LOS ANGELES - Spike TV is re-igniting the wrestling wars.
The cable network is 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 against USA's program, most notably echoing the Monday Night Wars of 1995-2001, when WWE's "Raw" faced World Championship Wrestling's "Monday Nitro."
The typically taped "Impact" also will 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," TNA (Total Nonstop Action) president Dixie Carter said. "Having two Monday night wrestling shows with healthy competition between them can make for great TV."
Spike has done a pair of Monday night test runs, most recently last month, which featured the debut of the franchise's new host, wrestling icon Hulk Hogan. The special drew 2.2 million viewers, considerably higher than TNA's usual 1.6 million average, but 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 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," a WWE spokesperson said. "On Monday nights, we're one of the top cable shows. We're focusing on our new show for Syfy, 'NXT,' and 'Wrestlemania XXIV.'"
For Spike TV, this is an opportunity to tap into sports fans while "Monday Night Football" is off the grid.