Sunday, March 07, 2010

Monday Night Wars
One of the great things about neglecting this blog for weeks on end is that, with my readership down to two people a day who stumble upon this on accident, I can write about mundane things and there's no one to care.

Not quite as cool three years ago (when I was averaging more than 20 hits a day-- small time, but consistent), but it's amusing in its own way.

In a way, this blog is kind of like the returning Monday Night Wars in professional wrestling, that return tonight when TNA Impact begins a run on Monday nights against WWE's falgship, Raw.

It will have its moments, but they will be on a small scale.

TNA is trying to make itself like WCW Nitro, which ran on TNT from 1995-2001. In those days, the program would score ratings in the low 3s and the high 2s, and be laughed at as a massive failure. Should TNA reach a 1.5 for tomorrow night's debut, it likely would be trumpeted as a major success.

Meanwhile, RAW, in its Wrestlemania push, will register a high 3 rating. Not great when compared to the early part of this decade, but reasonable given that much of the audience that made the "wars" seem important are either grown up or watching MMA.

TNA is like WCW. Many of the faces from that program are in TNA now. Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting, Eric Bischoff and Kevin Nash are all big parts of the program.

I enjoy all those performers to a degree (Well, maybe not Nash. Flair is my all time favorite wrestler). It's easy to say that TNA is relying on stars of the past. But its also relying on a system from the past. Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara are on the writing team. Bischoff has power.

Russo and Ferrara and Bischoff all played major roles in the success of Monday Night Wrestling 12 years ago. But their strength came from creating television in a different time. Russo is the creator of "Crash TV," which usually means short matches, 1,000 angles crammed into two hours, and playing main event angles for comedy.

It worked in it's day. The WWF was extremely popular in 1998, and Russo deserves credit for much of that success.

But 12 years later, Russo's version of wrestling doesn't really work. He can, at times, create compelling television. But he's never been the greatest at creating angles that create Pay Per View buys.

I don't blame Russo for this. He's like Hootie and the Blowfish. At one time, the band was one of the most popular acts in music. I'm sure if you went to see a performance from them now, it would still be entertaining, but it wouldn't draw like it did in 1996.

But a band only knows how to play its style of music. If Russo is your writer or booker, he's going to produce television that he knows. That means Crash TV. It also means it won't sell like it once did.

Bischoff is another interesting case. He's, without a doubt, one of the best performers in the business. He also doesn't wrestle, which means he can't be used to sell a pay per view.

In his first show back on the job, Scott Hall and Nash were featured. Like Russo, Bischoff's greatest success came in the 1990s, when the Outsiders were one of the hippest acts in wrestling.

But neither one means much now. But since Bischoff had success with the act then, he goes back to it now.

TNA's problem is that it has always needed to create new stars, its own stars. Its biggest stars are still ones WWE fired or were content to let walk.

Kurt Angle is fantastic, but he's still most known as a former WWE guy. Mick Foley is the same. The company has some really talented guys -- AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels -- but I'd venture to say that 80 percent of the viewing audience from WWE has no idea who they are. That's not those guys' fault. It's the promotion's for not showcasing them as the new age of wrestling.

My point is that TNA is heading into a battle with WWE its ill-equipped for. It's not providing anything new. New is what it needs.

I need to add that I haven't watched WWE TV in more than a year. Bret Hart is back in WWE, but I have no interest in that. The truth is that WWE has been stale for years, but at least it knows how to be successful. At least WWE can, when it wants to, create its own stars, like Batista and John Cena. Those guys weren't stars during the Monday Night Wars, but they are now.

I'm not sure TNA could create its own star if it wanted to.

That's why I'm not optimistic about its chances or its future.



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