It was something of a running joke for a while, the indie sensation or, more likely, a former WWE superstar turning up at Soundstage 21 at Universal Studios, Orlando with a slightly different name and look and imitation theme music, ready to entertain the hundreds stuffed into the Impact Zone.
Most of the big debuts were reserved for such stars, with homegrown or as yet unproven talents usually being introduced with little pomp or circumstance.
As TNA/IMPACT grew and attempted to compete as America’s number two wrestling promotion, they desperately sought out talent that their potential audience may have been familiar with from being on television with another company.
Everyone from the Basham Brothers, Orlando Jordan and Tomko to Daivari, the Heart Throbs and Marc Mero wrestled for the organisation over the years.
But we’re not here to talk about them!
No, we’re here to talk about actual stars, because TNA/Impact certainly had plenty of those on offer, too.
There’s no doubt that your Kevin Nashs, Booker Ts, Drew McIntyres and the like brought intrigue, but how did TNA handle their introductions and do their debuts make the grade here?
10. Jeff Hardy
By April of 2003, Jeff Hardy was beyond burned out and desperately needed a reprieve from falling off ladders for a while.
After being released from his WWE contract due to substance and disciplinary issues, the Charismatic Enigma – who was only 24 years-old at the time – decided to take a break from the business.
The door was open for a WWE return when his mind and body were fit and ready but Hardy had other ideas and showed up in TNA, land of decent pay for a much reduced schedule, for their second anniversary show on June 23rd, 2004.
Answering the open challenge of X-Division Champion AJ Styles, Jeff emerged to a thunderous ovation – well, as thunderous as a few hundred people in the Nashville Fairgrounds can be, anyway.
He looked like a star during his entrance and that carried over into the match itself, a nice taster of things to come as Hardy looked sharp while having a good, competitive match with The Phenomenal One.
In the end, Hardy didn’t win the title thanks to interference from Kid Kash and Dallas, but he did get to stand tall and make the save with a steel chair and a Swanton Bomb.
A genuine surprise and a good performance to boot, Hardy’s TNA inauguration helped raise hopes for a longer run to come.