October 29, 2009
Mat Matters: Any hope with Hogan?
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling
It's funny how fate works. Earlier this week, I had been working on an editorial about how nothing has changed for the better in TNA in the last few years.
Now, all of a sudden, Hulk Hogan has signed with TNA.
And guess what, nothing will change for the better.
Allow me to start with my original thoughts, to illustrate my point.
Generally speaking, I'm a fan of TNA. I will either watch or TiVo the show on a weekly basis, not because I have to as a wrestling reporter, but because there are elements of their shows that I genuinely enjoy, namely the X-Division matches, Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles.
Over the last few weeks, leading up to Bound For Glory, I couldn't help but think to myself, however, whether I really was excited for TNA's self-labeled most important PPV of the year.
Certainly, Bound For Glory had good buildup and the portion that I did see had some good wrestling (the Matt Morgan/Angle bout will likely go down as the one that made the former's career), but there still exists this overwhelming feeling of who gives a youknowwhat about TNA.
What's more pressing though is that no matter what TNA has done, nothing has really changes this status. Kurt Angle came in, Booker T came (and went), the Main Event Mafia pushed familiar names to the forefront, TNA pushed its "homegown" (read: Ring of Honor-grown) stars.
Yet nothing has changed. Give or take a portion of a percentage point in the ratings and the organization is static on Spike TV. TNA still spends an inordinate amount of time in Orlando, perhaps afraid of going out of its own territory to lands of uncertainty and has maintained many of the same ties internationally that it did before.
So explain to me, please, how Hulk Hogan signing with the company is going to do anything for TNA?
Let's leave aside the fact that Hogan has teased being part of TNA in the past, only to eventually come back to WWE (at least for a moment), and also pass over the controversy that has surrounded The Hulkster for the last year or so.
Instead, let's look at Hogan as a potential ratings and money draw. First, Hogan has appeared on American Gladiators and his own celebrity wrestling series. The former was cancelled after two seasons (if it even made it through its sophomore year, I can't remember off-hand), and the latter had dreadful ratings. In both cases, Hogan was heavily featured and was expected to be a drawing point. Guess what -- he wasn't.
We can pretty well establish then that Hogan as a non-competing personality isn't going to draw fans, even in a wrestling show format.
So what is the option that's left then? It's Hogan doing what Hogan did 25 years ago and hasn't really done since his feud with Randy Orton leading up to and including Summerslam 2006. Three-plus years may not seem like a lot, but when you're over 55 and haven't wrestled "competitively" since 2007 (which was a one-off versus The Big Show), it's practically a decade.
The most likely scenario is that Hogan won't be competing week-in and week-out; and even if he were to wrestle even one or two times in a three-month season, it wouldn't make much of a difference. Why? Because it would be the same Hogan superschtick that we've had for virtually his entire run in wrestling, save for a three-or-so year period.
Perhaps more importantly than the Hogan signing, and the seemingly inevitable friends of Hogan that will come on board now (including Brian Knobbs and Ed Leslie), is that valuable roster spots are now being taken up and perhaps more important so are salary spaces.
If you look at TNA's roster, it's pretty full right now, and you can't imagine that Hogan and company are going to come cheap. Thus, there will be some cuts coming and perhaps more importantly some wrestlers likely will leave when their contracts are up, since they know they won't be able to get the increases they richly deserve.
In the end, we'll be left with a TNA roster that will be depleted of raw talent and unique personas, who will either move to WWE, bounce around the indies, set sail for Japan or worse, leave the business, discouraged by the fact that they won't be able to truly catch a break in the ring.
As a fan of TNA, I hope I'm dead wrong; I hope that Hogan is the beginning of a turnaround and that he and others steer the good ship Impact in a direction that leads the company to the promised land of prosperity; but as a fan of TNA, who's gone through the same story of x wrestler being the saviour, I'm not optimistic.
Jon Waldman is the co-editor of SLAM! Wrestling: Shocking Stories from the Squared Circle. To hear more of Jon's opinions on the wrestling biz, come see him and Greg Oliver live in Winnipeg at our book launch, Thursday, November 5, 7:30pm at McNally Robinson's Polo Park location.