Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The fading star that won't go away

A year ago at this time, Hulk Hogan was parading a group of retired or out-of-work actors (i.e. Frank Stallone, Todd Bridges) and former stars (Butterbean) in front of TV screens under the umbrella of his Celebrity Championship Wrestling promotion. CCW died a quick death, hastened by the National Enquirer leaking out the result of the pre-taped competition (ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman became the lone champion of CCW) weeks before the series ended. A few months earlier, Hogan fronted a revival of the 80's series, American Gladiators, but interest faded in the summer heat, despite the presence of MMA starlet Gina Carano and, in the second "season", wrestler Matt Morgan, currently with TNA (Total Nonstop Action).

Those relative failures, coupled with the incessant tabloid media coverage of the collapse of Hogan's marriage, daughter Brooke's flagging singing career (that she released a 2nd album was a miracle), and son Nick's legal troubles, should've been signs that it was time for Hogan, not yet 60, to quietly walk away from the spotlight that has been like his best friend for nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, that spotlight is like an addictive drug. It's what makes the man born Terry Bollea feel as if he's still relevant in the here and now, even though his profession has long since moved forward without him.

Over the summer, word got out that Hogan was planning a tour of Australia, something he could've done while with WWE in 2002-3, but didn't. He lured old nemesis Ric Flair out of retirement, and had a number of other ex-WWE wrestlers committed to the tour. Hogan would dust off the red & yellow and wrestle Flair in the main event on the tour. Money in the bank, right?

Apparently not. In New York today to promote his new book, Hogan dropped a major bombshell. He had signed with TNA, which already has a number of ex-WWE & WCW stars on their roster, including Scott Steiner and Kurt Angle. TNA co-owner Dixie Carter (not the actress) is convinced that bringing in veterans like Angle, Steiner, and now Hogan and possibly Flair as well, will mean higher ratings predicated on name value, even though the talent is on the downside of their careers. However, showcasing those veterans is at the expense of younger, hungrier wrestlers like Morgan, current champion AJ Styles, Alex Shelley, Eric Young, Chris Sabin, and Jay Lethal, who have to jockey for prime positions on the weekly cards (taped 2-3 weeks in advance). Angle & Steiner were recently part of the company's NWO-esque faction, the Main Event Mafia, but neither is really a true draw any more than Hogan is.

Just last week, TNA initiated a storyline that suggests that it's time for veterans like Angle to step aside and let the younger wrestlers have their spotlight. Bringing in Hogan kills that entire angle dead, unless he can be sold on the idea that, yes, his time in the ring is over. He wanted to be put in the role of a figurehead executive in WWE, or so they said, and that may be what awaits him this time.

In the short term, there will be a boost in the ratings, but that's all there's going to be. There are already the rumors that with Hogan and former boss Eric Bischoff on board, TNA may be bold enough to move Impact to Mondays and challenge WWE Raw head to head. I don't see it happening.

In Tennessee, Jeff Jarrett, the now-silent co-owner of TNA, sits and waits for the opportunity to return to work, knowing that his business partner, Carter, is so much a mark for the veterans she's signed, she doesn't realize the baggage that comes with the fading stars. Jarrett was there when WCW collapsed nearly a decade ago. He doesn't want to see it happen to his own company, but what can he do when he's been pushed aside in favor of Angle, who now has Carter's ear, it seems.

George Santayana was right. Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it. I've used that line about TNA virtually from the get-go, nearly 7 1/2 years ago. Now, more than ever, it may ring true enough to sound the death knell for TNA, and adding Hogan may be the straw that breaks this camel's back.

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