Sunday 16 October 2011

Does He Really Know Best?

Could today be the day Bobby Roode wins his first TNA World heavyweight championship and becomes ‘The Man’ in TNA? Many fans hope so. With a match against Kurt Angle, who is still the promotion’s top worker despite his age and shoddy health, in the main event of TNA’s top annual pay-per-view it certainly seems like the perfect time to elevate a new star. Roode has the look, the verbal skills and the in-ring ability to become the top guy.

One man disagrees with that view: Hulk Hogan. In a radio interview given on Thursday (for Sirius Radio) Hogan buried Roode with the following statement:

“Nah, he’s not ready. He’s not the next guy. You know, they might think he is. Dixie Carter might think he is. The whole world might think he is. He’s not the next guy.”

Yep, Hogan indirectly acknowledged there is overwhelming support for Bobby Roode yet dismissed him as being unready. Why? Because, according to Hogan:

“This is much more than being a wrestler, this is crossing barriers, medias, you know media barriers, and entertainment barriers of all kinds. Getting your character down verbally has ninety per cent to do with getting over.”

Crossing media barriers is something a legitimate leading man needs to do for a wrestling promotion these days. It’s what Cena, Austin, Rock and Hogan himself have all done for WWE at one time or another. But the wrestler doesn’t just magically do it: it’s up to the wrestling company in question to help them get that chance in the first place. TNA needs to concentrate on becoming enough of a success that the US media approaches them and asks to feature their stars in papers on radio shows on on TV. For Hogan to insinuate that Roode isn’t capable of making enough of an impact in these areas isn’t just insulting and incorrect, it’s unrealistic too. Right now no star that isn’t already established as a name performer is going to get the chance to create a media career for themselves because nobody in the media cares about Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

Ironically this is the one area in which ‘The Hulkster’ is still capable of helping. He’s been one of the biggest names in wrestling since the early 80s and as such he can still drum up media coverage whenever he desires. Instead of using that platform to bury anyone who is not a proven draw he should be building up the younger talent such as Bobby Roode, because TNA desperately needs to establish such men as main event talents in order to survive and keep paying Hogan his exorbitant salary.

Hogan himself will clash with Sting at Bound For Glory. Yes, two men with a combined age of 110 will be in the semi main event spot on the show. If their age wasn’t bad enough Hogan has a plastic hip and has stated he won’t take any bumps (he said “won’t” not “can’t”, which you could read something into). That would make booking him to provide simple interference a foolish decision, so naturally TNA has gone one better and booked him in a full match.

When asked about his bout with Sting Hogan confirmed that he won’t plan much out in advance. That’s worrying. Sting is known for needing several spots planned out meticulously in advance and freely admits he usually requires his opponents to carry him. Couple these drawbacks with Hogan’s mobility issues and this match looks set to be one of the most unpleasant debacles of the year. But then unpleasant debacles are a TNA speciality.

There will need to be a lot of stalling, run-ins and other distractions if Hogan v Sting is to be anything approaching bearable. Even then you have to wonder why the match is happening at all. Over a year has been spent hinting at this match. That two part timers  whose prime is decades in the past have warranted such hype for what is almost guaranteed to be an awful match is a colossal slap in the face to everyone else on TNA’s roster. TNA should have focused that time and attention on building up two prospective main event wrestlers (such as Bobby Roode) for a big collision and promoted the match as the clash between two young guys wanting to carry TNA into the future. Two new stars would have been created and Bound For Glory would have had a worthwhile main event.

Sting and Hogan could still have been involved by each championing one of the younger stars. Passing the torch? Putting people over? Giving the rub? All of that stuff that ‘The Hulkster’ and ‘The Stinger’ love to talk about.

The lack of opportunities for younger talent doesn’t just apply to the Hogan v Sting main event. The undercard features Rob Van Dam v Jerry Lynn (two men who’s most famous match against one another occurred in March 1999), AJ Styles v Christopher Daniels (a match that has been done to death by TNA over the last decade), and a bout between Bully Ray (a former WWE wrestler approaching 40) and Mr Anderson (another former WWE guy whom is not over as he was a few months ago). That there are so many older wrestlers and former WWE employees on the card is massively frustrating for viewers and, I imagine, for the wrestlers who aren’t booked on the show.

On a final note, Hogan was asked who he would pick as the next breakout star for TNA, the man the company should be getting behind and centring all its hottest angles on. Want to know what his reply was?

“If I had to bet money on anybody, and really be serious about betting money on anybody, I’d say Jeff Hardy’s the next guy if he keeps his act together. Well, I think he’s got a lot of shine to him. I mean he just doesn’t have five star matches, he shines outside the ring. He walks through the mall and people know who he is. He’s got a look, he’s got an air about him. He’s got the It Factor. That’s what you gotta have, man.”

Jeff Hardy, who has held both WWE’s world titles as well as TNA’s, is Hogan’s pick for the next breakout star. That Hogan still considers Jeff Hardy as someone who’s capable of breaking out of the pack rather than the bona fide main event talent he’s been for several years (when he can be bothered) says a lot about his view on the process of elevating talent. If someone like Jeff Hardy is still being thought of as a young prospect the true undercard talent in TNA stand no chance of progressing.

If I were Bobby Roode I’d be on the phone to Johnny Ace trying to negotiate a deal for Beer Money Inc. to move to FCW.

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