With Hogan on board, the company has gotten the go-ahead to take a big step forward. This past Monday, Hogan and TNA announced that its weekly Impact! television show on Spike TV is moving from Thursdays to Monday nights beginning on March 8 and will be live every other week. The show will air from 9-11PM ET, directly opposite of WWE Raw on the USA Network which has dominated cable ratings for years.
Following the press conference on Monday, FanHouse spoke with Hogan about his new role with TNA, the expectations of Impact! moving to Monday night, working directly with the company's creative team and more.
Brian Fritz: You've been with TNA now for six weeks and the expectations jumped up a level or two once you came over here. Are you surprised that things have come together this quickly when it comes to getting on Monday nights?
Hulk Hogan: Yeah because I really don't know what I'm doing. (laughs) I've never really done this before and with me everything is by instinct and feel. I was just saying a second ago to someone else that it's actually taken me this long not to be overwhelmed because when I first came in here, everybody was going oh, they're not going to like you, the young guys are not going to accept you. This whole negative veil of tears was thrown at me that wasn't true. The company was very receptive; they gracefully accepted me with open arms. And then I got overwhelmed. There was so just so much good stuff going on but so many other little tweaks that kind of caught me off-guard 'cause I'm just a wrestler. I'm not someone who should be running a whole wrestling company. I know the feel for it. So it's taken me this long to actually get all four of my claws on the ground or four feet on the ground and I feel comfortable. Now, I'm really focusing. Some things just kind of work out naturally with a couple little tweaks. Now I'm really starting to get a feel for exactly how to focus on the women's division, on certain talent and how to make production, the things I know and are inherent from doing this so long that I always notice. When the hero shot is missing, the hard camera misses things, the physicalities aren't caught at the right time or shots are missed. I know all this stuff but now academically I have to lay it out ahead of time. So, it was overwhelming but now I got it. I'm trying brother -- I'm trying hard.
Yeah. Well, you have to realize -- barbarically speaking -- I used to lace my boots up, go out to the ring, make my money and go home if you can say it that way. Now, the network is asking for certain things and when things get successful you get input from people you never thought you would get input from that give you, kind of, suggestions that help you or almost kind of like demands of what they want that could not be what's best for wrestling creatively. And so all of a sudden, all these monsters are coming at me and I'm wondering how to politically, gracefully massage them and make them work because sometimes I ... I wear my feelings on my sleeve and I'm not real good at being political and graceful with finesse. I'm trying to get all that done because there's a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff. But I get it now.
How difficult is that job since you have to deal with a lot of personalities and different egos to appease but at the same time you want to do what is best for business? Someone has to be the boss and tell people no at different times.
Well, if you let the wrestling kind of run the show it would be chaos. It's not that difficult because the only thing I don't have a hard time with is looking at someone and telling them the truth. Over the years, I've told half-truths or I've avoided the truth. Now that I've learned after all these years, if you've got something to say, say it to somebody honestly and it either fixes it or moves it forward or it ends it. So whenever there is a situation like that, I just approach it that way and things are getting fixed really quickly around here on that creative level and ego level and all that stuff.
How tough do you think this battle will be on Monday nights especially right off the bat?
Because there are going to be expectations from not only TNA but fans and everyone.
Well, they're two different networks. They're apples and oranges. They're two completely different networks with two different themes and there's a huge buzz Dixie Carter and Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff who have done this before. And I don't want to repeat history. But we've done this before. In my mind, after being around the WWE and the Vince McMahon family creatively, I know what they've got. Before I got here, I was talking to them up until a week before I came here so I kind of understood what they were doing with their direction and the 'PG" and what they were doing with their superstars. Coming here, there's so much more meat on the bone. I think it's going to be -- you have to recondition and re-educate the audience. First off, there's the big move. A lot of people will go 'oh my God, I was tuning in on Thursdays, what happened here'. There's that little transition. It re-educating the audience. It's being very consistent and when you come to story telling, you know, and the arc and the confrontation, the drama and the excitement, you have to be very, very consistent. Basically, we can't have a bad segment or a bad show because we're proving our self now. This is a momentum-shifting move. Everybody goes 'hey, wait a minute' and they're going to watch us and we don't want to lose them. So we have to be very, very consistent but it's like Dixie said, we can't expect the first week to be competitive. It's a slow build, it's a slow burn but once you get to even ground, then the whole game changes. Once you get that first number where you beat your competition, then it's a game-changer. I understand that process, I've done it before. It took me six months to become the No. 1 wrestling company before [with World Championship Wrestling] and we were in the soundstage next door [at Universal Studios] and in six months we were out on the road and the whole wrestling business changed. The universe got bigger. From six-to-seven thousand people it got to 11 or 12 thousand people. Competition is good. It's good for everybody
You talk about TNA still adjusting right now and making tweaks. Are the biggest tweaks still creatively are making sure you're on the same page with everybody and you're going the direction you want?
(pauses) Yes. Yes. And I'm thinking as you're talking. Yes it is because that's what we can handle right now at the moment. This whole move to Monday and the business stuff -- Dixie and I were out in LA with Kevin Kay and Brian Diamond from Spike and there were talks about October and we all agreed that the timing and the strategy and what Hulk Hogan's net worth and the company's net worth after it had been seen for another five or six months compared to going right away. So, at this point, what we have control of, yes, creative is the most important. It really is. In my mind ... and I never think wrestling. I starting working part-time in the early 90's and really wasn't plugged in but now that I'm plugged in, my mind thinks wrestling as I'm eating or as I'm talking with my kids. So I'm guilty of that. Now that I'm thinking it, creatively we won't have any problems with new stuff or new ideas and really putting the icing on the cake. The main thing that I gotta tell these guys is you gotta be consistent. You can't leave things open ended. We've got a couple of open ended issues here creatively and before we came out here I just addressed those on tied those up. You have to be very consistent with the fans because they want to believe.
Are you happy with the way things are creatively with the people in place behind-the-scenes, especially Vince Russo because of the past between you and him?
Yeah. I love Vince Russo from a distance. Sometimes a leopard doesn't change his spots, you know? All those old clichés I could plug in but I come in peace. I think we've all grown. I think we all don't really live by knee-jerk reactions any more. And so far, everyone is holding their end up. As far as I'm concerned now that I'm running this thing with Dixie, everybody from the guy who sets the ring up to the guy who has the final say on the last hero shot when we go off the air, everybody has to prove themselves and everybody has to bring something to the table. And so far the writing staff -- Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara and Matt [Conway] -- these guys have really stepped up. They really have. And they're open. What I really like about them is when we get in these meetings some people are like 'I don't want to say that because you might think I'm crazy or it's embarrassing' but they talk. I love it when people just say what they think in the creative meetings if it's embarrassing or if it's a great idea or a bad idea. I'm really guilty because sometimes on the phone we'll be going over creative and they'll hit me with an idea and I just say what I feel. I still think like a wrestler when it comes to creative and I had no idea that Dixie was on the phone and Russo is on the phone and the writing staff is on the phone. I just thought it was me and Eric and he pitched an idea to me and I go 'that's the worst f'n idea I've ever heard in my life'. (laughs) And it was like Dixie's idea or Russo's or somebody else's and I didn't know they were on the phone. That's just me -- I'm honest. If it's good, it's good, if it doesn't work for me ... and I could be wrong. Maybe it was the greatest idea but I have to say what I think. The writing staff has been great.