This past week on RAW, the WWE promotion faced a crossroads as they premiered a pivotal episode of RAW just one week after posting the lowest rated show of the year.
Many watched this show with keen interest, wondering just how the WWE would respond to such low ratings.
Yet outside of Chris Jericho and Randy Orton in the main event, the WWE did very little outside of the ordinary to put itself in a better position for ratings.
As a matter of fact, the only promotion who the WWE seemed to be putting in position for better ratings was TNA.
During this week's broadcast of RAW, Michael Cole awkwardly announced that TNA employee Mick Foley's new book was to hit newsstands around the country.
Along with being a TNA employee, Mick Foley's Countdown to Lockdown memoir is a TNA-themed book that focuses on his involvement in one of the promotion's biggest pay-per-views of the year, so it was truly an odd occurrence for the WWE to make such a fond shout out to a talent who is currently under contract with the 'enemy'.
But the odd references did not stop there.
Approximately one hour later, Chris Jericho reeled off a host of current and recent TNA employees (including Sting, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Ric Flair, and Booker T) while showering the Indianapolis fans with a list of wrestlers who he has beaten.
For a promotion that has become notorious for not wanting anybody else in its sandbox, and constantly updating their opening video package to shun those who have crossed them by fraternizing with the enemy, it was highly out of the ordinary for the WWE to be so generous with TNA references.
In fact, this is not the first time that such references have been made on television as the likes of Jeff Hardy, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff have been featured in video packages hyping WWE storylines, matches, and nostalgic moments.
So why, then, has the WWE suddenly become so lax when it comes to veiled TNA references? Some contend that the WWE simply does not consider TNA competition. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, however let's take it a step further. Perhaps, in realizing that TNA is not their competition, the WWE would like to make the distant second promotion just that. Their competition.
CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 1: THE RATINGS THEORY
It's no secret that the WWE ratings are now in the tank. After posting an alarming 2.8 for last week's show that ended with John Cena nearly vanquishing the entire Nexus (again), this week's pre-taped, go-home show for a fast approaching Hell in the Cell pay-per-view posted a heart attack-inducing 2.37 - the lowest RAW rating in 13 years. Just two weeks prior, a stacked "season premiere" episode, that featured top stars John Cena and Randy Orton in the main event, drew a 3.00 TV rating, which was WWE's lowest rating of the year at that point.
It's possible that somebody with some stroke in the WWE has finally taken a hard look at such record low numbers, and realized that this is no longer simply a problem attributable to Monday Night Football being back in season or new fall programming taking viewership away from the WWE.
Perhaps the WWE has finally realized that their record low ratings are a problem beyond the WWE's current TV product, which is not hitting on all cylinders.
It appears as if the WWE is beginning to own up to the fact that its sinking ratings are a problem with the pro wrestling industry, not just WWE RAW.
Let's face it, wrestling just isn't as cool at it once was. Once upon a time, during the days of the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, an Attitude Era transcended a large, young generation of fans who saw pro wrestling as an escape from reality.
RAW's ratings were through the roof during this era, and such ratings were facilitated greatly by the similarly strong performance of their competition, WCW.
To say TNA hasn't been hitting on all cylinders would be a vast understatement. In fact, TNA is struggling with ratings woes of their own as Impact has not consistently reached their threshold rating of 1.3 since returning to Thursday nights. In fact, this week's episode of their new TNA Reaction show posted a series low number in viewership.
Suffice to say, wrestling just doesn't seem cool anymore with both of the top two promotions struggling in the viewership department.
Such a widespread problem could have finally triggered the WWE to generously, yet subtly, mention TNA wrestlers and products on television to spark interest in the brand, thus helping the competition. After all, history shows that when the competition actually becomes competitive, everybody wins.
Never forget that it was Vince McMahon who was secretly wiring money to ECW to keep that brand alive, while featuring ECW talent on RAW to garner interest in the third-string promotion.
And with TNA's Bound for Glory around the corner, the company's biggest pay-per-view of the year, now seems like an appropriate time to lend a helping hand to the Florida promotion.
CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 2: THE 'THEY' THEORY
The first conspiracy theory holds water, and is something I believe to be true. However, even I'll admit, this one is way out there. Because while the WWE seems so willing to make mention of their 'good friends' over in TNA all of a sudden, surely the WWE wouldn't be so foolish as to get this involved in another promotion's storyline would they?
For months now, Abyss has told anybody with a remote and a free Thursday night that 'They' are coming. Through process of elimination, we have found out that current TNA factions EV 2.0 and Fourtune are not 'They'.
I've had a conspiracy theory of my own for quite some time now that 'they' are WWE. No, not current WWE employees, but castoffs such as Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, the newly signed Mickie James, and possible leader Jeff Hardy.
With the WWE so willing to utter TNA names on television, perhaps the WWE has become cognizant of this budding storyline and decided to sneakily tell its own fans to see some of their own former talent on the enemy's brand.
After plugging a TNA book on national television, many casual WWE fans who did not even know TNA existed will become aware of the product, and if they were to see a 'WWE takeover' on TNA programming, perhaps this would be the shot in the arm that would finally make TNA somewhat of a player in the professional wrestling landscape. Hell, maybe, just maybe, we could see current WWE superstars poking their heads in the Impact Zone.
The WWE is the industry leader in sports and entertainment, therefore it is their implicit responsibility to have professional wrestling's best interests in mind. A struggling industry means imminent doom for any wrestling promotion, and such desperate times seemed to have called for desperate measures for World Wrestling Entertainment.
It is currently unknown just how much more involved the WWE will be with TNA programming if at all, but one thing is for certain. The WWE does not consider TNA competition, and they now realize that this is a bad thing.
Big Nasty is the editor of The Big Nasty Athletic Dept. Log on to twitter at twitter.com/bignasty247 and follow him until he presses charges! Friends of Big Nasty hang out at facebook.com/bignasty247.