March 8 2010 marked TNA's permanent move to Monday Nights as well as the second incarnation of the Monday Nights Wars. TNA pulled out all stops to create a show that was built on surprises, returns and debuts while the WWE put on a predictable and ordinary show, not going out of their way to make a memorable show. Not surprisingly RAW was the clear winner, given that the WWE is a wrestling juggernaut compared to other promotions. What was more alarming to me was that IMPACT managed to only achieve a rating of 1.0. This has got me asking, was it wise for TNA to move to Monday Nights?
First of all, TNA heavily hyped this show with the in ring returns of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, with this being Flair's first match since retiring nearly two years ago. This show also marked the debut of Rob Van Dam, the long waited return of Jeff Hardy and Sting's return from a lengthy absence, as a heel. Despite all of these events it only managed to pull a 1.0. The alarming thing to me is that every week TNA can't pull out all of these events. If these events only pulled a 1.0, where will ratings go from here on? Will we expect to see ratings drop below 1.0 and remain there permanently?
On Thursday nights, Impact averaged around 1.4 consistently. There was no other rival promotion to compete with in that timeslot. By moving to Monday Night they have moved to a timeslot that has been entrenched by a well established and more popular show. They now have to compete for a share of viewers in a slot that has been dominated by RAW. With an expected fall in viewers, this will mean a loss of advertising revenue and their bottom line. Not only that, they will also be losing viewers who in the past have watched TNA while being lifelong WWE fans. Now viewers have been made to choose between the two. Given the choice, the generally majority will go for the well established product in RAW over Impact. This can prove to be very consequential over time.
TNA have now come out and said that their goal is now to put on a great weekly show and improve the overall product, not to compete with the WWE. If this is the case, then why don't they remain on Thursday nights and focus on putting on a better product. Wouldn't it be better to focus on creating better storylines and feuds, developing interesting and popular characters that can be marketed to the public and differentiating their product from WWE to attract more viewers and improve their ratings? Once they're in a position to compete with WWE, then why don't they change their focus and compete with them?
People may say that WCW were in the same position as TNA when they first went into competition. The then WWF had a strong foothold on the wrestling industry, while WCW had a minority who were seen as being typically a loyal fanbase. There are key differences between WCW and TNA. WCW was bankrolled by a Billionaire who gave Eric Bischoff all the freedom and resources at his disposal to put on a better product. They also had bankable stars who were well established and marketable. Their product was also distinguishable from the WWF with their emphasis on cruiserweights, in ring skills over corny storylines and unique match types like War Games. There are a few exceptions i.e. The Dungeon of Doom. On the other hand, TNA doesn't have that financial stability and resources to poach stars from the WWE. Their main stars aren't very marketable where as the WWE have stars with great mainstream appeal. TNA like WWE also put on corny storylines, so you can't distinguish them on that front.
I believe that TNA has plenty of things going for it that can help distinguish their product from RAW. They have plenty of young, talented and exciting stars. TNA have been known in the past to give new guys a chance to come into the main event scene. They have an X-Division that has an emphasis on exciting and dynamic wrestling. TNA needs to do several things.
1. Make their stars more appealing to mainstream audiences like the WWE does with tehir stars. Have them make more public appearances in other mediums and increase public exposure.
2. Stop bringing in old and washed up has beens like the Nasty Boys, Hall, Syxx Pac and Orlando Jordan. They don't serve a real purpose on the show and take away valuable time from younger and more exciting guys who should be pushed as the future of the company. WWE has been seen in recent times as lacking in bringing their younger guys into the main event. This could give an edge to TNA.
3. Create better storylines and feuds. I've noticed in recent times in TNA that they have a tendency to have a feud with two guys for a month and then move onto another quickly. Look at Daniels. He was feuding with AJ Styles for the title one month, then the next month he's out of the title scene and jobbing to a washed up Sean Morley whose last stint in the WWE was primarily on Heat. Samoa Joe feuds with AJ one month, now he's missing from TV. They have failed on the front to further develop The Pope after winning the 8 Card Stud Tournament and build a rivalry with AJ leading to their title match at the next PPV. Instead AJ is feuding with Abyss. What will happen after this? AJ goes on to fight Pope for the title? Where does Abyss fit into this? Where's the consistency?
4. They should focus on themselves and not make constant references to the WWE and Vince McMahon. This whole deal with Hogan giving Abyss his WWE Hall of Fame ring is basically saying that the WWE is a big deal to TNA and held in high esteem. Do you hear McMahon make a big deal of TNA? He doesn't even mention them because he doesn't see them as a credible threat.
5. Highlight the X-Division. This is something that in the past has differentiated TNA from WWE. If they can do so, it gives TNA another edge to build up the company.
To summarise this article I personally feel that moving to Monday nights was not the best idea for Impact. They are in no position to compete with the WWE at this stage and steal viewers from them. Instead they've put themselves in a precarious position by losing viewers that once watched the show as they have now been made to choose between the two shows. Hands down RAW will always win. The most alarming thing is that Impact put on a heavily hyped show with plenty of debuts, returns and surprises yet achieve a very modest viewership with a 1.0. It'd hate to see how far ratings will drop here on, as they can't continue to shock and surprise us like that every week. TNA's main focus should be to improve their product with better storylines, characters and feuds as well as making household names of their stars. Then once they've succeed in this and attracted greater interest in their product then they should consider competing.