TNA Wrestling had a live 3 hour broadcast on Monday Jan 4th, in direct competition with the WWE‘s live Monday Night Raw program. Of course, the big reason to watch Raw this week was the return of Bret “The Hitman” Hart after 12 years out of the limelight. For TNA, the reason  to watch was supposed to be the appearance of the immortal immoral Hulk Hogan.

The TNA announce team (and I’m assuming also the boneheads in charge) apparently thought that they would have a lot more new viewers to the program because it was on a Monday, and people are only allowed to watch wrestling on Monday nights. The normal Thursday time slot is probably what was keeping most people from watching TNA. Yeah… right.

Let’s get right into how this program faired, and what kind of impression the broadcast would make on someone watching for the first time (you know, the ones who bowl on Thursdays).

The Good

I thought the TNA Knockouts (a.k.a. female wrestlers) were given some decent air time to showcase their talents. The ODB vs. Tara match was good, and the Hamada/Awesome Kong vs. Taylor Wilde/Sarita tag match was very good. Both matches resulted in title changes, but I’m not sure if that really matters much anymore. Gone are the days when a champion would hold a title for over a year [I held the MIW TV Title for 15 months, but don’t ask me how many times I defended it ;-)].

The D’Angelo Dinero vs. Desmond Wolfe match was also very good. I think Desmond Wolfe is becoming one of my favorites, mostly because he seems to bring his opponents up to his level and focuses on ring psychology and actual wrestling during the match.

The main event of A.J. Styles vs. Kurt Angle was awesome. This sentiment was echoed by the fans as they alternated chants of “This is awesome!” and “This is wrestling!“.

I thought it was also good that Hogan came out afterword and publicly said that “these two are the greatest wrestlers in the world today”, to at least give us the impression that his ego may not take over the entire company.

One problem is that a lot of viewers probably didn’t stick around through all the other crap that went on to make it to this, or were switching over to Raw to see Bret Hart’s confrontation with Vince McMahon, so they may not have seen the best TNA has to offer. I saw a few comments around the net about the TNA and WWE Monday shows that bashed TNA and didn’t mention the Styles/Angle match at all.

The Bad

Now the bad […deep breath…]. The hardest part here is limiting this to less than 10,000 words. There is so much I can say, but I’ll try to just touch on a few things. A lot of what was bad about it had to do with setting us up to think it was going to be good.

Here was the setup… The lip service from Hogan and Bischoff has been that they were going to “shake things up”, and they would “change wrestling forever”, and that it “won’t be like what you’ve seen before”. Sounded like they were trying to say it wouldn’t be another WCW. They also made the point that there is a lot of young talent in TNA that deserves the spotlight.

Right on!

They interviewed fans outside of the building who said that they “want to see wrestling” and didn’t want to see some cartoonish “kiddie” wrestling or sports entertainment (meaning WWE). Basically, they want their wrestling back.

I’m with ya!

So TNA had a full hour head start on WWE Monday Night Raw. They had a lot of time to showcase how they are not just the same old guys, and how this will be different, and how the young talent should be getting a push.

Here’s how they blew it:

Reason #1: Dumping on the Cruiserweight Division

Instead of having several matches during the night featuring X-Division wrestlers (TNA’s cruiserweight “division”), they throw eight of the most talented ones in the ring for a single match. In a steel cage. One that looked like a bird cage. A bird cage made out of steel. WTF?

They put them in a match that can’t possibly showcase their skills because it’s total chaos, you can’t really go off of the top rope or outside the ring, and nobody can even figure out how to get out of the damn thing. The company has bragged for weeks about the skills of their young talent. Well, here they are folks.

On top of that, you end the match quickly calling it a “no contest”. This was during the opening of the show. Your new viewers get to hear the entire arena chant, “This is bullsh*t!” while the sound guy fumbles for the mute button. Good first impression.

And then, what about all of the guys they’ve talked up for weeks (Motor City Machine Guns, Beer Money, Rhyno)? At some point during the night they end up layed out in the back from some unknown attacker.

In the first hour and 16 minutes there were exactly two matches.


Did you forget we said we want our wrestling back?

Reason #2: Hogan’s Cronies

They start out the show with their new “broadcast partner” Bubba The Love Sponge to do fan interviews. Then throughout the night more of Hogan’s cronies appear. Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags (The Nasty Boys). Val Venis. Sean Waltman, the bloated tick that is Scott Hall. And of course Eric Bischoff.

Unfortunately I also have to include my favorite of all time, Ric Flair, in this list, who also showed up to collect a pay day without speaking or having any involvement.

After telling us for weeks that it isn’t going to be like it was before, they bring all of these old guys in. Like before.

Even if it was just for one night, it was one night too many.

Reason #3: WCW All Over Again

We’re going to do something new and exciting! We will spend 20 mins or so teasing Hogan’s arrival by showing you his limo driving through the streets of Orlando. If you were to put in a crawl at the bottom of the screen, it would be the same thing they did in 1994 on WCW. Too bad he wasn’t in a white Ford Bronco if they were going for nostalgia.

Hogan comes out with pseudo nWo music playing, with the dark beard and the black clothes. Later he’s got Hall, Waltman, and Kevin Nash in the ring. Just like back in the ’90s in WCW.

Oh, look. It’s Sting. He’s dressed in black and up in the rafters. Just like we all remember from WCW. And he’s also a mute again too.

Someone dressed in black wearing a hood attacks Styles again. Looks like the Black Scorpion angle from WCW (please, don’t let it be Flair under the hood again!)

And a Few On the Fence

I’m still on the fence about a few things. Jeff Hardy showing up on TNA was surprising to me (I don’t read the spoilers). I couldn’t tell if he was actually going to work for the company, or just showed up for an appearance like the rest of the riff-raff. He would definitely fit in, but I have a hard time seeing him anywhere but the WWE right now (if circumstances didn’t prevent him from working there).

Ric Flair (I know I already had him listed under the “bad”, so what) is another wildcard. With his great “retirement” sendoff in the WWE after Wrestlemania 24 in 2008, I hate to see him take the chance of ruining that moment by being involved with TNA. But it’s clear that even at the age of 61 he can’t stay out of the business.

What’s in Store for 2010?

The reason I get so ticked off about TNA is that they have such great talent that constantly gets misused by “creative”. I keep reading about how everyone says TNA sucks and I just don’t get it. Their storylines suck, but if you look at their roster, 80% of them are as good or better than any of the wrestlers in the WWE. WWE programming is slightly better because of their production quality and storylines, not because their talent is better. But if you’re like me and fast forward through the WWE storylines every week and just watch the matches, it’s like getting a crap sandwich- hold the bread.

I saw this quoted somewhere else, but I can’t remember where:

It took Jeff Jarrett over 6 years to build up TNA to what it is today. It will take Hogan and Bischoff 6 months to run it into the ground.

I don’t have a good feeling about this based on the first show with Hogan in control. I’ve already said that I would be monitoring the quality of wrestling programming through the end of June of 2010. If the Hogan/Bischoff clock started on January 4th, that should be all the time I need to see it hit rock bottom.