Before I get into the meat of this article, I have to be a little self-promoting for a moment. I went back and re-read my last column which laid out all of the false talking points that the anti-TNA haters use to berate the iMPACT Wrestling product and it really is some of my better work on this website – so far. If you haven’t read it yet, give yourself a few minutes to click over and give it a read. It’s pretty direct and to the point with the constant fact versus fiction arguments that vocal TNA fans need to be well-versed in.
Ahem… now then – on to the business at hand!
Both iMPACT Wrestling and WWE made major announcements last week. The team over at WWE announced that later in July 2012 they will expand Monday Night RAW into a three-hour show. While this resembles the failed experiment that WCW tried (by the way anti-TNA haters, who looks more like WCW now?), I wish WWE the best and hope that their weekly three hour show goes well for them. Over at our beloved iMPACT Wrestling, Dixie Carter announced that the show is going live all summer long!
As a avowed fan of iMPACT Wrestling, I think that this is a great idea!
Of course, I was hoping that when this announcement was eventually made it would be that the show is going live year-round, but you have to crawl before you walk, right? If the team at TNA Entertainment, LLC wants to test out the impact (pun intended) of taking the show live every week this summer, then I’m totally down for the experiment. But aside from going live each week, this is an interesting announcement for several reasons.
First, let’s not forget that the first live show is also the first show that will be airing at iMPACT Wrestling’s new time at 8:00pm EST. In other words, not only is the company testing out what type of viewership a live show brings in, but they’re also trying out the live show format an hour earlier. From a business perspective, there has to be some good data behind moving the show an hour earlier because WWE will also be moving their show an hour earlier to start at 8:00pm EST when they go to three hours in July. So… there has to be something good about starting at that time.
Second, the summer months are usually a time of new beginnings for wrestling storylines. This paradigm has held for quite some time primarily because of the natural “reset” that WrestleMania weekend has on the entire wrestling landscape. However, with iMPACT Wrestling making a stronger name for itself in the last few years they have a chance to use the summer months differently. In essence, much like they spend the first few months of the year building a “Road to Lockdown” feeling on their shows, they can now spend the summer months reinforcing the “Road to Bound for Glory” feel that they utilized last year. Combine the “Road to Bound for Glory” feel with a live show that starts an hour earlier and you have an interesting set of circumstances for potential long-term momentum building – and success.
Third, don’t think that this experiment isn’t directly aimed, in part, at testing the earlier time slot in light of the introduction of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football weekly game for the coming season. Most of those Thursday Night Football games are scheduled to start at 8:20pm EST, but usually wind up starting a few minutes before 8:30pm EST. If any of us were a fly on the wall of the production and long-term strategy meetings, I’d bet that we’d hear a guy like Eric Bischoff say that if TNA wants to be competitive going into the fall football season, then they need to put out a strong product in the first thirty minutes of the show starting at 8:00pm EST. Let’s be honest here folks, the demographic that iMPACT Wrestling hopes to draw in is the exact same demographic that the NFL wants to draw in to their telecasts. With the earlier start time and the live airings, I expect that the writing team at iMPACT Wrestling is going to put their best foot forward during the first thirty minutes of each show.
Fourth, there are new programs, returning names, and new talent coming into the promotion during the same time. On the May 31st show we’ll be treated to the introduction of Brooke Hogan as the person in charge of the Knockouts division, the fallout from this week’s Open Fight Night show, the earlier start time, and the live show. That’s a lot of hype-worthy events for one show. If the first show in this experiment kicks the summer off with a bang, then there may be hope for the rest of the live summer shows which brings us to…
Fifth, experiments that go well are usually the beginning of a larger approach to changing the business. This is obviously an experiment where Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan want to prove that a live show brings in higher viewership. If we – the fans of this product – watch the show in large numbers, then this experiment will very likely lead to a weekly live airing of the show at some point in the near future.
And finally, while it’s great that this experiment will bring us a live episode of iMPACT Wrestling every week let’s not forget what the side effect of that is: the show will be stuck in the mostly-dull iMPACT Wrestling Zone all summer long. That sucks. There’s no reason to rehash how the iMPACT Wrestling Zone audience is sub-par at best. There is reason to be concerned that this experiment won’t be as exciting as it should be because of both the small nature of the venue and the people attending the show. Of all the items and issues that could harm this experiment, the tourist-nature of the audience is my biggest concern.
When all is said and done, though, I couldn’t be more excited about having a live show to watch each Thursday night – and a live show to watch at 8:00pm EST no less! As a guy who works around the clock, I’ve always been a fan of starting the show earlier (I’m also a fan of a one-hour show instead of a two-hour show, but that is an entirely different column). The way my schedule works, I’m just exhausted by the time 11:00pm EST rolls around (if I’m even awake!). So I’m excited about the time change. More importantly, though, as a guy who is a fan of iMPACT Wrestling, I’m excited about getting a live show each week.
Here’s hoping that everything works out in the company’s favor so we can enjoy live shows into the fall and winter months, too!
joe1897 [at] gmail [dot] com