August 22, 2004
Sheldon Kane III
Coliseum Video, 1985
A PERSONAL NOTE
I was first exposed to the world of professional wrestling in 1982. Many members of my family, in particular my father, my grandfather and my uncles, were hardcore followers of the mat game for years. My father had seen all the great stars of the 1960s and '70s in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF, known today as World Wrestling Entertainment). My father used to go see the organization's monthly cards at the old Boston Garden back in his younger days. His favorites included Argentina Apollo, Bruno Sammartino and the charismatic and colorful Superstar Billy Graham. When I started watching it with my father, I soon discovered not only was my father a fan, but also my mother, my uncles, and even my late grandfather.
As you can tell, a love for wrestling ran within my family. It was only natural that I would be the next member of the family to embrace it. The first match I ever watched was a televised squash on the World Wrestling Federation's old All-Star Wrestling program, featuring the late 7'4", 520-pound Hall of Famer, Andre the Giant. I was five years old at the time. I remember being in complete awe of the big man, thinking inside my head "Wow, giants really do walk the earth." From there, I slowly immersed myself more and more in professional wrestling. My earliest favorites were "Mr. U.S.A." Tony Atlas and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka.
As much as I liked wrestling back when I was seven though, I didn't love it until I first discovered who Hulk Hogan was. My father used to talk about him all the time, especially after Rocky III was released in theaters, a film which featured Hulk in a cameo as a wrestler named Thunderlips. I first saw Hulk Hogan wrestle in a tag team match in January 1984, where he and Bob Backlund teamed up to defeat the combination of Mr. Fuji and Tiger Chung Lee. Just a couple of weeks later, my dad and me were watching the weekly Championship Wrestling show. That morning, they showed footage of what proved to be the birth of a cultural movement called Hulkamania; the night Hulk Hogan stormed through Madison Square Garden and crushed The Iron Sheik to win his first World Wrestling Federation Championship, on January 23 of that year. If my memory serves me correctly, this was also the first time I ever watched a championship change hands. It was an absolutely mesmerizing experience; in the clips they showed that morning, I saw 20,000 fans in Madison Square Garden blow the roof off the building, rejoicing in the Hulkster's triumph over the hated Iranian. After watching that match, I knew it; this was the man I was going to idolize.
So forgive me today, for this review is going to be a bit of a personal one for me. Today, I give my take on Coliseum Video's classic 1985 home video release, Hulkamania. As fate would have it, this would be Coliseum's first of six Hulkamania releases. And rightfully so; I can't think of a more deserving wrestler to have so many tapes devoted to his career. I first saw this video when I was 10 years old, so big time nostalgia factor for me here. Let's rip off the shirt and get started, brother!
I have always loved the old intro that opened nearly every Coliseum Video release from 1985 to 1987. It opens with a scrolling message which details the back history of the sport of wrestling, going something like this: "It began over 5,000 years ago when civilization was young...Every major culture, Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, Japan, studied it, practiced it, perfected it to a fine art. They admired its Olympian demands: strength, speed, agility, skill, grace, and courage...They did it to honor their gods...They did it to honor their kings...They did it to train their soldiers...They did it to compete...and they did it for fun...It has come through the ages to us today...It is..." Of course, this leads into a clipfest of various Federation competitors from the '80s, depictions of the early Greco-Roman days of wrestling. and a couple of black and white clips of Lou Thesz battling Rikidozan made it in there as well. LOVE the intro, I wish WWE Home Video still used it today (with updated clips of course).
Right away, the box cover art is wrong. They tell us Hulkamania is "hosted by Mean Gene Okerlund." I guess Gene was still recovering from his workouts with the Hulkster, because we see the visage of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself hosting the production. He goes to on to become "Vince McMoto, Master of the Obvious" by telling us Hogan is "the most single recognized athlete in the entire world of sport today." And there I thought Mary Lou Retton was back then. He gives us a run down of what there is to see on the tape, accompanied by clips of each match and segment. After telling the viewer to "sit right on the edge if your seat," we're ready to get into our first of five vintage Hogan matches.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP
HULK HOGAN (Champion) vs. GREG "THE HAMMER" VALENTINE (Challenger) (8/4/84)
At the start of each match, we hear voice-overs from Hulk Hogan himself giving a brief account of his opponent and the match at hand. In this case, he tells the Hulkamaniacs that once Greg Valentine has you defeated and the match is over, "he will hang on to that figure-four, snap crackle and pop!" Basically, his objective was not to let Valentine get his finisher, the figure-four leglock, on him. This match takes place at the Philadelphia Spectrum, with Gorilla Monsoon overdubbing the commentary over some badly out of synch crowd noise. Gorilla erroneously states Valentine was the Intercontinental Champion at the time of this match. Actually Valentine was still a month away from winning that title, Gino. Despite the obvious clash of styles, it was actually a very good match. At one point during the match, Valentine seemed to be weakening the leg Hulk uses for the running legdrop, which is a strategy I'm surprised others haven't often used. He even slammed a chair over the leg at one point. Another rare occurence in this match; Hogan actually "Hulks up" twice here. Hulk must have respected "The Hammer" a great deal. In the end, Hogan blocks a figure-four attempt, clotheslines the challenger, drops the leg, and gets the pin. After the match Valentine throws referee Dick Kroll out of the ring and tries to grab the championship belt, but the Hulkster fights him off. A fine effort from both men.
WINNER: HULK HOGAN
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP/$15,000 BODYSLAM CHALLENGE
HULK HOGAN (Champion) vs. BIG JOHN STUDD (Challenger) (12/10/84)
The Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, NJ is the setting. Gorilla Monsoon and Howard Finkel on commentary, and whoa, the great Gary Michael Cappetta as the ring announcer! The objective in this match: for Hogan to win the $15,000 prize (as if he needed any more cheddar), he had to bodyslam the 364-pound Big John Studd inside the ring. And of course for Studd, the Championship was the goal. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's at ringside for this one. This is an excellent "big man" match. Both guys played off each other really well here, a much better contest than the dreadful "Puerto Rican Downpour" we see on the Hulk Still Rules DVD. Hulk almost slams Studd a number of times in this match. Studd later rams Hulk's head into the ringpost, which leads to a rather obvious blade job by the champion. Hulk sells it well, but you can see him fishing around for the blade as he's slumped over the announcer table. Studd seems to have the match won, until the two end up outside the ring. Big time "Hulk up" follows, and of course Hulk gets the slam on Studd...but it wasn't INSIDE the ring, so no $15,000 for Hulk this time around. I'm sure he didn't lose any sleep over this. Hulk wins by countout.
WINNER BY COUNOUT: HULK HOGAN
DRINK THIS! (Tuesday Night Titans, 8/21/84)
Classic TNT segment with Hulk making a protein shake with Vince Jr. and Lord Alfred Hayes present. This is also seen on the Hulk Still Rules DVD. A funny personal note here, just to give you an idea of how bad a Hulkamaniac I am: when I was 10, after first seeing this segment on the tape, my father and me went out and bought a blender, strawberries, bananas, eggs, berries, this rancid-tasting protein powder, and spring water (Hulk tells us "milk's for babies", thus killing any chance he may have had later of doing a "Got Milk?" ad). Yes, we made the "Hulkster's Powerful Protein Shake". The first time we made it, it actually didn't taste that bad. But the second time around, my father dumped in too much protein powder, and it tasted like liquid chalk. Anyway, in the segment, Vince--in a PINK SUIT--enjoys the drink, while Lord Alfred Hayes reacts to the drink the same way I react to the "Raw Diva Search". See the clip sometime and you'll find out what I mean. Oh, and we never did see the "Hulkster's Powerful Python Packs" anywhere. I guess he found more money to be made with children's chewable vitamins (yes, I took those too). My family has always found humor in this segment, especially when he trips over his words when explaining how kryptonite stopped Superman.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP
HULK HOGAN (Champion) vs. "DR. D" DAVID SCHULTZ (Challenger) (6/17/84)
Aside from Hulk's title victory, this is my favorite match on the tape by far. An absolute bloodbath to be seen here, so much so that the match became known within the wrestling community as the "Minneapolis Massacre." The match takes place at the Met Center, with Gorilla and Mean Gene Okerlund on commentary. In his prematch voice over, Hogan calls Schultz "Super Redneck." Um, yeah. I may admire the man but even I sometimes don't understand some of his observations. "Dr. D" was a true roughneck, really took the fight to his opponent whenever he wrestled. He's also best known for being the guy who smacked around John Stossel on 20/20 after hearing the "F" word dropped ("fake"). Hogan and Schultz have quite the history with each other. As far back as his rookie years, Hogan was taking flak from Schultz for mistakenly walking into the heel dressing room at a show they both worked back in the day. Even funnier, he also wanted to have Hogan's main event spot in the first WrestleMania! In later years, Schultz would tell anyone who would listen how much he hated the Hulkster and how much of a steroid abuser he was. Nope, he's not bitter. Not a bit.
Anyway, this match is a classic, one of my all-time Hulk Hogan
favorites. Schultz lays a heavy beatdown on Hogan early on, cutting
him open with a chair shot and really seems to be beating the hair
right off Hulk's head. Makes me wince to this day just to watch "Dr.
D" put a hurting on someone. Like the Greg Valentine match, Hogan
"Hulks up" twice in this match, and seems to enjoy knocking Schultz
around so much he pulls him up after two pin attempts, even after he
hit his running legdrop. The match ends after Schultz misses his
flying elbowsmash, and Hogan hits him with the "Ax Bomber"
clothesline. Funny how this match looks so much like early '80s AWA;
we have Hogan, Schultz, the Met Center, and Mean Gene doing ring
announcing as well as commentary. If not for the voice of Gorilla
Monsoon, I'd swear I was watching an AWA match circa 1983.
WINNER: HULK HOGAN
STEEL CAGE MATCH FOR THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP
HULK HOGAN (Champion) vs. BIG JOHN STUDD (Challenger) (4/6/84) Second time on the tape Hulk faces Studd. The famed Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis is the backdrop. Gorilla overdubs commentary over a heavily clipped match. Hogan actually spoils the outcome in his voiceover by telling us "Once you see the match, you'll remember that I came out on top." Kinda figured that considering he was still champion when the tape was released. In a VERY impressive show of strength, Hogan holds the 364-pound Studd with ONE ARM, and smashes his head against the cage like a human jabolin. Aside from this, the match is passable, nothing too great. I've seen much better Hogan cage matches, witness Paul Orndorff from Saturday Night's Main Event and King Kong Bundy from WrestleMania 2 (review for the latter coming soon). Hogan wins by escaping through the door, very uncharacteristic for him to win a cage match that way.
WINNER: HULK HOGAN
HULK HOGAN INTERVIEW WITH VINCE MCMAHON JR.
This interview was taped exclusively for Coliseum Video cameras. Heavily kayfabed for the most part, it's still 1985 after all. At one point Vince tells Hulk "It takes more than strength and size to be a successful professional athlete." That's coming from VINCE? If he truly believed that, guys like Test and Matt Morgan would have never had WWE contracts! Hulk tells the viewers the man who he patterned his career after was Andre the Giant. Of course he overlooks how he battled Andre numerous times early in his career as a heel. Not much of a piece by today's standards, but for the time it provided an interesting look at the champion.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP
IRON SHEIK (Champion) vs. HULK HOGAN (Challenger) (1/23/84)
The most important date in WWE history. This is the night everything changed for professional wrestling, and a defining moment in my life as well. Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson on commentary. Interesting to see Fred Blassie managing the Iron Sheik here, considering the challenger was once upon a time his most coveted charge. This match had it all; a hated champion, a beloved challenger, high energy action and drama, and a triumph that almost blew the roof right off Madison Square Garden in New York City. One month earlier, the Sheik had won the title from Bob Backlund in the same building, thanks to Arnold Skaaland throwing in the infamous towel. Sheik later went on TV and told the world he was planning to take the title to Iran and never return. Considering these intangibles, and the fact that memories of the Iranian hostage crisis were still fresh in people's minds, it was only natural that the Iron Sheik would draw massive heel heat for this match.
When "Eye of the Tiger" played over the PA and Hulk made his entrance,
he got one of the loudest pops in wrestling history. It sounded as if
every American citizen was in the house that night, cheering the
Hulkster on. It was obvious the Bob Backlund era was over, and the
public was ready for something new. This was Hulk Hogan's time to
arrive, and nobody--not the Iron Sheik, not the Iranian Army,
NOBODY--was going to bring him down. Hulk dominates most of this
match, though the Sheik does gain the advantage after Hulk misses a
corner charge. Eventually, Sheik traps Hogan in the camel clutch, the
same move he used to win the title. Miraculously, Hogan manages to
break the hold, the first known wrestler to complete this task. One
running legdrop and three slaps of the mat later, Hulkamania is born,
and wrestling as we know it changes forever. The greatest WWE Champion
of all time begins his first reign. Obviously, this match is also a
part of the Hulk Still Rules DVD.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HULK HOGAN
This tape does a great job giving people who didn't know much about the legend of Hulk Hogan at the time a look at what made him such a great champion. I played my original copy of the tape so much that I literally wore it out, and had to track down another one. It's easy to see why I looked up to the Hulk so much; in addition to looking like a living, breathing superhero come to life, Hulk Hogan was also the consummate role model, espousing sound advice to kids the world over that would help carry me through my childhood all the way up through my adult life. When Hulk would say "If you think positive, positive things will happen to you," and when he would tell us his Demandments of "Training, saying your prayers, and eating your vitamins (later he would add on "Believe in yourself")", I listened intently. When I saw how he would dominate every opponent he faced in the ring--keep in mind this was in an era when I wasn't privy to wrestling's pre-determined inner workings--it would serve to validate the advice he was giving to the 1980s youth of America. I figured, hey, if Hulk Hogan can do all these things and can defeat any wrestler alive, then I guess it must work. My attitude toward life in general at the time changed dramatically. Soon I became determined to be the best at everything I do. This same never-say-die attitude still exists within me today, and believe me when I say, it wouldn't have been there at all if I hadn't followed Hulk Hogan's example. He made a huge impact on my life, so much that to this day, when I see a fan on the internet or at a live show dissing on the Hulkster, I get very defensive of him. My way of thinking is this; if you insult Hulk Hogan, you insult me.
I am happy to say I have met Hulk Hogan four different times. He was always great toward me, and somehow remembered who I was on one occasion. To me, he's still "The Champ". The title you see JBL walking around with today, that's always going to be "Hogan's belt" to me. Still, I'm glad to see Hulk is so devoted to his daughter Brooke's pop music career today. It shows the man has his priorites in order, and how dedicated he is to his family. I predict Brooke Hogan will soon rule pop music the same way her father ruled the sport of professional wrestling. But don't ever count out seeing Hulk Hogan in a wrestling ring again. You never know when he might want to step through the ropes and conquer the world once more, brother. Hulkamania will truly live forever!