WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2005: Hulk Hogan

Hulk-Hogan-WWE

Hulk Hogan

Class of 2005

The Biggest Attraction in the History of Wrestling; Hulkamania Lives Forever

HOGAN

Hall of Fame Rating

10 out of 10

Architect

 

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)

Fiddlesticks! I'd would have said Frank Gotch!

Fiddlesticks! I’d would have said Frank Gotch!

 

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

 

enough

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:

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That’s his real hair!

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:

Balding Uncle Superstar Verne Gane

Balding Uncle Superstar Verne Gane

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.

Worked for Daniel Bryan too!

Worked for Daniel Bryan too!

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.

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What a handsome 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.

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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.

Unless he was in Japan, then he did this

Unless he was in Japan, then he did this

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.

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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.

See John Cena

Yes the time is now. Damn it.

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.

hoganrocktutu

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….

Mark OUT!

Mark OUT!

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.

Why 2005?

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.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2009: Stone Cold Steve Austin

austin

Stone Cold Steve Austin

Class of 2009

Father of the Attitude Era

austin3

Hall of Fame Rating

10 out of 10

Architect

Steve Austin is the largest attraction that the WWE has ever had. He made more money for the company in two years than the previous three combined. He was that red hot. No one can deny Steve Austin’s affect on the wrestling business. He truly is the Father of the Attitude Era.

The NWO began the gritty and realistic feel of wrestling. In 1996, when Hulk Hogan turned evil, the game was changed. This was a shock  to all wrestling fans and it got over. Steve Austin was the WWF’s attempt at the same gritty realness. And he got over as well. After the famous King of the Ring 96 speech, Austin 3:16 signs were everywhere.

Austin changed wrestling. He changed the WWE. He made it different than when he orignally came there. Not just different in that a different guy was on top, he defined the era, changed the organization.

This has only  happened four times in the history of the WWE. Bruno, Hogan, Austin/Rock and Cena. These are the only four (five) who changed wrestling in the WWE and therefore the world.

Take a look at the Royal Rumble in 1997 and Steve Austin’s first win. Then compare it to Royal Rumble 1998. The product was different. Completely different. 98 was edgier and grittier. Austin’s popularity after Wrestlemania 13 had sky rocketed. His feud with Vince McMahon had just begun and Austin’s style (plus a little ECW) was everywhere. The Rock was different. Mick Foley was different. They had a sense of realism. This all began with Austin.

In 1998 through 1999, no one could touch Steve Austin in terms of popularity. Look at any Stone Cold entrance from that time period, and the pops are the biggest in history.

Austin was also the first superstar with sing along catch phrases ( Rock perfected it). And that’s the bottom line, Austin 3:16 and hell yeah were successful and popular. But they were new. Bruno and Hogan didn’t have these. They never interacted with the audience that directly. Austin lit the spark for this practice. It is extremely popular today.

bryangif

Above I put Austin/Rock together as the ones who changed wrestling. That is because Austin really wasn’t around that long. And the Rock had a large hand in modifying wrestling thru and beyond the Attitude Era. Austin lit the spark, but the Rock perfected it. Austin was extremely popular through 1999 and then he got injured. He disappeared from television in 2000 and the Rock carried the banner. While doing that, he changed what the ‘attitude change’ that Austin had brought. It became trashier, and even more cartoony. The Austin/ECW style became WWE’ed by the Rock and the machine. And through this prism, WWE is what it is today.

In the video at the top, Austin spoke about Austin 3:16 and his catchphrases. He said that the only reason he got over was these phrases. Without them, he even claims he would never had been as big and probably just known as a “good technician” (think Dean Malenko) Part of me believes this was the WWE’s plan. They used Austin and almost immediately went to the Rock as its main attraction. The Rock fought Hogan, The Rock ended the Invasion, and The Rock became the face and eventually the movie star. And all this began when Austin got hurt and disappeared for many months. The WWE replaced Austin (Hogan was never replaced).

We tend to forget that Austin did not have a very successful time in WWE after he returned from injury. He was involved barely until Wrestlemania 2001, turned heel, fought WCW, joined WCW, fought Scott Hall at Wrestlemania, refused to job to Lesnar on Raw, “took his ball and went home”, came back and retired.

None of that above was the Austin that we really loved from 1998 and 1999. He never really fit in the Rock’s WWE and everyone knew it. Austin himself was extremely hurt and retired gracefully in 2003.

He defined an era in wrestling and in really such a short time. His entire stint with the company was 1996-2003 with two large breaks in 2000 and 2002. That’s an impressive resume and an important character.

Why 2009?

Texas. Steve Austin is from Texas. It is a natural connection. Austin has been retired for six years at the time, although he regularly appeared at special events and Wrestlemanias.

Still this induction felt a little quick. WWE had been spending its time getting some real old fashioned legends in the Hall in 2005-2007. Most were 60s, 70s and 80s stars. Austin could have been saved for a later date, but WWE has always had a headliner problem with the Hall of Fame (Tis why Michaels and Edge went in so quickly after retirement)

For Texas context and because he deserves it, Austin made sense.

Sadly, he did get to proside over the Hall of Fame Class who were given time limits. I was live in Houston and Austin’s speech was 10 minutes long. Not enough time for a great speech.

Opens Door For?

Attitude Era stars. Before Stone Cold, no one was inducted who had been wrestling in the late nineties/early 2000s in WWE (Bret Hart left WWE in 97) Michaels, Edge, and Foley have all followed on their merits.

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

WWE realizes it hates all its fans.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Bruno Sammartino

sammartino

Bruno Sammartino

Class of 2013

Longest Reigning WWE Champion in History (7 years), The Living Legend

sammartino3

Hall of Fame Rating

10 out of 10

Architect

Hell hath frozen over in the WWE. Bruno Sammartino is joining the WWE Hall of Fame. No one in the history of the organization deserves the honor more and no one has refused more vocally. This all has changed today.

This is the most important induction in the history of the WWE Hall of Fame. This induction legitimizes the WWE Hall of Fame. Its “THE” wrestling Hall of Fame now. Bruno Sammartino is that necessary. Now, he would be necessary in any wrestling Hall of Fame, but in one run by the WWE, Bruno is key.

Bruno is the reason that the WWE exists. Without him, there is no WWWF, WWF, or WWE. There is no Hulk Hogan, no national expansion, no Attitude Era, no Monday Night Wars, nothing. The house that Vincent J McMahon built was on the back of Bruno Sammartino. He reigned as WWWF champion from 1963 to 1971.

In those seven and half years, McMahon Sr. made the Northeast  Territory the most profitable and popular of any throughout the entire world. And Bruno was the reason. Remember though, Bruno was not the best technical wrestler  In fact he was extremely nontechnical  But compare him to Lou Thesz or Gene Kininski. Both amazing wrestlers and NWA champions. But neither had the effect on wrestling that Bruno did.

McMahon Jr is always credited in the creation of Sports Entertainment. But this hybrid in its original form is Bruno Sammartino. He was a hero of an entire generation of fans. I grew up in NYC and anyone from 50 through 85 saw at least one match at MSG with Bruno Sammartino. He was a respected athlete and role model.

Now its been said that Bruno was just a regional star. This is true. Bruno would not have had much appeal in the Carolinas or Texas. But its not the point. Bruno created the business which would be shaped, molded and groomed into what became “Wrestling” in the eyes of a national audience. WWE has always done their craft slightly differently. It never has really had a technical flair to it predominantly (even during moments with Hart or Backlund as champion). And Sammartino is the grandfather of that style. The WWE style.

He was also the first Superman Wrestler character. His larger than life character went on and succeeded in inspiring fans and never losing. We complain today about John Cena and his Super Cena. Sammartino was Super Sammartino. They did it because it worked. He was over. More over than almost anyone in history. And he made tons of money.

Bruno was box office in the Northeast. He in total sold out Madison Square Garden 187 times. No sports team, music star, boxing match has ever done this. Sammartino spoke to a large birth of individuals. Image Cena but where everyone liked him. Imagine how over that would be. Bruno Sammartino over.

There is no question that Bruno deserves the honor. The real question is why did it take so long.

Take a look below for Bruno’s explanation as to why he agreed to be inducted.

Bruno has been extremely critical of the WWE. In the late 80s and early 90s, he was one of the legends who came out against McMahon Jr. during the steriod trials. Sammartino also hated the vulgarity, semi-nudity and all around gruffness of the Attitude Era. He spoke out violently bad on this as well.


Bruno was never supposed to go in the WWE Hall of Fame. He was the impossible and most deserving inductee. The fact the WWE did it means that it is now finally serious about the WWE Hall of Fame. It has finally become an intergral important aspect of the organziation. I can’t wait to see who is next.

BTW, Bruno is very old fashioned and has quite an ego on him. Look at his message to young people from his website.

Oh Bruno!

Why 2013?

Triple H and MSG. Reports have been surfracing since last July that Triple H had his eyes set on Bruno for the Hall in 2013. No one in the world thought this was going to be possible. Except for Triple H.

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That’s Right! I’m the best at this too.

This is the first year that Triple H is responsible for the inductees. In the past Vince McMahon and Johnny Ace had the duty. This amazing duo gave us mismatched classes from 2006 to 2011. Rumors circulated that potential inductees were called sometimes two weeks prior (good reason why we have KoKo) Triple H changed this.

He made the Hall and its inductees important and he wanted Bruno. Bruno and MSG go hand and hand. With Backlund and Foley included, this MSG induction will be amazing.

But there is an even more important reason that this year is the year. Triple H has started slowly taking over smaller aspects. And when he does, change happens. Developmental is different and better run now. So is the Hall of Fame. And the reason is that it is based on respect.

All Bruno ever wanted was respect (including monetarily  from wrestling and the WWE. And Vince never gave it to him. Between supposed under payments in the 70s, or lying to bring Sammartino back in the 80s, Vince and Bruno never liked each other. They never respected each other. And they never saw each others value.

Triple H showed Bruno (through an extensive deal) that Bruno was respected, wanted and honored. The Living Legend is coming home in what could very well be the Best WWE Hall of Fame Class ever.

Opens Door For?

Everyone. Anybody who has ever been called impossible. Randy Savage, Owen Hart, Demolition. All will eventually get in regardless on how much they hate Vince and vice versa.

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

WWE wants to keep out good wrestlers and inducts only those of the caliber of Jim Powers, Bastian Booger, TL Hopper and Mo

mo

Please let me in.