It is not this writer’s style to second guess himself. However, upon reflection last week’s piece was incomplete; there is more to be said regarding Hulk Hogan and TNA. As typifies the combination of ?Hogan? and ?publicity?, much has been uttered this past week. The Hulkster has engaged his always shameless public persona and drawn considerable attention to himself. Hulk has implied to virtually anyone who will listen that the Carter family has all but signed TNA over to him. He claims widespread changes will be enacted in TNA, largely on his say so, that will take TNA to a new level. The perpetually bewildered TNA roster has, as always, put on a united front. Nevertheless all this showboating and double-talk must on various levels be both worrying and hugely distracting.
The trick with Hulk Hogan is observing not what he does but rather what he doesn?t do. During his introductory press conference, Hogan prattled on about making TNA ?the number one sports entertainment company?. He did so because that’s what he knew everyone wanted to hear. It was Madison Square Garden, the scene of many a thunderous triumph for the Hulkster. Full of beans, Hogan grandstanded for the assembled media about his lofty plans for TNA and world domination. As Dixie Carter beamed and the Spike TV suit just stood there looking disingenuous, Hogan seized his moment. That’s what its all about: Shameless self-publicity. Egomania running wild.
Hulk Hogan’s penchant for self-aggrandisement knows no bounds. This is the man who this week alone dismissed the WWE Hall of Fame and in particular the induction ring. He proclaimed it a ?$20? piece of tat. This from the man who was paid in excess of six figures just to turn up and have his ego massaged during the 2005 ceremony. WWE even let him flatten one of the company’s most-pushed heels (Muhammad Hassan) in a 15-minute segment on the following night’s Wrestlemania. The ring comment was a typically graceless outburst from a man who quite literally sold his daughter for the sake of a few seconds publicity. He is the man who absurdly claimed he passed up the opportunity (on two separate occasions) to play the title role in the Academy Award-nominated ?The Wrestler?. He is so detached from any reality not his own that in his fairytale autobiography he claimed Andre The Giant died ?a few months? after the ?Mania 3 main event. Not only did Andre not die until five years later, Hogan carried on feuding with him for another year after Wrestlemania. The point of all this is when Hogan speaks in public, take nothing for granted. No one knows if it’s the truth, least of all Hulk Hogan.
In truth, Hulk Hogan is a quite pitiable person. It is not a lie to say everyday people, particularly wrestling fans, do genuinely love him for the inspiration and the joy he brought to a more innocent age. The pity stems from Terry Bollea’s complete lack of shame. He stands there at 60, posing his muscles and waffling on about the forces of evil like it’s still 1986. The adulation he craves is the desperate kind. People don?t see a real person they see a caricature. Hogan has stage-managed and packaged every facet of his life from 1984 onwards. Everything he says or does is designed to garner the maximum amount of attention possible. That’s why in 2003, when Hogan first negotiated a deal with TNA, he claimed he?d ?never work for Vince McMahon or WWE again?. 18 months later he was back working in WWE. The 2003 bombast was nothing more than mendacious commentary.
The fear I now possess for TNA is something like the devil in the detail. Cut through the torrents of baloney and a scintilla of truth usually emerges. Hogan has spent the last week posturing. He’s claimed he has ?control? in TNA, above and beyond even Dixie Carter. I don?t believe Hulk Hogan is now officially head booker of TNA Wrestling; however I dread to imagine just how much sway the Carter family, in their infinite naivety, have indulged him. If the rumours of ?talent recommendations? are anything to go by, it could be problematic in the extreme. True to form, Hogan has begun his tenure as an ambassador of TNA in customary fashion. Rather than use his media connections to talk up his new business partner, Hogan has used the publicity to talk up Hulk Hogan. He has, in so many words, disparaged the existing TNA roster with his arrogance and generally acted like wrestling’s equivalent of Joseph Goebbels. That neither Hogan nor Eric Bischoff could be arsed to show up at the Impact tapings this week makes the point clear. Old ?Hollywood? couldn?t even bring himself to tape a five minute short at his latest book signing. Commitment is a beautiful thing.
Here’s the thing. Men like Hulk Hogan, and to a similar extent Mick Foley, owe the wrestling business everything. I will never forget the petulance demonstrated by Foley after the release of his first (and only) novel Tietam Brown. The literary world was not seduced by what was a boring and altogether generic tale. The same critics who’d praised Mick’s (first) autobiography as an intriguing novelty didn’t care for his subsequent work of fiction. Foley had failed in his desire to achieve mainstream acceptance as an author. For men like Foley, the drive to be accepted in circles not frequented by wrestling fans is all consuming. Alas Mick, for all his occasional eloquence, enjoys wealth, recognition and the opportunity to bore the public to death with his lame comedy precisely because of wrestling. No other reason.
Hulk Hogan sold his last vestiges of credibility and the privacy of his family to gain even more money and publicity. Hogan, for all his savvy when it comes to professional wrestling, still hasn’t grasped the basic idea of consumption. The average person (not a wrestling fan) who witnessed “Hogan Knows Best” saw it for what it was; a shameless self-parody utterly devoid of dignity. The mainstream entertainment sector, particularly in America, chews you up and spits you out with frightening relish. After Hogan “Hulked Up” with a friend of his daughter and found himself embroiled in a horrendous divorce, the media pounced. Having lapped him up, they hurled him out in breathtaking and entirely unedifying fashion. Who was there for Hulk Hogan? Professional wrestling of course. It will pay him huge sums of money and lavish his ego with praise regardless of his track record and vainglorious tendencies. For the sake of Dixie Carter and TNA Wrestling, I hope the risk is worth it. As with everything associated with Hulk Hogan, it will blaze brightly or ruin absolutely. That’s the black and white, red and yellow truth.
Daniel R. Browne.