Monday Night Wars… Part Two?

Today is January 4th. Eleven years ago today, in 1999, was the day that many (including myself) consider the day that WCW put the final nail in their own coffin. Coincidentally, today may have the opposite effect for TNA, or so Hulk Hogan would have you believe. He recently joined the company with the apparent intention of revamping it and turning it into a legitimate “threat” for WWE, starting with a special three hour Impact! going right up against tonight’s Raw. For now, it’s just a one-time thing to test the waters, but if TNA does well, they may permanently move Impact! to Monday nights.

TNA has been relatively quiet about the lineup for their big Monday show, so it seems they’re banking quite a bit on Hogan’s name (he’s making his TV debut tonight) and the overall hype of having the audacity to compete with the big dog. As of this writing, we know there will be a steel asylum match (though the actual competitors are still a secret, other than “X-Division”), Scott Hall will apparently be there in some form, and Jeff Hardy will at least be “visiting.” There’s also been promises of many other surprises. Their show will be on from 8-11, while Raw will be in its usual 9-11 slot, so they would have an uncontested hour to convince people not to change the channel when Raw begins. However, WWE is countering by turning this Raw into a big show of their own. Thus far, they’ve announced a few big matches, but also something that is far bigger than Hulk Hogan.

Tonight, Bret Hart is finally returning to WWE for the first time since November 1997. The circumstances behind his departure left a considerable amount of bitterness between himself and Vince McMahon, and also with Shawn Michaels. His return means that the three of them were finally able to put their grudges aside, but on-screen, that will likely not be the case, and thus has the potential for many “oh snap” moments. Unfortunately, Bret Hart most likely cannot wrestle anymore, but he still has much to offer the wrestling business regardless. He’d be a very interesting TV personality, as well as a great backstage consultant or trainer. And personally, I’ve always liked him far more than Hulk Hogan anyway. Not to mention the fact that Hogan has been around quite a bit since 1997, between on-and-off WWE returns and his various reality shows. Bret Hart has not been “around” nearly as much for his fans to enjoy, so this is a huge treat. The rumors say that he has a contract that lasts at least a few months, so I’m going to throw this theory out there: he’ll be a special guest referee for Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker II at Wrestlemania XXVI, where he finally gets his revenge by screwing Michaels out of a win. Or otherwise costs him a win.

So, from my perspective, Raw has the much more appealing show. But there are other problems for TNA beyond that. For one, although Hogan certainly has a lot to offer, knowledge-wise, he has a history of being in it for himself. I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that he may just want a quick payday after all the personal problems he’s had lately. But on the other hand, another way of getting a lot of money would be to turn TNA into a huge success, so maybe he’ll live up to all of his promises and make himself and Dixie Carter into billionaires.

Of course, Jeff Hardy is certainly a big deal, and probably means far more to the younger crowd than Bret Hart, as he was possibly the most popular WWE star in recent history. But TNA would be a fool to sign him to any permanent contract now, considering he’s currently facing very serious criminal charges that could lead to him going to prison for many, many years. They already played that game a few months ago when they gave Kurt Angle the benefit of the doubt after his arrest, but to take such a risk this time would be incredibly stupid. Even if it is just a one-time thing, that would be good for one night’s ratings, but would likely embitter some of the people who tuned in solely for him. As for Scott Hall, as much as I love the man on-screen, he has plenty of personal problems as well, and isn’t exactly known for being dependable. It wasn’t that long ago that he no-showed one of TNA’s own pay-per-view events.

Another of TNA’s problems is the fact that Impact!‘s current ratings barely match those of WWE’s C-shows; all of them average a 1.0, give or take a tenth or two. Raw tends to average in the mid 3’s, so TNA would have to more than triple their normal viewership to compete, let alone win. Hogan claims they can do it, but I think he overestimates himself at least a tad.

I don’t mean for this post to be all “insult Hogan, squee about Bret,” but I do think WWE probably has TNA’s number, at least for tonight. Hogan could be a major creative asset, but all we have so far is hype and promises. I think it will take a lot of time and effort for TNA to gain an edge and become huge, and only time will tell if Hogan is really on board for it all. And I do honestly hope they do well, not only because it would be more enjoyable to watch, but if they do become a threat to WWE, then WWE will also be forced to shake things up. TNA has a great roster, and I usually enjoy Impact! more than Raw most weeks anyway, because Raw has frankly turned into a bad joke. (WWE’s other weekly shows, especially Smackdown, are generally more tolerable, however.)

As for which show I’m going to watch? I’m not a Nielsen household, so it technically doesn’t matter anyway, but the answer is Raw. Partly because Impact! will replay on Thursday in its normal time slot, and partly because I’m going to be at tonight’s Raw live. Don’t ask me how I’ve stayed this calm about it, because I don’t know either.

I’ll more than likely post some detailed “aftermath” thoughts after I see Impact!, and maybe some photos from Raw if my camera chooses not to suck.

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Categories: Contemplation, Pro Wrestling

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