This week saw the first major TV shows of the year from the two top wrestling companies in this country. Both “Monday Night Raw” and “Impact Wrestling” have seen better days recently but it’s very interesting to see where things are going and how differently both companies presented themselves to start the new year. Today we’re going to look at the differences between the two shows and how different the paths these companies are on.
First off let’s look at where the companies are coming into this new year.
On the other hand we have TNA airing its first fresh material in three months. After “Bound For Glory 2015”, Matt Hardy vacated his newly won World Title due to a storyline involving lawyers. This set up a thirty two person, three month long tournament to find a new champion on a series of taped shows. Save for some meaningless matches in the last few weeks, the show has seen nothing but tournament matches on “Impact Wrestling” since October. This also means the lack of any storylines whatsoever aside from the single tournament.
In other words, both companies have a lot to do and a lot of room to get better. It’s a new year as well, meaning the fans are looking for something fresh. That being said, both companies had something big to offer with both World Titles on the line. We’ll start with “Monday Night Raw”.
WWE’s big draw to start the year was Reigns defending his World Title against Sheamus in a rematch with Vince McMahon, who has been having issues with Reigns in recent weeks, as guest referee. This wasn’t exactly the most thrilling match in the world as the earlier matches between Reigns and Sheamus were good but not great. The real draw here was McMahon, who only appears on special occasions.
On the other hand, “Impact Wrestling” offered the final three matches in its World Title tournament with Lashley facing Ethan Carter III and Matt Hardy facing Eric Young with the winners meeting later in the night for the vacant title. This is a very simple idea that has worked for years in wrestling. Here are four people and one of them is going to leave with a major prize. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
The rest of the shows are far less important but both deserve at least a quick mention. Neither of them had a major story aside from the main events but both had some midcard stuff to look at. WWE’s second biggest story was probably Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens with a title match being set up for this week’s episode of “Smackdown”. The same was done for the Divas Title with Becky Lynch pinning champion Charlotte to set up a rematch later in the week. Neither are great stories, at least partially because they’re both setting up rematches that we’ve recently seen.
The same is basically true for TNA but dating back a bit further. Aside from the tournament, “Impact Wrestling’s” major story was probably the reunion of Beer Money with James Storm returning (after an audio glitch spoiled the surprise) to save his former partner Bobby Roode. In addition to this we had Awesome Kong being revealed as the new leader of the Dollhouse to set up a feud with Gail Kim and the Beautiful People. We also saw the debuts of Maria and Mike Bennett as new high level villains. The last of these was a genuinely good moment with Bennett and Maria looking like stars.
Unfortunately the other things aren’t exactly the most thrilling in the world. Beer Money is something we’ve seen many times before and Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim has happened even more often, even at last year’s “Bound For Glory”. In short, little of this felt like something new, much like what happened on “Monday Night Raw”. WWE’s version felt a bit better due to the energy, but neither comes off looking good.
That leaves us with just the World Title situations, which took two different directions. Starting with WWE again, the main event was the usual evil referee drama with McMahon trying to screw Reigns at any possibly opening to try and give the title back to Sheamus. Eventually a new referee came down to count the pin for Reigns after a lot of drama and close calls.
Following the match, McMahon was livid all over again and made a first time ever match for “Royal Rumble 2016”. For the first time ever, the WWE World Title will be defended in the Royal Rumble match with Reigns defending against twenty nine other wrestlers. The closest thing ever to this was at “Royal Rumble 1992” when Ric Flair won the vacant WWF World Title. Reigns vs. Sheamus wasn’t great but the post match developments were certainly interesting.
Over on “Impact Wrestling”, things were still following a traditional pattern. Carter and Hardy met in the main event for their third singles match for the title. Just as he had done in the first two matches, Carter defeated Hardy and became a two time champion. The match, the grand final of a thirty two person, three month long tournament, lasted ten minutes and twenty seconds.
After all those months and all those matches, the tournament ended in less than eleven minutes and brought us right back to where we were before the whole thing started. It’s something we’ve seen before and it’s absolutely nothing new. Carter beats Hardy for the third time and has no major challengers at the moment, save for Tyrus who really isn’t that major of an opponent.
That’s the summary of this week’s “Impact Wrestling”: it feels like we’ve been here before. Whether it’s Carter beating Hardy, Beer Money again or Kong vs. Kim, there’s very little that feels new. Why would I want to see the same ideas that I’ve seen several times already when everyone is a little bit older and the ideas were either spoiled (since TNA can’t edit out a music cue and reaction) or obvious before they even aired on TV.
Neither of these shows were really very good. The endings felt like they were going in different directions though. “Monday Night Raw” felt like it was trying something new while “Impact Wrestling” felt like they were going for the same idea they’ve tried in the past which only worked to a certain degree. The problem for “Impact Wrestling” is that last night was supposed to be something new. I really don’t see how you can do something new when you’re doing the same things you’ve done before.
So that’s how the two companies are starting the new year. One of them is doing something new (not exactly thrilling but in fact new) while the other is repeating a lot of the same ideas that has gotten then thrown off two networks in roughly the last year. “Monday Night Raw” wasn’t exactly thrilling television and was far from a great episode, but I’ll take trying something new over trying the same things that haven’t worked for years now
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