Spike TV and TNA Wrestling are hoping to reignite the Monday night wrestling wars.
TNA — which stands for “Total Nonstop Action” — is set to announce on Monday that its flagship weekly series, “TNA Impact,” will move to Monday nights on Spike starting March 8 at 9 p.m.. That puts it up against World Wrestling Entertainment’s “WWE Raw,” which has dominated the Monday night cable ratings for years.
As part of the move, “TNA Impact” will also start airing live telecasts every other week.
It’s a return to Monday night wrestling for Spike, which carried “WWE Raw” from 2000 to 2005 (before the WWE moved back to USA Network).
“We’ve always wanted to go on Monday nights,” said TNA president Dixie Carter (no, not the “Designing Women” actress). “That’s where the wrestling viewing audience is accustomed to being.”
Spike and TNA first tested the Monday night waters last month, airing a special live edition of “TNA Impact,” featuring Hulk Hogan, on Jan. 2.
That episode attracted 2.2 million viewers, the largest audience for TNA since “Impact” debuted in 2004 on Fox Sports Net. (“Impact” moved to Spike in 2005.)
According to TNA, since former WWE star Hogan joined TNA in January, ratings are up 27% among men 18-49 vs. last year.
In moving the “Impact” franchise from Thursday to Monday, Spike and TNA are following the lead of now-defunct WWE rival WCW.
Back when it was owned by Turner, WCW faced off with, and even began out-rating, WWE on the night. But WWE eventually acquired WCW, and Turner got out of the wrestling business.
Eric Bischoff, who oversaw WCW during its late-1990s dominance (which also included the presence of Hogan), now serves as a “creative team member” on TNA.
“It’s a little bit of history repeating itself,” Bischoff said. “This is a great opportunity for TNA to step up and get noticed and showcase their product. I’ve said since the moment I started talking to Dixie, in my opinion we should go head-to-head with ‘Monday Night Raw.’ To me, it’s a battlefield — and to win the battle, you have to be on the battlefield.”
TNA stars include pro wrestling vets Hogan, Ric Flair, Mick Foley and Kurt Angle, as well as newer names such as “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles and “The Samoan Submission Machine” Samoa Joe.
And yes, the term “TNA” normally refers to something else — of which there’s apparently plenty on display on “Impact.”
WWE execs said they didn’t see the TNA move to Monday as competition.
“We’re not too concerned,” WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman said. “We’re in good shape.”
According to Zimmerman, WWE’s “Raw” household ratings were up 12% in the third and fourth quarter of 2009 after implementing a regular series of guest hosts — such as Snoop Dogg, the Osbournes and Shaquille O’Neal.