August 14, 2003
Graham Cawthon

When the average person thinks of professional wrestling or, to be more specific, the WWF/E – more times than not the first name that comes to mind is Hulk Hogan. His battles with Rowdy Roddy Piper, Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and the Million $ Man Ted Dibiase have become legendary in the industry while his crossover into mainstream pop culture in the 1980s made it possible for pro wrestling to become as big as it is today.

Go back to the mid to late 80s and Hogan was everywhere – from TV commercials to movies, Saturday Night Live to his own cartoon show, and People magazine to Playboy. Men wanted to be him, women just wanted him, and kids wanted to grow up to be just like their idol. Hogan was a real life superhero to many – fighting the forces of evil in the ring while at the same time advocating a moral code of doing the right thing, trying your best, and taking care of your health that any parent would endorse.

And it was thanks to that widespread appeal, masterminded by WWF head Vince McMahon, that the entire wrestling industry saw a resurgence in popularity. As a result, the annual event known as WrestleMania was created – to be followed by hundreds of subsequent pay-per-view events over the years, each televised to a worldwide audience and making profits into the millions. While it’s true that Hogan made people take notice of pro wrestling, it was thanks to the other stars of the squared circle (Ric Flair, the Road Warriors, Jake the Snake Roberts, and Dusty Rhodes to name a few) that viewers who tuned into wrestling for its novelty turned into longtime and even die-hard fans. That was especially true in my case.

Though I was only 10 when I became a fan, it was the years of Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, and so many other oversized stars that held me at bay for so long. What drew me in and kept me a fan over the years was the in-ring ability and intelligence of men like Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, Ric Flair, and Curt Hennig. By no means is that a knock on Hogan – I’m simply saying that people tune in to wrestling for many reasons and that he is the man that initially piqued their interest in watching to begin with.

Though not known for his mat skills, it is hard to discredit Hogan’s contribution to the industry. When he made his long awaited return to the WWF in February 2002, few imagined this ‘final’ run would be successful. After all, the 8 years of mediocrity spent in WCW hurt not only his credibility in the ring but also his connection with the fans. Towards the end of his stay in Atlanta, few cared to see the ‘washed up old man’ try to compete with men half his age. But then something odd happened.

When a bad guy Hogan returned to the WWF to face The Rock at WrestleMania X-8 at Toronto’s SkyDome (and pass the torch to the next generation), it wasn’t the Rock that the nearly 70,000 fans were cheering for. Though portrayed as the evil egomaniacal Hollywood Hogan, the years of nostalgia made it difficult for anyone in attendance to jeer the Hulkster. It may not have been the last match on the card that night but, without a shadow of doubt, the highlight of WrestleMania X-8 was the return of Hulkamania.

Several months thereafter, the now-renamed WWE released a special 2-disc DVD retrospective on the career of Terry Bollea – known worldwide as Hulk Hogan. From his days as a guitarist in Florida, to learning the ropes in Japan and Minnesota, to his initial film role in Rocky III – the Hulkster offers a unique perspective on everything that led up to his stardom, how his character became too bland for the times, and the eventual resurgence in popularity. Points of interest include his perspective on the infamous steroid trial in 1994 in which he testified for the government against Vince McMahon, the birth of the New World Order in WCW, and what he thinks about his greatest challengers – Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, and Roddy Piper. Though some if not most of what he says is ‘kayfabe’ (lying so that he doesn’t expose the business too much…or himself), that shouldn’t take away from what is an interesting and entertaining look at his 25 year long career.

While the DVD itself is quality, what holds my interest and why I would recommend this DVD to any casual fan of the industry are the special features. Included are nearly 20 full matches as well as an equal number of special interviews and promos against some of his toughest opponents.

Highlights include (but are not limited to):

Hulk Hogan vs. Ted Dibiase
December 17, 1979 from New York’s Madison Square Garden

A bad guy Hogan makes his MSG debut against a man he would later have a heated rivalry with in the late 80s, the future Million $ Man.

Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
August 9, 1980 from Shea Stadium

Seven years before their historic record-breaking battle at WrestleMania III, these two mammoth stars do battle in front of thousands upon thousands of fans in the same baseball stadium the Beatles performed 25 years earlier. The 1987 match, which many argue is the most memorable of the modern era, is also included.

Hulk Hogan vs. the Iron Sheik
January 23, 1984 from Madison Square Garden

Just weeks after making his return to the WWF, Hogan takes the world title from the Iranian and becomes the flagship of what will soon become the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.

Hulk Hogan vs. Big John Studd
October 9, 1985 from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Taking place at an outdoor event, the two colossal stars do battle for the heavyweight title in the middle of a rainstorm.

Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper
November 7, 1985 from the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago

The main event of the WWF’s first pay-per-view outing known as the Wrestling Classic, the two men most responsible for the birth of WrestleMania put on a heated contest for the championship.

Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff
August 28, 1986 from Toronto’s CNE Stadium

Just weeks after Orndorff turned on the Hulkster, these two former friends turned hated rivals do battle in front of a packed outdoor crowd. Orndorff may not be ranked as high as Andre or Randy Savage in terms of Hogan’s challengers but after watching this match I have to wonder why not. The crowd is hot all the way through the battle and the controversial finish kept the feud going for several months more.

Hulk Hogan vs. the Undertaker
December 3, 1991 from San Antonio

Just 6 days after being humiliated by the Undertaker at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in Detroit, Hogan reclaims his heavyweight championship at Tuesday in Texas, despite interference from Ric Flair.

Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
July 17, 1994 from the Orlando Arena

With Shaq and Mr. T in his corner, the Hulkster makes his WCW in-ring debut by dethroning arguably the greatest world champion of all time and winning his first title in the Atlanta-based promotion. This event took place mere days after Hogan testified in the McMahon steroid trial.

When I buy wrestling DVDs, I want the most I can get for my money – which is why I don’t purchase many of the pay-per-view events. While the event itself might be quality, if there aren’t enough special features to keep me interested then I’m not going to put down $20-30 for the 3-hour show. However, when it comes to this particular DVD (with a total running time of almost 6 hours) I can honestly say I got my money’s worth. I can only hope that more superstars – such as Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, and Chris Benoit – get this same treatment on DVD.

wordpress stats plugin