Saturday, 27 June 2015

13 Top Performers from 13 Years of TNA Wrestling

Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling is now 13 years old and will be celebrating their milestone with a special week of shows, including a live Impact Wrestling broadcast on the 24th June (aired 28th June on Challenge in the UK), the Slammiversary PPV on the 28th June (aired for free LIVE on Challenge in the UK) and Bell to Bell Special on 1st July featuring Kurt Angle defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Ethan Carter III (aired 5th July in the UK)

We here at Across the Pond Wrestling wanted to celebrate the very best of TNA, by looking at those performers who have put in highest quality matches for the company across the 13 years. Ordered by those deemed to have put in the most matches of a certain quality, this list gives the best of the best that have plied their trade in the company. Let us know if you agree with the list by contacting us on Twitter @ATPWrestling or our Facebook page here.

For those wondering those who narrowly missing out include The Motor City Machineguns, Jeff Hardy, Jerry Lynn, Rhino, Alex Shelley, Low Ki, Abyss and Petey Williams.


Jeff Jarrett

It would feel almost wrong not to include the founder of the group on this list, but he's found his way onto this list on his own merit inside the ring. With memorable bouts across his nine year run with the company, Jarrett's strongest run of matches may have come at the end of his time there. 2011 proved to be creatively fruitful for Jarrett, who produced three standout matches opposite rival, Kurt Angle. Fuelled by real-life issues between the two, Jarrett and Angle put together compelling bouts at Against All Odds, Lockdown and Slammiversary. Despite this impressive run of bouts, their strongest match and maybe the best of Jarrett's entire career may have come two years prior, when the two met in a No Disqualifcation match at Genesis, in an intense contest that shone the way for matches of the type in 2009. 


Jay Lethal

A staple of the X Division between 2006 and early 2011, Jay Lethal's Black Machismo character might be the thing his TNA run is most often remember for, by the current ROH World Champion had his fair share of quality matches within a TNA, hence him finding his way onto this list. Lethal played his part in a number of the X-Divisions famed multi-man matches, like the first and only X Division King of the Moutain bout at Slammiversary 2009 and a three way bout with Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt at Sacrifice 2007, Lethal showed skill beyond his years in singles outings against the likes of Sonjay Dutt, Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles. Lethal was just 26 years old when he departed TNA, so this begs the question as to how far he could have ended up in the list if TNA had stuck with him, those currently watching Ring of Honor's product will know what the Black Machismo has become.


Team 3D

The only tag team to make the top thirteen, Brother Devon and Brother Ray (later Bully Ray) arrived in TNA in 2005 and continued to put on their own brand of exciting brawling for the next nine years with the company (with a four year hiatus from teaming). Helped along by a strong tag team division that became a calling card for TNA between 2007-2009, the likes of LAX, The Motor City Machineguns, Beer Money and The British Invasion provided the pair with strong opponent in both conventional tag team action and multi-team action. It was however, the resurgence of the team in 2014 that provided them with their strongest TNA bouts in a superb series of bouts with old rivals The Hardy Boyz and The Wolves that became a highlight of TNA programming throughout the summer. 


Sonjay Dutt

Perhaps a surprising inclusion at this place on the list for many, Sonjay Dutt proved to be one of the most consistent competitors in the X Division without ever being rewarded with a run with the belt. Dutt's participation in numerous stand-out multi man bouts throughout his TNA run (2003-2009, 2012-2013) would show up as the main for him finding himself here. A four way contest with Chris Sabin, Petey Williams and Puma at Destination X 2006 typified what the X-Division should have been, with plenty of Indy-style spots and dives, an all round fun match for any viewer. Dutt showed real chemistry in a 2007 feud with Jay Lethal, producing his best singles outings for the company, in a division that was often too over crowded in this period to spot light one on one feuds.

Dutt still works One Night Only tapings for the company and can has been most often seen in Pennsylvannia performing for Renegade Wrestling Alliance this year.


Bobby Roode

Part of two succesful tag team who were both close to making this list on their own right, Bobby Roode has come into his own as a single competitor since breaking from James Storm in Beer Money Inc. in 2011. In fact, there's not many who have had better years in wrestling than Bobby Roode in 2012. Growing into his World Heavyweight Championship run, Roode blosomed in the spotlight. A superbly crafted contest with Austin Aries may have seen The IT Factor drop the title, but was also the strongest bout of his title run and arguably his best singles match to date.

Growing into one of the strongest performers around today, expect to see Roode jump higher up the list in the next few years, as he continues to put on stellar contests with the likes of Eric Young and Lashley. 


Christian Cage

At the time of his debut, Christian Cage was the biggest name to jump from WWE to TNA in 2005. With two strong NWA World Heavyweight Championship runs in 2006 and 2007, Cage put together an impressive resume in TNA that see's him placed at Number 8 on the list, despite only spending three years with the company. 2007 was an especially strong year for the Instant Classic. Two superb bouts with Samoa Joe, first at Destination X and then Bound For Glory, as well as participating in a stand-out King of the Mountain match that also included Joe, AJ Styles, Chris Harris and Kurt Angle at Slammiversary. His strongest match of the year and perhaps the strongest of his entire TNA career was also a Ladder match against the up and coming Kaz in the final of the Fight for the Right tournament at Genesis, telling a great story as Cage bought out the best in the younger man.

Currently back with WWE, simply by the name Christian, it would appear that Cage's wrestling days are over, but he was still able to pick up two ECW Heavyweight Championships, two World Heavyweight Championships and an Intercontinetal title since returning in 2009.


Austin Aries

Whilst his first run with TNA would witness Aries taking part in a number of strong multi-man X Division contests, it was his return to the company in 2011 that saw him really find his groove for the company and shoot up to 7th place on this list. His push to the World Heavyweight Championship in 2012 was perhaps the most natural of any in recent years, as Aries gained a ground swell of support, helped along with by delivering in big matches against the likes of Brian Kendrick, Alex Shelley, Samoa Joe and Bully Ray, before culminating with the previously mentioned classic bout with Bobby Roode at Destination X. As shown in the above list of opponents, "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" has shown a real diversity since returning to TNA, proving to be one of the companies most reliable performers, excelling in almost any role he has been tasked with.

Currently engaged in Best of Five Tag Team Series alongside former rival Bobby Roode against The Wolves, Aries is still putting in strong solo performances, most notably a stellar World Heavyweight title bout with Kurt Angle a few weeks ago.


Frankie Kazarian

Frankie Kazarian maybe one of the most underrated performers in the history of TNA, with a lot of his strongest matches almost slipping under the radar when most will talk about the greatest matches in company history. A superb tag bouts with Christopher Daniels (before officially becoming Bad Influence) against Kurt Angle and AJ Styles from Slammiversary X and No Surrender 2012, a Ladder match with Christian Cage from Genesis 2007, one of the strongest openers you'll see against Angle from Slammiversary VIII and a stand out X-Division contest against Petey Williams at Slammiversary 2008. Throw in multi-man gimmick matches like King of the Moutain, Ultimate X and X Division Gauntlet's and you can see why Kazarian made it so high up this list.

Currently plying his trade in Ring of Honor, Kazarian is still tearing it up as part of Bad Influence, newly christened The Addiction, whilst also putting on a stand-out solo bout against Michael Elgin at Supercard of Honor IX in March this year.


Chris Sabin

Despite the picture, it's probably wise to skip talking about Sabin's much maligned World Heavyweight Championship reign and remember a time when Sabin was ripping it up in the X Division. Sabin helped to solidify the style of the Division in it's infancy. Classic X-Division matches with the likes of Paul London, Michael Shane and Juventud Guerrera all took place on NWA:TNA's weekly PPV's, long before the company even started using the six sided ring. I'd seriously urge anyone unfamiliar with Sabin's earlier matches in TNA to go back and check out matches like the three way Ultimate X bout from Final Resolution 2005 with both AJ Styles and Petey Williams or the match that saw the Motor City Machineguns collide at Genesis 2009 or the highflying masterclass opposite Senshi at Bound for Glory 2006. 

Having spent some time this year in Europe for the likes of Southside and WXW, Sabin is currently back in Ring of Honor, where he recently took part in strong three way bout opposite Kyle O'Reilly and KUSHIDA at Global Wars 2015.


Samoa Joe

Our article looking at Samoa Joe's TNA departure earlier this year covered a lot of Joe's career in TNA, if you're looking for something a little more in depth. Forever linked with two other men in our top four, it's almost impossible to talk about Samoa Joe's career with out mentioned Christopher Daniels or AJ Styles. It's impossible to talk about TNA's greatest matches without mentioning Unbreakable 2005. Never seen this epic three way? Stop reading this, find a copy of it somewhere, anywhere, grab an adult beverage, sit still, enjoy, then come back and thank ATPW. The match was so good that it was repeated a further three times at various PPVs throughout the years. 

After departing TNA earlier in the year, Joe has been everywhere! Eventually ending up in WWE on the NXT brand, Joe found time for brief stop in Ring of Honor, including a good main event opposite Jay Briscoe at Supercard of Honor IX in March.


Christopher Daniels

The greatest TNA performer never to win the World Heavyweight Championship, Christopher Daniels was a special talent for the company to have, someone who could take chicken shit and turn it into a tasty, succulent chicken salad. The best example of this would be Daniels time under the Suicide gimmick. Whilst attempting to portray a cross-over character from a video game that had very little to do with the video game, Daniels put in stand out performances in a number of multi-man X-Division bouts, whilst still putting in stellar performances without the hood against the likes of Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe. 

Whilst almost always seemingly to struggle against TNA creative, leading Daniels to leave the company on a number of occasions, Daniels could always rely on his best friend AJ Styles to put on a classic match. With more chemistry than you could have shaken a shitty stick at, the duo were paired together more times than many will even remember and almost always delivered. Bouts at Against All Odds 2005, Final Resolution 2009 and Destination X 2012 stick out as their strongest contensts opposite one another and span both men's TNA careers.

Currently one of the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Champions with Kazarian, Daniels is still capable of putting together a solid singles match. His bout with Roderick Strong from Supercard of Honor IX in March standing testament to this.


Kurt Angle

Kurt Freaking Angle. The man is a machine, seriously if it was revealed tomorrow that the part of Kurt Angle had been played by a robot for the last ten years then I wouldn't be all that surprised. His move to TNA in 2006 is almost certainly the biggest moment in the history of the company, and oppened up the opportunity for Angle to work with some of the names elsewhere on this list. Most notably for his red hot feud with Samoa Joe, coming directly after Angle's TNA debut and allowing for three straight PPV bouts, the strongest at Turning Point 2006, the feud became the quintessential TNA rivalry.

Whilst Angle was well-reversed in tearing it up with other names from our top 13, your AJ Styles', Jeff Jarretts and Christian Cages, Angle really excelled in putting on world class matches with those who might not initially spring to mind. A Falls Count Anywhere bout with Abyss at Turning Point 2008 showed that Angle was more than capable of changing up his style to match that of his opponent, creating a brutally exciting contest. A year later at the 2009 event of the same name, Angle allowed TNA fans to see just what might have been for Desmond Wolfe as the pair worked a gorgeous technical bout. And in perhaps, Angle's greatest match under a TNA banner, his opponent came in the unlikely shape of Mr. Anderson in a Steel Cage bout at Lockdown 2010. Some lovely storytelling, amidst a brutal bout that was a fitting conclusion to the pairs 2010 feud. Almost certainly the best Mr. Anderson match of all time. 

The fact that Angle is still putting in quality matches like those against Austin Aries, Eric Young and Lashley in 2015 at the age of 46 is quite frankly ridiculous. The man is not a human being. It's true. It's damn true.


AJ Styles

Could it have been anyone else? AJ Styles was TNA for many years, owning those early weekly PPV's in various combinations against the likes of Jerry Lynn, Lo-Ki and The Amazing Red. Those first months of action were what drew many to the TNA product when it was just in it's infancy and almost all of the matches that got people talking involved The Phenomenal One. 

Styles proved to be one of the most versatile member of the TNA roster, able to put on strong matches wherever he was placed on the card, with a variety of opponents and under a variety of different gimmicks. From almost every member of this list to guys like Tommy Dreamer in 2010 (perhaps Dreamer's last good match), Booker T in 2009 (perhaps a similar situation to that of Dreamer) or even mixing things up in a tag team with a limited Tomko in 2007 and 2008 and pulling out a number of credible bouts. Double Elimination, Three Way Dance, Ladder, Street Fight, Ultimate X, Iron Man, Steel Cage, Lethal Lockdown, King of the Moutain, Full Metal Mayhem, Table, Last Man Standing and I Quit, Styles was able to turn his hand to any match TNA threw at him and make it his own. 

Even when seemingly at odds with the company over contract issues, the then "Lone Wolf" was still killing it in his final six months with TNA, sometimes at the behest of the booking. Kurt Angle at Slammiversary IX, Austin Aries twice on Impact Wrestling, Bully Ray at Bound For Glory 2013 and Magnus twice on Impact Wrestling, including Styles' final match inside a TNA ring, proved that Styles still had a lot to give to the company. If this was a Styles who was a loggerhead with the company, imagine what the quality of action could have been like if the situation was a little more mutual.

Since departing the company in 2013, Styles has been able to really flex his creative muscles inside the ring, heading to New Japan Pro Wrestling, whilst also competing in the US for Ring of Honor. Bouts with Minoru Suzuki (G1 Climax 24 - Day 7) and Adam Cole (War of the Worlds 2015 - Day 1) would be great places for anyone looking to catch up on Styles' work since leaving TNA.


We hope you've enjoyed checking out our list and hope it's made you think about checking out some classic TNA footage, as well as what those who have departed the company are up to these days.

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