In early 2010, professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling moved their weekly television program, Impact! (stylized as iMPACT!) from airing on Thursdays to airing Monday nights. This put them in direct competition with World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) flagship program Monday Night Raw. The move drew comparisons to the Monday Night Wars, in which defunct wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW) program Nitro went head-to-head with Raw in a battle for Nielsen ratings each week from September 4, 1995 to March 26, 2001; this led Impact!' s move to sometimes be called The New Monday Night Wars. The move was spurred by the signing of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, two central figures of the original Monday Night War. Unlike the ratings battle with WCW, TNA never gained traction against WWE, despite initially setting record high ratings for Impact!. Impact! return to its Thursday night timeslot after declining ratings in May, less than two months after the move.
|* = viewership range in millions|
Background and first Monday Impact!
On October 27, 2009, Hulk Hogan announced that he and Eric Bischoff had signed with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) in a press conference held at Madison Square Garden, the place considered to be the home of WWE. TNA President Dixie Carter stated "Our goal is to become the world's biggest professional wrestling company. Hulk defines professional wrestling and we look forward to partnering with him in a variety of ways as we continue to grow TNA globally."
In signing with TNA, they would be reunited with the controversial former WCW booker Vince Russo who they had vowed to never work with again after butting heads in WCW. However, they stated that Russo would not be fired, and the three would attempt to work together. A short time after on December 5, 2009, Hogan made an announcement during The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale that Impact!, which normally airs on Thursdays would go head to head with Raw on Monday January 4 in a three-hour live broadcast. This would be the first time since March 2001 that two wrestling promotions would go head-to-head in a Monday night ratings competition. It was also confirmed to be the live debut of Hogan.
WWE countered by announcing the return of Bret Hart, who hadn't appeared in WWE since the Montreal Screwjob in 1997. Leading up to the show, TNA President Dixie Carter stated that while MTV (which owns Spike) was not expecting Impact! to beat Raw in the ratings, it would be considered a success if they managed to at least maintain their usual Thursday night Impact! rating. Spike president Kevin Kay also announced there were plans to air Impact! on Mondays quarterly through 2010 and added that if the ratings proved successful on January 4, it could be moved to Monday nights permanently.
The Monday night Impact! featured the debuts and returns of Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Eric Bischoff, The Nasty Boys, Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Jeff Hardy, Ric Flair, Sean Morley, Orlando Jordan, Shannon Moore and Bubba the Love Sponge in addition to Hogan. Raw featured the return of Bret Hart, who confronted Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels for the first time in thirteen years.
The ratings showed that, much like the original Monday Night Wars, Raw came out on top, averaging 5.6 million viewers while Impact! averaged 2.2 million viewers. The show peaked with three million viewers for the Hulk Hogan segment but then the viewership declined towards the end of the show to near 2.2 million viewers, the replay on January 7, 2010 garnered a 0.9 rating thus giving TNA a combined viewership range of 3.5-4.5 million viewers. However, despite not beating Raw in the ratings, TNA managed to set a new record for Impact!, beating the previous one of 1.97 million viewers, and thus gaining the confidence of Spike representatives.
Move to Mondays
On March 8, 2010, Impact! moved to Monday nights at 9 pm EST to compete head-to-head with Raw. Eric Bischoff was once again competing on the opposite side of Vince McMahon's WWE and in an interview with Bubba the Love Sponge, he said that he believed "history is repeating itself". This new "war" began in much the same way as the original did; with TNA relying on established wrestlers, including former WWE talent, and with the company being led by Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Ironically, Spike had carried Raw from 2000 until 2005, when Raw returned to USA. WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman responded to TNA's move by saying "We're not too concerned. We're in good shape." Bischoff later stated that TNA aren't focused on beating WWE in the ratings straight away, but rather gaining a significant share of their audience and growing TNA's own audience.
On the March 8, 2010, Raw beat Impact! with a 3.4 rating which equated to approximately 5.1 million viewers, while Impact! did a 0.98 with 1.4 million viewers, the replay of the show on Thursdays did 1.0 getting TNA combined audience of 2.7 million viewers. The following week on the March 15 edition, Impact! scored its lowest rating since November 2006 with a .84 rating. No quarter-hour segment of Impact! reached past the previous week's overall rating. The broadcast lost 15% of the audience it opened with, going from a .87 opening quarter-hour to a .72 in the A.J. Styles versus Jeff Hardy main event. Impact! averaged 1.1 million viewers, an overall decrease of 21.4% in viewership from the previous week. Raw scored a 3.71 rating and averaged 5.60 million viewers, an overall increase of 10% in viewership from the previous week. The broadcast's first hour was the most viewed first hour since August 24, 2009, while the second was the most viewed second hour since January 4, 2010. On March 22, days before WrestleMania XXVI, Raw scored a 3.2 and Impact scored a 0.86. Raw' s rating was down more than 1 million viewers equating to about 20%. Ratings for Impact! had improved slightly over the last week as they offered a Career vs. Career match between Jeff Jarrett and Mick Foley.
The night after WrestleMania XXVI, Raw scored a 3.7 rating, up from last week and Impact! scored a 0.62. After these declining ratings, Spike executives announced the April 5 live Impact! would air an hour earlier than Raw. The April 5 edition of Raw lost 14% of their viewers with a 3.15 rating while Impact! scored a 0.9 rating, their highest rating since the March 15 episode gaining a 33% in total viewers as they offered Kurt Angle vs. Mr. Anderson in a Ladder Match. After better ratings for the April 5 edition of Impact!, TNA decided to start Impact! one hour earlier permanently. The April 12 edition of Raw made a comeback with a 3.24 rating while the taped Impact! scored a 0.8 rating managing to keep most of their audience. Then on April 19, the night after TNA Lockdown, Raw scored a 3.05 rating their lowest score in two years, while Impact! scored a 0.95 rating, their highest score since April 5 as they offered a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match between Rob Van Dam and A.J. Styles. On April 26, Raw gained very few viewers with a 3.08 rating while Impact! lost 48% of their audience with a 0.5 rating, with the replay on Thursday getting a 0.7.
Impact! moved back to Thursday nights starting with the May 13 show. On the final battle between Raw and Impact, Raw drew a 3.05 and Impact drew a 0.8 rating gaining a 37.5% in total viewers. The replay ratings of most of Monday night episodes were sufficient for survival but showed that the average audience is some 2 million viewers that prefer to watch on Thursdays.
In a press release, Spike TV's Senior Vice President of Sports and Specials, Brian J. Diamond, said: "The fans have spoken and with their input we have determined the best time slot to maximize the TNA audience is on Thursday nights where we are confident it will be among the most-watched shows with young men". In the same announcement, TNA president Dixie Carter was quoted as saying, "Our fans made it clear that they preferred the Thursday night time period. By moving to Thursdays, this is a win/win opportunity for both TNA and the fans. We are looking forward to delivering what the fans are asking for." James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch wrote that "It will be interesting to see how long it takes to re-build the Thursday night audience" and reported that the Thursday night replays of Impact! had also declined since the move.
Reception and legacy
Vice described the move as one of many gambles TNA has taken during their history, but wrote that it "turned out disastrously." At the end of 2010, the "New Monday Night Wars" received the annual WrestleCrap Gooker Award, an award which honors the worst events in wrestling. By July 2011, nearly all of the new talents brought in for Impact!' s initial Monday launch had left the company, with the exception of Ric Flair (who left the following year) and Jeff Hardy (who left in 2017). In the tenth anniversary reprint of RD Reynolds and Brian Alvarez's Death of WCW, the authors write that TNA did not have the audience that WCW did when they moved to initiate the Monday Night Wars, pointing out that WCW Saturday Night typically did better than WWE shows did in the weekend timeslots. Reynolds and Alvarez also wrote that TNA did not have the financial resources that WCW did and that WWE wasn't "asleep at the wheel" as they were in 1995.
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