The year was 1997. WWE was being led by Shawn Michaels and Triple H under the DX banner. It was a normal site to see HBK and Bret ‘Hit Man’ Hart standing across from each other in the middle of the ring. WWE shows were partly built around arguably two of the industry’s biggest stars.
The competition, though, was making plenty of waves itself. On a different channel Monday nights, wrestling fans could see some of WWE’s biggest former stars standing in the middle of a different ring claiming how they were the future of the business. Guys like Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were determined to change the face of professional wrestling. Sting would often stand in the rafters, looking down on what was going on, possibly wondering how his spot on the show was lost to guys who had the charisma, but lacked some of his in-ring talent. Ric Flair roamed the backstage areas. And, exciting, young stars of tomorrow would often get lost in the shuffle as the attention was often directed toward the biggest names in the business.
My, how far we’ve come in 12 years. This past Monday night, we saw a confrontation between Shawn Michaels (in full DX gear) and Bret Hart on Raw, though, this time, it ended with a handshake instead of a little Sweet Chin Music.
And, while the name has changed, everything else seemed like it was just about the same. This wasn’t WCW Monday, but TNA sure felt a lot like it. Hulk Hogan may not have been seeing eye-to-eye with his past running buddies, but he, Hall and Nash were there in the ring together again. Though, this time, I wasn’t quite sure what Hogan’s true role actually was. One minute, he was telling his old friends that they’ll have to earn their spot, just like everyone else. Later, he’s telling Jeff Jarrett, the company’s founder, to stop talking about himself, who actually just got finished talking about how much the company means to him and how he just wanted to give young guys an opportunity to perform and prove themselves. Hogan did put over TNA champ AJ Styles after a decent main event showing against Kurt Angle, but this is after giving cameos to The Nasty Boys, Orlando Jordan and Val Venis instead of delivering matches we were told we’d see at the beginning of the show.
Personally, I would’ve rather seen the Beer Money vs. British Invasion tag title match instead of watching Knobbs and Saggs trash Team 3D’s locker room. Instead, some of the guys who have been carrying TNA the past few years were getting knocked out in the back, only getting brief cameos instead of showcase match-ups on what was supposed to be the company’s biggest night.
Plus, they minimized the roles of guys like Samoa Joe and Desmond Wolfe, TNA names who have been main-eventing or have been having main-event caliber matches at their pay-per-views for a while now. Wolfe lost his match, who had just finished an incredible feud with Kurt Angle, while Samoa Joe got a quick win over Abyss. Joe had just main-evented some of the past few PPVs against AJ Styles in some good title matches.
On the flip side, Vince, again, showed his forward-thinking by moving past any kind of Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels feud, and instead moving toward a pay-off to the Vince McMahon-Bret Hart feud we likely would’ve gotten had Bret not left for WCW in 1997. While Shawn is still having matches-of-the-year, Bret, unfortunately, is in no condition to carry on anything more than some kind of Street Fight, which is a rumored feature match at this year’s Wrestlemania against McMahon.
Frankly, in this first round, with that Bret-Shawn interactions followed by the Bret-Vince set-up by themselves, WWE beat TNA, regardless of what the ratings may say when they come out. But, Raw took it one step further and re-established MVP as a US title contender, furthered an intriguing angle between Randy Orton and Legacy, plus gave us two quality matches in DX vs. Jericho and Big Show and Orton vs. Kofi Kingston. Sorry, TNA. Got to try a little harder to be different.