Monday, June 18, 2012

What Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff Have Done for TNA

We live in a world where everyone wants results as quickly as possible. Microwaves can cook a dinner in minutes, an e-mail can reach someone on the other side of the world within seconds; and as a result, we expect everything to be as accessible. That mindset is no different in regards to the pro-wrestling industry, and TNA is a perfect example of that.

In January 2010, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff started their regime in TNA (they had joined the company three months earlier), brought in to help take TNA to a higher level. This responsibility was far from being new territory for both men. Hogan had been the main face of WWE in the 1980's, taking the company into the mainstream and helping to turn the pro-wrestling industry into a major business. In 1994, Bischoff took the reigns of WCW as Exectutive Vice President, changing WCW from a company that was losing money, to a profitable company that became the most watched pro-wrestling company in the world for 84 consecutive weeks.

Nonetheless, the goal of taking TNA to the top of the industry has not been an easy one to reach. WWE remains the #1 company, with a loyal fanbase behind it. Founded in 1952, it took WWE over 30 years to become a major success (and without true competition), yet Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff have been the target of critics due to their not making TNA #1 in 2 year's time. However, if one sets aside unrealistic expections and examines what Hogan and Bischoff have done during their time in TNA, there are many positive achievments that can be seen:

BUILDING UP TALENT: The TNA originals are the core of the company, the talents who were dedicated to TNA when it was far from being at the level that it is today. They were on the roster long before Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff arrived in TNA, yet many of them had not received true opportunities to shine until the Hogan-Bischoff era began. Bobby Roode has main event level ring and mic skills, but he was a midcarder until he became World Heavyweight Champion under the Hogan-Bischoff regime. However, the belt was not simply put on Roode- his reign has been the longest World Heavyweight Champion reign in the history of the company, consisting of wins over stars such as Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam, Sting, Mr. Anderson, and AJ Styles. And it is all being done in the style of an old school heel, doing whatever is necessary to remain Champion. When Roode's reign ends, he will be well built-up, which will benefit his career long-term.

Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin are two other talents who went through the same situation that Bobby Roode did- TNA originals who did not receive the attention that they deserved over the years, X Division Championship reigns being their biggest accomplishment. Shelley and Sabin finally discovered their TNA niche in 2007, when they were united as The Motor City Machine Guns. Many fans proclaimed them to be the best tag team in the industry, and they saw much success outside of TNA, winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship and ZERO1-MAX International Lightweight Tag Team Championship. Meanwhile, tag-team gold remained out of their grasps in TNA. That changed during the Hogan-Bischoff era, when 3 years after becoming a team in TNA, The Motor City Machine Guns became TNA World Tag Team Champions. Some say that the win was long overdue, but had it not been for Hogan & Bischoff, a TNA tag-team title win may not have ever happened for them.

Something that has occurred during the Hogan-Bischoff regime that talent may dislike but is beneficial to the company, is that usage of talent is done in cycles. One talent will be used for about a month or so, and then won't be used for a while, replaced by a different talent who was not being used. Talent may be unhappy with sitting at home for an extended length of time, but it prevents midcarders from being in the background while only the biggest names on the TNA roster are constantly spotlighted. Every talent gets an opportunity to shine, which benefits the promotion as whole. They simply have to be patient and wait for their opportunity.

IMPACT WRESTLING GOING LIVE: Impact Wrestling going live is something that Hulk Hogan had pushed for, going as far as stating that doing so would solve 75% of the issues in TNA. Although he didn't specify what problems he was referring to, going live for the summer has had a positive effect on the roster. Its morale has improved, due to motivation involved with putting on a live show. A live show enables Eric Bischoff to use his writing formula to its fullest potential. It's called, "SARSA" (story, anticipation, reality, surprise and action). It's the same forumla that Bischoff used in WCW, which made its, "Nitro" program the most watched wrestling program in prime time during WCW's most profitable period. In fact, some say the feel of, "IMPACT" is very similar to "Nitro", which would make sense, considering the fact that Bischoff is implementing the same style.

IMPROVED PRODUCTION QUALITY: Regardless of whether it's justified, people tend to judge a book by its cover. TNA's production quality has been harshly criticized over the years of the company's existence. Since the time that Eric Bischoff has been placed in the position of Executive Producer, the look of the product has been highly praised. It shouldn't be a surprise, since Bischoff runs his own production company (Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment) outside of his TNA duties. It's a very succesful venture, "The Devils Ride" being the productions newest hit, which has recently received a season two renewal from Discovery.

NEW SPONSORS: Although it would be unrealistic to state that he is the only reason, during the time that Hulk Hogan has been a part of TNA, the company has been involved with new sponsors, their current one being Direct Auto Insurance. Advertisers look for opportunities that will give them exposure. If your brand is not popular and marketable, it will not be sponsored. Hulk Hogan is the biggest name in TNA, and one of the biggest names in the world. Since he is connected to TNA, the TNA product becomes attractive to an advertiser, who may not have heard of TNA otherwise, or may not have been interested in them.

IMPACT WRESTLING GOING ON THE ROAD: The Impact Zone has been TNA's home since 2004. However, "Comfort Zone" would be a more proper name for it. The company never had to seek out new venues, because the Impact Zone was always there for them. Also, they saved money. However, there were drawbacks. TNA isn't allowed to sell tickets for, "IMPACT" shows that they have there, which means that they lose an opportunity to increase revenue. Also, exclusively having, "IMPACT" shows at the Zone gave off the impression that TNA didn't have enough of a fanbase outside of Florida to draw well. Plus, a wrestling promotion has a more professional image if they hold televised events regulary at venues other than a sound stage. It should also be noted that many people who attend shows at the Impact Zone are not wrestling fans- they're tourists, simply looking for something entertaining to watch. And when a pro-wrestling fan watches an, "IMPACT" program presented at the Zone, they can tell the difference between that and a crowd full of enthusiastic fans who love to watch pro-wrestling. What TNA needed was a little push out of the Impact Zone and into the world.

That little push came in the form of Eric Bischoff...No, make that a BIG push, because no one -not a TNA talent, member of TNA management, member of the pro-wrestling media, or TNA fan- was more vocal about this subject than Bischoff. If he wasn't mentioning it on his Facebook page, then he was discussing it when he was being interviewed by a member of the pro-wrestling media. Bischoff saw the value in TNA taking, "IMPACT" on the road, and he wanted TNA to see it as well.

Eric Bischoff stated that taking, "IMPACT" on the road would enable the TNA brand to grow faster. This made sense, because going on the road would draw potential new fans who would check out this promotion that has come to their town, the promotion that they may have heard some of their friends talking about.

There were doubts within TNA that the company could financially afford to take, "IMPACT" on the road. And course, Spike had to be convinced that it would be worth doing. This is what led up to "IMPACT" taking place in Fayetteville, NC in February 2011. The difference in crowd reaction was apparent- these weren't tourists, these were WRESTLING fans. And their energy added to the excitement of the televised product.

Eric Bischoff proved his point, which led to, "IMPACT" going on the road later that year to Huntsville, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Macon, Georgia. It was becoming increasingly apparent to both TNA and Spike that taking, "IMPACT" on the road on a regular basis may be beneficial long-term.

Although not going all the way with Eric Bischoff's idea, TNA and Spike have moved another step closer this year. This past January, "IMPACT" was taped in London while TNA was in England for their annual, "MAXIMUM IMPACT" Tour. The spirited interraction of London fans proved that not only would, "IMPACT" be successful on the road in the United States, but it would be successful on the road internationally as well.

IMPROVED RATINGS: This is something that many fans miss entirely, simply because, "IMPACT" isn't drawing in a 3.0 rating...In 2007, "IMPACT" averaged a 1.05 rating; in 2008, "IMPACT" averaged a 1.06 rating, in 2009, "IMPACT" averaged a 1.15 rating; in 2011 (second year of the Hogan-Bischoff era), "IMPACT" averaged a 1.17 rating.

Obviously, a 1.17 average is not where TNA wants to be. Nonetheless, under the Hogan-Bischoff regime, TNA is closer than they have ever been. It's worth noting that the program's highest rating of 2011 (1.35) took place after the rebranding process of TNA began. Other than when PPV events were promoted, all traces of the, "TNA" brand and logo had disappeared from the company, replaced by the, "Impact Wrestling" brand, which targeted the wrestling audience in a clearer fashion. Reportedly, the rebranding came about due to encouragement from Hogan and Bischoff, finally convincing company President Dixie Carter. TNA has tended to tightly hold on to the past that has made them the #2 wrestling company in the industry. However, that mindset can backfire, causing the company to remain #2. As of late, the, "TNA" brand has slowly been returning to r prominence, and the highest rating this year has been 1.19. Although it is only a small difference, it may show what happens when a company isn't completely open to new ideas from more experienced peers. Had JCP held tightly onto it's past, it would have never become the worldwide successful WCW - TNA should keep that in mind.

Despite everything that has been listed above, there are still many critics who have no doubt that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came to TNA to spotlight themselves. Yet at this time of writing, Hogan does not have much camera time, despite the fact that he has the on-camera role of GM. As for Bischoff, he has been written off-camera to the point that he is no longer supposed to be a part of TNA. The company may not be where TNA management and TNA fans want the promotion to be at this point in time, but that should not blind anyone from seeing how Hogan and Bischoff have helped it since their arrival. Vince McMahon didn't turn WWE into a global giant in 2 years, so it's unrealistic to expect Hogan and Bischoff to do it for TNA in that frame of time, especially since they don't have the amount of managerial power that many seem to think they do. Do they have have influence in TNA? Absolutely. However, they don't have free reign and complete creative control. So they're doing the best that anyone possibly could with the limited power that they have.