It started innocently enough. Hulk Hogan was asked a question last December by a UK publication inquiring about his Christmas wish list. Hogan, showing that he realized the magazine was looking for celebrity entertainment and not news or even wrestling stories stepped away from his usual answers of ending World hunger, helping disabled children and other aide to the "Little Hulkster's". Instead he gave a wild list of childish wishes:
1. Thirty years of life: "I want my youth back. I wouldn’t change anything, though. I’d wrestle all over again. The same matches."
2. 747 Jet: "I would like my own private jet plane again. I’d take all the wrestlers with me on the plane. I don’t just want a little Learjet, I want a 747. That would be a wild plane."
3. Knee surgery: "I’ve had eight back surgeries, I’ve had knee replacements, I’ve had both hip replacements. I only need one more surgery – to fix my right knee – then I’m going to go for the TNA world title. I want to be 59 years old and be the champion."
4. Hair: "I want a full head of hair."
Although it was just a passing comment, the wrestling world (especially the Internet Wrestling Community) took it as much more. All over the internet people were talking about the prospect of Hogan winning the TNA World Championship. Haters cringed and Hulkamaniacs celebrated. Debates about this topic popped up all over the place and most haven't stopped yet. Sure enough Hogan did have another knee surgery as he mentioned and that fueled the debate even further. While I don't believe for a minute that Hogan was serious about going after the title at this point in his career at the time the comment was made, the overwhelming attention that his simple comment has garnered shows that the entire wrestling world still follows everything he does and hangs onto his every word. And if a little quote like this (that was not even a part of a wrestling show or angle) could generate so much attention, just imagine the attention that would generate if TNA were to actually promote Hulk Hogan returning to go for the brass (or in this case the gold) ring one more time.
In the months that followed it has seemed that the ground work is indeed being laid out for a match between Hogan and current TNA World Champion Bully Ray who was recently revealed to be the leader of the companies renegade faction known as "Aces & Eights" not to mention he also just happens to be (story line only - I think) Hulk Hogan's son in law having married Hogan's Daughter Brooke on an episode of Impact Wrestling. Hogan and TNA have been teasing this match for months both on TV and on social media. While there seems to be a great divide on some internet sites as to whether they want to see Hogan wrestle again - let alone win another World title - there is no question that the fans attending the shows are in total support for the Hulkster. It is these fans that make me realize why it must be done. The Internet Wrestling Community or "IWC" represent a very small number of fans and they are already either watching or not. They are mostly critics of wrestling and there really is no winning them over. But the casual wrestling fans - the ones who watch it for fun and not to critique - represent a much larger group of fans that TNA has for the most part yet to tap into.
Since Hogan made his first appearance in TNA in early 2010 critics have pointed to U.S. ratings as evidence that he hasn't helped the product at all. However the company has grown tremendously since his arrival. Sponsors who previously saw the tiny wrestling company - which was always on the verge of bankruptcy - as not worth of investing in, are now willing to invest money because of Hulk Hogan's name. The company is now a world wide promotion and extremely popular in the UK where they regularly get higher ratings than WWE. As a result of this increased revenue TNA was able to broadcast their flagship television program, Impact Wrestling live, tape shows from over seas and most recently take the show on the road. All of this has been a building process peace by peace. They reduced the number of Pay Per Views per year from 12 to 4 in order to generate more interest and give them more time to build an story between big events.
Now the time has come to bring in the fans. And while some may say that he's too old, or that he's past his prime, you need to realize that there is a huge difference between being past your prime and being washed up. There is no question that Hulk Hogan is still the most recognized wrestler in the entire world. To the casual fan age doesn't matter. It's like going to a Rolling Stones concert. All that matters is that they are still rockin' or in Hogan's case that he is still kickin' ass! To draw those casual fans who would otherwise have no reason to watch TNA, they need to use everything at their disposal. And Hogan's drawing power - if promoted properly can bring in the biggest crowd in the history of the company and finally help put them on the map. For those who worry about the quality of Hogan's match remember this; his job is not to have a good match but just to draw people in. All of the Hulkamaniacs who come to this event only want to see him cup his ear, tear his shirt, flex his muscles, "Hulk Up" and win. If you give them that they will be happy and happy fans return.
Meanwhile the new fans that tuned in to see Hogan will now also get to see the rest of the TNA roster. Guys like AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Austin Arise, James Storm, Samoa Joe, Bad Influence and the incredible women's, or "Knockouts' " division will now have a bigger audience than ever before and thus will become bigger stars. More fans will get to see the more wrestling orientated programming of TNA and may decide that they prefer it to the WWE product which relies more on long drawn out talking segments that are usually scripted from top to bottom.
In any case TNA has grown as a company. Now they need to grow their fan base. The only way to do that it to get new people to tune in for the first time. Having the guy who was and is a hero to millions step back into the ring and try for one last World championship will give all of those fans one last taste of the days they remember and prefer. That's your hook. And the superior TNA product, it's roster, it's women's division etc... will hopefully make them stay. Once that happens and more fans discover TNA and it's stars the seeds are planted for the next wrestling boom. I'm not saying that TNA is going to overtake WWE but any shift in the otherwise stagnant state of pro wrestling will help give it a boost. After more than a decade of stagnant and even slumping rating by WWE I'm sure even they are hoping that TNA can pull off something that will provoke interest in the sport.
As for Hogan winning the title at age 60 (or 59 if he wins it before August 11 of this year), it's the classic Rocky Balboa underdog story fueled by the betrayal of his son in law, the need to protect his daughter's honor and the desire of his Hulkamaniac to see him get revenge. It will also break Verne Gagne's 32 year old record for the oldest World champion which currently stands at 57. It has all the makings for a magic moment. Hogan doesn't have to reign for long and quite honestly I doubt that he could. But if just for one night we could have all eyes on TNA it could change the sport forever.