For over two decades, TNA has been home to world-class talent in the wrestling industry. TNA’s top stars are storytellers of the highest order, and their finest moments have taken fans on a wild roller coaster of emotions.
10 Best TNA Wrestlers During The Impact Wrestling Era, Ranked
With TNA making its return, it feels right to pay tribute to some of the best wrestlers from Impact Wrestling’s existence, from 2017 to 2023.
Case in point: The TNA video archives are filled with impactful kickouts from pinfall attempts. These kickouts were made special because of the competitors’ impeccable timing and emotional reaction, not to mention the context of the match, the roar of the fans, and even the energy of the folks at the commentary desk.
10 Christian Cage Overcame The Dirty Tactics Of Jeff Jarrett
The Guitar Did Not Lead To A Cheap Win That Night
- Christian Was A WWE Superstar For Seven Years
- Wanting To Gain The Respect That He Felt He Deserved, He Jumped Ship To TNA In Late 2005
- Right From The Get-Go, The NWA World Heavyweight Championship Was In His Crosshairs
After working his butt off for a dozen years, Christian Cage had a golden opportunity in the main event of Against All Odds 2006. If he could overcome Jeff Jarrett, Cage would become a world champion for the first time in his career. Jarrett, however, had plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
After Cage got distracted by Jarrett’s companion Gail Kim, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion landed a guitar shot on the head of his challenger. Confident that victory was just seconds away, Jarrett flashed his trademark double peace sign as the previously unconscious referee regained his bearings. Right before the referee’s hand hit the mat for the three-count, Cage kicked out—a clear sign that the elusive world championship was in his immediate future.
9 Kurt Angle Proved To Be One Tough Customer
He Fought Valiantly Against Christian Cage’s Underhanded Tactics
- At Final Resolution 2007, Kurt Angle Defeated Samoa Joe In An Iron Man Match
- With This Victory, Angle Earned A Shot At The NWA World Heavyweight Championship
- He Would Get His Shot Against Christian Cage At Against All Odds
Almost a year to the day that Christian Cage first won the NWA World Heavyweight Title, he was defending the championship against Kurt Angle at Against All Odds 2007. Whereas Cage had to fend off dirty tactics when he went up against Jeff Jarrett the year before, it was Cage displaying villainous tendencies during his 2007 title defense.
During the match, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe made their presence felt outside the ring. While the referee was distracted by the Styles-Joe altercation, Cage blasted Angle with a steel chair and hit a frog splash for good measure. Cage went for the cover, but Angle heroically kicked out, causing the champ to yell “Come on!” like a movie villain whose plot had been foiled.
8 Rhino Dramatically Kicked Out In An Impact Match For The Ages
All Three Men In This Bout Had Their Working Boots On
- A Few Weeks Prior To This Match, The TNA World Heavyweight Championship Was Inaugurated
- In The Record Books, Kurt Angle Is The First Ever TNA World Heavyweight Champion
- Angle’s World Title Defense On The June 28, 2007 Episode Of Impact Was The Only Matched Aired That Night
The June 28, 2007 episode of Impact stands the test of time in the collective memory of TNA fans. On that night, one match took up the entire TNA broadcast—the triple threat featuring Rhino, Christian Cage, and the reigning, defending TNA World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle.
TNA World Heavyweight Championship & 9 Other Titles That Changed Names
Wrestling promotions sometimes change the name of certain championships in order to better fit the title’s landscape.
Halfway through the match, with Cage licking his wounds on the floor, Rhino saw an opening to deliver the Gore to Angle. The champion had the wherewithal to land a knee strike on a sprinting Man-Beast and transition into an Olympic Slam. Right in the middle of the six-sided ring, Angle covered Rhino, who emphatically kicked out. TNA fans applauded Rhino’s heart while Angle pounded the mat in frustration.
7 AJ Styles Refused To Lose To His Own Finisher
Kurt Angle, Meanwhile, Was Utterly Frustrated
- AJ Styles Won The TNA World Heavyweight Title In A Five-Way Match At No Surrender 2009
- He Successfully Retained The Championship Against Kurt Angle On The January 4, 2010 Episode Of Impact
- Angle Would Get One Final Chance To Win The Title At Genesis
On January 17, 2010, AJ Styles and Kurt Angle were in a high-pressure situation as they wrestled in the main event of Genesis. On the one hand, Styles was putting his coveted TNA World Heavyweight Championship on the line. On the other hand, it was Angle’s last shot at the world title. Something had to give.
Angle, the ever-crafty wrestling savant, decided to pull out all the stops by taking a page out of Styles’ loaded playbook. As the Phenomenal One jumped off the top rope to execute an aerial maneuver, Angle caught him, meticulously positioned his limbs, and executed a Styles Clash. It seemed a poetic end to Styles’ title reign, but the champion—perhaps running on pride as well as adrenaline—kicked out before the referee counted to three. As the TNA fanbase roared in excitement, the color drained from the face of the Olympic gold medalist.
6 At Turning Point 2010, Chris Sabin Made TNA History
Prior To That Event, Only One Man In Pro Wrestling Had Done What He Was About To Pull Off
- Prior To Team 3D’s TNA Stint, Their 3D Finish Got The Job Done In Just About Every Traditional Tag Team Match They’d Had
- Between the Dudleys’ ECW And WWE Careers, The Only Competitor To Kick Out Of The 3D Was Masato Tanaka
- Chris Sabin Is Only The Second Man To Ever Kick Out Of The 3D
Though Team 3D had announced their intent to retire from pro wrestling at Bound for Glory 2010, Brother Ray and Brother Devon had one more match in mind before they headed off into the sunset. The highly decorated duo wanted to go up against the Motor City Machine Guns, who were the reigning TNA World Tag Team Champions.
During their title match at Turning Point, Team 3D hit their dreaded tag team finisher on Chris Sabin. The outcome was moot and academic…until it wasn’t. Sabin kicked out, marking the first time that a TNA competitor ever did so after eating a 3D. On commentary, an incredulous Mike Tenay echoed what every fan was thinking at that moment: “What the heck?”
5 Bobby Roode Was Glorious At Lockdown 2012
His Face After James Storm Kicked Out Was Priceless
- From 2008 To 2011, Bobby Roode And James Storm Competed As A Tag Team
- Beer Money Inc., However, Would Come To An End Because Of A Devious Move By Roode
- During A Storm Vs. Roode World Title Match In November 2011, Roode Resorted To Smashing A Beer Bottle Over Storm’s Head To Win The Championship
At Lockdown 2012, a rivalry between former bosom buddies unfolded within the confines of a steel cage. After a three-year run as a formidable tag team, Bobby Roode and James Storm had turned into bitter rivals fighting over the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
With both men sporting a crimson mask, Roode smashed a beer bottle on his former partner’s head. This echoed the pivotal moment the previous year in which Roode turned his back on their friendship and resorted to dirty tactics to win the title. Roode went for the cover, but Storm kicked out—leading to a stunned look on Roode’s bloody face that was worthy of an Oscar.
4 Eric Young Was Fighting For His Life (And His Title) At Slammiversary XII
The Champ Had To Fend Off Two Hungry Contenders
- Eric Young Was Slated To Defend The TNA World Heavyweight Title Against MVP At Slammiversary XII
- A Couple Of Weeks Before The PPV, MVP Suffered A Knee Injury
- Because Of This, Young’s Title Defense Became A Triple Threat Match Involving Bobby Lashley And Austin Aries
At Slammiversary XII, Eric Young faced daunting odds in his TNA World Heavyweight Title defense. For starters, his match was taking place within the confines of a steel cage. To make matters worse, Young had to defend his title against an athletic behemoth in Bobby Lashley and a technical whiz in Austin Aries.
At one point, Aries took advantage of Lashley catching his breath and went straight for the champ. Aries hoisted Young in the air and executed a picture-perfect brainbuster. Despite all the punishment he’d taken, Young lifted his shoulder off the mat right before the three-count. Young’s resilience was palpable, but Aries’ tantrum after the failed pinfall attempt was definitely more intense.
5 TNA Champions Who Carried Their Belts With Pride (& 5 Who Didn’t Care)
While some TNA wrestlers brought prestige to their titles, others didn’t care for them.
3 Alex Shelley Showed No Waste Of Motion Against Jay White
Things Happened So Fast That The Kickout Was Barely Discernible
- Alex Shelley And Jay White Lived With Each Other For A Year And A Half
- During This Time, Shelley Provided Valuable Mentorship For The Future Switchblade
- Their Paths Would Later Cross Inside The TNA Ring
When you think of emotional kickouts, you think of a wrestler grasping their hair in disbelief after their opponent shows unbelievable toughness. In the case of Alex Shelley at Sacrifice 2022, he opted to have a short-term memory so that he could get right back to tormenting his foe.
That adversary was none other than his former pupil Jay White, who had translated Shelley’s mentorship into international success. Towards the end of their encounter at Sacrifice, Switchblade went for his Blade Runner finisher. Shelley countered, hit a Blade Runner of his own, and went for the cover. White had barely raised his shoulder when Shelley slapped on a vicious crossface. Now that’s no waste of motion.
2 Mike Bailey Came Within Inches Of Putting Away Will Ospreay
His Finisher Was Beautifully Executed, But So Was The Kickout
- At TNA’s Emergence Event In August 2023, The Company Announced That Will Ospreay Would Be Competing Once Again In A TNA Ring
- Ospreay Was The IWGP US Heavyweight Champion At That Time
- His Match Would Be Against Mike Bailey, Who’d Been In TNA Since Late 2021
At Bound for Glory 2023, Will Ospreay paid another visit to Impact. Ospreay, who held the IWGP US Heavyweight Title at that time, would have the red carpet rolled out for him by Canadian combat specialist Mike Bailey.
The Ospreay vs. Bailey match at Bound for Glory was voted by TNA fans as 2023 Match of the Year, and for good reason. Towards the end of the match, Bailey climbed to the top rope and masterfully pulled off a Shooting Star Press that transitioned into a devastating double knee strike onto Ospreay’s back. As impeccable as the Ultima Weapon was, Ospreay kicked out at the last second. Bailey lost his mind, Ospreay clutched his spine, and the TNA crowd went wild.
1 Will Ospreay Gave Josh Alexander A Piece Of His Mind
He Did It With A Simple Yet Effective Gesture When He Kicked Out
- On November 16, 2023, Will Ospreay Defeated Josh Alexander In A TNA Ring
- Alexander Did Not Have To Wait Long Before He Got His Chance At Redemption
- The Two Would Square Up Again On January 18, 2024
Most of the time, wrestlers simply have to raise their shoulder at the right time in order to perform a dramatic kickout. But that wasn’t enough for Will Ospreay on the January 18, 2024 episode of TNA Impact!
That night, Ospreay wrestled Josh Alexander in a highly anticipated rematch. The Aerial Assasin had overcome Alexander in their first encounter, which meant that emotions were definitely running high as they locked horns again. At one point in the match, Alexander hit Ospreay with a Styles Clash—a move that had put away several competitors in a TNA ring. The Walking Weapon went for the cover, and as Ospreay kicked out, he gave Alexander the double bird.