For the first time in 9 years, two live professional wrestling shows stemming from entirely different companies went head to head on January 4th, and the end result? While both companies failed to produce stellar shows (I personally can't help but to feel a little disappointed), both did manage to leave the viewer at least mildly intrigued as to what will happen next.
On one side, TNA (Total Nonstop Action), a company that has been around since '02, started its most important show to date at 8pm, with three hours to display their goods, and, in essence, attempt to give us a reason as to why we should tune into their product on a weekly basis. Their primary purpose? Hold their own against archrival WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and even try to break their previous television record rating of a 1.3, having achieved such in the months of November in 2007, and February, March, and April in 2009.
TNA started its weekly show, iMPACT!, on a positive note by continuing to generate hype in the form of a video consisting of fans basically eager for the arrival of Hulk Hogan in TNA, as well as, not surprisingly, bad-mouthing WWE. However, sadly, they did not hesitate to baffle its audience by having one of their original matches (a Steel Asylum match where a bright red circular cage surrounds the ring, which is considerably somewhat similar to the structure of the elimination chamber used by WWE) end in a disqualification. This came off personally as a surprise, as coming into the show, screwing up for a show that has been months in the making was the last thing on my mind. They would somewhat redeem themselves from a highly disappointing start with the surprise return of Jeff Hardy, who immediately proceeded to attack Homicide, the wrestler originally responsible for the no contest decision.
TNA continued their night of surprises with the shocking appearance of Ric Flair (sadly, Flair's presence was merely an appearance and nothing more). Continuing on with horrendous bouts, in the second match of the night, Tara defended her Knockouts Championship against number one contender ODB, and ended up losing quickly in an undesired manner. The aftermath (Tara placing a tarantula on top of ODB and holding up what she failed to maintain a firm grasp of) suggests that it doesn't end there between the two of them, and I'm hoping that this had a certain reason behind it as far as the quality and time length as I'm sure both are quite capable of producing enjoyable matches.
In nearly the midst of the show, Hulk Hogan makes his long-awaited debut, accompanied by former nWo (an abbreviation for one of the most well-known stables in professional wrestling, New World Order) members, Sean Waltman (otherwise known as X-Pac or the 1-2-3 Kid, among other ring names), Scott Hall (also having played the Razor Ramon character), and Kevin Nash (formerly known as Diesel). After a back and forth argument in regards to having positions handed out (to which, to the joy of the live audience, Hogan objected), Eric Bischoff makes an appearance. Bischoff and Hogan, after the three former nWo members, ever unsatisfied, leave, discuss change, and Bischoff shows us his sincerity by tearing a script up in half. As for the segment, long indeed, but if the purpose was to convince us that TNA is in for some drastic changes, then it's safe to say that they have achieved just that, although somewhat.
The show continues, this time, with a very enjoyable tag team match with the TNA Knockout Tag Team Championship on the line. After several minutes of fast-paced action, Hamada and Awesome Kong dethrone Sarita and Taylor Wilde, capturing their first tag team championship. Fun match, and undoubtedly a great way to have your initial champions lose their titles. The rest of the matches? Decent at best, as we saw Matt Morgan and Hernandez make short work of Dr. Stevie and Raven, Samoa Joe, a replacement for Rhino (one of the victims of seemingly random backstage assaults) decimating Abyss and "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero pick up an upset victory in a solid, short bout against Desmond Wolfe. And then came the main event for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, which originally was meant to be the main event for their upcoming pay-per-view (thanks to Eric Bischoff, we got to see Angle and Styles, two of the best wrestlers in the professional wrestling industry today, go at it on free television).
Now THIS is, quite simply, something that you will want to go out of your way in watching as Angle and Styles, unsurprisingly, put on what they call a "Match of the Year Contender" - a very early one at that. I hope to see a rematch between the two as will most likely be the case at their first pay-per-view of the year, Genesis. Truly awe-inspiring action from start to finish. But the show isn't over yet, folks, as Mick Foley, who had been seeking to enter the iMPACT! Zone for the duration of the night, confronts Eric Bischoff, only to get assaulted by Hall, Waltman, and Nash. Because of the amount of questions that this alone incites (although I would have preferred for them to just leave it at that with the main event), I think it's certainly an interesting way to end your most important show yet.
On the other hand, Raw featured a returning Bret Hart, who had been absent from a WWE ring for 12 years since the ever-infamous Montreal Screwjob in November 1997. I found his return to be rather compelling, and it was definitely a sight to behold watching both Hart and former nemesis Shawn Michaels let bygones be bygones, in the form of a hug, in the middle of the squared circle. But as for Vince, that's a whole different story...
Personally, wrestling wise, Raw managed to entertain with only one bout - that being the tag team championship match between current champions (as of writing this article) D-Generation X and former champions JeriShow (Chris Jericho and the Big Show). However, the show itself started off with a rather dull, although expected, match between Maryse and what eventually became both of the Bella Twins. The match itself was anything but eventful, but Maryse's character is something that I'd find hard for anyone not to enjoy. She plays the heel persona very well, almost to the point where it seems entirely natural. Furthermore, The Miz continues to show us why he's the current United States Champion, and on a personal note, I'm delighted to see him getting a suitable theme song for a high-profile superstar. And in addition, the chemistry between The Miz and Maryse is quite evident; I can only hope they go somewhere with this. Moreover, the rest of the action on the show wasn't, in the end, worth going out of your way to watch as we witnessed current WWE Champion (as I write this) Sheamus dismantle title shot hopeful Evan Bourne. It's quite a shame to see what they're doing with Bourne as he is, quite frankly, one of the most athletic and talented guys that the WWE has hired in recent memory. Additionally, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston continued their month-long rivalry in seemingly their culminating match, with Orton at the verge of being kicked out of his own stable which he created, The Legacy. Fortunately for Orton, that was not to be as he would nail Kingston with the RKO, subsequently securing the three count.
But, as aforementioned, as far as wrestling, by a landslide, the tag team championship match takes the cake. And speaking of which, Chris Jericho has been on a roll since making his return in 2007, and I think it's safe to say that he is currently in his prime. Jericho has a tremendous work ethic that has evidently taken him a long way, as proven by his winning of two world championships in late 2008. His recent outbursts of wanting to stay on the Raw brand (including the classic "I want to stay!" segment as he departed from the ring at last year's Slammy Awards) have been nothing short of brilliant, and I'm personally very interested to see where his character goes next from this point forward.
Above all, if you're one of those former wrestling fans who have stopped watching for a number of different reasons (or have just started watching professional wrestling), now's the time to start tuning in - consistently, considering WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart will be playing a prominent role for the next several weeks to come (rest assured that the WWE will be looking to develop the Bret Hart/Vince McMahon storyline - it'd be a crime if things were to be left the way they were on Monday night!), whereas Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff will, according to them, turn TNA "upside down". As far as the Monday Night Wars, only time will tell if we will have ourselves a new chapter...