Former WWE Champion, Bret “The Hitman” Hart who made his controversial departure from the company in 1997 is making his television return to the WWE in a guest hosting stint on the professional wrestling company’s flagship show, Monday Night RAW on January 4, 2010. Hart’s shocking return coincides with WWE’s rival professional wrestling company, TNA moving it’s Impact program into a slot directly opposite Monday Night RAW, beginning on January 4th, as well. To sweeten the deal and entice wrestling fans away from WWE’s show, TNA promises some big names to appear, including Scott Hall of the nWo and arguably, one of wrestling’s most legendary figures, Hulk Hogan.
This entire scenario seems oddly familiar. Although professional wrestling has dropped from the zenith of its popularity during the era of the of the fabled “Monday Night Wars”, this seems to be an attempt to revive wrestling with a redux. From the late 1990s through 2000 , WWE and rival promotion WCW battled it out for Nielsen numbers and wrestling fans’ loyalty. WCW had won in the numbers race a long time, however WWE eventually bested — and bought — WCW, ending the Monday Night Wars. Now, many of the talent who used to reside in WCW are among the ranks of TNA wrestlers.
In recent months, Monday Night Raw has had a string of special guest hosts to oversee the events of the night. The hosts have come from various ranks of the world of entertainment and sports including the likes of Seth Green, Snoop Dog, and Shaquille O’Neal. Additionally, RAW’s ratings have fluctuated, however, there has been a steady decline in the company’s program ratings.
Now, with the first RAW episode of the new year and Bret Hart is slated to be the latest in the line of hosts. To most wrestling fans, this is all but unthinkable. Although Hart was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2006, there is still tension between the legendary wrestler and the company stemming from the controversial circumstances which Hart left the WWE.
The self-proclaimed “Best there is, best there was, and the best there ever will be,” Bret Hart was a WWE champion and one of the company’s top stars throughout the 1990s. The son of legendary wrestler and trainer, Stu Hart, Bret is perhaps the best-known Canadian wrestler of all time. His tenure with the company came to an end in 1997 when Hart decided to jump ship to WWE’s then-rival, WCW because they were offering him more money. Even though Hart’s intent to part ways with WWE was strictly business with no hard feelings, it was decided that Bret could not win his final match with the company for fear he would take the belt to WCW and attempt to devalue it on national television, as a former WWE Women’s Champion had done months prior.
What resulted was one of the most controversial finishes in professional wrestling, The Montreal Screw Job. Although Hart believed that the pre-determined conclusion to the match would see him retaining the belt in his native Canada and leaving WWE as a champion, Referee Earl Hebner made a quick three count and awarded the title to Hart’s opponent, Shawn Michaels. Michaels beat a hasty retreat from the ring as Bret Hart took out his frustrations at switch on Vince McMahon who was seated ringside in the capacity as an announcer, spitting on him and unleashing a verbal torrent.
Hulk Hogan, who will be making his TNA debut on January 4th was also a major figure in the WWE and quite possibly, the man who put professional wrestling on the pop culture map. Known for his red-and-yellow attire and spouting several catchphrases, Hulkamania ran wild throughout the ’80s with Hulk Hogan as WWE’s biggest “good guy” (known as a “face” or “babyface” in wrestling terminology).
Hogan also left the WWE amid controversy in the ’90s, stemming from a steroid scandal involving Vince McMahon and the entire company. Hogan defected to WCW afterwards where he enjoyed success on equal footing with his WWE days as an anti-hero in the nWo (New World Order) faction as a “bad guy” or “heel.” Hogan later mended fences with Vince McMahon and returned to WWE. In 2005, Hogan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and ironically, inducted Bret Hart in 2006, the two men having been longtime friends.
WWE’s Monday Night RAW airs live at 9PM Eastern on USA network and TNA’s Impact will air live at 8PM on SPIKE. RAW will air its usual two-hour show while TNA Impact is upping the ante to a three-hour program for its debut.
Which one will you watch?
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