Dead Even: A Dissenting View of Monday Night's Wrestling
After spending several weeks seemingly bashing Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, I must humbly bow my head and give credit where credit is due.
Both TNA and the WWE put on painfully average shows Monday night.
In my opinion, many of our expectations were not met in what was billed as the reincarnation of the "Monday Night Wars" by folks all across the nation and the world.
I contend that we should not celebrate TNA's mediocre attempt at "competing" with the WWE's flagship show, RAW, nor should we pat Vince McMahon on the back for the product he aired on the USA Network.
With my head gingerly bowed towards the earth, I quietly remark that Monday night's war was more of a "Monday Night Debacle" than anything else. The sad part is, regardless of how we personally feel about either show, the ratings will reveal the true winner. Regardless of how we personally feel about either show, the ratings will reveal Monday night's true winner.
There are a few things that should draw your immediate attention as we continue to discuss both Impact! and RAW here on B/R. Ironically, these things deal more with our responses than they do the shows.
Aren't We Forgetting Something?
It seems as if our natural response to either show is to highlight what we deem as "positive" rather than confront what we deem as "negative," or we'll accentuate the positives of one show and overexaggerate the negatives of the other. Our analysis and judgment of a show can hardly be considered critical or objectionable if we fail to present accurate pictures of what we witnessed.
I know this may seem a bit contradictory for me to say, seeing as I just spent my last three articles dancing gleefully around the negatives of TNA as a business without highlighting their strengths. In a nutshell, I've got some explaining to do.
I've focused many a tirade at TNA simply because as a company, I want them to do better, and they should be doing a hell of a lot better than what they are now.
In terms of young and hungry athletes and athleticism, they've got the WWE beat. In terms of innovation and growth within the company, they've got the WWE beat. In terms of star power, especially with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Jeff Hardy signing with the company, they've got the WWE beat.
So in a sense that's why I'm unfavorably hard on TNA. With all of these strengths, it makes no sense that they're still suffering from the problems they currently have. After five years on Spike TV, they should have enough money to tape their shows away from the Impact Zone, have bigger and better advertisers scratching and clawing to peddle their products during Impact!, and a legion of new talent highlighting their programming.
Instead, the fans get what we got Monday night. To make matters worse, we're so soured by the WWE's creative direction that I'm positive people would've cheered if Ric Flair wrestled that legendary broom he can supposedly have a good match with.
Let's get out of the habit of celebrating mediocrity. TNA's product Monday night may or may not have been better than the WWE's, but that doesn't make it the best. Think back to grade school: A "D" is better than an "F," but it's still a "D."
"Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don't Lie"
This is a paraphrased line from a Jay-Z song off his new album, The Blueprint 3. A lot of fans have been saying, "regardless of what the ratings say..." I have to stop the sentence right there to direct you back to the fourth paragraph of this article.
The ratings will reveal the true winner of Monday night's clash between TNA and the WWE. The system does not consist of a two fat men sitting in a basement eating Cheetos and doughnuts, discussing why they hate or love a particular show. It's a complex system that estimates what folks in the U.S. are watching a show through a tracking system made up of surveys and little boxes that sit on/next to their television sets.
In that sense, if one show was better than another, then the ratings will give you an idea of how much better that particular show was. After all, if more people are watching one show over the other, then we can assume that that show must have something that the other show doesn't, which is why more people would watch the former rather than the latter.
For example, let's take the sitcoms Living Single and Friends. Both essentially showed the lives of six friends living in close proximity to each other in major metropolitan cities, and both sitcoms gained recognition for the quality of the writing, production, and actors/actresses. Both sitcoms also gained extremely high ratings as well.
However, Friends lasted for 10 seasons, while Living Single only lasted for five. Even if you Wikipedia both shows, the write-up for Friends is way longer than the one for Living Single. I have no clue how the ratings did for either show, but I think it shall suffice to say that Friends did a tad bit better than Living Single, hence the five extra seasons on the air.
Just knowing that basic information, would you say, "Living Single was a better show?" That may be true according to you, but obviously not better enough to squeak past five seasons. What you have, ladies and gents, is the makings of an opinion.
You can't really get mad at someone's opinion. Hey, this article within itself is an opinion. But what we can get mad at is when one's opinion is justified with faulty logic. It's perfectly fine to say that one show was better than the other, but don't dare justify that opinion by discrediting the system designed to gauge how many people are watching a show.
That's like saying, "Well, the Saints may be at No. 1 in the NFC, but we all know that the Rams have the better team..."
Having gotten that out of the way, here's my opinion of both shows. I'll look at the negatives and the positives of each show in order to give a fair and balanced view of why I believe TNA and the WWE were both just average.
WWE RAW—Guest Host: Bret Hart
There were very few matches on the card Monday night, not to mention the show seemed to drag along at points. Evan Bourne was once again buried, but this time it was by the reigning WWE Champion, Sheamus.
On a night where RAW went head to head with their closest competitor, a sense of urgency was noticeably missing from the show. For Vince McMahon and crew, this episode of RAW was just as bland and stale as the previous ones.
Guest host Bret Hart finally put an end to his 12-year real life rivalry with Shawn Michaels but was unable to do the same with Vince McMahon. Hart ended up getting kicked in the yam bag by McMahon in a closing segment that left me confused more so than anxious about the next episode of RAW.
Kofi Kingston's feud with Orton has seemingly ended, and Maryse continues to make play wrestling in the Divas division look good (and yes, that's a negative). Chris Jericho and Big Show lost their rematch against Unified Tag Champs, DX, which means Jericho is no longer allowed on RAW. This is terrible, as some would argue that Jericho is the only person that made the show watchable.
Sheamus, The Miz, Maryse, Kofi Kingston, Orton, and Evan Bourne were given TV time on the flagship show. This doesn't seem like a spectacular deal at first, but as more fans are screaming for new faces, it's very good that these young stars were able to stretch their legs on RAW.
Fans were given a solid reason to hate Sheamus as he besmirched a fan favorite in Evan Bourne, and much to a diehard fan's delight, there was NO JOHN CENA! The Miz cut an EXCELLENT promo before the fatal four way match determining the No. 1 contender to his U.S. Title.
Also, what we didn't see was the dark match between Chavo Guerrero and Bryan Danielson. Guerrero commented via Twitter that if the two would've had 20 more minutes, they would've torn the house down! It's only a matter of time before Danielson debuts on TV.
It was great to see Bret Hart back in the ring, and although we may never know his true intentions, it was a golden moment to see him mend fences with Shawn Michaels. The swift kick to the jewels from Vince McMahon sets up a rivalry between he and the Chairman of the WWE. I'm assuming that this means something for The Hart Dynasty, which is also a good thing.
In all honesty, RAW Monday night was average at best.
TNA Impact!—Time for a Change: TNA Debut of Hulk Hogan
The X-Division was once again buried, so it may be another month before Amazing Red (a) defends his title or (b) is seen on TV altogether. The smell of Ben-Gay and prune juice riddled the Impact Zone as Scott Hall, The Nasty Boys, and Ric Flair made their TNA debuts.
There were more commercials aired than anything else on the program. Most of the matches on the program were short and lacked logical booking sense. TNA also continued to give the WWE free press by not only hiring their former wrestlers, but also by overtly mentioning their name over and over again throughout the show.
The crowd in attendance was obviously pro-Hogan, proudly sporting his trademark yellow and red paraphernalia. It's just unfortunate that Hogan debuted with TNA wearing all black. Much like the crash-and-burn booking style, the fans in the Impact Zone seemed confused too. One minute they were chanting, "This is wrestling," while the next they were chanting, "This is bulls--t."
The TNA roster continues to bulge at the seams, even though Hogan promised to fire some people and told the roster that "everyone has to earn their spot." I wonder if Arn Anderson has anything to say about that.
At either rate, I question whether the money spent on hiring some arguably unnecessary people (Val Venus, Orlando Jordan) could've been used somewhere more productive...such as hosting this landmark episode at someplace other than the Impact Zone?
There were also a bunch of little things that made no sense, such as Hogan saying that he had been in the back talking with the talent for most of the day, yet was shown arriving at the arena via motorcade 55 minutes late for the biggest show in the company's history. Hogan also claimed that it was a new day in TNA, right after he walked down to the ring with the nWo theme playing in the Impact Zone.
TNA has acquired the services of Jeff Hardy, one of wrestling's most charismatic superstars. This within itself is a HUGE deal for TNA. Add to that the star power associated with Ric Flair, and we can honestly say TNA is cooking with gas.
The show was definitely more action packed than RAW, and we also saw a new Knockouts Champ crowned with Tara, and new Knockouts Tag Team Champs crowned with Awesome Kong and Hamada. Two of TNA's brightest prospects, "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero and Desmond Wolfe, had an excellent match together.
Kurt Angle and AJ Styles once again proved what pro wrestling is all about, and Hulk Hogan's presence in the Impact Zone was enough to energize legions of fans. Hogan also brought the members of the nWo back together under one roof, which leaves huge possibilities open for interaction with the young stars.
TNA also had fans glued to Impact! by having several superstars randomly appear on the show, leaving everyone to wonder, "Who's gonna show up next?" Seeing Val Venis reprise his role as...well, Val Venis, was pretty entertaining, as well as the exchange between "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero and Orlando Jordan.
However, in all honesty, Impact! Monday night was average too. The only thing that made it different from what's shown on Thursday nights is Hogan and the random new/old superstars.
To bring this piece to a close, I still believe that both shows failed to meet our expectations. RAW did very little to entice TNA fans over to their show, and Impact! just offered something different from what we're use to seeing on Monday nights. Other than that, it's safe to say that the best thing about Monday night was that there was an alternative to Impact! AND RAW.
Only time will tell how each of these companies will capitalize on their own success Monday night, or the failure of their competitor.
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