Since taking over control of the National Wrestling Alliance back in 2012, promoter Bruce Tharpe has worked tooth and nail to try to re-establish the once pinnacle of championships to it's former glory. To date he has been extremely successful in doing so in Japan where he plays the role of an on screen villainous manager leading the NWA. Although he has yet to make as large of an impact in America, the internet has given many fans access to the NWA. He has yet however, to get the same momentum going in America. In fact his greatest success has been in getting American fans interested in the NWA's past through the website nwaclassics.com. I've often wondered what it would take to finally re-establish the once great NWA in the U.S. The obvious answer is a great event. Unfortunately, the NWA name is not the draw that it once was in the West. In fact it is seen as a dead promotion by most fans in this country. No matter how good your product is, it means nothing if no one sees it and no one in America is going to pay to see an NWA event full of wrestlers that are unknown by the main stream when there is so much content from the glory days available on the internet. What the NWA would need to make such an event successful is something... or someone who can draw fans to said event. That man is Hulk Hogan.
THE ALL JAPAN TRIPLE CROWN
Created on April 18,1989 the All-Japan Triple Crown originally consisted of three separate championships. The Pacific Wrestling Federation (PWF) World Heavyweight Championship, the NWA United National Championship and the NWA International Heavyweight Championship. Upon Unification the titles became jointly recognized as a single championship known as the Triple Crown and the most prestigious in All Japan Pro Wrestling. The thought of returning to Japan to wrestle would have to be both thrilling and exhilarating for Hogan who spent many years touring the land of the rising sun where he experienced a great deal of success. Whenever he would return for another tour, the Japanese fans would great him with chants of , "ICHIBAN!" (number one) as the Hulkster thrilled the fans with the same charisma that made him so famous back in his native home. But for years there was a secret unknown to the majority of American wrestling fans. Whenever touring the orient Hogan would demonstrate wrestling skills and abilities that the Americans never knew that he possessed. Strictly a powerhouse brawler in America, in Japan he showed that he possessed a much deeper repertoire than anyone ever imagined.
WWE is currently in a really bad state. All of its top faces either walked out, are injured or the public is just sick of them. They need something or someone that the crowd will get behind temporarily while their top faces heal. That man is Hulk Hogan. Hogan has been very vocal about wanting one last big match and under the circumstances this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Sure everyone knows of his health issues. At least how bad they were. However, Hogan has claimed that his health has improved greatly over the past couple of years and that he’s currently training hard to get back into shape for an in ring return.
Building a story where Hulk Hogan wins the title from Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 and retiring on top is not the same as just putting it on another part timer. For one Hogan won't be a part timer. He won't wrestle at all after winning the title (maybe one token 6 man tag on RAW just so the World can see him come to the ring one last time as champion). It won’t be about another title reign, but rather about the build to a match, the classic underdog story (something that everyone enjoys), the ultimate comeback, and seeing the greatest of all time overcome insurmountable odds to get that one last moment of glory to retire on top. More important, it will be a way to keep the World title scene – and the fans – occupied while the young stars heal.
It appears that WWE is in the early stages of setting up a big match between John Cena and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania XXX. Despite saying for months that he's in good enough shape to return to the ring for at least one more match and saying in a recent interview, “Let me put it to you this way, brother. With the right guy, the right situation, with a big enough event, big enough storyline, you're damn right I have one more (match) left in me.” Hogan recently changed his tune when questioned by TMZ stating that he wanted to be at WrestleMania XXX but not to wrestle. Hogan claimed that he would "slip in under the radar" simply so his wife Jennifer, who has never been to a WrestleMania before could attend.
HULKAMANIA: 30 Year Bonanza
It just hit me...
While everyone has been trying to figure out what Hulk Hogan's next move will be they've been focusing on PPVs like Bound For Glory, Royal Rumble and WrestleMania XXX causing an unprecedented amount of rumors across the internet surrounding him. The predictions of where Hogan would go bounce back and forth based on small potatoes such as who he'd face and what his base pay would be etc. But it has nothing to do with any of this, it has nothing to do with Hogan being angry with TNA or wanting to retire in WWE (I'm not even sure if Hogan is even ready to retire yet). No, there is another MAJOR factor that everyone seems to have over looked. An upcoming date that puts everything else - even WrestleMania XXX to shame. January 23, 2014.
With Hulk Hogan's recent departure from TNA and WrestleMania XXX just around the corner all eyes are once again on Hulk Hogan and everyone has been trying to predict what he will do next. Reportedly he has been training "like a mad man" to get ready for a return to the ring. I've seen pictures of him and he looks bigger than he has been in years. But as to where he will appear, that remains unclear as rumors continue to spread like wildfire. I for one have never read so many conflicting rumors at any one time in all the years I have followed professional wrestling. Some said he was leaving TNA for WWE for the grand stage of WrestleMania XXX, then he was supposedly staying with TNA because they offered him more money, then that was retracted and he was indeed headed back to WWE, whoops then the next rumor stated that he was staying with TNA because he didn't like the opponent he would be facing. Now supposedly (repeat "SUPPOSEDLY" so take it with a grain of salt) he's reached a verbal agreement with WWE to be the "surprise" entrant in the Royal Rumble. Hmmm. The thing is more than two months away and WWE already leaked their "surprise". Sounds like just another rumor to me. Amidst all the smoke and mirrors of rumors the only thing that is for sure, is that NOTHING is for sure. The most recent thing to be confirmed is that Hulk Hogan remains in negotiations with both WWE and TNA and could potentially end up back at either promotion. Like everything in life it all comes down to money and what the Hulkster feels is the best deal for him.
So with the Hulkster training for a comeback to the ring the Hulkamaniacs are also getting excited about the possibility of seeing the greatest of all time and the hero to millions all over the world winning one more World championship. In this blog I'm going to discuss the potential of Hogan winning each of the three currently recognized World titles in America (WWE, WCW/WHC, & TNA) and what the benefit would be of Hogan winning that title.
TNA World Title
This one had over a year of build up and seemed to be a sure thing in 2013. Hulk Hogan vs TNA World champion Bully Ray at either Slammiversary XI or Bound for Glory would have likely been the biggest draw the company ever had. Furthermore adding Hogan's name to the list of people who have held the championship would have added a lot of prestige to the title. Personally this was the title I wanted to see Hogan win, not only because he had never held it before (although I must admit the Hulkamaniac in me would have marked out for it) but the added media attention this would have generated for them might have helped TNA finally get to that next level that they were oh so desperately trying to reach. While Hogan could still yet return, I don't see an opening for him to go after the title at this point as Bully Ray is out of the title picture and the company is going in a new direction. Add to that the fact that they will now be permanently filming from a smaller venue than ever before really makes the company feel beneath Hogan. Sadly TNA missed the boat with this one. But if he were to come back and win it, I'll still cheer him on!
WCW/WHC World Title
Hogan is no stranger to the Big Gold Belt having held the WCW (now WHC) World Heavyweight Championship on eight separate occasions. This is another belt that could benefit from a Hogan title reign. While once considered arguably the most prestigious title in the World, the championship has lost a lot of it's meaning since purchased by WWE who has used it as a cheep way to push many lower mid carders who are not over thus diminishing the value of the championship. But a big name like Hulk Hogan showing that he still finds the title important enough to shoot for in what could be his last World title shot ever could help restore lost prestige to a once great championship.
How Hogan would get the championship would be simple and yet lead to one of the most anticipated matches in recent years. I could easily see Hogan winning the 2014 Royal Rumble to get a title match in the main event for WrestleMania. But instead of going after the WWE World championship he wants a shot at the WHC World championship currently held by John Cena.
Hulk Hogan - the greatest WWE champion of all time vs John Cena - the guy WWE has been trying to pass off as great (without much luck) for the past 10 years for the World Heavyweight Championship would surely be a perfect main event match for WrestleMania XXX. While the match quality itself may not be the best do to Hogan's age and multiple injuries (which Hogan claims prevented him from facing Cena 5 years ago), I do not think the fans will mind. Fans will just be happy to see Hogan back in a WWE ring facing the guy that supposed to be his replacement and hopefully defeating him to become World champion one last time! I see this as the most likely scenario to take place and the one that could generate the most revenue.
WWE World Title
Obviously this is the title The Hulkster is most famous for. He single handedly brought it from the third string north eastern based championship (the title was so low that it had been stripped of World title status in the early 80s before Hogan won it) to the most prestigious championship in all of pro wrestling. Capping his career by winning this championship one more time would be seen as coming "home" and bringing his career full circle.
But how would he win it? Who would he defeat? While the same scenario mentioned above (Royal Rumble win to get title shot at WrestleMania) could still apply I doubt there would be as good of an opponent for Hogan to main event WrestleMania XXX. For this title I would sign Hogan to a longer term deal that only uses him sporadically that leads to a WWE championship sometime after WrestleMania. Hogan would defeat some typical WWE mid card guy in a brief but fun nostalgia match at WrestleMania that world save his body for a more important match several months from now.
After the Money in the Bank PPV in July Hogan will reappear for a few promos and maybe even guest spots on commentary (to try out and see if Hogan could perhaps do this full time after he finally retires from the ring for good) the holder of the Red MITB briefcase (containing the contract for the WWE World title match) will begin to badmouth Hogan and tell the "old man" to get out of his sport, that his time is done and it's time to move on. Hogan takes offense to this and reminds Mr. MITB (whomever it may be) that he just beat a young up and comer at WrestleMania. Hogan goes on to say that id Mr. MITB is so tough why doesn't he meat Hogan in the ring at the next PPV. If he can beat Hogan, Hogan will retire forever and never have another match. BUT if Hogan wins, then he gets the MITB briefcase and the WWE World title contract. After trying to back down for a second he finally agrees (throw in a cheep shot and/or post promo beatdown if you want as long as the match is made). Hogan of course wins the match and becomes possessor of the MITB.
The next night on Raw Hogan is interviewed by none other than his good friend Mean Gene Okerlund who says that back in the 80s he never would have dreamed that in 2014 Hulk Hogan would have an opportunity to become WWE World champion again, but with that briefcase that exactly what he's got! Hogan then focuses his attention of the WWE World champion and follows him around for weeks or even months. Watching title matches from ringside, doing commentary or peaking through the curtains as fans wait for the inevitable moment when Hogan finally cashes in the briefcase. When he finally does it will be the typical WWE route of a no match title change. The champion gets beaten up by someone else and is left laying when suddenly Hogan's music hits. He walks to the ring and cashes in just as the groggy champion reaches his feet. Hogan starts to Hulk Up, throws his three right hands and then hits the big boot. Hogan then looks around and make the title belt motion around his waist as the crowd goes nuts. The announcers are asking, "Is he going to drop the leg?" Hogan hits the ropes, lifts his leg... and then steps on the champion's chest, strikes the bow and arrow pose as the referee counts 1-2-3 and Hogan is the new WWE World champion! Did he drop the leg? No. But he made you think he was thus bringing the crowd to a fiery pitch. While I'm not a fan of MITB as I'm a firm believer of the old saying, "To be the man, you have to beat the man." the site of Hogan standing there striking his iconic pose as the ref makes the three count would be the best MITB cash in ever!
All of these scenarios would only see Hogan wrestle one or two actual matches yet if done right his run could be milked for a lot of hype and merchandising. In addition to the build ups to the match and the match itself, after Hogan wins the title he can also have a short reign which consists of perhaps a 6 man tag team match on TV where he can be well protected and not have to take any bumps so that the fans can see him one more time as champion on TV and perhaps a title defense that gets thrown out before it ever really gets started (like his 2002 match against William Regal). In any case his reign will be short, but will none the less be the most fun filled time pro wrestling has seen in over a decade! Book it!
STILL NUMBER 1!
The Internet Wrestling Community was dumbfounded Sunday September 15 at WWE's Night of Champions pay per view. During the event a series of polls were being conducted on the official WWE website, wwe.com asking among other questions, who the fans thought was the greatest WWE champion of all time. To no surprise to this author, the winner - by an overwhelming majority I might add - was non other than Hulk Hogan. And it wasn't even close. Hogan got an incredible 55% of the vote followed by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (who only got 16%), John Cena (13%), CM Punk (12%) and Triple H (4%).
The result takes on an even bigger meaning once you realize that this poll was not conducted amongst older fans who grew up with the glory days of Hulkamania or even those who grew up with the Monday Night Wars of the 90s when Hogan was in WCW. No, this was a pole conducted with today's WWE fans many of whom were not even born when Hogan was last WWE champion 12 years ago let alone when he was in his prime. Hogan's detractors were quick to try to dismiss the poll as fraudulent. Not that WWE is above fixing or working poll results but, if it were true in this case why, one must ask would they make a star who's currently in another promotion outshine all of their own? Would it have not been more beneficial to WWE to have John Cena, CM Punk or even Steve Austin win? The augment that the polls were fixed is further defeated by the fact that another current TNA star - Sting - won the poll of greatest United States champion. Sorry IWC but it seems that the fans have spoken. Hulk Hogan is still #1!
Hogan's victory does much more than re-affirm his unmatched legacy in the sport of professional wrestling. It does more than remember him as the biggest star of the 80s and 90s. It shows that he is STILL a huge influence in professional wrestling today. Even from a General Manager position in a smaller promotion, the younger fans of WWE still know who he is, love the energy he brings with him where ever he appears and with this poll they made it clear that he is still the most popular wrestling personality in the world. All of this has to make Vince McMahon drool with dollar signs in his eyes. With WrestleMania XXX coming up next year and Hogan's TNA contract reportedly up soon, one must assume that Vince & Hogan will be in talks before long.
But what will the Hulkster do if he does return to WWE? Hogan's close friend and former manager Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart recently stated on a radio show that Hogan's doctors have approved Hogan to wrestle a few more times. I have long believed that no matter how long Hogan stays in the sport, he will ultimately end his career in WWE. While I personally would like to see him win the TNA World title first, a return to WrestleMania for one more match is the ultimate goal be it this year or in the future because Hogan wants it, Vince wants it and most important the fans have shown that they want it.
With TNA's biggest event of the year, Bound For Glory only one month away everyone is focused on who will face TNA World champion Bully Ray in the main event. With the BFG series all but over we are down to our final four: AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Brutus Magnus, and Austin Aries. Three former champions in the prime of their respective career and one popular new face emerging as a potential future (key word) champion. That takes Magnus out of the mix.
That leaves us with the three former TNA World champions and the classic two heels and a face triangle. Or does it? While Roode is unquestionably THE heel in this triangle, it's not too clear where the other two stand. Both Aries and Styles have made it clear that they are in this for themselves, however their definition maybe different. Do they mean that they are not part of any faction (which is true for both)? Do they mean that they mean to say they don't care what the fans think of their actions? That's a bit more difficult to determine. As both men have been riding the heel/face line for many months now, and they've only seen their popularity rise as a result, yet they've seemed to take no pride in it at all.
So who has the advantage?
Considering all the options, I have to go with "The Phenomenal One" to win the BFG series and the right to face the World champion at the Bound For Glory PPV.
So what does all of this have to do with Hulk Hogan? I'm glad you were wondering, because I'm going to tell you. As I mentioned above, a highly talked about issue is that AJ Styles contract expires "late this year". A lot of people are wondering what the hold up is on re-signing the man many consider to be "Mr. TNA". Why can't they come to an agreement? Ever since losing his rights to a shot at the TNA World title last year AJ has expressed that he feels betrayed, forgotten and unwanted. Could the problem be that maybe he doesn't want to sign?
Picture this scenario: AJ goes onto win the BFG tournament as predicted but his contract "expires" before the PPV. Dixie Carter calls AJ to the ring with a new contract to sign. Then in the ultimate show of rebellion, AJ tears up the contract and walks out of the company (kayfabe) leaving TNA with no main event match for their biggest PPV of the year. Enter Hulk Hogan. The man who Bully Ray has been undermining for months. The man who's daughter Bully humiliated and the fans have more desire to see tear Bully Ray apart than anyone.
With AJ (and the BFG tournament) out of the picture TNA is finally free to book Hulk Hogan vs Bully Ray for the TNA World championship at Bound For Glory - a match that has been teased since December of last year. Fans both for the idea and against it have had no shortage of opinion. The only question was how to get around the Bound For Glory series. They may have just done that. Or if they haven't, I have.
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.
I am The Boss. And what makes me the Boss you ask? 'Cause I know what I know before it's even so!