FOR THOSE WHO haven’t heard, Spike TV’s Thursday night lineup is now built around TNA’s Impact Wrestling at 8pm, followed by two hours of Bellator Fighting Championships from 10pm to 12am. Impact and Bellator are both distant seconds to their A-level industry counterparts (WWE and UFC, respectively), and both of those counterparts did their own time on Spike before leaving for greener pastures.
In the mind of the casual fan and viewer, professional wrestling IS WWE and mixed martial arts IS UFC, so neither WWE nor UFC is likely to be supplanted by Impact Wrestling or Bellator in the forseeable future, or ever, but for those who appreciate a bit of variety in the ever mono-branded landscape of mindless American entertainment, it’s nice to have alternatives.
Impact Wrestling (and the TNA promotion generally speaking) has had a rocky history, running the gamut from mediocre to horrible and back again. Of course, the same can be said for WWE, but unlike WWE, TNA hasn’t had the WWE’s occasional high points of greatness.
Still, after a creative shakeup last year and minus a few setbacks/bumps in the road, Impact has slowly turned into something resembling a solid pro wrestling program, and lately I’ve been enjoying it more than WWE’s product. Sure, Impact Wrestling doesn’t have anything as compelling as the CM Punk/Paul Heyman tandem (or the elusive sightings of Brock Lesnar) on WWE television, but there’s a lot more to sink one’s teeth into on the mid and lower card.
As current reasons to watch Impact, I’ve got Jesse Godderz, Chris Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Bully Ray, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, and probably others who aren’t coming to mind right now. With WWE, other than Punk, I’ve got nothing. So Impact Wrestling, while not as great as WWE when it’s great, isn’t a bad time-sink to numb the pain on a Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, Bellator Fighting Championships has moved over to Spike from MTV 2, bringing a polished mixed martial arts production to weekly cable TV. Bellator is certainly no UFC, but it doesn’t come across as amateur hour, either, and while its stars aren’t anywhere near the caliber of a GSP or Anderson Silva, Bellator has enough big personalities to make for an enjoyable whiling away of one’s life on a Thursday night.
Ben Askren, for instance, with his heat magnet curls and his “boring” yet unstoppable “lay and pray” attack is one of the better heels going in the business today, and “King” Mo Lawal is pure star material at whatever he does. Further, the tourament format employed by Bellator helps to give a sense of focus to the proceedings and provides a hook for otherwise faceless fights and fighters.
In any case, while some people seem to hate this B level kind of stuff on principle, I’m all for it. I like a little mixup on the horizon once in awhile, and what the else am I going to do on a Thursday night? Video games, I guess? But that’s what Friday mornings are for. So, if you enjoy pro wrestling or mixed martial arts, OR if you enjoy both (as of course, you should), do yourself a favor and hit up Spike TV one of these Thursday nights. I guarantee you might like it. Maybe.