Most fans can agree, one of the greatest if not most profitable times in pro wrestling history was the ‘Monday Night War’ era between WWF/E versus WCW. A battle of attrition as both companies put all their efforts to outdo the other. Big ratings, big buy rates, wrestlers jumping from one promotion to the other, guaranteed contracts and higher salaries. Through it all, it was the fans who reaped the most rewards. It lasted from 1995 to 2001…although many will tell you the war was long over by the time 2001 came along.
That was then and this was 2010….WCW had been swallowed up by the victor…the WWE and become the only game in town. TNA had formed in 2002 and was going into their eighth year of existence. It was still a relatively smaller alternative to the mighty global juggernaut that is the WWE but was looking to make huge strides. A couple of those strides were the signings of Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan.
Eric Bischoff for his vast knowledge of management, TV production and of course going head to head with Vince McMahon with WCW and beating him. Hulk Hogan was signed for the obvious reason…name recognition. Dixie Carter believed that bringing in both men would help take TNA to the next level. So what exactly entailed getting to that next level?
How about reigniting the Monday Night War of a few years prior? Whether it was Eric Bischoff or Hulk Hogan who got in the ear of Dixie Carter or a mutual collaboration, the TNA brass thought the best way for TNA to become a bigger, stronger company…was to go head to head with the WWE. So on January 4th, 2010, TNA did a live 3 hour “special edition” of TNA Impact on a Monday Night. On the broadcast itself, they had the debut of Hulk Hogan, Jeff Hardy, Scott Hall and Sting hanging out in the rafters. The WWE countered with having Bret Hart return to the WWE after a 12-13 year absence. The WWE’s ratings were obviously much better, but TNA’s rating was the highest it has ever been. Enough so to impress Spike TV brass to move the show to Mondays permanently.
A press conference was held at the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida with Mike Tenay, Dixie and Hulk. They trumpeted their “test” show in January and felt that it was the perfect time to make the commitment on Monday Nights at 9pm. Hulk Hogan was humble saying it wasn’t about him, but all the boys in the back of the TNA locker room. It seemed that everyone in TNA was ready for a fight…
To wage war, TNA felt compelled to restock their roster with as many big names as they could come up with….namely some of Hulk’s friends like the Nasty Boyz, Bubba the Love Sponge and Orlando Jordan. When the March 8th show aired, TNA had Sting turn heel and the debut of ‘Mr. Monday Night’ himself….Rob Van Dam. The WWE’s answer to these moves was to have magician Cris Angel guest host. The end result to both shows head to head was another strong victory for the WWE and a lower rating than the January show for TNA.
TNA would continue on Mondays for another 8 weeks…but never reached that initial rating in January. The ratings were extremely weak considering what they were hoping for. Not only were the ratings suffering…but they seemed to be in a creative funk at the worst possible time. The writing was on the wall.
Mike Tenay and Taz went on the air and made the announcement: “Earlier today, TNA President made the following announcement to the TNA roster…based on the feedback that we have been receiving…TNA has listened to the fans…and is moving Impact back home to Thursday nights.”
It wasn’t exactly Vince McMahon appearing on TNA Impact saying he now owned the company…but it was indeed TNA smartly waving the white flag no matter how they spun it. So what went wrong? Why did TNA fail in its attempt to start another Monday night war?
A few reasons….
1. Timing was very bad
TNA decided to go head to head with the WWE during arguably its most popular time of year…..Wrestlemania season.
2. TNA replayed Impact on Thursdays
WCW did the same thing…they would replay Nitro later in the evening. That strategy never made sense considering you could watch WWE live and tape the replay of Nitro. Same situation with Impact, why watch Impact live when you could just wait till Thursdays.
3. TNA wasn’t fully ready
The success of WCW’s initial push was they went all out. They never put a price tag or budget on how far they were willing to go. TNA had limitions to what they were willing and/or could spend. Not the best thing to do when competing with a global giant.
4. TNA did one live show…one taped show
You either go live every Monday…or don’t even bother.
5. The WWE was no longer preempted by dog shows or tennis
Another reason WCW was able to gain traction so quickly…was the fact the Raw was occasionally preempted for other USA network events. It let wrestling fans go to another wrestling related product to get their fix. That is no longer the case.
6. Failed to be an alternative
With WWE, you know what you are going to get…sports entertainment. TNA tried for the same type of audience..instead of focusing on younger talent and wrestling first and foremost.
7. Finally…..The DVR factor
This is probably the biggest reason why a new Monday Night War will never happen….the emergence of DVRs. No longer do you have to pick and choose what show to watch live or switch back and forth. A DVR can record one and just watch the other at your earliest convenience.
Since TNA’s venture onto Monday Nights…they never seemed to get their traction back. Business is still suffering across the boards. Granted, the wrestling climate is weaker now…but TNA continues to stay in business. Here’s hoping for a successful relaunch in 2015.