Rasslin’ Roundtable – Monday Night Battle

Suddenly, after 9 long years, wrestling fans are excited over two wrestling shows going head to head on a Monday night. Yes, we know that it’s a one time deal (at least for now) but it’s still exciting. TNA is having another relaunch, this time with their biggest acquisition to date, Hulk Hogan. WWE managed to get Bret Hart to agree to a contract, even if a limited one, and participate in a storyline towards Wrestlemania. We at the Pulse thought that this Monday night will be special enough that it warrants a special edition of our roundtable. It might not be a full blown Monday Night War, but a battle is good enough, so here’s what we think is going to happen this week.

What will Bret Hart’s involvement on Raw be like? How will Vince McMahon, McMahon, DX, The Hart Dynasty come into play? Will they go by the book or try to surprise and shock us? Any other big storylines that will come out of this show, regardless of Hart?

Paul Marshall: Well, considering that Bret Hart is the only major thing happening on RAW and there isn’t even any mention of the Hart Dynasty. Beings as they are on SmackDown (yes…what brand extension?), I can’t see them actually coming to RAW for one night unless they plant the seeds for a Hart Dynasty/DX Wrestlemania match. Bret Hart is only on RAW to draw some viewers away from Hogan and there MIGHT be some interaction with him and Vince or him and Shawn. With John Cena NOT being on the program, it falls on the WWE to book the WWE Title without Cena being there to sell it. Do they run Sheamus v. Cena at the Rumble? Do they change tactics and let Cena into the Rumble – win the Rumble and challenge Undertaker for the title/streak? As much as the IWC *thinks* that the card to Wrestlemania 26 is more or less set, there doesn’t seem to be any direction…just a bit of misdirection. Why? Because Vince knows about us…Vince wants to keep the suspense there. The whole Shawn/Undertaker bit now could be just a ploy to get us to think one way when the other will happen.
As far as I’m concerned, RAW is being booked as a regular RAW with Bret Hart replacing John Cena in terms of star power. But…if it’s a fraction better than the last few weeks, then it will be an awesome show.

Mark Allen: WWE has tried to make it look like it wasn’t a big deal that TNA is knocking on their door but subtlety by bringing in Bret Hart, booking a DeGeneration X-Big Show/Chris Jericho WWE Unified Tag Team Championship match and a grudge match between Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton they have shown they are aware of the competition.
As for Hart’s actual role I expect a long in-ring segment either to open the show or to open the second hour. For sure he will have face-to-face interaction with Mr. McMahon to set the seeds for the rest of Hart’s short stay with the company. Shawn Michaels is sure to factor somehow as well, but the true suspense will be whether Michaels and Hart will stand mid-ring with each other, which would be the first time since their match at Survivor Series ’97. WWE has loaded up the show with other draws as well so Hart won’t need to be the focal point of the show. Besides his one big in-ring segment, expect plenty of backstage interaction with various RAW superstars, and perhaps an appearance during the DX-JeriShow Tag Title match that will surely main event the show.

Raffi Shamir: The alarm sirens are certainly playing in Hartford. Vince McMahon my publicly ignore TNA, but his actions show a definite concern. Booking two PPV caliber matches on the show and bring Bret Hart? Oh, Vince is very much concerned and he’d be damned if he let TNA get anything that would resemble a ratings achievement on Monday night. As for Bret Hart, there are so many possibilities. In the past WWE started planting the seeds to Wrestlemania as early as the Survivor Series. This year they haven’t and the only tease for Wrestlemania is Shawn Michaels asking for a rematch with the Undertaker. I don’t see WWE going with the rematch, so Hart vs. Michaels is one possibility which they can start promoting this week. But that is also one of the two most obvious choices (The other is Hart vs. McMahon). I think that they will mot miss the opportunity of giving us Hart and Michaels in the same frame They haven’t mentioned the Hart Dynasty at all, but I find it hard to believe that they will not make the connection between the two. Sure, it’s going to be tricky since the Dynasty are heels and Bret will get a heroes’ welcome. Still, a prompt interference by the Dynasty in the tag team title match could be a nice touch. Or, if Hart is confronted by DX, they can stand by his side for an immediate face turn for them. But if they want to go a completely different way, they can have Chris Jericho confront Bret Hart. It would be a natural continuation of Jericho’s Wrestlemania 25 storyline and what we got from Jericho and Steamboat last year, is there any doubt that Jericho can do wonders with Hart? Sure, it will not have the historic significance of Hart vs. Michaels or Hart vs. McMahon (The one match I so don’t want to see), but three months is more than enough time to build it up into a Wrestlemania main event caliber match. And that would free DX to a tag feud with the Hart Dynasty in Wrestlemania. Regardless of the direction they go, my excitement level is extremely high for Raw.

Widro: Raw will be clicking on all cylinders – Vince has waited for years to do an angle with Bret Hart and it’s gonna be well done, at least on the first night. Bret will get a gigantic pop when his music hits, and then it’s on him to cut a killer promo to get this angle off to a hot start. I think DX will drop the tag titles back to JeriShow, although there remains a chance Edge runs in to start an Edge/Jericho program. I could also see an angle advancement in Randy/Kofi where Ted Dibiase turns or does something to continue the turn. Without John Cena, it will be interesting to see who is the focus of the show, including how Sheamus is featured heading into Royal Rumble.

What will Hogan’s role on Impact be like? Will the show revolve around him and old school guys (Nash, Hall, Foley, JJ) or will they actually try to use Hogan and the veterans to promote the young generation (Styles, Joe, Daniels, Beer Money etc)?

Paul Marshall: The IWC says Hogan is there to push his buddies to the top and to kill TNA from within. I say BS. Why? Because Hogan knows damned well he can’t go like he used to and Dixie Carter knows that Sean Waltman and Scott Hall aren’t exactly the most reliable people in the world. TNA only has two women’s matches, but their Knockout’s Division is usually their highest rated segment on iMPACT (because the women know how to…ummm…WRESTLE). I want to say that TNA is firmly strapping rockets to their homegrown talent and telling them to hang on for the ride of their life.

Mark Allen: With TNA producing a three-hour show they have the luxury of using that first hour to draw fans in immediately in hopes of keeping them from turning over to RAW at the start of hour two. That being said, expect TNA to open the show was a great X-Division-style match to hook fans immediately with something new and fresh, all the while hyping Hogan’s appearance for the start of hour two.
Expect Hogan to open hour two of Impact to a hero’s welcome and a standing ovation. I expect at least two Hogan in-ring segments. The first will be to introduce himself to fans and then to be interrupted by Mick Foley or some other antagonist. Hogan will then appear in hour three during a match to further the burgeoning storyline between Foley and Jeff Jarrett and their side against Hogan, Kevin Nash and their side.
I do not expect an old-school reunion of the old nWo guys, but it will definitely be hinted at. The show will be probably be a half and half mix of the “old guys” talking and setting up future stories while the rest of the time will be used to allow guys like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Beer Money and the rest of the X-Division and tag team division to wow the crowd and the potential new audience watching.

Raffi Shamir: My excitement level for Impact isn’t as high as it is for Raw. If TNA want to keep viewers tuned, they should open the show with an X Division match but keep a timer on the screen, counting down to Hogan’s first appearance, which should start at 20:55. That would be their best option to stop people from flipping the channel. Hulk will probably give an ego-driven promo, saying that the war has started and he’s here to take TNA to the next level. He’ll put TNA over and trash WWE. I don’t know if Bischoff will make an appearance on camera but I tend to believe the rumors about the old nWo gang returning. The show will obviously be all about Hogan and even when he won’t be on screen, he will be the focus of conversation. Genesis is too soon to have Hogan wrestle, but this will they will start building the inevitable Hogan vs. Foley match. This way they can still promote Genesis as Hogan’s first TNA PPV appearance and a future event as Hogan first TNA PPV match. But going back to the rumors, if either RVD or Jeff hardy will turn up on Impact this Monday, I think this will be even bigger news, since this will be similar to Luger or Rude’s first Nitro appearances.

Widro: Impact will be a show we talk about for months and years to come where they just throw a ton of shit against the wall to see what sticks. I think we’ll see “shocking” returns like Scott Hall or X-Pac, then some woman’s and cruiserweight stuff thrown in. I think by the end of Impact it will be more Nitro-like with non-wrestling star power and other people to do the work. My hope is that in all the madness is a structure and plan for TNA in 2010 that fans can get behind. One thing they could do is an on-air symbolic firing of Vince Russo, although that would scream “work” to me and he’d likely be back.

Who will have a bigger and better influence on their respective shows, Hart or Hogan, in the long run?

Paul Marshall: Who has pioneered professional wrestling? Nine out of ten people I asked said Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan. Bret Hart was simply the best performer. Hogan is an American icon and Hart is a Canadian icon. TNA is testing the waters because you either gotta attempt to go big or you’ll never be taken seriously. WCW tried this pattern and eventually they were able to beat WWF in the ratings for several years. There isn’t as many fans now as there were back in the 90s. TNA isn’t going to beat the WWE on this night. That much is known. However…if they can decrease WWE viewership by .1 (one-tenth) of a rating point and turn that into their viewers, they will have succeed. If they maintain their rating, they succeed. If they lose, they learn a good experience. If Spike TV wasn’t willing to do this, this wouldn’t be happening. WWE left Spike on bad terms, so Spike wants to do what they can to stick it to them.
Overall, I have to side with Hogan since he looks to be invested with TNA for the long term, while Bret Hart is a short term solution for the WWE. Hart looks to be getting closure from 12 years ago and will most likely be forgotten about by June. Hogan looks to be making TNA look more of the alternative and he seems to be willing to help them succeed. I know that he says one thing and does another…but right now, Hogan’s influence will be felt all the way to 2011 (and maybe beyond) if he works with TNA making them better.

Mark Allen: In the long run, Hogan will have the bigger influence on TNA Impact. TNA is putting all the proverbial eggs in Hogan’s basket for this special, as they live and die by his appearance and the potential to draw in new viewers.
Bret Hart, while a great coup for WWE, will just be a part of WWE’s well-oiled machine. WWE is such a slick production and an institution on Monday nights that anyone could have been slotted in the guest host slot, and things would have gone on business as usual.

Raffi Shamir: I will separate between bigger and better. I don’t think there’s anyone who’d disagree with the prediction that Hogan will have a bigger influence on TNA than Bret will have on WWE. TNA is practically relaunching the promotion with Hogan at its center this Monday night, while WWE is using Hart just to counter TNA and start building towards Wrestlemania. Besides, if Hart’s contract is really just for four months and it wouldn’t be extended, that for time reasons alone Hulk will have the bigger influence. But will it be a good influence? Sadly I’m not as optimistic as Paul. In the past Hogan showed time and time again that the only thing he’s really interested in promoting is Hogan himself. If the rumors that he has unlimited power behind the scenes are true, than I don’t see good things in TNA’s future. There are several cliches that are relevant to this story. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, be careful what you wish for because you might get it… I won’t go on. I have no reason to believe that Hogan will suddenly have a change of Hart and make it his mission to build the promotion rather than himself, even if he really wants to stick it to WWE and beat them. I don’t see him bringing the end of TNA, the promotion will still be around, but I don’t the positive trend that TNA has shown in the past 3-4 months continuing.

Widro: Hitman will look older and more feeble than people remember. I think he’ll end up doing a promo to the live crowd, but might not be “all over” the show as much as one major segment thats built to throughout. I think Hogan, on the other hand, will be in every or almost every segment on TNA and be the face of introducing new storylines or talent. This show will go a long way to see how committed Hogan actually is to TNA, both by the quality of the show and what he says on the show in terms of putting his name and reputation on the line further.

Your view on both promotions starting a new decade by focusing on the stars of the eighties and nineties.

Paul Marshall: I want to tie this in as it has a good background as to what 2009 was about in pro wrestling. WWE programming has been stale for the most part. Over the last year, John Cena, Triple H, and Randy Orton dominated the WWE Title picture. Yes Sheamus is the current champion, but the same three people (Cena, Orton, HHH) are still near the WWE Title picture. In retrospect, TNA has MANY PEOPLE in their title picture. There wasn’t a dull moment with the TNA World Title matches in the past year. The same few people aren’t ALWAYS in the title hunt and we were treated to two months worth of epic awesomeness in TNA.
Heading into 2010, bringing back the stars from the 80’s and 90’s can serve to be a backwards approach. But as people age, they do become wiser…or at least that was how I was raised when I was a child. Bret Hart can’t wrestle ever again and Hulk Hogan is a leg drop away from a wheelchair. Scott Hall and Sean Waltman might be able to get a few matches before they can’t go anymore. With Sting, Steiner, Jarrett, Angle, and Foley also getting close to their end of the road…one has to wonder if they can mold Styles, Wolfe, Sabin, Shelley, Roode/Storm, EY, and the rest of TNA’s young talent to be the legends of tomorrow. In the WWE side, they already established Orton and Cena as legends of tomorrow, but can they establish Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase, Sheamus, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, and others…into future legends? It’s good to learn from the best, so it should be fine for the stars of the 80s and 90s to get involved when they are there to build current talent up – not to hog the spotlight for themselves.

Mark Allen: When you put it that way it does make both WWE and TNA look desperate and show the lack of star creating depth over the past decade on everyone’s part. Hogan is a been there, done that scenario but for TNA it is the biggest coup (not named Rock) they could conceivably pull. As for Bret coming back to WWE it is truly a special moment for long-time pro wrestling and WWE fans. If TNA utilizes Hogan correctly by allowing him to draw in new/old fans and then using their homegrown roster to push the company forward then I have no problem with it. As for Hart, his two major contemporaries form the ‘90s (Michaels and Undertaker) are still working so I don’t see the big deal. He will be used as an attraction, rather than the star of the show.

Raffi Shamir: I guess I made my view clear when I drafted this question in the first place. I don’t like it, but again I draw a distinction between WWE and TNA. WWE will use Hart as a featured attraction for a limited time while TNA will make Hogan the center of the promotion. If we go back to 2002, when TNA was first launched and compare the main eventers that each promotion developed in that time frame, we have John Cena, Edge, Randy Orton and Batista on WWE’s side (We can also add Brock Lesnar, Jeff Hardy and CM punk, I don’t count Rey Mysterio since he was already an established star) while on TNA’s side we only have AJ Styles and possibly Samoa Joe (Daniels and Abyss are not a regular main eventer yet and even Joe isn’t a staple of the main event scene). They failed to build new stars using the established names from WWE and WCW. So far, I don’t see any reason to think that TNA will change their ways. With all the talk about WWE being stale, at least they have home grown stars from that broke in to the scene in the last decade main eventing Wrestlemania year after year. TNA only has one (Just replace Wrestlemania with Bound for Glory), and with Hogan there, that one might also be in danger.

What will be the ratings for each show?

Paul Marshall: Here is how I think it will break down.
TNA iMPACT: 1.5 / 1.8 / 2.0 (9PM-11PM rating: 1.9; show rating: 1.8 (rounded up))
RAW: 3.8 / 3.9 (show rating: 3.9 (rounded up))
Why do I think that? The BCS Championship Game won’t do much damage to both shows because RAW has usually proven in years past to be immune to ratings drops. However, the way Nielsen ratings work, if someone from a Nielsen household flips the channel to watch iMPACT during a RAW commercial, their rating is calculated for that quarter hour. I expect many people to flip back and forth from RAW to iMPACT to the BCS Championship game. People will be curious to see what the other show is up to and that curiousity will keep TNA from scoring lower than their usual 1.1-1.3 range. On the flip side, RAW won’t break a 4.0 because while Bret Hart is worth watching, there has been people complaining about the direction RAW has taken over the past few months that has turned many people off the show.
Now, had Spike TV decided to not air a replay on Thursday, I could see the TNA rating top 2.0 because of this, but with the Thursday replay, I can’t predict a 2.0 rating. 1.8 might be too high, but it’s certainly achieveable even if they do a 1.5. As long as they don’t drop below a 1.0, Spike TV will certainly be happy.
I have one final thing I want to add. Competition brings the best out of a company. If you the viewer are tired of RAW being bland as it has been for quite a while. If you are tired that RAW almost ALWAYS has the same three people on the top and you’re tired of spending your hard earned money on seeing something that you saw a month ago…then don’t watch RAW Monday Night. Take that as your chance…your opportunity to tell Vince McMahon that you want a change. Who cares if TNA isn’t the best right now. By watching TNA, you tell Vince that his show sucks and you’ll watch TNA instead. We need competition to make the shows better, so do your part and “Say No to RAW.” Of course, I’ll watch it since I have to recap it for everyone on Pulse Wrestling. But regardless if I watch or not, the power is in your hands.

Mark Allen: TNA generally averages about a 1.0 to 1.1 in their Thursday night timeslot. To their credit they have the promoted this Monday night special like crazy, even buying ad time during WWE programming over the past couple of weeks in order to make viewers aware. That being said, I think TNA and Spike should be ecstatic with anything over a 1.5. As an optimist, I personally expect TNA to be somewhere in that 1.8 – 2.0 range. Keep in mind that is with three hours, and the first hour unopposed by WWE.
Without trying WWE RAW draws in that 3.0 – 3.4 ratings area. And while they have been hyping up Hart’s appearance all week (as opposed to the weeks TNA has been hyping Hogan’s), I think WWE and USA Network should be incredibly happy with a 4.0 or above. By keeping the show at a tight two hours it also keeps their ratings from falling, as their three hour specials usually skew lower due to a poor first hour rating.

Raffi Shamir: Raw is easy to predict. I don’t see them breaking 3.9-4.0. This seems to be the glass ceiling right now and even a well promoted appearance by Bret Hart won’t change that.
As for Impact – I have to disagree with my esteemed colleagues. Even with all the hype and promotion, I don’t see the first hour, unopposed by Raw, breaking 1.6. That’s a 20 percent increase compared to their highest rated regular edition of Impact and it would be a nice, realistic increase. The other two hours, which will go head to head with Raw, will be completely different. TNA would be lucky to go above 0.5-0.6. That would give an average of 0.9-1.0. TNA will be able to use this as a good sign and say that WWE did not beat them and they kept most of their viewers, and WWE will be satisfied, because they cost TNA half their viewership in the two head-to-head hours. Still, I don’t think this would be good enough for Spike or TNA to think about a permanent move to Monday nights.
One final note from me – While my thoughts on TNA may seem pretty negative and pessimistic, they did one thing right. They got me excited about this week’s impact, more than about any other weekly wrestling show in the recent years. They made this Monday night exciting, and for that they deserve all the credit.

Widro: I think Raw will do a 4.3 and Impact will do an 0.8

I hope you’re as excited about this Monday night as we are. Come back to Pulse Wrestling on Monday night for special live coverage of both WWE Raw and TNA Impact.

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