The names Hogan and Flair have been inextricably linked in the wrestling business for years – whether that be as the main men in 80s era World Wrestling Federation and Jim Crockett Promotions respectively to the latterday geriatric double act which more often than not sees Ric Flair as Hogan’s opponent of choice when he needs someone to look good (and make him look good) as the Hulkamania juggernaut rumbles on – that it’s faintly curious that yesterday saw the names Hogan and Flair flash across wrestling news sites once again, as we heard “Flair to WWE!” and “TNA sign Hogan!” news. However, we’re talking Ashley Flair and Brooke Hogan – so let’s not get overexcited. Here’s what we know…

We brought you word in the Roundup a couple of weeks ago that Ric Flair’s daughter Ashley was training in Charlotte, NC for pro-wrestling. An accomplished volleyball player in high school, Ashley has been working as a personal trainer before deciding to take up the “family business”, and has apparently being signed to a developmental deal based entirely on her surname (there’s a lot of that in wrestling). What is interesting is the fact that Ashley has opted to sign up with WWE and relocate to Florida to train at FCW rather than sign with TNA and learn her craft in OVW in Louisville. Interesting also that it comes at a time when nobody is quite sure what’s up with Ric himself. He no-showed some advertised TNA house shows last weekend in Louisiana and took no part in this past week’s TV tapings – but both sides are staying quiet as to exactly what is going on. This coming less than two months after Flair appeared on WWE TV and was inducted into their Hall of Fame for the second time? It’s circumstantial at best, but certainly makes Ashley’s choice interesting.

As far as Brooke is concerned, news came out yesterday confirming what had first come to public attention during one of Scott Steiner‘s (many and regular) multi-tweet rants on twitter, where he alleged that TNA had signed Hulk Hogan’s “no talent daughter” and indicated that the locker room was unhappy at this. Several hours after Brooke shot back at Steiner on twitter, calling him a “toddler”, showbiz website TMZ revealed that the signing was legitimate, and that “Brooke’s duties will help up and coming she-wrestlers develop their characters, help with backstage promos and even consult on entrance music.”, while the Wrestling Observer specifies that she will essentially play the same onscreen role as Karen Jarrett – the head of the Knockout Division. Dixie Carter is quoted in the TMZ article as saying “Brooke is such a great talent who’s really sharp and will make a great addition to the TNA family.”. I’m glad she thinks so – but the fact remains that stepping into Karen Jarrett’s shoes as a performer won’t be easy. Brooke may have lived much of her life for the last few years in a media glare, but that doesn’t make her anywhere near the flat-out natural that Karen Jarrett ended up being. The law of diminishing returns suggests that Brooke will be hard pressed to be anything other than a less charismatic Karen – and given that TNA have at least half a dozen “authority” type figures, her role is hardly going to come across as unique. There are a number of intriguing (and worrying) questions regarding Brooke’s future with TNA beyond being overshadowed by Karen Jarrett… namely, what power will she actually wield backstage? And whether TNA will be able to help themselves from putting Brooke in the ring.

To be absolutely fair to her, Brooke has always suggested that she has no interest in actually grappling. When asked on twitter last month whether she had any interest in joining the Knockouts division, she tweeted back “Knockout division? I’m about 2 feet taller than all em. It just wouldn’t be fair lol.”, while back in 2009, Brooke spoke to The Sun where she shared the following…

“The WWE have told me that if I ever want to become a wrestler all I need to do is walk through the door and they’ll give me a job straight away. “They are always like, ‘Hey Brooke when are you gonna put on some spandex and get in the ring“?’ But it’s just not my interest. I’m more of a girly girl. I would be good at it though, I would really kick ass at it — because I’m really strong and my dad’s trained me up since I was 12-years-old.”

All that being said, I just have a gut feeling that TNA won’t be able to resist putting the Knockouts Title around the waist of someone they perceive as a mainstream star. I sincerely hope to be proved wrong. It’s worth noting today that we’ve seen some pseudo-feedback to the Brooke Hogan/TNA signing from a couple of former Knockouts. This may (or may not) be indicative of the feeling of the locker room, but if what Scott Steiner is indicating, it may well be. Nikki Roxx (the former Roxxi) mischievously retweeted numerous critical tweets on Brooke’s signing, while Becky Bayless (the former Cookie) responded to a tweet asking for her opinion on Brooke’s signing by replying “…it’s unfortunate for me that my dad’s an engineer!” – while from the wider wrestling world, Dragon Gate USA/EVOLVE promoter Gabe Sapolsky weighed in with “It’s hard enough for a woman wrestler to get respect & good place to work. What a slap in face Brooke Hogan’s new role is #SaraDelRey”

But while Hogan has walked onto a national TV show in a spotlighted role (she is at present scheduled to debut on the first of the new live editions of Impact on May 31st), Ashley Flair has cashed in what seems to be her equivalent of WWE’s standing offer to Brooke by signing on the dotted line for developmental, and at least seems to be interested in learning the business from the ground up when she reports to FCW this Summer. You’d think the fruit of Ric Flair’s loins would genetically be in good shape for the wrestling business… but by way of argument I present to you David Flair. David, bless him, did little but look lost and gormless in latter day WCW, proving years before Lacey Von Erich stunk up our collective TV screens that wrestling talent isn’t necessarily hereditary. Even Reid Flair, who was supposed to be Ric’s personally trained heir apparent – has apparently dropped off the face of the earth. It’s going to be a long road for Ashley, and there’s a certain school of thought which suggests that for every door opened thanks to her surname, the expectation bar is raised just a little bit higher. While it’s hard not to think of those women on the indy circuit who would love a WWE developmental contract and who aren’t blessed with the right father, I wish her all the best.

And so… will we ever get to see the distaff version of Hogan vs Flair in a few years? Don’t count on it – but at least it’s nice to be able to mention Ric Flair on a women’s wrestling website without referencing his run-in at WCW Uncensored 1995 dressed as a woman. Oh…

– Stew Allen