Last night was historic for professional wrestling in many ways. Bret “The Hitman” Hart made his return to RAW after twelve years of swearing that he’d never return to WWE while Hulk Hogan and a host of guests made their TNA debut and suddenly the spark of a new Monday Night Wars fire was born. Ironically, it was also eleven years to the day of the “Finger Poke of Doom” (which yes, I was in attendance for) which all just made TNA feel a bit more like “WCW Monday Nitro”. And even with all the special guest appearances, and a match of the year candidate in Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles, one thing stayed the same:
WWE won this battle, but barely.
Now, let’s be honest; outside of Bret Hart’s triumphant return and his segments with Vince and especially Shawn Michaels, RAW’s quality was pretty bland. Yet again, DX had another stupid, silly skit with Hornswoggle only helped by HBK’s visible disdain for it and Santino Marella (the guy is just gold, folks.) Sheamus squashes Evan Bourne, which works in theory, but then one remembers Sheamus shouldn’t be anywhere near a WWE title and the less said about the Diva’s the better. Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston was another solid outing for these two, and it’s good to see them finally starting to give Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes something to do. As for DX vs. Jerishow, solid match, hindered by a completely unrealistic and unnecessary interaction with Hornswoggle. All in all, it was just more of the same.
TNA on the other hand came out with all guns a’blazin’. The highlight, and best match on either show, was definitely Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. There was pure emotion present on both Styles and Angle and it showed that those guys were trying to put on a spectacular show. Also a highlight where both of the Knockout, even if one featured a glaring error on TNA’s production crew (although, of all the mistakes, none were as hilarious as Mike Tenay screeching “Thanks to Dixie Carter and Spike TV, we’re staying with this match,” only to cut away from Styles and Angle for a commercial break.) In fact, aside from an abysmal first hour that included the sloppy return of Jeff Hardy and an outright stupid ending to the Steel Asylum match, TNA mostly delivered. So why did WWE still win the night?
Simple. TNA shot their wad in one blow while WWE was wining and dining us before the big bang.
No question, if we based this on match quality that TNA obliterated WWE, but why should we, as an audience, come back next week? We’ve seen AJ/Angle give one of the best match of the year so far, and Styles still retained. Hogan-Nash-Hall featuring Eric Bischoff and Sean Waltman already has the makings to be stale and it already seems like the Hulkster’s going to once again be the focus, even though we heard eighty trillion times that won’t be the case. The only truly interesting aspect was Mick Foley being “barred” from the arena only to get in and have the show end like a bad episode of “WCW Thunder”.
RAW is at least on the radar for next week to where the Bret Hart/Vince McMahon Saga is headed. Maybe it’s the majestic of seeing Bret back after a very long and troubled hiatus, and certainly that lackluster ending last night didn’t help matters much. In addition to Hart, the blood between Randy Orton and Legacy continues to run very, very bad and even moreso now that Rhodes and DiBiase are standing up to their “mentor”. Everything else is either take it or leave it (personally, I’d be happy if HHH would lose all of his creative power) but WWE’s intent last night was to keep things focused on the future. It worked, and I’ll at least be watching portions of RAW next week, something I can’t say I’ve done for wrestling in a long while now.
Yet really, as played out as this will sound, wrestling fans all over won last night, which is I beg and plead with Spike TV to keep “iMPACT!” on Monday night. Last night brought back a lot of memories for old wrestling fans such as myself and others, not just because Bret Hart made his return. For the first time in eight years, wrestling fans had a choice of who to support or they tuned into who had the better show in that time slot, and at least for a little while wrestling was cool again. Twitter was a-buzz with TNA being a trending topic for the duration it was on while fans (including myself and friends over the phone and AIM) debated over which show was better and who won the night. This wasn’t a nostalgia trip, even if everything on “iMPACT!” screamed “Monday Nitro”. This is exactly what professional wrestling needed.
So please Spike, we beg you. Bring back the Monday Night Wars.