We’re going to bet there are plenty of tidbits that have escaped your notice. Long before he was one of the Earth’s mightiest warriors, he was making waves, but what kind? It’s time for Hulkamania to run wild, so read on and learn about this king of the ring.
Early Attempts at Stardom
It seems as if Terry Eugene Bollea was destined for the spotlight, one way or another. As a child growing up in Tampa Bay, Florida, Bollea liked two childhood classics: baseball and rock 'n' roll. When Bollea was in high school, he played third base and pitched, and his career seemed promising – there were even scouts from the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds that came to watch him play.
Bollea made a throw from third to first underhanded and managed to break his arm. He was just too strong. His baseball career was at an end, but he still loves the American pastime.
Meanwhile, Bollea was still playing rock 'n' roll. He spent many years playing fretless bass guitar in a number of Florida-based rock bands. He and two other musicians brought to life a rock band called Ruckus in 1976, which gained some popularity in the Tampa Bay region. The band would regularly play at bars and clubs where Florida-based wrestlers would spend their downtime.
A few of them, brothers Jack and Gerald Brisco, got to know Bollea a little bit and were impressed with his physical stature and commanding size. They asked a man named Hiro Matsuda to think about training Bollea. Bollea was more than game, having been a wrestling fan for some time.
All Eyes on Him
Bollea was famous in his high school, but it wasn't for the reason you might have thought. He grew up in South Tampa, attending Robinson High School, and during his junior year, he pulled a classic stunt. He attended the graduation of the seniors, but he wasn't in the audience. Instead, he sprinted buck-naked across the football field as the seniors received their diplomas.
According to him, he never got into any trouble because everybody liked him. Thankfully, that wasn't a gimmick that he continued to use later in life, even if that was how wrestlers did it back in ancient Greece.
They're Quite Big
Hogan admits that when he was still a kid, he was terrified of professional wrestlers. They were big, mean guys, and they were very protective of their livelihoods and characters. That means if you had the guts to think wrestling was fake to their face, you faced a real danger of physical harm.
There were no lawyers or lawsuits, and there were no cell phones, so people had a much better chance of getting away with things like this. Of course, Hogan was able to get over his fear after a little bit of time. It helped that he, too, was a huge, strong lad.
Taking After the Greats
Thanks to the injury he had suffered playing baseball, Bollea started watching lots of wrestling matches. He also frequently attended cards (performances) at the Tampa Sportatorium. His first favorite was Dusty Rhodes, one of the biggest names in the game at the time. Bollea revered the man.
At one of the cards in Tampa, he also gained an appreciation for Superstar Billy Graham (not the evangelist). He looked toward Graham for inspiration and looked to copy his, as Bollea put it, “inhuman” look. This, we can understand, includes the now-famous handlebar mustache that was a celebrated part of his look.
Schooling Cut Short
While Bollea did pursue post-secondary education at both Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida, it didn't last long. Music gigs were getting in the way so he dropped out of the U to focus on his time with his instrument. During that time, he would also hit Hector's Gym in Tampa Bay to stay healthy and lift weights.
It was there that he developed the beginnings of his championship stature. He grew to the height of six foot seven inches and had plenty of muscle. It's hard to go unnoticed with that kind of physical appearance.
Beginning in the Ring
While Bollea was initially resistant to wrestling, the Brisco brothers eventually wore him down. He eventually agreed to try wrestling, but his first meeting with promoter Mike Graham didn't go that well, and Graham refused to put Bollea in the ring. Bollea countered this by quitting his band and telling everyone that he was going to be a wrestler.
Whether it was this pro bono promotion or Bollea's refusal to quit, Graham eventually relented and agreed to promote Bollea as a wrestler. After training for more than a year with Matsuda, Bollea got a pair of wrestling boots and was told he had his first match the following week.
A Day-One Injury
On Hogan's very first day of training with Hiro Matsuda, Hogan broke his leg. Matsuda sat between his legs, put his elbow into Hogan's shin, grabbed his toe, posted his leg, and snapped his leg. Hogan credits his big mouth for the injury. He was on Stone Cold Steve Austin's podcast and said that he had been running his mouth about being a wrestler around his small town, which likely prompted Matsudo to give Hogan a little bit of payback.
Seems a little cruel, but maybe that's how things worked back then. Matsuda told him not to come back, but four months later he did, refusing to give up on something that he was so excited about.
The First Stage Name
In his professional wrestling debut, Terry Bollea was booked against Brian Blair in Fort Myers, Florida on August 10, 1977, in the CWF – Championship Wrestling from Florida. A while later, Bollea donned a mask and assumed the persona of “The Super Destroyer,” a hooded character first played by Don Jardine, and one that was subsequently used by a number of other wrestlers.
The result of the match was a time-limit draw. And the rest of the matches Bollea had, while he was training under Matsuda, are unknown. No big surprise, since there was no internet, and record-keeping at the time was often simply forgotten.
A Brief Hiatus to get Into Business
After a little while, Bollea decided he didn't want to work with Matsuda anymore since he found his trainer to be overbearing. Bollea also left CWF, becoming a free agent. He declined an offer to wrestle for the Kansas City circuit and instead became a manager of The Anchor club, a private club in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
A man named Whitey Bridges owned the club and the two quickly became close friends. They even ended up opening a gym together which became known as Whitey and Terry's Olympic Gym. While working there, Bollea spent plenty of time building up his bulk.
Back Into the Ring
During this time, Bollea's friend Ed Leslie (who would later be known as Brutus Beefcake) came to help Bollea manage the two properties. The two men spent a lot of time working out, and eventually, Bollea asked Leslie to wrestle with him as tag team partners.
Bollea had become depressed and wanted to get back into wrestling, so in 1978 he called Superstar Billy Graham with hopes that there were wrestling jobs outside of Florida. There were, and both Bollea and Leslie soon joined Tillet's Alabama territory, with Bollea promising to teach Leslie everything he knew about the sport.
The Boulder Brothers
In Alabama, Bollea and Leslie wrestled as Terry and Ed Boulder also known as The Boulder Brothers. Since the two men looked similar enough, and since only family, friends, and promoters knew their real names, it started a rumor that they were actually brothers.
The two started making waves in the wrestling world, moving into bigger territories such as the Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis, which offered a much higher rate of pay and a much larger audience than in Alabama. Thanks to his relocation to Memphis, he met the man who would give him his most famous name.
The Big Name Change
While he was wrestling in Memphis, he appeared on a local talk show sitting next to none other than Lou Ferrigno, star of the television series “The Incredible Hulk.” The host commented that Bollea, at 6 ft 7 in and almost three hundred pounds (and with twenty-four-inch biceps) was actually bigger than the man who played the Hulk.
A woman named Mary Jarrett, who was watching the show backstage, also pointed this fact out and Bollea knew he had a great idea on his hands. He began performing as Terry “The Hulk” Boulder as well as Sterling Golden occasionally.
His First Championship
On December first, 1979, Bollea won his first professional wrestling championship, the NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Championship (Northern Division) when he defeated Bob Roop in Knoxville, Tennessee. Sure, that might not mean a whole lot in the grand scheme but it was just Bollea's first step.
He would end up losing this championship to Bob Armstrong in January of 1980. Well, there's always someone better, right? Of course, this is incredibly common when it comes to wrestling since it's less a real sport and more a performance for the benefit of fans. Championships are going to change hands – it's just more exciting.
Moving Up in the World
During that time, Bollea met former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk, who introduced Bollea to company owner and promoter Vincent J. McMahon, who was impressed with Bollea's charisma and physical stature. Bringing him into the NWA, McMahon wanted Bollea to have an Irish name so he chose Hogan.
He also asked Bollea to dye his hair red, but Bollea, whose hair had already started to fall out, simply replied that he would be a blond Irish. His first match in the World Wrestling Federation was on November seventeenth, when he defeated Harry Valdez in Championship Wrestling.
Playing for Metallica?
Though Hulk Hogan was now on his way to wrestling fame, he was willing to drop it all for one thing – music. He told “The Sun” in 2012 that he had been a session player on the bass, and that he had also been friends with Lars Ulrich of Metallica. Lars had apparently asked Hogan to play bass for Metallica before Hogan had become big, but it didn't work out.
Lars Ulrich responded to this with confusion, saying that he had never known Hulk Hogan (or Terry Bollea) and had no recollection of asking anyone like him to play bass for Metallica.
Setting the Record Straight
Whether he was walking back a lie or just clarifying poor communication, Hogan eventually came clean. He said that he had heard Metallica was looking for a player, so he had collected a couple of demos of his playing (including a song that had been produced by Simon Cowell, long before Cowell had his current level of fame) and sent them to the band.
Metallica never responded, either thinking it was a joke or that Bollea's playing simply wasn't up to their standards. Hogan has said he still wished he had more of a shot, but the bass player they got instead (We have to assume this was Cliff Burton) was far better than him.
Arrested for Kayfabe
Kayfabe is — if you didn't know — the idea that the character the wrestlers play in the ring is real. While its power is less these days, breaking Kayfabe in decades past was unconscionable, and this led to some problems for Hogan – but it wasn't really his fault. He was once giving a pair of fellow wrestlers a lift in New Jersey when a state trooper pulled him over.
As Hogan grabbed his registration from the glove box, an unregistered gun fell out. An unregistered gun in the state of New Jersey carries a one-year prison sentence, which Hogan was unaware of. He begged his passengers to explain this.
Unfortunately, his passengers in the car were none other than the Wild Samoans, who, while in the ring, played savage characters that grunted and ripped chickens apart with their bare hands. They also never spoke English. In order to not break Kayfabe, they refused to come to Hogan's defense to the police officer.
Apparently, it would be better to be arrested. While we don't think this led to jail time (the gun had been purchased in Florida) it was probably pretty annoying for Hogan. This story was detailed in Hogan's autobiography, “My Life Outside the Ring,” which came out in 2009.
The Film That Broke Relationships
By 1982, Hulk Hogan was a bona fide star, working as one of the most famous heels in the biz. He had successful runs in Japan (fans there nicknamed him “Ichiban” or “Number One”). He had started a feud with the immense Andre the Giant, which culminated in a match with Andre at Shea Stadium in August 1980. He wrestled against Bob Backlund for the WWF Heavyweight Championship, unsuccessfully.
On June second, 1983, Hogan became the first International Wrestling Grand Prix tournament winner. He also became the first holder of the early version of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Things were going well between Hogan and McMahon in particular...until a little film named “Rocky III” came calling.
The Slam Heard Around the World
Before getting into the movies, we should tell you about WrestleMania III. It was the match everyone was waiting for: Hulk Hogan against Andre the Giant in a bid to be the big champ. The match was a good one, and by the end of it, both wrestlers were exhausted, but there was still enough juice in Hulk Hogan's frame to lift the immense Andre the Giant off the ground and slam him to the mats.
This has come to be known as one of the most famous moments in wrestling history, dubbed “The slam heard around the world.” After that, came Hogan's signature leg drop, which finished off Andre in a big way.
Against McMahon's Wishes
The first and second entries into the “Rocky” collection are classic sports films, and “Rocky III” looked to continue the tradition. In the film, Hogan played egotistical professional wrestler Thunderlips, who battles Rocky Balboa in a charity match to open the film. Hogan's performance gave him mainstream exposure, making him recognizable (and thus likable) to a much wider swathe of Americans and international movie fans.
However, one person, in particular, wasn't a fan of Hogan taking the role. That person was, critically, Vince McMahon Sr, who was running the World Wrestling Federation at the time. This resulted in a falling out between the two, and Hogan left the WWF.
Doesn't Know His Own Strength
His film debut as Thunderlips had Hogan battle Rocky during a charity match, but Sylvester Stallone found the fight a little too real. He remembers a move where Hogan threw him into a corner and leaped so high that Hogan's shinbone came down on his collarbone like a tree trunk. He's called it the worst pain he's ever had from a single hit.
During the fight, Hogan also sent three stuntmen to the hospital – he just wasn't used to the kind of fake fighting that goes on in movies. However, Stallone said that the filming process was pretty easy, unintentional injuries aside.
A Run in the AWA
While Hogan began as a heel in the AWA, this wouldn't last long thanks to his charisma, his skills, and his huge amount of fans. He quickly became the top favorite in the AWA. His time in the org was a short one, however, thanks to a man named McMahon – Vince McMahon Jr., who had no problem with Hogan's appearance in “Rocky III.”
The younger McMahon bought the WWF from his father and immediately brought Hogan back into the fold, quickly crowning him as the company's champion. With a popular star at the helm, the WWF was set to shake up the world of wrestling in a big way.
A Legendary First
While Hogan was still climbing the ranks in popularity, a famous character was at or near the top. He was The Iron Sheik, a hulking bruiser of a man that had a dreaded finishing move: the “camel clutch.” Not a single wrestler had been able to escape this dreaded attack. At least, not until 1983.
During a match against Hulk Hogan, the Iron Sheik deployed the camel clutch, but Hogan was able to escape its confines. He retaliated with his own finishing move, the Atomic Leg Drop, knocking The Iron Sheik out of the running and netting him his first championship.
Not everybody loved Hogan. For instance, when Vince McMahon Junior took over from his dad, the current champion was Bob Backlund. But the crowd was turning on Bob, calling him overrated, and that means a regime change was coming. However, Backlund refused to lose the title belt to Hogan, saying that the blond bruiser didn't have a “legitimate wrestling background,” whatever that means.
This required McMahon to come up with a workaround, and it was thanks to The Iron Sheik's resume that the plan worked at all. You see, while he's a famous character in the ring, The Iron Sheik has even more to him than you might think.
Wrestling Bona Fides
The Iron Sheik, real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, was one of the most famous heels from the eighties but he was more than just a character. Vaziri almost made it onto a spot in Iran's Olympic wrestling team for the 1968 Summer Olympics, and he was also an assistant coach of two U.S. Olympic squads in the seventies.
In 1971, he won another title. The Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling championship was in his hands. Is that a legitimate wrestling background good enough, Backlund? McMahon had The Iron Sheik beat Backlund for the title belt, and then immediately turned around to give it to Hulk Hogan.
While Hogan made wrestling history in 1984 with his victory over The Iron Sheik, this moment was also important to him in another way – his parents watched him do it. His decision to drop out of school had been against his parent's wishes, who wanted their son to be successful and with a good life.
Being a goofball inside a ring wasn't the way to do it until they watched him hoist the belt in Madison Square Garden. The relationship had been strained, but afterward, his parents came to his dressing room to tell him how proud they were. Hogan calls it the best moment of his professional career.
It should come as no surprise that a big, strong, handsome (depending on your taste) and successful guy like Hulk Hogan would also have success in the dating game, and that came from Linda Marie Claridge when he met her at a Los Angeles restaurant in the early eighties. Though they had no cell phones or social media, the two began a long-distance relationship for two years before being married.
The ceremony came in 1983, with some of Hogan's closest colleagues in attendance, including Andre the Giant (imagine him in a suit. Go on, you know you want to) and Vince McMahon.
Hulk's Three Rules
While he had been a heel, a bad guy, on the AWA, McMahon Jr. knew that Hogan would hit even greater heights as a face – one of the good guys. He went from the man wrestlers' fear to a force of good, waving an American flag, fighting for good, and telling all his fans, the Hulkamaniacs, to “train, say their prayers, and eat their vitamins.”
They were called the Demandments. Thus, Hogan slotted into the place where he would be for most of his professional wrestling career – he would remain as a face for fifteen years. A long time in the world of wrestling.
A Theme Song That Makes Sense
A character like Hulk Hogan needed the kind of entrance music that everybody could recognize. Musician Rick Derringer knew he had exactly what the wrestler needed when he wrote “Real American,” which is the song Hogan has used as his entrance tune for a long time, though there were some periods when he switched to something else.
It was performed by singer Bernard Kenny and released in 1985 on “The Wrestling Album.” David Wolff, who was Cyndi Lauper's boyfriend and manager, produced the album, and that's how Lauper and Hogan are tied together. Bet you didn't know that.
After his breakout, problems started to arise thanks to Hogan's use of the name “Hulk.” Marvel owned the trademark for the Hulk, obviously, and they had to come to an accord with the WWF's parent company, Titan, for the use of the name. The deal was extensive and complicated, and it was lucrative for Marvel: They obtained the trademarks for “Hulk Hogan,” “Hulkster,” and “Hulkamania” for twenty years, and Titan agreed to no longer refer to Hogan as “incredible,” nor simple “Hulk,” or ever dress him in purple and green.
Marvel also received 9% of reportable gross merchandise revenue associated with Hogan. They also received $100 for each of his matches, and 10% of Titan's portion of his other earnings under this name.
Changing the Wrestling World
With Hogan at the helm of the stable, the World Wrestling Federation began to expand. Before this, wrestling companies had stayed in their corner, with companies for certain states or groups of states. But Vince McMahon Jr. wasn't willing to stay put.
He started expanding the WWF into a nationwide promotion, having handpicked Hogan to be the company's biggest star thanks to the power of his name and charisma. Hogan confirmed his fan-favorite status in 1984, and the WWF was off and running, all thanks to the power of Hulk Hogan.
A Crossover Celebrity
Wrestling had suddenly become one of the biggest entertainment venues in America, and Hogan was the biggest star – this led to lots of other appearances. He appeared in several MTV specials, interacting with celebrities like Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T, both of whom would be integral to the success of the first WrestleMania.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T also co-hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live” the night before WrestleMania I in 1985. Hogan made a number of memorable talk show appearances, such as on “The Tonight Show,” and was also featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated.”
He Was on the Cover of What?
Yes, that's correct, he was on the cover of “Sports Illustrated.” Thankfully, not the swimsuit issue. At the time, he was the first and only wrestler (well, professional wrestler of this style) to be featured on the cover. As far as we can tell, he's STILL the only wrestler of this style to have a cover photo, though actual competitive wrestlers have been featured on occasion.
There are tons of football players, basketball stars, members of baseball teams, and even people like presidents or golfers, but Hogan remains the only wrestler to grace the cover of this history sports mag.
Taking Things Too Far
Not all of the non-wrestling appearances Hogan made during this time were good for him and his brand. In 1985, actor and talk show host Richard Belzer convinced Hogan into putting Belzer into a chokehold during a taping of his talk show “Hot Properties.”
When Hogan eventually did so, Belzer immediately passed out in the hold, because that's what a chokehold is for. When Hogan released him, Belzer hit his head on the floor of the studio. Despite Belzer having to convince Hogan to do so, Belzer was able to sue the wrestler for millions of dollars, even getting the WWF involved in the lawsuit.
A Tag Team That Couldn't Be Beat
“Macho Man” Randy Savage was another one of the company's biggest names at the time, which meant that it was only natural for Savage and Hogan to team up and start taking names. By aligning Hulkamania and Macho Madness under one banner, they called themselves “The Mega Powers,” which began in 1987.
This duo would run together until 1989 when they broke up over a dispute involving their shared manager, Miss Elizabeth (whom Macho Man Randy Savage was married to at the time in real life). Unfortunately, with Randy Savage passing away in 2011, Hogan is the only surviving member of this duo.
Pushing Into the Movies
While he was wrestling's biggest star in the eighties, Hogan always had his sights set higher. He started getting involved in a number of film projects starting in the late eighties. His first starring role came in the McMahon-produced 1989 film “No Holds Barred.” In the film, Hogan plays a virtuous professional wrestling champion named Rip Thomas who must fight the monstrous Zeus. Well, baby steps, we guess.
The film was received with resounding boos from both critics and audiences, but it's maintained a cult status thanks to its unique sense of humor. Zeus, played by Tiny Lister, was later brought into the WWF storyline.
A Regular Actor
Hulk Hogan continued trying to make it as a leading man on the silver screen, without a huge amount of success. In 1991, he starred in “Suburban Commando”, where he played an interstellar warrior trying to capture an intergalactic criminal who crash lands on Earth. There was also “Mr. Nanny” in 1993, which has Hogan acting as a burned-out wrestler who takes a job guarding a prestigious tech firm's president's children.
“Santa With Muscles,” in 1996, was...well, you can probably figure that one out. Perhaps his best-liked role was that of a secondary hero in “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain.” However, it's safe to say the acting career never took off.
Trying to Find the Time
Since he was busy with acting, Hogan decided to slow down on the amount of actual wrestling he was doing. He dropped the WWF Championship to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI in April 1990, and after that moved into what was essentially a part-time role with the company during 1991 and 1992.
Despite that fact, he held the WWF Championship twice over that period and also headlined WrestleMania VII and VIII. Hey, you don't need to work full time to do the best job. But, if the quality of his movies were any indication, Hogan should have stayed in the ring.
A Black Mark on His Record
For a while, Hogan was a big, strong, untouchable man but that all changed in 1992. A performance enhancers scandal had sprung up around Dr. George Zahorian, a Pennsylvania doctor who had, apparently, been supplying these enhancers to the WWF for a long time. Since Hogan was such a big part of the organization, there was an immediate spotlight on him.
He decided to be proactive and get ahead of any potential rumors and made the decision to appear on Arsenio Hall's talk show, claiming that he'd only used these substances once, to help recover from an injury. However, the appearance was panned and derided widely, seen as disingenuous at best.
Following his appearance on the Arsenio Hall show and the revelation about Dr. Zahorian, Hogan disappeared from the WWF until March 1993. His return, while brief, was also notable in that he looked a great deal smaller and less muscular than before. He once again disappeared off the roster during the summer for another extended period away.
The next year, Hogan agreed to testify for the federal government about the performance enhancers distribution case in exchange for immunity. He then revealed that he had been taking them regularly since the 1970s. He also torpedoed the case against Vince McMahon by saying McMahon had never pressured him to take enhancers or provided him with them.
Hogan wasn't just trying to protect McMahon because he was Hogan's boss – the two were also neighbors. One version of the story says that Hogan and McMahon lived in the same neighborhood (Stamford, Connecticut) while another says that they were even next-door neighbors. Hogan would tell Vince Jr. everything he knew about wrestling while they lifted weights and rode motorcycles together.
Despite the problems that would come between them, Hogan cemented himself as a good neighbor by helping to keep McMahon out of prison. Hard to top that, even if you are kind of a jerk (as Hogan was seen to be by many).
A New Company
In 1994, wrestling was vastly different from when Hogan had started wrestling. After testifying against McMahon, Hogan signed with the WWF's biggest competitor, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Hogan was immediately the company's biggest star. Hogan's contract was not only huge financially, but it came with something that wrestlers would have killed to get: creative control.
Hogan not only had control over his own storylines but over sections of the company as a whole. One of the things he did with the control was to bring in young stars he thought would be successful, such as Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Triple H.
While WCW was a force to be reckoned with for a time, it soon became clear it wasn't going to last. Many people have pointed at Hogan and his creative control as the cause of the company's issues, but Eric Bischoff, the WCW manager, has denied it. In fact, Bischoff said he could count the number of times Hogan forced Bischoff to change something on two hands.
Kevin Nash has said in a tongue-in-cheek manner that Hogan frequently flaunted his control. Again, Hogan only had control over his own angle and matches. Some of the decisions he made hurt the WCW, but to say he was the reason it struggled is to give him too much credit.
The Big Switch
In wrestling, there are two main divisions of characters – Faces, which are presented as the good guys, and heels, the bad guys. For his entire professional career, Hulk Hogan had been a face, and a babyface at that – often seen as the most heroic of the group. However, when Hogan left the WWF and made the switch to WCW, he became the leader of the New World Order (NWO), a villainous faction in the company.
Black t-shirts and rebellious attitudes led to immense popularity among fans, despite being the bad guys of the show. Thanks to this popularity, WCW became the new leader of the wrestling game, pushing WWF back a step.
Hogan switching to WCW and becoming part of the NWO kickstarted a renaissance in the wrestling world that would allow this unique version of entertainment to reach heights hitherto unseen. Chief among the reasons was the switch of such a famous face to such an incredible heel. Hogan was at the center of every wrestling fan's mind, and there were plenty of pay-per-view specials that featured him as the main event.
He even “wrestled” against random celebrities such as Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls, and “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. At one point, Hogan also fought in a tag team match with none other than Mr. T in his corner.
The Beginning of the End
WCW and Hogan were on the wrestling throne, but it wasn't long before the pendulum swung back the other way. In 1998, McMahon changed the WWF's direction to be more like shock TV and built it around the crass and dynamic Stone Cold Steve Austin. It left the once-revolutionary WCW concept looking tired and old in comparison.
In 2000, the WWF had again eclipsed the WCW, while infighting and bad management had crippled the WCW. In 2000 alone they lost something like sixty million dollars. They tried to bring in former WWF writer Vince Russo, but this ultimately spelled disaster, thanks in large part to Hogan.
The Bash at the Beach
In 2000, Russo convinced Hogan to go into a match with a “shoot” angle – wrestling parlance for something that's meant to look real even to people who understood that wrestling was staged. Hogan won the match and walked out of the arena, only for Russo to cut an unscripted promo insulting Hogan. Despite this still being part of the storyline, it genuinely angered Hogan.
It angered Hogan so much that he stepped away from WCW entirely and ended up suing Russo for defamation of character. Less than a year later, WCW went out of business and was purchased by Vince McMahon.
The Long-Awaited Return
After WCW shuttered, Hogan had no choice but to come crawling back to WWF in 2002 unless he wanted to slum it in much smaller companies. At the same time in WWF, an up-and-coming was making waves that we're still feeling today: none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
It took place during WrestleMania X8 (which is how WrestleMania said eighteen) with The Rock as the face and Hogan as the heel. Unexpectedly, plenty of fans cheered for Hogan, and the company chose to once again make him a face after the match was over. The crowd gets what the crowd wants.
Battling With the Old Crew
For the rest of the spring and summer, Hogan – once again decked out in his classic red and yellow outfit – would fight as one of the company's main names. WWF changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and Hogan saw himself going up against younger stars like Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle.
Hogan would make similar short runs with the company in 2003, 2005, and 2006 – at which point he was also inducted into the company's Hall of Fame. Despite not being able to keep up physically with other wrestlers, Hogan was still a big draw.
Missed Out on a Big Opportunity
We're all probably familiar with a George Foreman grill, billed as a lean, mean, grilling machine, but there were almost millions of grills that bore Hulk Hogan's name instead of the boxer's. Hogan was the first choice for the marketers, but when his agent tried to call him with the opportunity, Hogan missed the call – his explanation was that he was picking up his kids.
Instead, the idea went to George Foreman, who not only made a megabank from the deal but was also able to make his way back into the ring thanks to, in his words, healthy eating.
Getting in on Merchandising
While he missed being the grill man for a generation, Hulk Hogan had his own hardware to peddle. Foreman got forty percent of all the profits from sales of the grills, which sold over a hundred million units, and also got nine figures for the use of his likeness and name. While Hogan didn't get a deal as sweet as Foreman did he still tried his hardest to sell...a juicer.
Performance enhancers jokes aside, the juicer was a notorious failure, and it's why Hogan has been reluctant to endorse anything since. That's ignoring all the lunchboxes and posters and stuff like that, which is a little different.
Jumping into the Grilling Game
However, about ten years after the debut of George Foreman's grill, Hulk Hogan would become a competitor with Hulk Hogan's Ultimate Grill. An infomercial to hype the grill was made, and it's one of the most confounding things in Hulk Hogan history. Hogan seems utterly baffled by how a grilled cheese sandwich works and is amazed that things like onions and peppers that aren't producing grease.
The check must have cleared before filming the spot, and it made us all realize that Hogan shouldn't be a pitchman. Yet another piece of kitchen tech down the drain – this one costing over three hundred dollars!
This wasn't the first time that Hogan had put his legendary mug on a product to endorse, but that was a bit different. He came up with the idea of a single restaurant all about him, and no one had the heart or health insurance to tell him no. While Hogan had managed a few businesses before getting big, managing and running are two very different things.
He also financed the entire thing with all his own money, which might surprise you until you remember that Hogan was earning ten million dollars a year most of the time. The location of the store was in Minnesota's biggest claim to fame, the Mall of America.
What's on the Menu?
So, what kind of food could you find at the Hulk Hogan restaurant? There were things like Hulk-Us and Hulkaroos, and if you can figure out what those are, give yourself a pat on the back. Even though the restaurant was plugged on the debut episode of WCW Nitro, and shilled endlessly by Hogan and others, the quality of the food, service, and style just wasn't up to snuff.
Pasta is pretty easy to make, and most people just elected to do it at home. The restaurant closed after a single year, which must have come as a shock to the Hulkster.
The Rap Song
Even if you didn't know about this, you probably aren't all that surprised. Yes, Hogan rapped. Wrestling albums weren't a new concept in 1995 – before that, the WWF had released three separate albums (“The Wrestling Album,” “Piledriver: The Wrestling Album 2,” and “WrestleMania: The Album.”) One of them even made it to the top ten in the United Kingdom. We bet that's new information.
We have no idea why Hulk Hogan thought he had the rhythm and lyrical chops to make it as a rapper, but we imagine he walked into the recording studio and no one was able to stop him.
The album “Hulk's Rules” was straight off of Hogan's dome, and he was helped by “The Mouth in the South,” Jimmy Hart, who was acting as Hogan's manager at the time. Hogan had played bass before, so he has some musical history, and Hart actually had a top ten hit in the sixties with his band The Gentrys.
Try out the tune “Beach Patrol,” where Hogan reveals that he has zero ideas of how rap works, how kids these days act, and more. He also seems to think that Jimmy Hart's voice can be used to summon Krakens.
Even though “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan had fought together under the banner “The Mega Powers,” it seems there was plenty of love lost between the two. In fact, in 2003, Randy Savage released what is commonly known as a “diss track” aimed at his former friend.
The title of the song was “Be a Man,” and Savage doesn't waste any time pointing his ire at Hogan. In the song, Savage raps/sings/demands that Hulk should be a man, not be scared, and that he's running from Macho Man. At least, that's what Randy Savage heard.
Making Wishes Come True
At one time, Hogan was the leader for the number of wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which fulfills the wishes of children who are suffering from critical illnesses. He's granted over two hundred wishes and is among the few celebrities that have granted that many.
He was by far the most requested celebrity in the eighties, and since the org had only begun to grant wishes at that time, he was in the top spot for ages. In fact, it was only until fellow wrestler John Cena became popular enough to start getting wishes for visits was Hogan's high mark topped – Cena has now done more than three times that number.
A New Kind of Star
While Hogan's film career didn't exactly take off, the 2000s saw a new kind of entertainment that was perfect for a star that was trying to stay in the limelight: reality TV! These golden days of trash saw people like Ozzy Osbourne and Paris Hilton become strange leads in shows that people watched to see famous names fall apart live, and Hulk Hogan was a perfect choice for the genre.
You could find this famous wrestler in the show “Hogan Knows Best,” which followed Hogan and his family through their daily lives, lasting four seasons. His daughter Brooke had her own spin-off, “Brooke Knows Best.”
A Public Breakup
Just like many other families that find themselves as reality TV stars, the Hogan family had a number of issues. The show fell apart in 2007, during which Hogan's current wife, Linda, filed for divorce. She cited irreconcilable differences but there was a problem with the way she did it – she never told her husband! The only reason he found out at all was when a reporter called him for a comment.
Imagine if you're the person that accidentally delivers bad news to Hulk Hogan. That reporter probably feared for his life. Thankfully, it was over the phone, but even then we bet the reporter was checking through the drapes.
2007 Was a Bad Year
The problems didn't end for the Hogan family after such a public announcement of divorce. While still dealing with the proceedings, the Hogan family had another problem, this one even more dangerous. Hogan's son, Nick, was arrested for reckless driving after he had a really bad car accident.
Nick was under the influence of alcohol at the time, taking the problems up another notch – he was only seventeen at the time. Nick would spend six months in county jail as a result.
What Could Have Been
We all have lots of small jobs that we pick up to make a buck and get rid of all that extra time. Hulk Hogan was a manager for a couple of businesses, he's been a movie...actor...and he of course is wrestling's biggest name, but there are a couple of other things he's done. When he was young, he took a job as a bank teller full-time, which must have been an excellent way for the bank to scare off potential robbers.
The job only lasted a few days, and Hogan moved on for reasons we aren't aware of. We're also unsure exactly when this happened, though without a doubt it was before he became a star of any kind in wrestling.
He Almost Had to Chill Out
You might remember Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Victor Freeze in “Batman and Robin,” who was always ready with a groaning pun and his big, powerful suit. While Ahnold definitely made the role his own (much to the dismay of many moviegoers), director Joel Schumacher's first choice was the big and powerful Hulk Hogan.
The role required a physically-capable actor since the suit weighed seventy-five pounds. Hogan was able to dodge this role, which saved his sterling film career. (Ironically, “Batman and Robin,” while certainly a bad film, might have ended up as the best of Hogan's filmography.)
The Cartoon Version
While wrestling was becoming more and more popular, a short-lived television show came out in 1985. It ran for a mere six episodes and watching them will tell you exactly why. They're funny in their own crazy way, but they aren't great. “Rock 'n' Wrestling” had the big WWF names at the time team up with what appears to be a giant boulder, but instead of voicing themselves, voice actors stepped in.
Brad Garrett (whom you might remember as Ray Romano's huge brother Robert Barone) voiced Hogan, while Philip Banks who played Uncle Phil in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” played Junkyard Dog. If you have a half-hour to spare you might enjoy an episode.
A Shrinking Superstar
At his height, both physically and in the public eye, Hulk Hogan was a towering six foot nine and weighed almost three hundred pounds. However, age and the toll of such a physical job have trimmed a few inches off of this immense figure. He's lost roughly three inches of height due to surgeries and procedures after injuries.
Just in the twenty-teens he's had something like twenty surgeries, including ten on his back, work on both knees, and work on both hips. Such a huge person puts a lot of stress on his body, even if he doesn't have a job that includes throwing himself around a ring with thousands of people watching.
Scared of the Air
Everybody has their hangups, even someone as big and physically imposing as Hulk Hogan. Despite being almost seven feet tall, Hogan is scared of flying and it's thanks to a pair of plane crashes. It's a reasonable response to have a fright of flying after something like that, but Hogan had to be prepared to move around the country, or even the world, at a moment's notice – he couldn't just say no to flying.
How did he deal with this? With a lucky pair of underwear that he'd been wearing during BOTH of his plane crashes. Are we sure they were lucky?
Life After Wrestling
In the mid-2000s, Hogan knew that he wouldn't be able to wrestle forever. He started preparing for life outside of the ring, which led to him endorsing products and starting a few television shows. These included a reboot of “American Gladiators,” as well as something called “Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling.”
The first had Hogan co-hosting with Laila Ali (Muhammad Ali's daughter) as gladiators competed in contests of strength, agility, and endurance. The second saw celebrities training to become wrestlers. It only ran for a single season and the talent it attracted was C-list at best, but it still crowned Hogan's friend Dennis Rodman as the eventual winner.
Hogan's life seemed to be on a downward spiral, and he reached rock bottom one day after his wife Linda had filed for divorce. To say the day was dark is an understatement – we were one phone call away from having a Hulk Hogan-less world on our hands.
The only thing that saved Hogan from making a crucial final decision was a random call from his “American Gladiators” co-host Laila Ali. She was able to convince him not to do something terrible and to also get some help. Thanks to her, his life was able to get back on track.
A Poor Return to Form
With financial troubles because of his impending divorce (Linda would end up leaving him with only thirty percent of his liquid assets) and the bad news thanks to his son's accident, Hogan made the choice to jump back into wrestling. He headlined an independent tour of Australia in 2008, and he became both an on-screen performer and a backstage executive for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2010.
Neither of these ventures would garner that much attention. His TNA run was heavily criticized, with many saying it hurt a company that could have become a competitor to WWE had he not stepped in and messed things up.
The Only Thing He Couldn't Defeat
Hulk Hogan was big and strong enough to take on opponents like Andre the Giant, medical companies, and even Gawker, but there's one thing even he couldn't best: the real estate market. After his reality TV series went belly-up, Hogan attempted to sell the home where he and his family had been followed around by cameras in Belleair, Florida.
The house, a large one and with recognition, was originally listed at $25 million but nobody was buying. In fact, it remained on the market for five years before Hogan was desperate enough to sell for far less than the original asking price – a mere $6.2 million.
The Year of the Tape
2012 was another tough year for Hulk Hogan. Things started out fine, but in April an illicitly-recorded adult-only tape featuring Hogan and Heather Clem – the wife of Hogan's longtime friend “Bubba the Love Sponge” – was leaked. Heather and Bubba were estranged at the time, though Bubba is present. Bubba can be heard saying “if we ever need to retire, here is our ticket.”
This might indicate a desire to blackmail Hogan. Hogan would later go onto the Howard Stern show and saw that it was a terrible decision and that he was at a low point.
The Litigious Hulk
Hogan ended up suing Bubba and Heather Clem for invading his privacy. The case was settled out of court, and Bubba (who, ultimately was responsible for leaking the tape) publicly apologized to Hogan. The website Gawker, which had posted a snippet of the tape online, was also in Hogan's sights. However, in December of 2012, a federal court determined that Gawker's publication of the video snippet did not violate U.S. copyright law.
At that point, Hogan joined Gawker in the ongoing action against Heather Clem, alleging invasion of privacy as well as negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But the story doesn't end there.
A Dirty Mouth
For the next few years, Hogan jumped around from company to company and in 2015 he returned to the WWE as an ambassador. However, that June, that tricky little tape would resurface, this time with more audio. “National Enquirer” and “Radar Online” released audio of Hogan making numerous prejudiced comments on the tape while he was with Clem. Hogan apologized immediately. And it wasn't one of those wishy-washy celeb apologies where they're sorry people's feelings were hurt, either.
Hogan owned up that what he had done was unacceptable, and there was no excuse for it. Still, the WWE fired Hogan and scrubbed him from the organization's record books and Hall of Fame. It was a huge blow.
The Lawsuit Ramps Up
After losing his position at WWE, Hogan focused all of his attention on his lawsuit against Gawker. He was financially backed by billionaire Peter Thiel, who had his own issues with Gawker, and was able to pursue the case to the point of ruining Gawker. In March of 2016, Hogan won a $115 million judgment against the company. This was later settled down to $35 million in the same year.
The case, and the settlements, led to the ruin of Gawker. The case was much-discussed with many people wondering about the rights of the media to post news of this nature.
Gawker wasn't the only company that Hogan would sue. In 2013, he filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Laser Spine Institute for $50 million. He cited that the medical firm persuaded him to undergo over ten unnecessary and ineffective spinal operations (his words) that did nothing to help his back problems – in fact, they very well could have worsened them.
He claimed the procedures only gave him short-term relief, and they resulted in him having to undergo traditional spinal fusion in 2010, allowing him to return to the ring. In addition, LSI used Hogan's name on their advertisements without his permission.
Working on His Image
After winning lawsuits left and right, Hogan had the cash he needed. Now it was time for him to get himself back into the public's good graces. After three years of being away from the WWE, he was able to come back in. This first relied on apologizing for the prejudice tirade.
The company first re-added him to their record books, then to their merchandise store, then they started bringing him back into the ring for short on-camera appearances. While Hogan's back and general health prevented him from displaying the same athleticism as before, he still got to participate in fights.
Hogan the Writer
He's been a wrestler, a singer, a reality TV star, a movie actor...what else is there to do? How about a writer? A pair of autobiographies give you the chance to understand the man better since it all comes straight from him. The first, “Hollywood Hulk Hogan,” came out in 2001, and purports to tell the reader about what makes him weep like a baby, his blood boil, and what scares the living hell out of him.
“My Life Outside the Ring,” which came out in 2009, adds more information, including the difficult moments such as his divorce and the car crash that his son Nick was in.
Played by Thor Himself
In February of 2019, a surprising announcement was made to the movie world. A biopic about Hulk Hogan was being produced, directed by Todd Phillips (he did “The Hangover” series) and starring Chris Hemsworth as the man himself. Filming has been held up for the last few years, thanks to the fact that it needed crowd scenes, but other than that there is painfully little information about the project.
One thing we do know is the immense amount of physical work Hemsworth has been putting in to become this famous muscle man. Thanks to his time as Thor, however, he's used to it.