One of the most highly anticipated Monday nights in a long time where TNA would finally go head-to-head with WWE (sort-of). TNA was able to be on one hour earlier than RAW, and had to make the most of their opportunity. For the wrestling community, finally something to talk about, as the products have grown stale without head-to-head competition. There was also heavy anticipation for Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff – how involved would they be on-camera? Would they be copiyng past angles of success? On the WWE side, the intrigue with Bret Hart returning, which does prove anything can happen in wrestling afterall, which channel would the fans keep on over the other? In the age of TIVO/DVR, lucky for us, we can see both.
– The match of the evening goes to TNA for Kurt Angle versus AJ Styles for the World Championship. TNA couldn’t have kicked off the year any better in terms of a actual good wrestling match than they did with these two. I knew it’d go head-to-head with the Bret/Vince segment, and I had a feeling it wouldn’t win in terms of quarters, but it spoke in terms of a four-star quality TV matchup, which WWE has been unable to do in a long, long time.
The immediate negative however is TNA should have closed out the show with that match, with the sportsman like-ending and to show the casual wrestling fan that this is what their brand stood for. No statement could have been stronger then to show the casual wrestling fan that TNA had the better wrestling product. Instead, TNA ended on a WCW Thunder/NITRO type note with the ‘established’ guys ending the show in a power struggle. I couldn’t have been more frustrated with booking at this point. If TNA is establishing how unselfish the establishment is with younger talent, then they shouldn’t have ended the note with the backstage stuff. TNA needs to distinguish themselves as the better WRESTLING product, don’t try to out-drama Vince McMahon and STOP depending on past WCW storylines to get you over. Wrestling fans know the history, there is no need to keep regurgitating ideas, what fans want is something fresh and current.
– In the drama department of the WWE, seeing Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart in the ring together was incredible. The chemistry was off-the-charts and it showed two masters telling their story in a way that TNA just can’t. Sadly, later on the Vince/Bret segment didn’t have nearly the same impact (pardon the pun), and was fumbled in its potential. It was too easy to see that was going to happen, but at least, fans have someone they like back in Bret. I for one am thrilled, I got to be a kid again watching the show and it’s nice to see Shawn in a storyline that doesn’t degrade his legacy in the business. It’s really too bad Triple H is where he is right now, as much as I love Hornswoggle, this is not where I pictured Triple H’s career right now.
– What can the younger guys learn from Bret Hart? A lot, and that’s another reason why it’s good to see him back. Bret earned his way up, and is one of the greatest technicians ever (Excellence of Execution, after all). He also has integrity which is hard to come by in this line of work. Bret knew how to tell a story in the ring, and he could make you believe in him off-camera without any gimmicks. I do hope that having Bret around will rub off on John Cena and others like him, in terms of ring ability and veteran respect. I also hope this will help the Hart family who are currently wresting for the company, there is a lot of talent there, and I hate to see them buried while people like The Miz are getting pushed.
– What can younger guys learn from Hulk Hogan? A lot, both good and bad. The good – here’s a guy who helped put the business on the map and help get wrestling to popularity unseen before him. He’s the reason why everyone can make money in this business. It’s also good to learn from the trials and tribulations of his career, and see when he checks his ego in at the door as well. I want Hogan to do good in TNA but it also means putting your ego aside which I’m not seeing a lot of evidence of. You can say all day long you want to get TNA to the top but it also means getting yourself and your friends off camera more too. Don’t do anything with booking unless it means something. Elevate the younger guys, do all the things you want to do to help build the company to a new level with your name, but be willing to let these guys step up and truly mentor them. One of the problems with TNA on Monday was the overexposure for a cheap pop in the rating of guys we haven’t seen in a while. Another problem I touched on was the overuse of old storylines (strip poker, really? is that what TNA wants to stand for?). If they were going to go the strip poker route and copy a old storyline, shocked they didn’t use Beer Money to play the pseudo-role of APA.
The Jeff Jarrett spotlight with Hogan rubbing off as a heel did no favors for TNA. It left the average fan confused, ‘wait…we like Jeff…’ therefore the segment fell right on it’s ass. The use of Flair was puzzling, what is he a talent scout now? What a way to drop the ball, let Flair work like no one else can. Seeing Jeff Hardy however was electric and looking forward to seeing TNA run with him as a top star, if he’s able to clear out his legal woes.
– Another plus for TNA is their talented wrestlers, both men and women. Where WWE lacks is they have failed to look at women as more than eye candy and never as true workers. Most of the ladies in TNA can work, and TNA has proven that the fans care about the women’s division for more than the sexuality factor. It saddens me how WWE has stripped the life out of good wrestlers like Mickie James, Melina and Beth Phoenix. Don’t miss the great open letter by my friend Renegade to Dixie Carter called “Dear Dixie” – an insightful read on TNA’s Monday night opening statement.
– WWE has a talented roster, the fans care about most of the talent, however, WWE has been too dependent on John Cena for one and recycling the rest of the other storylines. I like and dislike Sheamus at the same time….I like how a different guy is on top, but I dislike that he himself isn’t ready for it. It reminds me of when Sid had been champ. It’s hard to translate it as a good move in terms of carrying the company. WWE’s problem is the top of mountain is scarce with new talent that fans can back being there. I do hold onto hope for Randy Orton (who has proven himself as established), Legacy, MVP and Kofi however as getting to the main event level.
I am excited about the buzz for both companies and it can only mean good things for the products of both brands this year. May they both be challenged in breaking their limitations.
Thank you for your support, be sure to catch me on ShootFinish.com, OutImpact.com and OutImpactProductions.com.