TCWNN#18: TNA Monday Retro.

Well that was an exciting Monday, now wasn’t it?

And by exciting, I mean underwhelming. On both sides.

Sure, there was an air of excitement over having a second wrestling show to flip over to. In that respect, it certainly did feel like the Monday Night Wars. A lot of people seem to be letting the night slide by on that alone. And sure, Jeff Hardy making what can only be described as a bone headed maneuver (whether on his own part for possibly burning his bridge with the only real game in town, or on the part of TNA for hiring a guy with an uncertain legal status, you decide) was exciting. Kind of. But for the most part, neither company delivered excitement. Mostly, they delivered a whole lot of same old same old and been there done that.

It should shock no one that I’m going to deal with the WWE first, as they obviously deserve a shorter and lighter tongue lashing, for one reason and one reason alone: the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart confrontation was everything it needed to be.  A spectacular video package that clued in even the most uninformed viewer as to the history of Bret Hart, the Montreal Screwjob, and the historical importance of what we were about to see.  A face to face confrontation that was full of emotion, gave the audience closure, and hopefully put to bed any demand for a Bret/HBK match.  I daresay this first 20 minutes alone was better than a single solitary segment put forth by TNA in their whole 3 hours.  That it did not deliver in the ratings as well as expected is probably more a testament to the current state of wrestling overall than anything TNA did (tho according to reports, the Raw rating nearly doubled it’s usual in Canada).

The rest of Raw, however, was the same old same old. Not a bad Raw, by any means, nor anywhere close to some of the televised abortions that have been presented in the past few months. But, tellingly, they didn’t go out of their way to do anything shocking or exciting to combat TNA (Hart’s return having been reported as having been in the works well in advance of the announcement of TNA’s “opening salvo”).

And of course, there was the end of the show. The Vince McMahon/Hitman face off. To say that this failed to give the audience what they wanted to see (most likely Bret punching Vince in the face) would be an understatement. However, given that the rumored plan is for some sort of Bret/Vince street fight at Wrestlemania, having Vince reopen the old wounds by screwing Bret over on his apology was an understandable choice. It just wasn’t an exciting one. More like anticlimactic.

And then, there’s TNA.

Let me get this out of the way right now, the show did what it needed to do: it brought in ratings. Not great ratings, mind you, just ratings that were great for TNA, and for what was expected for TNA. In that regard, it can’t be called anything but a victory.

But.

This was a show that was mind numbingly, insultingly bad. It’s no wonder that the ratings peaked with Hulk Hogan’s 9pm appearance and then steadily dropped- if I was a casual fan who had been brought to the table with the promise of Hulk Hogan, or one who bought into their claim of providing actual WRESTLING, all I would have motivated to do after that first hour was see the Hulkster and then change the damn channel. Every thing that has ever made Impact a torture to try and watch was in abundant display. And worst of all, for a show called Total Nonstop Action, that straight out promised wrestling, there was almost no ACTION.

In the first hour especially, the wrestling was nowhere to be found.  A three hour show, and we didn’t even get 45 combined minutes of wrestling. On a show that started by showing rabid fans demanding wrestling. On a show whose announcers were promising WRESTLING. Angle vs. Styles was a fun 20 minute match that kept me watching, but not only did it come out of the blue at the end of the show (when it was too late to be a draw for hour one viewers, you know that UNOPPOSED hour that TNA chucked out the window?), one match does not actual wrestling make.

I’ve seen people claiming that this was a “facelift” for TNA, that the program was “fresh” and introduced “well needed new faces”?!?  I would love to know what alternate reality TNA they were watching. The N.W.O infighting while the Nasty Boys run around eating donuts off the floor and Val Venis (shhh don‘t call him that) sits in his towel and plays strip poker with girls (that we know aren‘t actually going to strip, because we saw it in the WWE already) is not fresh, it’s a nostalgia act.  Having your main angle be a rehash of the New Blood angle from the last days of WCW is not “fresh” by any stretch of the imagination either (in fact, wasn’t TNA literally JUST doing a rehash of the Millionaires Club/New Blood routine?).  The only fresh thing TNA actually had going for it was Jeff Hardy showing up unexpectedly, yet even that was hampered by the disastrous cage match that occurred seconds before, and by the fact that they treated possibly the biggest baby face star of the past 2 years like he was just another guy.

The influx of all these unnecessary players is extra frustrating for another reason: TNA has never needed fresh faces. One thing TNA has always had going for it over the WWE is better potential for stars to come out of their mid card. Potential they squander by running to the ex-WWE well over and over and over rather than focusing on their own guys. Beer Money only made it on this show so they could be punked out off camera. The British Invasion are the company tag team champions, they were nowhere to be found. Eric Young? He made it on tv for a fifth of a second so that Ric Flair would have another hand to shake. AJ Styles was barely even mentioned unless it was to point out that Ric Flair went into his dressing room, and he’s the WORLD CHAMPION. It’s ridiculous how little a show that played so much lip service to the young guys, couldn’t be bothered to focus on the young guys.

Even if the home grown talent was mentioned on screen, they did virtually nothing to introduce them to the audience. Sure some guys got a mention or two. But at the end of the show, unless you already knew a guy from the WWE or WCW, you didn’t know anything about them.  Say what you want about the quality of Raw last night, if you tuned in and saw Seamus or The Miz, they absolutely made sure you knew what each guys deal was.

For all the talk on the show about TNA being about the young guys, and how we’re going to get wrestling instead of sports entertainment, and how they’re going to be the number one company in the world… this show didn’t do a damn thing to make any of those statements look possible, let alone truthful. What we got looked like an attempt to pick up right where the WWE lite era of WCW had left off. A  show full of nostalgia acts it could of been called TNA Monday Retro. Speaking as someone who wants to see an viable alternative to the WWE, that’s not exciting.

That’s just disappointing.

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