Professional wrestling icon Hulk Hogan was recently a guest on CBS Philly's Howard Eskin Show. Among many other things, Hogan talked about developing his white meat babyface persona, the three biggest moments from his storied pro wrestling career, and the impetus for turning heel in WCW.
On the subject of developing the Hulk Hogan character, Hogan said he was looking for an All-American good guy character and was prepared to hit the proverbial ground running with the character in his second stint with WWE.
"I had no idea [Hulkamania] was going to happen," Hogan admitted. "When I got into the [pro] wrestling business, I loved the business. I was a fan, number one. But I just wanted to get into the business and be good enough, earn a good living, and be very supportive of the artform of [pro] wrestling. Now, I'd guess you'd call it sports entertainment. But the thing that was really crazy was I've always had a good heart, I've always been a good person, and I just was trying to find a character that would be that ultimate American, positive character. And, actually, Vince McMahon, Sr. helped me with the name, 'Hulk Hogan'. I already had the name 'Hulk', but he gave me the 'Hogan' part to represent the Irish community. Yeah, I was looking for this All-American character that would be supportive of the red, white, and blue, and the purple mountains majesty. And it just so happened, at the time, I had a full head of hair. I was at the beach all the time. It was kind of like the perfect storm of the blonde-haired American guy from Venice Beach, California, and I hit on all eight cylinders. I had no idea the character was going to take off like it did. I had no idea that the character Hulk Hogan with the training, vitamins, saying your prayers, believe in yourself would become etched in stone as the words that would attract kids to the character and make the character a role model. So all the stuff started happening all at once. And with the perfect timing, when I went back to WWE, I had been fired many years before for doing a Rocky movie because back then, the mindset was, 'no movies, no commercials - if you're a wrassler, you're a wrassler,' but things have changed. But when I came back, it was the perfect storm because I had already figured out how to be Hulk Hogan. I'd already figured out how to make Hulkamania run wild and rip the shirt off. I started shaking the ring ropes before the comeback, so when I did come out at Madison Square Garden, I was ready to be the All-American good guy."
According to Hogan, the three biggest moments of his decorated pro wrestling career were WrestleMania 1, WrestleMania 3, and WrestleMania 18. With respect to WrestleMania 1, Hogan said the inaugural event turned the genre into a powerhouse.
"The first one, of course, was WrestleMania 1 where we pulled out all of the stops." Hogan remembered, "we had Mr. T. We had Billy Martin there. We had Mary Hart. We had everybody there. The Rockettes, Alice Cooper, Cyndi Lauper, I mean, we had the whole gambit there for WrestleMania 1. Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon bet the farm that this was going to make or break the pro wrestling business and this is where we did the transition. This is where we shifted gears into an international phenom, the wrestling business, instead of just a local scenario, so WrestleMania 1 was so important and it put wrestling on the map."
As for WrestleMania 3, Hogan suggested that the changing of the guard that occurred with the so-called 'bodyslam heard around the world' cemented 'The Hulkster''s legacy.
"Then we go to WrestleMania 3 where we set the largest indoor attendance record and I wrestled André The Giant." Hogan recalled, "that really cemented my career in stone when André The Giant passed the torch to me because nobody had ever beaten The Giant before."
WrestleMania 18 was memorable to Hogan for the unforgettable crowd involvement in his main event bout with The Rock.
"And then, fast forward to WrestleMania 18 where I came back to WWE after working for Ted Turner for about eight years." Hogan continued, "I came back. Everybody thought that Hulk Hogan was washed up, he was too old, maybe he was out of gas, maybe he couldn't keep up. And I went out to the ring with The Rock and basically took The Rock to school at WrestleMania 18. And that match, from what a lot of the wrestling fans talk about, was the biggest WrestleMania moment ever because the whole building was cheering for Hulk Hogan and the whole building was cheering for Rock off and on, and it was the craziest go against the grain cheer the bad guy because nobody expected it. It was just something that changed the landscape of how the wrestling fans view the heroes and villains."
When asked why he turned heel in WCW, Hogan claimed that the move was done due to his poor ratings.
"It's so crazy. It's the TV business and between the traveling, and the wrestling, and the workouts, and all of that stuff, I kind of fell in love with the business also. And more than just the protocol of the normal wrestler, I kind of got interested in the production side, and the TV side, and as the years went on, I got more involved. And, at the end of the day, we follow the quarter hours. We follow the minute-by-minutes [ratings] and if somebody's in the ring and the numbers drop off, we pretty much do our research to find out why." Hogan said, "as we're watching the quarter hour numbers, we started realizing that Hulk Hogan, when I went to work for Ted Turner with the red and yellow on, had one crazy run, and then, the numbers started falling off when I was in the ring. And, 'oh my gosh, Hulk Hogan was on at the top of the hour and it's our lowest rated segment' or 'Hulk Hogan closed the show out and the numbers were down.' So as we're watching the quarter hours and the numbers, we started realizing, 'do you know what? Either this character is boring, or maybe there has been too many yellow t-shirts sold, or for whatever reason, it wasn't working,' or maybe I didn't have the right opponents to wrestle, but we really couldn't get a handle on it and it was the first time in 15 or 20 years that I was kind of drifting at sea and I really didn't know what to do. And Eric Bischoff came up with this idea about Hulk Hogan being a bad guy and leading this new group of guys, these defectors from this big organization, the WWE. And that's how it came about. Eric approached me, Bischoff approached me, and at first, I did not want to do it. And then, I thought about it and I thought about it. And then, kind of out of, 'this is either going to work or it's going to ruin my career.' I kind of just flipped the coin, and I went for it, and it was the best move that I made because the quarter hours and the numbers started to go up. Instantly, our ratings were three-times higher than any other wrestling show. That's how it came about. It was just a suggestion from Eric Bischoff and I just kind of rolled the dice. I thought, 'this is either going to be great or it's totally going to destroy my career.'"
Check out the show here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit CBS Philly's Howard Eskin Show with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: CBS Philly