But what about other TNA performers? There are several members of the TNA roster that have worked for the promotion longer and-or accomplished more during their time there than has ‘The Blueprint’. The difference with most of these other men is that they have never worked for the New York federation. Could they succeed there if they were to make the jump?
Top of the list has to be AJ Styles. He has held every title he is eligible for during his ten year tenure with TNA. He was one of the men that originally made the company stand out from the competition thanks to his fine performances in the X Division and has been a multiple time world champion for the group, holding both the NWA championship and the newer, TNA-owned TNA world championship.
‘The Phenomenal One’ has done everything he realistically can in TNA. There are no titles left for him to win and no fresh matches for him to have. Until some new talent are hired that state of affairs is not going to change, and the Orlando gang have been making slow work of doing that.
If AJ were to make the jump to WWE he would very likely be posted to either FCW or NXT and very likely be required to take a pay cut. Even if he were able to negotiate a decent wage for himself it would not be much more than he’s earning in TNA, and at least where he is now he is guaranteed to always have a certain spot on the card and extra money coming in from merchandise sales.
Those merch sales wouldn’t be as much as AJ would be getting if he became a huge star for WWE but that’s unlikely to happen, even if he did make the jump. Simply put AJ Styles does not have the look or size that Vince McMahon and Triple H look for in a wrestler. At best he would become a mid-card player or a featured performed on the cruiserweight show rumoured to be in the works for the WWE Network.
Adding to the difficulties of a potential WWE career is a tattoo: Styles has “AJ” scrawled down the right side of his body. As WWE already has an AJ on the books Styles would have to undergo a costume change to cover the offending ink or a reason would have to be thought of for him having it there. That wouldn’t be too hard, he could be introduced as an obsessive fan of the WWE AJ for example, but more likely WWE would want to cover the tattoo up with a singlet or some other gear.
WWE are unlikely to seek out Styles’ for anything other than a mid-card role and I don’t think he’d be interested in leaving TNA at this time for a demotion and the drudgery of working his way up through the WWE ranks. Styles is staying put for the foreseeable future.
Samoa Joe is a more interesting prospect. He doesn’t have the physique or height that WWE generally looks for, but the success of CM Punk and Bryan ‘Daniel Bryan’ Danielson prove that guys who work the style Joe is known for can prosper in WWE if they’re allowed to play to their strengths.
The question is: would WWE allow Joe to do that? He’s at his best when booked as an unstoppable force against smaller opponents. He is of comparable size to most men currently on the WWE roster, and it is unlikely WWE would give him the tried and tested unstoppable push if he was hired this year. Firstly they’re already doing it with Ryback (and have also done it this year with ‘The Funkasaurus’ Brodus Clay) and secondly that’s how ‘The Samoan Submission Machine’ has gotten over in two other companies. WWE tends to dislike reusing ideas and so it’s unlikely Joe would be presented in the way that flatters him most. That would decrease his chances of getting over even further.
Even further? Yes, even further. You see, Samoa Joe is overweight. While this is not necessarily a problem in most wrestling companies (his size allowed him to be presented as a bulky monster in both ROH and TNA’s then-worthwhile X Division) it would be in the image obsessed WWE. It wouldn’t just be Joe’s reputation and success elsewhere holding him back, it would be his physique. A guy that looks like Samoa Joe would not be given a fair shot in Stamford.
Samoa Joe dominating WWE as he did ROH and TNA's X Division seems unlikely
Is he likely to ever make the move to WWE? I think he’s a likelier candidate than AJ Styles but I still don’t think we’re going to see him making such a drastic career change anytime soon. Joe has more advocates in WWE than Styles does (Punk, Bryan and Mick Foley have all at one time or another stated they’d like to see Joe on WWE television) but he is too comfortable where he is, and will be just as aware as everybody else of the unlikeliness of him being given a fair shot.
One guy who certainly wouldn’t have to make his way up through the NXT and FCW ranks if he were to head to WWE is Kurt Angle. The Olympian became a star in the promotion in the early years of the last decade and was one of its most reliable performers until the autumn of 2006 when he was released from his contract due to various issues, not least of which were concerns over his health, in particular his neck.
Angle has stated he wants to retire in TNA. He has also said (when he TNA was due to expire last) that he would like to return to WWE. Whatever the truth may be it seems unlikely that Kurt would ever be welcomed back into the WWE fold for anything other than a part-time schedule. That would benefit the guy’s health but his ego would make it a difficulty for him to accept. He likes to be a top guy. Working part-time would not allow for that.
If ‘The Olympic Hero’ were to return to WWE it would almost certainly be no more than a one or two year deal leading up to some sort of retirement angle and then a job behind the scenes. It’s possible some sort of on-camera, non-wrestling role would be offered to. I could see Angle working as a GM or a commentator but I don’t think he’d be happy away from the thick of the action.
Until he is ready to admit to himself that it’s time to wrap up his career I don’t think we’ll be seeing Kurt Angle on RAW. Give it a few years and it’ll happen.
In a similar position to Angle is Bully Ray.
Over the last year ‘Calfzilla’ has finally rid himself of the image of a tag team star unable to make it as a solo act with his entertaining bullying heel character. He has experience with WWE, the size they like and is very skilled with a microphone. I could see the promotion rehiring him for a singles role if the opportunity came up.
Ray’s former tag partner Devon is not as likely to be rehired by the sports entertainment league. If Triple H ever gets serious about promoting tag team wrestling in WWE again it’s possible he would rehire Devon alongside Bully to reform the Dudley Boys. As a singles star he has no hope of making it back to WWE. A backstage role is the most he could realistically achieve, and even that seems farfetched right now.
That said WWE has had the opportunity to re-sign the two in the years since they joined TNA but they have never tried to do so. That means they’re probably not interested in the Dudleys. Both men, Ray in particular, are much better off sticking in TNA and enjoying their respective singles pushes for as long as they have them.
Talking of tag teams, whenever rumours surface of WWE preparing to get serious about its doubles division again (and that happens at least a couple of times a year) Bobby Roode and James Storm are mentioned as potential hires thanks to their years spent working together as Beer Money Inc.
Individually they both have the right look and physique. ‘The It Factor’ in particular would not look out of place on a WWE broadcast, and it’s easy to imagine both slotting into WWE’s television product.
Would they trade that in for their high profile spots in TNA? I think it’s a possibility. Both are young enough to have a decent shot at getting over in a big way with WWE fans, and doing so would make them a lot of money.
Next time his contract is up for renewal I think there’s a fair chance WWE could make Bobby Roode a decent offer. His work as world champion was top notch, both in the ring and on the microphone. I’d very much like to see ‘The Leader of the Selfish Generation’ tangle with CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and the rest of WWE’s main event crew.
‘The Cowboy’ may have a slightly harder time of making it in WWE thanks to his southern drawl (Vince tends to prefer northerners as a rule) and slightly less polished act but I think he could succeed there. There would be a multitude of fresh opponents for him in the group and I think he’d sit nicely as an Intercontinental champion in revamped mid-card division.
The final two men I feel it’s worth mentioning are Sting and Austin Aries. ‘The Icon’ has revealed he was very close to signing with WWE and facing The Undertaker last year. Sting v Undertaker would have been a huge match, and adding to the special feeling would have been the Atlanta, Georgia location (Atlanta being the former home of WCW).
WWE would have made Sting a hefty financial offer, one I can’t imagine Dixie Carter’s company being in a position to better. Therefore I can only assume ‘The Stinger’ stayed put out of loyalty. It’s possible WWE will make further offers to him in the future but if Sting didn’t sign on for a load of money and a match with ‘The Dead Man’ at WrestleMania I don’t think anything will ever convince him to wrestle for Vince McMahon.
Sting turned down a 'Mania match against The Undertaker. The fool!
It’s conceivable that someday we’ll see Sting join the WWE Hall of Fame. Even without ever wrestling for the promotion he has had a tremendous career and WWE has access to footage of his entire time in WCW, arguably his best years. That would be more than enough to piece together a highlight reel that does his career justice.
I do not think a WWE match will ever happen for Sting.
Before joining TNA last summer Austin Aries applied for Tough Enough. He was told he was too old and too small. That would indicate that WWE doesn’t see much potential in ‘A Double’. Certain changes since Tough Enough was filmed make me think that WWE may have altered their attitude towards Aries.
Firstly, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan (yeah, them again) have become stars for the company. Aries has the same background as both men and is talented in all the same areas. I’m sure there would be some people in WWE’s hiring office that would be interested in giving ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ a shot at cracking the big time as his contemporaries have.
Secondly, a show centred on cruiserweights is rumoured to be in the works for the WWE Network. Aries would be a perfect fit for such a programme and would likely end up being a highlight of it. Too small? Maybe in 2010. Not for a cruiserweight show in 2012.
Would Aries want to give up the spot he has carved for himself in TNA? Not only did he almost single-handedly carry the X Division for months, he has just captured the company’s world championship. He is arguably TNA’s top babyface. If the money was right and he was permitted to bypass the developmental territory and head straight to RAW, SmackDown or the as-yet-unnamed cruiserweight showcase I think ‘A Double’ would make the move, but it won’t be for some time to come.
He’d be a great get for WWE, as would practically everybody I’ve mentioned. You’ll have noticed that there aren’t many people I believe would be offered a spot by WWE and succeed in it if they took it. That can be taken as a reflection on how I perceive TNA. They have a talented roster, but most of the guys are there because they’re either too expensive for ROH to afford or there’s something about them that puts WWE off.
They’re TNA guys. Not prospective WWE guys.