Tuesday 24 May 2011

Hollywood Ambition

Hulk Hogan. Despite the popularity of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock, the merchandising success of John Cena, or Ric Flair’s status as wrestling’s greatest worker Hulkamania’s peak, Hogan will always be the world’s most famous wrestler. There have been bigger draws and many better workers, but Hogan is the man who led wrestling into the mainstream and so remains the wrestler non-fans are most likely to have heard of.

It’s this status as an immense cultural icon that makes his current predicament so sad. His back is an absolute mess, he’s been through a messy divorce with his first wife Linda, and he’s burnt numerous bridges with the multi-billion dollar WWE. ‘The Hulkster’ was left with no choice but to sign with TNA, North America’s very distant number two promotion.

When Hogan signed with TNA in autumn 2009 it was talked about as the turning point for the organisation. A year and a half later everyone can see the deal for what it was all along: a broken down, past his prime, former leading man doing whatever it takes to keep his name alive and money rolling in.

In his time with the company Hogan has smartly limited his number of matches and physical angles. Well, I say smartly, but it would have been better for all involved if he had simply stuck to a spokesperson role, appearing every few weeks to hype matches and put over talent in promos. That would have allowed his first match to be built naturally over a course of months, creating a sense of anticipation rather than apathy.

By jumping into his first match just two months after his television debut, and having that match take place on iMPACT, TNA signalled to fans loud and clear that there was nothing special about the occasion. It was business as usual: no aura, no sense of purpose and no big match feel. Considering Hogan’s status it would have been simple to create all of those things for his first TNA match. But, as always, TNA got it wrong.

Making matters worse is the fact that ‘The Hulkster’ had to have back surgery later in 2010. This resulted in him being off TV for several weeks, meaning he couldn’t even appear in the limited capacity he should have been used in from the start. It was a further drain on TNA’s finances.

As things stand right now Hogan is being told by numerous doctors that he should never wrestle again. Typically, Hogan has stated in several interviews that he plans to wrestle again. His target is to have his next match in summer or autumn this year.

He could not do anything more stupid. If doctors are telling him not to wrestle then there are clearly very serious medical concerns surrounding the issue. TNA pay-per-views attract only around 10,000 buys each, and typically take place in a studio that holds only a few hundred people. Is it worth risking paralysis for such small numbers?

My hope is that Hogan realises this before it’s too late, scraps his current plans and waits his contract out while doing everything he can to get TNA and its wrestlers (the people who will hopefully be carrying the company long after Hogan’s gone) as much mainstream media attention as he can. With his established name and status that is the one thing Hogan can do for the struggling company with greater success than anyone else.

Getting the rub from Hogan in an interview can still mean something in the wrestling business. Getting a win over him means nothing now. The sooner he, Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff, and Dixie Carter realise and accept this, the better things will be for everyone.

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