A Hall of Fame induction is bestowed upon the very greatest to have ever taken part in whatever the activity called for. It was devised to honor and showcase the classic work of those who not only were a part of a chosen field but, in their own way, changed it for the better. But, when the activity for the Hall of Fame is professional wrestling, the criteria has to change slightly.
Athletes are inducted based on statistics. Those statistics depict actual achievements that they, and they alone, accomplished. Home runs, touchdowns, tackles, stolen bases, and so on and so forth from the most popular Hall of Fames for sports, Baseball and Football. Wrestling is not, however, a legitimate sport. Therefore, you can't say that the person in question had such and such as their win loss record because to some extent, that doesn't determine much.
Instead, a wrestling historian who is going to devise a Hall of Fame must look at different criteria. That criteria should include, but not be limited to, the performer's popularity, their impact and influence on the wrestling industry, and their career's longevity in a high profile position. Other criteria could be their match quality, their big match appearances, and their ability to elicit a response from the live audience and draw viewers AKA ratings from those watching at home. One could also make the case that the personality's ability to connect to the audience to the point fo selling merchandise should also be a factor as commercialism is a big part of our industry today.
If this is your criteria, or at least is part of it, there is only one person who deserves to be number 1, numero uno, the very first inductee into any professional wrestling Hall of Fame. That person is, Hulk Hogan.
As a young wrestling fan, the very first exposure to this business that I saw was Hulk Hogan. His bright colors and super hero persona didn't just draw me in, it drew in my whole generation. Wrestling, thanks to this larger than life character, had started the transition from a regional territory based system to being big business for a much fewer number of promoters. While Vince McMahon was the money man causing that to happen, the superstar that was able to go out and make wrestling accepted in the public was Hulk Hogan. Well spoken and likable by fans of all ages, Hulk's persona landed him on the popular talk shows of the time such as the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. And, did I mention, this was before he even paired with Vince McMahon and the WWF? Yes, Hulk was still working for the AWA at this time.
Hogan spoke of Hulkamania in the above interview with Johnny Carson. Hulkamania was born in the AWA. It was in its infancy and was somewhat unrefined. But, it was there. Hogan had worked for Vince McMahon's father in the WWF prior to Vince Jr. taking it over, the Mr. McMahon we know and love today. Hogan left the WWF when he was asked to be a part of Rocky III. When asked about it, Hogan said Vince Sr. said, "You're a wrestler, not an actor". They say everything happens for a reason. This must have been the reason!
Back on track, Hogan in the AWA was quickly becoming a big ticket seller for Vern Gagne's Minnesota based promotion. The plan was for Hogan to defeat veteran wrestler Nick Bockwinkel for the belt. But, was being recruited by Vince McMahon to join the WWF at the time. Hogan told Vern Gagne that he did not want the belt. After a series of matches pitting Hogan against Bockwinkel with false finishes teasing a Hogan title win, one of which shown below, Hogan did defeat Bockwinkel and left with the belt. This match was later released on AWA video under the title AWA Hulk Hogan Highlights. In the end, the decision was overturned and the title returned to Nick Bockwinkel as they had done on several occasions.
In late 1983, Hogan returned to the WWF. As said above, Vince McMahon Jr, the Mr. McMahon of today, had taken over operations from his father. And, he saw dollar signs when he saw what Hulk Hogan was capable of. Hulkamania existed in the AWA and grew there, but it exploded when it hit the WWF.
This time, Hulk Hogan was a good guy. And, he was initially pitted against the Iron Sheik. American patriotism was at an high thanks to a recent hostage situation and the seemingly never ending Cold War. Wearing a shirt that read "American Made", Hulk Hogan swept into Madison Square Garden and took the title from the Iron Sheik. Gorilla Monsoon made the call during the celebration, "Hulkamania is here". He had no idea.
From there, Hogan would hold the title for over 4 years. In that time, the very first WrestleMania happened. It was a financial gamble for Vince McMahon to attempt to put on a closed-circuit TV broadcast from Madison Square Garden. The event was a huge success and is the biggest pay-per-view of the wrestling year for nearly 30 years. And, in its early days, nobody carried the flag into battle and laid the groundwork for the success of that show more than Hulk Hogan.
You cannot talk about Hulk Hogan's career in the WWF without mentioning his incredibly memorable feud with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Piper was a brawling wrestler that the fans loved to hate, and sometimes hated to hate. While he was a good wrestler, his gift of gab, microphone abilities, trumped all else and his sharp words towards Hulk Hogan helped this be the biggest feud in the Rock and Wrestling era. It was the main event of the first WrestleMania, in tag form, and was the main event of The Wrestling Classic which aired on MTV. It even was the focal point of Hulk's cartoon show, the Rock n Wrestling Connection, which the era was named after.
Yes, there was a cartoon show called Hulk Hogan's Rock N Wrestling Connection. It aired on Saturday mornings and featured stars such
as Wendi Richter, Tito Santana, Jimmy Snuka, Andre the Giant, and others in cartoon form in crime fighting missions sometimes
resulting in Hulk's good guys fighting "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's bad guys. I couldn't make this up.
With the cartoon show and a new-found acceptance for pro wrestling, the WWF was quickly becoming more than the biggest of the
promotions. It was become the promotion... With a raid of all other areas like Florida, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mid-South, the
various promotions of the NWA, and even the AWA which would close operations in 1990, the WWF had put together a roster of the very
best talent throughout the world. It was all done on the back of Hulk Hogan's popularity.
1986 saw Hulk Hogan in various feuds with larger opponents. Many called the WWF the "Land of the Giants" because most of the
challengers for Hulk's title were larger than him. At 6'8 and 300 pounds, being larger than Hulk was no short order. But, he overcame the
challenges and won retained the title.
One of the biggest opponents of 1986 was also one of his opponents a year prior at WrestleMania 1. "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff was
one of the best athletes with the best physiques of the time. He hit hard. Hulk later joked that just talking about "Mr. Wonderful" makes him
feel how hard he hits him even today, more than 25 years later. The two wrestled at a house show event in Canada that drew over 74,000
fans. That's right, a football stadium in Canada for a house show and it drew over 74,000 people! That should show how large the WWF had become... How big Hulkamania had become!
In 1987, WrestleMania reached a new height. In Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome, Hulk Hogan took on Andre the Giant. While Hogan was the champion for 3 years by this point, he shared the spotlight with the WWF's other major attraction. Andre, the other attraction, was starting to slow down physically and if Hogan was going to be the man, he'd have to beat the man. That night, in front of 93,000 plus fans, Hulkamania went from being huge to running wild, setting in-door attendance records and solidifying wrestling's transition to the mainstream. And, of course, bodyslamming a 500+ pound Giant.
After Andre, Hogan feuded with a number of stars. Often, this huge man was the smaller man against a larger, more evil opponent. But, Hogan would not lose his championship until a smaller, richer wrestler named Ted DiBiase, known as the "Million Dollar Man" paid off referees and purchased the title from Andre the Giant. Hogan was counted down for a 3 count but had kicked out at 1. It was played off as two referees said to be twins. It was Dave and Earl Hebner. This wasn't the only screw job Hebner would be associated with. But, that's another story.
The 4 year title reign of the Hulkster ranks high amongst longest in history. These days, a 1 year reign is considered extremely long. But, there had to be a concern of taking the title off of Hogan. And, that concern had to be greater when it was given to fellow baby face wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage. If Andre the Giant was the secondary guy to Hogan from 1984 to 1987, Randy Savage was from 1988 to... Gosh, forever.
Randy Savage had a larger than life persona. And, mixing the two seemed like a perfect fit. Add in a lady, Randy's wife Elizabeth, and you had a great pairing known as the Megapowers. And, you had a set in stone feud for when the Megapowers explode.
Hogan and Savage would be friends and enemies on countless different occasions throughout their careers. But, no single competitor of Hogan's generation had anywhere near the persona of Hulk Hogan except, possibly, "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
The feud between the Megapowers, known as when the Megapowers exploded, centered around Miss Elizabeth. During the celebration of their victory at Summerslam 1988, the first Summerslam, Hogan put his hand on Elizabeth's hind end innocently. as she went on Savage's shoulders. Though the announcers did not call it, Savage did shoot daggers at Hogan during that celebration. Ultimately, the story became a question of a love triangle. This, given the cartoon nature of the era, was edgy. Though a lot of it went unsaid to make it safe for smaller children, the angle packed a punch with the audience. And, WrestleMania V proved successful. It was also successful for Hogan as he captured the WWF title for the 2nd time that night.
Hogan's arena popularity was put to the test on the silver screen as Hulk appeared in movies. He had a cameo in Gremlins
II but had his own feature film called No Holds Barred. The movie, which some say Hulk wrote with Vince McMahon in a
hotel room one night, featured Hogan as Rip. Rip was basically Hogan under a different name. A network executive could
not lure Rip to perform on his channel so he made his own wrestling company based in a run down bar. It was more violent
and seedy. Sounds like ECW, doesn't it? Couple that with the fact that Mr. Brell, the evil boss, looked somewhat like a young
Paul Heyman and it was almost uncanny. Remember, this came out in 1989. The movie ends with a double homicide as
Hogan backs the evil promoter into a light socket and electrocutes him. Then, knocks the big bad guy from the network
executive's rival promotion off the balcony into the ring causing the ring to cave in and, one could assume, the bad guy to die.
Good, clean double homicide. It was a fun movie that did OK at the box office. But, nowhere near what Hogan or McMahon
had hoped for.
When the 90's came, a new face was starting to win over the live crowds. That was the Ultimate Warrior. Warrior was
blessed with a million dollar body war paint that was a marketing success, and a mane of hair that wold rival any rock star of
the time. Couple that with mystical promos that could have been lyrics in Dio or Iron Maiden songs and the Ultimate Warrior was ripe for a push. But, would the fans embrace Hulk Hogan's American values or a darker, more late 80's early 90's crafted character like the Ultimate Warrior. WrestleMania VI would determine that. And, the Warrior got the win.
Jesse Ventura said "I do believe Hulkamania will live forever" after Hogan handed Warrior the belt. And, more people watched Hogan walk from the ring without the belt than they did watch the Warrior celebrate his win. This was the writing on the wall that Hulkamania was not yet over.
Shortly after the Warrior match, Hulk Hogan wrestled Stan Hansen in Japan in a match that was largely overlooked. It proved what Hulk could really do in the ring. This was often forgotten because the Hulk Hogan character didn't have to do the technical wrestling style. It almost sounds pretentious. But, whenever someone says Hulk Hogan coudln't do technical wrestling, all you have to do is refer them to his work in Japan.
Before the summer of 1990, a heavy-set wrestler known as
Earthquake attacked Hulk Hogan on the Brother Love Show. He sat
on Hulk's chest several times, his finishing move, several times. Hulk was carried out to the sights and sounds of children
crying while cuddling their Hulk Hogan Teddy-Bear. It felt like the end. In fact, the WWF pushed the emotional button on
possible retirement with a video that ended with a shot of a locker with Hulk Hogan's gear in it and the locker closes. In
other words, the chapter was written. But, it was not over. Led by the biggest, physically if nothing else, Hulkamaniac
Tugboat, a campaign was started encouraging the return of Hulkamania. He came back on a Saturday Night's Main Event
and the match was set. At Summerslam 1990, Hulk Hogan beat the Earthquake by bodyslamming him through a table.
This was before the world was introduced to Sabu and more than 5 years before Bret Hart did the spot at Survivor Series
1995. Hulkamania was Hardcore in 1990!
The United States entered the 'Desert Storm' War with Iraq to stop the invasion of Kuwait. From that conflict rose Sgt.
Slaughter. Once the figure head of GI Joe, the All American Hero, Slaughter turned and became an Iraqi sympathizer. He
rode that wave of American patriotism to the World Title at Royal Rumble '91. And, WrestleMania VII was set as Hulk Hogan
would defend America, once again, against the American turncoat, Sgt. Slaughter. This would be Hogan's 3rd WWF title
After a brief feud with The Undertaker that saw Hogan both lose and win his title back, this time for a 4th time, Hogan was stripped of the title. Hogan was transitioning away from the ring. But, did have a huge feud with Sid Justice in the main event of WrestleMania VIII. Hogan would win, and received help after the match from the Ultimate Warrior who had been gone for some time. This would be Hogan's final appearance for some time and Warrior was to pick up the slack from Hogan once again, 2 years after the first time it was attempted, Hogan was attempting to pass the torch to Warrior.
The reality was, Hogan was tired of the road. His body was getting beaten up and his kids were young. This afforded him time to do work on a TV show close to home that was less taxing on his road schedule and on his physical body. The show was Thunder in Paradise. It was an action adventure show that allowed Hogan to still be a tough guy but also brought a new element. Much like Baywatch, women in bikinis were a big part of the show. But, it was mostly an action show that saw Hogan and his partner take down terrorists and Cuban dictators. Panned by critics but remembered by fans, it was a show that you should take the time to watch.
Hogan's last run in the WWF came one year after stepping away. Warrior was long since gone again. The champion was Bret Hart. But, Hulk came back as a favor to his friend Brutus Beefcake who was attacked by "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster managed by Jimmy Hart. Jimmy Hart had helped bring Hulk back and served, after years of being his foe, as Hulk's manager. The match was set for WrestleMania 9. Hulk and Beefcake, the Mega Maniacs if you will, against Money Inc. Hulk and Beefcake were disqualified in the match. But, that was just the beginning of Hulk's night.
Yokozuna was another foreign character defeating the American heroes. He'd often get bested in a challenge and then violently injure the hero. He Bonsai Dropped "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan multiple times after Duggan bested him in a challenge to see if he could take the big Yokozuna, translated to Grand Champion, off his feet. But, at WrestleMania 9, he defeated Bret Hart with help from the salt of Mr. Fuji. Hogan came to the ring to help Bret Hart get to the back and was challenged to a match then and there for the title by Mr. Fuji and Yokozuna. Hogan accepted. 9 seconds later, Hulk Hogan was the WWF Champion for the 5th time.
The reign was short lived and strange. Hogan was still not a regular on WWF TV and, as far as I know, only had one match between winning the belt at WrestleMania IX and losing it at King of the Ring back to Yokozuna. It was a tag match against the Beverly Brothers with Brutus Beefcake as Hogan's partner. It aired on a Coliseum Home Video and never made TV.
After losing the belt, Hogan was gone again. Others tried to fill the American good guy role, namely Lex Luger, but none did it like the Hulkster did. And, the WWF set into a bit of a tailspin trying to find their way without the Hulkster.
On the other hand, on the set of Thunder in Paradise, Hulk met up with Eric Bischoff who was the Executive Vice President of Ted Turner's WCW. One thing lead to another and all of a sudden, what was unthinkable just a year prior was a reality. Hulk Hogan was brought in to WCW. Things would never be the same.
While the WWF with Hulk as the poster child was taking over wrestling, nearly all other major promotions, territories if you will, crumbled. The one that did not crumble was the NWA which had been sold to Ted Turner and was re-branded as World Championship Wrestling, WCW. The company had its base of popularity but it was nowhere near the size of the WWF at the point of Hogan going there. So, his joining that roster instantly made that roster more important. And, the company's overall feel was about to change. It was no longer going to be the Southern "raslin"' alternative to the WWF's New York style wrestling program. It was time to not be an alternative. It was time to compete.
Hogan joined WCW in July of 1994 capturing the championship in his first match with the company defeating Ric Flair. A few months later, Hogan would retire Flair in a cage match where the loser had to hang up his boots. Things were looking up for WCW as they did big crowds on the road and drew a large crowd at Bash at the Beach 1995 where Hulk would face Big Van Vader in a steel cage on the beach. Thousands of fans turned out and lined the beach to watch the card. WCW's popularity had clearly reached new heights.
The storylines Hogan was involved with, however, are often panned. Hogan came in and brought Hulkamania with him. The booking team in WCW included Kevin Sullivan who is known for booking angles that were very Good Vs Evil in the literal sense. Sullivan, who wrestled also, based his booking style loosely on heavy metal music where there is a near Biblical influence of darkness and light. In one of the most panned segments of his career, Hogan was transported to the Dungeon of Doom's literal Dungeon. Hogan, the good guy, reacted to the new environment by screaming "where am I" and stating "There are no Hulkamaniacs here". He then touches the wall and screams "ouch, its not hot!" This segment, seen below, is often the focal point of a WWF fan's bashing of WCW at the time. But, on WWF TV, the big feud was one wrestler battling a pirate because he stole his leather jacket. I guess comic book stuff can't hold a candle to something out of a Disney cartoon.
WCW's popularity continued to grow. So did their roster. Stars like "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and countless others followed Hogan's lead to join WCW. On September 4, 1995, WCW made its way to Monday nights. For the WWF, RAW was the must see show and it had been for nearly 3 years. If a company wanted to compete with them, they'd have to offer up a show on that night in the same time slot. That is what WCW's Monday Nitro did. Remember when I said things would never be the same again? Well, Nitro was the embodiment of that statement.
Nitro quickly cut deep into RAW's rating and even surpassed it in the early going. The live show often even gave the results of the WWF's RAW show which had been taped weeks prior to keep fans there. The war was indeed on. And, Hulk was a part of it. This time, he was a soldier for WCW. But, all was not well with Hulkamania.
Despite WCW's increasing viewers, Hulk Hogan's crowd reactions were beginning to turn sour. Many fans were booing the Hulkster. Historians often state that this was due to a change in society or that the wrestling fans had grown tired of Hulkamania. I think there might be something to the society aspect of that statement but I think fans grew tired of the silly angles Hogan was a part of. He wore black for a short time while still a good guy to signify he had turned to the dark side and lost his guiding light. It was just a little too silly for wrestling fans, mostly young teens at that point, to handle.
Hulk Hogan's first WCW title reign lasted for well over a year seeing him take on such wrestlers as Ric Flair, Vader, The Butcher (Brutus Beefcake), Meng (Haku), Kamala, The Shark (Earthquake), and The Giant (Big Show). Hogan eventually lost his title to The Giant via disqualification when Jimmy Hart turned on Hogan.
In the spring of 1996, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage took on the entire Dungeon of Doom faction in a Doomesday Cage match at an event called Uncensored. Hogan and Savage beat Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Meng, Brian Pillman, Barbarian, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, The Ultimate Solution, and Z Gangsta, originally Zeus from No Holds Barred. This was the send off for Hulk Hogan for a short while. When he'd return, things would be a little different. I mean, a whole lot different.
To keep Hulk Hogan's name on the show, WCW ran a series of music videos and updates on Hulk Hogan featuring guest appearances from boxers like George Foreman and "Sugar" Ray Leonard. But, the landscape was changing. And, Hulkamania was about to change if not, for a time, end.
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, who wrestled as Diesel and Razor Ramon in the WWF, had attacked WCW as The hostile Takeover. They eventually became The Outsiders. The angle was supposed to indicate that the two wrestlers were attacking WCW from the WWF. This was never said but the WWF did win a lawsuit on said subject. Instead, it just became a take over by a band of brothers who wanted to run the show. And, in July of 1996, we found out who their partner was. It was Hulk Hogan.
With a leg drop to the "Macho Man" Randy Savage followed by a pin, Hulk Hogan turned bad guy. This was an unthinkable change. It caused people to react in different ways. Some kids threw away their Hulkamania shirts and toys while some adults insisted it was a bad thing for wrestling to lose its leading man to what they called a stupid story. Regardless the reaction, one thing everyone had in common is they started watching wrestling again.
Hulk Hogan, now "Hollywood" Hogan to show that he had become conceited over his movie career and was all about the money and not about the fans or the Hulkamania way anymore, proclaimed his group of renegades the New World Order, the nWo. The nWo ran over WCW attacking wrestlers during matches and savagely beating those who stood against them. It became must see TV. And, fans couldn't tune in fast enough to see it.
One guy who didn't join the nWo was Sting. He was the good guy before Hulk Hogan got there, while Hogan was there, and would be the good guy in the face of the nWo's adversity. But, fans didn't believe Sting at first when the nWO had an imposter play Sting's role. Sting became silent and borrowed actions from a cult classic movie The Crow. Now dressed in a black trench coat with white face paint, Sting had a voice of silence but stood firmly against the nWo. The table was set. And, for over a year and a half, WCW kept fans wanting to see "Hollywood" Hogan get his medicine from WCW's hero Sting.
In December of 1997, WCW presented Starcade. The event was the biggest buy rate the company ever had and the most talked about event in WCW history. Side note, Ric Flair wasn't on the card. The main event was "Hollywood" Hogan defending his WCW title against Sting. It should have been the pay off to literally 18 months of Hogan's reign of terror with the nWo. Hogan, now champion for the 3rd time after defeating The Giant in August of 1996 and regaining his title from Lex Luger in August of 1997, would have to take on Sting solo. No help, no run ins. Just Hogan and Sting... And the referee.
In what many call the beginning of the end of WCW, Hogan pinned Sting after a leg drop. It was not that fast of a count to the viewer at home. But, Bret Hart who had just jumped from the WWF to WCW came out and insisted it was, restarted the match and Sting won the title. This should have been the end of the nWo or at least a big crack. In the end, it really just reflected badly on WCW.
In the end, Sting did get a clean win over Hogan and it did start the fracture in the nWo. This resulted in the split between the nWo which saw Hogan's group, Team Hollywood, square off against the black and red to their black and white, the Wolfpack. A lot of shirts were sold, but a gang war never really happened.
While the nWo was fading in popularity due to its starting to crumble, another star started to make his way up in WCW. He had gone undefeated for months and captured the US title. And, in the Georgia Done where the Atlanta Falcons play football, WCW Monday Nitro would have a main event that would see "Hollywood" Hogan put his WCW title which he regained once again by defeating "Macho Man" Randy Savage against the undefeated Goldberg. Goldberg would win the match and the torch, as it were, was passed once again.
After a feud with Diamond Dallas Page and the Tonight Show host ay Leno which saw Hogan and Bischoff, in nWo style, take over the NBC Tonight Show broadcast completely, , Hogan was once again confronted by an old ghost. The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior came to confront Hogan and Hogan would agree to wrestle him at Halloween Havoc 1998.
In one of Hogan's worst matches, Hogan defeated The Warrior with help from his nephew. Hogan got "the win back" but the match failed to find the magic o their 1990 WrestleMania encounter. This was Warrior's final match with WCW. And, it would seem, Hogan's too.
On Thanksgiving of 1998, "Hollywood" Hogan announced on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he was calling it a career.
On January 4, 1999, Hogan appeared back on WCW Monday Nitro in black, not wearing the nWo logo. Goldberg had been arrested for stalking Miss Elizabeth and a main event was required. Kevin Nash challenged "Hollywood" Hogan. Hogan agreed to come out of retirement to take the match. And, he won... With the finger poke of doom! This reunited the two factions of the nWo but some of the lower level members of the nWo were kept in nWo Hollywood.
A funny thing happened shortly after the "Finger Poke of Doom". For some reason, the bad guy "Hollywood" reactions started to become mixed. In other words, some of the fans started to cheer Hogan's dirty deeds. Hogan took that and ran with it. At SuperBrawl IX, in a match where Hogan defeated Ric Flair, Hogan actually showed signs of his classic "Hulk Up" super hero comeback. And, he'd continue to do this in the weeks that would follow defeating top level stars such as Diamond Dallas Page and Curt Hennig. Change was in the air. But, some of the changes wouldn't be for the better.
Hogan lost his title to Ric Flair at Uncensored 1999 in what was billed as a "First Blood" match inside a cage. Flair was bleeding bad, but the referee would not call for the bell. Flair won by pin after a run in by Arn Anderson. The referee, Charles Robinson, proved to later be in Flair's back pocket. Ironic that a referee's screw job cost Hogan the title given his history in WCW... Namely his Starcade 1997 match with Sting.
Coming out of that match, Hogan was a full blown baby face. The nWo merchandise started to sell and Hogan was exploring ways to bring in his Hulkamania good guy image while still wearing the black of the nWo. It was working until Spring Stampede 199. Hogan was challenging for the World Title in a 4 corners match against champion Ric Flair and fellow challengers Sting and Diamond Dallas Page. The referee? Hogan's long time friend and foe, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. At one point, DDP put Hogan's legs around the post and applied a Figure 4 Leg Lock around the post much the way Bret "The Hitman" Hart made famous. Hogan screamed out in pain and left the match with help from officials. It was not part of the script. He suffered a serious leg injury and had to have his knee reconstructed by Dr. Andrews. Hogan's big return to form was off... Or, at least, put on the back burner.
Hogan returned in July. Randy "Macho Man" Savage had just defeated Kevin Nash to win the title the night prior at Bash at the Beach 1999. Feeling good, Savage challenged anyone but Kevin Nash to defend his title against. Hogan's "Voodoo Child" music hit and the match was on for later that night. Complete with Hogan knocking around Savage's partners Madusa and Miss Madness causing a fight amongst the team in Savage's corner, Hogan defeated Savage with a lot of the tactics that made Hulkamania famous. But, with a little help from Kevin Nash offsetting Savage's dirty deeds. Hogan was the champion. But, the nWo was not going to be 4 Life.
Kevin Nash opposed Hogan's return despite helping him in his title match. He felt that Hogan was taking his spot and wanted rid of him. After several weeks of powerbombing Hogan through tables and beating him up, including defeating him in a tag match, Kevin Nash had a big challenge for Hogan. He dared Hogan to face him in a Career VS Career match. The loser would leave. In a six man match the same night, Hogan came out to his famous WCW "American Made" theme song dressed in his red and yellow colors. "Hollywood" was no more. It was Hulkamania again. But, for how long?
At Road Wild, Hulk Hogan defeated Kevin Nash in familiar fashion. Rather than the "Finger Poke of Doom", Hogan beat Nash with a big boot and leg drop. Hulkamania was back. But, again, for how long would remain a mystery.
In October of 1999, WCW was going through changes at the front office. Eric Bischoff had been fired and the new "Powers that Be" were Vince Russo and Ed Farrara. Russo and Farrara were most known for starting the WWF Attitude Era. The Attitude Era was a raunchier, more vulgar form of wrestling that favored younger and newer characters. Hulk Hogan did not fit into their plans and Hogan left after laying down for Sting because he was furious with the situation. It was becoming clear the wheels were coming off the WCW wagon.
In late January of 2000, Hulk Hogan returned. Russo and Farrara were already gotten rid of by WCW. Hogan was the red and yellow good guy again and quickly found himself ready to challenge for the World Title after winning key matches against Ric Flair, Lex Luger, The Wall, and Dustin Rhodes. It was to be Hogan against WrestleMania VIII opponent Sid Vicious. But, it never came to be.
Again, the turmoil in the WCW offices became evident. This time, the writing crew that had resumed power were sent home and in their place were the returns of Russo and Bischoff. But, Bischoff wasn't the happy go-lucky guy that followed Hogan anymore. He was the guy who wanted to destroy him.
Hogan stated wearing street clothes to the ring settling on a bowling shirt that read "FUNB", the NB stood for New Blood, Russo and Bischoff's band of young stars. The FU? You figure it out. He feuded with young star Billy Kidman who had said things about Hogan in interviews. Hogan had ripped Kidman right back and the two had a bit of a war of words. Hogan mocked Kidman's size and said he would not even be a Flea Market champion.
In what was one of Hogan's best matches in WCW, Hogan defeated Kidman at Slamboree 2000. The match saw Hogan pull out all the stops including powerbombing Eric Bischoff through a table.
Hogan was set to challenge for the title again after defeating Kidman at the Great American Bash 2000. The following night, Hogan was taking on Jeff Jarrett but was sneak attacked by Goldberg who had joined the New Blood the night prior. This would be the last time Hogan would appear on Nitro. The wheels coming off the wagon were about to include a full blown crash.
Bash at the Beach 2000 was the location. The event that saw Hogan turn heel just 4 years prior was being billed by WCW as possibly the final time Hogan would set foot in a WCW ring. It was. But, how it was done set the stage for the swift demise of WCW less than a full term pregnancy later.
Hogan came to the ring to a huge ovation. He was "Hollywood" Hogan again this time with a baby face edge. Jeff Jarrett, the champion, came to the ring and looked concerned. He left the ring, Hogan cut a promo on him. Jarrett returned and laid down. Hogan grabbed the mic and said, "Is this your dream, Russo? That is why this company is in the damn shape it is in. Because of bullshit like this." Hogan pinned Jarrett with one foot and took the WCW title belt. He was champion again. But, that would not last. Later in the show, Russo came out and threw a hissy fit that resembled that of a toddler denied a Hot Wheels car at the market. WCW was in a new direction. And, that direction put them out of business in March of 2001.
Hogan wrestled a match for the upstart company XWF in 2001 defeating Curt Hennig who was advised by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. The company's tapes were shopped around for a TV deal but never got picked up. Part of that reason was because Hogan had agreed to terms with the WWF and would return to the company that he helped make a huge success and that helped launch him into super stardom. We were about to find out that Hulk Still Rules.
Ric Flair had found his way to the WWF, in story, had become half owner of the company. Vince McMahon said the only way to get out of this was to kill his company by injecting it with poison. That poison? The New World Order... The nWo. In the WWE Universe, the no was simply the three that started it. "Hollywood" Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash returned to the WWF at No Way Out in February of 2002. To no one's surprise, or perhaps, to everyone's surprise, Hogan received the largest crowd reaction of the nWo members. The nWo set their sights on two targets in particular. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock. That would be the two nWo based matches at WrestleMania XVIII. Scott Hall would take on Austin. "Hollywood" Hogan would take on The Rock. To everyone's surprise, things were about to change again.
In front of 68,000 fans, The Rock and "Hollywood" Hogan had a match that will go down in history as the match to watch to adapt to a different crowd reaction than expected. The crowd, almost entirely, cheered Hogan. The Rock was not without his fans, but the respect shown by that WrestleMania crowd was stunning. The two wrestlers looked out to the crowd and encouraged the reaction. The reaction was like nothing heard before. In fact, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler continually talked about being in "uncharted waters" where the crowd was concerned. It probably is a good thing that Hogan and The Rock were in there because I don't know if any active performers at the time would have known how to handle the situation better than they did. And, how they handled it made it one of the best matches and moments in wrestling history. Hogan acted like Hulk and Hulked Up on The Rock. The nWO attempted to make the save but were denied. The Rock won the match, but Hogan won the fans back.
After the match, the nWo attacked the ring. Hogan and The Rock fought them off together. The crowd was electric as Hogan and The Rock both did old school Hulkamania muscle poses.
Despite the loss, Hogan was named #1 Contender to the championship held by Triple H. When Hogan and Triple H were to go face to face, everything came full circle. Hogan came out in his classic red and yellow colors to confront Triple H and the transition back to the WWF was complete.
Hogan won the title, marking it his 6th WWF title win. While WWF champion, the World Wildlife Fund won a lawsit that stunned wrestling fans. The WWF could no longer be the World Wrestling Federation. So, Hogan was the first ever World Wrestling Entertainment champion. Remember that if it ever comes up on Jeopardy.
Hogan would hold the title for over a month defeating William Regal, Ric Flair, and Chris Jericho to retain his title. He lost it to The Undertaker at Judgment Day 2002.
On the July 4th episode of SmackDown, Hogan was the surprise partner of Edge in a Tag Team Championship match with Billy and Chuck. Hogan came out to his classic WWF "Real American" theme holding the American flag. The team would win the match and, for the first time in a major promotion, Hogan was a Tag Team Champion. They would hold the titles for a few weeks and lose them to Christian and Lance Storm soon after.
Hogan's push was obviously on the decline. His last appearance as part of this run was in a match where he got beaten up by up and coming star Brock Lesnar. He made Brock look like a beast. The two would never meet again as Brock left in disgrace at WrestleMania XX losing to Goldberg after losing interest in pro wrestling after only a 2 year career. He'd later return, but never capture the magic of his first run.
Just in time for WrestleMania XIX, Hogan returned to the WWE. His return was not welcomed by WWE owner Vince McMahon who attempted to make life difficult for the Hulkster. It came to a boil at WrestleMania in a bloody war between the two elder statesmen at the WWE. Hogan won the match and had a great match with boss and sometimes friend Mr. McMahon. The match also saw the return of a long time Hogan foe "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.
Because of the loss suffered by Mr. McMahon, McMahon fired Hogan. But, Hogan would not stay gone for long. He'd return under a mask. Hulk became Mr. America. It was not meant to fool anyone. That is good because, it would not have fooled anyone anyway. Hogan cut promos while onder the mask and in his matches, worked the classic Hulkamania style. Hogan would defeat stars such as Sean O'Haire, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and The Big Show as Mr. America. But, in Madison Square Garden, Hogan tore off the mask after bodyslamming The Big Show. Hogan's actions were caught by the cameras and as a result, he was fired by Mr. McMahon yet again hus ending a strange chapter in Hulkamania.
Hogan returned to Japan for the first time in nearly a decade in October of 2003 as he took on Masahiro Chono. Chono was a fellow nWo member back in WCW and a major star for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Hogan won the match with his famed "Axe Bomber" finisher. After the match, Hogan rolled around the ramp playing air guitar on his weight lifting belt much like Angus Young of AC/DC. But, it was clear he was injured. He was. He had damaged his back in the match. THis would be the last match he'd have for a few years.
Hogan was to go to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling which was then under the NWA banner. Hogan explained to a Japanese press crew that he never won the NWA title and wanted to. He was to challenge Jeff Jarrett at what would have been the first Bound for Glory event in 2003. Despite teasing his arrival, even having him cut a promo for the company via video, Hogan did not join the TNA ranks at this time. His injury and the breakdown in nagotiations caused this and left TNA with a little egg on its face. But, this would not be the end of the Hogan/TNA saga.
In 2005, Hulk Hogan was selected to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. He went in the same year as long-time rival "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. If every Hall of Fame has a theme, this was the icons of the Rock and Wrestling Connection. But, accepting an award and giving a speech was just the beginning of what this honor was about to bring to Hulk Hogan.
Flagged by future Hall of Famer imself, Shawn Michaels, the Hulkster's induction announcement set off a huge crowd reaction. The fans wanted "One More Match". This would also be the chant at his induction itself. Shortly thereafter, their desire was made a reality. Hogan would team up with Shawn Michaels to take on anti-American Arab wrestlers Muhammed Hassan and Davairi. Who better to take them down a peg than the Real American gunsekf>
Hogan defeated Daivari with the big boot, no leg drop at Backlash 2005 in a tag match. But, "One More Match" was not just one match. Hogan stuck around making occasional appearances as Shawn Michaels' partner in different matches. One even saw Hogan and Michaels joined by John Cena.
Later on that year, in early July, Hogan defeated Carlito in a tag match and during the post-match celebration, Shawn Michaels gave Hogan "Sweet Chin Music" knocking him out. Michaels had turned on the guy he begged to wrestle as his partner. The match was set for Summerslam.
Michaels was always known for occasionally behaving like a child. I remember joking during a recording of our show with then co-host Chuck D that the real battle will not be in the ring but behind the scenes as to who would win. The match itself came off very well. Hogan did not do a lot but with his back injury still a factor, nobody expected him to. What they didn't expect was Michaels taking silly bumps during the match like a Looney Toons character almost mocking the match as it happened. Hogan won the match with the big boot and leg drop after Hulking Up from the "Sweet Chin Music". There was no rematch. Many say Michaels was told there would be one. He may well have been told that. But, his actions in the match stomped out that chance of getting his "win back".
Hogan next appeared at the WWE Hoemecoming event in October of 2005. He challenged "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to a match at WrestleMania. Austin never responded. The match never happened.
Hogan would only make a few appearances over the next few years. He returned to defeat Randy Orton at Summerslam 2006. He also took out the Great Khali on the WWE RAW 15th Anniversary Show in 2007. But, it was more Hulk's personal life that was starting to make the headlines than his pro wrestling career.
In 2005, Hogan started his own reality show based around his family. It was an attempt to help launch Brooke, his daughter's, musical career. It was called Hogan Knows Best and featured the every day life of Hulk, Linda, Brooke, and Nick Hogan. Little did they know the "every day" life caused by the cameras would nearly end more than one of their lives.
During a hot summer night in 2007, Nick and friend John Graziano took a high speed joy ride that would end up in a near deadly crash. Nick, who was a fan of auto racing, sped out of control and caused acrash that left Graziano in a near vegitative state possibly for life. Hulk had driven up on the crash and recognized the car. Not knowing if Nick was OK left a concerned look on Hogan's face that sticks with you if you ever had seen it. Nick was OK but would face legal charges and jail time for reckless driving and for the injuries suffered by Graziano.
Perhaps in response to an earlier story that summer, the Benoit family murders, the media pounced on Hulk. For the forst time, Hulk was no longer the media darling he once was and instead was the subject of jokes and harsh criticism. It was all over a crash he did not cause and was not a part of. The vilified Hogan for caring for his son. They even aired conversations Nick had with his father from Nick's jail cell and tried to twist any remark either made to benefit the story. No one was more guilty of this full blown media blitz than CNN's Nancy Grace.
After this blew over, his personal issues were still festering. Hogan was given divorce papers out of the blue. His relationship with Linda that had lasted well over 20 years was coming to an abrupt hault. Linda, perhaps caught by the cameras from Hogan Knows Best, began doing interviews and even wrote a book where she took shots at Hulk Hogan's sexuality and other things. She even appeared in a thong in a rap video. She was later caught with a DUI and spent jail time for said offense. This was all while dating a boy less than half her age that looked a great deal like a very young Hulk Hogan. It was the boy Hogan had hired to take care of his boat. Irony? More so than a spoon when you need a knife.
The happenings resulted in Hogan going through a downward spiral. It came to a head when he nearly a tragic end after a binge drinking session. Hogan had swallowed pills and sat in his bathroom tapping a gun to his teeth. He did not kill himself. But, something had to change.
Hogan returned to TV to be the host of American Gladiators. It was a reboot of the old show that had aired in the early 90's on the same networks as WWF Wrestling Challenge and WWF Superstars of Wrestling. The show did fairly well for a time and was good for Hogan's image. Hogan credits Laila Ali, the other co-host on Gladiators who just happens to be legendary boxer Muhammad Ali's daughter, for talking sense to him and getting him through the rough patches of his life.
Hogan met Jennifer, his current wife, and a positive change came his way. With wrestling still in his blood, Hogan's next project was Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling. It was a reality show taking celebrities and teaching them the wrestling ropes. But, Hulk still had some unfinished business from years prior to tend to.
In the fall of 2009, a "Hulkamania" tour was announced in Australia. The tour would feature what many thought would be a retirement tour for Hulk Hogan. It featured Hogan facing Ric Flair at various events. The ring, complete with ropes, was completely done up in Hulkamania colors. It drew fairly well. But, it was by no means going to be a retirement tour.
In November of 2009, Hulk Hogan did a press conference in New York City with Eric Bischoff. He had come to terms to work for TNA Wrestling. No longer under the NWA banner, Hogan was coming in to offer his help in any way to get the company from one level to another. On January 4th, TNA Impact drew its highest ratings in a head to head battle with WWE RAW as Hulk made his debut. This would lead to a short Monday Night War Part II in 2010 but TNA mpact Wrestling was not yet ready for that battle.
Hogan came in as the baby face and paired up with Abyss. Abyss was a young wrestler perhaps best known for being hardcore. But, Abyss was a Hulkamaniac and could not help but adore Hogan on camera. Hogan saw something in Abyss and gave him his Hall of Fame ring as a sign of support. Abyss rode his new wave of support to the top. ANd, Hulk Hogan and Abyss defeated AJ Styles and Ric Flair in a tag team match on the March 8th, 2010 episode of Impact.
Hogan later played the role of the heel boss leading a band of renegades helping his will to be the way of the land. They came to be at Bound for Glory 2010 held on the date of 10/10/10. The group was called Immortal. But, a former friend and foe said he saw that Hulk still had the fire in his eyes and should be doing things the right way. That friend was Sting. The two would fight for months but finally have the war to settle the score at Bound for Glory 2011. Sting won the match, but Hulk Hogan saw the light and turned on his Immortal faction tearing off his shirt and reclaiming Hulkamania.
The positive roll continued as Hogan once again laid claim to being one of wrestling's leading men as he was pictured as a cartoon on the hit Fox adult cartoon show American Dad and even did a run in throwing his support into the ring, as it were, for American Idol rocker James Durbin throwing his TNA Immortal shirt at Durbin which Durbin said he'd cherish for a lifetime. Hogan also became one of the spokes-people for Rent-A-Center and briefly was the spokesperson for Ageless Male, a male suppliment to fight the causes of aging. He even got a video game exclusive to the XBOX 360 simply called Hulk Hogan's Main Event Wrestling. The game features Hulk training you to be a wrestler in the game.
In 2012, Hogan returned to Impact Wrestling (the new tag name for TNA) as a baby face boss fending off the Aces and Eights. Now, with Brooke as the person in charge of the Knockouts, Hulk's life had come full circle. He was married, had his daughter working with him, and was involved in the sport he loved. At the time of this induction, Hulk is in a war with Aces and Eights leader Bully Ray. Hulk says he always does the right thing. And, for the past several years, he has. And, his success and positive results speak for themselves.
In June of 2015, Hulk Hogan was one of three judges on WWE's Tough Enough reality show. The concept was to choose the contestant that is "tough enough" to be a WWE superstar.
In July of 2015, Hulk Hogan was fired from WWE amidst a media storm concerning racially charged remarks Hulk Hogan made in 2007 while talking to Bubba the Love Sponge and his then-wife Heather Clem. Hogan used the "N" word racial slur in anger concerning mistakes his daughter Brooke was making with her professional music career.
The WWE responded by removing every Hulk Hogan mention from their company site and attempting to "Benoit" him from history. TNA did a like move removing the recently released Hulk Hogan "Best Of" DVD that they put out just weeks prior.
Though offering an apology, Hogan has explained that what he said was said in anger when he was in a dark place. He also has argued that President Obama has used that word in conversation on television yet that is accepted.
Because history matters, we are proud to induct Hulk Hogan into the Wrestling Epicenter Hall of Fame.