One of the biggest rumors swirling around the professional wrestling world of late has to do with the future direction of Hulk Hogan.
The Hulkster has stated in recent interviews that he's “done” with TNA, ending a cozy arrangement with that company that netted him a reported $35,000 per appearance.
The 60-year-old Hogan, at one time arguably the biggest star in the business, could justifiably demand exorbitant payoffs during his run as a credible, active, in-ring performer.
But TNA, a company desperately looking for ways to cut costs, has been criticized for spending a sizable portion of its budget on talent whose relevance has been on a steady decline.
Hogan certainly fits that category.
It can be debated whether Hogan's four-year run in TNA was financially beneficial to the company. Most would posit that, in the long run, TNA paid more for Hogan than he was worth.
In the beginning, Hogan absolutely meant something to TNA in terms of stature and added revenue streams that the company otherwise might not have been able to tap into.
But, like most of Hogan's runs over the past decade, once the glitter began to wear off, his value to the company had little effect on ratings or pay-per-view buyrates.
Some even claim that the seemingly endless string of appearances by Hogan and his longtime cohort, Eric Bischoff, hampered the creative direction of TNA.
Bischoff also appears to be a non-factor at this point. TNA claims that he is “working at home” and won't be attending any more tapings. Translated, that means he will be riding out his contract until it expires.
Both apparently have worn out their welcome in TNA. What worked in 1995 doesn't work anymore. That's just the cyclical nature of the wrestling business.
Rumors also have abounded in recent weeks over the viability of the company, with some sources reporting that Dixie Carter and her family are looking to sell off interests in the company.
Hogan's current deal with TNA expired this month, and he is technically a free agent.
So where does that leave The Immortal One?
Wrestlemania XXX is less than six months away, and there would be no better landing spot for Hogan than the company he helped transform into a national phenomenon in the mid-'80s.
Definitely interested, Hogan took it a step further at a recent autograph session in Philadelphia.
“I'd love to be at Wrestlemania, I'd love to be in the crowd, but it would really be cool to be in the ring.”
That's highly unlikely to happen. Unless, perhaps, WWE books a “First Man Walking” match between Hogan and The Great Khali.
The 12-time world champion has had hip and knee replacements and multiple back surgeries. It's been hard at times for him to even navigate his body through the ropes and into the ring.
“I don't think I can wrestle too much anymore, but just being around the business and helping and being part of it is pretty cool,” he said in one recent interview.
As Hogan is wont to do, however, he boldly declared in another 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 (darn) right I have one more (match) left in me.”
And later, but even more succinctly: “Right guy, right venue, right payday.”
Hogan's longtime confidante, Jimmy Hart, last week stated that Hogan has a couple of matches left in him. A Hogan-John Cena bout has been floated.
Follow the money trail, and you'll find Hogan. He never fails to go to the highest bidder, and the only question remaining is whether WWE is willing to fork over more money than TNA is willing to do in order to retain his services for another year.
One source close to both sides said he had a difficult time believing WWE would heavily invest in a Hogan return.
“The McMahons hate Hogan. Why would they bring him back?”
One word. Money.
Hogan, taken in small doses, would be good for a nostalgia pop coming at a landmark event such as the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania, a mega-show the Hulkster helped popularize. Hogan was so big at one time that he earned a Sports Illustrated cover (he was the first active pro wrestler to grace the cover).
Hogan, returning to his Hulkamania roots, also could be a valuable asset to the upcoming WWE Network. He would be a natural fit in the role as a WWE ambassador.
Hogan revealed earlier this month that he had been in contact with Triple H, Vince McMahon's son-in-law, and had been warmly received.
“He just welcomed me with open arms. He said if ever I decide I get the itch to come back home, the door's open.”
Will Hulkamania run wild in New Orleans?
It would be a fitting way for the legendary Hulkster to end his career — on the biggest stage of them all.
And it would give his legions of Hulkamaniacs one more shining moment.
WWE diva collapses
WWE divas champ AJ Lee collapsed during a match Friday night in London, but the company says she will be OK.
WWE says the 26-year-old Lee (April Mendez) fainted during her match with Brie Bella due to dehydration.
She had been out of action as recently as last month with a concussion.
Lord of the Rings
Old School Championship Wrestling will present its annual “Lord of the Rings” tournament featuring all of the group's champions on Dec. 1 at the Hanahan Rec Center.
Also on the bill will be TNA's Gunner going up against Brady Pierce.
Bell time is 5 p.m. Doors open at 4:30.
Adult admission (cash at the door) is $10; kids 12 and under $5. Half-price admission will be extended to each person who brings a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.
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