Note: This article contains spoilers for next week's episode of Impact.
Last night in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the biweekly TNA Impact Wrestling tapings, an angle was shot seemingly to explain Hulk Hogan potentially departing the company, as his contract expires this Tuesday.
It started with an angle that aired last night, where Hogan re-signed number one contender A.J. styles since he's "working without a contract." Newly minted heel and TNA President Dixie Carter, who's feuding with Styles, tore up the contract and gave Hogan an ultimatum: Join "Team Dixie" or leave TNA.
On the show that airs next Thursday, two days after Hogan's current deal is up, Carter literally gets on her knees and begs him to stay, but he walks out. The taping ends with her throwing a tantrum in the middle of the ring.
In a subscribers-only post at F4WOnline.com, Dave Meltzer was able to chime in with more detail on the reality behind the storyline. TNA is in, as he puts it, "obvious financial disarray," with payments to both talent and office employees being chronically late, and even the main eventers were "well behind at different points." While Hogan could very well be re-signing and this could be nothing more than an angle playing off fans knowing his contract is about to expire (especially since he was a babyface in walking out), it could also be there to explain his absence if he leaves for good or is gone while negotiating a new deal.
The reasons for and against TNA re-signing Hogan go something like this:
Pros: If Panda Energy were to try to sell the company, having Hogan under contract makes them more appealing, especially for potential licensing deals.
Cons: The company is bleeding money worse than ever thanks to the move to taping on the road instead of at Universal Studios and Hogan hasn't moved business at all. He's not worth a reported (by Meltzer, h/t WrestlingInc.com) $35,000 per appearance in any tangible way.
Right now, it doesn't look like the company has any suitors. In a perfect world, Viacom, owners of SpikeTV, which broadcasts Impact in the United States, would buy the company. They bought Bellator MMA, and TNA delivers better ratings with ridiculous consistency, even on holidays and with major competition. Even with the low rates that advertisers pay for pro wrestling, TNA boosts Spike's average prime time rating in a big way.
Unfortunately for TNA, there's no indication Viacom is looking to buy the company. Meltzer mentioned that some people in the wrestling business trying to get investors, but that's about it.
As for Hogan, it likely comes down to if he'd be willing to stay for less money. In 2013, it seems unlikely WWE would have any interest in paying that much money for Hogan. I'm sure they would like to have him under contract in some form, but if he can't wrestle he's not worth it for them to pay anything close to what TNA is paying him. From his side, though, he likely still needs to work since so much of his fortune was tied up by his divorce and the settlement with the family of John Graziano.
In the past, Hogan played companies against each other to extremes nobody else has ever come close to in wrestling. After a one-off appearance for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2003, he shot an angle with Jeff Jarrett that TNA aired for months to set up what would be their biggest pay-per-view event to date. The show was repeatedly delayed due to injuries sustained by Hogan, and it was close to a year before TNA gave up the ghost. A few months after that, Hogan's return to WWE was announced.
Now, he doesn't have anything close to that much leverage. He has no value to New Japan in its current form, even for occasional appearances. He wouldn't be able to get what he wants from the major Mexican promoters and there are no major European offices right now. Maybe Hogan and TNA will end up compromising, with Hogan kept on with a pay cut as a much more occasional performer, the type of "in-house legend" WWE has a bunch of. That way, he'd still be available if TNA found a buyer. It makes the most sense to me.
Or they'll just re-sign him at the same rate because they're TNA and they do stuff like that even though it goes against all sane human logic. I'd rather not be so negative, though.