Hulk Hogan really wasn’t in a position to negotiate in 1996, while he had legitimized WCW as an organization; he hadn’t changed their fortunes overnight. The company did finally make a profit in 1995, but Eric Bischoff summed it up best in his book, Controversy Creates Cash. Here is the excerpt, credit goes to the fantastic WCW Worldwide Tumblr whom I shamelessly copy and pasted from:
“[T]he truth is, Hulk Hogan didn’t boost our viewership very much that year. Except for the first Pay-Per-View match between him and Ric Flair, where the buy rate was 1.3 percent, he did not have the impact on ratings we’d hoped. His shows didn’t really move the needle.
[adinserter block=”1″]There were a number of reasons. Hogan’s character had gotten a little stale. And the whole red-and-yellow, say-your-prayers, eat-your-vitamins thing clashed with the [WWF] steroids controversy. His credibility had been damaged.”
“Hogan also didn’t play that well with the audience WCW already had. Viewers who had watched WCW when it was NWA and Georgia Championship Wrestling, going way back, looked at Hogan kind of like an unwelcome guest. Hogan coming to WCW was like Roger Clemens coming to the New York Yankees. Yankee fans thought of him as a member of the hated Boston Red Sox, and didn’t warm up to him right away. To bring in Hulk Hogan appeared to be a version of wrestling blasphemy. The hard-core fan just didn’t understand why we would bring him in, and many peripheral mainstream viewers just didn’t care.”
Hulk had a strategy, he would take a sabbatical at the start of the NBA playoffs, the playoffs would the ratings of Nitro and Hulk would return and save the day. Well, the plan worked for a while. The NBA playoffs began on April 25th, with the first Nitro to be affected taking place on the 29th of April. For three weeks, the WWE won including a 4.1-1.9 drubbing on May 6th. Hulk looked like a genius for pulling this off, the company would continue to get beaten in the ratings and Bischoff would convince Turner to draw up a bigger contract than before. That was before Nitro won three in a row and I presume that Hulk was getting a bit uncomfortable. Raw won the June 10th 1996 date and then WCW proceeded to run off their winning streak after the playoffs ended. House show business, once a joke in WCW was on the rise thanks to the Randy Savage/Ric Flair feud.
Hulk’s contract was coming up and he knew that he didn’t have much for bargaining power. There was no way with Vince playing it safe with his money in this period (Signing mid-level names like Foley, Mero, Austin, Rock Hunter, etc) or he only broke the bank for Vader. Plus, WCW might not have much interest in bringing Hogan back financially. The company had just signed Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to large deals, plus they both had a favored nation clauses. A favored nation clause is a guarantee that both men will be the highest paid workers in the company, so if somebody signed a bigger deal, their salaries would be bumped up to that level. Nash had already signed a three year deal worth 1.2 million dollars a year and Bret Hart’s deal was expiring that year. Why keep Hogan around when you could sign three of the biggest stars from the WWE, who has were also a bit younger than Hogan? Taking away Bret, Hall, and Nash from the WWE might have been a potential death blow to McMahon.
The presence of Hall and Nash as rogue invaders from the WWE had greatly improved the ratings of Nitro, along with the introduction of the second hour. In-fact, the debut of Monday Nitro’s second hour was punctuated by the debut of Scott Hall making his declaration of war. Nash debuted a week or so later, and the rest we know is history. Bischoff could have easily left Hogan on the sidelines and let his deal run out. Yet, Bischoff had an idea that seemed insane but slightly smart enough not to be declared a complete moron.
He wanted Hulk Hogan to become a bad guy and join up with Nash and Hall
We all know that Hogan had been a bad guy before, but Hulk had been the good guy to end good guys for the last decade or so. While most of the older fans had been turned off by Hogan, there was still the younger fan base that liked Hogan. There was also the fact that Hogan was one of the top Make-a-Wish personalities, filling over 200 wishes. So, for Hulk to turn heel it could damage all that and potentially do away with the Make-a-Wish appearances and the adoration of those fans. In the end, Hulk would make the decision to turn heel and it seemed like a down to the wire moment if he was going to go through with it. Sting was on standby if Hulk finally got cold feet and I unfortunately foresee Hulk squashing all three of them when he returns.
On July 7th, 1996 the third man would arrive. Hulk Hogan would drop the leg on the wrestling world and salvage his WCW run. Cue the credits!
After Credits Scene: In Defense of Heenan
“Yeah, but whose side is he on?”
[adinserter block=”2″]Many people have claimed that Bobby Heenan spoiled the big surprise and this was his attempt to get himself over. I disagree, first most of the blame should go on the fact that nobody was probably clued into what was happening. This was the usual way that WCW did things by most accounts; they didn’t let the announcers in on stuff like this. So, Heenan probably didn’t know and was just ad-libbing. Plus, Heenan had always hated Hogan and the way he did things, so it made sense for Heenan to question why Hogan was showing up just then. Where was he when Luger went down? Or when The Outsiders were absolutely beating the crap out of Sting and Savage? In the end, I think it added to the tense atmosphere of the match. I also liked that Heenan initially was gleeful and happy that he was right, but slowly became downtrodden about what he was witnessing. Great work from The Brain.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.
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