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Evaluating the Hulk Hogan & Eric Bischoff TNA Era

The Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff era in TNA Wrestling started off without a lot of hype, carefully worded expectations, and a ton of doubt. Three years later the era has officially ended and I think it would be fair to call it a bust.

Dixie Carter looked like she was an autograph session when she posed for pictures flexing with Hogan back in the fall of 2010 as she announced their deal. Hogan was not only coming to TNA to be a part of the show, but Hogan was going to help run it. Hogan brought his buddy Bisch and three years later TNA is no better and fairly worse for it. Both made carefully worded promises, never once that I can recall citing specific benchmarks or metrics they hoped to achieve to be successful. In hindsight the lack of tangible goals is telling and should have had anyone vested in TNA worried from the start.

The big idea of the era was to put TNA on Monday nights head to head with RAW. Bring back the Monday Night Wars! TNA went all out and spent money like no tomorrow bringing in high priced free agents like Ric Flair, Rob Van Dam, and the n.W.o. to go head to head with Vince McMahon. Vince never blinked and this “war” was over fast with TNA running back to Thursdays with their tails between their legs.

Their second big idea and this has Hogan and Bischoff all over it was to take Impact on the road. How did that work out? It turned out to be disastrous. Disastrous to the point that it hurt the company so bad financially that TNA now finds itself for sale but I’ll get to that later. The attendance was terrible and the live and/or arena feel did absolutely zero for the ratings of TNA. All it did was hurt the company financially and likely put a strain on its relationship with Viacom.

Speaking of ratings let’s talk some numbers. I always tell fans when I debate a point I made in a blog or tweet that the numbers don’t lie and in this case the ratings don’t lie. All I have to do is go back to the month before they signed Hogan. In October 2011 the company averaged a 1.25 rating for Impact. The company did a record low 0.82 this past October so that tells you all you need to know about well the ratings turned out.

I want to make a point about the ratings. I hate to say it but you have to give Vince Russo some credit. The ratings have been on a decline since he left the company and while they have sustained lately, they aren’t improving. Like him or not you have to give the guy some credit. Do not be surprised to see him come back now that Hogan is gone and quite honestly you really can’t blame TNA if they do go down that road.

If you take a look at the ideas that Hogan had (I don’t know what to credit Bischoff for so I’ll give him a pass) they were a lot of darts being thrown against walls and none stuck. Remember those Fortune vs. Immortal angles? Remember the scenario with Abyss and Hogan’s “powerful” WWE Hall of Fame ring? Remember those ridiculous promo segments with a bird in the room? Aces & 8s was Hogan and Bischoff’s version of an invasion angle in 2013. Aces & 8s has been a complete and abysmal failure. As a matter of a fact you can look back at the ratings and see the steady decline once this angle kicked into high gear. I never liked it and I feel that the story exposed how completely out of touch Hogan and Bischoff are with their fans.

The coup de grace of the Hogan era had to be the AJ Styles-Claire Lynch-Dixie Carter storyline. The angle was both hilarious (unintentionally I am sure) and really an embarrassment to anyone who sacrificed two hours to watch Impact. I don’t know how much Hogan was responsible for but it was under his watch and he was the head cheese at the time. That angle and this says a lot about TNA, that angle may be the worst in company history.

The company was doing twelve pay per view events when Hogan and Bischoff arrived. Today they are doing four a year. Can anyone put a positive spin on that? The idea of Hogan and Bischoff in charge of creative was to get the ratings up, thus increasing interest in pay per view buys. Not only were they unable to bring new fans on board, they lost the ones TNA had! A company that has the exposure TNA has on Spike TV every week should be able to create compelling content for more than four pay per view events a year right? Not only did Hogan and Bisch not bring anymore additional revenue to pay per view, they cost them the money they were bringing in. I’d call that a big fat fail!

Hogan also talked about getting new guys over and creating new stars when he came into TNA. Who exactly is better off today as a draw than they were in 2010? I would give him credit for Bully Ray who has turned out to be a heck of a heel. Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Christopher Daniels, James Storm, Magnus are all bigger TNA stars today but not one of them have meant a thing for business. Is AJ Styles any more over today than he was when Hogan took over? I’d say he is worse off today than he was going into 2011. It is sad to say because those guys are incredibly talented but none of their pushes meant a thing when it comes to money. Oh and let’s talk money.

What was the bottom line financially of the Hogan and Bischoff era? Well the company is for sale today so that certainly can’t be a good sign. When you come into a company, take it over, and leave the company in such financial distress that the owner wants to sell, I’d say you did a pretty poor job.

As I said above the numbers don’t lie. The ratings are worse, they are doing less pay per view events, they lost their shirts on Impact road events, and the company is reportedly being shopped. I don’t think I need any more evidence than to tell you that this era was a complete bust and you’d have to be a fool to let Hogan or Bischoff near your wrestling company (internally) from this point forward.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an M.B.A. from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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