14 August 2013

The Lucky 13 of TNA

"The Lucky 13 of TNA"

When you think about Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling, what names come to mind automatically?  A.J. Styles?  Jeff Jarrett?  Dixie Carter?  Jeremy Borash?  Bobby Roode?  Chris Sabin?  All of those would be natural choices and all have played a HUGE role in getting TNA where it is today.  Over the last 11 plus years that TNA has been in existence, people have come and people have gone.  Legends of the ring like Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Vader, Jimmy Snuka and others have made either brief appearances in TNA or contributed a few years to the company.  Other performers like Monty Brown, Don West, Jay Lethal, Vince Russo, Alex Shelley and Scott D’Amore seemed like performers/staff that would stay with TNA for the remainder of their careers but have all moved on for the time being.

So who are the core pieces of TNA’s past, present and future that have shown the most loyalty and dedication?  Let’s examine that question.  It’s understood that people changing employment is a part of any business, especially in pro-wrestling.  While nobody can predict what individuals may or may not do in the future, there seems to be a group of 13 people currently with the company that have been the essential backbone of TNA for most (since at least 2005) or the entirety of its existence and will continue to be that backbone:

Jeff Jarrett - The Founder of TNA is one of the 3 original minds that imagined the concept of TNA.  Words cannot express what Jeff Jarrett has meant to TNA.  He has been a 6-time TNA/NWA World Heavyweight Champion, a 2-time winner of The King of the Mountain match (appropriate given his moniker) and an obviously invaluable asset since the beginning.  I was very happy to see Jeff Jarrett back in TNA’s good graces recently when his meeting with the Great Muta at TNA Headquarters was publicized.  He deserves a great deal of respect and should have one final run before he officially retires at some point.

Bob Ryder – Not only do many people not know who Bob is, it seems like he kind of likes it that way.  As the Director of Talent Bookings and Travel for TNA, he really is a big part of what TNA does (especially since taking IMPACT on the road permanently).  It was on Bob’s fishing boat that he, Jeff Jarrett and Jerry Jarrett conceptualized TNA and he has been a blessing for them ever since.

Jeremy Borash – J.B. has been TNA’s utility man since the very beginning.  Personally I believe he is the best ring announcer in pro-wrestling today.  He also has proven to be a fantastic interviewer, show host, color analyst, play-by-play broadcaster, podcast host, international relations liaison, etc, etc, etc.  Jeremy Borash is TNA as much as anyone else and he is a very talented man.  He is extremely dedicated to ensuring that TNA grows and succeeds.

A.J. Styles – The Phenomenal One has been just that from June 19, 2002 until today.  His loyalty to TNA as a wrestler has been unparalleled.  He is a 4-time World Heavyweight Champion and a TNA original.  AJ “IS TNA” and I would be absolutely shocked if he did not spend his entire career in TNA.  He is an obvious future member of the TNA Hall of Fame and is arguably the best performer in company history.

Dixie Carter – There was a point very early on in TNA’s history when Dixie and Panda Energy literally saved the company from shutting its doors for good.  Thankfully, TNA was saved from disaster and has been on an upward trend ever since with Dixie leading the way.  It is no secret that she is a classy lady that does everything in her power to make the TNA fans happy.  It’s amazing that she really does take our opinions and feedback into consideration.  That kind of fan interaction from a major pro-wrestling company’s president is unheard of.

James Storm – The Cowboy has been a part of two of the best Tag Teams in TNA history with America’s Most Wanted and Beer Money.  While his World Title run ended up being less than stellar, it’s undeniable that Storm is a valuable part of IMPACT Wrestling and will most likely spend his days there until he retires.  James Storm personifies TNA in a lot of ways.

Abyss/Joseph Park – When I think about the most underappreciated member of TNA’s roster, Chris Parks is the man that comes to mind time and time again.  Nobody has sacrificed more physically as his flesh has been punished by barbwire, thumb tacks, glass, fire, and other weapons time and time again.  In a sick way (that few people understand) this punishment is, for Chris, the way he has shown his love of TNA.  As a former World Champion his legacy will probably be more celebrated in hind-sight, which is a shame because his talents and intelligence are not to be taken for granted.

Chris Sabin – Those who know TNA’s history realize that Chris Sabin has been very committed to the company for over a decade.  His dominance in the X-Division and Tag Team Division are well documented, but it wasn’t until Chris recently captured the World Title that he finally gained the level of respect that he deserved.  Sabin has an amazing and inspirational story that has unfolded in TNA, much to our enjoyment.  Chris Sabin is a future TNA Hall of Famer.

Christopher Daniels – Hasn’t the recent Bad Influence persona of Christopher Daniels been refreshing, comedic and entertaining?  He explained recently that he is “finally being allowed to be himself”.  While some fans enjoyed his Fallen Angel persona, this current side of CD is awesome!  Chris has been in TNA since 2002 (minus his hiatus in ROH) and will most likely remain so after revitalizing his career alongside Kaz.

Frankie Kazarian – There were several years that Kaz faded into the background of TNA and was “just kind of there”.  That has changed since the formation of Bad Influence and, like Daniels, has totally renewed his persona and appeal.  Kaz has been a consistent part of TNA for a majority of the existence of the company and has now gained a new appreciation from the fans for his high-level wrestling and mic skills.

Eric Young – EY is the type of employee that every company would love to have.  He does whatever he is asked to do and goes above and beyond the call of duty to promote IMPACT Wrestling.  At some point, his Animal Planet show (Off the Hook: Extreme Catches) should provide some mainstream media crossover for TNA to draw in new viewers.  Eric is a talented wrestler, entertainer and comedian that provides a unique value to the roster.

Samoa Joe – The Samoan Submission Machine is really on top of his game currently in TNA.  Joe’s first few years in TNA were a showcase of dominance by a seemingly unstoppable monster.  Then Samoa Joe went through an odd series of gimmick and booking gaffs that almost ruined him.  Thankfully he weathered that storm and is back to being the Samoa Joe that IMPACT Wrestling needs him to be. It’s obvious that he is over with most LIVE crowds and that he still has what it takes to become World Champion again.

Bobby Roode – The “It Factor” is regarded in some circles as the best pro-wrestler in the world.  His record-setting World Title run was a pivotal time in TNA, where another TNA original was finally able to capture the ultimate prize.  As “The Leader of the Selfish Generation” Bobby Roode has proven himself to be one of the best heels in any promotion today.  There’s no doubt that Roode is a crucial part of TNA’s future success.

This Lucky 13 group is the wrestlers and employees of TNA that have been a consistent presence throughout the years.  To consider where TNA has come from with the humble beginnings in Huntsville, Alabama to the days stationed in Nashville, Tennessee to Universal Studios in Orlando, it really is a testament to all of its employees that the company has come this far.  They have taken major steps to be a full-time touring wrestling promotion that has a substantial international reach.

There are other wrestlers and employees like Kurt Angle, Austin Aries, Bully Ray, Devon, Christy Hemme, Gail Kim, ODB, Hernandez, Jeff Hardy and others that are on the current roster and have meant a lot to TNA respectively. However, they have not been in TNA quite as long as the Lucky 13 and their longevity as vital pieces in the long-term future are more questionable.  There’s also younger wrestlers like Magnus, Jay Bradley, Manik, Zema Ion, Gunner, Kenny King and others that may prove to be valuable long-term pieces too, as they all have a lot of potential.  All of these performers are important to TNA, but they are not the Lucky 13.

If you asked the members of the Lucky 13 why TNA has experienced this impressive success, they would simply tell you it’s because TNA is a family.  People generally work harder and persevere more when you feel part of a family environment like that.  Most consider the number 13 to be unlucky, but this group has definitely proven that myth to be untrue.  They have succeeded against all odds and made IMPACT Wrestling the success that it is today.  The TNA family is dedicated to making sure it has a wonderful future that includes the continued unprecedented appreciation of its fans.

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