Over the years, it has been common for wrestlers to move between major franchises. The ‘Monday Night Wars’ between WWF and WCW in the mid-1990’s have created a legacy of rating struggles, with cutthroat tactics employed by wrestlers and writers alike.
In 2001, WWF purchased WCW and became the WWE Company that is loved by so many today. In the last decade, further competition has emerged in the shape of TNA, with numerous wrestlers moving back and forth between the two companies.
Which big names have wrestled for both WWE and TNA? Here’s a run-down of our top five:
WWE (1998-2005), TNA (2005-2008, 2012), WWE (2009-Present)
Christian debuted for WWF/E in 1998, forming an alliance with Edge. At WrestleMania 2000 Christian and Edge defeated the Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) to win the WWF Tag Team Championship in a Triple Threat Ladder match. The pair turned heel, winning the Tag Team Championship six more times, with their trademark becoming the ‘five second pose’. Having lost their titles to the Brothers of Destruction (Kane and The Undertaker), friction emerged between the pair. Christian eventually turned on Edge and battled him for his WWF Intercontinental Championship.
In 2005, Christian missed out on the WWE Championship, losing a Triple Threat match against John Cena and Chris Jericho. In October of that year, Christian’s contract expired and he left WWE. He made his TNA debut in November, under the ring name Christian Cage, feuding with Team Canada before defeating Jeff Jarrett for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
In March 2007, shortly after winning the title for a second time, Cage proclaimed that he, Tomko, and Scott Steiner were an “inseparable family”, which he called Christian’s Coalition. The trio led a five man Lethal Lockdown team in April, losing to a team led by Kurt Angle. Cage then lost a three-man World Title match to Angle, which also involved Sting, with Angle becoming the first ever TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Christian was never able to win the TNA title, and left the company at the end of 2008, shortly after being inducted into The Main Event Mafia.
In 2010, Christian was in the corner for Edge’s World Title defence against Albert Del Rio. When Edge retired from wrestling in 2011, Christian won a 20-man battle royal to determine who would face Del Rio for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship. Christian won the title for the first time, but lost it to Randy Orton just five days later. At Money in the Bank, Christian won back the title when Orton was disqualified. His reign lasted until SummerSlam, when Christian lost to Orton in a No Holds Barred match.
4) Eric Bischoff
WWE (2002-2007), TNA (2009-2014)
In 2002, following the collapse of WCW, Bischoff was hired by WWE to be General Manager of Raw. Bischoff's wrestling innovations in WWE included the "Raw Roulette" and the Elimination Chamber, as well as feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena, SmackDown General Manager Stephanie McMahon, and former Extreme Championship Wrestling owner Paul Heyman.
In December 2005, he was ‘fired’ as General Manager, when Vince McMahon tossed him into a garbage truck – following a “trial” where his history of unscrupulous actions were listed – and had him driven out of the arena. Bischoff made sporadic appearances in WWE over the next two years, before officially leaving in late 2007.
In January 2010, he debuted in TNA alongside Hulk Hogan. Despite being predominately a heel character, he helped Team Hogan defeat Team Flair in that year’s Lethal Lockdown match. Bischoff and Hogan combined to help Jeff Hardy win the vacant TNA World Heavyweight Championship and the trio aligned themselves with Abyss and Jeff Jarrett. Their new stable, known as Immortal, formed an alliance with Ric Flair’s Fortune.
In January 2011, Fortune turned on Immortal, and in October, Hogan also betrayed the stable, saving Sting from a beat-down at the hands of its members. Eric then began a rivalry with his real-life son Garett, a newcomer to TNA. The pair captained opposing teams in the 2012 Lethal Lockdown match, which Garett won by pinning Eric, forcing his father out of the company in the process.
After Lockdown, Bischoff remained with TNA in a backstage capacity, eventually leaving in October 2013 as part of a company reshuffle. His contract expired three months later.
3) CM Punk
TNA (2002-2004), WWE (2005-2014)
While most wrestling fans will remember CM Punk for his near decade stay in WWE, it was with Ring of Honor (ROH) and TNA where Punk first made his name. After joining TNA he joined Julio Dinero, Alexis Laree and Cassidy Riley as part of ‘The Gathering’ – a group headed by Raven. However, Punk left TNA in 2004, after reportedly ‘not connecting with the fans as a villain’, having turned against the popular Raven in favour of a partnership with James Mitchell.
In September 2005, Punk was assigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling, a WWE development territory. He then made his ECW debut in June 2006, making his TV debut two months later. In 2008, at WrestleMania XXIV, Punk won the Money in the Bank ladder match, after defeating Chris Jericho, Montel Vontavious Porter, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Mr. Kennedy and Carlito.
Punk was drafted to the Raw brand later in 2008, and won his first World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Edge. He held the title until September, when he was attacked backstage by Randy Orton and forced to forfeit the title to Jericho. A month later, Punk and Kofi Kingston won the World Tag Team Championship. In January 2009, Punk won his second World Title, defeating William Regal. With this win, he became the nineteenth Triple Crown Champion. It was the quickest anyone had ever achieved the accomplishment, surpassing Kevin Nash’s old record.
Despite losing the title to John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield in March, Punk became the first person to win the Money in the Bank ladder match twice, completing his double at WrestleMania XXV. To date, Punk has won eight titles with WWE, including three World Heavyweight Championships and two WWE Championships. Punk walked away from WWE earlier this year, and while he is yet to officially quit the company, he looks unlikely to return anytime soon.
2) Ric Flair
WWE (2001-2009), TNA (2010-2012), WWE (2012-Present)
After a self-imposed hiatus from wrestling, Flair made a popular return to WWF in November 2001 as the on-camera co-owner of the company. Flair’s resulting feud with Vince McMahon led them to a match at the Royal Rumble in 2002 in a Street Fight, which Flair won. He also fought the Undertaker at WrestleMania X8 in 2002, losing after interference by Arn Anderson. Flair proceeded to control Raw, and McMahon controlled SmackDown! However, McMahon won a match for sole ownership of the company, thanks to interference by Brock Lesnar.
Flair went on to join Triple H’s Evolution stable, winning the World Tag Team Championship twice alongside Batista, but the partnership came to an end when HHH attacked Flair, defeating him in a series of matches. In 2008, McMahon told Flair that the next singles match he lost would result in him being forced to retire from the company. Flair won several ‘career threatening’ matches – defeating Triple H, Umaga, William Regal, Mr. Kenney and McMahon himself. At WrestleMania XXIV, the day after being inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame, Flair was beaten by Shawn Michaels.
In January 2010, Flair shocked wrestling fans by signing a one-year deal with TNA, despite having commented on several occasions that he wished to end his career with WWE. He made his in-ring debut in a tag team defeat, alongside AJ Styles, against Hulk Hogan and Abyss. His Lethal Lockdown team also lost to a team led by Hogan later that year. After Flair’s protégée Styles lost the World Title to Rob Van Dam, he adopted Kazarian as his new favourite wrestler.
June saw Flair reform the iconic Four Horseman, under the new name Fortune, comparing AJ Styles to Arn Anderson, Kazarian to Barry Windham, Robert Roode and James Storm to Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard and Desmond Wolfe to Lex Luger, while also stating that each of them would have to earn their spots in the group. Douglas Williams and Matt Morgan were later added to the stable as well. His stable joined Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s Fortune in late 2010, but Fortune later turned on Immortal, defeating them in a Lethal Lockdown match in April 2011. Immortal, represented by Flair, Abyss, Bully Ray and Matt Hardy, were defeated by the Fortune team of James Storm, Kazarian, Robert Roode and Christopher Daniels.
After a succession of injuries, Flair was reduced to accompanying Immortal member Gunner to ringside, while also feuding with Garett Bischoff. In May 2012, Flair tried to have his TNA contact terminated, which led to TNA filing a lawsuit against WWE for contract tampering and eventually firing Flair later that month. Flair has made sporadic appearances in WWE since then.
1) Kurt Angle
WWE (1998-2006), TNA (2006-Present)
In October 1998, two years after winning Olympic Gold in Atlanta, Angle began a career in professional wrestling and signed an eight-year contract with WWF. Two years later, Angle won the WWF Championship for the first time, defeating The Rock at No Mercy after botched interference from Rikishi. Angle retained the title against The Undertaker and Triple H before eventually losing to The Rock in 2001.
In October 2002, Angle became the fifth WWE Grand Slam Championship winner when he won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Chris Benoit. He won his third WWE Championship later that year, defeating The Big Show, but was written out in April 2003 in order to undergo neck surgery. The problems persisted throughout the remainder of his time with the company, and in August 2006 he was granted an early release from his WWE contract because of health reasons. Angle stated in the Kurt Angle: Champion documentary DVD that he asked for his release from WWE because he couldn't take time off and was working hurt, severely on some occasions. He also states that when he quit, WWE lost their very top talent, as he was at the very top of the payroll.
Despite his issues, Angle made his TNA debut in October 2006, confronting Samoa Joe after Joe refused to relinquish the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt that, according to the storyline, he had stolen from Jeff Jarrett. He fought his first match for the company in November, defeating Abyss. At Genesis he also defeated Joe, ending the Samoan’s 18-month undefeated streak.
Angle won the inaugural TNA World Heavyweight title in a three-way match with Sting and Christian Cage, but was forced to relinquish the title due to the match’s controversial conclusion. At Slammiversary in June 2007, Angle defeated Cage, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Chris Harris to win back the title. Later that year, Angle defeated X Division and Tag Team title holder Samoa Joe in a winner takes all match and became the second Triple Crown champion in TNA history. He eventually lost the titles to Jay Lethal, Team Pacman and Sting.
The 45-year-old has since won three further World Heavyweight Titles with TNA, making him the most successful wrestler in the company’s history. He became the second member of the TNA Hall of Fame in February 2014, following a feud with Bobby Roode. He was due to appear at Lockdown last month in a match with Ethan Carter III, but eventually missed out due to yet another injury – this time with his knee requiring surgery.
Kurt Angle is unique, and is viewed by many as the greatest wrestler of all time. As well as being the only wrestler to have won an Olympic Gold Medal and professional wrestling titles, he is an extraordinary athlete. Angle completes our countdown of the top five wrestlers to have been in both WWE and TNA. Disagree? Want to argue your case for Jeff Hardy, Hulk Hogan or MVP? Comment below!
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