On Monday, January 4th, 2010, the wrestling world experienced a renaissance of sorts. For the first time in 8 years, there was a Monday night war.. of sorts. TNA ventured into deep waters, daring to intentionally go head to head with the flagship show of WWE, one with over 15 years of history and brand recognition. How did they do?

I’m willing to take it step by step, see what they did right and wrong, and on the missteps I felt they made, offer an alternative viewpoint. I probably won’t offer much in the way of star ratings because I don’t really think about that stuff when I’m watching wrestling. I generally think, “That match sucked,” or “That was awesome!” Anyway, away we go.

Nice intro and shots of the fans open the show, and letting people know that Bubba The Love Sponge is now a part of TNA, for better or worse. We come inside the Impact Zone for the first match of the Hogan/Bischoff era. Hmm. Hogan-off. Sounds delicious. I’ll use it.

TNA does two things right to start out with, both to the same end. They’re showing off the X Division and one of their unique gimmick matches. If they’re going to succeed, they’re going to have to find that perfect balance of being familiar to “mainstream” wrestling fans and being an alternative to the kid’s programming that’s on USA. In theory, this was a good pick to start. It went to hell shortly thereafter, ending very quickly with no real resolution.

It got Homicide’s character over, and it was just long enough to let the X Division guys show off some rapid fire high spots, but this match should have gone at least 10 minutes to fire up the crowd and really show off what they had going within the division. And ANY kind of finish would be better than a no finish. The Impact Zone crowd was rightfully outraged. Now, I understand that the point of this segment became a Jeff Hardy reappearance, but this was still a missed opportunity.

Verdict: One thumb down.
In Hindsight: Stretch it out another three or four minutes, let Amazing Red retain, THEN let Homicide go off with the steel baton. At that point, Hardy comes down to put a stop to things.

Nash has an interview that kind of drags, but Nash is full of his typical smarmy charm. We go from that to a Knockouts Title Match, Tara vs. recently crowned number one contender ODB.

My first thought was that this had to be better than their pay per view offering, because ODB can generally get the crowd going, and Tara’s an outstanding worker. Instead, we get another really short match that never gets into a rhythm and a weird result of ODB regaining the title, leading to Tara’s second incredibly short Knockout title reign.

Verdict: Two thumbs down.
In Hindsight: This would have been the match to have declared a no contest, then put a rematch on the following Impact or pay per view so that these two can get a real chance at developing some in ring chemistry together.

Ric Flair is here. I’ll be honest, I marked out in my living room.

Now comes the interview block. We’ll take them one at a time. Foley wants in the building, but he’s not allowed to be there. We won’t review this one until we get something resembling a resolution.

Next up, VROOM VROOM IT’S BOBBY WASHWEE and his wife. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that’s probably a good decision. An out of nowhere heel turn ensues, and ol’ Vroom Vroom’s wife ends up being a pretty effective mouthpiece. For the first time since he…well..since ever, really, I’m interested to see what comes next with Lashley.
Verdict: Two thumbs up.
In Hindsight: Don’t change a thing.

Velvet Sky is on my screen and the drooling commences. Then, as women tend to do, she ruins it by talking. Apparently they’re going to play strip poker. Live. On basic cable television. I wonder if the execs and bookers have any idea how much it pisses us off that we’re never going to see them naked during stunts like this.
Verdict: One thumb down.
In Hindsight: I wouldn’t really change anything, this is a necessary evil. It gets the Beautiful People on camera but doesn’t force us to watch Lacey Von Erich wrestle.

Hall and Waltman are outside the arena, trying to get in. Okay. I’d rather The 1-2-X-Pac-ning Kid not be there, but people will care for a minute or two, so okay. I’ll tolerate it and see where it goes.

We segue from this to Bischoff hopping into Hogan’s limo. WITH OUR POWERS COMBINED…

And then Hogan comes out for the 9 PM promo. This really is like the old Monday Night Wars after all. Hogan cuts a promo that could have been lifted directly from Obama’s campaign trail with vague change being promised in wholesale. Hall and Waltman show up, and Hogan lets them into the ring. He wins them over by promising that things have changed. This brings out Big Kev, and I’ll have to admit, I got a bit nostalgic. Bischoff has to throw his two cents in, but this was essentially the same two minute promo about how everything is going to change, repeated about seven times. Something tells me they drug this out because Bret and Shawn were on. Sting looks down from the rafters, and my inner 17 year old marks out. Hard.

Verdict: One thumb down.
In Hindsight: This would have been much better if they hadn’t seemingly forced the issue with length on the Hogan promo. Oh, and if there weren’t about 15 minutes of commercials crammed in here. Seriously, Spike was killing me with the block of commercials followed by 20 seconds of Impact, followed by another block of commercials. Spoiler alert – this isn’t the last time it happens. By shortening this promo, the opener would have had more time, solving two problems at once.

To really get the second hour started, TNA further shows the difference in their product and Vince’s – a women’s roster deep enough to showcase two title matches. Taylor Wilde and Sarita taking on Kong and Hamada is probably the best tag team matchup they can get out of the division, so I’m glad they paired these two up. Everything clicked in this match, and the decision to move the titles to the team of Hamada and Kong was a good one. It got plenty of time, and was by far the best North American women’s match in a long, long time.
Verdict: Two thumbs up.
In Hindsight: Don’t change a thing.

Val Venis is here! I’m really happy about this. The potential interaction with Val and the Beautiful People is awesome. Val can be an asset in the ring, as a capable worker that is perpetually over. He can also help backstage evaluating and grooming new talent.

Foley wants in. So do the Nasty Boys. Neither of them get what they want.

Verdict: One thumb up.
In Hindsight: Everything is cool here except the Nasty Boys. I hate them. So very much. I never understood why they were around, even when I was a kid. They’re fat, slow, sloppy, have no mic skills, and are just awful. Now I know why they’re around – they had the good sense to be friends with Hulk Hogan.

Raven and Stevie have the unfortunate task of taking on Matt Morgan and Hernandez. This is allegedly for a title shot at Genesis, and as awesome as Raven and Stevie as tag champs would be to me personally, I think that just makes this really predictable. It’s the right decision, though, as Morgan and Hernandez appropriately squash the ECW veterans and lets TNA make two of their young talents look great.

Verdict: Two thumbs up.
In Hindsight: Don’t change a thing.

The Pope is pimpin’. D’angelo Dinero might be the best promo in the business right now. This guy is so naturally entertaining it’s scary. If TNA plays their cards right, they’re going to have a megastar on their hands in a couple of years. Orlando Jordan interrupted this, and I’ll be completely honest here – I had no idea who he was.

We move from this to Pope’s match with Desmond Wolfe. Two totally contrasting styles, but from guys that should be able to adapt. The match itself worked well, but was just too short. I was pleasantly surprised to see Pope get a win that moves him up the midcard and hopefully starts a feud between these two.

The Verdict: One thumb up.
In Hindsight: Nobody cares about Orlando Jordan. Seriously.

Jarrett arrives. Rhino has been beaten up. AJ Styles is in the house, and Bischoff moves the match with Angle up to, well, now. Jarrett comes out to cut his millionth “welcome back” promo, Hogan interrupts that and tells him he has to earn his spot. Then Daniels gets interrupted by Foley forcing his way into the building. Then Jeff Hardy and Shannon Moore display their heterosexual life partner relationship.

The Verdict: Neutral.
In Hindsight: This had Russo’s “Crash TV” fingerprints all over it. Bouncing from scene to scene with commercials as dividers, it progressed a handful of stories, got a lot of guys television time, and left the viewers with some questions. I’m not a huge fan of Crash TV in wrestling, but it serves a purpose sometimes. This is one of them.

The first ever meeting of Samoa Joe vs. Abyss in a one on one match (I’m pretty sure it’s the first, anyway) is on free television with a 10 minute time limit. The action is solid if not remarkable, and Abyss doesn’t take a hit to his credibility even by tapping out. It just makes Joe look better. Both guys should feel god about their job security. Hogan has a history with big guys and Joe is a homegrown talent that can work with anybody and move merchandise.

The Verdict: One thumb up.
In Hindsight: Just about right. Could have been a little longer, but this wasn’t criminally short.

Bischoff meets Ms. Lashley, and does what Bischoff does best: be a total dick to her. This was probably my favorite segment of the show. While this has been going on, Beer Money has been laid out just like Rhino was. The Nasty Boys shoehorn their way into the arena. Kurt says AJ can’t beat him. Hardy and Moore have envelopes, and I can’t help but wonder if there are indictments for drug charges in each one. From Hardy and Moore to the Nasty Boys trashing a locker room. I don’t know if four human beings can be more different.

The Verdict: One thumb up.
In Hindsight: More crash television, but there are some candidates for the backstage attacks – is it the “non nWo”? Is it Sting? Lashley? Somebody totally unexpected? Good promo by Kurt, and Bischoff was golden. This would have gotten two thumbs up if not for The Nasty Boys being there.

The TNA World Title is on the line, and TNA closes the show out by doing something that WWE can do, but rarely chooses to do – wrestle. AJ and Kurt put on an absolute clinic here, and showed why it can be argued that TNA has the two best workers on the planet on their roster. Actually, including Daniels, Joe, and Desmond Wolfe, you could argue that they have 5 of the top 7. Absolutely the right decision here in giving AJ Styles a high profile, clean win over Kurt Angle on the company’s biggest night.

The Verdict: Two thumbs up.
In Hindsight: The only complaint I have is the block of commercials in the middle that killed some of the momentum. AJ and Kurt recovered with an incredible finish. Flair appearing mid match and observing was a nice touch and gives a reason to tune in next week, as does the mysterious ninja interfering.

To cap the show, Hogan goes to stop Foley from getting in the building, but he gets there a little late. Foley has already been verbally punked by Val Venis and Eric Bischoff, then beaten up by the “non nWo”. Very Nitro-ish moment with Hogan giving a concerned look but not committing to any real emotion.

Now, for the show as a whole.

The Verdict: One thumb up.
In Hindsight: Stretch the opener, shorten the 9 PM promo. Everything else can be fairly well left alone, but I have some questions.

Where was Scott Steiner, Tyson Tomko, and The British Invasion?
Why couldn’t we have found something more for Eric Young, Daniels, and Beer Money to do besides spot appearances?
Were Orlando Jordan and the Nasty Boys really necessary, especially since they made comments that lead me to believe they’ll be around more than one week?
This episode made me feel like the last six months of TNA were just tossed aside, and it’s a little jarring.

They did some things right, though. The Hogan-Sting dynamic still works. They made me care about Lashley. I want to know who’s responsible for the beatdowns and who the ninja was.

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