The 8-Ball 2.24.14: Top 8 Uses for Hulk Hogan
Posted by Mike Hammerlock on 02.24.2014
From standing up to the Authority and putting over Daniel Bryan to promoting the WWE Network, becoming a comedy act and more, 411's Mike Hammerlock looks at the top 8 potential ways WWE can use Hulk Hogan!
He's baaack. Vince McMahon's Faustian bargain, Hulk Hogan, will be gracing our television sets tonight. He might have made an appearance at Elimination Chamber as well, but I have no way of knowing that as I'm writing this. Hopefully not, because it could screw up my column this week. Anyway, the reason I call him a Faustian bargain is because while Hogan surely delivers an initial ratings bump and once upon a time he was the star talent who vaulted Vince McMahon to the top of the wrestling business, he also brings along a Hulk Hogan-sized ego. Good luck keeping that in check. Hogan at the Raw creative meeting: "Hunter, in my 5th segment, what I'd like to do is play Brodus Clay in a game of dominoes where if he wins I have to be his butler and if I win he has to disclose who the new secret members of the WWE Board of Directors are. When I win, Knobbs and Sags come out for the big reveal and we shoot promo on each other for 15 minutes."
For the record, I was never a Hogan fan. Long before there was an Internet where "workrate," "selling" and "storytelling" became buzzwords, Hogan's lack of workrate, no-selling and monotonous storytelling drove me nuts. Yet there's no arguing he got over huge. He was a flashy bunch of catchphrases, a sanitized Baby Boomer superman that could be spoon-fed to the Boomer's kids, a real life cartoon character. It didn't matter if he was vapid and predictable. All the cartoons in the ‘80s were vapid and predictable. A large segment of America in the ‘80s wanted vapid and predictable, and Hogan was their man.
The WWE got decent mileage out of Hogan in his 2002 return, but this time he won't be fighting. Oh, he'll surely weather a beatdown at some point, Hulk up and bury some poor guy who has been working in vain for years hoping to get over (I'm putting odds at 2-1 that it's Damien Sandow). Don't know if he'll be medically cleared to do a leg drop, but he's not going to wrestle regularly. Fake punches, running clotheslines and working around the edges of matches will comprise the bulk of Hogan's ring work. So, we're not going to see anything like the return of 12-time world champion Hulk Hogan. Then what are we going to see? Or what should we see? That's the task facing the Magic 8-Ball this week. How do you solve a problem like Hogan? He's a famous wrestler who can't wrestle anymore and he's got more baggage than a travelling circus. And having him mosey through Wrestlemania as some ambiguous host so fans can have a "Look, Hulk Hogan!" moment simply won't do.
8. Fight the Power
In the WWE universe Hogan is largely a face. On the WWE roster page Hogan is wearing yellow. It looks like he's coming back as straight up, say your prayers, eat your vitamins Hulk. How quickly that jumps from gleeful nostalgia to tired premise remains to be seen - more on that later. In the meantime Hogan probably will find himself getting involved with some bad guy who doesn't fight. It could be Zeb Colter, with Hogan insisting the Real Americans don't know anything about being real Americans. This is the most obvious foe, but it might not offer Hogan the marquee pop he craves. "Brother, I didn't come back to work with Jack Swagger." It could be Paul Heyman. Hogan does have some history with Brock Lesnar.
Yet the biggest, baddest target for Hogan to rail against is the Authority. One of the subplots working in the WWE right now is we're approaching a heavily stage-managed Wrestlemania. The Authority is moving everyone into the positions it desires and HHH and Steph are being pretty smug about things at the moment. Hogan could be chaos injection that shakes up their carefully laid plans. Maybe Batista's guaranteed main event isn't so guaranteed anymore. Maybe Hogan comes in, grabs some power and becomes the guy who starts giving the fans the fights they want to see instead of the ones that feel forced down their throats. Vince could fall either way on this: either taking up the role as the ultimate authority figure or perhaps teaming with Hogan after Trips and Steph make a power play that freezes out the pater familias, sort of a King Lear storyline.
7. Puppet Master
During most of the past two decades, Hulk Hogan has been a bad guy/authority figure. We certainly can question how much of the WWE fanbase knows or cares about that, but a lot of fans are going to be as wistful over Hollywood Hogan and his shock nWO heel turn as anything he did as the WWE's top face. Add in that his reputation in the industry has become that of a guy whom, if you hand him the keys to the car, he'll crash it. That means a chunk of the smarks in the audience are going to hold that against him. Hogan could be the string puller behind a new Randy Orton faction. Or maybe Roman Reigns decides he needs to leave behind the Shield and enlist a powerbroker like Hogan if he wants to take the next step. Hogan's never really betrayed the Hulkamaniacs while inside the WWE. He could be this year's big swerve.
6. John Cena's Best Buddy
If the thought of Hogan and Cena mugging together for the audience makes you vomit in your mouth a little bit, you're not alone. It's the most saccharin pairing imaginable. Hey everyone, it's the two biggest action figure sellers in WWE/F history. Now bark your approval like a pack of trained poodles. Hogan in Cena's corner at Wrestlemania feels like a given. It's not the worst idea in that, even if you hate those two, it at least keeps them isolated in the same segments and matches. You know exactly when to tidy up your sock drawer or make yourself a plate of nachos. On the plus side, working as a perceived legitimate threat to Cena with Hogan in his corner would give a good rub to some of the WWE's up-and-comers.
5. John Cena's Best Buddy (Darkside)
I do not expect Cena to pull a heel turn, ever. His heel turn to a degree has been not pulling a heel turn. If he actually went darkside, more people might actually start to like him. Yet Cena and Hogan could play it so over the top that fans quickly hit their "I'm sick of this" limit. They could openly refer to themselves as the two most popular WWE superstars in history. Cena, after failing in his three most recent attempts to gain the unified title (assuming he didn't win last night, which fell on the other side of my deadline) might be trying the not-the-least-bit-subtle move of leveraging a New Mega Powers faction to get his next set of seemingly unlimited chances to win the WWE title. The WWE has a large Joe Six-Pack audience. Two guys rubbing status and privilege in our faces will draw negative reactions in fairly short order. That might get the crowd unified in pouring some hatred down on them, more than if Cena tried to go heel by his lonesome. Plus, Cena could always fall back on the "Hogan made me do it" excuse to explain his actions. Cena-Hogan Darkside is a way more interesting plan than Cena-Hogan Buddies, even if it never will happen.
4. Age Without Dignity
Look at the way Hulk Hogan dresses and acts. Is that any way for a 60-year-old man to behave? At best he's a guy having a post-midlife crisis. The whole Ed Hardy look is sad enough on Batista, but on the spray-tanned and increasingly anachronistic Hogan, it's bathos. And Hogan ripping open his shirts to reveal a whole lot of flesh we don't want to see (especially after that sex tape incident) is a regrettable way for a man to enter the grandfatherly phase of his life. Hogan, quite visibly, doesn't seem to get that time continues to march on, or that he might need to march with it a little better. That makes for a great storyline: Hogan picking fights he can't get cleared to contest, pushing dated ideas, constantly living in the past. Wrestling is a business that lends itself to not aging gracefully. Check out Ric Flair, though at least he has the good sense to wear a suit.
3. The Madness of Hulk Hogan
Wrestling fans tend to view Hogan through the lenses of his various face/heel turns. Meanwhile the rest of the world views Hogan largely as a big, goofy novelty act. He's made a slew of terrible movies. He hams it up as a commercial actor, recently turning up in Radio Shack's Super Bowl ad. Check out the video above, Hulk Hogan is one wacky dude. You can argue that part of his success is that he's been willing to be a bit crazy. However, he's never played it as batshit insane. We already know Hogan won't be a major in-ring force in the WWE. We're trying to figure out what a non-fighting Hulk Hogan might mean in the WWE. That answer might be he fits best as a comedy act. You can't run a two- or three-hour show where every segment and match pretends to be the most consequential moment of an epic conflict. Someone has to break it up with some lighter fare and crazy Hulk Hogan could be a guy capable of delivering way better comedy than, say, diarrhea and vomit spots.
2. Mr. WWE Network
A lot of speculation about Hogan has been around how he'll interact with the current roster. Who is the WWE going to try to put over by having them work with Hogan? Maybe we've got it all wrong and Hogan isn't there to put over anyone. After all, what is the biggest thing the WWE has going at the moment? I think that's the WWE Network launch. As one of the two most famous WWE alums and the one with the least to do at the moment, Hogan could be a bridge between Raw/Smackdown and the network. Give Hogan his own show, or two. For instance, True Tales of Hulk Hogan, where Hulk and guests detail Hogan's colorful past. Maybe even given him a scripted show that plays off some of the above suggestions (crazy, anachronistic, darkside). Main thing is, use Hogan to drive viewers to the network. Do like the man in yellow spandex says.
1. Daniel Bryan's YES! Leader
The optimum ending for Wrestlemania is Daniel Bryan with two title belts over his shoulders leading a stadium full of people in a YES! chant. I don't know that we're going to get it, but Hogan would be a perfect fix to the rumored concern D-Bry doesn't move the ratings dial or sell enough tickets/merch. Hogan pulls in the casuals. Have the legendary superstar give the final rub to the goat-faced little indie wrestler who could. When Triple H is running down Bryan at some point tonight, have Hogan come out and proclaim the YES! Movement to be the biggest thing since Hulkamania, and that the Authority must be blind, deaf and dumb not to recognize it. A Wrestlemania finale between Daniel Bryan with Hogan in his corner and Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman in his corner would be as sweet as it gets. No idea how they necessarily get there, especially since I'm writing this before Elimination Chamber, but the optimal use for Hogan would be putting over Daniel Bryan as the unquestioned top star in the WWE. That would tie just about a perfect ribbon of 30 years of Wrestlemania history.
I take requests.. The purpose of this column is to look forward. What could be? What should be? What is and what should never be? What would make more sense? If there's someone or something you think should be given the 8-Ball treatment, mention it in the comments section. I might pick it up for future weeks.