On what appeared to be Hulk Hogan’s send off on TNA television, the man reminisced about his 35 years in the wrestling business. Austin Aries told him to make ‘the right decision’ and that he had to decide between red & yellow Hulk or white & black Hollywood. The decision Aries was talking about was staying on “Team Dixie,” an absurd proposition that kind of uniquely fits into the craziness of Hogan’s professional life where everything is a work and life is reality TV.
TNA aired a video package of Hulk Hogan’s TNA career and, for a four time span, Hogan made a whole lot of money not doing much. There he was, introduced as TNA’s savior on October 27th, 2009 at Madison Square Garden. Then TNA tried to compete with WWE on Monday Nights. Eventually, Hogan became a babyface general manager. During Hogan’s period with the company, TNA has reportedly lost a lot of money. With his daughter Brooke gone from TNA, Hulk saw a declining situation.
As Dixie Carter walked to the ring to ask Hogan to get on her bandwagon or quit, she brought a touch of irony to what could be Hogan’s final chapter with TNA. She railed about people not understanding her plight and “why people like you simply have no concept of business and the complexities of it.”
Then came the ultimate sales pitch.
“Are you ready to take a ride on The Dixie Train?”
With money & time running out, Hogan did the smart thing and quit. And in the ultimate image of symbolism, Dixie Carter grabbed Hogan’s leg and begged him to stay. What a way to portray the organization over the last month if you combine this image with the image of AJ Styles in St. Louis saying that TNA is a place where wrestlers go for a paid vacation before returning back to WWE. Hogan’s coup de grâce on television was this off-handed remark:
“After 35 years, I didn’t think anyone could be worse than (Eric) Bischoff.”
Which made me think about Hogan’s career and who his business partners have been. Many of you didn’t witness Hogan’s career before then-WWF, which was actually quite historic given his run in New Japan against Antonio Inoki. He even faced Jerry Lawler in Memphis. There was that whole AWA thing, too, where Hogan became super popular but Vern Gagne blew it by pushing Hogan away for short-term money. That’s where Hogan met his buddy, Mean Gene Okerlund, who quickly became synonymous with the NWO nickname for “Not Without Okerlund” when it came to having a good time. Who doesn’t love a man who can belt out a tune like Robert Goulet?
Then came the Rock ‘n Wrestling connection with Piper, Orndorff, Bob Orton, Cyndi Lauper, Lou Albano, and MTV. Remember when MTV actually aired music videos? Been a long time, hasn’t it? Hogan of course had beaten the Iron Sheik, feuded with Orndorff at a big stadium show in Toronto, found trouble with King Kong Bundy and then created the slam around the world with Andre the Giant. And after forming with the Mega Powers to deal with Slickster’s big bad crew of Akeem & Big Bossman, we got the infamous No Holds Barred feud with Brutus Beefcake, Zeus, and Randy Savage. John Cena & Daniel Bryan are now apparently the modern day pairing of Hogan & Beefcake. Wrestling is strange. After Zeus was conquered, here came the battle with The Ultimate Warrior and eventually the return against Earthquake & Dino Bravo. On came Ric Flair, Bobby Heenan, and Mr. Perfect with Randy Savage & Sid Justice in the mix. And who could forget Vince’s ill-fated attempt on capitalizing on the Iraq war by having Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan, and Colonel Mustafa? After teaming with Beefcake post-paragliding accident against Money Inc, Hulkamania was done after losing to Yokozuna.
To put this whole run into perspective, Hogan spent 10 years tearing the house down for Vince McMahon. He even had breaks in-between for movies. In contrast, Hogan spent four years as a figurehead slash celebrity slash booker slash spokesperson in TNA and the company went nowhere. But at least he got paid a whole lot of money. And that’s been Hogan’s story since leaving Vince the first time round. Yeah, he returned twice to WWE and popped some numbers, but Hulkamania’s tenure post-first WWE run has been defined by one man: Eric Bischoff.
Think about this for a second — almost half of Hulk Hogan’s career has involved Eric Bischoff in one way or another. Whether it was promoting midgets, reality television, or taking a lot of cash from a money mark like Billionaire Ted or Daddy’s Girl Millionaire Dixie. Throw in Thunder in Paradise, a sex tape, real life drama involving son Nick, and the messy divorce from Linda. Include the back surgeries, the restaurant ventures including Pastamania, the Australia tour against Ric Flair, and the matches he had in Japan against Great Muta at the Fukuoka Dome and the tag match with Muta against the Hellraisers at Yokohama Arena.
Remember when he joined WCW? Flair had returned from Vinceworld and gotten his belt back after defeating Vader in a very emotional Starrcade ’93 bout in Charlotte. That was an awesome scene. As Flair & Barry Windham were having back-and-forth matches, the rumors of Hogan’s entry created resistance amongst hardcore WCW fans who made signs stating that WCW was too tough for Hogan. He feuded with Vader and prevailed. Ric Flair became a secondary figure of sorts. The revolt of hardcore fans was on. So Hogan tried to take a page out of ECW’s book with the Triple Cage of Doom at Uncensored and used some sort of frying pan attack in a handicap match. The act was quickly getting old for Hogan and he saw trouble coming. So, he took a timeout while Kevin Nash & Scott Hall shocked the world with their entrance to WCW to form the nWo. And look who was smart enough to attach himself to the nWo for self-preservation — Hollywood himself. The calculation for Hogan was easy, but at the time it was so unthinkable that he would pull it off. 17 years later, Hogan’s heel turn is the stuff of legends. They tore the house down and drew huge gates. Then Goldberg came along and so did Kevin Nash’s finger point of doom. And it all fell apart. Who could forget the XWF?
Throughout the way, Hogan has always managed to make money and find new people to believe that Hulkamania is still alive and well. With allies like Jimmy Hart & Eric Bischoff, there’s always that temptation. The truth is that if Hogan wanted to make money in wrestling, he still could in Japan. He still can if he wants to return to TNA. The door was kinda left open on TNA television despite him walking away and quitting.
Everything is a calculation with Hogan. If you’ve got the time and the money, he has the time for you. If he doesn’t return to TNA, it will morbidly give us a clue as to what he thinks the financial prospects of the organization are. How much longer is there on the clock for Hulkamania’s survival, brother?