At one time, TNA Impact Wrestling was the top threat to the WWE. They had grown young talents into stars and many of them the WWE were eager to get their hands on.
For many years, Impact Wrestling, formerly known as TNA Wrestling, was the biggest competition to the WWE. At the highest point in the company, they even dared to try and face off against Raw on Monday nights. While they never succeeded in dethroning the top dogs. Impact Wrestling gained respect and viewership for its attempt. The company has grown many stars in the industry that have gone on to become top draws. One name that is going to always be attached to the company is “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles.
Alongside Styles, Impact Wrestling had their hands in molding guys like Samoa Joe, Robert Roode, and even Christian Cage into the names they are today. While Impact helped these names go on to grow even larger in their careers, the same didn’t always work when the WWE got their hands on TNA/Impact Wrestling talent. We have seen success for guys like the mentioned Styles and Roode but what happened to the other TNA originals that got their chance to shine in the WWE? We have seen TNA originals such as Alex Shelley and James Storm show up and shine on one-off occasions.
However, this list is focused on the guys that WWE signed to full-time contracts and was expected to carry their momentum built in a different company. While there are some TNA originals that thrived in the WWE, this is a list of the five guys that failed to do so. These guys were primed for stardom in TNA but couldn’t do the same in WWE. They all had something right in TNA, what went wrong with their time in the WWE? Let’s take a look.
5. Cassidy Riley (Cassidy O’Reilly)
While he may not be the most well-known name on the list, Cassidy Riley, also known as Cassidy O’Reilly in his first TNA run, was a workhorse for TNA in their early years. He started out in TNA as early as the first year of the company when he teamed with a future member of The Natural’s Chase Stevens as “The Hotshots.” The team ended after Riley took a hiatus from wrestling but he turned to the company in 2004. He remained with the company until 2007 but unfortunately, his run wasn’t very memorable. He was mainly used as a lackey for Raven until Final Resolution 2006.
After he left TNA, he was signed to the WWE to join the new ECW brand. He had his first match in a losing effort against another former TNA star signed to ECW, Marcus Cor Von, but don’t you worry, we will get back around to him. He was soon sent to train at Ohio Valley Wrestling and was repackaged as “Kassidy James” and became the kayfabe brother of K.C. James. The “brothers’ enjoyed success in OVW as four-time OVW tag Team Champions but fate didn’t have the team lasting. He was released along with six others from OVW on February 8th, 2008. While he would initially retire after his WWE release, he has competed in several matches since.
4. Vance Archer (Lance Hoyt/Archer)
In March 2004, the six-foot-eight future IWGP United States Champion Lance Archer arrived in TNA Wrestling as a family member of Kid Kash named Dallas. While he had impressive size and charisma, he was far from the “Muderhawk” that we know him as today. For his first year in the company, he teamed with Kash and was eventually repacked under his real name, Lance Hoyt, while teaming with Kash. They teamed up until Kash was released in April 2005. After Kash, Hoyt had a short run aligned with Chris Candido.
He later was betrayed and had his first face run in the company. While his run wasn’t bad as a singles face, he didn’t start to gain momentum in the company again until he turned back heel. He turned on BG and Kip James to align with Christy Hemme. They were soon joined by Jimmy Rave to form the Rock N Rave Infection which became a more comedic rock duo that came out with Guitar Hero guitars. While not the top team Impact has had, they were certainly memorable. Despite that Hoyt was released from the company in February 2009.
Two months later, Hoyt arrived in WWE repacked as “Vance Archer.” Like others on the list, he joined the ECW brand to try and keep it alive by this point. He spent less than half a year in ECW before the brand disbanded and he was later moved to the SmackDown brand. As a pattern of his early career, he was moved into a tag team with Curt Hawkins and was given a 30-day contract to make an “impact,” a nice choice of words WWE. The team dubbed The Gatecrashers found slight success as a team before splitting after just five months. A show that the company had no clue how to book Archer, he was released in November 2010 with other notable names.
3. Kaval (Low Ki/Senshi)
The relationship between Low Ki and Impact Wrestling resembles that of an off-and-on relationship. He competed on the very first TNA Wrestling show in 2002 and has been seen in the repackaged Impact Wrestling as recently as the Impact Wrestling United We Stand show in 2019. It is safe to say that the man has made Impact Wrestling a home away from home and has a place to come showcase his talent. In his second run in the company, found success as Senshi through 2006 and 2007. During this run if when the WWE showed interest in signing him.
He officially signed with the WWE in early 2009 and was repackaged once again to be Kaval. He found early success in Florida Championship Wrestling before suffering a leg injury that put him out for most of the year. After returning from injury, he continued to gain momentum in FCW before it was announced he would be a participant in the second season of the original NXT. He was paired with the red-hot LayCool team of Michelle McCool and Layla El that were on top of their games at the time. Despite the odd pairing of rookie and mentor(s), Kaval shined in NXT.
He went on to become the second winner of the show and moved on to the SmackDown brand. While he had won NXT and had clear talent, the WWE treated him as an enhancement talent on SmackDown and fed him to their growing stars. It took him over two months before he won his first match on the blue brand. Remembering he had a guaranteed title shot, he chose to fight Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship in his only WWE championship match. After losing to Ziggler, he had only a few more losses before being released that December.
2. Braden Walker (Chris Harris)
Impact Wrestling has been known for years for its stellar tag-team wrestling. They have created some of the top teams in the business and the other well-known tag teams have mostly made their way through the company at some point. Two of Impact’s top teams have included “Cowboy” James Storm. Years before he was ruling the tag team division with Bobby Roode as Beer Money Inc, he was running the division with “Wildcat” Chris Harris as America’s Most Wanted.
Back when Impact was still run by NWA, America’s Most Wanted held the NWA Tag Team Championships a record six times between 2002 and 2006. The team officially split at the end of 2006 when James Storm turned on his long-time partner and busted a beer bottle over his skull. After the two feuded with each other, Harris went on with his singles career and chased opportunities for the world championship. However, in early January 2008, Harris was released from Impact. A little over two weeks later, Harris was announced to sign with the WWE.
This could have been a huge career move for the “Wildcat” but the crucial words were “could have been.” He had an impressive dark match win over Shelton Benjamin in March that could have meant he was primed for big things. Then… he wasn’t heard from until July 8th when e made his debut on the ECW brand picking up a win over former ECW general manager turned jobber Armando Estrada. He only had one more match for the company before being released by what has been reported as his own request.
After being released from the company, it was like his failed run in the WWE had killed his career. He never regained the momentum that he once had alongside James Storm. He continued to wrestle in the independents and had a few one-off appearances with Impact Wrestling but it was never the same for him after the Braden Walker experience. To this day, this is regarded as one of the biggest flops for anyone in WWE. Thankfully, Impact Wrestling did give us an America’s Most Wanted reunion of sorts with James and Harris united once more along with Heath Slater and The Good Brothers at Against All Odds in 2022.
1. Marcus Cor Von (Monty Brown)
In the early days of Impact Wrestling, “The Alpha Male” Monty Brown was an absolute threat. The former NFL linebacker was a terrifying sight for his opponents to face down. He was full of energy and his finishing maneuver the “pounce” reminded everyone why he had made it into the NFL. He would hit somebody so hard that it looked like they were flying across the ring. For the majority of his run in TNA, he was aligned with Jeff Jarrett and was an important member of the Planet Jarreett stable. However, any fan watching knew Monty was groomed to be a breakout star.
While he had his moments to shine, Monty never reached the pinnacles that he planned to reach in the company. Like other names we have mentioned, Monty was a target of the WWE when they reopened the ECW brand in 2006. He made his ECW debut as the repackaged version of “The Alpha Male” now known as Marcus Cor Von. He had excellent theme music and it fits the personality of Cor Von. He was energetic like his theme music and the song remains a favorite among fans. Not long after his debut, Cor Von was aligned with Elijah Burke forming the New Breed stable.
They were soon joined by Matt Striker, yes that Matt Striker, Kevin Thorne, and Ariel. Later on, the group was joined by CM Punk, who created tension between the members and their eventual demise. However, before CM Punk, they feuded mainly with the ECW originals which led Cor Von to his one and only match at WrestleMania where the ECW originals defeated the New Blood. After the New Blood stable disbanded, Cor Von kept a loose partnership with Burke until his last match with the company.
After taking months off from the ring for “family issues,” he would never return to it. In September 2007, it was announced that Monty had been released from the company. While the WWE release nearly ended Chris Harris’s career, it did end the career of Brown. After being released from his contract, he announced his retirement from wrestling. Since his final match against CM Punk on ECW in June 2007 remains the last match that Monty Brown had and it is truly a shame for anybody who watched the man compete. He could have been a major star in the business but will mostly be remembered as one of the biggest “what if” stories of pro wrestling.