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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Jesse Ventura Vs. Hulk Hogan: Who Really Won"
July 18, 2005 by Jacob Kuhn


In one of my favorite moments in WCW history, Tony Schiavonne asked Jesse "The Body" Ventura: "Whatcha gonna do, Jesse, when Hulkamania runs wild on you"" Ventura-probably honestly-replied: "Throw up." In Hogan's best selling book, he referred to himself as being "somebody who was bigger than Jesse, looked better than Jesse and talked better than Jesse." Although this match up saw extremely limited ring time, it is honestly one of the most bitter feuds in the history of wrestling. The animosity between the two spanned three major wrestling promotions, over two decades and even into mainstream and political venues. So, my question is, who really won this feud"

There are three categories that I feel the two have competed in over the years. So, I am going to analyze each one and then decide who won each round. Although the answers to each one may not be as obvious as you think.

Wrestling: This is the most obvious of the five categories. Both Hogan and Ventura got their first real taste of success and eventual fame in the world of pro wrestling. They both started out as major heels, and went in different directions. Hogan became one of the biggest names in the history as an in ring competitor. Ventura suffered an injury and was forced to retire prematurely. His fame largely came from his career as a color commentator for the WWF and WCW.

Hulk Hogan's name is synonymous with wrestling. However, I have to disagree with Hogan that he is the biggest draw in wrestling history. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was the biggest draw ever. Still, Austin may have never had the opportunity to do what he had done if Hogan had not put wrestling on the map in the first place. Although I honestly believe Hogan was simply in the right place at the right time, that is my opinion and it will never be able to be proved. His wrestling ability and his character were very two dimensional, but his first major face run in the 80's and subsequent heel run in the 90's ushered in two of the most popular ages in the history of the sport. Wrestling may not be where it is today if it were not for Hogan.

Jesse Ventura was a one of a kind color commentator. He talked big and never backed down from his opinion. His analysis was good and although his commentary was mostly in favor of heels, it was possibly more unbiased than many face commentators. While Jim Ross, Tony Schiavonne, Michael Cole and Gorilla Monsoon are considered the 'fan favorites,' their analysis was very hypocritical. If the good guys cheated, they were generally fine with it. But if a heel did, they all got overly excited about it, denouncing their actions. Ventura, on the other hand, let it be known that he 100% condoned cheating. Even with his heel preferences, Jesse's popularity never faltered. At WrestleMania IV, his ovation rivalled that of Hulk Hogan.

If Ventura did not have to retire, the outcome of this may be a lot different. However, it's hard to argue with the success and popularity that Hulk Hogan has had in the field of Pro Wrestling. In the wrestling part of this feud, the winner is: Hulk Hogan.

Hollywood: What is more important in comparing these two careers: quality or quantity"

Hulk Hogan has made more movies than Jesse, but has yet to really have any movie that can qualify as successful. In fact, the most successful of Hogan's films was Rocky III; a movie in which he had an extremely small role. Other than that, there is a general consensus that not only is Hogan's acting atrocious, but the movies he has starred in absolutely abysmal. All of them were critical disasters and each one bombed in the box office. One might argue that Hogan is Madonna's counterpart in the acting industry. Although they are slightly bearable in supporting roles, their leading performances only lend towards making the films unwatchable.

Ventura, on the other hand, seems to know his place in films. All of his motion pictures feature him in a supporting role. The man is a wrestler, not an actor. Although he had made mistakes such as "Tag Team," the majority of the films Jesse has been in have been commercially successful: "Predator," "The Running Man," "Batman Forever," "Major League II" and even "Demolition Man" were all financially successful and turned a profit (source imdb.com). Although Ventura's roles were more than likely not responsible for the success, they did not deter it either. In fact, the movie Ventura did which performed the worse was "No Holds Barred," the Hulk Hogan Vehicle of 1989.

For making better film choices and not making some of the worst movies ever made, the winner is: Jesse Ventura.

Politics: One would assume right away that this categories winner would have to be Jesse Ventura. Not only is he the only professional wrestler to hold a major political office in the United States, his approval ratings remain high. Hulk Hogan's failed bid at running for President was never taken seriously by anyone and forgotten by most. However, there is more than one form of politics.

In the history of wrestling, no one (not even Triple H) has played politics better than Hulk Hogan. It is the opinion of a lot of wrestlers and wrestling fans that Hogan's politics are partially responsible for the folding of WCW. In his best selling book, Ric Flair makes no bones about Hogan's games behind the scenes. Many Bret Hart fans feel that Hogan arranged the whole debacle at WrestleMania IX, which resulted in the first great lag of Hart's career. I would have to admit that there doesn't seem to be a lot of definitive proof of Hogan's role in any of this, and he does deny a lot of it. However, these situations seem to happen whenever Hogan is present.

When Hulk Hogan went to WCW, Jesse Ventura began to lay into him right away. The quote at the beginning of this article was one of the comments Jesse made about Hogan. In his book, Hogan admits that he felt that Ventura should have talked "about how big a star [Hogan was], how tough [Hogan was] in the ring, and how terrific [Hogan's] movies are." Hogan was offended when Ventura did not do these things, and he admits that he went straight to Eric Bischoff to complain about it. Hogan then goes on to all but claim responsibility for the end of Jesse's career with WCW.

I don't know personally what Hulk Hogan had been watching all the years as a wrestler. Jesse Ventura was a heel commentator and Hogan was a face. Ventura was doing what he was supposed to. Ironically, Ventura was replaced with Bobby Heenan, who was as vocally opposed to Hulk Hogan on the air as Ventura was. Heenan, however, was highly respected behind the scenes by Hogan (source: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All"). As Heenan was just as hard on Hogan on air as Jesse was, it leads me to believe that Hogan may have had other motives than those he admitted to in having Ventura censored.

Ventura's biggest success outside the ring came when he won the 1997 election for Governor of Minnesota. Though his term was controversial, his approval ratings remained in the 50-60 percentiles (source gallup.com). Unlike many politicians, Jesse spoke about what was on his mind and rarely pulled any punches. His popularity reached into the 2000 presidential race when Al Gore teased about the possibility of having Ventura as his running mate. Although this never came to be, it definitely added some spice to the early campaign. Since leaving office, Ventura has said he is considering a presidential run. I have not been able to find any information on whether he has made a decision one way or the other, but if he decided to do so, one thing would be for sure: Jesse Ventura running for President will get a lot further and be taken more seriously than Hulk Hogan running.

Although Hogan seems to be better at playing politics in the wrestling world, Jesse Ventura has done more on the national political scale. He broke major boundaries into the mainstream when he won the Governor's election in Minnesota. In this instance, Jesse did something Hulk Hogan was never able to do: he found an identity that was separate from professional wrestling. Winner: Jesse Ventura.

The animosity between these two men may be something that is never completely resolved. In Hogan's book, he claims many, many times that Ventura is and has been jealous of him. Ironically, he expects Ventura to respect him without offering any respect in return. Although Hogan comes right out and admits that he talked with Bischoff to try and silence Jesse's criticism in WCW, he then tries to paint himself as the victim in the entire situation.

I think wrestling fans know better in this situation. Hogan claims to be bigger than professional wrestling, but his time has passed. In fact, randomly, I surveyed a group of 20 younger males on a website I post on. Their ages were between 17-23 and not a single one of them were Pro Wrestling fans. Five of them knew who Hulk Hogan was and sixteen had heard of Jesse Ventura. Depending upon his future political aspirations, it is possible that Jesse Ventura has earned his place in the history books. If anyone should be jealous of that, it's Hulk Hogan.

by Jacob Kuhn ..


William McCracken wrote:
First, I just have to say that the biggest draw ever was Andre the Giant, not Hulk Hogan or anyone else.

Second, touching on the politics a little bit, Jesse Ventura not only won election to Minnesota's highest office as a former professional wrestler, but also as a third-party candidate, which very rarely happens in the US. The prospect of his running for President may be laughed at out here in the real world, but there are almost certainly some political strategists at the RNC and DNC who are worried about his ability to win from outside the traditional political system. If he ran for President, it would make for a very, very interesting race.
Justin S. wrote:
I'm writing to respond to Jaco Kuhn's Hulk Hogan vs Ventura¬ article because I think it deserves some praise. Here it goes:

I'm very impressed with this article. This feud has intrigued me for quite some time because it involves two of my favorite performers I've ever watched. They both seem to have big egos, though, so your article is dead on when talking about the bitterness of the rivalry. I was going to research it a little bit, but now I don't need to. You clearly did a lot of searching and reading and you took a lot of time to form your opinion. I just wanted to let you know that your clear writing and extensive research didn't go unnoticed.
C.N. wrote:
Jacob...This was a very well written article. I understand where you are coming from completely. Jessie "The Body" Ventura transcended his image when he was in office. Ventura was no longer JUST a wrestler but he was a man with national recognition. Yet Hulk Hogan is a household name anyway you look at it. I don't know who you surveyed but unless they live in a closet, they should know who Hulk Hogan is. My mother, grandmother, sister, etc. all know who Hogan is. Granted the man is just a legend making a farewell tour now but listen to the reaction he gets in any arena. Listen to the "pop". The people made Hogan bigger than wrestling because of the support we gave and continue to give him. I give all the respect in the world to "The Body" but wrestling wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for Hogan. Hogan may very well be competing here against a fellow legend yet the topic in conversation here is wrestling. "The Body" knows politics but Hogan will forever been enshrined in wrestling.
Jacob Kuhn (original author) wrote:
I have to point out the fact that I don't believe Hulk Hogan is bigger than wrestling. He may be the biggest name IN wrestling, I won't deny that. But to be 'bigger than wrestling' you have to transcend the sport. Although he has had a television show and several movies, Hulk Hogan has yet to find real success outside of the wrestling world. Besides a small role in "Rocky III," and "Gremlins II," his movies did not attract a non wrestling audience. My reasoning for surverying a non wrestling audience were to see now that Hogan was no longer in the spotlight if the younger generation knew his name. I admit my survery was not scientific, but it suited my purpose.

If we decided to talk about which wrestlers are actually bigger than the sport, then The Rock and Jesse Ventura are the only two who have attained large excess out of the wrestling world (in the entertainment and political landscapes).

I also received an email about how wrestling wouldn't be wrestling today if it weren't for Hogan. The person emailing me had a good point: it might possibly be a lot better.

Another pointed out that my article was useless because I wrote it from an anti-Hogan perspective. While I am definitely anti-Hogan, I can't agree with that statement. I was a lot fairer to Hogan in the article than I would be in casual conversation.

The main point was that Hogan is indeed a bigger star in the wrestling world. But he has always tried to find popularity and success in other venues. Jesse Ventura has done what Hulk Hogan was never able to do. In Hogan's book, he talks incessently about Ventura being jealous of him. I think that in actuality, it is just the opposite.
Michael F wrote:
First may I give credit where it is due your article was very well writen. Finaly someone who has researched the topic he chose to write about. I must say that many of your points are valid. Overall though I disagree with the notion that Hogan is jealous of Jesse. Need proof" Well, for one IM surprised (since it seems you have read wrestlers auto biographys) you didnt mention how many have been quoted as saying Jesse has always been jealous of Hogan.

From what Ive read they claim this dates back to their AWA days. Also another great example of Jesse's jealousy is if you watch wrestlemania 4. Theres a part in the PPV when Jesse is announced he gets up and starts posing. Read his lips and listen closely as he turns to Gorilla Monsoon and flat out says "I can pose just like Hogan". Hulk wasnt even part of the segmant. What the hell did that have to do with anything" I mean its on tape. So if you can, check it out. Another reason I must disagree is this. Hogan I dont recall has ever gone out of his way on record (other than his book) to bash Jesse that I know of. I may be wrong but I can only base my opioions on experience. No doubt Jesse had a semi-decent film career. Way better than Hogans low budget films. But then again who the hell cares about Hogan the actor" Or Jesse the actor"

Within a wrestling context Jesse has every reason to be jealous of Hogan. Outside of wrestling though Im not sure I can say either man realy keeps up with , or gives a cats meow about what one another does. If they do to be quite honest they both need to get a life. Good read though. Thanks for the Article.
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