This Sunday is July 4th, it is a celebration of independence for those who live in the United States but it also represents something else for me. You see July 4th is the 6 month anniversary of Hulk Hogan in TNA. When Hulk Hogan first arrived in TNA many people including myself had negative feelings towards it, we were told by the diehard TNA fans to give it time. Well it’s 6 months and I am asking myself is TNA really better off with Hulk Hogan in it? You’re reading “Wrestling Rumblings.”
I like many others was once upon a time a Hulkamaniac and while I am not a big fan of Hulk Hogan these days I like others will freely admit that if Hulk Hogan wasn’t around I might not be a fan of wrestling today and this column that you are reading could very well not be in existence. The guy was the main attraction like no other wrestler that has come before him and no other wrestler since. You can say what you want about your Steve Austin’s and your Rock’s but those guys had each other and neither had to carry the company in quite the way Hulk Hogan had to and well whether you like him or you don’t he deserves the credit for the successes he has enjoyed. Now that I have given him his due for a spectacular career it is only fair to present both sides of the man. He has been accused over the course of his career of only looking out for himself which in all fairness is just the way of a wrestler; they are independent contractors after all. However Hulk’s looking out for himself has been blamed for the fall of WCW (to be quite honest WCW may not have had a rise if not for him either) and the holding back of several wrestlers in both WCW and WWE.
Why am I mentioning this to you? Well it’s really easy to pile on the guy and just say you don’t like him just because, I was a real big fan of Hulk Hogan early on and then the reputation he built for himself slowly had me souring on him but in all fairness that was his wrestling career and something like this has never been done before right? Wrong, am I the only one who remembers the XWF? You know the promotion that when it was starting up Hulk Hogan was saying was going to be on TV and going to set the world on fire. Well Hulk would make the XWF the latest in a series of cash grabs as him and Jimmy Hart basically got a payday for nothing as Hulk wouldn’t truly associate himself with the company since it was just a leverage move to go back to WWE. What about the show in Memphis that Hulk tried to pull off by him? Am I the only one who remembers that they couldn’t even put 1,000 people into that arena for Hulk Hogan’s big return to wrestling? Maybe it’s not fair to bring those two situations up as Hulk Hogan wasn’t really the promoter for the XWF although he was its front man very early on and he was the inspiration for Cory Maclin trying to run that big Memphis show. Still let’s absolve Hulk Hogan of those two failures since you know at the end of the day if confronted he is going to have a million excuses that has Hulk Hogan not being the reason those ventures didn’t work out. What about the Hulkamania tour? Something that was supposed to be so big that the wrestlers who signed up didn’t just sign on for a tour but signed contracts to commit themselves for years. Remember Vince McMahons words for Ric Flair upon hearing that he was going to break his retirement to work for Hulk Hogan? “Make sure you get your money up front” well that seemed to be prophetic as what everyone thought was being done as another Hogan leverage move to get back in WWE wound up with his now being involved with TNA. So let’s summarize a bit here, Hulk Hogan the wrestler? Great career with a downward finish, can’t get mad at a guy for that right? What about Hulk Hogan the promoter or as he would say “The Vince McMahon”? A slew of questionable failures, that’s the past though right? What about the present how has Hulk Hogan been in TNA?
Since Hulk Hogan has been in TNA for 6 months I thought it only fair that I base his progress on a comparison to the 6 months that preceded it. This would mean that since Hulk started officially on January 4th (although you can make the argument that he had his hooks in since October) I should go back and compare everything from July of the preceding year to that January start date for Hulk Hogan. So let’s go back and look at the 6 months before Hulk got to TNA.
I didn’t want to evaluate every TV show in TNA since I didn’t think a week by week comparison would be fair to any side but there are certain things that I thought should be touched upon for the previous 6 months before Hulk Hogan actually showed up. In July the biggest angle was still the Main Event Mafia against the TNA Originals which while it had the potential to be the biggest angle in the company’s wound up being a whimper in terms of its impact instead of the bang that was needed. Early on during that 6 month interval though the Main Event Mafia would hit its peak owning every title available to them in TNA and you can make the argument that other stars were slowly being created. Matt Morgan was starting to come up the ranks, so was Hernandez and there were new acts that were integrating themselves into the company such as The British Invasion which would eventually become a part of World Elite, even Nigel McGuinness would become part of the company as Desmond Wolfe and looked to be a breakout main event star. Plus the Knockouts division was doing very well as even though it had suffered the loss of Gail Kim Tara showed up early on in this period and the Knockouts division was doing so well that it wouldn’t be long before they would also expand it to include Tag Team titles as well. What did all of that mean for TV ratings? Well TV ratings have always been poor for Impact but it can be argued that during this period the TV ratings were probably the best it’s ever been consistently as it would seem that during this period as well as some of the months that preceded it TNA seemed to set all time ratings highs every few weeks. While all the right things may not have been done, it seemed as if some things were being done right and with Hulk Hogan on tap things looked to be moving towards the better.
Kurt Angles title reign did not last forever of course and he would transition to AJ Styles who was finally given a lengthy title run as world champion having great matches but still not the box office draw that the company would have liked him to become but it seemed the company was willing to wait for him to catch on as it would have AJ involved in several great PPV contests against the likes of Samoa Joe, Sting, and Christopher Daniels. With the Main Event Mafia story winding down it looked as if Sting was finishing up and it seemed as if TNA would continue their focus on establishing younger stars. This is right around the time Hulk Hogan would come into the company.
From the moment Hulk has showed up he and Eric Bischoff have reminded us many times on TV that the “company needs saving” and instead of focusing all his attention on younger stars he initially set out on trying to get jobs for his friends. Honestly that didn’t bother me as much as it bothered most people because well most people in Hulk’s position wouldn’t want to go to a company like TNA without having people they trust by their side and well Hulk did this early on in WCW and it did help spike WCW for a while even before the Monday Night War. The difference between then and now though was the guys Hulk imported early on into WCW were old but maybe still somewhat over, the guys Hulk imported into TNA were ancient and with the exception of Ric Flair and Jeff Hardy haven’t been over strong in years. The first thing we had was a million and one debuts which were done simply to hotshot ratings with no meanings, then we had the rebirth of sorts of the NWO which at one point was actually the main storyline of TNA. What about those guys who looked to be on the rise before Hulk got there? Well Nigel McGuinness went from working excellent matches with Kurt Angle and looking like an instant star to being lost in the shuffle, World Elite was tossed to the wayside with the only guy coming out of that with any level of interest being Douglas Williams and TNA’s Knockouts division went from being the class of women’s wrestling to actually being worse than the WWE Diva’s division with its cornerstones slowly leaving the company.
It should be mentioned since I did mention TNA having ratings highs in the 6 months before Hulk Hogan that the first show Hogan was on did in fact do the highest rating TNA has ever done, Hulk initially thought the company needed a change and put the TNA title on RVD and put much of the focus of things on himself, Abyss, and RIc Flair. It should be mentioned though that RVD was the champion of note when TNA did the worst rating it has ever done in Primetime on Spike TV and the big move to Monday nights that Hogan clamored for was a disaster that led to TNA retreating back to Thursday where the ratings have still yet to recover from what TNA was doing previously.
It’s really easy to just give you thoughts as to storylines and who is getting over and who isn’t. I mean the creative product is really in the eye of the beholder and while I may not enjoy what I am watching some of you reading this may in fact think this is the best TNA ever. So I decided to go and do something that no one can really argue with and compare the ratings. Do you want to know how many times TNA’s rating did less than a 1 in the 6 months before Hulk Hogan came in? 5 times, keep in mind one of those was a 3 hour show, another was Thanksgiving, and we had s a New Years Eve special that was an all Knockouts show. In those 6 months TNA’s average monthly rating was below a 1 just once. Now I didn’t have the patience to keep going through numbers so I wound up quitting when I hit the 4th month of Hogans tenure in TNA. By that point they had already done 10 weeks of ratings less than a 1 and of course had averaged less than a 1.0 for the month twice. I don’t expect much of a difference over the past two months but I could be wrong. Still with that being said he hasn’t been this ratings dynamo that people were expecting and before anyone just points to Mondays they weren’t on Mondays all that long. The show just isn’t one that people are watching and while fans would love to just pile up on Vince Russo the fact is this is the same Vince Russo who was writing the show for the previous six months. I am not saying he isn’t at fault but when does the Hogan regime get some sort of culpability?
Authors Note: Numbers are based on reports in Wrestling Observer Newsletter and not rounded off.
Just look at where we were six months ago as to where we are now. Before Hogan came in we were really going with a youth movement and well now we are building up to Ric Flair vs. Jay Lethal, Hulk Hogan vs. Abyss and Sting vs. who the hell knows. This is not a company that is getting itself out of trouble but one that is further digging itself into a hole. July 4th is Independence Day here in the United States and I am calling on TNA to seek independence from Hulk Hogan before it is too late. If TNA winds up going under who knows what ramifications this could potentially have on the wrestling industry in general as it would be safe to assume that most investors are going to be leery on opening wrestling companies to compete with Vince McMahon. I understand the reason for the gamble but sometimes you have to fish and cut bait. This is that time.
On that note I am going to put this one to bed but of course I have to give you guys something to do for the weekend. Here in the NYC area TNA is putting on a pair of shows starting tonight the first of which is taking place at MCU Park where the Brooklyn Cyclones the minor league affiliate of my beloved NY Mets play and the second in Asbury Park, NJ. I was contemplating attending the show here tonight but have been unable to really sew down some important details but needless to say I have heard great things about TNA’s house shows which if those things are to be believed maybe they should focus on whatever they are doing there on TV because I have not been a fan of the TV show. So if you are in town and want to support TNA check it out. Saturday night is the UFC PPV which will feature Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin for the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship in what will be one of the most purchased PPV’s of the year and I for one am going to be looking forward to that encounter. Of course you guys can send your emails. Last week was a banner week for emails with so many columns and well some of you have even hit me up reading the archives which is great because it shows that some of these columns stand the test of time so I recommend those of you that missed weeks go back and read some of the archives here on the site. As always I love the feedback and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and well that’s it for this week, I’ll try to do better next time and until then, I am out.