What’cha Gonna Do, Brother…
When Hulkamania Runs Wild On You!
There’s no getting around it, so I’m just going get it out of the way: Hulk Hogan created Sports Entertainment. Love it or hate it, he’s responsible for wrestling being in the place it is. He’s also responsible for everything anyone close to my age (25) has ever enjoyed in a WWE ring. He made it a show. For some reason, the Hulkster wasn’t merely an attraction, he was one of the biggest crowd draws in the country. A lot of people were making money during the heyday of Hulkamania.
Before we move on, when I say that Hulk Hogan created Sports Entertainment, it’s not meant to ignore Vince McMahon’s contribution. Hogan may have helped wrestling become something much bigger than it ever was, but Terry Bollea wasn’t the man behind Hulkamania. Vince McMahon saw a future star in the blonde haired, barrel chested grappler, and he was right. Without McMahon, Hogan would’ve toured the territories for a while as a really hairy heel. Vince gave Terry the platform that would allow him to elevate himself to the status of International Icon.
And it worked. I don’t think there is a place Hulk Hogan can go in this world where he won’t be recognized. I mean, come on, look at that guy. How could you not recognize the blonde goatee and 22-inch pythons? I can’t even imagine that. It would suck to not be able to travel anywhere without people yelling out, “What’cha gonna do, brother?!?”
Anyway, let’s take it back to the beginning. Hulk Hogan was born Terry Gene Bollea on August 11th, 1953 in Augusta, Georgia. As a young man, he was a highly talented Little League pitcher. He even managed to attract the attention of some scouts, but an injury blew his chances at a baseball career. This was all at a young age. By 16, he started to come into his own, and realize what he wanted to do. Around then, Bollea began to attend shows regularly at the Tampa Sportatorium. This was after his family had moved from Georgia over to Florida. These constant trips to wrestling shows led to Terry developing a reverence for Dusty Rhodes. That was interesting for me to find out. It must have been cool for Hulk to get into the ring with The American Dream later in both their careers.
After working the territories for years, Hulkamania finally began coming to fruition. After purchasing the World Wide Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982, Vince McMahon Jr. started to enact his plan for building an empire. He changed the name to the much more marketable World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, for short, but he still needed a star he could market. He needed somebody he could build an entire company around. Hulk Hogan was that person.
From 1983 on, Hogan was on a fast ride up the hill of super stardom. One of the crowning moments of the red and yellow movement was the first WrestleMania. Not enough people know how risky a venture the first Showcase of the Immortals really was. There was no real money in it, at the time. At least not guaranteed. It was a huge gamble for McMahon, especially booking it in Madison Square Garden. VKM needed to fill every seat and sell a ton of Pay-per-view buys, as well as sign a bunch of CCTV agreements. Every angle had to be covered for this affair, and because of Hulkamania, that’s exactly what happened.
Hulk Hogan was the face of the company, so that meant he was the guy who went on every talk show he could to promote WrestleMania I. It was him and Mr. T. I pity the fool!
Sorry. Couldn’t help it.
Anyway, it was because of all this mainstream exposure that Hulkamania took off. Hogan was all over the place when Vince was trying to sell tickets and buys for his event. Thankfully, Hulk was charming and charismatic the entire time. He spoke clearly, engaged viewers, and piqued more and more people’s interests. By the time WrestleMania 5 rolled around, Hulkamania was runnin’ wild!
He already had his match with Andre The Giant at WrestleMania 3, which featured the jaw-dropping moment of Hogan body slamming Andre. That captured a lot of imaginations. Then, the next year, he helped Macho Man Randy Savage win the WrestleMania 4 tournament for the vacant WWE Championship. That was the best possible scenario for the Hulkster. He didn’t win, but he got a ton of goodwill based purely on his association with Macho.
That’s a relationship I’d love to dig into, but it’s worthy of an entire article in itself. I can’t just suddenly go off for three paragraphs in the Hulk Hogan spotlight about his friendship with Randy Savage. We’ll cover that soon.
The story of Hulk Hogan is one that is easily accessible, if you’re genuinely interested. He’s crossed into all kinds of fields, with varying degrees of success, but he’s never seen one period of irrelevance. He may have been booed from time to time, after people got tired of him, but he was still wrestling all of the Main Event matches during that time. It’s almost impossible to harm the legacy of Hulk Hogan. No matter the large of amount of awful matches he can lay claim to, he’ll always have a litany of classics to fall back on.
In short, Hulkamania will continue to run wild for a long time to come.