411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2006: Hulk Hogan
He was born Terry Gene Bollea on August 11, 1953, in Augusta, Georgia, and although early in his life there were no indications, Bollea had a future in front of him that would see him become the most popular and successful wrestler of all time. Bollea wasn’t your pure athlete through out life, quite the opposite actually. He wasn’t very athletic and at the age of 12, was overweight at 195lbs. It wasn’t until age 14, where he attended a Christian Youth Ranch that he became interested in athletics, namely working out with weights. He continued his new hobby through high school, and into college. He studied business at the University of South Florida, where he fell in love with Rock music. He played in a local band, and also bounced at a nightclub. After college, he continued with music and bouncing, while he obtained a good job at a bank. Something just didn’t click and Bollea wasn’t happy. One night Jack and Jerry Briscoe saw Bollea at an AWA show, and thought he had a “special look.” He went to be trained under Hiro Matsuda. Story says Matsuda broke Bollea’s leg on his first day, and was told to never come back. After he healed, he did return and Matsuda agreed to train him.
1978, after his training was complete, is when Terry Bollea made his pro-wrestling debut. He went as the masked “Super Destroyer” in the Florida wrestling scene. He would move on to NWA Georgia where he was dubbed “Sterling Golden.” In 1979 he won his first title, the NWA South Eastern Heavyweight defeating “Dirty” Dick Slater. His star was beginning to rise, and he even had a short-lived feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler. Around this time Bollea met Andre the Giant, and the two would become quick friends outside the ring, and lay the groundwork for a huge money feud later on in the ring.
Bollea had caught the attention of Vince McMahon Sr. who had big plans for him. He would begin to work as “The Incredible Hulk Hogan.” The initial plan was for Hogan to dye his hair, to play off of Irish roots, but with the already thinning hair of Hogan, he refused. He was used as a heel with “Classy” Freddie Blassie as his manager. August 9, 1980 saw the Showdown at Shae (where Zbyzko and Sammartino had their cage match,) the first meeting of Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan occurred. They also would meet on September 22, 1980 in Madison Square Garden; Andre won both bouts. Hogan would have his shots against WWF Champion Bob Backlund, but always seemed to come up short. He went to Japan for a while and started to become a major success, due to his look and size. He would team with Stan Hansen and were definitely a team not to take lightly. Hogan was smart enough to know that even though money was good in Japan that the real success was still in the US so he returned.
Hogan wanted to continue work for Vince Sr. but a major problem arose. Hogan was offered the part of “Thunder Lips, the Ultimate Male” in Rocky III. Vince Sr. told Hogan he could not do the movie, and so Hogan’s time with the WWF would end there as he went on to film the movie. Hogan was welcomed with open arms to Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion, a promotion that would begin to take off with Hogan as a major draw.
Even though they wanted him to be a heel, the fans refused to let him as they cheered him, most likely due to his popularity garnered from Rocky III. The arena’s started to fill, and fill with new fans. Hogan would face AWA champion Nick Bockwinkle on several occasions, and each time they would make more and more money and eventually break record attendance. They knew there was huge money in the eventual Hogan title win, so he was booked to go through the Heenan Family to get to Bockwinkle and the title. Finally Hogan won a guaranteed shot at the AWA title in a battle royal. Just when it looked like he defeated the champion for the title, it was taken away from him. This would happen two times and Hogan would not be acknowledged as an AWA champion until 2005.
June of 1983 saw Hogan disappointed by his standing in the AWA, so he returned to Japan. Hogan was quickly entered into the IWPG Title tournament to crown the first IWPG champion. Hogan ran through the competition defeating Killer Khan, Big John Studd, Rusher Kimura, Canek, Enrique Vera, Otto Wanz, and Akira Maeda en route to the finals to face Japanese legend Antonio Inoki. The end of the match saw Hogan “knock out” Inoki with the Axe Bomber to become the first ever IWGP champion. Many say it was an accident that it happened, but many say it was an elaborate work from Inoki to make Hogan a huge star, only to win the title from him 2-weeks later. Hogan received promises of huge amounts of money to stay in Japan, but once again he knew that the true measure of success was in the US, so he returned. He was tired of the AWA and their lack of faith in him, so when the phone rang and Vince McMahon Jr. came calling, Hogan answered with an enthusiastic “yes!”
It was late in 1983 when Hulk Hogan inked a deal with Vince Jr. Vince had had huge plans, plans that went against what his father had wanted. Vince wanted to go national with the WWF, and he knew he needed a huge start to do it, and with the success of Rocky III, he knew that man was Hogan. In January of 1984, Hogan replaced the “injured” Bob Backlund in a match with WWF champion the Iron Sheik. After a flurry by the Sheik and escaping the Camel Clutch, Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik and became the new WWF champion; and wrestling would never be the same. Hogan had that “special something” that kept the diehard fans, but also brought in new ones. Through feuds with, at the time, the quintessential heel Roddy Piper, wrestling was growing by leaps and bounds. Growing so much that behind Hogan Vince McMahon would put it all on the line, all for one night; WrestleMania.
Hogan would team with TV Celebrity Mr. T to take on Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff. The match, and event as a whole were a great success and Vince McMahon’s goal of a dominant national promotion had come to fruition. He would defend the title against all comers, and when the time was right, he would face his friend, and former in ring foe, Andre the Giant at the biggest wrestling event in North American History.
In January of 1987 Andre returned on Piper’s Pit with Heenan to confront Hulk Hogan. Andre was “undefeated” for his entire career and thought the trophy awarded to him was bogus and wanted a shot at the world title, something he had never been given in the WWF. With him ripping the cross from Hogan, the challenge was made for WrestleMania III. The two men would face off in front of 93,000+ in a match that saw Hulk Hogan defeat the Giant and truly cement his place in the annuls of wrestling history. Almost a year later, Andre would challenge Hogan again on The Main Event, a special Friday Night prime time version of Saturday Night’s Main Event. This event would garner a 15.2 rating, a rating that has never been touched by another wrestling event. In the match, Hogan tried to slam Andre but failed and a quick count later but the evil twin of referee Dave Hebner, Andre the Giant was the new WWF Champion, ending Hogan’s run of just over 4 years. As promised, Andre sold the WWF title to the Million Dollar Man, but that didn’t set well with President Jack Tunney so the title was held up for a special tournament at WrestleMania IV. Since Hogan and Andre were the last “recognized” WWF champions, they got byes into Round 2 of the tournament where they would face each other. The match ended in a double disqualification and Hogan was out of luck at regaining his title.
Randy Savage walked out of WM 4 with the world title with the help of Hogan and the two were now a force to be reckoned with as The Mega Powers. They teamed at Summerslam to defeat Dibiase and Andre the Giant and all seemed well. At Survivor Series they were the sole survivors for their team. But all was not well, as tension between Savage and Hogan grew when Hogan also took Elizabeth as his manager. As 1989 started, both men were entered into the Royal Rumble, where Hogan “accidentally” eliminated Savage, which caused a confrontation that Elizabeth was able to break up. On Saturday Nights Main Event, the Mega Powers came to an end. They were battling the Twin Towers when Savage was knocked from the ring and knocked out Elizabeth. Hogan carried her to the back and left Savage on his own. Eventually Hogan would return and when he offered a hand in tag, Savage slapped him and left him on his own. Hogan would win the match and then go back and confront Savage and check on Elizabeth. Savage attacked him and that signaled the end of them as a team. At WrestleMania V the Mega Powers would explode as Savage and Hogan faced off for the WWF Title. Hogan would end Savage’s one year reign that night.
Over the next years Hogan was a main draw of the WWF, including at WM VI where he faced off with WWF IC Champion the Ultimate Warrior. Hogan dropped the title that night in the sold out Sky Dome and seemed to be off to Hollywood, and away from wrestling. But Hollywood wasn’t the wonderland he hoped for, and Warrior wasn’t the draw Vince had hoped for. Hogan returned and at WM 7 defeated the Iraqi turncoat Sergeant Slaughter for the WWF Title. But times were changing and Hogan wasn’t what the fans wanted to see all of the time. They wanted something different. Even though at WrestleMania 9 he ran out and defeated Yokozuna for the WWF Title in under a minute, times were going to change. AT the 1993 King of the Ring, he faced off with Yokozuna and dropped the title. Hogan was on his way out. Many say he wanted to focus on Hollywood, some say it was because Vince found out about an interview he did in Japan proclaiming one of their titles the “biggest title in wrestling” and others will say it was because of the steroid scandal, in which the WWF tries to bury Hogan. Whatever the precise reasoning one thing was for sure; his time with the WWF was over.
June 11, 1994: The biggest day to date for WCW. Hulk Hogan with a multitude of fanfare joined World Championship Wrestling. Eric Bishoff creatively approached him as he worked on his “Thunder and Paradise” show and convinced Hogan to sing with the company. Hogan was promised the world, literally as he had guaranteed millions, the title, creative control and a share of the PPV profits. He debuted in the ring at the 1994 Bash at the Beach PPV and defeated Ric Flair for the WCW Title. With Hogan and Flair headlining WCW started to slowly pull in loyal WWF fans and their arenas started to fill.
Next, Eric Bishoff decided to go head to head with Vince McMahon and Monday Night Raw. In 1995 they did this, and not only had Hogan, but the returning Lex Luger on the show. Through all Hogan was doing, it seemed that his act was playing out and even with him taking out the Dungeon of Doom, Flair, Vader and others is popularity wasn’t enough anymore, something drastic had to be done. So it was done at the 1996 bash at the Beach, Hogan spit in the face of his “Hulkamaniacs” as he turned on Sting and Macho Man Randy Savage to join Hall and Nash. The n W o was born. This allegiance kick started the most successful time for WCW, and led to 80+ weeks of Monday Night victories for WCW. From 1996-1999 Hogan and the various forms of the n W o had control of the company, both on TV and backstage. In 1999 Hogan had to be written off of TV due to lingering Knee injuries that needed surgery.
Hogan would return, and shortly after would go for another major change. The red and yellow would return and Hulkamania lived. He would retain the WCW Title against Kevin Nash at Road Wild 1999 in a “loser leaves town” match. The problem was that not many trusted Hogan, including Sting who thought Hogan was n W o for life. In a shocking moment at Halloween Havoc 1999, Hogan laid down and let Sting pin him. He did this to “rebel” against the new “powers that be” and then disappeared.
When he returned in 2000, things were far from clear. Russo and Bishoff together would take the book, there would be the Millionaires Club vs. The New Blood feud, Hogan would wrestle as Terry Bollea, and then go back to “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan. He feuded with his nephew Horace as well as Billy Kidman. He would challenge Jeff Jarrett for the WCW World Title at the Bash at the Beach PPV. As the match started, Jarrett laid down and told Hogan to pin him. As Russo came out, he did and handed the belt to Hogan. Hogan left in a fit of rage as Russo proceeded to “shoot” on him. He said the title that Hogan left with was worthless, and was now the “Hulk Hogan Memorial Title.” This whole angle led to lead to a lawsuit and Hogan’s end with WCW.
As WCW folded in 2001, most figured that Hogan’s career would be all but over. But in November of 2001, he joined friend Jimmy Hart in trying to create the new XWF promotion. He wrestled Curt Hennig in a set of tapings that never found a TV home, and that promotion folded. After a few months off, the rumors started to run wild again, and in January of 2002, the n W o made their WWE debut. After Hogan nearly “killed” the Rock with a semi, a “dream match” to many would take place at WM. The Rock and Hogan would face off at WrestleMania 18 and would truly electrify the crowd. The Rock would defeat Hogan that night, and help him fight off the n W o and in that Hogan returned to the side of good. He would go on to win the new Undisputed Title from HHH, and then drop it to the Undertaker. At this time, Hogan had completed his contracted dates, and things began to get rocky between he and Vince McMahon. Hogan and he would have disputed over money, from an Australia show that Vince saw as “another house show” as far as pay outs went. Hogan saw this is a PPV because of the huge sell out. Unable to come to an agreement Hogan went out clean to Kurt Angle and then was left in a bloody mess by “The Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar, and that solidified Brock as earning his nickname.
Hogan would return, and take the guise of Mr. America; a masked man in red, white and blue that wrestled exactly like Hogan. He would feud with McMahon and Piper on air, with McMahon trying to prove that Mr. America was actually Hogan. Hogan did not enjoy this run and felt as if he was being humiliated. After a match on Smackdown, when the cameras were off of the air, he unmasked and posed for his fans. He decided that this was his last appearance with the company, and Vince used the footage of him being unmasked as the way to get him off of TV.
In October of 2003, Hogan headlined the NJPW Tokyo Dome show where he defeated Mashiro Chono. After the match, Hogan was attacked by NWA Champion Jeff Jarrett. This footage was shown on TNA’s weekly PPV’s and the rumors were flying that Hogan was headed to TNA land. But Hogan’s knee was injured and TNA wouldn’t give him any control in the company, which he wanted. Since they couldn’t come to terms over a match, Hogan seemed to officially retire. Recently Hogan won the rights to his name from Marvel Comics and then appeared, via tape on the 5th Anniversary of Smackdown to share his favorite Smackdown moments. Hogan was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and also appeared at WM XXI to save Eugene from Hassan and Davari. To many, Hogan gave them that special WrestleMania moment to remember. He would return at the request of Shawn Michaels at Backlash and together would defeat Hassan and Davari in a tag match.
What was next for Hogan was a new reality show on VH1 that will focus on he and his family. But as always, the wrestling bug was there. After a match on Raw, Shawn Michaels attacked his partner and with that “superkick heard around the world” he and Hogan were set to meet at Summer Slam. Michaels worked the feud mostly on TV, and when the day came the two put on a truly memorable match. Now the people ask, “Will the Hulkster be back for WrestleMania XXII?” Never say never.
Why Hulk Hogan was selected…
When all is said and done in the world of wrestling, you cannot help but to mention the name “Hulk Hogan.” He set records for attendance and merchandize sales and synonymous with “wrestling.” Whether you think he was too much of a “backstage politician” or wasn’t that “5 star worker” that so many think is the end all be all these days, he helped make wrestling what it is today, and whenever there is Hall of Fame, Hulk Hogan will likely be there.