Monday, January 04, 2010

The Monday Night Wars 2010

What side you on?

Not since March 26, 2001, have at least two wrestling organizations gone head-to-head with such anticipation as they are tonight.

On one side, you got the WWE nee WWF's flagship Monday Night Raw. Recently, the show has taken to stunt-casting methods of keeping their ratings high. Instead of offering great wrestling & quality athleticism, the McMahon family strategy has been to bring in "guest hosts," serving in a faux booking capacity. These stints have ranged from inspired (Bob Barker, Trish Stratus, Shaq) to feeble (Jeremy Piven, Al Sharpton, those two NASCAR guys).

On the other side, you have TNA Wrestling (I have found that I can't just say "TNA" in mixed company without adding the "Wrestling" qualifier ... for obvious reasons). They've been building their fanbase slowly but steadily over the course of several years. They started with weekly pay-per-view outings, wound up on a cable network (Sports South), lost that, gained Spike TV and cradled themselves in a nice niche on Thursdays. With a combination of young talent (AJ Styles, Samoa Joe) and established superstars (Kurt Angle, Sting), TNA Wrestling has secured a fair share of the wrestling fanbase that is less interested in the "entertainment" side of the sport of wrestling.

Tonight, TNA Impact goes outside of their element to the tune of two: It ventures away from its Thursday comfort zone, and it's a live show (where Impact is usually taped weekly). There's a twist to the tale, this time: Hulk Hogan has thrown his support behind TNA's brand, and for better or worse, it's created some interest. Tonight marks the beginning of this newer era of TNA's inception.

To counter this, Raw has established a solid show. You have two major feuds culminating in-ring tonight, featuring young and established talent alike. Degeneration X (HHH & Shawn Michaels) take on Big Show and Chris Jericho for the Unified tag team titles; previous meetings between the two teams have obvious inspiration from all involved, and it's produced some quality matches. Also, you have Kofi Kingston facing Randy Orton, a feud that saw a remarkable brawl between the two to cap off the WWF's most recent Madison Square Garden show. Oh, and tonight's guest host for Raw is Bret Hart, making his first appearance on Raw in twelve years; in front of a live camera, with all that energy built up from the ol' "Montreal Screwjob," scripted or not, will be interesting to watch.

As if the pot weren't sweet enough, young wrestling fan, you also have tonight's Ring of Honor show, on HDNet, which will be their first show coming off of one of Ring of Honor's more popular outings, "Final Battle 2009."

So, here's your wrestling television schedule for tonight; previews provided by those respective organizations --

Ring of Honor
HDNet, 8:00 - 9:00pm
Here is a preview for the next episode which premieres on Monday, January 4th at 8pm EST:
*Pick 6 Series Match: Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong
*Eddie Kingston vs. Claudio Castagnoli with Prince Nana
*Rhett Titus vs. El Generico
*"The King of Old School" Steve Corino in action
*Highlights from Final Battle 2009

TNA Wrestling: Impact
Spike TV, 8:00 - 11:00pm
The biggest name in professional wrestling history, Hulk Hogan, will make his first live appearance on Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling’s “TNA iMPACT!” in a live 3-hour special on Spike TV Monday, January 4, 2010 at 8:00PM ET/PT.

Joining Hogan for the three-hour live “iMPACT!” will be TNA World Heavyweight Champion “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, “The Samoan Submission Machine” Samoa Joe, “The Boss” Bobby Lashley and “The Blueprint” Matt Morgan.

- For The Knockouts Championship: Tara defends against ODB
- For the Knockouts Tag Team Championship: Sarita and Taylor Wilde defend against Awesome Kong and Hamada

WWE Monday Night Raw
USA, 9:00 - 11:00+pm
On the next edition of Monday Night Raw, Unified Tag Champions DX defend against Jeri-Show, while Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton settle their volatile rivalry at the start of 2010. Plus, the iconic Bret "Hit Man" Hart makes his return to WWE as guest host.

What am I watching? While it'll be hard not to just focus on ROH and WWE tonight since Thursday will have an encore of tonight's Impact, I am probably going to end up flipping back and forth between the two major shows - Impact and Raw. Poor ROH gets lost in the shuffle, but I love the effort, that they've countered the appearances of Hart and Hogan with Steve Corino. That shows moxie.

The matches announced so far are no-brainers: I'd rather watch DX/ Jericho & Show and Orton/Kingston, even though the only athlete in all six of those wrestlers that I even give two shits about is Big Show. The Knockouts, while fun to watch on their own merits, don't compare.

The most interesting part of all is how tonight's being marketed. WWE is all about telling you what to expect, with their matches and with Bret Hart's return; it's all in the presentation. TNA, however, is being very quiet about who or what to expect ... they only just announced their (women's) matches in the middle of last week, there's some rumor of an X Division cage match (which isn't mentioned on their site), and there's all kinds of rumors about who's going to show up, with names from RVD to Scott Hall to former TNA gold standard Monty Brown being mentioned.

No matter what, it'll be a cool night for watching wrestling. I'm washing the dog early and settling in around 7:30pm, with the phone off the hook and the snacks well within arms distance.


Rev. Joshua said...

I watched the Fiesta Bowl because I'd rather watch TCU play Boise State than watch any contemporary professional wrestling. Although I did not know that RoH has a weekly show on HDNet, so I might check that out in the future.

The fancy HD box also has the fancy DVR, so Buck records Raw and it may be viewed by fast-forwarding through the crap which is everything more often than not. After the game wrapped up, I took a gander at the return of Bret Hart and it was...different. I have, over the years, slowly developed the opinion that the Montreal Screwjob was the greatest work in the history of professional wrestling and what happened tonight solidifies that opinion. Nice to the see Bret again even if he is older, who cares, it's Bret Hart and that's awesome. He came out, cut some promos, and apparently set up a WM match against Vince McMahon. That's...actually a pretty hot idea. It won't be a five-star classic but damn if it won't be the culmination of the greatest feud in the history of the business. Well played, gentlemen. Well played.

I've tried TNA a few times and it never takes, partly because I don't care for that "taped in a big studio" atmosphere. It feels so canned, like watching a slightly better, slicker version of WCW Worldwide. Also, TNA pretty clearly tries for a nouveau Southern Wrestling style - a modern-day Memphis/SMW - which also doesn't appeal to me in any meaningful way. It actually seems limiting in appeal at a time when staunch regionalism in pop culture seems to be disappearing. And finally, the roster sucks. The guys that are TNA-grown or indy guys that (haven't/didn't/don't want to) make it to the WWE are all bland which is bad enough and then you add the old-old-old-ass, washed-up, former main eventers and superstars like Sting, Kevin Nash (who can barely walk), Scott Steiner (who was never really a real long-term had-to-draw-money main eventer anyway, IIRC), Mick Foley (whose aches have pains, seriously dude, no) and then to that you add Hulk Hogan (fuck this), Eric Bischoff (fuck you) and Ric Flair (aw damn man do you need money that badly?) and HOLY DICK?!? Scott Hall and Sean Waltman? nWo reunion? Sting in the rafters? STING IN THE RAFTERS?!? What the fuck, the Nasty Boys? I thought one of them was dead? You know what, TNA? Go. Fuck. Yourselves.

You could just pay $10 a month for WWE On Demand and see these same pieces of washed up trash back when they were, you know, good. Or at least watchable. This is goddamned ridiculous. I know I've laughed and joked and bitched about seeing D-X on Raw and "like OMG it's totally a flashback to 1998 and stuff" but, goddamn it at least HBK is the greatest worker of all time and HHH can at least have a pretty good match under the right conditions. Plus they aren't rehashing the shitty nWo2K or Millionaires Club vs. the New Blood angles that finally drove WCW into the ground. Or any other shitty WCW angles that drove anyone into the ground because they were never involved in any in the first place, which is simply one of many good indicators that some people should be on TV and others shouldn't and whoever is running TNA doesn't have that part of the brain that tells them which is which.

The worst thing is that unless Hulk Hogan completely changed his manner of existance all the way down to genetic manipulation and rewriting his DNA, he's going to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING POSITIVE FOR TNA. He's going to want too much money, provide zero original content, do nothing useful for the long term, will not create new stars, and will obliterate morale and divide the locker room. HE HAS DONE MOST OF THESE THINGS SEVERAL TIMES IN THE PAST. I seriously and with all sincerity hope that TNA is driven into bankruptcy, resulting in Hulk Hogan never being used in a wrestling capacity again.

Rev. Joshua said...

Because I'm unemployed and this TNA shit is an abomination before the Lord, I decided to have a look-see at the comments after the 411 review I read to get an idea of what kind of mouth-breather enjoyed this horseshit. The comments section of most broad-readership websites are usually the literary equivalent of a burning dumpster filled with the contents of John Wayne Gacy's crawlspace, so I'm also going to mock a few of the most flagrant quotes.

"Spike, TNA, make this Monday move permanent. Fuck tomorrow's ratings..." And fuck money, too, while you're at it! We don't need it, we don't want it. Get rid of it.

"TNA won the war tonight!!!! Much better show tonight!!!! Raw was filled with no surprises and boredom!!!!!!!" What the fuck is a Montreal Screwjob!!!! I started watching wrestling last week!!!! I don't understand why Vince McMahon turning on Bret Hart is important!!!!!!!

"Well it wasn't perfect, but was eventful to say the least. Could have done with less WWE rejects and washed up has beens taking up TV time. Seemed to drag on in places." What were you watching? It was all "WWE rejects and washed up has beens." That's why it dragged on.

"I liked Bischoff, Hall, Waltman, Hogan, Jarrett, Sting, Foley's, Bubba Sponge, roles tonight. And i noticed that Samoa Joe has lost a step. And RAW just didnt feel right too me. Bret Hart coming back shouldve been a BIG thing but it just felt lackluster" You enjoyed terrible shit that is rehashed shit based on unoriginal shit, but the historically interesting and significant event was lackluster?

"My favorite part...was when they focused on the old guys, following a tremendous TV match, with Diesel, Razor Ramon, and the 1-2-3 Kid beating down Cactus Jack while Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan watched. lolTNA" I like you, kid, you've got moxie.

"I'll say it. This was w/o a doubt the better show for the night. I enjoy Bret Hart... but this show was just *packed* full." Yeah but it was *packed* full of shit.

"Normally, I'd be complaining like hellabout all the old wrestlers who followed Hulk to TNA. But, I won't tonight. Because they filled an important role. They demonstrated, on purpose (i hope) that there's really no place for them in TNA. That they can't just rest on their names and reps. Hopefully, TNA will follow up on that." So you hope TNA spent a bunch of money on a lesson in principle that ends with them firing everyone for sucking? Because that's what is actually happening, except that it's not going to be a lesson in principles so much as ignoring history and the end will see these people unemployed, but only because the company went bankrupt.

Don't get me wrong, Raw is Awful and Randy Orton versus John Cena is the main event in Stephen King's unreleased short-story "You Know They've Got a Hell of Wrestling Promotion" but I can't stop wondering how anyone enjoyed tonight's Impact, even a little. The main event might have been nice but it's was a temporary reprieve from a massive torrent of atrocity.

Nate said...

This was what I was envisioning for Raw, last night:

Big mid-ring confrontation between Bret Hart & Vince. Blah blah blah, "you screwed me," "you screwed you," Shawn Michaels' music hits. Shawn hits the ring, big emotional "shoot" closure confrontation right there in Vince's face.

Boom! Sweet chin music! Vince & Shawn celebrate. At 11pm.


That's when Bret grabs the house mic, commends Vince & Shawn for one-upping yet again, taking advantage of him when he's not prepared for a physical confrontation. But this time Bret's got a different idea ...

Cue "Enough is enough, and it's time for a change!" Decked out in the purple specs, the two Slammies in hand comes Owen Hart. "Omigod, what does this mean?" Off the air.

Except we eventually learn it's not really Owen, but Kid Kash, fresh off making bond for his identity theft arrest.

Road to Wrestlemania, built around the threat presented by Bret, Kid Kash as Owen Hart, and the Hart Dynasty. Wrestlemania 2010 main event: Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon vs.Shawn Michaels.

Oh, and "Owen Hart" vs. the Undertaker; 'taker wins, of course. 'Cause, y'know.

Fuck YOU, TNA.

Rev. Joshua said...

Undead Owen Hart vs. the Undertaker would have actually been a feud in the early 90's WWF, but I don't think Vince is on that cocaine any more.

After sleeping on it, I'm no less shocked, mortified, and also amused that in 2009 a wrestling company chose to hitch their wagon to that bunch of old, old horses and and that those old horses willingly engaged in self-parody. I wonder if Dixie Carter physically kissed the money goodbye, cause she won't be seeing it again.