There seems to be a lot of clamoring about the fact that TNA is airing a program opposite the WWE in January. The talk of a new era of Monday Night Wrestling Wars is great publicity and surely has lit up the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC).
If you are not aware, TNA is airing their Jan. 4, 2010, episode of iMPACT opposite the WWE’s Raw program. This is also the date that Hulk Hogan is slated to make his on-camera TNA debut.
There have been a number of news stories posted at Bleacher Report about this matter and I will do my best to not rehash them in my writing and stick to opinion only.
There is no NFL game that Monday night with the regular season ending Sunday, January 3. The BCS Bowl Series is also off that night.
This means there will not be marquee outside sports competition for the male demographic. For the wrestling fan, it should prove to be an interesting night of choices.
Having read the articles here at Bleacher Report and many of the comments, one point stands clear to me. TNA has generated a “special edition” show that will be a one-time event.
For those who have begun to clamor that we’re entering a new “Monday Night War” phase, just be patient. TNA is progressing, yet remains so secondary in the mainstream wrestling landscape that there is no imminent war.
Vince McMahon is among many things a smart business man. He has already begun to respond to this by planning a special edition of Raw in order to keep the impact (pun somewhat intended) of TNA airing a Monday night show to a minimum.
There are rumors circulating of a three-hour edition of Raw that may air commercial free that night.
Vince will bring his best to the table, but he really does not have to. Looking at the ratings, Raw draws in the threes, while TNA is struggling to draw ones on its own night and time.
Vince already holds a three-to-one edge. Adding Hulk Hogan’s first on-camera appearance for TNA may make for great one-night ratings, but it will not likely mean much over the long term.
TNA is at a point where it cannot lose its internal focus solely for the sake of competing with the WWE. This special edition show is good to use as a measuring stick to see where they are.
It’s good to evaluate yourself against your competition and I have no problem with that. But there are two things that I think TNA would be better served to try to do first rather than worry about competing with WWE on Monday nights.
Some of you may remember the very early years of the WCW. The shows were broadcast on TBS Superstation where the crowds were small and made up of mainly touristy types who allegedly were coached on when to cheer and when to boo.
Shows were put “in the can” weeks and even months in advance of airing and in total the experience was a headache for WCW.
WCW moved away from studios and into larger venues, and started doing live shows. I know many remember when Eric Bischoff gave away taped Raw results on the live Monday Nitro shows that WCW had.
That moment alone was one of a number of elements to the ratings war that the two federations had.
Granted, TNA’s present television product is light years ahead of where WCW started from. Yet I have read a number of reports that say the weekly iMPACT tapings are much like those WCW tapings, with a crowd that is neither totally wrestling savvy nor are they true fans.
We also know that iMPACT shows are taped at least a week in advance. It gives the show a very canned feel at times.
If TNA intends to truly compete in the future, they need to begin to move weekly shows out of the iMPACT Zone in Orlando. Using smaller arenas outside of a television studio invites a larger wrestling-savvy fan base, creating a more energetic environment.
There are obvious costs involved to do so, however if Dixie Carter is as serious as she claims about competing with WWE, this fact cannot be ignored.
TNA has had minor success in doing pay-per-view events outside of Orlando. Going by reports, they still are not moving a large number of tickets to their house shows but for a television event they may see better results.
But again, small steps are needed here; they can’t expect to sell out Madison Square Garden for an iMPACT event on the first try.
I believe it will also help TNA to begin to do more live iMPACT events and less tapings, whether they choose to do them at the iMPACT Zone or an outside venue.
There are a number of websites that any wrestling fan can go to and find out a week or two weeks’ worth of iMPACT results from before the shows ever reach the air. If a fan doesn’t care for the results, why would they tune in to the show?
I am not completely against taping shows, as it is necessary at times. In fact, most Smackdown shows are taped and it still does well to entertain even with spoilers.
I think for TNA’s case as a single brand, mixing up live shows and taped shows could be very beneficial to them as they continue to grow the company.
Live TV can lead to less leaked spoilers, which in turn would invite more viewers to find out exactly what’s going on with their favorite stars or storylines.
I am also of the opinion that more live events will also help grow the wrestling talent. With live TV, there is no luxury of editing or cutting out a mistake.
While creating more pressure on the talent, it could also help make them better knowing they need to be "on" the entire time and that there is no editing process to bail them out.
Jim Ross said it best on his blog when he felt that TNA needed to remain focused on their own product before competing with WWE.
They need to continue the progress they've started and these things may be two more steps toward an eventual ratings war.
Let’s hope that TNA Management is not getting the cart before the horse with this special Monday night program.