A few hours before TNA “Impact Wrestling” went live, the excitement mounted — adrenaline rushing, butterflies fluttering and hearts pumping. It was a good vibe.
While the crew and wrestlers readied for the epic night ahead, Hulk Hogan stood calmly in a spacious production set area situated across from the Universal Studios Orlando soundstage that houses Impact Wrestling.
If anyone is accustomed to ‘the feel’ on game day, it’s the Hulkster. He’s worked top shows around the world, many as a headliner. Now he’s helping shine the spotlight on others striving for that main event status.
So in his newer role for TNA what was Hogan doing there to prepare for this one?
He was giving back — signing autographs and posing for photos with fans at a pre-show meet-n-greet.
Old school fans and younger ones gladly met Hogan who flexed the pythons for them, with them.
• One fan carried a huge replica championship belt eager for Hulk’s John Hancock on it.
• A young lad accompanied his parents — dad an old school Hulk-A-Maniac.
• Someone traveled a few hours from Jacksonville Beach to meet him.
• A longtime fan recalls all the big matches he attended throughout Florida involving Hogan — naming them all from the Hulk-A-Mania days to Hollywood.
• A former Michigan resident now living in Orlando compared watching Hogan from afar (very far in the upper levels) at the massive Joe Louis Arena to now, seeing him up-close, larger than life, in the intimate setting of Universal Studios Orlando.
• At the back of the line, a fan waited patiently, holding personal photos for Hogan to sign and see. The young man’s mission: thanking the Hulkster for taking time (in the past) to spend time and take photos with his brother who battled cancer.
That meant a lot to him and his family.
Hogan has touched the lives of many throughout his career, and he continues to do so — something overlooked by some, the same ones who misinterpret the objective of his on-air and behind the scenes roles with TNA.
“I get very defensive when I hear people saying, ‘Hulk Hogan is there to take a paycheck. He is there to take television time,’” TNA President Dixie Carter said in a conference call. “If he has been off TV for five months, people will still say that. I have to tell you when I’m in a meeting, we are planning the show, and I hear him talk so passionately.
“He is not paid to be there, but he sits in on these meetings. He works with the talent and tries to make them better. He is trying to make our show better. When I see him so passionate, I am honored. He works for me, but I feel honored to sit in on these meetings. Why can’t other people see this side of him?
“We all know his character. It has been around for decades. What I get to see is what I think is so evolutionary in what we view wrestling.
“As it relates to Hulk Hogan directly, I think it is going to be a big part of the legacy he leaves for this business. Not what he did for himself, but what he did for others.”
Wrestlers and fans.
• Miami Herald wrestling writer Scott Fishman contributed to this article.
• TNA celebrates its 10th anniversary with the Slammiversary pay-per-view, presented by Direct Auto Insurance, on Sunday, June 10 at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas.
Tickets are on sale starting at $10. Visit http://www.UTACollegePark.com, The College Park Arena box office or charge by phone at 817-272-9595.
• Provided are some YouTube links of the Hulk Hogan meet-n-greet for TNA at Universal Studios Orlando.
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