The man who put professional wrestling on the map.
Hulk Hogan will undoubtedly go down in history as the biggest star in professional wrestling. In the 80′s, The Hulkster single-handedly took the WWF from a fringe semi-sport to a world-wide phenomenon. Before he came on the scene, professional wrestling had a handful of athletes who knew how to work the crowd, but Hulk Hogan took it to the next level. During his matches, Hogan’s infectious energy spread through the audience like wild-fire. And pretty soon Hulkamania was runnin’ wild as kids across America were all “drinking their milk, taking their vitamins, and saying prayers to the big man upstairs!”
In order to fully appreciate the wonder that is Hulk Hogan, you need to keep one simple fact in mind – Hulk Hogan was an awful wrestler. Go back through all the footage of the Hulkster’s matches and you won’t find a single complicated submission hold or shooting star press off the top rope. In fact, what you’re likely to see is a plethora of fake punches and bad acting. So how did he become the greatest super-star in all of sports entertainment?
You can get smashed over the head with a steel chair fifty times and do triple backflips from the turnbuckle all day long, but at the end of the day, it’s the wrestler who knows how to capture the heart of the crowd who’s going to get the biggest ovation. Hulk Hogan knew that, and he made it his mission to win over the fans. He created the concept of “Hulkamania” – a collective energy created by the fans that could propel him to victory.
A classic Hulk Hogan move would be where the Hulkster found himself in a sleeper hold, fighting to remain conscious. For those of you who aren’t wrestling fans, when a wrestler is losing consciousness in a sleeper hold, the referee will raise the victim’s hand into the air three times to see if he can hold it up and remain in the match. If the wrestler drops his arm all three times, he forfeits the match. So Hulk Hogan would be in the hold and on the verge of getting knocked out. The ref would go for his arm and the crowd would start going nuts, because they knew what was about to happen.
Arm goes up the first time… falls.
Arm goes up the second time… falls.
Arm goes up the third time… falls – and at the last second Hogan would pull it up. Now the crowd starts going really wild. Hogan starts his trademark shaking feeding off the energy in the arena. His opponent, still locking Hulk’s head in the hold stares wide-eyed in amazement. Hogan gets up on one knee, then on both feet. The crowd is in a frenzy now as Hulkamania is running wild throug Hogan’s veins. He jabs his elbow into his opponent’s ribs, releasing the hold and begins to throw a barrage of poorly executed punches which land his opponent down on the canvas. Drunk with excitement, the crowd stares on as Hulk Hogan acknowledges them with his patented hand to the ear move. And then he finishes it all of, by leaning on the ropes and running toward his downed opponent and landing a Hogan leg-drop for the pin.
That right there is a description of the quintessential Hulk Hogan match. (Yes, I did just use the word quintessential and Hulk Hogan in the same sentence.) Totally cheesy, totally fake, but totally incredible at the same time for anyone who really understands the beauty of professional wrestling.
Before I move on, I would like to point out that Hulk had one of the absolute worst finishing move in wrestling history – the Hogan leg-drop. Think about it. His opponents can take a shot to the kidney with a sledge-hammer and continue wrestling for thirty minutes, but one blow from Hulk Hogan’s leg and they were out for the count. But then again, nothing else about Hogan’s performance was in touch with reality either, so it did work for him.
I actually didn’t start following the WWF closely until the early 1990′s, way past Hogan’s hey-day. So my affection for the Hulkster really isn’t due to his wrestling career, but rather to his current attempts to remain in the spotlight post-wrestling. His reality-show “Hogan Knows Best” has got to be one of the funniest shows on TV. The unintentional comedy of watching a 50-year old walking around in old wrestling garb as he deals with contrived family issues is off the charts.
And topping it all off, is the fact that the show has revealed Hulk Hogan is completely oblivious to the fact that wrestling is fake. Somewhere along the way, one of those chair shots must have blurred the line between fiction and reality. Because multiple times during the show, Hogan makes a reference like “Watch yourself, brother! You’re talking to a five time world champion.”
The first time I heard him say something like that I almost fell off the sofa! Who brags about winning title matches where the outcome was pre-determined? It would be the equivalent of Brad Pitt saying “You’re talking to the champion of Fight Club”, or Michael Keaton pulling out “You’re talking to Batman.” Don’t get me wrong, you have to be very good at what you do to have the WWF writers script you into the titleholder position, But if you ask me, the Hulkster seems a little too excited about championships he didn’t actually win.
Regardless, Hulk Hogan has proven himself to be just as good an entertainer outside of the ring as in it. And when you consider the fact that the man’s been putting a smile on my face and Hulkamania in my veins for over twenty years now, it’s very fitting that he takes a place among the Legends.
So welcome to the Hall, brother.