Ask any wrestling fan ? whether casual or a diehard ? to come up with a Mt. Rushmore of Pro Wrestling and arguably the first name that would come to mind is Hulk Hogan. He was the catalyst of the pro wrestling boom of the 80s, a central figure of the Monday Night Wars of the 90s and is a worldwide celebrity.
However, that doesn’t mean that current wrestlers are as enamored with Hogan as those who grew up in a prior generation. That much was evident when Hogan was asked what the vibe is like from the boys in the back when he goes back to WWE during an interview with ESPN.
“It’s a mixed bag. Some people I get a really warm reception from. Some of the younger guys are really cold to me, like I’m coming to steal the main event,” revealed Hogan. “And I’m like, ‘I can’t do this anymore, guys! I’m not a threat!’
“Going back with all the legends will be a lot of fun. When I’ve gone back before by myself, there have been certain wrestlers, like Edge and Seth Rollins, that have told me to my face that the only reason they got into this business was because of me. The newer kids … I don’t think they know who I am all the way?”
It’s been nearly 15 years since Hogan’s last WWE match and nine years since his match for any promotion. So, wrestlers born in the 90s may not have the same reverence for him as they have for someone like The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin who were at the top of the wrestling mountain when they were coming of age.
Speaking of Stone Cold, Hogan brought up The Rattlesnake’s name and Austin even admitted that he wasn’t aware of just how popular Hogan was and they are closer in age.
“The wake-up call that really got me was with ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. We weren’t really close at all, but over the last few years have become good friends,” stated Hogan. “It caught me off guard when he called me one day, and we’re chatting about cars or something and all of a sudden he goes, ‘Damn, Hogan. I was on the internet the other day and I can’t believe all the stuff you did in your career!’
“When Stone Cold didn’t realize that I did The Love Boat and Johnny Carson, then I understood why the young people didn’t know.”
Hogan then responded to the notion that younger generations can’t fully comprehend how famous he was because all they know of is the fame of more modern wrestlers like Austin or The Rock.
“That’s because for 20 years, there wasn’t a Stone Cold or a Rock or a John Cena. It was just me, every day, and sometimes twice on Saturday. I’d wrestle 400 times a year. It was crazy. The timing was so perfect for me because of how hot wrestling was. The cover of Sports Illustrated. The craziness of [the first] WrestleMania. It all just took off like a rocket,” recalled Hogan.
“It’s hard to recapture that. We blazed such a trail that it’s hard for the young guys to follow that trail. It’s like what Vince McMahon always says [does Vince impression]: ‘Hogan, I’m always looking for an attraction.’ That’s because we branded something in Vince’s mind where he’s always looking for that next big thing, that hood ornament.”