The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
Easily the most controversial figure in TNA right now is Hulk Hogan. While he is always promoted on the shows as a huge piece of the company, his impact on TNA is not necessarily all good. There are many fans who are dying to see TNA part ways with the Hulkster, while others will cheer their lungs out for Hogan whenever he comes out onto the screen. Hogan, even at his advanced age, is still an incredibly polarizing figure in the wrestling world.
Let's start with the facts. The facts are that over the last few years while TNA has employed Hogan, business had been down. Attendances for shows, TV ratings and ppv buys have all been sinking recently. Whether that is a direct result of Hogan is unclear, as it could just as well be any other reason, but the case can easily be made that Hogan isn't helping matters. If he was, the numbers wouldn't be down. The last few weeks, Hogan has not been on Impact, and ratings have been more or less the same, so it can be said that Hogan isn't keeping the ratings from sinking any lower.
So if Hogan isn't boosting business on a numbers scale, what could he be doing? A big argument for his presence in TNA is that he is such a recognizable figure that he can help promote the product. The part about him being recognizable is true, everyone, wrestling fan or not, knows who Hulk Hogan is, he really is an iconic figure.
The problem with that thinking is that just because people recognize Hogan, that may not entice them to go watch whatever Hogan is doing. Hogan promoting TNA can potentially have a negative effect on the company, because people may see Hogan and think the opposite. Instead of saying "I wonder what Hulk Hogan is doing on that program", they could be saying "Hulk Hogan? He must be 100!" I talked to my father the other day, and he is a good example of just a regular person that is not really interested in pro wrestling, but he knows who Hogan is. I mentioned that Hogan was part of a wrestling company and he got a puzzled look on his face and said "Hulk Hogan? Who the hell would want to see him on TV, he must be in his seventies!" That is just one person's reaction, but it could help explain why Hogan hasn't had such a big impact on the company from a financial standpoint, despite his overwhelming fame and notoriety.
Even if Hulk was able to rope in some of those people, are those the kind of fans that TNA wants? People who are uninterested in wrestling, but know who Hogan is? Those people are not going to tune into watch Aces & 8s, or AJ Styles, or an X division match. Those people are probably not going to go to live events where Hogan isn't present, and they probably are not going to buy ppvs. If they have no real interest in wrestling outside of Hogan, then the impact they have on TNA is slim to none. TNA has to stop trying to rope in random people who only know who Hogan is, and start trying recruit actual wrestling fans.
The most troublesome thing about Hogan's presence in TNA may be that he is making an obscene amount of money from TNA. Dave Meltzer reported that Hogan is paid $35,000 per appearance, a deal that could lead up to well over $2 million per year. Since Hogan appears on almost every Impact and ppv, he is making in that neighborhood. How extreme is that for TNA? Well let's say that Hogan is making $2 million. TNA's average price for their ppvs is $38. They are lucky to hit 18,000 buys on any given show, so do the math and find out that the average TNA ppv generates around $684,000. That means that if every dime made from ppv sales went to Hulk Hogan, it would take at least 3 of their 4 ppvs to cover his salary. That is insane! They pay all that money for a guy where numbers suggest he is having absolutely zero impact on the company.
Hogan's actual role in TNA is still somewhat of a mystery. On screen he is the GM of Impact, and some fans think that is just what he is, an on-screen character. I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling that he has much more clout than that. Dixie Carter and TNA brought Hogan in not just to be on-screen but to hopefully learn from him and the secrets of how to be a successful wrestling company. After all, Hogan was the man involved in two different wrestling companies' ascension to record heights. Hogan most certainly has creative control, which as evident in WCW, can really handicap what TNA can do. He had enough power to try and get Bubba the Love Sponge a gig, got the freaking Nasty Boys hired and, until recently, got his daughter a starring role on Impact.
Hogan has been blamed by fans for, in their opinions, the downgrade in the quality of Impact over the last few years. I don't think that that is necessarily fair, as Hogan, as politically savvy as he is, cannot control everything that TNA does. I personally don't think Hogan is helping matters, but he is certainly far from TNA's only issue right now.
Another hotly debated topic is just what the fans think of Hogan right now in TNA. A trip on any wrestling site or message board will tell you that a majority of the hardcore fans have a severe dislike for Hogan. But is that really a good indicator of what the typical fan thinks? After all, Hogan always gets one of the biggest pops from the live crowds whenever he comes out.
One thing I would like to point out is that Dixie Carter recently started a little campaign on twitter called "#AskDixie" where she would answer your questions about TNA. I think looking at this is a good indicator of what the typical fan thinks about TNA, as in this day and age, everyone from the hardcore to casual fan has a twitter account. The responses in "#AskDixie" are overwhelmingly negative against Hogan, with very little support for his time in TNA. If you don't believe me, go on twitter right now and search "#AskDixie" and read all the tweets for yourselves, but be careful, the results are not pretty.
According to reports, Hulk Hogan's contract is expiring in the upcoming months. TNA has recently experimented with keeping Hogan off of TV in a cost cutting measure, so it appears they are straining under the cost of his contract. TNA will have to make a decision soon about Hogan, and if his contract does not get renewed, expect to see some serious changes in TNA.