made star he was in TNA and the simple fact that he was also referred to as “The Phenomenal AJ Styles” a name he was first given while in TNA, was also being used in the WWE. AJ Styles was definitely a house hold name before joining the WWE, largely due to TNA’s TV deal that they had on SPIKE TV. AJ Styles would go on to make his Wrestlemania debut in a match against Chris Jericho, although he did not win AJ Styles quickly became a fan favorite and was eventually crowned the new WWE Championship in a match against Dean Ambrose at Backlash in 2016. During AJ Styles' early career, we finally got to see a dream match of AJ Styles vs John Cena. This has been the closest we have ever been to a TNA vs WWE match as AJ Styles is considered Mr. TNA and John Cena is Mr. WWE. The two would later have a WWE Championship match at the 2017 Royal Rumble match were John Cena ended up victorious. AJ Styles would later win the WWE United States Championship and as well as a second title reign as the WWE Championship. AJ Styles made his legacy in TNA and is now creating a new legacy in the WWE. It just goes to show you that the cream always rises to the top! And for those reasons why, that is why AJ Styles tops the list as the 10 TNA wrestlers who got to keep their name/gimmick when joing the WWE.
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