When looking back at the birth of Hulk-A-Mania, it is easy to assume that it started in 1984 when Hulk Hogan dethroned the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden. However, Hogan had a successful run as a babyface in the AWA leading up to that. The Immortal One sat down with Steve Austin on The Steve Austin Podcast and spoke about leaving the AWA for the WWF.
"I was doing really great in Minnesota, it was probably the most fun time of my life, I loved the Twin Cities," Hogan recalled. "I was single, and I lived behind the old Met Center where the stewardesses stayed. When I came in, I thought I was going to be a heel. But the Crusher had just left, and he was their Dusty Rhodes, so I just slid into that role. I was there for three years, doing great, making a lot of money."
"We were at the Rosemont Horizon (Chicago) and it was Hulk Hogan, Greg Gange, and Jim Brunzel in a six-man tag, of course, the place was sold out, against Sheik Adnan-El-Kassy, Sheik Patera and Sheik Blackwell, they were all under the garb. When I got ready to go to the ring Steve Taylor (WWF photographer) saw me, and he says take this card and it said call Vince. I said I'm not calling Vince (Sr.), he said I would never work there again. He took a picture, with the little white headband on, that became the cover photo for the first-ever WWF Magazine. I told him I'm not calling Vince and he said, 'no, Vince Jr.!' One thing led to another, when I get home, I call him and he said he was getting ready to take over for his dad and he wanted to talk with me."
After Hogan made the call, he knew he had to keep the meeting under wraps. He sent his wife to get the younger McMahon from the airport. It was a groundbreaking deal that led him to bid farewell to the Minnesota territory.
"I didn't want to be seen at the airport with him, so I sent my wife Linda to pick him up. He came to my place, we had a few drinks and at about four or five in the morning we shook hands. He said he wanted me to be the face of his company, to go into other territories and cross lines that had never been crossed.
"I have heard a lot of guys say, 'If it wasn't for us, there would be no guaranteed contracts,' Well, in 1983, I had a guaranteed contract," Hogan revealed. "When I left Verne for Vince, I had a ten-year deal for a guaranteed minimum amount of money, I had the first guaranteed contract. What lured me back was, I'm a mark, I love Madison Square Garden and Vince says he is going to put the WWF title on me? I had just figured this babyface thing out for three years. I knew what it was like to get reactions from the crowd. I knew if things went well, that I could get over."
WrestleMania has become the pinnacle event of professional wrestling. Hogan recalled when it began and his responsibility for it becoming the household name it is today. He also revealed that "Dr. D" David Schultz was originally scheduled to be in the WrestleMania main event in the spot that eventually went to Paul Orndorff.
"It wasn't a big corporate thing, it was this personal thing," Hogan explained. "It was like if you, I and our friends talk about starting a new company. When I first got up there it was just Vince and me, Patterson came about a year and a half later. When he started talking about the WrestleMania thing, I was only up there for a year. He started talking about leveraging things, putting up the farm, putting up his house, he pretty much rolled the dice on this WrestleMania thing.
"The match, which was really crazy between me, Mr. T and Piper and Orndorff was Dr. D (David Schultz) idea. All the sudden we started building it up as Piper and Dr. D vs. me and (Mr.) T. David decided to do his own angle. At the Forum, I had T sitting ringside, because he was a friend of mine. And out of nowhere, Dr. D rolled out of the ring and b---h slapped him, a shoot slap. Chief Strongbow had him arrested. Vince was pissed, that was pretty much the bullet that did him in."
Hogan and McMahon have had a tumultuous relationship over the years on and off-screen, and the two even squared off at WrestleMania XIX. However, there was a time when they were very close, which led to professional wrestling getting white-hot very quickly.
"It has always been weird, it has always been a love-hate relationship," Hogan said. "But that didn't start until I got too full of myself or he got too full of himself, one or the other. I had known Vince since '78 or '79 when he was the commentator. He would hang out with Muraco and the Grand Wizard, he was around the boys a bit. When I moved up there, it was business that we needed to be together, that is when we became close. We rode Harley's together, we worked out together. It was basically Vince and me in the office.
"It was instantly, it was like everything built up and exploded," Hogan exclaimed. "For whatever reason, the backstory with 'Rocky', selling out Shea Stadium, when I came back, it was like they were ready for something new. They had five-years of Backlund, as soon as we hit Madison Square Garden, it was like a rocket ship. We sold out everywhere we went."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Steve Austin Podcast with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.