Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff walk into a bar. Hulk Hogan puts a video camera really close to his face, orders a completely new direction for TNA Wrestling that will excite us and change the game forever. Bartender says, "we ran out of that." Hogan says, "OK, then let me use your computer to check my Twitter."
The aging legend, who I feel I should clearly identify as a legitimate pop culture icon who has contributed as much to the wrestling business as anyone could, posted a new video blog talking about the changes he has in mind for TNA storylines, saying the promotion is about to "get real" by eliminating "fake" characters and storylines.
"I guess you could call this the final warning to the weak, the frail, the faint of heart," he said. "TNA is for real. It's going to get more real as we move along in the coming weeks. We're not going to be like wrestling used to be with a bunch of fake-ass wrestlers and fake storylines. We're going to start shooting. This is about drawing money. And if you don't draw money, you don't belong here. We're going to blow the roof off this place. We're going to do in TNA what should have been done all along. We're going to make it interesting. We're going to make it real interesting."
A couple of notes on Hogan's comments.
Number one, if a more realistic TNA is about drawing money, what have the last ten months of a Hogan and Bischoff-run TNA been about?
Number two, Hogan's promise of a "real" TNA without fake characters and storylines is probably not going to lead to a BattleARTS style promotion where the outcomes are predetermined but everyone is hitting each other for real. I doubt that Hogan's definition of "real" is shared by ... well, by anyone else in the world. In the past, promises of mature, compelling stories have resulted in a magnification of the sensationalist garbage TNA has been ruining itself with since its inception -- kidnappings, interoffice squabbling, and people getting gutted off-camera by a board with a bunch of nails in it.
Going "everything we've done up until now has been terrible, but wait until you see this" is not a way to make me think what you've been doing is good. You are telling me that you are fake, terrible and not worth my time. And I should tune in because?
Just put on a show that makes sense. For God's sake.
The "realism" a wrestling fan craves is cohesion. Continuity. They want to know who the players are, what they can do, and what they are doing from week to week. How can this many rich people who have spent their entire lives in pro wrestling not know how pro wrestling TV is supposed to work? This is Vince McMahon's secret. Not his money, not his talent, not his connections or his timing. It's the promise that if I see Daniel Bryan this week, I can see the same Daniel Bryan next week.
It doesn't have to change the game. You can make money if you just start making sense.
The first wrestling boom period came when realism went away. Promoters starting working matches, shortening them and determining their outcomes, and the fans were there. The second boom came when wrestling hit it big on television, and you could turn in to see a blond guy in an elaborate robe yelling about how great he is into a microphone. His name was Gorgeous George. They weren't tuning in to see George Wagner, mat technician.
This very man posting Twitter videos was responsible for the biggest boom ever, wherein he body slammed a gigantic Frenchman in a caveman singlet so hard that the fault lines broke and Donald Trump almost drowned. He was befriended by the Junkyard Dog and Hillbilly Jim. He wrestled guys named the Iron Sheik and Yokozuna.
This very man was around for the boom of the 1990s, wherein he called himself "Hollywood," wrestled with Dennis Rodman, and spent a year antagonizing a guy dressed like the Crow who lived in the arena rafters. On the other channel, a wrestling pimp was teaming with a wrestling porn star to face a bunch of guys who rode around on a tank and pointed to their crotch.
Realism is overrated. Wrestling is fake, and it is fine that way. MMA is real (at least as real as we want it to be), and it has an intersecting audience. The line of real versus fake has been around since pro wrestling, and it will be there throughout pro wrestling's existence. The line is not the problem. If I could have confidence I would say go for it, you know what you're doing, you're Hulk Hogan, you're the king of this business.
I would have that confidence if you ever -- or even could -- make sense.
Pick a direction and stick with it. Even if that direction is bad. Just stick with it and let me know we're still headed in that direction two months from now.