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Monday Night Wars II: The Re-Beginnining! (The Ultimate Tale of the Tapening~!)
March 7, 2010

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com


Here we are, almost EXACTLY nine months after Vince McMahon bought WCW and put an end to the Monday Night Wars... and yet, we're about to wage -- at the very least -- another skirmish.
TNA (now led by Hulk Hogan) has decided to nut up and face WWE RAW head-to-head on Monday nights... that action starts tonight.


OO's still not entirely sanguine about TNA being structured in such a way that they are a genuine, relevant competitor to WWE on this stage... but they're sure as hell more relevant than ROH's cute little Monday night show on whatever channel-that-nobody-gets, and they've been building for six-plus years to get to this point.
The incursion deserves to be noted, if not to be taken entirely seriously.
To celebrate the event, OO will run you a quick Tale of the Tape regarding tonight's shows. Perhaps it'll inform your Viewing Choice. Perhaps it at least serves the purpose of you realizing you SHOULD be paying semi-attention to TNA. Perhaps it accomplishes nothing. I dunno... but I know one thing: as long as it's *me* doing the talking, there's no "perhaps" about this being spot-on and illuminating on some level. I'm sort of awesome that way.
So here goes. The rundown for the Rebeginining of the Monday Night Wars, March 8 2010:

TNA IMPACT (SpikeTV, 9pm eastern)
The Essential Background: TNA began as a PPV-only entity over six years ago... they'd run Wednesday night PPVs (at a cost of $9.95) from Knoxville. They lost a shit-ton of money. Then they re-located to Orlando, and got a Friday afternoon free TV show on FOX SportsNet. They kept losing a shit-ton of money. Then they got a Saturday night show on Spike TV (when WWE left Spike for USA), and started losing slightly less money, while showing an ability to at least match WWE's C-level progams in the ratings.
At this point, behind the scenes changes began, en masse, both in terms of the company's financing (which shifted towards its corporate ownership, Panda Energy, rather than the Jarrett-family run LLC) and its ability to make big hires. Guys like Sting and Christian and Rhino and eventually Kurt Angle made big splashes in TNA. This emboldened TNA and inspired Spike to move TNA to a Thursday primetime slot.
Ratings grew nominally with the improved spot, but usually hovered at the level of WWE's third-tier programming (around 1.1 cable ratings points). As time moved on, TNA added more big names from the "junk pile" like Booker T and Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash... each incremental addition to their long-standing core of home-bred talent made the show seem that much more "sexy" and marketable, even if ratings changes were minor (and, according to basic math, statistically insignificant due to the margin of error due to sampling).
But over time, it was enough to catch the eye of Hulk Hogan and his hangers-on, including Eric Bischoff, both still enamored of rasslin' but not enamored of Vince McMahon. Hogan -- under the guise of Bischoff's production company -- took "control" of TNA last October. It's now taken as read that no money really changed hands, but that Hogan (and friends) stand to prosper the more TNA prospers, and that in return for that stakeholder position, TNA gave Hogan (and friends) creative control over the company.
This led to (1) loosened pursestrings, (2) croney-ism, (3) locker room dissent, but also ultimately (4) lavish tongue-baths from SpikeTV... the partnership with Bischoff's production company was originally an innocent enough thing (meant to upgrade TNA's presence on Spike with additional specials and stuff like that), but quickly turned into a lot more.
On January 4, 2010, Spike granted TNA a one-time shot at facing RAW head-to-head on Monday nights. That night, Hogan made his on-screen debut with TNA, and they busted out a ton of other surprises, chief among them: Ric Flair's TNA debut as AJ Styles' manager. Despite challenging the entrenched RAW, TNA outdid their normal Thursday night pace, and marginally improved to a 1.4 rating. It was their best showing ever, though only if you counted an unopposed 8pm hour (unopposed, they did a 1.7, a HUGE number for them; in the head-to-head hours, they did a 1.3 and then a 1.2, losing viewers over the course of time, and matching previous strong Thursday night ratings).
Towards the end of January, intarweb "newz" sites claimed it was a done deal that TNA was moving to Monday's permanently begining in February, as a result of these heartening results. OO never reported as such, because that was not the case, since TV schedules aren't that fricking fluid, and you have to be honest with advertisers about what they're buying and stuff like that.
But come late February, TNA and Spike made it official: Impact was moving -- permanantly -- to Mondays on March 8. All arrangements were made, and all the ink was dry on contracts. TNA will be on a live/taped alternating schedule (or, when there are five weeks between PPVs, live/taped/live for the odd-ball 3-week stretches) to save money, but in essence: the Monday Night Wars are back on. Starting tonight.
What They've Promised: for several weeks, TNA has been building to tonight's main event, which "unretires" both Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Hogan never officially retired and is in place as TNA's figurehead boss; as part of this storyline, he FORCED Flair to unretire (although Flair -- both on screen and in reality -- wanted to protect his retirement outing against Shawn Michaels a bit more stridently). So tonight, it's Hogan and his "Number One Fan" Abyss (complete with Hogan's Friendship Bracelet.... errrr, I mean, Hogan's WWE Hall of Fame Ring on his hand) taking on Flair and his protege AJ Styles (the newly Bravo-Network'd TNA Champion). Everybody and their uncle expects Hogan to turn on Abyss and play into the TNA Wankers' hatred of him by becoming an Evil Boss, which at this point is almost TOO obvious, if you ask me, given Abyss' unbelievably Eugene-esque simpleton act and Hogan's telegraphed smarminess. But we'll see...
TNA is, otherwise, being pretty vague about PRECISELY what will happen tonight, but IS begging fans to give them Five Minutes. They say if you tune in for the first five minutes, they'll make you stay... given that the hyped main event is (in my opinion) kind of crappy, and most of the rest of TNA's standing storylines (#2 on the depth-chart involves Jeff Jarrett as a babyface and Mick Foley being the least compelling he's been since he was still in the womb), I'm guessing this means you tune in at 9pm and you get a SURPRISE~!
What Could Surprise You: which brings us to here, where I can tell you that TNA has 3 "shocking" things pretty much sown up for tonight's show.... first, and least shocking: Sting finally agreed to return to TNA, after a bit of bitchiness between the parties several months ago when Sting skipped a PPV to tend to a family situation. He'll be back tonight. Second: all parties have played it coy to this point, but after a cameo on the January 4 show, Jeff Hardy *is* under contract to TNA now, and should be involved tonight (the reason for the coyness: wanting people to wonder if Jeff was still beholden to WWE, and still not being sure how Jeff's legal situation -- which is still uncertain pending his next court date in 2 weeks, which could work out VERY unpleasantly for Jeffrey -- would work out; but TNA decided to roll the dice just for the "Holy Shit" factor they could score for Monday)... 
And last: Rob Van Dam. Yep: OO was being all clever with that main page teaser blurb last week. God bless Matt Hocking for making RVD jokes just in time for RVD to be relevant again. Hogan "leaked" RVD's signing on Friday, but it was widely-expected for a few days before then. Unless RVD is WAY cooler than I think, and is actually re-doing the 1997 angle where he worked the smarks into thinking he was leaving for Nitro, only to stay in ECW and appear on RAW as part of the ECW/WWF feud that summer, he'll be on Impact tomorrow night. Could be huge. He's the biggest "whiff" of a recent decision made by WWE's talent relations department... given what the dude is capable of, if he wants to work, you want him to work for YOU. Not so, says WWE. Oh well. We'll see how that works out starting tonight, I guess...
What Could Disappoint: Pretty much everything else. After TNA was surprisingly watchable during the "Lame Duck" phase after Hogan bought in but before he asserted his power on January 4, things are just disjointed. Unless you like the Nasty Boys and Bubba the Sperm Receptacle and other people who are only there because Hogan likes them, that's one whole aspect of the show that you'll hate. TNA's home-bred talent are being used unevenly, with nobody but Abyss and AJ Styles getting anything that resembles a genuine push (and Abyss sucks and is a gimmicky niche act, so they're only half right on that front, anyway). Decisions on the undercard are just plain wonky, with previous also-rans like Big Rob (a no-talent stiff to end no-talent stiffs) and WWE cast-offs like Pope Dinero (Kofi-Kingston-lite on a good day) getting inexplicable pushes. 
So make no mistake: TNA's sexied up this show as much as they can. But there will still be Suck.
Afterall, Russo's still got some say in it. Oh yes, there will be Suck. 
The Verdict: I'm paying attention for sure. But until I see a change in the on-screen product (instead of in the marketing of it), this is still a minor league Thursday night show play-pretending at being big time. Anything less than a 1.2 rating tonight means TNA and Spike have probably misstepped; anything more than a 1.5, however, means this war's got serious legs. I suspect the final number will be in the middle, roughly the 1.3-ish they did in the head-to-head portion of January 4.

MONDAY NIGHT RAW (USA, 9pm eastern)
The Essential Background: In 1992, the WWF was in a popularity free-fall, and it was affecting all their programming, ratings, and TV relationships. In a last ditch effort, they switched their Monday night show on USA Network from a studio-based re-hash show into live Event Programming. This was made possible by the recent development of cable penetration exceeding 60% of the US TV market, and was a HUGE success. "Monday Night RAW" almost doubled the ratings of the previous "Prime Time Wrestling," and within six months, RAW had superceded the syndicated weekend shows (such as "Superstars") as the must-see destination TV for wrestling fans.
WCW, seeing the WWF's success, but being perpetually behind the curve, finally saw fit to challenge the WWF on "wrestling night" in late 1995. After years of raiding the WWF's top established talent, thanks to Ted Turner's checkbook, Eric Bischoff also convinced Ted Turner's network(s) to give him one hour on Monday nights to try to best Vince McMahon. At the time, many viewed it was Turner giving Bischoff enough rope to hang himself so they could finally fire him for being such an abysmal failure. Instead: Sleazy E made it work.
Out of the gate, WCW Nitro matched RAW in the ratings, and they traded victories for most of a year, until the revelation of the nWo changed things decided in WCW's favor. But the war continued, the WWF fixed itself, and in 1998, regained the ratings throne. Things were competitive for another year until it turned into another 2-year blow-out in favor of the WWF, leading up to WCW going out of business and Vince buying it.
Since then, Mondays have remained "wrestling night" to fans across the nation, although never quite the way it used to be a decade ago. WWE blames a lot of this on a ratings drain when they moved to TNN (now SpikeTV), and the lack of promised-support they got from Viacom. This claim is demonstrably false. The bigger problem is that WWE programming got lazier and suckier without competition. Forget "market fragmentation" and all that: just build a better mousetrap, WWE. The audience is still there for the taking.
So here we are, in 2010. A decade ago, wrestling combined to score Neilsen ratings between 11.0 and 12.0... today, WWE is happy to make do in the mid-3's. On January 4, WWE countered TNA's "test run" with the return of Bret Hart (right here~! in Dayton, OH~!), and only "held serve" with a 3.6 rating; combined rasslin' rating that night was a 5.0. That proves SOME fans viewed TNA as a viable alternative, otherwise the stunt-casting (as history has shown) should have been good for a bigger number.
Here's hoping that the "competition" (even if it's with a company in the low-1's versus one in the mid-3's) keeps spurring Vince and WWE on to at least TRY, be it with stunt-casting or whatever, to hold onto what they've got now, instead of losing ground to an intruder. The real winners? Could be us.
What They've Promised: for whatever ungodly reason, Vince McMahon thinks the only way to counter-program Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair is with.... HIMSELF. Vince vs. John Cena, tonight, only on RAW~! So when the main events hit at about 10 till the hour, you can rest assured that the average age of the men on the screen, as you flip back and forth, will be roughly 72. Maybe more, once you factor in that Bret Hart is sure to be deeply involved in the Vince/Cena match...
Beyond that, everything looks "business as usual" for tonight's show. We know the guest GM is Criss Angel (who is a no-talent fruitcake who somehow combines the worst of David Copperfield and David Blaine), so that's a no value-add. We can suspect the next RAW match to be added to WM is HHH/Sheamus, which is ALMOST no value-add. We know HBK/Taker have done tons of cool shit the past two weeks, but can't really improve upon their situation for WM, so I doubt THAT will be a source of awesome. We know ShowMiz is now focused on a SD Tag Title feud, so the US Title (held by Miz) is a non-factor. We know the Diva Title is meaningless if the last two weeks have taught us anything.
So it's pretty much on Cena/Batista/Vince/Bret doing something in that main event to entertain us and sell us on their respective matches. Or, preferably: combine their respective matches into ONE SINGLE MATCH, because I still have a hard time getting excited about seeing Bret/Vince one-on-one after seeing Vince suck in the ring for so long and seeing Bret fail to get the better of a speaker cabinet 4 weeks ago during his hissy fit. We'll see...
What Could Surprise You: nothing, really. Unless RVD pulls the mega-awesome super-swerve 1997-sytle out of his ass, I really don't see what RAW could serve up that wouldn't be right out of Any Thinking Fan's Expectations. No hot free agents to sign, no wacky WM pairings to try, no jaw-dropping Hall of Fame inductees to announce... there just doesn't really seem to be anything on the table for WWE to counteract TNA's stunt-booking on any level.
The only thing that might be an outside chance? WWE could maybe bust out Jim Ross as a "fuck you" to TNA. JR's WWE contract expired late last year, and he was courted mightily by TNA to debut on that January 4 test show. But WWE swooped in at the last second and signed JR to a 3-month "just don't go over there" deal. Since then, Ross has blogged openly about going to Titan Tower for further negotiations and his hope to be at WrestleMania this year. If WWE wanted to perk us up, they could run JR out there and tease him as the "Voice of WWE" who'd be returning to some kind of PPV-only schedule starting at Mania... it wouldn't be a "hey, look, we got him" thing, but at least it'd be a "hey, look, we stopped the other guy from getting him." That's something, right?
What Could Disappoint: as with everything WWE, almost anything could sneak up on you and do this. As I'm not expecting much out of the weenis guest GM, he'd have to suck pretty hard to "disappoint" me, but given Cheech and Chong last week? I bet he's got that in him... more likely, if they dedicate too much time or energy to either of HHH/Sheamus or the Legacy Break-up, those'll be the segments where they're actually trying to stay on task, and I'm still just all fast-forward-y and what-the-fuck-y. Those are two things that are setting up WM matches, and does either of them even REMOTELY feel like it to anybody? I doubt it...
The Final Verdict: all that said, this is still my rasslin' show for Mondays. I don't know quite how it'll work out, DVR-wise, since I also still dig "24," but I know RAW takes precedence over TNA, at least. [Note to TNA: seriously, make sure to keep a late night or other night replay of Impact if you want to make my life easier. You cannot win the face-to-face showdown with RAW, in the long run, if there's even one other remotely-compelling TV show on at the same time. It doesn't get any better once 24 goes away, and I have Reds games I can be half-watching, either~!]
I think January 4 shows us that RAW "holding serve" against direct competition is what's to be expected, ratings-wise. So it'd take a 3.3 or lower to be a serious loss, or a 3.8 or better to count as a real win. They're stunt-booking Vince into a match, hoping for the best, but I just don't see them breaking out of that middle ground. They seriously have a better chance of pimp-slapping TNA NEXT week, when TNA is taped (so internet wankers will already know what happens) and WWE is live with Steve Austin as the guest GM (which I think pretty much all of us look forward to, since it oughta put smiles on our faces).
There you go, kids... the Tale of the Tape for Monday, March 8. While tomorrow should be a good one, and it will be covered here in full standard definition by PyroFalkon and Big Danny T, please also feel free to join OO in not getting TOO worked up about Battle 1 in a series of many dozens.
The REAL tale will be told over the course of months. Will better guest hosts (like Austin) help RAW stunt-book against TNA? Will lesser hosts (like most of them) hurt more than they help? Will TNA's live/taped schedule influence viewing habits significantly, and if so, will TNA/Spike up the budget to compensate? 
So many questions, so few answers, and we won't really be all that much smarter after tomorrow night. Maybe after four weeks of this, but not after tomorrow night.... still: knowledge ain't everything. Sometimes, it's just fun to sit back and let TV shoot rays into your brain, and hope they're fun.
So here's to fun rays invading our skulls starting tomorrow night and continuing on every Monday till the heat death of the universe, kids! Talk to you again soon....

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
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PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
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PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
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RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.



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