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Power Rankings: TNA's 'One-Hit Wonders'

In light of Ethan Carter III's TNA World Title win–hopefully the first of many–some Smark Henry writers and PWR superstars rank all one-time TNA World Champions before him, from worst to best!

"If you're not aiming to win the World Title, what are you in the wrestling business for?"

If my memory serves me right, that paraphrased quote was by Triple H. (I may be correct, given his affinity to the word "business.") And he surely had that in mind when he won 13 World Championships in the WWE.

Many like HHH have had multiple trips to the top of the mountain, while some had felt the thrill of being World Champion only once.

In light of Ethan Carter III's TNA World Title victory–hopefully the first of many–5 TNA marks and followers, including 3 Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR) superstars, ranked all the one-time TNA World Champions before him, from worst to best.

One side note: Yes, PWI is not recognizing TNA's top prize as a World Title anymore as of this writing, but this writer is still somehow hopeful that TNA would survive this challenge, another one in its over-a-decade-old history. So, we'll keep calling it the TNA World Title.


The TNA World Heavyweight Championship is quite young. It was created in May 2007, after TNA's ties with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) ended. From TNA's debut in 2002 until then, the promotion carried NWA's top prize, the prestigious NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

As of this writing, 17 wrestlers have held the TNA World Title, with a combined 32 reigns. Excluding current champion EC3, 8 have held it only once. Here's how the 5 of us ranked all 8 of them.

Like any World Title chase, let's go through the list by starting from the bottom then working our way to the top.

#8 - Mick Foley

Won: 4/19/2009, from Sting, in a Six Sides of Steel Match at Lockdown
Lost: 7/21/2009, to Kurt Angle, in a 4-man King of the Mountain Match at Slammiversary
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 7 months

All 5 of us agree that Foley should not have become champion anymore. Just read some of our thoughts on his sole TNA World Title reign:

"Senyorito" Jake de Leon: No disrespect to Mick, but it was a weird move to make him champion.

PWR Champion "Classical" Bryan Leo: As much as I love the guy, it was very strange having him as TNA Champion at a time when he could just make part time appearances at best.

Mark D. Manalo: An old man as World Champ? Ain't buying it.

#7 - Chris Sabin

Won: 7/18/2013, from Bully Ray, at Destination X
Lost: 8/15/2013, to Bully Ray, in a Steel Cage Match at Hardcore Justice
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 10 years, 3 months

After the Motor City Machine Guns tag team with Alex Shelley was no more, Sabin was poised for a World Title run, but an ACL injury held him back. After Sabin's surgery, TNA picked up where they left off. Sabin was the second wrestler to exercise "Option C" (giving up the X Division Title for a shot at the TNA World Title) and emerge victorious.

However, if Wikipedia is to be believed, even Sabin felt TNA jumped the gun and pulled the trigger on his World Title run too soon. (Puns intended.)

Mark D. Manalo: Sabin has the potential, but TNA Creative ruined it for rushing his tenure as champ.

Smark Henry writer Marie Ricana: He was too raw to be the champ. Sure, he's a good wrestler, but that's not enough; a champ should have superb mic skill as well.

Bryan Leo: It was a great moment seeing him dethrone Bully Ray, but the party was over the very next Impact when it was made clear, as much as the crowd loved Sabin, he was no Austin Aries. He lost the title back to Bully Ray, and later lost his girl (Velvet Sky) to Bully Ray, too.

#6 - Magnus

Won: 12/3/2013 (aired 12/19), won title vacated by AJ Styles
Lost: 4/10/2014, to Eric Young at Impact Wrestling
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 5 years, 1 month

When AJ Styles "left" TNA (and made it for real soon after), the void in the World Title picture had to be filled up. TNA chose Magnus, but his reign was handled poorly; his TNA career has never recovered since. (In this writer's opinion, his angle with James Storm could have been his saving grace, but he and Storm had bid goodbye to TNA.)

Fun fact: Magnus and Sabin are the only 2 in this list who have never stepped foot in a major promotion before coming to TNA. (James Storm and Eric Young had short stints in WCW and WWE, respectively.)

Jake de Leon: Could have been a great heel champ but was way too chickenshit during his reign to really stand on his own.

Mark D. Manalo: He was supposedly where Seth Rollins is right now, but TNA has a history of dropping the ball sooner.

Bryan Leo: Magnus has the look, the mic skills, and ever-developing in-ring skills, which made perfect sense to push him as a future top babyface. BUT WHY THE HELL DID TNA TURN HIM HEEL?! In a role that seemed more suited for Bobby Roode, Magnus would be selected as Dixie Carter's ideal champion and would have feuds with multiple babyfaces, not once beating anyone convincingly. Since losing the title, Magnus has not been able to regain the momentum he once had and that's a real shame.

#5 - Rob Van Dam

Won: 4/19/2010, from AJ Styles at TNA Impact!
Lost: 8/10/2010, vacated due to storyline injuries
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 1 month

His win was during a period when WWE castaways find a new home in TNA and are most likely rewarded with the TNA World Title. But Mr. Whatever-Day-Impact-Was-On-Back-Then-But-I-Think-It-Was-Thursday Night made up for it by having interesting title defenses, and treating fans to a dream match between him and AJ Styles.

SH's Marie Ricana: It's almost the same reason as the one for Mick Foley, but the difference is, RVD did have some exciting matches as champion. If only his contract didn't run out. Sayang.

Bryan Leo: Won it far too soon on free TV, at a time when TNA was still having PPVs. RVD's reign did no favors for the company or RVD himself. He only makes the top 5 because of how poorly handled Magnus' reign was.

Jake de Leon: I hate him for beating AJ Styles, but he had great matches.

#4 - James Storm

Won: 10/18/2011 (aired 10/20), from Kurt Angle at Impact Wrestling
Lost: 10/26/2011 (aired 11/3), to Bobby Roode at Impact Wrestling
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 9 years, 4 months

From tag team specialist to World Champion, James Storm has come a long way. He and his longtime tag team partner Bobby Roode deserve to win the World Title. If only both of them had more title reigns, and exchanged between them, no less. (Roode currently has two World Championship reigns.)

Jake de Leon: Won the belt in maybe 15 seconds, but awesome reaction from the crowd when he won. A TNA-lifer, but only an 8-day reign.

Bryan Leo: Storm's title reign can be compared to many a person's experience when losing their virginity. It was exciting while it happens, and it ended far too soon. His World Title run lead to the break-up of not just Beer Money, but of the Fortune faction, which in turn lead to arguably one of the greatest heel turns in TNA history, when Bobby Roode betrayed Storm. Roode became the TNA's biggest heel and led to a year of excitement in the main event scene, featuring incredible matches and one of the company's most bitter rivalries. Storm was arguably TNA's most popular homegrown babyface at the time, and it is a real shame that his potential was squandered.

SH's Marie Ricana: As interesting as the story line with Roode and how exciting the fallout from the break-up of Beer Money is, what struck me is that eight days is too soon! It's such a disservice to poor James Storm.

#3 - Eric Young

Won: 4/10/2014, from Magnus at Impact Wrestling
Lost: 6/19/2014, to Lashley at Impact Wrestling
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 11 years, 3 months

Another TNA veteran, EY's World Title win should have been more memorable and satisfying, if only it was not similar and did not run at the same time the WWE ran the "Daniel Bryan as the underdog anti-Authority figure" storyline (and did not copy DY's look, even).

Jake de Leon: Great champion, great matches, not so good timing giving him the belt right after D-Bry won it.

SH's Marie Ricana: Well yeah, Eric Young is just TNA's way of shamelessly capitalizing on Daniel Bryan's success in the WWE, but Young did have some exciting matches during his reign. His storyline with MVP and the BDC may be like a clone of Bryan's, but it was pretty enjoyable naman.

Bryan Leo: As deserving as Young was to have won the title, it seemed apparent that he won it not because of his dedication and loyalty to the company, but because he had a beard as long as WWE's Daniel Bryan. EY's reign came abruptly and seemed forced. The fact that EY won it just a few weeks after Bryan did doesn't help whatever arguments they have to the contrary.

(But one of us begs to differ.)

Mark D. Manalo: No, he didn't rip off Daniel Bryan. He got the beard first, but Bryan's beard is better.

#2 - Samoa Joe

Won: 4/13/2008, from Kurt Angle in a Six Sides of Steel Match at Lockdown
Lost: 10/12/2008, to Sting at Bound for Glory
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 2 years, 10 months

He is among TNA's top dogs in the main event scene, but it's a shame that he only got to have one TNA World Title reign, and a relatively short one at that. He didn't even win the NWA World Title.

Nevertheless, his undefeated streak early in his TNA career, his storied X Division and World Tag Team Title reigns (making him one of among only 7 Triple Crown Champions so far), the way he avoided retirement by winning the TNA World Title (against Kurt Angle no less), and being the first man to retain the title in a King of the Mountain Match are proof of how great Joe is.

Some of us actually found it difficult to decide who to rank higher between him and the next guy on this list.

SH's Marie Ricana: His championship pursuit storyline was great. And the King of the Mountain match to retain the championship was awesome. But his feud with two old timers, Sting & Booker T, winded his reign to a screeching halt, with him unexplicably losing his belt to Sting (who wouldn't even be needing a title reign at that point of his career).

Bryan Leo: Joe is a perfect example of a star being completely mishandled. His rise to the top was well-booked and organic. His intense rivalry with Kurt Angle was arguably TNA's most successful rivalry. The sky seemed to be the limit for Joe when he won the title, and he seemed destined to be on top for a long time. Sad to say, TNA once again missed the chance. He spent the majority of his time as champion feuding with the likes of Booker T and Sting, and after just a few months as champion, dropped the title to The Icon. Joe's title reign was mediocre at best, and his TNA career was never the same after losing the championship.

Mark D. Manalo: He deserved more title reigns.

#1 - Austin Aries

Won: 7/8/2012, from Bobby Roode at Destination X
Lost: 10/14/2012, to Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory
Time in TNA prior to World Title win: 1 year, 1 month (during his 2nd TNA run; he debuted in TNA in August 2005 and was under contract a month later, but left in May 2007)

"The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" tops this list because he's just badass. I'll let my colleagues explain it to you.

Mark D. Manalo: Austin Aries is the man!!! He created Option C!

Bryan Leo: The originator of the now-infamous Option C, Aries was considered the X Division's savior. Without a doubt, he had the best reign among everyone on this list. Three things were accomplished by Aries winning the World Title: 1) a sense of excitement was brought about in TNA as nobody had expected Aries to walk out with the title (Roode was then in a bitter rivalry with James Storm), 2) the X Division Title became more important than ever, and 3) a new top face had just been created and the fans approved.

Aries would go on to have a great feud with Roode and have several incredible matches as champion. However, Aries' reign was sadly overshadowed by the Aces & Eights storyline and was short-lived as he dropped the title to Hardy. He then turned heel, a decision that confused many, as Austin's star was still taking off as a face. While it can be argued that a large opportunity was missed, among everyone on this list Aries had the best reign and had little to no damage to his career after losing the title.

Jake de Leon: His road to winning the belt was amazing. His reign, not so much thanks to Aces and Eights and Jeff Hardy.

SH's Marie: Well, I'm an Austin Aries mark. Despite that, no one can't deny that Aries did some pretty darn cool things during his short reign. One is the creation of Option C, earning the eternal gratitude of the X Division wrestlers. Then there are the great matches with Bobby Roode for the title. Afterwards, along came that storyline with the newly-formed Aces & Eights.


What are the chances of any of them becoming a two-time champion?

Among them, only Eric Young remains in TNA, although his current stay there is said to be in limbo as of this writing.

James Storm and Magnus have just left TNA, while Austin Aries is on his way back to Ring of Honor. Would they come back for TNA world title reign #2? We can't say for sure.

Same goes with Samoa Joe and Chris Sabin, who are now working for rival promotions. Rob Van Dam can still go, but it's highly unlikely that he'll win another World Title in TNA.

As for Mick Foley, all 5 of us are unanimous in saying that he's way past his prime for a World Title run.

How about EC3? Where does he rank so far?

The better question is, how many can he win in his career?

Plus, it would only be fair not to rank EC3 among the one-time champions just yet. TNA can still get of the rut that they are in right now, and EC3 is healthy and capable enough to have more TNA World Title reigns.

That is, if TNA would learn its lessons and get things right this time.


What do you think? Do you approve of our rankings? Sound off in the comments section below!

Photo credits: Foley from, Sabin from, Samoa Joe from Youtube upload, all else from TNA.

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