If the goal of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling was to make Jay Leno’s 1998 wrestling venture look like a Ric Flair versus Ricky Steamboat classic, then the producers succeeded.
Hulk Hogan’s latest venture into professional wrestling — and reality TV — came with a supporting team of friends. Eric Bischoff, Jimmy Hart, Brutus Beefcake and Brian Knobs joined Hogan for the debut of the show on CMT Saturday night. And with most of them needing the money, they agreed.
The show is about training celebrities with the hopes of transforming them into professional wrestlers.
What was the first indicator that this would be a problem? Cast member Danny Bonaduce. Anyone who has seen this guy on endless reality shows knows that he is someone with serious anger issues. This, of course, makes for terrific television and great ratings.
Any venture into wrestling by celebrities has seemingly always turned horrible. Besides the Leno debacle, how about David Arquette? Insane Clown Posse? Master P?
One of the other participants, former NBA star Dennis Rodman, may be one of the few exceptions over the years, but most of that has to do with his natural athletic background. Rodman made two infamous appearances in the ring for WCW in 1997 and 1998. But this show is more than just wrestling. It is also about the drama that erupts when someone cannot keep up in the ring (and when Bonaduce is involved).
Although the word celebrity is used loosely, the names appearing, for the most part, were reasonable facsimiles of well-known names sometime in the last 40 years (yes, 40 years). Actor Todd Bridges, boxer ButterBean, actress Nikki Ziering, singer Tiffany, actor Frank Stallone, Rodman, actor Dustin Diamond, reality star Trishelle Cannatella, actress Erin Murphy and actor and radio personality Bonaduce took to the ring in hopes of being the grand champion.
The show, like most reality shows, features a weekly elimination. Here’s the premise: The stars are broken up into teams, where they are trained to perform three moves (per show); Knobs and Beefcake are the head trainers for each team. The first show featured a kick to the gut, a clothesline and forearm to the back as the three moves. Competitors then perform a match in front of a live crowd using the moves; in theory, as more moves are learned, the matches become more realistic. Bischoff, Hogan and Hart pass judgment, with the weakest performer sent packing.
“Get out of my ring, you jabroni,” Hogan tells the weekly loser. Next, Scott Hall comes out and does a crotch chop. Following that, Terry Funk announces his retirement. Okay, maybe not, but the saying by Hogan is real.
One match featured Beefcake’s trainees Butterbean and Cannatella (the faces) facing Tiffany and Bonaduce with Bridges as manager (the heels). The match was sloppy, of course, but featured a surprising end when the losing heels jumping their opponents. Butterbean was over with the crowd, and the whole match was based around his size, which was the easy answer, but worked.
The second match saw Knobs’ team of Diamond and Stallone with Ziering as the manager (the heels) take on Rodman and Murphy (the faces). Rodman’s odd buddies Hogan and Bischoff seemed impressed by Rodman’s ability, but one can definitely tell it’s no longer 1997. Diamond took most of the abuse, with Murphy surprising, impressing both the live crowd and the TV audience, when she said she had six children. The faces went over in the match as well.
Insane Clown Posse? Nope, these guys are not that good. Remember when you complained when the Posse was wrestling in WCW? Well, you wish you had taped those matches so you can play them during this show. Like the Posse, Dustin Diamond, whom the world knew as Screech on Saved by the Bell, seemed to benefit just by being a fan of wrestling. He even admitted to having a Hulkamania shirt in the 1980s. A diehard fan would definitely have an advantage of those who casually or never watch (which is probably everyone besides Diamond). Diamond even did some wrestling a few years back, including angles in Memphis and for TNA.
The show is really hurt (okay, more than the rest) by the commentary of Bubba the Love Sponge. Sponge is best known as a radio personality on Sirius radio. With about 10 percent the skills of Mark Madden, Bubba is just painful to listen to. He is no doubt a fan, but he is more suited for radio. And if anyone wonders how he got the job, well, he chose Hogan to be his best man at his wedding last year. But to be fair, it seems Bubba was reading off a script, and may not be responsible for what was being said. It would have been better suited for the judges to comment on what is going on, what is good and what is bad. But the judges are only heard a few times during the match.
The crowd seems excited throughout the two matches. It’s not a large crowd, maybe the same size of a Tampa Bay Rays home game (under 1,000), but they were clearly told whom to cheer and whom to boo. And to assist, the show used piped in crowd noise to make it seem like it was taped inside Madison Square Garden.
Still confused? The show takes all the typical reality rules and mixes it with professional wrestling:
Are there two teams? Check.
Are there weekly eliminations? Check.
Are there judges? Check.
Is there a grand winner? Check.
Does someone quit early? None yet, but it’s only been one show.
Is there a lot of yelling in faces? Check.
Is there crying? Check.
Is there at least one hot girl? Check.
Does Bonaduce have psycho eyes? Check.
Since most of the first show was setting up the premise, not much drama was shown. But previews of upcoming shows should bring lots of real fighting, instead of that fake rasslin’ stuff. The first show is always hard to base much off of because a lot of the hour was used for introduction. With future shows, it is expected that most of the show will be based around the training.
The show is not a wrestling show. If they try to base the show around wrestling, it will suffer. If they find the drama, and build shows around that drama, mix in a little wrestling, and then it has a chance. The wrestling is poor and makes Lex Luger cringe to watch.
And if you start to fall asleep while watching it, no worries, right after are two classy reality shows, My Big Redneck Wedding and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.
- Mar. 3, 2009: Actor Todd Bridges makes a good showing in pro debut
- Oct. 31, 2008: Fighting, not reality TV, comes easy to Butterbean
- Oct. 24, 2008: Murphy bewitched by Hogan’s wrestling show
- Oct. 18, 2008: Reality ‘n’ wrestling collide in new Hulk Hogan reality show