80's Legends: Hulk Hogan
May 9, 2006 by Jacob Sutton

I really enjoyed watching the events of the 80s, when something like a sleeper or elbow drop was a really big deal (I wasn't born at the time of 'Mania 3), even though Hogan versus Andre was a bit poor wrestling wise and the 'Mania 4 tournament was a little lame. I was originally a Triple H fan, but now I realise there's more greats like The "Million Dollar Man" or Bret "The Hitman" who changed the wrestling world forever.

Hulk Hogan was in his prime during the 1980s, when he used to use the Backbreaker as his finisher. It all began for him in the WWF in 1979/80, when he got into a feud with Andre the Giant. This, although being one of the most popular feuds of the time, was virtually forgotten at the time of WrestleMania III some 7 years later. Hogan even managed to slam Andre on TV (the 2nd man to do so). But this feud was known to have elevated him from the lower carder that he was in the late 70s. With manager Freddie Blassie, it was a hit for one of the most over heels of the time. But then he vanished from the WWF in 1981 and emigrated to the American Wrestling Association (AWA), where in 1982, he won the AWA Heavyweight Championship from Nick Bockwinkel. This title reign would only last a few months after a disqualification loss to Bockwinkel lead to Hogan relinquishing the title to him.

In the "real world" Hogan became upset about the poor treatment he had been getting in the AWA. Owner Verne Gagne was enraged to have had to give the Heavyweight Prize to him anyway. He left in early 1983, and headed to Japan, where he was beloved by the crowds and was very successful. He won a few tournaments there but by late 1983 he decided it was time to return back to his old home - the World Wrestling Federation - somewhere which had certainly developed since 1981. He returned in January 1984 to a hero's welcome which was mainly carried over from the AWA. He was almost immediately granted a shot at the WWF Heavyweight Championship for no apparent reason - Bob Backlund, the former champion at the time was very angry at this decision and he disappeared from the WWF altogether soon after. Hogan got this title shot on January 23, 1984 - and he convincingly beat The Iron Sheik for the title in a matter of around five minutes. He single handedly changed the world of wrestling in what looked to be just another title change.

Hulkamania had begun. Friend both on and off screen Andre the Giant congratulated 'The Hulkster' in the locker room by showering him in champagne. This was the beginning of a long time at the top for Hogan. In 1984 he fought much of the top heel competition in the Federation, including Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine, Big John Studd and Don Muraco. Then a new top heel arrived, 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, along with 'Mr. Wonderful' Paul Orndoff. This led into 1985 and the hugely hyped WrestleMania extravaganza. Hulk Hogan had no partner going into it, his "friends" were all in separate matches. But legendary Mr. T got involved in the storylines and got to be in the main event of the first WrestleMania. Although not an overly brilliant match, Mr. T was able to perform a memorable Aeroplane Spin on Piper and "Cowboy" Bob Orton botched his interference allowing Hogan and T to get the victory. This would be Hogan's first involvement of nine consecutive WrestleMania main events (if you count the Hogan vs. Sid that was billed as a "main event".)

In 1985 Hogan, while not defending the title, was teaming up with Andre the Giant to take on Bobby Heenan's teaming of Big John Studd & King Kong Bundy. This lead to Hogan being "singled out" by Heenan and then Hogan was put into a feud with Bundy himself. Bundy is remembered to have actually injured Hogan's ribs - although not as bad as the WWF made out. This feud with Heenan culminated at WrestleMania II, inside a steel cage. Hogan got a convincing win over a huge man - after cutting open Bundy and then after the escape brawling with Heenan himself.

Hogan quickly got into another feud - this time with Paul Orndoff once again turning heel and battling with Hogan after the pair had been tag partners for a while. This program included a memorable Cage Match on a 1986 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event where Hogan beat Orndoff. This feud came to end in summer '86 with the special show The Big Event. But his next rivalry is the most popular. Andre and Hulk Hogan had been friends for years on screen and off. The turn made by Andre in a ceremony angle and aligning with Bobby Heenan was not brilliant but worked and built up WrestleMania III. The non-contact build up was done so well that it attracted almost 100,000 people to the Pontiac Silverdome on March 29, 1987 to witness Hulk Hogan take on Andre The Giant. Many see this as the "passing of the torch" match where the top star from the 70s lost to the top star from the 80s. After the event, Andre disappeared - halting the storyline for a special reason.

In November 1987, Andre returned with the services of Heenan, still. At the first annual Survivor Series, Andre managed to slate a win, even though not over Hulk Hogan. But, the feud simmered until February 1988 - where Ted DiBiase was brought into the equation. "The Million Dollar Man" had bought the services of a bogus referee who looked like Dave Hebner (it was in reality Earl Hebner - his twin brother) to award Andre the Giant the World Title. This was one of the most confusing and controversial storylines of the time. Andre did capture the World title for around 35 seconds before handing the belt to DiBiase. This title change was branded void by WWF president Jack Tunney and the Tournament at WrestleMania VI - in which the two finalists were Ted DiBiase and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. With Hogan's help - "The Macho Man" picked up his first WWF World Championship.

All was well - they defeated Andre & DiBiase at SummerSlam '88 and were victorious at the Survivor Series too. But in 1989 they had a huge falling out and Hogan defeated Savage for his second title reign at WrestleMania V. Hogan would go on to lose the title to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI in '90, which lead to a dull feud with Earthquake which did neither of them any good. Then in the early nineties came the steroid allegations which forced him to take a long absence. He lost a lot of respect from the fans.

Hogan isn't by far the best wrestler there has been, in fact he's probably one of the poorest, but he single handedly ruled the WWF for years with his All American antics and fighting the evil villain of the year. He would remain with the WWF until King of the Ring 1993, when fans were getting bored of Hulkamania, and Hulk Hogan was never the same as he was in the 80s.

By Jacob Sutton

Martin Reid wrote:
That was a very quick appraisal of one of the most boring wrestlers ever to squeeze on the tights. Maybe not being an American makes it difficult to come at the All American Hero gimmick. I just never warmed to his character throughout that entire time.

His matches were one dimensional and totally predictable. The finish was the same every time. Once Randy Savage entered the Territory he was the top man. Vince knew it and the fans loved him even as a heel. Unfortunately he didn't get the belt until Hogan decided he wanted to take a break from wrestling and was then forced to job to Hogan upon his return.

Whilst Hogan was leg-dropping his way to 5 minute victories against improbably large wrestlers, Ric Flair was wrestling entertaining, hour long matches over at the NWA.

You are wrong about the no contact build up in relation to his feud with Andre. After the initial heel Andre met up with Hogan, albeit with 23 others in a Battle Royal aired on Saturday Nights Main Event the month before WMIII. In what was billed as their first contact in that match Andre ejected Hogan. I remember the words of Jessie Ventura at the time "Andre has eliminated Hogan and done it easily McMahon".
Jose Aguirre wrote:
Hulk Hogan is not the greatest wrestler ever, but he cannot be denied the fact that he launched the wrestling business to new heights, that neither the NWA or AWA could do, and he is part of the reason why the WWE is still standing strong. The whole drink your milk, take your vitamins and say your prayers, was great at that time because America was going through the Cold war, and even though the 80's was not the peak of the war, people were still paranoid, and being patriotic was the cool thing to do.
Navin Panesar wrote:
i have to admit that you are right about Hogan changing the whole wrestling scene, but i have by no means seen him as a great wrestler, his matches were below par, i couldnt stand seeing him wrestle when you had Guys like Flair Busting thier asses.

lets face it Hogan could never keep up with Flair and showed it in WCW, i remember one thing being said when there was the Flair and Hogan situation in WWF where the words "Flair the real worlds champion" was said, not exact words but i do remember the angle when Flair was NWA Champion.

Hogan Now is a waste of space who basically gets brought back for no reason, i mean come on he likes to be involved in everything, look at Wrestlemania 22 they had to have him induct the Crappy 'Mean' Gene Okerland, and make him overshadow the other Legends who deserved to be in there like Bret Hart and Verne Gagne.

Hogan Needs to learn that the wrestling business has moved on and he needs to accept that he is just another blip on the radar now



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