The concept of TNA originated shortly after World Championship Wrestling (WCW) ended in 2001. Bob Ryder, Jeff Jarrett and Jerry Jarrett went on a fishing trip and contemplated their futures in the professional wrestling business. Only one wrestling product remained on United States national television: the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later WWE). Ryder felt that this situation led many television stations to regard professional wrestling as bad for business, so he suggested a company not reliant on television, but rather one going straight to pay-per-view. In July 2002, Vince Russo joined Jeff and Jerry Jarrett's NWA-TNA promotion as a creative writer and would assist in the writing and production of the shows. Russo states that he coined the name "Total Nonstop Action", the initials of the company "TNA" being a play on "T&A", short for "Tits and Ass". The original intention, as they were exclusive to pay-per-view, was to be viewed as an edgier product than WWE.
The Jarretts found the financial backing they needed and the company put on its first show on June 19, 2002. That night, however, in a dark match just before they went on the air, a 450 lb wrestler named Cheex hit the ropes with so much force that one of them broke. The estimated repair time was 30–60 minutes, which they did not have because the schedule called for them to go live in a few minutes, whether the ring was ready or not. Backstage, the producers shuffled the schedule so that some non-wrestling segments went first to give the ring crew some more time, but they did not have many of them. The ring crew fixed the rope with the help of Ron and Don Harris, and everyone went live hoping for the best.
In October 2002, Panda Energy purchased a controlling interest (72%) of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
Initially, TNA's weekly pay-per-view show operated as the company's main source of revenue, in place of monthly pay-per-view events used by other promotions. These shows took place mostly at the Tennessee State Fairground Sports Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, nicknamed the "TNA Asylum". After 27 months and 111 pay-per-view events, TNA began holding a weekly television show and monthly three-hour pay-per-views. The last weekly pay-per-view took place on September 8, 2004. Xplosion launched on November 27, 2002 as TNA's first regular cable show and featured exclusive matches from the TNA Asylum as well as exclusive interviews with TNA wrestlers. On November 18, 2004, the show became a recap show of the previous week's Impact! in light of alterations in the taping schedule. Xplosion resumed airing exclusive matches (billed as "Xplosion Xclusives") once more on October 7, 2005 in addition to recapping Impact!. The "Xplosion Xclusives" also aired on the now-ceased TNA Global Impact! internet show. Airing of Xplosion in the United States ceased at the end of 2006, although some of the exclusive matches can be seen on TNA Today.
In May 2004, TNA introduced a television program, Impact! (stylized as iMPACT!), produced at Soundstage 21 at Universal Studios Florida and broadcast on Fox Sports. The transition included the use of a six-sided wrestling ring, the implementation of the "Fox Box" displaying competitors and timekeeping for the match and a generally more sports-like style than the sports entertainment style exemplified by WWE.
With the switch to cable television, TNA discontinued their weekly pay-per-view shows in favor of a monthly 3-hour pay-per-view format as previously used by WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and as currently used by WWE. In November 2004, TNA held the first of these pay-per-views, Victory Road, beginning the pattern of pay-per-view shows that continued until 2013.
The television contract with Fox Sports expired in May 2005 and was not renegotiated, leaving TNA without television exposure. This prompted TNA to air Impact! via webcasts – originally made available via BitTorrent and eventually via RealPlayer – and on Urban America Television replacing Xplosion. During this time, TNA continued pursuing a profitable television deal for regular broadcasting. TNA would later secure a deal with Spike TV and aired its first episode on October 1, 2005.
In October 2006, TNA began holding select pay-per-views outside of its central filming location, the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida, with Bound for Glory. In April 2006, TNA began a partnership with YouTube, under which TNA supplied YouTube with exclusive video-content in exchange for hosting, leading to the production of internet shows. In January 2007, TNA's mobile-content deal with New Motion, Inc. led to the introduction of TNA Mobile and mobile fan-voting. TNA has also launched "TNA U TV"; podcasts aired through YouTube to help promote the company. Impact! expanded to a two-hour format on October 4, 2007. On June 21, 2009, TNA launched an online video-vault subscription-service where subscribers could watch past pay-per-views by choosing one of three payment options.
On October 23, 2008, TNA made the transition to HD and since then, all programming has been broadcast in high-definition. In addition, TNA introduced a new HD set that included new lighting and several large high-resolution screens.
In 2010, TNA hired professional wrestling legend Hulk Hogan and former WCW President Eric Bischoff. Both obtained a position behind the screen (Bischoff was part of creative and Hogan a consultant) and made some changes. They also hired many high-profile former WWE wrestlers, including Ric Flair, Rob Van Dam, Mr. Anderson and Jeff Hardy, while returning to a four sided ring. On February 15, TNA made a new deal with Spike TV, which moved Impact! to Monday nights, directly opposite of Raw (although the network kept the Thursday night slot open for repeats of the Monday night shows). The first episode took place on March 8.
Signed in 2009, Hulk Hogan
served as a consultant until 2013.
On 3 May, TNA moved Impact! back to Thursday nights, re-branded as "TNA Thursdays". At the same time, Spike also picked up TNA Reaction (stylized as TNA ReAction or, alternatively, as TNA ReACTION), which became a regular one-hour docu-series on June 24. ReAction focused on the stories and characters of TNA and previewed the upcoming episode of Impact!. On February 24, 2011, TNA began holding Impact! tapings at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina. On 3 May, Impact! was re-branded Impact Wrestling.
On November 7, TNA revealed that Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) would become TNA's official developmental territory. In December 2011, TNA debuted their new India-based subsidiary promotion Ring Ka King. On May 31, 2012, Impact Wrestling began airing live at a new start time of 8 p.m. EST on Thursday nights. The live schedule would continue throughout 2012. On July 11, DirecTV, the carrier of Spike, blocked all Viacom stations affecting TNA viewership from DirecTV subscribers. After DirectTV and Viacom reached agreement, the removed channels were added back on July 20. In March 2013, TNA began taping Impact from different venues around the United States and terminated its lease with Universal Studios. On March 14, TNA introduced a new universal HD stage which would be used for all weekly programming. On November 2, TNA ended its relationship with OVW.
TNA formed a relationship with Japanese promotion Wrestle-1 beginning in July 2013 with a meeting between TNA founder Jeff Jarrett and Wrestle-1 head Keiji Mutoh. It was arranged for Jarrett to wrestle for W-1 in October 2013. In November, A.J. Styles successfully defended the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at a Wrestle-1 show in Japan.
From the period of 2013 to 2014, many well-known names or veterans of the company left TNA. Hulk Hogan's contract with TNA expired in October 2013 and he returned to WWE in early 2014. In December 2013, A.J. Styles left TNA after his contract expired. Styles later said that he could not accept TNA's new contract offer which would see him take a 60% cut in pay. Also in December 2013, TNA founder Jeff Jarrett "resigned" from the company. TNA accepted his resignation but clarified that Jarrett was still an "investor" in TNA. In spite of his investor status, the following year Jarrett revealed plans to start a new professional wrestling promotion, Global Force Wrestling. The departures did not stop in 2014, with TNA veterans Sting, Chris Sabin, Hernandez, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian all leaving the company in that year, and the contracts of TNA Hall of Famers Bully Ray and Devon reportedly expired in October 2014, with TNA moving them to the alumni section of their roster in January 2015.
In late July, the TMZ website reported that Spike TV was not renewing Impact Wrestling beyond October. In response, TNA refuted the report, stating that negotiations were still ongoing. On August 14, TNA moved Impact Wrestling from its Thursday timeslot to Wednesday nights. On August 20, TNA signed an extension with Spike TV until the end of 2014.
The 2014 Bound for Glory pay-per-view was held in collaboration with Wrestle-1 in Tokyo, Japan on October 12; the TNA World Heavyweight and the TNA World Tag Team titles were not defended at the event, which featured TNA wrestlers James Storm and The Great Sanada against Wrestle-1's The Great Muta and Tajiri in the main event. After Bound for Glory, TNA effectively went into hiatus due to Impact Wrestling ending their contract with Spike TV and its subsequent move to Destination America. The show ceased airing new televised events after November 19 episode of Impact Wrestling, with the final episodes of 2014 being dedicated to Best of TNA clip shows, before resuming events on January 7, 2015 with a live show from The Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom in New York City.
As revealed in November 2014, TNA ended its relationship with Spike and instead partnered with Discovery Communications to distribute its programming beginning in January 2015. In the United States, TNA programs, including Impact Wrestling, moved to Destination America. Discovery also held rights in selected international markets. Spike's outreach at the time was estimated to be more than 97 million homes while Destination America was estimated to reach 59 million households.
Impact Wrestling premiered on Destination America on Wednesday, January 7 at 9:00 p.m. TNA also started two new shows: Impact Wrestling: Unlocked, hosted by Mike Tenay, and TNA Wrestling's Greatest Matches, a series presenting the best matches in the company's history. From December 2014 to March 2015, several employees re-signed with TNA, including Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Gail Kim, Mr. Anderson, Abyss and Matt Hardy. Awesome Kong also re-joined the company following several years of absence. During this period, veteran Samoa Joe and commentator Tazz left the company by mutual consent.
On April 27, 2015, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan joined TNA as senior producer of creative and talent development.
Destination America gained over 41.94 million viewers over the course of 2015's first quarter, making this the channel's best first quarter ever, followed by their best May ever in prime time. In both cases, Discovery Communications touted Impact Wrestling as one of the reasons for the increase in viewers. Despite this success, Discovery Communications dropped Unlocked and Greatest Matches from their programming in May 2015.
On November 19, TNA signed a deal with Pop to air Impact Wrestling, where it premiered on Tuesday, January 5, 2016, in a live special held at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. With this move to Pop, Impact Wrestling introduced a new HD set, graphics and theme music. This show saw the semi-finals and finals of the TNA World Title Series, which was won by Ethan Carter III. Husband and wife team Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis would debut soon after. Subsequent shows would include episodes taped during a tour of England, which would be the last TNA appearances for Kurt Angle. TNA returned to taping Impact Wrestling at the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, beginning with a live Impact Wrestling on March 15. On March 19, longtime TNA wrestlers Eric Young and Bobby Roode left the promotion after 12 years. On April 22, Velvet Sky, another longtime TNA wrestler, left the company.
On August 12, Billy Corgan became the promotion's new President, while Dixie Carter became Chairwoman and Chief Strategy Officer. On October 13, Corgan sued TNA due to an unpaid debt which Corgan claimed TNA has defaulted on. The state of Tennessee has also put a lien on TNA for unpaid taxes. Anthem Sports & Entertainment, parent company of Impact Wrestling Canadian broadcaster Fight Network, offered to help TNA and repay Corgan for the loans, while also offering additional financial assistance to TNA to help keep them from filing for bankruptcy. On October 31, Corgan lost his injunction that kept TNA from selling the company, but TNA was required to pay Corgan back by November 1. It was possible that one of the other minority owners could pay Corgan, effectively making them the majority owner of TNA. On November 3, the company revealed that Anthem Sports & Entertainment provided a credit facility to fund operations for TNA and that Corgan was no longer with the company as President. However, Corgan himself stated that neither TNA nor Anthem Sports & Entertainment had yet repaid the $2.7 million debt that was owed to him by TNA and, as such, he was considering suing, as well as converting the debt into a 36% stake. As the result of a settlement between Corgan and TNA, Anthem Sports & Entertainment had acquired the loans Corgan made to Dixie.
In January 2017, CBS Corporation, which owns the Pop cable channel, joined Hulu's new live stream service to broadcast TNA. Anthem Sports & Entertainment purchased a majority stake of TNA, re-organizing TNA's parent company. Dixie Carter retained a 5% minority stake in the company, but resigned as Chairwoman after fourteen years with the company and joined Fight Media Group's advisory board. The promotion's parent company, TNA Entertainment, was changed firstly to Impact Ventures and then to Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions, LLC., with Anthem's Executive Vice President Ed Nordholm becoming President of the new parent company. On January 5, Jeff Jarrett was brought back by Anthem to serve as a consultant. On March 2, all appearances of the name TNA were dropped at the TV tapings. At the same tapings, Bruce Prichard stated that the name was "dead", with Anthem re-branding the promotion as Impact Wrestling, the name of its primary television platform. Wrestlers Drew Galloway, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Jade, Crazzy Steve, Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis left the company during this period. On April 20, Impact announced a merger with the original Global Force Wrestling. The company then announced they were rebranding again, taking the GFW name. The following September, Anthem's press releases once again started referring to the company as Impact Wrestling. On October 10, Anthem released the Global Wrestling Network as an alternative to the WWE Network. The Global Wrestling Network primarily features Impact/GFW's tape library but also includes content from other sources. On October 23, Impact Wrestling announced the termination of its relationship with Jeff Jarrett and his company Global Force Entertainment Inc., officially ending the attempted rebranding into GFW.
Impact announced their first live pay-per-view of the year will be Redemption, on April 22.
In December 2017, Anthem announced the hiring of Don Callis and Scott D'Amore as Executive Vice Presidents to take charge of Impact Wrestling’s day-to-day operations starting with the January 10 tapings. At the tapings, the company reverted to a traditional four-sided ring and also saw the return of former World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries, as well the debuts of new wrestlers such as Kiera Hogan, Su Yung, Pentagón Jr, Fénix and Brian Cage. Impact also announced a partnership with live streaming service Twitch.tv to produce content for their platform, starting with Brace for Impact, which was co-promoted with New Jersey-based promotion WrestlePro. Their first live show was Impact vs. Lucha Underground, a co-promoted show with Lucha Underground.
On August 14, 2018, Jeff Jarrett and his company Global Force Entertainment announced that it had filed a lawsuit against Impact Wrestling's parent company Anthem Sports & Entertainment in the District Court of Tennessee for copyright infringement over the GFW rights, as Jarrett owned all Global Force Wrestling properties since its creation in 2014.