Over the past several years, Impact Wresting, formerly TNA (I don’t even count the short GFW stint), has seen it’s share of exits by the stars that have built the company from the ground up, molded the company through changing turmoil, or helped restructure the company throughout a number of identity changes. Many of the stars that have exited throughout the last four plus years have accomplished all there is to accomplish in a company that has never been able to reach that next level in terms of growth and prosperity. But through it all, TNA has always found a way to persevere. When some stars left, others were born despite the repeated reports of financial turmoil the company was in. This latest group of departures hurt the company quite possibly more than the ones previous. Let’s look at how the previous departures and how TNA was able to rebound.
In early 2014, AJ Styles decided not to renew his contract with TNA ending a twelve year relationship with a company that many referred to as the House that AJ Styles. When AJ left, so did Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, meaning the company had not only lost it’s biggest and brightest star, but at the time, one of the top tag teams in the industry. But all was not lost. Shortly before this happened, TNA signed The Wolves which would replace Bad Influence atop the tag team division. But the World Title situation would fall on some dark times. Magnus was chosen as part of a heel Dixie Carter storyline that led to AJ Styles’ departure. Then they gave Eric Young a shot but he only held it a short time. It wasn’t until Lashley defeated EY that the world title started to get back some prominence. One of the best matches I witnessed that year was Lashley vs Angle. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch it. And with The Wolves along with Team 3D and The Hardys, things started to level out and TNA was alive and well without AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Kazarian.
In late 2014, as TNA was closing out there time with Spike TV, Samoa Joe had some prominent World Title matches with then champion Lashley. He was unsuccessful. He also entered the X Division for a short time and had a feud with long time rival Low Ki. In early 2015, Joe parted ways with TNA, though episodes were taped far in advance. His remaining TV time was spent in a silly faction with MVP called the Beat Down Clan, mostly serving as a henchman and not really doing anything significant. He departed and was immediately destined to joined WWE as part of NXT. But with Joe leaving, along with Low Ki and eventually MVP and Kenny King, there was a new star being born in TNA. A new talent by the name of EC3 who was coming into his own at a rapid pace as the future of the company. While the loss of Joe was a shot, and it always hurts when someone who was a staple of the company for over a decade leaves, it wasn’t as crippling as it could have been.
In 2015, TNA saw a multitude of talents departures. Team 3D, Austin Aries and Mr. Anderson had parted ways with TNA. In late 2015, James Storm also left for a short time and showed up a few times on NXT. Bully did a few one offs but returned to WWE with Devon. Aries and Anderson, however, were still shown on TV due to matches that were filmed in the summer and aired post-Bound For Glory for the rest of the year. This was due to Matt Hardy being stripped of the title for storyline purposes. These losses were offset, however because Drew Galloway was signed earlier that year and we saw the young emergence of one Eli Drake. 2015 was a dark time as there were questions about whether Bound For Glory would even take place. Destination America had cancelled them. Everything was in flux until they were able to secure another TV deal, albeit not a lucrative one, with POP TV. The World Cup tournament left a final four that would kick off 2016 on their new network.
In 2016, TNA suffered possibly their worst losses since AJ Styles when after the UK tour, Bobby Roode and Eric Young requested their releases from the company. There have been some new rising stars in TNA with the debut of Miracle Mike Bennett, the introduction of the Grand Championship, the debut of Aron Rex (Damien Sandow), and the reinvention of Crazzy Steve and Abyss as a group with Rosemary called Decay. While it seemed as though Bobby Roode was the one guy they couldn’t afford to lose, the latter emergences along with the reinvention of Matt Hardy which became one of the best things going in all of wrestling, the Roode loss didn’t seem as bad as it could have. I still don’t think they ever truly recovered from it, but on the surface, they were doing just fine. Broken Matt breathed new life into the company, but it proved to be too little, too late as there were bankruptcy issues and all kinds of questions swirling around whether or not there would even be a TNA going into 2017. It turns out, TNA as a name did cease to exist, but the company still chugged along with the purchase by Anthem and Jeff Jarrett coming on board and bringing GFW with him.
2017 started off terribly. Once Anthem secured the company, the Hardys left as did Drew Galloway, Aron Rex, and Miracle Mike Bennett. There are other names that also left including Robbie E, Jesse Godderz, and others but many of Jarrett’s GFW talents joined. Losing the Hardys, Drew, Rex, and Mike & Maria proved to be powerful losses. The entire year of 2017 seemed to be just random stuff thrown together with little to no direction, that was until the summer. Eli Drake became champion. Bobby Lashley brought his MMA group, American Top Team, in and things started looking up, especially when Dan Lambert proved to be as good of a mouthpiece, if not better, than Paul Heyman himself. Eli established himself as a major top guy. They also signed Alberto El Patron and Johnny Impact. Neither of these two were suitable replacements for Drew Galloway and the Hardys though. They did bring back LAX, signed the Christ brothers (OVE), and had some great talents from Mexico and Japan as part of their working relationships with NOAH, AAA, and CRASH. Still, it was a very down year for Impact Wrestling, despite having two of the best mic workers in the business, Eli Drake and Dan Lambert, playing prominent roles in the company.