"Hulkamania" was more of a force of nature than a tangible object. Hulk Hogan the wrestler who's real name is Terry Eugene Bollea, is widely regarded as the most recognized wrestling star worldwide and the most popular wrestler of the 1980s. Hulkamania began in the early 1980's when Hogan, the relative newcomer to the World Wrestling Federation, defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF (now WWE; the "E" stands for "Entertainment") World Heavyweight Championship. Since the Iron Sheik was hated for being "Iranian" (the United States had their problems with Iran at this time, and making wrestlers into the nationalities that Americans hated was the style at the time; however some weren't even of the nationality they were labeled as), Hogan's defeat of the Iron Sheik begun a new era in the WWF, the era of Hulkamania.
Over the next year, Hogan became the face of professional wrestling as McMahon pushed the WWF into a pop culture enterprise with The Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection on MTV, drawing record houses, pay-per-view buyrates, and television ratings in the process. The centerpiece attraction for the first WrestleMania on March 31, 1985, Hogan teamed with legit friend, TV and movie star Mr. T, to defeat his archrival "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr Wonderful" Paul Orndorff when "Cowboy" Bob Orton, who had been in the corner of Piper and Orndorff, accidentally caused his team's defeat by knocking out Orndorff after he jumped from the top turnbuckle and hit him in the back of the head with his arm cast in a shot meant for Hogan. On "Saturday Night's Main Event I", Hogan successfully defended the WWF World Heavyweight Championship against Orton in a match that Hogan won by disqualification.
Hogan was named the most requested celebrity of the 1980s for the Make-a-Wish Foundation children's charity. He was featured on the covers of Sports Illustrated (the first and as of 2013, only professional wrestler to do so), TV Guide, and People magazines, while also appearing on The Tonight Show and having his own CBS Saturday morning cartoon titled "Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling". Hogan, as the premier WWF icon, headlined seven of the first eight WrestleMania events. He also co-hosted Saturday Night Live on March 30, 1985 during this lucrative run. AT&T reported that the 900 number information line he ran while with the WWF was the single biggest 900 number from 1991 to 1993. Hogan continued to run a 900 number after joining World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
Hulk Hogan's big break came with the success of Rocky 3 and his character "Thunderlipps". Rocky faces Thunderlipps in a charity exhibition match.
After filming his scene for Rocky III against the elder McMahon's wishes, Hogan made his debut in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), owned by Verne Gagne. Hogan started his AWA run as a villain, taking on "Luscious" Johnny Valiant as his manager. This did not last for long as the AWA fans fell in love with Hogan's presence and Hogan became the top fan favorite of the AWA, battling the Heenan Family and Nick Bockwinkel. Hogan's turn as a fan favorite came at the end of July 1981, when during a television taping that aired in August, Jerry Blackwell, after suffering a pinfall loss to Brad Rheingans, began beating down Rheingans and easily fighting off anyone who tried to run in for the save; however, Hogan ran in, got the upper hand and ran Blackwell from the ring. Hogan was eventually victorious in his feud with Blackwell and by the end of 1981, gained his first title matches against Bockwinkel.
After purchasing the company from his father in 1982, Vincent K. McMahon had plans to expand the territory into a nationwide promotion, and he handpicked Hogan to be the company's showpiece attraction due to his charisma and name recognition. Hogan made his return at a television taping in St. Louis, Missouri on December 27, 1983 defeating Bill Dixon.
On the January 7, 1984 episode of Championship Wrestling, Hogan confirmed his fan favorite status (for any WWF fans unaware of his late 1981 babyface turn) by saving Bob Backlund from a three-way assault by The Wild Samoans. Hogan's turn was explained simply by Backlund: "He's changed his ways. He's a great man. He's told me he's not gonna have Blassie around". The storyline shortcut was necessary because less than three weeks later on January 23, Hogan won his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship, pinning The Iron Sheik (who had Blassie in his corner) in Madison Square Garden. The storyline accompanying the victory was that Hogan was a "last minute" replacement for the Sheik's original opponent Bob Backlund, and became the champion by way of being the first man to escape the camel clutch (the Iron Sheik's finishing move).
Immediately after the title win, commentator Gorilla Monsoon proclaimed: "Hulkamania is here!". Hogan frequently referred to his fans as "Hulkamaniacs" in his interviews and introduced his three "demandments": training, saying prayers, and eating vitamins. Eventually, a fourth demandment (believing in oneself) was added during his feud with Earthquake in 1990. Hogan's ring gear developed a characteristic yellow-and-red color scheme; his ring entrances involved him ritualistically ripping his shirt off his body, flexing, and listening for audience cheers in an exaggerated manner. The majority of Hogan's matches during this time involved him wrestling heels who had been booked as unstoppable monsters, using a format which became near-routine: Hogan would deliver steady offense, but eventually lose momentum, seemingly nearing defeat. After being hit with his opponent's finishing move, he would then experience a sudden second wind, fighting back while "feeding" off the energy of the audience, becoming impervious to attack – a process described as "Hulking up". His signature maneuvers – pointing at the opponent (which would later be accompanied by a loud "you!" from the audience), shaking his finger to scold him, three punches, an Irish whip, the big boot and running leg drop – would follow and ensure him a victory. That finishing sequence would occasionally change depending on the storyline and opponent; for instance, with "giant" wrestlers, the sequence might involve a body slam.
In 1984, similarities between Hogan's character and that of The Incredible Hulk led to a quitclaim deal between Titan Sports, Marvel Comics and himself wherein Marvel obtained the trademarks "Hulk Hogan", "Hulkster" and "Hulkamania" for 20 years, and Titan agreed to no longer refer to him as "incredible" nor simply "Hulk" or ever dress him in purple or green. Marvel also subsequently received .9% of reportable gross merchandise revenue associated with Hogan, $100 for each of his matches and 10% of Titan's portion of his other earnings under this name (or 10% of the earnings, if Titan held no interest). This would also extend to WCW, whose parent company Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner in 1996 and became sister companies with Marvel rival DC Comics. (As Hogan was well underway with the nWo storyline under the "Hollywood Hogan" ring name at the time, this avoided Time Warner the awkward situation of paying Marvel the rights to the name while owning its chief rival.) 1988's Marvel Comics Presents #45, a wrestler resembling Hogan was tossed through an arena roof by The Incredible Hulk, because he "picked the wrong name."
In 1993, Hogan departed the WWF to sign for rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship six times, and holds the record for the longest reign. In 1996, he underwent a career renaissance upon adopting the villainous persona of "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, leading the popular New World Order (nWo) stable. As a result, he became a major figure during the "Monday Night Wars", another boom of mainstream professional wrestling. He headlined WCW's annual flagship event Starrcade three times, including the most profitable WCW pay-per-view ever, Starrcade 1997.
Hogan also performed for the American Wrestling Association (AWA), New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) - where he won the original IWGP Heavyweight Championship - and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA - now known as Impact Wrestling). During and after wrestling, Hogan had an extensive acting career, beginning with his 1982 cameo role in Rocky III. He has starred in several films (including No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny) and three television shows (Hogan Knows Best, Thunder in Paradise, and China, IL), as well as in Right Guard commercials and the video game, Hulk Hogan's Main Event. He was the frontman for The Wrestling Boot Band, whose sole record, Hulk Rules, reached No. 12 on the Billboard Top Kid Audio chart in 1995.
Hogan returned to the WWF in 2002 following its acquisition of WCW the prior year, winning the Undisputed WWF Championship for a record equaling (for the year) sixth time before departing in 2003. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, and inducted a second time in 2020 as a member of the nWo.
Hulk Hogan's immense popularity and limitless fan base (called Hulkamaniacs) turned the heads of Mankind, opening their eyes to liking professional wrestling again. Over 20 years old, Hulkamania is still running wild today.
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