In what was a pretty interesting series of comments on Twitter, Eric Bischoff came out swinging yesterday against reports there was heat on Hulk Hogan from TNA over the fact that Hogan will be appearing in the new WWE 2K14 videogame while working with TNA. In fact, according to Bischoff, there was no deal made for Hogan to appear in the game.
Bischoff wrote, "Interesting to read the "choir of idiots" suggesting that Hulk did a deal with 2K Sports. Illustrates just how ignorant these "experts" are And how these "experts" are attempting to frame a narrative to sell their b.s. There is no Hulk Hogan/2K Sports deal. WWE is simply utilizing tradmarks (sic)/assets they currently own in a repackaged video game. Nothing new. But that's not what the parasites and morons who run dirt sites want you to know."
Of course, WWE doesn't own the trademarks to Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan owned those rights and personally transferred them in 2010 to the "Hogan Holdings Limited Liability Company" during his divorce from his ex-wife Linda. In fact, their trademark of the term includes the following - "Prerecorded videotapes and DVD's featuring wrestling; sunglasses; computer game cassettes and cartridges and video game cartridges."
So, Hogan Holdings LLC (which Bischoff is well aware exists) are the official owners of the trademarks and assets. In fact, when WWE filed a lawsuit this past March in New Jersey, going against those who would attempt to bootleg and sell WWE merchandise over Wrestlemania weekend, they filed a long list of trademarks they were enforcing with the court. The name "Hulk Hogan" (nor any trademarks related to Hulk Hogan's persona) was not part of the 40 page list of WWE-associated trademarks.
Furthermore, some quick research notes that there are two live trademarks for the term Hulk Hogan - both controlled by the aforementioned Hogan Holdings LLC. All other trademark claims are dead, therefore WWE does not own any of them.
In his Twitter rant, Bischoff also stated that the WWE 2K14 videogame is a "repackaged" title. That would be incorrect as well and is like making a statement that every Madden football videogame that was ever released is a repackaging of the same football game. The idea that the WWE game is simply a repackaging, would also probably be news to everyone at 2K Sports, which acquired the game franchise earlier this year from THQ when that company went bankrupt. It would also be pretty surprising to the development and programming team that has been working on the game for well over a year. WWE 2K14 is a new, original game in a series, not a re-produced version of a previous game. Will it have elements of previous games? Sure, because the programmers build a game engine and then springboard off the existing engine to create the new game, which will feature new, updated features and gameplay. Re-packaged? Hardly.
Furthermore, Bischoff's statement would lead one to believe that Hulk Hogan did not sign off on the game including him. Like all the previous WWE games that have been released, the talents involved will all receive a royalty for their likeness and inclusion in the game. For talents under WWE contract, they are included by virtue of their WWE deals and receive an additional royalty payment for it. Hulk Hogan, who is not under a WWE deal, certainly would be paid as well. It's possible Hogan didn't sign a new deal with 2K Sports for the game (It may be he has signed something with THQ and 2K inherited the agreement when they purchased the WWE license assets from the bankruptcy court), but if Hogan's in the game (and he is), it's because 2K have the rights to license and use him. That wouldn't have happened unless Hogan or someone representing Hogan signed off on the deal....unless Bischoff would have us believing that 2K Sports and WWE are allowing themselves to be placed in a legally actionable position by adding Hogan without his consent or knowledge.
Public statements certainly appear to stand behind the idea that Hogan signed off on appearing in the game, however. In a recent interview promoting the upcoming WWE 2K14 video game, the game's Creative Director Cory Ledesma discussed bringing Hogan on board for the game while promoting the game's "30 Years of Wrestlemania" mode, commenting, "The first hurdle we had was Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan's not currently with the WWE. We knew that if we couldn't get Hulk Hogan, we weren't going to have a '30 Years of Wrestlemania' mode, it's just not possible. Hogan was involved in so many matches and so many moments, that he was critical to the game. We knew once we could overcome that hurdle, and Hulk Hogan was able to get into the game, we knew that it was going to be kind of downhill from there and we'd be able to secure a lot of the talent that might not be with WWE anymore."
Of course, if WWE and 2K were just using assets/trademarks that WWE owned on a "repackaged" video game, there would certainly have been no "hurdles" for the publisher to overcome, would there? That's not that Ledesma is saying here. What he's saying, in between the lines, is that a deal had to be made.
There are two ways of looking at all this. One, either WWE has forgotten they actually own the assets/trademarks related to Hulk Hogan and/or Corey Ledesma made up an entire story about 2K having to overcome a "hurdle" to get Hogan in the game....OR Bischoff was just throwing things out there to make noise and rip people for whatever reason. Controversy creates cash, as they say, but facts don't lie.
One thing that Bischoff did write is that there are stories there is heat on Hogan within TNA over the game. That may have been floated elsewhere, but PWInsider.com has never reported that. What we have reported is that Hogan being so high profile in a WWE game while working for TNA could conceivably hurt TNA as they hope to get a new videogame license of their own down the line. Common sense dictates that. There's no way you can say that Hogan being in the top pro wrestling game franchise couldn't hurt the viability of a TNA game. After all, his WWE game appearance would takes some of the uniqueness away from a potential new TNA game - he's their most well known, marketable personality to the average consumer.