Chapter 7: The Spike TV Era Pt. 2 (aka The Hogan Era)
January 7, 2015
By: Josh Boutwell of Wrestleview.com
Hulk Hogan debuted in January of 2010 and with his arrival we saw the departure of many TNA stars as well as the departure of the six sided ring to much fan hatred. While some TNA mainstays were outright released, others were deemphasized and Hogan brought in buddies like the Nasty Boys, Orlando Jordan, and Sean Morley (Val Venis) as well as “names” like Ric Flair, Mr. Anderson, Rob Van Dam, and the return of Jeff Hardy. While it was disappointing and almost sad to see horrible, over the hill wrestlers like Morley and Nasty Boys going over great TNA stars like Christopher Daniels it was still a pretty exciting time in TNA with RVD and Jeff Hardy coming with great fanfare. Eventually Hogan’s NWO buddies Sean Waltman and Scott Hall joined up with Kevin Nash for yet another short lived NWO reunion (The Band) and Hogan even brought in his radio buddy Bubba The Love Sponge who added absolutely nothing to the company.
Immediately the legendary Ric Flair was paired with AJ Styles as his manager which was a great thing for AJ as promos were always his biggest weakness and Flair is one of the best promo guys in wrestling history, but someone in TNA had the bright idea to have AJ become a “Mini Nature Boy” even changing his ring attire, wearing a robe to the ring, and frosting the tips of his hair. Despite that horrible idea it did lead to Styles and Flair forming my favorite group in TNA history, Fortune. There were several TNA stars that were looked at by Flair as potential members of his new group but eventually he settled on Styles, Frankie Kazarian, and the tag team of Beer Money (Bobby Roode & James Storm) and eventually Christopher Daniels as well. Much like the Four Horsemen, which they were obviously modeled after, Fortune routinely stole the show by putting on the best matches on the card every single week including the amazing rivalry between Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) which led to some of the best Tag Team matches in TNA history.
Hogan and Bischoff’s influence could be felt when TNA moved to Monday nights in direct competition with WWE Monday Night Raw in a horrific failure of an idea. Eventually TNA was forced to move back to Thursdays and admit defeat and that the company was nowhere near ready for something of that nature. Hogan and company ended up forming their own heel stable called Immortal, which ended up being like yet another rehash of the NWO, and turned Jeff Hardy heel (during that run was the infamous Victory Road moment when Jeff Hardy came to the ring high). TNA then decided to do yet another ECW reunion show as well as putting together a faction of former ECW stars that would feud with Immortal and Fortune. Though they had some pretty memorable matches, especially Tommy Dreamer and AJ Styles, it did nothing for TNA in the long run.
Then, TNA started the Aces and Eights storyline of an invading group of wrestlers looking to completely overtake the company. It isn’t a very original idea in 2013/2014 in wrestling but they put together enough twist and turns during the run that it was pretty entertaining throughout and at the end every single thing that happened played in and tied in to the overall storyline which made for some pretty intricate storytelling and having a yearlong storyline in this day and age should definitely be commended even if things weren’t done perfectly. Leading up to this angle we also saw Bully Ray (formerly Bubba Ray Dudley and Brother Ray) become a big star for TNA and reinvent himself completely. It also saw AJ Styles completely change his character becoming a loner and more of a tweener type of character. That led to one of my favorite AJ Styles moments when it looked like he was going to join Aces & Eights and instead turned on them and how crazy the crowd went which is something that doesn’t happen too often anymore these days.
Eventually TNA rehashed the Main Event Mafia again to battle Aces and Eights and eventually Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff left TNA after taking a lot of their money and adding not a whole hell of a lot. TNA spent the last half of 2014 trying to fix a lot of things that they had messed up over the last couple of years and even though a lot of people felt it was too little, too late TNA managed to secure a new TV deal with Destination America after their Spike TV deal ended. What the future holds for TNA on Destination America is a mystery, but as the Destination America era of TNA begins in 2015 the hope for me at least is that TNA continues to make progress in terms of their in-ring product and hopefully further grow and maybe even help an upstart television network grow. Regardless pushing new young stars, refocusing on the X-Division, and putting the focus on stars that fans want to see and giving the fans great stories and characters to sink their teeth into needs to be the goals of 2015 as well as a second first-run in-ring wrestling show to accompany Impact every week. It would be great to see TNA originals like AJ Styles and Bad Influence return to TNA in 2015 as well.