To Be Determined – One Year Later

Columns, Top Story

Exactly one year ago today, the entire wrestling world was buzzing with anticipation for what was billed as “The New Monday Night Wars”. TNA was set for the debut of Hulk Hogan on a live Monday night special edition of Impact and WWE was promoting the return of one of the most tragic figures in wrestling, Bret “Hitman” Hart. One year later, it’s time to look back on 4 January 2010 and what kind of effect it had on the business.

TNA billed Hulk Hogan’s arrival as (another) new beginning for the company. Hogan was set to turn the company over and make it number 1. At least that’s what he promised. But Hogan did not come alone. I don’t think anyone thought he’d arrive without his usual followers in Eric Bischoff, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman. Mr. Anderson, Jeff Hardy and Ric Flair were not big surprises either since they were fresh out of their WWE contracts. But I doubt that anyone expected Sean Morley and Orlando Jordan.

That Monday night TNA scored big on the ratings front, which gave them the illusion that they can compete with WWE on a permanent basis. Sadly, moving Impact to Monday nights proved to be an epic failure and they were forced to go back to Thursdays with their tail tucked between their legs. The fallout from the Monday nights experiment is still felt as Impact’s rating has not bounced back to late 2009 levels.

But the ratings don’t tell the entire story. TNA closed 2009 on a high note with one of their best ever creative periods. 2010 saw them took a huge fall on that department. They lost Daniels (Not before he jobbed to Morley), made Joe irrelevant, turned AJ Styles into a midcarder, put Eric Bischoff in dozens of segments each show, did not show character consistency from one week to another, brought ECW has-beens for a failed reunion show and a weak stable, took the title off RVD in the worst way possible, created Fortune – a stable that for months was probably the worst stable in recent years, put their title on Jeff Hardy knowing that he’s facing criminal charges that could send him to prison, the list goes on and on and on (Did I mention THEY yet?)…

TNA had one bright spot this year – the terrific feud between Beer Money and Motor City Machineguns. But it’s hard for to think of other aspects of TNA that made their shows worth watching. If only TNA could turn the clock back one year and erase 2010 from their books, I think this would have been their best option. Sadly, it seems like Dixie Carter is still buying everything that Hogan and Bischoff sell her, so I don’t expect the situation to change anytime soon.

Over on WWE Raw, everyone was waiting for the arrival of Bret Hart. Years after the biggest screwjob in wrestling history, Hart patched things up Vince McMahon and made his triumphant return to WWE. It started the best way possible, with one of the biggest markout moments anyone could imagine – Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels not only shaking hands but hugging in the middle of the ring. If this was the only thing that Bret Hart did in 2010, it was worth it.

But it wasn’t. We also got the obligatory feud with Vince McMahon. If they had done a straight forward feud, it would have been fine. But they actually managed to screw up even a feud that so easy to pull off. It was just like the WCW invasion – rather than going the simple route WWE made things complicated. Involving Batista and John Cena, taking all kinds of wild turns that made it seem like any other feud rather than a feud 13 years in the making.

And then there was the WrestleMania match. I don’t think that Bret Hart himself would want to remember this Wrestlemania moment. He was so out of shape, so unprepared that it was embarrassing. At one point he couldn’t even stand up anymore that he grabbed a chair and sat down to catch his breath. This was arguably one of the lowest points of Bret’s career. He didn’t really need to have a match, there were other ways for Bret to get his revenge on Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania without trying to have a proper match. However, by not realizing his limitations, Bret Hart was not even a shadow of his former self and hurt his legacy. Fortunately, Hart was able to redeem himself with his brief appearance at SummerSlam, but in 2010, Hart will be remembered not as the Excellence of Execution, but as the guy who had to sit down in the middle of his match.

Exactly one year later, Bret Hart is nowhere to be seen in WWE. He had his moment and moved on. One year later, the destructive fingerprints of Hulk Hogan and his cohorts are all over the TNA product. Last year TNA and WWE promoted the first TV shows of 2010 by bringing back the greatest stars from the past. This year WWE is promoting the first Raw of 2011 with a WWE Championship match between The Miz and John Morrison – the future of the company. TNA also have what they need to take us to the future of Wrestling, they just need to decide to do it, like WWE did.