It's been well-documented over the past few weeks that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff are most likely finished with TNA Impact Wrestling. Initial reports indicated that Hogan might end up returning to TNA, but as of right now, it appears as though Hogan might actually be preparing to return home to WWE. As for Bischoff, it's been reported that he will be paid for the remainder of his TNA contract which is rumored to expire some time in early 2014.
The general consensus is that the Hogan-Bischoff regime in TNA was a failure. The past year or so has been especially rough for the company. Not only have their television ratings slightly decreased, but it was heavily reported that the company might be in dire straits financially, maybe even to the point where the Carter Family might be looking to sell the company. So what exactly went wrong? Why was the Hogan-Bischoff regime a failure for TNA? As always, it's probably best to start from the beginning.
It was announced in October of 2009 that TNA Wrestling had acquired the biggest Superstar in wrestling history: "The Immortal" Hulk Hogan. Along with Hogan, TNA also signed Hogan's good friend and longtime business partner, Eric Bischoff, a legendary figure in wrestling in his own right.
From a television standpoint, it seemed as though Hulk Hogan might finally be the one who could help improve TNA's weekly television ratings on their Impact program. From a business standpoint, many fans had often wondered what it would be like if TNA brought in Eric Bischoff to help run things backstage. After all, Bischoff has more than 20 years of experience in the wrestling business, and he was considered to be one of the driving forces behind the epic rise of World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s. Longtime fans have fond memories of the legendary and infamous "Monday Night War" between Vince McMahon/WWE and Eric Bischoff and Ted Turner/WCW.
Hogan and Bischoff officially arrived in TNA on Monday, January 4th, 2010. This night goes down as a historic night in wrestling history, as it marked the start of a new, short-lived "Monday Night War" between TNA and WWE. On this night, WWE Monday Night Raw centered around the return of Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who hadn't appeared before a live WWE audience since 1997, with the exception of his 2006 WWE Hall of Fame induction. Meanwhile, TNA's first-ever Monday Night Impact saw the debuts/returns of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, as well as "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Jeff Hardy, Shannon Moore, Orlando Jordan, Sean Morley, The Nasty Boys Brian Knobs & Jerry Sags, and nWo Wolfpack members Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Sean "Syxx-Pac" Waltman. This star-studded and compelling episode of TNA Impact drew a surprisingly high rating of almost a 3.0, which was a number that very few, if any, expected them to get. WWE's Monday Night Raw program also drew a monstrous rating of nearly a 5.0. This meant that in total, pro wrestling scored nearly an 8.0 in the television ratings on Monday, January 4th, 2010. These were numbers that hadn't been seen since the "Monday Night War" between WWE and WCW back in the 90s.
When Hogan and Bischoff first arrived in TNA it really seemed as though they were taking the company to a whole new level. Between all the big-name stars they brought with them, as well as the compelling storylines that were being presented, it appeared as though Hogan and Bischoff were going to take TNA to places they had always hoped to reach. For the first few months, TNA attempted to continue the new Monday Night War against WWE, but they soon realized that it would be best to return to their Thursday night timeslot.
TNA seemed to continue a wave of momentum until about mid-way through the year. The summer of 2010 saw TNA "go to the Extreme," as they brought in a number of Extreme Championship Wrestling alumni under the name of Extreme Violence 2.0, or EV2 for short. It was heavily rumored that EV2 would be revealed as the mystery people who were controlling longtime TNA wrestler "The Monster" Abyss. In August of 2010, TNA hosted an ECW-themed show called HardCORE Justice, which was a renamed version of their annual Hard Justice pay-per-view. The following week on Impact, the ECW alumni were attacked by Ric Flair's Fortune stable, which consisted of TNA Originals such as A.J. Styles, Frankie Kazarian, James Storm, and Bobby Roode. All the while, fans continued to wonder who was this mysterious "They" of whom Abyss spoke.
At the 2010 Bound For Glory pay-per-view, it was revealed that "The Monster" Abyss was taking his orders from Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Hardy, and TNA Founder Jeff Jarrett, who would be collectively known as Immortal. Hogan and Bischoff's Immortal faction would soon unite with Ric Flair's Fortune faction as one mega heel stable. As 2010 came to a close, the Immortal-Fortune group dominated TNA with an iron fist, with Jeff Hardy leading the charge as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion and referring to himself as "The Antichrist of Professional Wrestling."
Looking back, 2010 was definitely a turning point for TNA. They brought in a ton of big-name stars, their storylines went in a whole new direction, and they also presented a new reality-style program called Reaction that immediately followed Impact every week. It seemed as though 2011 would end up being another huge year for the company. 2011 was an important year, but not for good reasons.
In the early part of 2011, TNA was teasing that a force was coming to feud with the Immortal-Fortune faction. It was heavily reported that this was going to be the return of the Main Event Mafia stable that dominated TNA in 2009. The original M.E.M. consisted of "The Icon" Sting, the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash, Booker T, and "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner. While Steiner did end up making his return to TNA to battle Immortal and Fortune, Kevin Nash and Booker T both ended up signing with WWE and making their WWE returns at the 2011 Royal Rumble, thus leaving TNA without the Main Event Mafia. This was the first critical blow to TNA in 2011, as it was quite obvious that they were building up for the return of the M.E.M. Their backup plan ended up being Fortune breaking away from Immortal, although many fans felt that this was a spur-of-the-moment reaction to not being able to reform the Mafia.
Fans criticized TNA for hyping up a storyline that hinted at the return of talents who were apparently not even signed to TNA deals. Quite simply, TNA was left with the proverbial "egg on their faces" when Kevin Nash and Booker T signed with WWE. But this was not the only blow that TNA would suffer in 2011.
At the Victory Road pay-per-view in March of 2011, a disastrous situation occurred in the main event of the night, which was set to be a TNA World Heavyweight Title match between Jeff Hardy and "The Icon" Sting. However, Hardy, who is known to have a long history of substance abuse problems, reportedly showed up for the event in a state that rendered him unfit to perform. Rather than replace Hardy, the decision was made to simply have Hardy lose an extremely short match to Sting. The match itself lasted less than a minute and a half from bell-to-bell.
Both Jeff Hardy and TNA as a company came under heavy scrutiny as a result of the Victory Road debacle. And unfortunately, between the Main Event Mafia failure and the Victory Road situation, TNA just seemed to flounder throughout the rest of 2011.
Another notable part of 2011 was TNA's attempt to revitalize the X Division. They brought in both new and former X Division stars such as Austin Aries, Kid Kash, Jesse Sorensen, Zema Ion, Mark Haskins, and Anthony Nese. This attempt also ended up being mostly a failure.
Heading towards the end of 2011, TNA's first-ever Bound For Glory Series concluded with Bobby Roode earning a shot at Kurt Angle's TNA World Heavyweight Championship at the October 2011 Bound For Glory pay-per-view. Many fans hoped to see Roode, the babyface at the time, get a clean win over the legendary Kurt Angle and rise to stardom as the new top babyface star in TNA. However, this did not come to fruition, as TNA officials decided that it would be better to have Kurt Angle go over on Roode on that night, only to lose the Title to Roode's Beer Money Inc. tag team partner James Storm the following week on Impact. Subsequently, Roode would then turn heel on his partner Storm the next week and finally capture the World Heavyweight Championship.
TNA made a lot of questionable decisions throughout 2011. Quite frankly, 2011 may have been the year that TNA dug themselves into the hole that they're still in now. And it's a hole that they may not be able to get out of.
2012 is best remembered for two things: The debut of the Aces & Eights faction and the Claire Lynch storyline with A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and TNA President Dixie Carter. 2012 was also the debut of TNA's "Gut Check" segments which have since been discontinued.
All that can really be said about the Claire Lynch storyline is that it resulted in TNA taking A.J. Styles into yet another downward spiral. While some fans have enjoyed his new darker persona, this storyline did seem to make Styles, a legendary figure in TNA's history, look... downright pathetic.
Fans have had mixed reactions to the Aces & Eights faction in TNA. Some have criticized it for being a rip-off of the television program Sons of Anarchy. Others have enjoyed the performances of Bully Ray, Devon, and the other past and present Aces & Eights members. Overall, for various reasons, TNA's Aces & Eights storyline has been met with mixed reviews.
And so here we are now in late 2013. What have we seen in 2013? We've seen the heels continue to dominate the company. We've seen the departures of Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Devon Dudley, Brooke Hogan, Jesse Sorensen, D.O.C., Tara, Madison Rayne, Mickie James, SoCal Val, and others. We've seen Chris Sabin return from injury and defeat Bully Ray for the World Heavyweight Title, only to have an absolutely meaningless Title reign that has already been quickly forgotten. And we've seen the likes of Tito Ortiz, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and now the return of Adam "Pacman" Jones. We've also seen TNA President Dixie Carter transform into a heel character.
Has 2013 been a good year for TNA? You be the judge.
But let's get back to the main point of this article, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Where did they go wrong? Why did they seem to create an electric atmosphere when they first debuted, only to have that spark die out?
If you go back and look at everything, it would appear as though 2011 was the year that really killed whatever momentum had been built up in 2010. TNA never recovered from the disastrous year that was 2011. Ever since 2011, TNA has continued to make decisions that have made fans scratch their heads in confusion, to say the very least.
The one question that seems hard to answer though is this: How much can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for all of this? The problem is that there have always been conflicting reports about how much power Hogan and Bischoff really had, as well as exactly what ideas and what decisions they came up with.
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for the sad state of the X Division?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for the Gut Check failure?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed all the nonsensical booking we've seen, especially over the past year or so?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for the 2011 M.E.M. failure and the 2011 Victory Road debacle?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for TNA trying to take their show on the road and get away from their Orlando, Florida crowd, which had been so boring and bland for years?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for TNA employees reportedly being paid late?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for TNA's decrease in television ratings?
Can Hogan and Bischoff be blamed for TNA's alleged financial troubles?
How much can Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff really be blamed for in TNA? Let's not forget that they weren't running the company by themselves. There was also TNA President Dixie Carter and the rest of the creative team and other backstage officials. How much of it can really be pinned on Hogan and Bischoff? How much power did they have exactly? What ideas were theirs?
It could be that everything was mostly their fault. However, it could be that TNA would actually be in a better situation right now if Hogan and Bischoff had been given complete control over the company. Again, it all goes back to the conflicting internet reports. Nobody seems to know exactly how much power Hogan and Bischoff really had in TNA. It seems certain that they were both key members of the creative team, and Bischoff was reportedly a top liaison between TNA and Spike TV. But were they really working pretty much by themselves? Did Hogan and Bischoff have more influence than even Dixie Carter? Was Bischoff really the link between TNA and Spike TV, even more so than Dixie Carter?
Where exactly did Hogan and Bischoff go wrong, or was it really them who went wrong? Was 2011 the year that ruined the company? Can TNA ever recover from the situation they seem to be in? What will be the future of the company? How much longer will TNA even be in business?