Let me start off by making three things clear:
First, given TNA's lowly 1.0 rating last Monday, the measure for the term "success" is remarkably low. I don't mean that for TNA to succeed, the WWE must wave the white flag and surrender. No realist could possibly picture that happening. I'm simply talking about TNA's continued existence perhaps two or three years from now, with sustained growth and prosperity.
Secondly, I should state that I prefer TNA's wrestlers and their overall product, flawed though it might be, to the WWE right now. I'm specifically referring to Raw vs Impact.
Lastly, and perhaps most important for WWE marks to know, I still like the WWE and want to see both companies succeed. That's more or less my reason for writing this article.
I honestly think that this is one of the worst eras for WWE in terms of talent, angles/storylines and overall content. At least in the pre-attitude era, WWE and Raw still had a sort "anything can happen" feel to it, even if the gimmicks were still mostly stuck in the 80's.
Now, to me (and I can't emphasize the "to me" portion enough), every Raw feels like they're going through the motions. The guest host comes on and talks about their charity or their upcoming event or their product, then we see Hornswaggle run around, Santino mispronounces something, Triple H and HBK get their usual drama/comedy time and then Cena comes out and barks at someone, who comes out and barks back, Randy Orton acts like a snake...The list goes on.
When more than a few portions of a show become predictable, almost to the point of becoming a weekly ritual, the whole show develops a very "been there, done that" feel to it.
The younger WWE talent like Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston and MVP don't really interest me all that much. And the older guys, well, I've seen them wrestle a million times now, especially in the 10 years where WWE basically had no competition. Guys like HBK, Triple H, the Big Show, John Cena, Randy Orton, etc all hit the same spots, do the same moves...
Outside of a few guys on Raw like Evan Bourne and perhaps The Miz, there's almost no innovation anymore. If you disagree, then that's fine; that's your opinion, and I don't hold that againt you. Some people like watching only reruns of their favorite shows, so why should Raw fans be looked down upon for their viewing preferences?
So if TNA coming along and challenging them on Monday nights (and I agree, it's a VERY long uphill battle before we can even call it a "challenge") actually comes to fruition over time, where it forces WWE out of this malaise and really gets their creative team moving in the right direction again, isn't that a good thing?
I get that WWE fans want to see TNA fail because they have an "us vs them" mentality. Maybe that comes from the old Monday Night wars, where WCW came relatively close to putting Vince McMahon out of business.
Let me assure anyone who's unaware until this point...This is NOT a war. TNA talks about it as though it's a war, but really it's a battle of David and Goliath. I don't say that to draw pity or get anyone to side with the little guy. TNA is on a fourth rate cable network with a low level of visibility and almost no name recognition.
In contrast, the WWE has several shows, a firmly established fan base from not years but decades of putting out a superior product, and production values that put TNA to shame.
So why must TNA succeed?
For the very reasons I stated above.
If you love the WWE's current, watered down PG shell of its former self, then more power to you. If you think that Hornswaggle is hilarious, and that the current DX isn't a complete mockery of what it was in the past, again, that's your choice. If you enjoy watching Sheamus move up to main even status, well, you need to get your head checked. But none the less, that's your call.
I personally want to see WWE get better, and if you were a true WWE fan, you would too. I loved the Attitude Era, and I even enjoyed the fake wars when WWE owned WCW and ECW.
But somewhere down the line, the creative talent behind the WWE became complacent. They stopped pushing the envelope. They fell into patterns in booking talent and failed to develop new and interesting talent or angles. There's no sense that "anything can happen."
You can disagree with this all you want, and I'm sure that some or even many of you will. But I remember the years when the WWE was great and the ingenuity, the creativity and the resilience shown by the McMahon family as they climbed the mountain once more and took their previously held spot back from WCW.
So I'm asking you this, especially the WWE marks and fanboys. I'm not here to insult your show even if that's what it looks like. I am a fan, like you, that wants to see the WWE improve. If you disagree with me, then ask yourself:
1) Do I enjoy viewing Raw as much as I did five or 10 years ago?
2) Do I want to see my favorite product get even better?
If you think that what WWE has now can even hold a candle to that past product, then I salute you for being a diehard fan. But I'd also contest your sanity for having that opinion.
There's nothing wrong with thoroughly enjoying a product to the point of backing it like you're a member of that "team" while still wanting it to get better. Believe me, I know. I'm a life long, diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan, who would prefer not to remember that hockey even existed from 1995 until about 2007.
But while the Blackhawks of that unfortunate era didn't seem to feel the need to rise to their competition, the WWE should, even if "competition" can only be applied loosely at best.
Again, who currently puts out a "better" product between World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action is completely subjective. But from where I stand, TNA is trying very hard to compete, and that's good for both TNA fans and WWE fans alike.
Sure, TNA has more than its share of flaws—Hogan occupying what feels like 90 percent of the TV time, their over usage of promos as opposed to wrestling, and their highly questionable talent acquisitions like Orlando Jordan and (dear God) the Nasty Boys among others.
But they have a solid roster that's filled to the brim with quality young talent, even if a lot of their best wrestlers are sorely underutilized. I still maintain that TNA is trending upward, having gone from a dinky little one hour show on Fridays on Fox Sports Net to going head-to-head with Raw for two hours on Monday nights.
You can throw ratings at me all you want. I agree that the WWE will crush TNA in the ratings for months, if not years to come, and that TNA will probably never take the lead in this "race."
But if the writing and the consistency in angles can improve, if TNA can grow their audience and show their product off at bigger venues, then TNA will truly have a product to take into battle. All of those "ifs" are gigantic though, so I guarantee nothing.
But if there are other WWE fans out there like me that are sick of the same old mediocre, complacent, PG rated Raw, I'd at least give TNA a chance. A real chance. I still maintain that last Monday's Impact was one of the best I've ever seen. Not simply for the surprises, but for the overall energy.
Can they keep that energy going? Who knows. But I for one would like to see them try.
So WWE fans, relax.
While you might hate seeing other fans talking about another company, TNA poses no threat to WWE and probably never will. This isn't the first Monday Night war, where WWE almost went out of business. TNA simply doesn't have the resources of Ted Turner and his powerful networks behind them.
The best you can hope for is what you should be hoping for: TNA draws enough fans away from your beloved Raw for Vince McMahon to finally sit up, take notice and make the changes needed to put Raw back on the right track.
Will it happen? Who knows, but I do know this: the original Monday Night wars produced some of the best wrestling talent and angles in the history of this business. It was a constant game of one-upsmanship that created fantastic television, and the fans were the ultimate winners.
If you really are a WWE fan or simply a wrestling fan for that matter, and you want a better wrestling product than what we've seen on either show in the last few years, then you better hope that TNA can step up and make it happen. Ten years of complacency in the WWE has shown that they won't do it by themselves.