They, whoever ?they? are, say the only certainty to be found in life is nothing’s for certain. I find this otherwise generic piece of cod-philosophy to be not entirely devoid of truth. The great exception to the rule centres around a large, garish and undeniably orange human being. This person of repute (in some circles), despite age bordering on rigor mortis, remains of physical value to various institutions, most notably professional wrestling. It matters not one bit that despite nearly forty years of exposure to the business this person knows almost nothing about the details of his own career, let alone others. As with all people, this man will eventually expire and drift into the sea of posterity. The certainty of life I spoke of earlier is not this person’s continued existence. The truth is this: As long as there’s a wrestling business rest assured Hulk Hogan will yank the chain and seize the limelight on an annual basis. Hulk Hogan in TNA? Perish the though.
So it was at Madison Square Garden, the spiritual home of WWE, that the announcement came. Terry ?Hulk Hogan? Bollea, the single biggest box office attraction in wrestling history has signed with TNA Wrestling. A grandstand announcement in any tongue, the story has set those same tongues wagging. Publicly, WWE and Vince McMahon will act as is customary and pretend neither TNA nor Hogan exists. The various individuals in TNA powerful enough to speak publicly without censure (think Mick Foley, Sting, Kurt Angle etc.) have put on a united front. The acquisition of ?Hollywood? is a joyous rainbow of good fortune. Having Hogan publicly attached to the organization lends credibility and says, with a little yellow and red, what a thousand hyperbolic press releases couldn?t convey: TNA is for real.
Dixie Carter and her broad beam smile are correct about at least one thing: Hogan always equals copy. Hogan’s professional wrestling legacy ensures him attention and a considerable purse. Though bullet-proof in the business, Hogan’s much publicised divorce and inevitable division of assets has left him financially vulnerable for the first time in decades. His association with Eric Bischoff and the announcement of the Australian Hulkamania tour are both designed to generate money in the immediate short term. An association with TNA serves the double purpose of guaranteeing at least six months of steady capital and comes with the added bonus of reasonable broadcast exposure. Hogan’s brand value is not lost on the real financiers of TNA, Spike TV. The network has chosen to see MTV, Hogan Knows Best and Wrestlemania; not Linda’s toy-boy and the very public airing of some positively filthy laundry.
?Short-termism? is a popular phrase amongst sports journalists and ex-professionals. It concerns the preoccupation with immediate dividends; quite often at the expense of future viability. The signing of the now 60 year-old Hulkster to a deal that will doubtless make various accountant’s eyes water is an example of short-term thinking. The hope is Hogan will, by his very presence, electrify the TNA scene inside and outside of the arena. The speculation is Hogan will be used sparingly in the ring. This is both wise and necessary. Hogan’s knees are all but destroyed and he’s had chronic neck, back and hip problems. Hogan was not exactly blessed with agility or obvious athleticism in his prime. Hauling a credible contest out of Hogan (circa 2009) that thrives on something other than raw emotion is a daunting challenge indeed. Even the mercurial intrepidity of Kurt Angle may be stretched to breaking point by such a Herculean task. Angle has managed it before but even that modern miracle occurred nearly eight years ago. The novelty of Hogan in TNA will spark interest and generate buy-rates for sure. Discard the dream-filter spectacles for a moment though and a more sobering picture emerges.
There are only a handful of men in TNA with the requisite star power to realistically oppose Hogan. That number dwindles still further when you factor in match quality. Finally, said number becomes positively subterranean when you consider the notion of Hogan actually putting any of these men over. After all, Hogan’s record of cooperation is chequered in the extreme. The importance in dealing with Hulk Hogan is remembering everything comes at a price. Hulk did Brock Lesnar a huge favour prior to Summerslam 2002. Working reasonably hard, sharing offence and even bleeding for the cause, Hogan put Lesnar over completely. This set Brock up rather nicely for Praiseworthy though his actions were, they were not motivated by altruism. Hogan expected to main event Survivor Series against Lesnar. He also expected to beat him for the WWE title. It mattered not one iota to Hulk Hogan that he was 53 and utterly washed-up. He was Hulk Hogan. He had the Andre slam and ?Mania 3 in his heart and mind. The belt should be his. Don?t think for one second that Hogan won?t be casting covetous glances in the direction of the TNA world title. Whatever advantages Hogan brings to the dance, he has an unerring habit of exacting a hefty bounty in return.
The practicalities of ?Hulk Hogan in TNA? will be fascinating to observe. Hogan’s gargantuan ego and almost paternal loyalty to his ?chosen men? (who he?ll no doubt ask TNA to hire) will cause immediate and widespread disruption. Though they deserve the opportunity, neither Samoa Joe nor AJ Styles possess the requisite skills to extract a decent match from Hogan. Hogan has wrestled the other Mafia members ad nauseam. I personally want to see another Kevin Nash/Hogan match about as much as I crave a lobotomy. Sting is a possibility, but long-term an utterly pointless one. As previously mentioned Hogan has wrestled Kurt Angle before. Angle is still the best wrestler in the sport and would soar dangerously close to the wind in order to extract another choice match from Hogan. He is the only vaguely workable option. Thinking outside the box, Mick Foley/Hulk Hogan would boast tremendous novelty value but once again has virtually no long-term value. It’s a conundrum, and for anyone who knows their history not even the spiciest of considerations. That my friends will take place behind the veil.
When asked about the ?Vince Russo issue?, Hollywood tersely replied: ?As long as he knows his place it won?t be a problem?. Strange words, you might think, for so called talent addressing the head writer. In case you?re unaware, Hulk Hogan was already gone by the time WCW permanently ran aground. His exile was instigated by then-WCW booker Vince Russo. Hogan was scheduled to wrestle for the WCW world title at Bash At The Beach 2000. Hogan had allegedly refused to lose and thus demanded to win (as he was contractually able to do so) the WCW championship. Rather than allow this eventuality to come to pass, Russo simply binned the match live on pay-per-view by having Hogan’s opponent, one Jeff Jarrett, lay down and allow Hogan to pin him, thus winning the title. This orchestrated farce was just that; an elaborate angle destined to go who knows where. What wasn?t planned however was the shoot promo Russo would cut approximately one hour later in which he aired confidential booking details to the effect of defaming both Terry Bollea and Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster, who blamed both Russo and Jarrett, sued over what was a blatant piece of character sabotage. Interestingly, Russo won because the presiding Judge ruled the content of Russo’s profanity-laced spiel was aimed at the wrestling character Hulk Hogan not the man Terry Bollea. Find the speech on Youtube and have a listen. If you know what you?re listening to, you?ll know the Judge was in error. With all that water under the bridge, the idea of Vince Russo writing for Hulk Hogan is a staggering one?
There is, of course, another possibility. The somewhat loquacious radio host Bubba The Love Sponge (a long term Hogan associate and ally) has claimed Hogan will essentially be booking TNA upon his arrival. I?m reasonably convinced the connotations of that statement extend to Hogan enjoying his usual absolute control over all aspects of his persona. That is nothing new. The very real possibility of a sidelined Vince Russo is worth considering though. As a long term friend and ally of Jeff Jarrett, Russo suffered by association when ?Karen Angle-gate? ocuured. (ironically on Bubba’s radio show) Though given assurances over his future, Dixie Carter would not hesitate to negate Russo to please Hogan. Jarrett’s name was conspicuous by its absence from the list of possible names for Hogan to wrestle. He is still persona non grata in TNA and, owing to their mutual history, its unlikely Hogan would want to work any sort of programme with him. Sadly for TNA, a hypothetical Jarrett/Hogan programme has some real potential.
In closing, all we really have at this time is pure speculation. It will be fascinating to observe just how Hogan and all his baggage is foisted onto the long-suffering TNA roster. The vagaries of Eric Bischoff’s association with TNA will need to be clarified soon. Ostensibly signing alongside Hogan almost in an advisory, Jimmy Hart-esque capacity, The Bisch has no clear cut agenda at this time. His very presence will ruffle feathers and, as is customary for Eric Bischoff, create intrigue and maybe even controversy. I?ll leave you now with the following: Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara. Five men. All considered to be, at varying times and in various ways, architects and/or players in the eventual cataclysm of WCW. These five individuals now have something else in common. They all work for TNA Wrestling. As Jim Kirk once remarked to a bald-headed Englishman: ?Sounds like fun?? We shall see.
Daniel R. Browne.