Class of 2005
The Biggest Attraction in the History of Wrestling; Hulkamania Lives Forever
Hall of Fame Rating
10 out of 10
Hulk Hogan is the biggest name in the history of professional wrestling. This is not a discussion. Ask a group of 15 random people to “Name a Pro Wrestler” and at least 75% will say Hulk Hogan. (The remainder may say Andre The Giant or maybe Macho Man; Bruno if they are older)
The 1980s wrestling revolution was all about one man, Hulk Hogan and his name became “bigger than the sport” What that really means is more than any one organization at the time (and perhaps even today) Hulk Hogan meant wrestling. And it is extremely important not to underscore this simple fact:
WRESTLING AS WE KNOW IT WOULD NOT EXIST WITHOUT HULK HOGAN
Ok, sorry for the yelling. I think Hulk Hogan is given a raw deal by those “in the know” of pro wrestling (And by that I mean us IWC wrestling nerds). Hogan is bashed for keeping other wrestlers down or for having an ego the size of Kentucky, and while truth exists in some (or all) of those statements, they are inconsequential when compared to what Hulk Hogan did for the business.
Hulk Hogan did one thing which Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race, Bob Backlund, Ric Flair, Dory Funk or Lou Thesz didn’t do, he made wrestling accepted in the mainstream. A portion of the nationalization credit can go to Vince McMahon. Vince had the vision needed a face of his company. And that man was the already popular Hulk Hogan. Keep in mind before joining WWF in 1983, Hulk Hogan had already appeared in Rocky III, which was his first step towards real legitimization. Vince did nothing but plug Hulk Hogan into his idea.
In 1983, Vince JR. stole a popular Hulk Hogan away from the AWA. This same AWA helped develop and foster the Hulk Hogan character. Greg Gagne has been quite outspoken about this. Pre-AWA WWWF Hulk Hogan looked like this:
The AWA helped Hogan develop his promo, work out his move sets, and finalize the gimmick he would have in the WWF. Verne Gagne, for all his denseness when it comes to nationalization of wrestling, understood a successful act. He had made himself one for decades:
Verne churned out some of the best pro wrestlers in the 70s such as Ric Flair and Bob Backlund. He saw what Hogan was, a charismatic super hero of a man. In the AWA, Hulk was the 80s equivalent of Bruno Sammartino , something which Gagne had little experience with, but still recognized correctly as bankable. Except, he never fully pulled the trigger.
Wrestling in the 70s- early 80s was famous for the false finish. Verne kept making Hogan win by DQ or win and then strip the belt off of him. It frustrated the audience but did exactly what Verne wanted, increased his popularity and made Hogan better.
Hogan left AWA due to money and schedule. Plain and simple. It was business not personal. Vince McMahon wanted his “radical vision” of a national wrestling organization to take hold. Enter the FACE.
Upon joining in 1983, Hogan was challenged to be able to create broad appeal. So, Vince did what Vince is good at (when his back is to the wall ONLY) and took the “wrestling hero Hulk Hogan (already packaged that way in the AWA) and made him the superhero of sports entertainment. Mr. T was added to him. Hogan appeared on late night shows and succeeded on them all, well except for Richard Beltzer, but that man is such as dick…..
A common belief is no there is no WWE without Hogan and no Hogan without WWE. That’s not exactly true. WWE exists without Hogan. It’s not as popular. Another superstar takes Hogan’s place. Vince struggles to truly go mainstream with a Jimmy Snuka, Bob Backlund or Ricky Steamboat. They aren’t larger than life. Territory system probably sticks around longer.
Without WWE, Hogan eventually becomes the AWA champion and helps them succeed longer, eventually moving around to other organizations as a main event talent. He becomes Dusty Rhodes/Ric Flair level and retires a successful wrestler.
The two combined brought the magic. Vince knew how to promote talent who is already talented, and Hogan was talented beyond belief. He understood the wrestling crowd. More than 95% of the wrestlers ever. He didn’t do flashy moves or make himself a human daredevil. He understood it and as a kid I loved it.
It’s that “IT” factor. Hulk Hogan had it in more abundance that any professional wrestler in history. He knew a crowd and even still knows a crowd. He can get a pop out of any crowd by being on screen….unless he is shilling the WWE Network, no one does that well.
In the video above, Hulk Hogan is beloved by the audience in 2014 (until all that network nonsense)
The running story of the wrestling community is that Hulk Hogan was big in the 1980s, but by the early 90s his popularity began to wane. He wasn’t as big of deal in the 90s and the fans turned against him. That’s not exactly correct either. Yes, its true that after 7-8 years on top of the organization that Hulk Hogan wasn’t as “popular”, which has more to do with wrestling losing popularity over the feeling directed at Hulk Hogan. Take a look below at the now “infamous” Wrestlemania 9. Crowd looks extremely into Hogan’s win over Yokozuna. They are cheering for their hero.
Now I want you to keep in mind, Hulk Hogan was and still is the greatest wrestling attraction or superstar in history. Key word is wrestling. Hogan defined wrestling in the mainstream. He was not a great technical wrestler by any stretch of the imagination, nor would he ever have to be. The fans didn’t want that from Hulk Hogan.
Wrestling ability wasn’t the core of Hulk Hogan. Vince McMahon succeeded in changing the wrestling business because he was able to attract children and families, with HULK HOGAN. Harley Race or even Ric Flair would be beloved by wrestling purists and fans of “old school” but a completely unknown to the general populace. Hulk Hogan was Captain America. He was also guaranteed money. (Just by being Hulk Hogan) Enough people were going to buy a ticket because Hulk Hogan was on the card, that Vince frankly didn’t have to do anything other than ride the wave. It was only when in a triple combo, Hogan wanted to be a movie star (Don’t see Suburban Commando) with his ego became so inflated AND Vince was brought up on charges of distributing steroids, that Hulk Hogan moved out of the limelight in WWF. It was a triple threat of terrible.
WWF, without Hulk Hogan, failed. Plain and simple. From the summer of 1993-1997, the WWF lost money, it lost talent and it lost fans. Wrestling was on a downturn in the 90s, as the children of the 80s got older and no longer wanted to watch their childhood hero. When Hogan left, WWF tried to position Bret Hart, Diesel, Shawn Michaels and others as the New Generation of stars. And on a person note this time has given us more “Never Going to Be in the Hall of Fame” Superstars for this website than any other. (Except maybe post WCW) But WWF’s luck changed with the Attitude ERA. With the advent of attitude, Stone Cold, Mr McMahon, The Rock and others, the WWF revitalized itself and won the Monday Night Wars. That is the story told by the WWE today.
Problem is that it ignores a very important element to the Attitude ERA. Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan is the catalyst for the Attitude Era. He caused it to exist. When WCW hired Hulk Hogan, they brought in the superhero to a very non superhero like wrestling promotion. WCW was much more of a classic, old-fashioned wrestling promotion that WWF ever was and Hogan while popular, never really fit in.
Cut to the greatest turn in the history of wrestling.
Hulk Hogan’s heel turn was the biggest in history because he was Hulk Hogan. He was still the mainstream representation of wrestling and he had turned his back on the fans. Not only did this bring new life into Hulk Hogan (making him as popular as ever) and the NWO, but it also set a tone. The realistic nature of the NWO’s takeover of WCW would then force the WWF to start making changes in order to compete. Vince McMahon looked at what WCW was doing and applied that logic (and took it 10 steps further) Without Hulk Hogan becoming Evil, WCW doesn’t take off the way it did in 1996, and WWF isn’t challenged to push the envelope.
And there is no doubt, the greatest thing (for business) that WCW ever did is turn Hulk Hogan into Hollywood Hulk Hogan. It worked because of everything Hogan was and everything Hogan built. His gimmick didn’t change, . It was Evil Hulk Hogan.
Once Hogan is special, evil Hogan is also special. John Cena could easily turn heel in similar fashion and it could change the face of modern wrestling.
Now that I’ve gone on my HULK HOGAN IS AWESOME rant, let me put that aside and look at some less than stellar things about Hogan. As I’ve mentioned dozens of times above, Hulk Hogan is the greatest wrestling attraction. However, anything this man did outside of wrestling was terrible. Hulk Hogan is not The Rock in terms of acting ability and doesn’t have the ability to deliver lines in a fun and creative way.
His movie career reads like a Who’s Who of bad movies.
|1990||Gremlins 2: The New Batch||Himself|
|1991||Suburban Commando||Shep Ramsey|
|1993||Mr. Nanny||Sean Armstrong|
|1993||Thunder in Paradise||Randolph J. Hurricane Spencer||Direct-to-video|
|1994||Thunder in Paradise||TV series, 22 episodes|
|1996||The Secret Agent Club||Ray Chase|
|Spy Hard||Steele’s other Tag-Team Member||Cameo|
|Santa with Muscles||Blake|
|1997||The Ultimate Weapon||Cutter|
|Assault on Devil’s Island||Mike McBride|
|1998||McCinsey’s Island||Joe McGrai|
|3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain||Dave Dragon|
No movie where a character is named Dave Dragon is good. And don’t get me started on Suburban Commando….
You see, despite all his notoriety and mainstream appeal, Hulk Hogan will never be anything other than a wrestling superstar. That’s it. He tried and failed to transcended wrestling. Hulk Hogan is a terrible actor.
Seriously don’t see any of his movies. His low rent movies were pale in comparison to his successor, Dwayne The Rock Johnson. The Rock even did the tutu better.
Thus explains the dichotomy of Hulk Hogan. He is wrestling but that’s it. He is sports entertainment, but that’s it. This is why in the Superbowl commercial, Hulk Hogan is a character in the “80s storm the store mob”. His appearances today represent the past of wrestling (Also why he should never wrestle again)
But what a wrestling character….
Before we end, I wanted to deal with TNA. Hulk Hogan had some success in TNA but it is looked at as one of his failures, and that one last nail in the coffin to the belief that anything Hulk Hogan touches turns to gold. And there is some truth in that. Hulk had a very specific regiment which people wanted to see: His hulking up, his posing, his no selling punches and pointing. These are what everyone wants to see. Young and old, these silly stupid gimmicky things are the elements of what made Hulk Hogan a household name. No one wants to see Hulk Hogan give a long winded promo as a general manager. He is not good at it. C’mon tell me this is good.
But it almost doesn’t matter if Hulk Hogan is allowed to be Hulk Hogan. He hulked up maybe once in TNA and it was awesome. (15:53 on video below)
Hulk Hogan worked because his gimmick was so many fun things. Say your prayers, eat your vitamins, screaming, posing , ear to the air. All these elements made Hulk Hogan cool, and beloved.
Undeniable fact. Hulk Hogan changed the face of wrestling. He is the single most important wrestler in the history of the industry. His impact will be felt as long as wrestling exists, because his run in WWF 83-93 and his now turn 96-99 are the two most important events in the wrestling world. WWE likes to say DX or Steve Austin began the Attitude Era. Nope it was Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach 96. It changed wrestling to an enormous degree. It made WWF change and eventually surpass WCW. But WCW was the beginning. No one before or since has had this impact on the wrestling world twice that Hulk Hogan had. IT was national and it was important.
2005 was the second year for the revitalized WWE Hall of Fame. (with 2004 being many late 70s, early 80s stars). It was also the 20th Anniversary of Wrestlemania, giving us one of the most solid Hall of Fame Classes in History (all of whom were very important to Wrestlemania 1)
Hulk Hogan was a guaranteed necessity in any legitimate Hall of Fame. Can you imagine if he held out as long as Bruno? That would be terrible. Luckily Hogan’s ego and persistent want for money and fame, gave us this induction in 2005.
Opens Door For?
The headliner. In true Hulk Hogan fashion, his inclusion made it seem necessary to have a legitimate main eventer each year. This is why WWE went diligently after Bret Hart in 2006, Bruno in 2013 and Warrior in 2014. The weaker the headliner, the weaker the class (I’m looking at you 2010!)
Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.