TNA Specials CALDWELL'S Review of the "Finding Hulk Hogan" A&E special 11/17: Hulk Hogan Hyperbole and the long con in TNA
Nov 18, 2010 - 11:52:46 AM
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By James Caldwell, Torch assistant editor
October 30, 2008: 1.16 rating.
October 29, 2009: 1.24 rating (Impact after Hogan signs with TNA).
October 28, 2010: 1.13 rating.
Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment's presentation of "Finding Hulk Hogan" on A&E last night was a fascinating look at the Hulk Hogan person/character that has been carefully manufactured publicly for decades.
Forget the "this is the real Hulk Hogan" talk. If you have to say it's real, then it's not real. Hogan is still Hogan. He's a worker. And he's partnered with one of the smartest workers in the business, Eric Bischoff.
This was the latest chapter in maintaining the confidence of Dixie Carter, who has the money, the corporate backing, and a network partner that has allowed TNA to continue on the same path with zero ratings growth for five years.
Setting aside the "work" aspect of this one-hour documentary, the BHE production team really nailed the aesthetics and overall presentation. It was a well-produced and well-edited documentary to continue presenting the manufactured version of Hulk Hogan that has adapted from the manufactured version of Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
The documentary content itself didn't bring much to the table. It was a carefully scripted production to draw sympathy on Hogan that was essentially the film adaption of Hogan's recent autobiography, "My Life Outside The Ring."
There was buzz around Hogan when he came public with his personal redemption story last year, but this documentary had little buzz despite telling a visually-impactful story about one of the pop culture icons of the 1980s crashing, burning, and rising again.
The reasons why the documentary doesn't have much buzz behind it are twofold. Pro wrestling isn't cool right now and TNA simply isn't relevant. But, the thing is that BHE didn't need buzz behind the documentary.
The only audience that mattered here was Dixie Carter, key executives in TNA, TV industry executives, and other relevant power players who will keep the train rolling along.
Dixie was shown on-camera, Vince Russo was shown on-camera, backstage creative meetings were presented on-camera, and TNA came across like a slick, futuristic, next-big-thing, well-oiled machine. Executives in TNA could take pride in their company for being presented in such a positive light.
Beneath the surface, we know the real TNA story is a shoddy wrestling product and absolutely zero ratings growth in 2010 despite adding Hogan, Bischoff, RVD, Jeff Hardy, and Mr. Anderson to the payroll. But, the key to the con isn't necessarily to grow, but to give the impression of growth.
This year, we've seen Eric Bischoff conduct interviews where he's made it clear that he knows what to say to get a job, but he doesn't know the wrestling business in 2010. But, he's smart. He's figured out that Dixie doesn't know the wrestling business in 2010 either and knows how to say the right things that tickle her ears and eyes.
Bischoff brought the state-of-the-art Reaction show to TNA, but Reaction is essentially a show about nothing. Similarly, the Hogan documentary was a visually terrific product that showcased TNA in a positive light. It was designed to give power players a warm, fuzzy feeling that Hogan and Bischoff are the ones to eventually turn the company in a big-time player and Hogan has turned his life around to have a positive impact on everyone around him.
Hogan's personal life has apparently changed. Good for him. He's "breathing clean air" and has "life after life." But, he's still "Hulk Hogan, worker." This documentary aimed to mix the two together while dazzling the audience with bright lights and other visually-enthralling elements.
"Wherever the company is going, I've already been there," Hogan said at the end of the documentary as they showed him preparing for his in-ring return on the March 8 live Impact episode.
Leading to the big wrestling scenes at the end of the documentary, Hogan's personal life was documented in specific detail. Included was a re-creation of Hogan sitting in front of his bathroom mirror considering suicide by gun.
Part of the presentation on Hogan's personal life was noting that Hogan needs to maintain a certain lifestyle. "People expected Hulk Hogan to be Hulk Hogan," he said.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this week against his ex-wife and Wells Fargo Insurance, Hogan claimed net worth of $30 million prior to Nick Hogan's car crash that led to his divorce and subsequent loss of funds.
Hogan said in the documentary that at the end of his marriage, "only" a few million dollars were coming in and $10 million was going out. Hogan needs to return to a certain lifestyle.
So, the story goes that Hogan needs money and Bischoff needs credibility in the TV industry. Hogan "booking himself into a corner" where he's needed on TV keeps him in the game every week in prime time on cable TV. Bischoff attaching his production company to Hogan, a pop culture icon, and receiving a multi-week clearance from Spike TV for the "Reaction" show gives him credibility.
To maintain Dixie Carter's confidence they will eventually "raise the bar" for TNA, Hogan and Bischoff have on their resumes (a) nearly putting WWE out of business in the 1990s and (b) helping revolutionize pro wrestling in the 1990s. Nevermind they haven't shown any knowledge of where the wrestling industry is in 2010 while working with another 1990s creative fossil, Vince Russo.
But, the key to the con isn't necessarily to put in the time taking TNA to the next level. The key is to keep Dixie happy and interested, especially portraying her as a heroic babyface authority figure, use as much hyperbole as possible to make it seem like things are "about to get really real," and keep focusing on the real money projects down the line involving BHE.
As evidenced by the absolutely terrific production value of the "Finding Hulk Hogan" documentary, BHE's emphasis is on selling future TV projects. If the current TNA creative team stumbles upon a formula for success along the way, that's good for everyone.
As of right now, though, showcasing TNA in a positive light as part of the "Hulk Hogan story" was merely to keep tickling the eyes and ears of power players in and around TNA. We didn't learn anything new about Hogan in "Finding Hulk Hogan" that we didn't already know.
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