A Shakeup in the Wrestling Biz?
In what be one of the more shocking results in sports this week, and let’s face it, it’s been a ridiculous week for stories, it’s come out that Hulk Hogan, who ushered in the Golden Age of professional wrestling a quarter century ago, has signed a contract with TNA Wrestling.
Hogan, who hasn’t been in an actual match since wrestling Randy Orton at Summerslam in 2006, while his reality show “Hogan Knows Best” was still running on VH1, and has had physical ailments to go with the dissolution of his 23 year marriage to his wife Linda, plus a car wreck involving his son Nick that left a friend of his brain damaged. It was even mentioned by Hogan in his new book that just came out entitled “My Life Outside the Ring” that he nearly committed suicide if not for a random phone call from then co star of “American Gladiators” and daughter of Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali.
Hogan was on a rough night of Xanax and rum and had his finger on the trigger of a loaded weapon when Ali called. Hogan says that it saved his life, and Ali commented that her phone call must have been “divine intervention.”
In a week where ESPN baseball analyst Steve Phillips was fired and then checked into rehab after admitting an affair with a 22 year old production assistant, and when Andre Agassi admitted to using crystal meth and then lying to the tennis commission to avoid a suspension, why is the Hogan signing so earthshattering? Surely, these stories are more to write home about than a 50 plus year old wrestler getting back in the ring again isn’t it?
Well, let’s look at it from this perspective. Without Hogan, wrestling never would have gotten as mainstream as it did. Yes, you had your Savages, Ricky Steamboats, Harley Races, Larry Zbyszkos, and before that, Wahoo McDaniel, Bruno Sammartino, Ivan Koloff and others, but wrestling was mostly a regional attraction. In 1984, when Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden dead in the center of the ring to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, pro wrestling found its poster boy to go global.
Hogan was the flagship for WWF and Vince McMahon throughout the rest of the 1980s and even into the early 1990s, racking up millions upon millions of dollars for the WWF enterprise. Hogan left WWF in 1993, and went on to take almost a year off before reappearing in Ted Turner’s WCW promotion. Many people think that the fallout was based on the steroid trial by the government against Vince McMahon, but Hogan had stated that he had been taking anabolic steroids since 1976 to gain mass and muscle. Hogan had a great run with WCW, both as a face, which most people knew him as with the whole Hulkamania gimmick, and then portrayed a heel to the maximum as “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, the leader of the nWo, or New World Order.
For Hogan to even consider getting back in the ring makes one wonder as to the motivation? Surely, some of it is more than likely financially motivated. After all, he took a beating more than likely in his divorce, not to mention paying the damages from the lawsuit against Nick filed by the family of the friend following the incident. Still, one would have to think there is more to it than just that. Let’s be honest, Hogan’s been in the business for over three decades now. It’s quite possible he misses the roar and adulation of the crowd, the thousands cheering his name, the adrenaline rush from knowing that people came to see you, your name in lights, being the showcase attraction. To have that ripped away from you surely is not the easiest thing to deal with.
Hogan appeared on Larry King Live and said that he wants to test his “sea legs” during the Hulkamania tour next month down in Australia, where Ric Flair is supposed to headline the main event in several locations with him. Hogan will make his initial television appearance on TNA Impact tomorrow night, October 29th, in what is sure to be a ratings bonanza for the federation and SpikeTV. The deal for Hogan was brokered by Eric Bischoff, who was an executive with WCW, a member of the nWo, and even was a part of WWE programming for a while. Bischoff is a long time friend of Hogan, and will be joining him in TNA as well. There are even rumors circulating now that it is only a matter of time before Flair joins them, further adding high wattage, if not high age, star power, to TNA.
What does this do in the grand scheme of things? Certainly, it will turn the wrestling stage on its collective ear. There is no telling what Vince McMahon may try to do, or NEED to do for that matter, to counter such a bold move by Dixie Carter and TNA management. Right now, with the popularity of pro wrestling in a waning cycle, star power and names are what draw fans and audiences, both in the seats and to the television. With Hulk Hogan, arguably still one of, if not the, most recognizable name in the business still adding to a roster laden with names that are noticeable, this might be the biggest threat McMahon has faced since the demise of WCW.