Legends of Wrestling: Hulk Hogan
Long before he rose to prominence, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan arrived in the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation) in 1979. He dubbed himself “The Hulk” after the Marvel Comics character – without permission – and was given the surname “Hogan” by Vincent J. McMahon. Hogan was managed by “Classy” Freddy Blassie and competed in several matches against his greatest foe, “The Eighth Wonder of the World” Andre the Giant. Hogan was unceremoniously released from the promotion in 1981 when he was cast in the film “Rocky III” because Vincent J. McMahon did not want any of his wrestlers to double as actors. Hogan then moved on to Verne Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) where “Hulkamania” was born thanks in large to his appearance in “Rocky III.” Gagne – not unlike Vincent J. McMahon – was a wrestling traditionalist and reluctant to showcase Hogan as his World Heavyweight Champion. Hogan defeated reigning AWA Champion, Nick Bockwinkel, who was managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, on at least two occasions, but the decisions were reversed both times due to the behind the scenes financial disputes between Hogan and Gagne.
History was made when Vincent K. McMahon purchased his father’s promotion, which was now known as the WWF (World Wrestling Federation). Vince Jr. saw the potential which The Hulkster possessed and resigned him in late 1983. It did not take long for Hogan to reach the zenith as he defeated The Iron Sheik for the WWF Championship on January 23, 1984. Over the next several years, the WWF went from a mere regional promotion to a national promotion to a global phenomenon. This expansion was known as “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” and Hulk Hogan was its figurehead.
1985 was especially a landmark year for both Hulk Hogan and the WWF. First, Hogan defended his championship against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at MTV’s War to Settle the Score in a match that ended in a No Contest and setup the main event of WrestleMania. Hogan teamed with “Rocky III” costar Mr. T in a match against Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Boxing legend Muhammed Ali was the guest enforcer. Both these events were held at Madison Square Garden. Hogan and Mr. T were victorious at WrestleMania, but the rivalry between The Hulkster and The Hot Rod continued. They squared off one more time at The Wrestling Classic and Hogan retained his title by DQ.
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had also made the jump from the AWA to the WWF and sought to bring an end to Hulkamania. Almost every member of “The Heenan Family” would challenge Hogan for the his title at some point. King Kong Bundy lost to Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania II in Los Angeles, a Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship, but Heenan scored a coup when he convinced Andre the Giant, who had become a friend and mentor to Hulk Hogan in recent years, to join The Heenan Family and turn his back on The Hulkster and his fans. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Championship in the main event of WrestleMania III was the absolute biggest match in pro wrestling history. Over ninety three thousand (alleged) fans set an indoor attendance record in Pontiac, Michigan’s Silverdome to witness this epic clash of titans. Hogan was the underdog for the first time ever, but he pulled off the upset win with the body slam heard around the world and his signature atomic leg-drop. The torched had officially been passed.
Later in 1987, on Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hulk Hogan came to the aid of “Macho Man” Randy Savage at the behest of Savage’s valet, the lovely Miss Elizabeth. This new alliance was dubbed “The Mega Powers.” In 1988, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase offered to buy the WWF Championship from Hulk Hogan, who flatly refused. DiBiase then recruited Andre the Giant to win the title on his behalf, which he did on The Main Event. Andre was not permitted to relinquish the belt to DiBiase and the title was declared vacant. Hogan and Andre squared off again at WrestleMania IV in Trump Plaza, but this rematch is less heralded because it ended in a double DQ. Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase that same night for the WWF Championship. The Mega Powers bested the duo of Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant at the inaugural SummerSlam. Jesse “The Body” Ventura was the guest referee in that match.
The Mega Powers eventually exploded as a result of Hulk Hogan’s grandstanding and Randy Savage’s manic paranoia. Hulk won the WWF Championship for a second time by defeating The Macho Man in the main event of WrestleMania V, also held in Trump Plaza. Hogan then spent the latter part of 1989 feuding with Zeus, his co-star from the film, “No Holds Barred.” At the 1990 Royal Rumble, The Hulkster crossed paths with The Ultimate Warrior, reigning WWF Intercontinental Champion. The main event was soon announced for WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Hulk Hogan vs. The Warrior, title for title. The ultimate challenge was unique with two fan favorites battling each other. The Skydome jinx established itself and The Warrior won the title, but Hogan was gracious in defeat. Hulk then filmed “Suburban Commando” while recovering from the injuries he suffered at the hands of Earthquake.
The Hulkster returned and won his second consecutive Royal Rumble in 1991, then he won his unprecedented third WWF Championship at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles from Sgt. Slaughter, who was an Iraqi sympathizer during the Gulf War. Hogan lost the title to The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991, then was announced to compete against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis, but his opponent ended up being Sid Justice instead. The Hulkster won that match via DQ with some help from The Ultimate Warrior, then apparently retired from the WWF. He made his return one year later and competed twice at WrestleMania IX in Las Vegas. First, in the WWF Tag Team Championship match, then he defeated Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in an impromptu match. Hulk Hogan’s new record of five title reigns would last for eight years.
Shockingly, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan made the jump to Ted Turner’s WCW (World Championship Wrestling) in 1994 and won the WCW Championship from Ric Flair at Bash at the Beach. “Macho Man” Randy Savage also made the jump and he and Hogan reformed their partnership. A Steel Cage Match between Hogan and Big Van Vader at Bash at the Beach 1995 was showcased on an episode of the hit TV series, Baywatch. WCW fans were nowhere near as receptive of Hulkamania as WWF fans were because of The Hulkster’s tired catchphrases and the corny matches he competed in, such as a Monster Truck Battle with The Giant (a/k/a The Big Show) at Halloween Havoc 1995. Hulk decided to shake the wrestling world to its foundation by joining The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) at Bash at Beach 1996 to found the nWo (New World Order). His signature colors changed from red and yellow to black and white. The nWo dominated WCW for the next two years and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, as he was now dubbed, did whatever was necessary to hang onto his title, aligning with Eric Bischoff, the executive producer of the company. The nWo even hosted their own pay-per-view in 1997 called Souled Out. Two major loses suffered by Hollywood Hogan during this time period were to Sting at Starcade 1997 and to Goldberg on Monday Nitro in the summer of 1998.
After a cage match between Hollywood Hogan and Randy Savage at Uncensored 1998, the nWo splintered into two different factions, nWo Hollywood and The Wolfpack. The nWo reunited in early 1999 to knock Goldberg of his pedicel, but the fans had begun to lose interest in this renegade stable. In the summer of that year, Hulkamania walked back into our lives as Hulk Hogan again donned the red and yellow for a six man tag team match on Nitro. This “second coming” was short lived however since WCW fell into financial turmoil in 2000, during the “New Blood” angle where Hogan was relegated to a feud with Billy Kidman of all people, then Hogan was publicly fired by writer Vince Russo at Bash at Beach 2000. WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon in 2001.
The three founding members of the nWo returned to the WWF at No Way Out 2002, but despite of their heels tactics, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan was rooted for in his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto. Hogan was booted from the nWo after the match, but Hulkamania was still running wild. Hulk won the WWF Championship for a sixth, and thus far final time, from Triple H at Backlash 2002. The name of the title was then changed to the WWE Championship since the company was now World Wrestling Entertainment. Hulk was again defeated by The Undertaker at Judgment Day 2002, then after a brief reign as WWE Tag Team Champions with Edge, The Hulkster was put out of action by Brock Lesnar. Hulk Hogan returned in 2003 and defeated Mr. McMahon in a Street Fight at WrestleMania XIX in Seattle. He has not competed at a WrestleMania since, but did appear at WrestleMania XXI in Los Angeles, the night after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, Class of 2005. The WWE Universe was clamoring for one more match. Hogan answered the call, defeating Shawn Michaels as SummerSlam 2005 in a “Legend vs. Icon” match. Hulk made just a few sporadic appearances in the WWE over the next several years.
Once again, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan made waves by joining TNA (Total Non-Stop Action) Wrestling in 2010, not as an active wrestler, but as an executive, though he did compete in a tag team match on Impact to help bring attention to this small promotion. At Bound for Glory 2010, Hulk and Eric Bischoff formed a group called “Immortal,” which had Jeff Hardy as its figurehead. They tried to recreate the fervor of the nWo, but lost a great deal of momentum due to Jeff Hardy’s personal “demons.” Hogan stepped back into the ring at Bound for Glory 2011 to square off with “The Icon” Sting. Sting was victorious, but more importantly, helped Hulk see the light and Hulk left Immortal immediately following their match. After that, Hogan was a strict General Manager in TNA, being tormented for most of 2013 by “Aces & Eights,” a rogue gang led by Bully Ray (a/k/a Bubba Ray Dudley).
Hulkamania will undoubtedly live forever and the red and yellow is going to be running wild in the WWE once again as The Hulkster is returning as the host of WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans.
Posted on September 12, 2013, in Pro Wrestling, TNA, WWF, WWF/WWE and tagged Andre the Giant, Bill Goldberg, Bobby Heenan, Brock Lesnar, Bubba Ray Dudley, Earthquake, Edge, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Hardy, Jesse Ventura, Kevin Nash, King Kong Bundy, Miss Elizabeth, nWo, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Royal Rumble, Scott Hall, Sgt. Slaughter, Shawn Michaels, Sid Justice, Sting, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, Ted DiBiase, The Big Show, The Rock, The Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker, TNA Wrestling, Triple H, Vince McMahon, WrestleMania, WWF, Yokozuna, Zeus. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.