Hulk Hogan brought energy, enthusiasm and a renewed sense of hope to TNA when he joined the company in January 2010.
With Eric Bischoff in tow, Hogan was seen as a possible savior, someone whose presence alone would give the company greater exposure and ultimately higher ratings and pay-per-view buyrates.
Detractors pointed to Hogan’s advanced age, diminished ring skills and a reputation for getting over at the expense of younger talent.
While Hogan may have given the company added exposure, it hasn’t necessarily translated into bigger numbers or profits. Cliques and power struggles have only served to frustrate any cohesive creative direction.
Former WCW boss Bischoff, Hogan’s major advocate, also has drawn criticism from circles that claim his interests lie more with Hogan than with the company’s rank-and-file, and that he has conducted business in an arrogant manner.
“There’s entirely too many chefs in this kitchen,” said one TNA performer. “It’s unbelievable how protective Bischoff is of Hogan.”
“Dixie (Carter) is in way over her head,” said another. “She’s swimming with a bunch of sharks, and they see blood.”
Hogan reportedly got into a heated argument with TNA head writer Vince Russo at the recent Hardcore Justice pay-per-view. Sources say the spat centered around a finish for the Sting-Kurt Angle TNA title match, with Hogan telling colleagues that Russo didn’t know anything because he was never a wrestler.
Although the two reportedly later made up, backstage tension has remained at a high level while locker-room morale continues to decline.
“Until they make radical surgical changes in creative, and unless they get some people who comprehend the wrestling business, they are doomed to be the financial drain on Panda (majority owner Panda Energy) that they are now and have been since inception,” said TNA co-founder Jerry Jarrett. “The core of their problems is the creative development of their product. They have to cut the cancer out.”
Jarrett says he remains puzzled as to how Russo has maintained power in TNA.
“He obviously has qualities that I don’t recognize or understand,” said Jarrett. “How can a person who has a 15-year history of failure still keep a job?”
No matter what the creative makeup might be, Jarrett says, the organization is in desperate need of change.
“Whoever is doing it, their product is unwatchable. My own grandchildren can’t watch it anymore.”
Veteran wrestling star, trainer and booker Jody Hamilton, in his book “Assassin: Man Behind the Mask,” questioned TNA’s hiring of Russo in 2002, and linked the writer, among others, to the downfall of WCW.
“After Russo drove WCW into the ground, Jerry Jarrett hired him to write for his promotion. Why would Jerry do something like that? I don’t understand how some guys, who have been given credit for being so smart about the business, can be so stupid.”
That’s one move, Jarrett says emphatically, that’s he’s not willing to take credit for.
“I would deserve the label ‘stupid’ if I had made the decision to hire Vince Russo,” he explains. “But I made the horrendous mistake of yielding to my son’s (Jeff) wishes.”
Jarrett’s opinion of Russo is well-documented in his 2004 book on the creation and development of TNA.
“There are numerous statements where I tried to tell Jeff what an idiot he was. It was just a problem from Day 1.”
Former TNA writer and agent Dutch Mantell claimed in an interview last year that TNA didn’t know its audience.
“In their eyes, if you don’t understand it, it’s not the writing, it’s you. The joke seems to be on them. I’ve been around a lot of offices with the death knell, and the TNA office has got the death knell about it. The only money they’re really making is off Spike, and if Spike balks, they’re screwed.”
Mantell says he tried to warn the company, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
“I told Jeff Jarrett that his big mistake was allowing bigger con men than him to get in there. That’s what he did,” says Mantell.
Even the return of 16-time world champion Ric Flair had little effect on ratings for Thursday night’s edition of Impact. The show scored a 1.05 rating, down from a 1.07 rating the previous week, and the lowest mark since June 9 and second-lowest rating of the year. The 1.46 million viewers was 12 percent below Impact’s average viewing audience this year.
TNA officials reportedly asked that a strong 12-minute segment featuring Flair and Sting be reshot because Sting didn’t react strongly enough when Flair mentioned Hogan’s name. Flair, 62, is scheduled to meet Sting, 52, on an upcoming show. If Flair wins, Sting has to leave wrestling “forever.” If Sting wins, he gets a shot at Hogan, 58.
-- Brooke Hogan recently took it to Twitter to dispute claims that she and her dad are “in some perverted relationship” following her nude photo reveal at the Hulkster’s birthday bash in Miami.
“I’m so sick of people saying me and my dad are in some perverted relationship,” she wrote on Twitter. “Go home and do your own thing! Stop picking on me!”
Hogan was photographed next to a racy shot of his 23-year-old daughter, putting his hands over her more private parts to block them out.
The exhibit was put together by a local photographer under the title “Women in Cages,” with the intent of creating awareness against animal cruelty.
Hogan also responded last week to outlandish statements made by ex-wife Linda that implied he was involved in a homosexual relationship with longtime friend Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake (Ed Leslie).
“Feel sorry for Linda Hogan I can’t believe how low a person will go, even to lie to hurt others just to stay in her perverted spotlight,” Hogan responded on Twitter. “She will have to answer to the power upstairs for her evil lifestyle, I can only pray for her, what a wasted life, God bless her.”
-- Chris Jericho, who made his WWE debut nearly 12 years and launched the “Raw is Jericho” era, told the Between the Ropes radio show last week that the product’s TV rating shouldn’t affect the overall quality of programming. He said some performers use the rating system as a “cop-out.”
“I don’t care about PG-13 or the Attitude Era,” said Jericho. “If you’re a great performer, you can make it work no matter what it is. And I never really cared because I might have gone five percent into the Attitude Era or five percent into the overly PG era, but I pretty much just did my thing and made it work with whatever was given to me by the boss of the company.”
-- Charlotte resident Ron “R-Truth” Killings said in a recent interview that Jackie Crockett, son of the late promoter Jim Crockett Sr., rescued him from a life of crime.
Killings, 39, who was an aspiring young rapper at the time, told Charlotte Magazine that he thought he was destined for the entertainment industry, but he took a detour in his late teens and early twenties. “I thought I could make a living selling drugs,” he says. Crockett discovered Killings in jail and offered to pay for his training. Killings, who had already been in and out of jail numerous times, was given a job setting up and breaking down the rings.
“I felt like I’d been in three or four car wrecks back to back,” said Killings. “I was tired of the way I was living. I credit wrestling with getting my life together.”
-- Mike Chioda, WWE’s head referee, was suspended 30 days due to a Wellness Policy violation.
It was Chioda’s first violation.
Also suspended for 30 days for failing the company drug test was recent Tough Enough winner Andy Leavine.
Leavine was sent back to Florida Championship Wrestling following his victory in June and only appeared on Raw once after he was announced as the winner.
-- WWE stock hit a 52-week low of $8.75 per share on Friday. The price closed slightly higher at $8.82 at the end of the day.
-- The match “everyone” wants to see: TNA comedy act Eric Young posted on Twitter that he’ll be meeting former Hollywood teen idol Scott Baio on an upcoming episode of TNA Impact.
-- Luther Hatfield, who wrestled as Bobby Fields of the famous Gulf Coast-based Fields Brothers, passed away Aug. 13 at the age of 77.
Hatfield was part of an extended wrestling family that included father Virgil “Speedy” Hatfield, a referee and matchmaker, and brothers Don and Bobby Fields (Hatfield), direct descendants of the original Hatfields (of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys fame). He wrestled from 1950 until the late ‘70s.
-- The first-ever WWE Smackdown live special will air 8-10 p.m. Aug. 30 on Syfy from Wichita, Kan. The special will re-air in Smackdown’s regular time slot 8-10 p.m. Sept. 2.
-- James Island product Pete Kaasanova (Pete Kaasa) recently returned home following a 10-month training run at the Atlanta-based WWA4 facility. The youngster drew rave reviews at the wrestling school, and a great three-minute highlight reel can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8yZaGSYQDQ.
-- TNA star Gunner headlines Old School Championship Wrestling’s next show on Aug. 28 at the Hanahan Rec Center.
For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.