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Legends of the Ring #1: Hulk Hogan

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WWE hosted a birthday celebration for one of their most decorated superstars ever Hulk Hogan on the 18th August edition of Raw. They brought in various legends for the segment and had pre-taped videos of celebrities wishing Hogan a happy birthday. A video package was put together highlighting Hogan’s legendary career which left Hogan truly lost for words and choked up with emotion

Growing up in the late 80s/ early 90’s, Hulk Hogan was everywhere. He was a global megastar and Hulkamania was running wild in pop culture. He was my first hero I ever had and someone I could look up to and believe in much like children today look up to John Cena. What drew me to the Hulkster was just how unique he was. He had the hair, the handlebar ‘tash, the big muscles, the shirt-ripping and that cup to the ear routine that became his trademark. My earliest memory of Hogan was WrestleMania 3 when he took on Andre the Giant. My brother got the video for Christmas in ’88 and I just happened to start watching it and when Hogan bodyslammed Andre, wow, it blew my mind and I’ve been a proud fan of wrestling for 26 years! Hogan’s run at the top was nothing short of incredible. He originally joined the WWF in 1979 but was fired by Vince McMahon Sr for his involvement in Rocky 3 as the cult favourite, “Thunderlips”. He was rehired back in 1983 by Vince Jr who had bought the company from his father and had plans for global expansion and he wanted to make Hogan the main attraction mainly because of his unbelievable charisma and name value. Hogan quickly defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF Championship and Hulkamania was born.

When I look back at Hogan’s main event run, he feuded with a who’s who of wrestling including; Rowdy Roddy Piper, The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Macho Man Randy Savage, Terry Funk, Harley Race, Earthquake, Ted DiBiase, Mr Perfect, Rick Rude and Andre the Giant. That’s an impressive list right there! My favourite ever Hogan match I mention before was the one against Andre at WrestleMania 3 but I feel the need to pay tribute to his WrestleMania VI encounter against the Ultimate Warrior. Both guys were never great in ring performers but that match was magical. I was only 3 years old at the time and had no idea who I wanted to win. When Warrior got the victory, I was stunned. Hogan never lost and when he did it was either because of outside interference or count out. Both guys worked extremely hard and put on a great match. In 1992, the World Wrestling Federation was hit with a steroid scandal; Hogan’s popularity took a hit when he appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show where he openly admitted to experimenting with steroids but wasn’t an avid user. It was around that time where a brand of Hulk Hogan vitamins were sold to children but were quickly removed from stores due to public backlash. Hogan was starting to get stale to the point where sections of the crowd were booing him (not to John Cena levels that you hear today), that “Hulk Who” sign from the 1992 Royal Rumble always springs to mind. Public scrutiny got too intense and Hogan decided it would be best to take a break and to wait for all of allegations to blow over.  He returned in early 1993 and quickly became WWF Champion, a move which pissed off both fans and the wrestlers. Hogan defeated Yokozuna just seconds after Yoko defeated Bret for the WWF title, personally as much as I love Hogan, it was the wrong move. Hulk was a part timer and his heart wasn’t in it anymore. The fans were getting bored of him and business suffered as a result. Hogan dropped the title to Yoko at King of the Ring and ended his 10 year association with the WWF.

When I think of Hogan’s time in WCW, the first thing that comes into my mind is the NWO. I began watching WCW in early ’98 but through the advent of YouTube and WWE DVDs, I’ve seen some classic Hollywood Hogan moments and I personally thought that Hulk was tremendous as a heel even though he was hesitant about doing the turn which I completely understood. It was odd seeing him act in a villainous way but he strived in that role. It made sense for Hogan to turn as fans were getting sick of seeing the same routine that they’ve been accustomed to seeing in the past and boos could be heard within arenas. The build up to his match against Sting at Starrcade was brilliant. They teased the match for almost a year and it generated huge business for WCW, however, in true WCW fashion they mess it up with Nick Patrick performing a fast count (which he never but the announcers put over that he did) and newly recruited Bret Hart restarted the match. Hogan turned face in 1999 and returned to his classic red & yellow attire which was cool for nostalgia but after clashing with Vince Russo, Hogan left WCW in 2000 and the company was bought out by WWF in 2001.

When I first heard about Hulk Hogan returning in 2002, I was excited. I never imagined that Hogan would ever return to the WWE and here he was standing in the ring taking in the appreciation from the crowd at No Way Out.  I knew he wasn’t going to remain heel for long. Fans just didn’t want to boo him no matter how evil he was booked. When the announcement was made for his WrestleMania X-8 match against the Rock was made, me and my mates were excited. We stayed up to watch the show and were firmly in Hulk’s corner, as were the crowd at Skydome.  It wasn’t because we hate the Rock (which we don’t, I absolutely love Rocky and expect to see a Legends of the Ring article dedicated to him in the future) it’s because we grew up as Hogan fans and were happy to see him back. Man, when Hulk began to “Hulk up”, we lost our shit and reverted back to being 5 year old kids cheering on our hero. Hulk didn’t win but he turned face at the end of the night which was expected. When I look back on Hogan’s 2002 comeback, I’m amazed at just how many young people he was willing to work with. The list includes; Edge, Christian, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Zack Gowen, and Brock Lesnar. Hogan left again in 2003 over disagreements regarding payoffs and creative direction but returned in 2005 to take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. Hulk left again in 2007 and resurfaced in 2009, this time in TNA which was largely forgettable.

The rumours for Hogan’s return began late last year after his inclusion in the WWE 2K14 video game as part of the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode. With TNA’s financial situation worsening, Hogan quit in October and returned ‘home’ in February to announce that he will be the guest host of WrestleMania 30 which saw Hogan open the show with fellow WWE Legends, Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Rock in one of those moments where it made you say “damn, I wish I was there!” When Hogan made his return it got me thinking, “could this be the year I finally see Hogan live?” and on the 20th of May, that finally happened. It was at the Smackdown tapings which was filmed at the O2 Arena in London and when Hogan came out, I swear to God it was the loudest reaction I have ever been a part of. He was out there for five minutes but that didn’t matter, it was like 1990 all over again with me cheering on the Hulkster.

Seeing Hulk Hogan live in person reminded me why I love this business so much and I’ve got to thank Hulk Hogan for that. Without him, I doubt I’d ever be a fan so for that I’m grateful. Hogan has a reputation of having a selfish attitude towards the business but you can’t deny him his accomplishments. He’s a legend. He’s Hulk Hogan!

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