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Posted October 31, 2009
It's been awhile since I updated this page, as I've had a hectic few months, but to try to catch up as quickly as possible, I'm answering three questions that I have received over and over again, especially in recent weeks, and one that I threw in just for the heck of it. I'll try to keep updating more regularly from now on, I'm not sure how often, but as Mama Cornette used to say, "It won't be as long as it's been."
Q.---What is your opinion on Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff signing with TNA?
A.---Oh, this whole thing reminds me of why I hate corporate wrestling. I must admit there are bright spots, like imagining Vince McMahon's face and blood pressure when he heard the news, or hearing Hogan bitchslap Vince Russo by saying they'd be OK if "he stays in his place." Can TNA make their minds up, LAST month everybody had to be "100% behind Russo's creative direction" and THIS month they hire a guy who once SUED him for his lousy booking? They have reunited the same team that helped WCW lose more money than any wrestling promotion in history.
In all seriousness, of course Hogan's presence will boost ratings, at least in the short term, and one or two PPV appearances over six months or a year will do buys far beyond anything TNA's ever done on PPV. He can get publicity like no one else associated with TNA. Bischoff has proven he can get television deals done, just possibly not GOOD television shows MADE. But to me there are still issues. Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara are still writing the show. If a lot of people are looking at a turd, does it smell better? This is not a company-making move unless the extra viewers see a product they can get hooked on when Hogan isn't there or gone. It doesn't speak well for the policy of the youth movement and pushing new faces and making new stars. Talk about a Bush-Clinton dynasty, how long has it been since someone not named McMahon, Bischoff, Hogan and Russo has been in charge of wrestling in this country, and the business is a lot less popular in the US than it was 10 years ago. Will Hogan do anything to make even one young talent like Lashley, or Morgan, or "Desmond", a star, or just drop the leg in each appearance to make the "fans happy"? A lot of questions about whether this is a good move for TNA will be answered by what both Bischoff and Hogan do for TNA instead of themselves. But the very nature of this move indicates the company does not intend to present any alternative to "sports entertainment", and no one will ever beat Vince McMahon at that. Long-term, I believe the only way for TNA to succeed with this move is to hook the extra fans they get, and have a young roster of new stars in positions ready to take over for Hogan and the rest of their veteran roster within the next year. I don't see Vince Russo as the architect of that and I don't see the style of athletically based, competitive wrestling that COULD hook these new or excommunicated fans being one that Russo knows how to present, that TNA wants to present, or that Hogan's style lends itself to presenting.
Which brings me to the next question that has been asked dozens of times in the last month---
Q.---Why do you believe Ring of Honor is, as you've said, the "wrestling of the future"?
A.---In the old territory days, when business was drastically down, even in danger of folding up, you would "hotshot" the territory. You would give them as much blood, violence, heat, angles and edgy content as you could get away with, until the fans either came back or the territory closed down. If they came back, the art was to pull the hotshotting back soon enough and get them hooked on the wrestling again, before it got to where you "couldn't follow it", and you closed up anyway. The base of it all was still two guys are gonna fight, who's gonna win? With the corporate world involved, the ratings wars, WWF vs. WCW, WWE vs. TNA, etc., wrestling has been hotshotted for 15 years straight, and it's finally gotten to where we can't follow it. So many angles and so many bumps, with special effects and outrageous stunts and preposterous stories and hardcore matches with buckets of blood.
The rise of UFC in particular and MMA in general has shown that people have a desire to strip away the hokey bullshit and get back down to the base of it--two guys are gonna fight, who's gonna win? Whether it's "real" or not is about number 5 on the list of reasons the UFC is kicking wrestling's ass. People want to see two guys, charismatic, colorful, and athletic, engage in an exciting contest with flashy moves or hard strikes ending with one guy winning, sometimes in a controversial fashion and often necessitating a rematch. That describes both MMA and pro wrestling. They will pay to see that when properly promoted. They will watch sports entertainment on TV for free, but it's getting harder and harder to get people to get attached enough to "sports entertainment", presented outright as scripted entertainment and generally comedic in nature, to buy it on PPV or at the arenas.
ROH is, in my opinion, the wrestling of the future because it's the only promotion now concentrating on the product, letting the wrestlers wrestle and letting the fans decide who gets over. The stars are young, athletic, dedicated and hungry. They may be green in some cases, but time solves that. They bust their asses, both in trying to get over and in trying to get their matches over. They have no special effects budget, so instead their special effects are great matches, and who wins and loses is presented as important, so the fans actually CARE. The promotion is a perfect fit for both HDNet's and MMA's audiences which are predominently males under 45. I believe as their TV exposure increases, and more fans are exposed to this style, ROH will grow. I am hoping that my experience in helping develop personalities and logical, long-term booking will help them maximize their potential. I had hoped to bring that perspective to TNA, but that is not the direction they want to go. ROH is much more interested in expanding on that more serious, athletic style.
Q.---What is your opinion on the WWE Hall of Fame and would you accept an induction?
A.---Not much and no. Obviously, they have not been beating my door down nor do I expect them to, but here's my feelings. It started as a WWF Hall of Fame just so they could have a dinner before Wrestlemania. Vince picked who he wanted to put in it, and only WWF stars or personnel made it, so you got James Dudley (Vince Sr.'s limo driver). Bruno Sammartino is still not in. Then, when Vince bought WCW, they changed it to a Hall of Fame for ALL wrestling, and Vince still picks who he wants in. If he's doing a big video release on you, or you were over in the city WM appears in, you're in. There's a quota of not too many dead people per year so it's not a downer. If he's mad at you, you're not in. If he doesn't know who you are, you're not in. Lou Thesz is not in. So seriously, even though there have been some genuinely great moments at the dinner, that was due to the talent themselves and not the prestige of Vince's HOF. There are certainly people in there that would be in any HOF, and some that wouldn't. Overall, I am prouder of both myself and both versions of the Midnight Express being in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, because in that one, you are actually VOTED in by people in and around the sport.
Q.---If you could have managed any tag team, past or present, instead of the Midnight Express, who would you have picked?
A.---That's WAAAY too broad. I would have salivated to have managed Jackie & Don Fargo on one of their MSG sellouts, or the Graham Brothers, or the Kangaroos, or even the Dirty Duseks in the 30's, but to pick one is tough. I would have to say I'm jealous of my friend Bobby Heenan getting to manage Nick Bockwinkle and Ray Stevens, two of the alltime greats, for much of the 70's, and getting to see all those great matches.