Spike TV is re-igniting the wrestling wars.
The cable network moving its "TNA Impact" franchise up against USA’s top-rated "Monday Night Raw."
Starting March 8, the two-hour "Impact" will move from Thursdays to air head-to-head with USA’s program, most notably echoing "The Monday Night Wars" from 1995 to 2001, when WWF’s "Raw" faced WCW’s "Monday Nitro." The typically taped "Impact" will also air live telecasts every other week ("Raw" always airs live).
"We feel strongly that Monday nights is where the majority of wrestling viewers have been historically," said TNA president Dixie Carter. "Having two Monday night wrestling shows with healthy competition between them can make for great TV."
Spike has done two Monday-night test runs, most recently last month, which featured the debut of the franchise’s new host, veteran wrestling icon Hulk Hogan. The special drew 2.2 million viewers, considerably higher than TNA’s usual 1.6 million average, yet couldn’t pin "Raw," which averages about 5.2 million viewers each week.
"Our goal is not to beat ‘Raw’ immediately, but we feel confident this will accelerate our growth and make it fun for wrestling fans," Carter said.
The shows target also different wrestling sensibilities, with "Raw" aiming for more of a PG rating and "Impact" drawing a "TV-14."
"It’s somewhat of a different audience," said a WWE spokesperson. "On Monday nights we’re one of the top cable shows. We’re focusing on our new show for Syfy, "NXT," and ‘Wrestlemania XXVI.’"
For Spike TV, this is an opportunity to try and tap into sports fans while "Monday Night Football" is off the grid. Once "MNF" returns, the network could tap out and return “Impact” to Thursday nights.