In Defense Of… Hulk Hogan

Bringing the truth to the wrestling fan!

A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com

Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!

Intro

Some dame walked into my office and said…

Oh my goodness, where to begin? Why not the beginning? It started with Ernie back in June 2005:

I was wondering if you would be interested in doing a defense column on Hulk Hogan, who is [constantly] ridiculed and projected in a negative light. While I’m sure his detractors have a valid [argument], Hogan did [a lot] for the business. I’d just be interested in your perspective on this, and I’m sure others in my age group (mid 20’s) would be as well.

About a day before or after, Ken Batallones brought up the same idea:

And an even bigger challenge [than Triple H] would be to defend Hogan.

A short time later, Ori Zeiger also had a similar idea, except for different reasons:

The person I would like you to protect is someone I’d think you’d have a real hard time doing so (at least as far as I am concerned but I’m sure also with [a lot] of other people)… and that is the piece of shit called Hulk Hogan. I’ve never liked him but even [more so] especially now after this [feud] with Michaels and him actually wanting to WIN BOTH matches.

That was a spectrum shift. BDSTW FOM had a more particular idea, but we’ll get to it:

Defend the younger wrestlers from Hogan

Defend the young guys from Hogan coming back on occasion and using his pull when they could be getting their own chance.

Someone with lesser initials (BGD) brought it back to the big picture:

Hulk Hogan

Brother, if you manage to get a not guilty on him, [I’ll] be mighty impressed and thankful. I personally [don’t] think Hulk Hogan is the Anti-Christ, nor deserving of the bad raps he gets. Any chance of you doing a case on him?

Justin Swift had the same thought:

I think you should defend Hulk Hogan, for as much as he has done for the business, he always seems to get a bum rap! I am personally hoping to see Austin Vs. Hogan at mania (and the mere rumor of it made me lay down 170.00 per ticket for nosebleed seats)

But where there is that much love, there is also hate, as Andrew Lee will tell you:

I really hate [H]ogan, but maybe this because of the IWC. Will you ever write a piece on him?

Also, Rick Cobos gave me about a million different ideas for Hogan, but I just rolled them all up into one!

And throughout the past year, people have written in and said many nice and nasty things about Hogan that have all led to this case. As a matter of fact, Hogan tops the list of my most frequently e-mailed words. What were the other ones?

10. Chump

9. Chumpette

8. Yours

7. Up

6. Pimpmobile

5. Bite

4. My

3. Shiny

2. Daffodil

1. Hogan

There you have it!

Why this?

Well, as the top ten list showed, Hogan is the most frequent topic of conversation in my In Defense Of… e-mails. More people have requested a case for him than anyone else. More people have referenced or written something directly about Hogan than most other wrestlers combined.

Hogan is the definition of wrestling. Without Hogan, everything that we take for granted in the world of professional wrestling would not exist. I honestly believe that Hogan is not just a pivotal player, but the key central figure of the wrestling revival. No one else could have been in his position.

There is some doubt there, but there is even more doubt about Hogan’s worth today. Many feel that he should have been done in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005. Yet Hogan keeps returning, keeps coming back, keeps bringing them in. Why does Hogan return? Why is he allowed to return?

There are also questions about how Hogan attained his position in the sport, and more importantly how he maintained it. Going deeper, there are doubts about how over he was, and more importantly how entertaining he was.

Was Hogan a workhorse five-star grappler? No way in hell! Was Hogan much better than most people ever gave him credit for? You bet. Was Hogan long winded? Of course! Did what he have to say draw them in? You better believe it (and I’ll prove it). Does his imagination get in the way of reality? Sometimes. Andre does get heavier and higher in the air every time I hear the story. But does that matter to the reality of our world?

Hogan has so much that we need to cover that he could not be contained to our normal format. Hulk Hogan is the biggest case to date, and as so, he deserves all the time he needs.

With so much material, it’s hard to decide where to start. So why not start… in 1953.

California… Georgia… what’s the difference?

Before Hulk Hogan legally changed his name to Hogan, he was Terry Bollea, the name his parents gave to him. His father, Pete, was a construction foreman and his mother, Ruth, was a homemaker and dance instructor. On August 11th, 1953, Ruth gave birth to the 10 lb. 7 ounces future Hogan (which is very large for a baby). He remained a big baby into his young life, much to the ridicule of his peers. From Obsessed with Wrestling:

Terry Bollea was an unathletic kid who weighed 195 lbs. at the age of 12.

But despite this negative in his life, Terry found many interests, including the electric and bass guitar, as well as baseball.

After the family relocated to Tampa, FL, Hogan found his way to the gym in 1967. As he began to weight train, he found ways to sculpt and build his body. He put in hours of extreme dedication into creating a body that he could be proud of. At the same time, he continued to build is athletic prowess in baseball and other sports, and cultivated his mind in music. Beyond that, he also found a spiritual being by attending a Christian Youth Ranch in the area.

With such diverse interests, Terry was without focus. He was also without a lot of resources. His parents were not wealthy and were not in the best neighborhoods, so Hogan had to work for everything he wanted. And he wanted to go to college. He enrolled in Hillsborough Community College and began studying business. After a couple of years at the junior college, Hogan was admitted into the University of South Florida where he aimed to continue his studies.

But education was expensive, and he had other interests. From Warnet.net:

Terry Bollea was a part time body builder, bouncer, musician and [full-time] bank teller.

With his physique and physical ability, body building seemed like a natural choice, but that didn’t pay the bills. Being a bouncer helped pay the bills, but it didn’t help Terry grow as a person. Being a musician was a love that tested his abilities, but did not have much of a future, and Terry was too smart to believe otherwise. Working at a bank was a way to apply some of his knowledge, but again it did not give him the chance to be more.

We can see from this that even at a young age, Hogan had an incredible work ethic. He was willing to do anything and everything to live out his dreams. He sacrificed so much of his time and life for his varied interests to make his dreams come true, though he was not too sure of what those dreams were. Hogan knew one thing, though: he wanted to be special.

Depending on who you ask, what happened next is up in the air. Hogan was playing with his band at a number of small venues that the Florida wrestlers frequented, and Hogan became friends with many of them. Now, either he began talking to Jack and Jerry Brisco at the clubs and became friendly with them or they spotted him sitting ringside at a wrestling event and recognized him or one night as a bouncer he met the two outside or he used to work out in their gym. Any which way, the Brisco brothers became the pivotal players that finally convinced Hogan to give wrestling a try.

Mike Rickard II sheds some additional light on Hogan’s reasoning:

Hulk Hogan’s first dream was to be a rock star. He performed in a band called Infinity’s End at a Florida nightclub frequented by wrestlers. Hogan also worked out at a gym frequented by wrestlers. At the time, Hogan worked at a bank and claims to have looked over wrestlers’ bankbooks which gave him further inspiration to become a wrestler.

Whatever his inspiration, The Briscos (through Mike Graham) got Hogan in contact with Hiro Matsuda, a wrestling legend and very serious trainer. From Wikipedia:

Yasuhiro Kojima (July 22, 1937 — November 27, 1999) was the trainer of Hulk Hogan, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Lex Luger, Ron Simmons, Keiji Mutoh and many other professional wrestlers. He was better known as Hiro Matsuda, an identity he adopted while competing in the southern U.S., inspired by earlier wrestlers Sorakichi Matsuda and Matty Matsuda.

He initially debuted under his real name at Rikidozan’s Japanese Wrestling Association, but then left Japan to pursue wrestling in the Americas. Once in a while he would return to Japan, where he formed a tag team with Antonio Inoki that was only the outward reflection of the long-time friendship between the two men.

From that short list, it is obvious that Hiro trained some of the best and most well-known wrestlers in the world. But he was also a very unforgiving teacher.

On Terry’s first day of training in 1976, Hiro intentionally broke Terry’s leg (well, really his ankle, but that still sucks), putting him on the injured reserve list. It seemed like Hogan’s wrestling career was off to a terrible start.

While healing, Hogan continued playing with his band the Gentrics. He was unsure of what he was going to do next, but after some time, he decided to give it another chance.

And so with his leg healed, Hogan returned to Hiro, much to Hiro’s great shock and admiration. He did not go easy on Hogan and demanded he learn everything the same as everyone. Hogan was a quick learner, and showed he not only understood the moves, but understood the audience. He already had the telltale signs of being able to hold the audience in the palm of his hand, but there was only one way everyone was going to find out if that was true or not.

Rasslin’ down south

In August 1977, Terry made his debut as “The Super Destroyer” in Tallahassee, FL. He began to wrestle in the small circuits, changing his name several times between “Sterling Golden”, “Terry Boulder”, and “Terry ‘The Hulk’ Boulder”, among others. But the money and prestige was not coming as quickly as Hogan hoped. From Mathew Sforcina’s Evolution Schematic:

Terry continued to wrestle for CWF and other small Florida companies, but quickly grew tired. He just wasn’t getting anywhere, and the small crowds’ apathy and hatred got to him, and he quit.

Phase 2- Well, that was short.

Terry got a job as a longshoreman, and worked on the docks of Port Tampa. Within a few weeks, the Brisco Brothers and Terry Funk, who was also impressed with what he saw, and all of them tried to get Terry to reconsider. Eventually, Bollea did.

Look, the man thought he might be done with wrestling, yet three wrestling legends already felt he needed to be a part of the game. Even back then, before the name, before the colors, before the hair, and before the maniacs, they saw in Terry the potential to be great. How often do you hear about any older star trying to convince someone to stay in wrestling? They went out of their way because they saw the potential in Hogan (though probably not to the degree that actually happened).

And so Terry returned, and a whole new career began. Others began to see in Terry what the three legends saw. From Cool Dudes and Hot Babes (edited for grammar):

Terry was brought into Southeast Championship Wrestling in summer 1978 by Rip Tyler. On Terry’s debut after defeating an unknown local mid-carder, Terry started to be called ‘The Wrestling Hulk’. Terry helped heel manager Billy Spears and Ox Baker defeat local legend Masked Wrestling Pro (Leon “Tarzan” Baxter), putting him on the hated list. Then in September Terry had his most memorable angle during that time, against Andre the Giant, which was their first. That led to an Arm-Wrestling match, where Terry bloodied Andre with a loaded elbow and he and his manager Billy Spears destroy Andre with the table.

Terry continued working for South East Championship Wrestling, including touring Alabama and Knoxville (and a couple times in [his] hometown [of] Tampa) during the rest of 78. In early 79 Terry [had] his first ever face turn. It was during an angle involving Ox Baker, Ron Fuller, and NWA champ Harley Race. Race had placed a bounty on Fuller so as to not to have to defend NWA World title against him. Baker & Terry Boulder had been having problems, shoving each other during tag matches after Boulder cost Baker a match, later during Baker’s match Ron Fuller came to the ring only to receive the heart-punch (a move Baker billed as even killing somebody with it). While Ox [was] beating up Fuller, Boulder [came] out to help Fuller and even [carried] him on his shoulder back to the dressing room. That night Fuller was booked to face Race for the NWA title, [but] due to the heart punch was unable… Terry took his place, in what was Terry’s first World title match. Due to Baker’s interference Terry won via DQ, but didn’t win the title.

Then around February or March Terry defeated Ox Baker for his first wrestling title, to become the South Eastern Heavyweight champion recognized in Alabama. {Michael Calloway, who helped me with the Alabama-Knoxville [part], and was there in Dothan, Alabama to see these matches, can’t explain why Terry Boulder/Ox Baker/Austin Idol were not recognized as South East Heavyweight champs in Knoxville. However in the unofficial list they’re 100% recognized and there’s no doubt they were champs!}

Around June 1979 during an ongoing feud with Austin Idol, Idol beat Terry after cheating him out and got the South Eastern title. In July 1979 Terry received his 2nd World title match also against Harley Race, during the match Idol came down dressed up and flashed a camera in Terry’s face, allowing Race to nail his top rope Head Butt for the 1–2–3. The Idol-Boulder feud continued in Alabama for the next couple months, which saw Idol ‘break’ Terry’s leg. In mid-1979 Race and Idol brought Terry to NWA Georgia! He was given the Sterling Golden (bigger, better, stronger and improved gorgeous George gimmick) and he fought Handicap matches and used the Sterling Squeeze Bear Hug as his finisher. His major feud in NWA Georgia was against “Mr. USA” Tony Atlas. He was never pushed but his heel character was well protected. Terry offered $10,000 to [anyone] who [could] break out of his Squeeze. Terry then returned to Southeastern Championship Wrestling, under his new Sterling Golden gimmick and this time was given big push for the recognized Southeastern Heavyweight title, beating Bob Roop for the title[.]

Although the English may have been rough, the history was interesting. Terry was out there in the world paying his dues. He spent a couple of years in the independents, but still built up enough of a name for himself to find his way to NWA Georgia and get two shots at the NWA Championship.

What this piece fails to mention is that Terry spent some time in Memphis as well and feuded with Jerry Lawler. He also tagged with the future Brutus Beefcake, who at the time was wrestling as Dizzy Hogan.

Wait… so in SECW, Terry got the “Hulk” name and in Memphis he teamed with a “Hogan”. Yet we hear all the time that it was McMahon (one of them) that came up with “Hulk Hogan” and gave him his name. Does not seem like that is the truth to me, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. First, though, we have to get to the WWWF.

Wrestling up north

In November 1979, Terry caught the eye of northeast promoter Vince McMahon Sr., head booker and majority owner of the WWWF. McMahon was looking for more “ethnic” characters, so he asked Terry to be Irish and dye his hair red. Terry agreed to the Irish part and became Hogan, but kept his blonde locks. With Classy Freddie Blassie in his corner, Hogan came in as a heel ready to take the WWWF by storm. From Warned.net:

Hulk Hogan fought many handicap matches to prove his “giant” strength this [led] to a feud with Andre the Giant. On August 9th, 1980 — Showdown [at Shea] 1980 Saw Andre The Giant defeated Hulk Hogan. Andre again defeated Hulk Hogan. On September 22nd, 1980 at Madison Square Garden Andre defeated Hulk Hogan again. Hogan feuded with WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation) World Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund, and Tony Atlas.

Although all of these similar feuds we would see later, Hogan was going through them at an early stage in his career. But let us not forget that he was four years into his journey at that point and was no longer a green kid. Even still, no one was going to just jump the gun with giving Hogan the title. He still had to earn his stripes.

Earning stripes was not Hogan’s only goal. He wanted to be a star, a real star, perhaps even a “superstar”. From Slam! Sports:

For the first (but not the last) time in Hogan’s career, Hollywood would come calling, and he found himself cast as “Thunderlips”, a champion wrestler, in Rocky III. The move to Hollywood, however, cost him his job in the WWWF… at least for now, as Vince McMahon Sr. fired him.

And furthermore from Warned.net:

In 1981, Sylvester Stallone personally offered him a part in the movie Rocky III. Hogan wanted to use this opportunity for a potential movie career. Bollea took film role. When Vince McMahon Senior found out, he fired Hulk Hogan from the WWE as a result.

But 411mania’s own Mathew Sfornica brought it to a whole new level:

In the spring of 1981, the WWWF had agreed to lend Hogan’s contract to the Crockett Jr. run companies in the Carolinas, and Hulk was supposed to go wrestle for them in order to help the two companies help each other and build bridges. Hulk refused, as he had been given a golden chance to go star in Rocky III by Sylvester Stallone, who wanted Hulk to play ‘Thunderlips’. Vince McMahon Sr. was furious, and fired Hulk, since he wanted Wrestlers, not Actors.

So Hulk went off and filmed his part, and then wrestled in Japan (who loved him, oddly enough) and back in some of the companies he came up in, this time as the main attraction.

McMahon saw wrestlers as wrestlers and that was it. Hogan saw himself as a star, and he knew being in Rocky III would do more to increase his value in the industry and the world than being loaned out to another organization. Besides, what right did the WWWF have to loan his contract to another wrestling promotion? Did he not have the right to decide what territory he wanted to work for?

And so after filming, Hogan worked in Japan and made an international name for himself, something that would be quite useful later. Also, he and Stallone became good friend, another element that would raise his notoriety.

Hogan was correct, too. When Rocky III came out, Hogan’s popularity skyrocketed. Of course, by then he had already returned to the States, but in a new home.

Wrasslin’ in Midwest and Puro in the land of the rising sun

After some time in Japan, Hogan joined Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association out in Memphis, TN in 1981. From Mike Rickard II:

Although he debuted as a heel, Hogan won the fans over with his incredible charisma and larger than life look. Hogan’s appearance in Rocky III served to increase his popularity even more. He turned babyface and began challenging AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkel for the world strap. At the time, Hogan was an incredible draw but AWA owner Verne Gagne refused to put the title on Hogan because he did not think he was enough of a wrestler to hold the belt. Night after night, Hogan would seem to defeat Bockwinkel for the title only to have the decision reversed on a technicality. Fans grew frustrated with the screw-job finishes. They weren’t the only ones.

Furthermore from Wikipedia:

On two different occasions, Hogan had been scripted to win the AWA Championship from heel champion Nick Bockwinkel and have it revert back to Bockwinkel by contrived technicalities. This was a common plot device, used to milk audience anticipation that the face would topple the heel “next time.” But this time, the crowd reaction was so furious that only Bollea’s pleas (on the PA system, in character as Hogan) kept them from rioting. Hogan, for his part, grew frustrated with the AWA’s backstage politics over the world title, and was upset with promoter Verne Gagne’s demands for a percentage of his Japanese earnings in exchange for the AWA Championship.

The AWA of today (which holds almost NO relation to the AWA of that era) has since reversed those decisions and calls Hogan a two-time AWA champion. Little good that did at the time. Hogan knew he had done it. He was a superstar making big money and drawing in fans from everywhere. He had been wrestling for six years and had been fighting champions for years. Everyone was ready for the trigger to be pulled, but much like RVD and Booker T in the WWE today, the AWA refused to make it happen (that’s right, I just compared Hulk Hogan to RVD). But unlike the aforementioned wrestlers, Hogan would not take it and left the AWA.

Finding his way back to Japan in 1982/1983, Hogan finally found a major championship. From Wikipedia:

When competing in Japan, Hogan used a vastly different repertoire of wrestling moves, relying on more “scientific” (i.e., technical, more amateur style-seeming) looking traditional wrestling holds and maneuvers as opposed to the power-based (feats of strength), brawling style U.S. fans were accustomed to seeing from him. On June 2, 1983, Hogan became the first International Wrestling Grand Prix tournament winner, defeating Japanese wrestling icon Antonio Inoki by knockout in the finals of a 10-man tournament featuring top talent from throughout the world. Hogan and Inoki also worked as partners in Japan, winning the prestigious MSG Tag League tournament two years in a row, in 1982 and 1983. Also Hogan’s popularity in Japan was so great, he even recorded an album there-a forerunner to the World Wrestling Federation’s “Rock’ n’ Wrestlin’ Connection” of the mid-’80's.

Hogan was still officially working for the AWA while in Japan, but things had changed at home. Vince McMahon Jr. had bought his father’s company and dropped a W. He had a plan to take his organization national, and Hogan was to be a part of that plan. From Mike Rickard II:

At the time, Vince McMahon was moving to make the WWF into a national promotion and he felt he needed a new type of champion to make his national expansion work. Hogan came in shortly after Bob Backlund had lost the WWF Championship to the Iron Sheik. Hogan debuted on WWF tv when he ran in to save Bob Backlund from a 3-on-1 beating from the Wild Samoans. Hogan told the crowd that he was back but that he had changed his ways and had a new attitude. Fans eagerly welcomed the babyface Hogan.

In early 1984, Bob Backlund was scheduled to have his rematch with the Iron Sheik. However the combination of injuries from his title loss and his attack by the Samoans sidelined Backlund and Hogan replaced him as the challenger. While January 23, 1984 was not the birth of Hulkamania (Hulkamania had already been running wild in the AWA), it was the start of a new era in professional wrestling. That night in Madison Square Garden, Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik and helped launch Vince McMahon’s national expansion of the WWF.

Exactly, so despite what Vince and the WWE may say today, Hulkamania existed in the AWA and Japan (and semi-nationally domestically) well before Hogan finally won the title. He had got into Rocky before all of that great fame, not the other way around. Yet, there was still much work to be done. It was not like Hogan was suddenly a legend: he needed to revitalize wrestling and change it in a way no one ever had.

And so the true American Icon is born

From Mathew Sforcina’s Evolution Schematic of Hulk Hogan:

At first, Hogan was merely just very, very popular. He was not an icon, or a legend, or a part of Americana. He was merely WWF Champion. And for a few months, that was all he was, as he wrestled in both the USA for the WWE and in Japan for New Japan, as he still had commitments there, including defending his IWGP Title.

See, after last year’s tournament to crown a new champ, the 1984 tournament was held, and the winner would then get to fight Hogan for the title, it still being a yearly deal back then. Adrian Adonis, Andre The Giant, Dick Murdoch, John Quinn, John Studd, Ken Patera, Masa Saito, Masked Superstar, Otto Wanz, Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami all vied for the honor, but in the end, last year’s runner up Antonio Inoki won the tournament, and got the right to fight Hogan. And he did so on the 14th of June, 1984. And Inoki, having learnt from last year, avoided getting knocked out and managed to beat Hulk Hogan to win the title, although the WWF title was not on the line.

You see, it wasn’t just like Hogan won the title and then the WWF became the center of pop culture, as many WWE documentaries would have you believe. There was a significant transition period. Hell, let us not forget how UNSUCCESSFUL WrestleMania was in comparison to future versions. Cable was in its infancy and PPV did not exist. WrestleMania was seen in select markets on Closet Circuit TV systems, i.e. you paid a ticket to go to an arena and watch the big monitors (which really weren’t that big in that era). Some arenas did well, others did not. But it was not like getting 900,000 buys like 2005, not even close.

But I digress. The point was that wrestling was still wrestling. “Sports Entertainment” as we know it had not been born yet, and the WWF was just some northeast promotion that was paying well. The country and world was still divided into territories, and Hogan was an old school guy who was working his areas. And as an old school guy, he finished his commitments first, putting over a Japanese man before putting over the WWF. But with his head and responsibilities finally cleared, he could at last concentrate on the WWF and the vision Vince McMahon was talking about.

Sadly, though, McMahon did not have what it took to make his dream come true. You see, Vince McMahon was not the wrestling genius we know and love/despise today. First off, unlike Shane and Stephanie, Vince did not grow up entrenched in the business and did not actually meet his father until he was twelve years old. Although the two grew close after meeting, Vince Sr. discouraged his son from getting involved in wrestling, and at the very least convincing him not to become a wrestler (Wonder why in his mid-life crisis Vince started wrestling? Because his daddy denied him in his youth.). Vince Jr. was working as a traveling salesman in 1971 when his father gave him the opportunity to promote a card. Staying in his father’s business, he even began doing play-by-play in 1972. He would stay involved in promoting cards through the 1970’s, and then created his own business (Titan Sports) in 1980, which eventually bought out his father’s company.

But in reality, Vince Jr.’s experience with all facets of wrestling was limited, and the idea of national promotion was beyond reproach (and against his father’s wishes). With his father’s death also in 1984, Vince was without any type of adviser who knew one of the most important things: how to manage and develop talent. Luckily, that is where Hulk Hogan came in. From HoganResoucez.com:

In the early stages, Vince Jr. did not have as much knowledge of the wrestling business as his dad. Hogan, by this time a veteran and the star, helped him out. He gave McMahon what he needed to keep the WWF company running, he gave him ideas and help, but most of all he gave McMahon himself. He did [whatever] he had to for McMahon; he even took risks for McMahon.

Let us not forget, Hogan was a multi-media world star well before McMahon got his hands on him. Even more than that, though, was Hogan knew people. And on top of all that, he had a score to settle.

Through Hogan, Vince was able to make his contacts to wrestlers in the AWA and other promotions. From Wikipedia:

[M]uch of the AWA’s other top talent, including announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund, manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and wrestlers Ken Patera, Jim Brunzell, and Jesse Ventura, among others, also left for the WWF.

And from 411mania’s own Ron Sarnecky’s History of Vince McMahon’s Wrestling Empire:

From Texas, [McMahon] grabbed the Fabulous Freebirds. He took the Junk Yard Dog from the Mid-South territory. Georgia Championship Wrestling said goodbye to men like King Kong Bundy, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Jim Crockett lost Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Bob Orton Jr., and Greg Valentine. Other stars from around the country that went to the WWF included Paul Orndorff, Sgt. Slaughter, Randy Savage, the British Bulldogs, Mike Rotundo, Barry Windham, and Brutus Beefcake.

Quite the impressive roster, and just what Vince and Hogan needed moving forward.

So no matter what Vince may tell you retroactively, he created almost none of the stars of the early 1980’s. These were men who had been around for a long time and had made themselves great by traveling the territories and the world.

Hulk Hogan was one of those men. But in order to become immortal, he needed to help the WWF reach a height that no one thought possible.

Time to really start running wild

Hogan was garnering a lot of attention as champion, and Vince was garnering a lot of hatred by continually invading other territories. Hogan was legitimately threatened on more than one occasion, but he knew he could handle it. He was willing to take that risk because he believed in Vince’s dream and wanted to become the first true superstar. And was Hogan at home, sitting their collecting money? Of course not! He was on the road almost every day, defending that title at least once a day (sometimes more!). But something huge needed to happen to push the WWF and Hogan into the mainstream forever.

That something was Rock ’n’ Wrestling.

In 1984, the WWF began a co-promotion program with MTV, the young and fresh cable network. MTV was about three years old (sort of, depending on how far you want to trace the history back, but we’ll call it three years) and had recently reorganized and had its own IPO. As part of their bold new vision, they thought nothing would drive the youth market like teaming up with pro-wrestling. They were right.

At the spearhead of this effort was one Cindi Lauper. From Cool Dudes and Hot Babes:

Cindi Lauper was a club singer from New York who had recently made it big with a hit record in the charts. It’s not clear who came up with the idea (perhaps Lauper’s manager Dave Wolf), but one evening out of the blue she turned-up on a WWF television show where an altercation broke out between her and long-time wrestler/personality, Lou Albano. After several weeks of this routine and a lot of hype on MTV, they decided to settle their differences in the ring. Of course Lauper had no intentions of wrestling Albano so she needed a stand-in. This angle gave birth to the so-called “Rock & Wrestling” connection. Richter would represent Cindi Lauper against Albano’s stand-in, “The Fabulous Moolah”, for the world title in Madison Square Garden.

And from an interview with Lauper with Michael Lano and Evan Ginzburg:

ML: Do you feel your association with pro wrestling negatively affected your career at the time, or did you take some positives from it?

CL: No, it was positive. Me with Hulk at the Grammies just got more attention from different areas than from people watching MTV. My ex, Dave Wolf, was always into the wrestling. He loved it. I remember watching Bruno and my Ma loved wrestling. Dave just thought we could reach out to a bigger and different audience by getting involved with the wrestling. He did everything, and set it all up. He still loves it, but I don’t follow it as much. It’s not like it used to be. Poor management and my p.r. guys not doing their job was what hurt me, I think. Not the wrestling. I enjoyed my time with it. If it was up to Dave, I’d still be involved with the wrestling. He and I are still friends, and talk. Who said it was a negative? P.R. is P.R. and I will always look at it as a positive. Dave just wanted more p.r., but we were doing pretty good airtime on MTV then. I learned a lot about hype and production from the wrestling, I have to say.

Lauper was particularly close with Hogan who, as we discussed earlier, had an affinity for music and therefore could connect with Lauper better than most.

With the attention of the world, Vince and Hogan came up with the plan of plans: to have a supershow! But not like any supershow. The NWA’s Starrcade had already been around for years, so that was nothing new. No, WrestleMania would be broadcast around the country on closed circuit TV in arenas around the country.

Hogan, with Mr. T, guest hosted Saturday Night Live beforehand to help promote the show. Hogan was becoming a crossover star in every sense of the word.

And once the numbers came in and it looked like the WWF would live another day, Hogan boomed again.

You see, everyone wanted Hogan, and he was sure to oblige. The man got his own Saturday morning cartoon show in “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ’n’ Wrestling”. He followed that up by being the first and last full-time active professional wrestler to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (Some would say that should belong to Dan Hodge, but he was on the cover during his collegiate wrestling days, not for his professional wrestling that would come later. Even much later when the Rock graced the cover in 2016 it was well after his days of regular in-ring competition.) The man became t-shirts, posters, toys, and light-switches. Yes, light-switches! I still have mine.

Austin and the Rock like to claim they are the highest dollar generating superstars ever in wrestling, and to an extent they are right. Depending on how you look at it, either Austin or Rock generated more money for the WWE than anyone. But here’s the context: Hogan has one shirt for ten years. And that shirt certainly did not cost $25 (even adjusting for inflation). He did not come out with a new design every three months, he did not have DVDs, PPV barely existed and did not cost $40 an event when it did. There were no arm bands, glasses, jerseys, anything! If you look at it on an item per capita adjusted for inflation and availability — no one, and I mean no one, has ever come near the Hogan level of drawing people and money.

Hogan’s legacy became finalized at WrestleMania III. Over the years he was defending his title successfully, packing the arenas and making everyone take their vitamins. But it is WrestleMania III that will go down as Hogan’s defining moment. He slammed Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 (or 78,000 people depending on your perspective or which conspiracy theory you believe). Almost everyone wanted to see Hogan take on Andre, and when he defeated the Giant it set him in stone forever.

As Hogan himself said, Andre only let you beat him if Andre wanted you to. Andre believed in Hogan and was willing to lay down for him and pass the torch. The marks of the world got to see their hero do the impossible. The smarks (before the term existed) and boys in back who doubted Hogan finally realized that he was the real deal, and that he had earned their respect.

At last, Hogan was wrestling.

How to build a WrestleMania

As the organization grew and wrestling became mainstream, everything began to revolve around Hogan. But that was all they needed. Hogan was all the draw the WWF required, and setting up confrontations was easy, but still loved. From the Ultimate Warrior’s interview with Dan Flynn:

I mean, Hogan was popular, there was no doubt about that. In fact, buildups to previous WrestleManias were done by taking one of Hogan’s buddies and having that buddy stab him in the back, turn the second hottest baby face heel. That’s how they built WrestleManias.

And what were the Main Events of WrestleMania? Well (all words below except roman numerals and colons from the Wrestling Information Archive):

I: Hulk Hogan and Mr. T defeated Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper when Hogan pinned Orndorff. Muhammad Ali was the special outside referee.

II: Hulk Hogan beat King Kong Bundy (11:00) in a “steel cage” match to retain the title. Robert Conrad was the special referee.

III: Hulk Hogan pinned Andre the Giant to retain the title (12:01).

IV: Randy Savage pinned Ted DiBiase (9:27) to win the vacant title. [JP Note: Hogan and Andre got double DQed during the World Title tournament earlier in the night. Which brings up another point: who said Hogan was not willing to give up the main event spot?]

V: Hulk Hogan pinned Randy Savage (17:54) to win the title.

VI: Ultimate Warrior pinned Hulk Hogan (22:51) to win the World title and retain the Intercontinental title. [JP Note: In a match considered by Warrior and his critics alike as his best match ever, of which most feel Hogan carried Warrior for 23 minutes]

VII: Hulk Hogan pinned Sgt Slaughter (20:26) to win the title.

VIII: Hulk Hogan defeated Sid Justice (12:44) by Disqualification.

IX: Hulk Hogan pinned Yokozuna (0:21) to win the title. [JP Note: This was after Hart lost the title to Yokozuna]

Two things to take away from this:

(1) Hulk Hogan did make other superstars. Guys like King Kong Bundy, Roddy Piper, and Ted DiBiase became regarded as some the biggest and best of all time DESPITE never winning the title from Hogan. And then guys like Randy Savage, Warrior, and Sid were completely legitimized by actually defeating Hogan. Hogan was willing to lose, so long as it made sense and helped everyone and the industry.

(2) These PPVs alone could not satisfy the audience’s want of Hogan.

Survivor Series was created in 1987 specifically so Hogan and Andre could get in the ring together again but not give away another one-on-one match. It worked as the show drew 21,300 people to the Richfield Coliseum and a 7.0(!!!!) PPV buyrate.

And of course, this is just talking a couple of major events. There’s about a decade worth of filler in there as well. But towards the end of that time, things were changing.

Hollywood! La la la la la la… Hollywood!

As the years moved on in the WWF, Hogan started defending his title less and less. But that was because he had found another calling making movies. His role in Rocky III had helped propel his wrestling career to new heights, so why could his wrestling career not propel his movies to new heights? Don’t forget what we learned about Hogan earlier: that he was motivated to continually be doing more. The man is a workaholic, always trying to bring it to the next level. He felt the real challenge for him was to try to be successful in Hollywood as much as he was in wrestling. Thus, the movies started. From IMDB:

No Holds Barred (1989) …. Rip

Suburban Commando (1991) …. Shep Ramsey

Thunder in Paradise (1993) (V) …. R.J. “Hurricane” Spencer

Mr. Nanny (1993) (as Terry ‘Hulk’ Hogan) …. Sean Armstrong

Let us not forget that when a movie comes out that it is not just made. It takes months of pre-production, months of filming, more months of editing and post-production, and finally plans for final release. When was Eye Scream Man filmed? Or the Marine? Two or three years prior to release?

Speaking of production, Hogan was also executive producer of the former three movies listed there. So when filming was done, he still had tons of work to do.

Were these movies great successes? Not hugely. None blew away the box office like Lord of Rings did, but few movies do. These were low budget family-style movies. They made profit when it came to video sales and syndication rights more than they ever made in theaters, but that’s how movies worked at the time anyway.

People act like Hogan was trying to become Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Gene Hackman, or Max von Sydow or something. Hogan was not looking for any awards, just looking to entertain and make some money. He saw a challenge and was willing to take it. Did he fail? No, it wasn’t as successful as being a pro-wrestler, but it was still interesting. And it’s not like it led to the end of his tenure in the WWF.

Or did it?

The shot (to the vein) heard round the world

The year was 1993, and wrestling was at a turbulent point. Vince McMahon and the WWF were under scrutiny by the federal government during the steroid trial, business was way down, and the fans were booing or apathetic to Hulkamania. Hogan had tried to leave on many occasions, but Vince kept pulling him back. Finally, Hogan decided he no longer wanted to be in wrestling and wanted to set out in another direction.

Some people will tell you Hogan left because of his testimony against McMahon at the steroid trial. One problem with that: Hogan’s testimony came almost a year and a half after he left the WWF. One had nothing to do with the other. Similarly, other people say that he left in 1993 because Vince McMahon was not happy with how he answered questions about steroid abuse in the WWF on the Arsenio Hall Show.

One problem with that one: That episode of the Arsenio Hall Show was in 1991, nearly two years before Hogan left the WWF. While it may have been a contributing factor, it was not the sole reason for Hogan’s departure.

In a similar vein, others felt that since Vince was getting everyone off of steroids, Hogan was getting smaller and he did not want him around anymore. The problem with this one? Hogan had not had any steroids in four years. From Hogan’s testimony to during the steroid trial (courtesy of Hollywood Built):

Defense: You stopped steroids in 89?

Terry B: Around then, maybe a little bit after.

Defense: You and your wife have two children?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: July 27, 1990 is the date of birth of your last child?

Terry B: Yes

Defense: Did you and your wife, in 1989, decide you would not be on any drugs?

Terry B: I would wind down and come off.

Defense: Did you use steroids after October 1989?

Terry B: Yes. We had an argument about her getting pregnant while I’m on drugs.

Defense reads GJ testimony of Hulk Hogan.

Q: When was the last time you used steroids?

A: About 4 to 4 and a half years ago. It was 9 months before our daughter was born.

Now, we’ll get back to all this steroids stuff in a bit, don’t you worry. But the bottom line is Hogan was not cycling off in Steroids and getting smaller. He still had the 22” pythons (oh, I have the best quote about that for later. This Steroid Trial is full of hilarious testimony), that had nothing to do with it at all.

Of course, we know at the time of this testimony Hogan had recently contracted with WCW. From Slam! Sports:

It seemed like a glorious day for Hulk Hogan. July 17, 1994. It was his first match with the Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling, and that day he won the WCW World title from Ric Flair in Orlando, FL. He was taking a break from his new television series, “Thunder in Paradise.” He had brought back the magic that was “Hulkamania.” It seemed like the best day of his life.

The week before [for] Hogan was not as glorious, though. He started the week off by promoting his new show, “Thunder in Paradise,” and his match with Flair on “The Tonight Show” and “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.” But on July 14, Hogan had to testify in a Uniondale, NY, court against his former boss, Vince McMahon.

The conspiracy theory is that Hogan was jumping to WCW and was going to turn against Vince and WWF. How ridiculous is this?

No, the truth of the matter is Hogan was tired of over fifteen years on the road, being the top of the business, literally carrying the company on his shoulders, and not spending any time with his family. So in relation to his Hollywood career, he began exclusively working on the television show Thunder in Paradise.

It was on the set of Thunder in Paradise that Hogan even met Bischoff for the first time. From Wrestling 101:

During Hogan’s departure from the wrestling world, he embarked on a new project, Thunder in Paradise , Hogan portrayed an Ex-Navy SEAL turned mercenary with a boat which had all the gadgets of Michael Knight’s K.I.T.T, but unfortunately the boat never spoke. Anyway, the series was fairly successful for Hogan, but it was while he was filming at Universal Studios Hogan met Eric Bischoff. Bischoff had started filming WCW events from the Disney MGM studios in Florida, and he decided to approach Hogan, the pair got talking and Hogan eventually signed a very lucrative deal with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.

It was just happenstance that Hogan and Bischoff were at the same place at the same time, and it turned out the two got along famously. WCW had been in turmoil for years, and Hogan realized that he may just be able to create another super organization again. WCW was in trouble after all, and he might be their savior. From Gery Roif:

After all the damage had been done [in the early 1990s], the financial losses due to poor buyrates, [non-existent] house show revenues, and generally insane spending habits from the controlling powers left WCW nearly 23 million dollars in the red at the end of the year.

And immediately after signing, Hogan made an impact. The Bash at the Beach PPV did a 1.02 PPV buyrate. Compare that to the previous PPV that did a 0.48, or Starrcade seven months earlier that did a 0.55. The premier PPV of WCW did half the buys of the PPV with one Hulk Hogan match. He truly was the draw.

The PPV buys continued to stay mostly high… at least for a while…

There’s a new Hogan in town

Hogan’s return to wrestling in WCW helped lead the company out of the red and lend credibility to the organization. A year and a couple months later and WCW would be able to launch Nitro. With Hogan at the helm, Time Warner corporate felt more comfortable green lighting the program, much like Spike TV felt more comfortable with TNA when they got Sting and Steiner.

The problem was Hogan was facing the same problem. The fans had tired of the unstoppable babyface, and WCW fans were not fully accepting of Hogan. After all, these were the fans that were supposed to want to see more mat-based wrestling. Hogan tried to reinvent himself wearing black and giving himself an edge, but it wasn’t enough. There needed to be something more. But he was frustrated and needed some time away.

While away, he worked on movies. His contract was coming to an end, and he thought that maybe it was all over. Strangely, an old friend made an offer. From Gery Roif:

Terry’s contract was done, just when he finished Santa With Muscles and 3 Ninjas with Lonnie Anderson, he was offered 4.5 Million from Vinnie Mac, and would’ve signed, but when he heard that the new Bret Hart contract that he signed instead of being the 3rd nWo man… Terry did not [like] it, and somebody leaked it to him and re-signed for 3 years….

You see, despite the accusations, Hogan never positioned himself to be the 3rd member of the nWo. He was actually away from wrestling, thinking about retiring or going back the WWF. Bret Hart and Eric Bischoff had already talked about him being the last man for the nWo (though it didn’t have that name yet), and Eric Bischoff did not know what to do. He went to Hogan just to visit him and that is where they came up with the idea for him to be the third man. It would change wrestling forever.

This is the New World Order of Wrestling, brother!

At Bash at the Beach 1996, Hogan literally shocked the world. The “Outsiders” Hall and Nash were taking on a WCW dream team of Sting, Randy Savage, and Lex Luger. Rumors were running rampant. Who would the third man be? No one, and I mean NO ONE saw it coming.

Out of the back came a returning Hulk Hogan. The fans thought he was there to help out the WCW team after Luger was injured. But then, Hogan did the unthinkable! For the first time in fifteen years… Hogan turned heel! Hogan leg dropped Randy Savage, and the fans reacted bitterly. Mean Gene Okerlund on the Monday Night Wars DVD described it as one of the most incredible, emotional sights he had ever seen. The fans were so angry at Hogan and the nWo that they started to pelt the ring with garbage, a rarely seen event at that time.

You see, even after all that time Hogan still had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He still knew how to control them and get them to react. They had such a strong emotional investment that they felt betrayed in a way that no other heel turn before or after has topped.

Even when Austin turned heel, it felt contrived. Hogan’s, though, became natural. He really did want the fans to stick it. He was upset that they had given up on Hulkamania. He was furious that they were turning on him.

So Hogan turned on the crowd first, and they loved to hate him for it.

Hogan and the nWo would turn the wrestling world on its head. From Wikipedia:

Hogan’s turn to heel, after being one of the most popular and iconic figures in sports entertainment and sports in general, caused a great stir through the wrestling community. The next night on Nitro, Eric Bischoff announced that all night Sunday and all day Monday, WCW and Hogan received literally hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints from parents whose children had stayed up all night crying and destroying Hulkster merchandise. Though intended as kayfabe, the statement was no doubt truthful. Hogan’s move from face to heel signified a change in wrestling’s character system, which in coming years would intentionally blur the lines between good and evil.

And the heel turn and the further pushing of the envelope with the nWo created a new boom in wrestling, one that has yet to be surpassed.

As the weeks went on, Nitro’s ratings continued to rise. On August 26, 1996, just seven weeks after the heel turn and the formation of the nWo, Nitro broke the 4.0 ratings barrier that no one thought was possible (a 4.2 to be exact and put the icing on the cake). That same night, RAW scored a 2.0 rating, the lowest head-to-head rating it had received since September 25, 1995. EXACTLY a year later, on August 25, 1997, Nitro would be the first of the Monday night shows to break the 5.0 ratings barrier, although this was mostly due to there being no competition that night. But when RAW was unopposed just five weeks prior, they scored a 4.1 rating. The point was made. Hogan and WCW could convert people over while the WWF had yet to figure out a way to bring them back.

Now, I could keep going into all of Nitro’s monumental ratings victories, even the 83 week winning streak, but that is for another day.

You may also remember from our Eric Bischoff case that it was under Hogan’s reign as champion that WCW not only surpassed the WWF in monthly buyrates, but also in the twelve-month buyrate average. From March 1997 to September 1998, Hogan and the WCW/nWo literally topped the WWF in every category even looking over a year span.

But winning the money and the ratings was not the only thing Hogan did. He helped create the whole “spitting on tradition” counter-culture. He spray-painted the belt, he attacked people in group muggings that were not common, he told the world just how good he was and that they could stick it.

Hogan’s presence drew into WCW some the most unconventional names. From Dennis Rodman to Jay Leno to Karl Malone, these men became a part of WCW history because of Hulk Hogan. Say what you will about what these people may have done or whose spot they may have stolen, they gave WCW and Hogan incredible mainstream attention that translated into ratings, merchandise sales, and buyrates. It made everyone’s life better overall.

WCW was hurting before Hogan, and still shaky before the nWo. But under his guidance WCW became the predominant brand of wrestling in the world. Bischoff has thanked Hogan many times for helping to bring WCW to its only profitable time in history, and Hogan has thanked Bischoff for giving him the opportunity.

Not only, though, were there new events, but everything that was old was new again. Suddenly, Hogan was the heel and people were cheering Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, the Giant, Kevin Sullivan, and may more traditional heels. It was something completely different, to be on the other end of the screaming. To want Hogan to submit, to hope that someone kicked out of the leg drop. It brought new life to his career.

More than that, it brought new life to wrestling. Hogan had once again literally redefined the entire industry. He had helped create the national promotion and the superstar, now he had created the anti-hero and the attitude. He had created storylines with depth and shades of grey. He had given birth to yet another era of professional wrestling.

How many times must I explain how WCW died?

Yet despite all of this, despite bringing WCW to its only profitable time in history, and despite being the most influential person in a whole new era that paved the way for likes of Steve Austin, DX, and the Rock, Hogan has actually been blamed for the DEATH of WCW.

How is that possible?

People started to complain that Hogan’s act was getting old. He came out and talked until the ratings sank. Except that is not what happened at all. Let me remind you what Derek Burgan said about the promo between Warrior and Hogan:

Gene Okerlund said that “ratings sunk like a rock” during Warrior’s promo, which most certainly cannot be true. After a little research, I found out Warrior’s segment on Nitro did a 6.4 to Raw’s 3.1. Now that I think about it, Okerlund might have been even harsher on this DVD to Warrior than Heenan. The difference being that Okerlund often comes across as totally clueless when he opens his mouth.

And this is true for many segments. Hogan was a personality who drew in more viewers, not turned them away. He remained one of the highest draws in WCW until he left the organization in disgrace.

I’ve already proven that the Fingerpoke of Doom (which many lament against Hogan) is Not Guilty, and that it did not cause the death of WCW.

Although many people attributed this to Hogan’s booking power, over time Hogan’s contract became structured so that he had creative control over his character. This made people feel that Hogan would refuse to job the belt to anyone, or that he would book himself at the top of the program no matter who was champ.

First off, who cares if Hogan got booking power in this contract? He had twenty years of experience and knew what it took to have the crowd in his control. Who is anyone to tell Hogan what programs he should be in and how to wrestle? Hogan literally re-created the industry twice. He knew what he was doing.

And Hogan was fine with any program, and losing, so long as there was a plan for him. During the New Blood time under Vince Russo, Hogan worked a program with Billy Kidman and lost to him twice. He was fine with that so long as he knew where his program was going.

Coming into Bash at the Beach 2000, Hogan was to defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Jeff Jarrett. Hogan came to the PPV prepared to drop the title, but under one condition: he wanted to know what the plan was for him afterwards. He was fine with dropping the title to Jarrett and understood that WCW was going in a new direction. Hogan understood that a new generation of wrestlers had to be created.

But when he went to Russo the day of the PPV and asked him what the plan for Hulk Hogan was after the PPV, Russo said, “Nothing.”

Russo had absolutely no plans to use Hogan after the event! How can a booker have absolutely no plans for Hulk Hogan? The least he could have done was continue to use him in the New Blood storyline, putting over anyone from Scott Steiner to Booker T. But he had no plans for Hogan. He was essentially saying he was going to bury Hogan in favor of everyone else.

This was the final straw for Hogan. For the first time EVER he used his creative control clause to change the ending of the match. Russo was furious at Hogan, but Hogan was trying to protect his job. It wasn’t him fighting the new wave of wrestlers or a change in direction; it was him fighting for his legacy.

With this decision, Russo told Jarrett to go out and just lay down, giving Hogan the “Hulk Hogan Memorial Belt” and then stripping Hogan of the World Title and putting it up in a match between Booker T and Jeff Jarrett later in the night. But that would not be before Hogan was verbally taken apart by Russo in the middle of the ring, breaking kayfabe in a way no one ever had before. Hogan left WCW and sued the company and Russo for defamation of character. Hogan’s time in WCW was over in July 2000.

WCW would continue to spiral out of control for months while the bosses began to rotate. Things seemed like they were settling down in January 2001, and it looked as if Eric Bischoff and Fusient Media Ventures were going to acquire WCW. But in March 2001, AOL Time-Warner cancelled the highest rated show on their combined networks, thus ending any possible deal with Fusient. In some shady back door shenanigans, the WWF ended up being the highest bidder for WCW’s library and copyrights, and that is what killed WCW.

Bottom line: WCW was killed when AOL Time-Warner cancelled programming. Hogan had been gone from the company for nearly a year, and had led it to its only profitable period in history. Neither Hogan nor his creative control led to the death of WCW. The complete opposite is the truth of the matter.

And then there was quiet

From Wikipedia:

From July 2000 to November 2001, Hogan was extremely quiet and out of the public eye. He had been dealing with self-doubt and depression following the Vince Russo incident, wondering if what Russo had said about him was true. Hogan was also dealing with the death of his father Peter Bollea in December 2001, which he took very hard. Fans at the time had largely agreed with Russo’s sentiments, feeling that Hogan was “washed-up” and had been holding down younger talents for too long. Hogan wanted to prove his detractors wrong and show them that he still had another run or two left in him.

In the months following the eventual demise of WCW in March 2001, Hogan underwent surgery on his knees in order for him to wrestle again. As a test, Hogan worked a match in Orlando, Florida for the XWF promotion run by his longtime handler Jimmy Hart. Hogan defeated Curt Hennig in this match and felt healthy enough to accept an offer to return to the WWF in February 2002.

As the story above noted, Hogan overcame his depression and his worry. He trained and rebuilt his body. He did what no one thought would ever be possible: he came back to the WWF.

The poison is introduced

Vince McMahon brought Hogan — along with Hall and Nash — back as the nWo in his storyline feud with co-owner Ric Flair. This time, the nWo was not fresh, and were not rebels. Vince never understood that the nWo was not a faction, that it was a different organization that was invading WCW. Also, Nash and Hall were having health and mental problems respectively and were not in the best condition of their life.

Something strange happened, though. Despite everything Hogan had done to the Rock leading up their WrestleMania match, the fans still cheered him. He may have tried to blow up the Rock’s car, but it made no difference. He had passed to that status that was beyond anything, where he was just completely revered.

This newfound face status led to Hogan defeating Triple H for the WWF Undisputed Heavyweight Championship, which became the WWE Undisputed Championship under his reign, another first for Hogan.

After becoming a part of the SmackDown! roster, Hogan began to get involved in a program with young one-legged wrestler Zack Gowen that eventually led to him becoming Mr. America. The whole story ended abruptly when Hogan and Vince could not come to an agreement over money.

With Hogan gone from the WWE, he went to Japan to face Masa “My Hero” Chono before being attacked by Jarrett in what would become an aborted angle that was originally supposed to lead to the first ever Bound for Glory. But do not blame Hogan for this not coming to fruition. He never signed anything that said he would go to TNA. Besides, a very different offer came along.

Hogan was invited to join the WWE Hall of Fame, an event that he was truly humbled by as shown on Hogan Knows Best. Hogan continues to make sporadic appearances today, including a short program with Shawn Michaels. But Hogan knows how valuable his time and presence are. How do I know that? Glad you asked.

But can he still draw?

Very few people doubt that Hogan was a major draw in the 1980’s, there are doubts about how he drew in the 1990’s (and I hope we’ve assuaged them above), but there are big lingering doubts if Hogan is a draw today. The most backwards comment is that he is good for short term draws, but does not draw for long. Is that so? From the 411mania newsboard on March 29, 2006:

The March 26th 12:30pm airing of Hogan Knows Best scored a 1.3 cable rating, with 3.1 share. The 9:30pm airing scored a 0.9 cable rating, with a 1.3 share while the 11pm airing scored a 0.9 cable rating as well, but had a 1.8 share.

So already two weeks into its second season, Hogan is pretty much the top-rated show on VH1. This is the way I see it:

Hulk Hogan, by himself, has more drawing ability than the entire TNA roster. Sorry, but it’s true! No matter how much I may heart their product and want them to succeed, the fact of the numbers show that Hogan in his lonesome outdraws the entire roster.

At this point in his life, Hogan cannot do a full schedule, nor could he even do just a TV schedule. His body and family will not let him, so he must sit back. But if he were around, those are the number he would draw in.

For through the years, Hogan truly has become immortal. His mere presence means more than some of the best laid storylines. One punch from him gets the crowd to cheer louder than any crazy spot off the X-ropes. Hogan himself said, “Why do just three elbow drops and put all that wear and tear on your body when you can do one and then look at the audience and get them to care.”

Do you know when he said that?

On Hogan Knows Best.

Shoot ’em if you got ‘em!

Still, people say Hogan would have been nothing without a little help. And that help came in the form of steroids. Let’s get it straight out there: Hogan has done steroids. He used steroids for twelve years. From Hulk Hogan’s testimony to the federal government in the steroid trial (courtesy of Hollywood Built):

Defense: Any orders placed to Zahorian by you were for your personal use?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Would you distribute steroids?

Terry B: No.

Defense: Which you [believed] steroids were legal?

Terry B: Yes because I had a prescription.

Defense: Do you remember Dr. War from Canada, Dr. Pannovich from Denver, Dr. Liebowitz from NY?

Terry B: Yes, except for Dr. Pannovich.

Defense: Had other doctors dispensed steroids to you between 85 and 89?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: War?

Terry B: Yes

Defense: Liebowitz?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Pannovich?

Terry B: Don’t remember.

Defense reads Terry B’s Grand Jury statements which said that all four doctors including Zahorian wrote him prescriptions.

Defense: Did you get deca from Ponnavich?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you try and use steroids legally?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you get a doctor to see you beforehand?

Terry B: Not so much that, just made sure that I had a prescription.

Defense: Did you get steroids in gyms in the 70s?

Terry B: Yes, 70s and 80s.

Defense: Once you started wrestling for large organizations like the AWA and Japan you starting seeing doctors for steroids?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: It was better to get from a doctor because of the quality?

Terry B: Yes a concern in the gyms would be that they might be fake.

Defense: Today in 1994 you have more knowledge of steroids than in the 80s?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: If you had this info back then would you not have used them?

Terry B: That might have been the case.

And:

Defense: Vince McMahon never directed you to take steroids?

Terry B: Never.

Defense: It was your choice and decision?

Terry B: Definitely.

Defense: Other wrestlers take steroids?

Terry B: To my knowledge, yes.

Defense: Ever hear Vince McMahon tell a wrestler he should take steroids?

Terry B: No.

Defense: Do you recall any conversations with Vince McMahon where he implied a [wrestler] should take steroids?

Terry B: Never.

You see, Hogan did not view his steroid use as anything illegal or wrong. Elsewhere in the interview:

Government: Did you carry steroids on the road?

Terry B: Yes

Government: Why did you use steroids?

Terry B: To heal injuries, to keep on going, the schedule was tough. It gave an edge. For bodybuilding. When I first started it was to get big and gain weight.

And a little later:

Defense: Did you believe steroids helped you to heal from injuries that you sustained?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you feel steroids speeded the recovery from injury?

Terry B: Yes.

You see, we forget that there are legitimate uses to steroids, and Hogan knew what those were. He was already big, he did not need the ‘roids to get there. He was using them to heal from injuries. And as covered in the Lex Luger case, the side effects were much less known. Back to the trial:

Defense: Ever heard of a roid rage?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: In your 12 or 13 years of use did you ever experience a roid rage?

Terry B: No.

Defense: Ever see Vince McMahon have a personality change known as roid rage?

Terry B: No.

Defense: Is it fair to say wrestlers are aggressive?

Terry B: When performing.

Defense: Being on the road, when the wrestlers were offstage were they boisterous?

Terry B: Not all.

Defense: Did some party?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did they get into trouble?

Terry B: Sometimes.

Defense: Did you ever the make the connection of steroids usage and the wrestlers being boisterous at a hotel or bar?

Terry B: Never.

Hogan never experienced some of the worst side effects of steroids. He also knew how to cycle the different drugs to stay healthy. He used them as they were originally intended — as a supplement, not the only way. Still, there were accusations that Hogan was illegally distributing. Back to the trial:

Defense: Did you charge Dave Brower money?

Terry B: No. He gave me 10 vials, so I gave him ten vials. We were friends. It is [similar] to how smokers share cigarettes.

Defense: Between 85–91, you gave wrestlers steroids and the reverse was true. In your mind were you distributing steroids?

Terry B: No, these were my friends.

Defense: When they gave them to you, were they in your mind distributing steroids?

Terry B: No. they were my friends.

Defense: Did you believe as a lay person, that between 85 and 91, as long as a doctor prescribed them, they were legal?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you believe Zahorian was committing a crime?

Terry B: No.

Defense: You did not have knowledge that it was criminal?

Terry B: No, I did not.

And it’s not like Hogan was just seeing these doctors to get steroids:

Defense: Did you talk to Zahorian about your physical condition?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you about problems apart from steroid usage?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you have personal and medical conversations with Zahorian?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did you expect them to be confidential?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Did some concern your wife?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: You used Zahorian for reasons unassociated with steroids?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Were you satisfied with the [advice] of Zahorian?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: He helped you?

Terry B: Yes.

So we can see from all of this that Hogan was not an abuser, he was just a supplementary person. He did what was normal, but only later came to understand the dangers he was putting his body through. When his wife became pregnant, they agreed that he would cycle off of all of the drugs, which he did and never turned back. It’s been nearly fifteen years since then. The man learned his lesson and moved on.

“But JP,” you’ll say, “didn’t he lie about steroid use or the Arsenio Hall Show?”

The answer is: no, not really.

First, let us remember that the appearance on Arsenio Hall was in 1991, three years before the trial. On there, he admitted to having used steroids “on a few occasions” but did not admit to any more. He explained about the healing factors and legitimate reasons for using steroids. Vince did not want to talk about it all, not even the legitimate reasons. That was the basis of their argument. And on top of that, that was just a show, not the grand jury.

No, Hogan didn’t need the steroids, as we’ve said. He used them to help his life on the road, not realizing the full implications of what he was doing. But when he did he made the changes to his health in order to continue going without them. After all, he did not really need them. This wraps it all up nicely:

Defense: You do not take steroids anymore?

Terry B: No.

Defense: Do you still refer to your arms as pythons when in character?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: As 22 inches?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Are they still 22 inches?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: Is one of your lines for the Ric Flair PPV (said in a Hulk Hogan voice) whats you gonna do Ric Flair when these pythons come after you?

Terry B: Yes.

Defense: And that’s without steroids?

Terry B: Yes.

And what is funnier than hear the defense do a Hulk Hogan voice?

Here comes the prosecution!

Now we can start new content, but I’m not even going to start! I asked you, the readers, what were some items that made you hate Hulk Hogan that I did not cover. Here they are (and whoever said them first gets the billing, sorry if you are not here). First up is someone many of you will recognize, fixxer315 who said:

1. Curt Hennig is scheduled to win the Royal Rumble in 1990, but Hogan pushed to get it changed to him winning.

That was never the plan at all. Curt Hennig had been in the WWF since 1988 and was still a very young man. He had a year-long undefeated streak that ended in an early shot at the WWF Championship against Hulk Hogan. Think of this as when John Cena faced Brock Lesner for the WWF Championship early in the former one’s career. It was a huge push just to get a shot, nonetheless against the best. As the months were moving on, it became obvious that Warrior was becoming the huge face of the company. Hogan, wanting to take a smaller role and film more movies, agreed to move to the side. In order to build that match at WrestleMania VI, Hogan won the Royal Rumble to set up the initial confrontation, defeating the last man in the ring Mr. Perfect.

So just two years into his WWF career and Hennig had already gotten numerous title shots and proved he could hang with Hogan, a la Piper, DiBiase, Bundy, Hercules, et al.

And please take into consideration the WWF booking strategy of the time: the WWF title was to be held by a face for a long period of time who did more showmanship than wrestling. The Intercontinental Title was for those who were good enough to be champion but they just couldn’t have them win the belt. And so when Warrior won the WWF Championship off of Hogan, Curt Hennig was the one to win the tournament for the vacant title.

It was never a depush or a plan by Hogan, it was a plan by Vince and the WWF to transfer the WWF Championship to Warrior, phase down Hogan, and give Hennig the reward he deserved without disrupting the top of the card.

Next!

2. Hogan pulls one of the most crass political moves ever as he walks out of WM9 with the world title, making Yokozuna and Fuji look foolish by challenging him after just winning the title. He then takes a vacation with the belt, rarely appearing on WWF TV until his KOTR defense. He is supposed to drop it to Bret at SummerSlam, but Hogan refuses, so McMahon pulls the plug on Hogan’s run and has Yokozuna squash him at KOTR, and that’s the last you see of Hogan on WWF TV for about 9 years. (That wouldn’t be the last time Hogan screwed over Bret, but I’m not gonna get into Starrcade 97).

The WWF was in a bad position come WrestleMania IX. The steroid scandal was in full bloom, business was way down, and nothing seemed to help. Vince came to Hogan in desperation with a plea to help out his company. The problem was Hogan already had a crazy schedule with starring and being executive producer of two movies while also preparing for his new television show Thunder in Paradise. It was a mistake by Vince to put so much on Hogan when Hogan was not available. Anyway, Hogan’s contract was coming to an end, and Vince decided it was worth pulling the plug on the reign early in order to get the title back into the main picture. He did not refuse to job to Bret Hart, it was just timing. Hogan’s contract did not go until SummerSlam, and he was already scheduled to start filming Thunder in Paradise episodes. So he dropped the title back to Yokozuna, definitely not making him look foolish then, and then going on to film movies. As we covered earlier, Hogan did not leave the WWF to avoid putting over Bret or go to WCW; he went to film his new TV show. He thought he was done with wrestling until he met Eric Bischoff months later.

What else?

3. Hardly ever defending the title while in WCW, at least not in the pre-Nitro days.

This is the same story. Now we are just jumping ahead a few months. Hogan had signed a limited engagement contract because the intention was to use Hogan to bolster WCW but also allow him time to do his show and movies. And that is exactly what he did! WCW’s ratings and buyrates hit new highs. Besides, Nitro was launched while Hogan was champion. His presence was one of the reasons WCW got a Monday night show. He even jobbed in a non-title match to Arn Anderson on Nitro. It was just a timing and booking decision by Bischoff to bring WCW to a new level, and that is exactly what happened.

Can we try a different story?

4. Using his backstage stroke to bring in all of the WWF castoffs whose gimmicks were getting old even in the early 90s. (Earthquake, Duggan, Ed Leslie, [Honkytonk]). Come on — Ed Leslie headlining Starrcade? The end result was to push many of the traditional WCW wrestlers to the side, as Sting didn’t see the main event from mid-94 until late-95 unless he was tagging with Hogan. Flair couldn’t be shunted aside as easily, but he was made into Savage’s bitch. And all of the up and coming talent such as Pilman, Austin and Johnny B Badd were either removed outright or were put into supporting roles.

You have this backwards. Remember back where we talked about how Vince used Hogan to make contacts with all the stars of the AWA, WCCW, JCP/NWA, etc… and then lure them over? Pretty much the same thing. Bischoff was looking for more recognizable names to bolster WCW’s roster. Do not forget how many people WCW lost from 1991–1993, a loss they were still recovering from. Bischoff wanted names that may or may not bring people in, but at least were recognizable. How they were used after that is not Hogan’s fault. Sure, he probably wanted some of his friends to come over and have good jobs, but why is that a bad thing? You’ve never recommended a friend for a job before? These were all qualified people. The up and coming talent were not pushed down the card, and met mixed success later. We can look back now and say, “Oh my god, they were bad to Austin! He didn’t get a push because Hogan was around!” But that wasn’t the case at the time. Austin was some blond-haired guy who had not found his niche yet. He was a competent wrestler and was showing some signs that he could be good, but he was no higher on the card nor more important than, say, Ken Kennedy today.

You can’t build the second floor of your house without the foundation first. Hogan and the older stars were the foundation that would make WCW strong. Only then could those younger stars grow. It just so happens that none of those three became main event stars in WCW (though only Austin did in the WWF/E), but there are others who were there then and later who did get to become stars because of the foundation that was built, including DDP, the Giant, and later Goldberg. And that’s just the main event. Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Steven/William Regal, Booker T… all were able to get the first major exposure in WCW in the years to come because of the foundation and risk Bischoff took through Hogan’s contacts.

Next up in Jim Moore with a conspiracy theory:

[T]ry to save face for Hogan for the Fast Count That Wasn’t A Fast Count, when he colluded/paid off Nick Patrick to not do the fast count when he pinned Sting at Starrcade.

I believe you are referring to this version of history provided by Wikipedia:

Rather than the triumphant victory that one would expect the most popular wrestler in the company to gain over the hated man he had been chasing for over a year, as Sting had Hogan, the finish was confused and chaotic, with the live audience visibly displeased at the entire spectacle. Hart “restarted” the match, and Sting quickly won the title, but given the circumstances, excitement was rather muted. It is rumored that Hogan paid Patrick a sum in cash backstage before the show in exchange for failing to execute the planned finish, with the intent of protecting Hogan’s image. The entire debacle resulted in the title being held up for another Hogan-Sting pay-per-view match, which many WCW fans took as a slap in the face and a hapless attempt to draw additional money to see the result WCW had failed to deliver the first time around.

And that is why sometimes, Wikipedia is a VERY unreliable source. Commentary, psychological analysis, and ex-post facto examination of long-term impacts do make a good history book. Anyway, as is often the case, follow the dollar signs.

The first dollar sign was Bret Hart. The Montreal Screwjob was a shock to the wrestling world. Bischoff did not expect that he’d be able to get Bret Hart that way, and wanted to strike while the iron was hot. So he brought Hart in quickly without much direction because he just wanted him there. This created the need to get him involved in Starrcade and mess up the booking that had been in place for months. So Bret Hart was a combustible element that most were not used to working with.

Next was what happened after Starrcade. The “controversy” led to the title being held up and a rematch being set. Have you considered that this was just a swerve to get more buyrates? Do you know what the buyrates were for the next PPVs? 1.02, 1.10, and 1.10! Plan successful!

Now, if Hogan really did pay off Nick Patrick, how in the blue hell did he maintain a job in WCW for four more years and then be one of five refs to survive from WCW in the WWE. Even Earl Hebner got fired in the WWE, so how could Nick Patrick, if he were that corrupt, actually survive in these jobs? How could this be the only time he’d allow this to happen?

And why would Hogan pay him off? Why not just use his creative control clause and change the ending of the match? He already had it in his contract!

Now, I cannot speak for Nick Patrick, and he has never spoken aloud about it. Did me mess up and forget that this was the time to count fast? Or was this the story to set up more Hogan/Sting and eventual move a heel Hart (who, don’t forget, was a heel coming from the WWF and didn’t exactly make his intentions clear in WCW for almost his entire run) into the mix? I can only speculate on that. But Hogan paying him off? What would be the point and the actual possibility? Too crazy of a conspiracy for my tastes.

In 2017, Nick Patrick finally broke his silence on this issue on the Sitting Ringside podcast. During the interview, he had this to say (because he was retired and had nothing to lose anymore):

“What happened was two people, Sting and Hulk, they were the two franchise guys and the two franchise guys were butting heads at that point in time… One guy came up to me and told me to fast count it to get some heat and give him an out and the other guy said ‘Don’t fast count it. Keep it nice and slow.’

And so the person that was in charge evidently didn’t want to make a call, didn’t want to pick a side, and made themselves scarce all night long to where I couldn’t find them to ask them ‘Hey, what do you want me to do?’”

Patrick further noted that he more often than not used a slow count, so just decided to go with that since he could not get better direction.

Later on, Eric Bischoff addressed this in a response on his 83 Weeks Podcast. During that interview, Bischoff described the rest of the situation, explained how he had wanted the fast count but left the details up to the wrestlers, the ref, and the agents. He was not actively involving himself in the details, so it became a communication fiasco that resulted in what happened on screen. Nick Patrick made the final decision because Bischoff was not as involved as he could or should have been. Therefore, it was not politicking, not a payoff, but just a general disagreement of match specific layout details that led to a pure mess.

Manu Bumb brings us back to reality:

You kinda glossed over that whole part where Hogan lost to Lesnar on SD, then disappeared for a long while, at first to sell Lesnar’s brutality, but eventually, didn’t they have a problem causing Hogan to walk away sometime after that match, and before he returned to SD (prior to NWO and his WM match vs Vince)?

I did gloss over it for time purposes but we can return to it because you and a few others mentioned it. The bottom line is money and contracts. Vince and Hogan could not agree on how to use Hogan and what to pay him, but eventually came to an understanding. In the end, Hogan is still a businessman and knows his best product is himself. He does not need to work and will do it for the right fun and the right dollars. But not without a good combination of both. Since he came back after that, this point is rather moot.

After that I heard from Steffan Jones in the UK who just needs me to answer one thing before he votes Not Guilty:

[O]ne issue [I] still have with Hogan which I’d like to you to answer is that I read in the UK’s Powerslam magazine that HBK agreed to put over Hogan at SummerSlam as long as Hogan returned the favour at Unforgiven. After Summerslam Hogan basically blew them off, and refused to put HBK over and work Unforgiven for some reason or other. I’m a true HBK mark, so I gotta say, I view this as just plain bad sportsmanship, as HBK did a hell of a job putting Hogan over. Also, I heard it’s written into Hogan’s contract with WWE, that whenever he appears on a WWE ppv, he always has to be the highest paid wrestler on the card, even if it’s just a quick mid-card run in, like WM 21. How can he justify this if he’s only making a one off 10 min appearance in the mid-card?

Hogan’s contract with the WWE was only through the match at SummerSlam, that is it. He never agreed to further matches and actually was quite busy trying to get his daughter’s music career going. The whole point of Hogan Knows Best is to give his daughter publicity (and its working), and that is why she seems like the main centerpiece of the show — because she is! He may have verbally agreed to come back, but life and offers take you by surprise. Just a couple of months later and Hogan was on the set of Little Hercules (where he twisted his ankle and was on crutches).

Hogan does not have many matches left in him. His injuries, replaced body parts, and needs of his family means that he cannot just keep coming back to win and lose matches. He has no problem losing, as demonstrated by losses to Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle (by tap out!), but he will not just come back for a match he’s already had. He wants to wrestle Steve Austin, as he challenged him at Homecoming and teased it at the 2006 Hall of Fame Ceremony. That is his concentration now, not returning a “favor” to Shawn Michaels, a favor that Michaels does not need. Is Shawn going to be less over because of his loss to Hogan? Nope, it does not seem so. Hogan never got his win back over Goldberg, and never would have gotten it over the Warrior if Warrior had not come to WCW. He’ll never get his back over Brock Lesnar! So Shawn has one person he’s never defeated, it’s no big deal. Magnum TA will never defeat Ric Flair, it does not take away from his career.

As for being the most paid person on the show, that is not what happened. It just so happens that on some shows he may be the most paid person on the show. But show pays are based on a number of things. First, there is the base pay. Most contracted WWE wrestlers have lower base pays than in the past, but Hogan only signs contracts with a high base. He will not be dependent on match residuals. And that’s where the rest of the money comes from. First, there are the buyrates, of which wrestlers on the card get a cut. Then there is the actual gate and merchandise. This is where Hogan kills others. Despite the years, when Hogan’s merchandise is available in the arena and he is there, it tends to be the top, if not near the top, of the sales list. And Hogan, due to his knowledge of contracts and his value, gets a higher cut of his revenues than other wrestlers like John Cena. While the WWE owns and copyrights everything John Cena related, Hogan owns almost everything related to his image and the WWE has to pay him to use his likeness in that way.

So yes, given the correct variables, Hogan could be the highest paid person at the show, it is very possible. But it is all dependent on Hogan being able to draw and sell himself, not just on the base pay of the contract.

All right, any other prosecutors?

Only repeaters of same or similar issues and Andrew F. accusing Hogan of vicariously creating Randy Savage’s rap career, but that’s for another day. There’s also still the question of the relationship between Hogan and Hart, so I’ll get to that first…

Do you have a Hart?

A lot of people claim that Hogan and Hart have a terrible relationship, and that Hogan has always held Hart back. They claim that throughout his career, Hogan has done everything possible to hold Hart back and Hart despises him for it.

The problem? Bret Hart totally disagrees. From Bret Hart’s Calgary Sun article on June 8, 2002:

Hulk Hogan.

He hasn’t changed a whole heck of a lot from the way he was the first time I met him back in ‘79.

The first time I met Terry Bollea we were both working for Georgia Championship Wrestling, which eventually evolved into the WCW.

Back then he was known as Sterling Golden. He was very green. And very impressive. On the day I left Atlanta to come home I knocked on his door to say good bye and told him if he ever wanted to learn to wrestle he was welcome to come up and work for my dad any time. He thanked me, and meant it, saying he’d keep it in mind.

The next time I saw him was in Japan. He’d just shot his cameo for the Rocky III movie and was on the verge of mega — stardom that nobody could have even begun to imagine.

Still the same guy.

When I started with the WWF, in August of ’84, he was on his way to being, without question, the biggest name in the history of wrestling.

I can remember, even during the glory days of Hulkamania, how Terry would come into the dressing room and say hi to every single wrestler. Every night he headlined there was a [sellout] and throughout the night all the wrestlers would come up to him and whoever his opponent was and thank them both for the house, for putting food on their tables and making wrestling something worth respecting.

I can say that Hulk Hogan was not only a hero to millions of Hulkamaniacs, but to all the wrestlers too.

If Vince McMahon was Julius Caesar, then Hulk Hogan was Alexander the Great.

I remember one time at an airport, in about 1987, when Hulk signed one autograph after another to the point where it took him 45 minutes to get to the gate. They were closing the doors as he was boarding the plane and this one fan asked him for his autograph. He said apologetically, “I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m gonna miss my flight …” and he got on the plane. I was right behind him and I heard a bystander flippantly remark, “Just like I figured. I always thought he was a jerk.” I thought to myself, that person has no idea how many autographs he just signed. Being a hero like Hulk Hogan it’s hard to make everybody happy but for a guy that’s been wrestling as long as he has he’s certainly done a heck of a job.

Hulk was especially considerate of me when I joined him in the WCW.

I saw him a few days ago at Davey’s funeral and despite the sad backdrop it was nice to catch up on things.

So then I opened up my paper and saw a picture of Hulk, taken in Calgary, with a fifteen year old girl named Amanda Marqniq who dreams of being a pro wrestler but needed a heart transplant.

It brought back what I remember most about Hulk Hogan, even more than his feats as a great wrestler. The countless times the office came to get him from the dressing room to make the wish of a sick or dying child come true. Despite the fact that he was pulled in too many different directions and had little time for himself or his family, Hulk always had all the time in the world for kids who needed him to be their hero. He somehow knew just the right things to say. It was never a burden to him. If anything, it gave him a sense of real purpose. I’ve always tried to follow his example.

In Friday’s paper I read how Amanda has now gotten her new heart. I thought I might just give Hulk a call and let him know. He’d be happy to hear that.

Some things in wrestling have always been real and Hulk Hogan is one of them.

That sounds like a man who respects and admires Hulk Hogan, not only as a wrestler but as a human being. And notice about that remark about Hogan helping Hart in WCW? If Hart believed for a second that Hogan had paid off Nick Patrick or any other such thing, he would never say such a nice remark. Hart has never been one to pull punches, and if he had something to say against Hogan he would say it.

Sure, Hart would have liked to get that big one-on-one match with Hogan for the championship, but due to many reasons that we have covered it just did not happen. I understand that we are angry that we’ll never get to see this dream match, but that is no reason to take it out on Hogan. The hands of fate and time do not make a man guilty of crime, and we cannot hold Hogan responsible because too many events did not align.

All right, with the big questions out of the way, one huge one remains…

Can Hogan wrestle?

The title says it all. Can Hulk Hogan actually wrestle? We’ve touched on his training and some specific matches, as well as how he thinks of showmanship over athletics. But what about his actual in-ring prowess?

For the first time in In Defense Of… history I submit video evidence for the jury. Below you can see video evidence of Hulk Hogan performing submission move after submission move rarely if ever seen in the US. Oh, and Muta kicks out of the Atomic Leg Drop! The video is made available courtesy of YouTube is available here and here, but screen captures for those of you just reading along:

Just goes to show you: Hogan could wrestle and chose not to. Doing less moves elongates the career. Like I’ve said previously, why do a bunch of crazy moves when one punch can have the crowd eating out of the palm of your hand?

Now what?

So what is Hogan up to today in 2006? He spends most of his energy working on his daughter’s music career, of which she recently signed a record deal. He is helping his son find direction and meaning in life. He is keeping his wife happy. He is starring in the highest rated show on VH1. He’s in Arby’s commercials. Hogan is still in demand, and will be for years to come.

He is the immortal one…

Hulk Hogan is a man who at least twice revolutionized wrestling. He ushered in the ages of Rock ‘n Wrestling and “cool to be bad”. His presence has done more to define what it means to be a wrestler, and what the wrestling industry is. He has saved two companies from death. He has traveled the world defending his titles against the best the world has to offer.

Hulk Hogan has been the largest drawing wrestler of all time and created the true definition of the multimedia superstar. No one has been able to truly reach the cross-cultural iconic status that Hulk Hogan has set. Maybe no one ever will.

Yet despite all this there is hatred for the man. People question his place in wrestling history, they question if he is still valid today. They look at and older man today who does a few brief appearances and retroactively add it to the past. Forgotten are his great glories and in their place are events that never took place.

As a man who has been in this industry for so long, rumors run rampant. Most are untrue, and have long been proven untrue, yet they continue to this day.

Why? Why do these rumors persist?

Because when a man gets so big, so great, there are those that inevitably want to tear him down.

Some were peers who could never reach his level. Others were outsiders who felt that their heroes deserved placement above this showman.

But nothing they say can ever take away from the truth.

Hulk Hogan is beyond the sport of professional wrestling. He’s beyond famous. He’s beyond legend.

Hulk Hogan is one thing:

Immortal.

The defense rests.

After the Trial

Hung Jury

IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VS. HULK HOGAN, HULK HOGAN HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF Being a dreg on the sport of professional wrestling whose accomplishments have been grossly exaggerated, especially by himself. He has done more to hurt wrestling than ever to help it, and his continued presence in wrestling only DISRUPTS the industry overall.

With 76.3% of the vote, Hulk Hogan was found:

NOT GUILTY!

Although many naysayers still won’t repent, I’d like to point out that almost immediately after the verdict Hogan Knows Best was renewed for a third season. Hmmmm… coincidence? My ego says not!

Response

In a case this long and detailed, so many points are covered it is difficult to satisfy everyone. Some people sent the usual “challenges” and “your facts are wrong, here’s my unsubstantiated source that must be right”, but I’ll leave those to the side. An interesting one came from several people (including people who voted “Not Guilty”):

Bret did NOT talk to Hogan at HOF ceremony and made a point to mention he and Austin ignored him so the Bret Hart article makes little [sense] to me with all the ass kissing then to be so BITTER at HOF, something wrong in Denmark sunshine.

Mike Sexton

Before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, I would have voted “NOT GUILTY.” But after watching how The Hitman “snubbed” The Hulkster at the HoF, I decided to vote “GUILTY.” This is despite you quoting Bret as saying Hogan is/was a good man.

Leo

Some points were simply proven inaccurate. Bret, for instance, ignored Hogan at the HoF ceremony as payback for what Hogan did to him. I don’t agree with what Bret did there but OH YES, there is animosity.

Ron M.

What can I say? There is what the man said versus what these people perceived to be happening. I’ll just let this response sum up my thoughts:

Hart’s Calgary Sun article certainly gets rid of that conspiracy theory. A resounding NOT GUILTY.

Kevin Mitchell

There was a lot of new methods used in this case, including the prosecution (you can read about that in the Appendix) and the use of a video. Keep in mind that this was 2006 and how early it was to use embedded videos:

I loved the video man, but warn people that they are going to see Hogan do an Enziguri… I almost laughed out loud in the middle of my office.

[A]nytime you can add video man please do, especially rare ones like that, [it’s] fun to see matches you either never knew existed or would never have a chance to see…

Doug Bernard

Unfortunately, Doug got his wish as the Internet changed to shoving videos into everything because all things must be “multimedia” in the 2020’s. You click on a news article because you want to read about it and BAM: it’s an auto-playing loud video that provides no details beyond the headline or is completely unrelated. Thank goodness for auto-play blockers and the like.

That video did bring up something interesting that I was not aware of:

I was wondering how many readers will tell you that the reason that Muta kicked out of the legdrop was probably because Hogan uses the axe-bomber (clothesline) as his finisher in Japan.

Feroz Nazir

Feroz was actually the only person who brought this to my attention, but there you go!

Finally, to wrap it all up is a piece of evidence I did not get to use:

[M]ay be of some use in your current case? [F]eel free to use if you want:

Grant Hislop

The original version of this article appeared on 411mania.com and can be found on jpprag.com:

Part 1 — March 29, 2006 * Part 2 — April 5, 2006 *

Part 3 — April 12, 2006 * Part 4— April 19, 2006

IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED

IN DEFENSE OF…

EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED

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