Was Hulk Hogan Really That Good?
Hulk Hogan. Hollywood Hogan. Terry Boulder. Terry Eugene Bollea. Thunderlips. Whatever you call him, you know him. He was a ‘superstar’ before Vince McMahon invented the word. He was known all over the world, he was every kids' hero in the late 80’s and the early 90’s. Many look back on his time in WWF with fondness, but do we just look back on him through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. The question here being; was Hulk Hogan ACTUALLY that good?
Now I am the first to say that I am not a fan of Hulkster, largely due to the fact that his backstage politics stepped on so many people, that he’s ran companies into the ground and every now and again he's been known to roll out the racism, but let's put that to one side for a second and look at this through non-biased eyes, and judge him purely as a performer.
So, let's start at the beginning, Hulk was trained by Hiro Matsuda (albeit nor for very long as Hulk found him “overbearing”) a genuine catch wrestler who has trained many big names such as “Cowboy” Bob Orton, The Great Muta, Scott Hall and Ron Simmons to name a few. We might as well call him the ‘Hall of Fame Maker.’ Rumour has it that he later did some training with the late, legendary heel Ox Baker, but there is no official record or word from Hogan himself about this, just it being mentioned by a few other articles. Now Hogan was never going to be a technical wizard or a gravity defying giant, he was going to have to play to his strengths and be a big, strong dude. There are many stories from a multitude of legends that state that the Hulkster couldn’t wrestle back in the territory days, and while doing research for this article I came across and interesting interview with Jerry Jarret. In that interview he states that Hogan, then going by the name of Terry Boulder, was sent to him from Florida after a phone call where the promoter said to Jerry “I have this kid down here, he's big and looks like Charles Atlas, but he can't wrestle” further lending to the general consensus that Hogan wasn't that good.
Here is where we dispute that. Hogan might not have been a great worker, but he was one hell of a showman. Once Vince got a hold of him, something clicked and Hogan had a rocket strapped to his arse on a course for Superstardom. There was no stopping Hulkamania, Kids loved him back then like kids love Spider-Man today, parents loved him because he got kids 'saying their prayers and eating their vitamins', the US Army loved him because he was a real American. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him (Regardless of the fact he had the hair of a monk that had just discovered Bon Jovi). All this was through his ability to entertain, not wrestle. At this point Vince didn’t want wrestlers, he wasn’t in the wrestling business. He wanted entertainers, he was in the sports entertainment business and that’s how the Hulkster managed to thrive.
Theres a few key moments in Hogans early tenure in the WWF that catapulted him to the heights he reached. The first being the fact that on his very first appearance Vince threw the title on him, he also very rarely lost clean (this is also a trick that was used with Cena), and he produced a lot of 'firsts' in wrestling. He was the first guy to slam Andre the Giant on PPV, in the first ever ‘mania main event, in the first match featuring celebrities in the WWF. He was also the “All-American” good guy who beat down the evil Iranian Iron Shiek, The dastardly Russian Nikolai Volkoff (who was actually Yugoslavian) and the enemy sympathiser Sgt. Slaughter. American audiences ate that up and so did the rest of the world, largely due to the way they built Hulk as the unstoppable good guy. You also have to factor in the job that Hulk’s opponents did. He worked with some of the best guys of the era, Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Ted Dibiase, Paul Orndorff, Randy Savage, the list goes on.
Hogan was also able to rock the wrestling world to its very core with one simple leg drop. The most famous leg drop in history. The heel turn leg drop at WCW Bash at the Beach ‘96 revealing Hogan as the 3rd man that The Outsiders were teasing, thus creating the NWO. Once again Hogan was able to entertain but this time from the opposite side of fence and he had genuine, real life heat. Hogan got some very serious threats because he turned heel and that’s exactly what he wanted. Not only had he rejuvenated his career as he had started becoming stale, he basically resurrected WCW from the ashes like a black and white clad phoenix, and in turn nearly burying the competition, that competition being the man who made him the star he was, Vince McMahon.
After the Monday Night Wars were done. Hulk made his way back to WWE and once again created a splash as part of the NWO leading to his eventual babyface turn at Wrestlemania X8 against The Rock once again becoming relevant. This was another case of excellent booking for Hogan furthering his career once more. It should have ended there...
But it didn’t. He went onto star in his own weird reality show ‘Hogan Knows Best’ and then went on to absolutely destroy all momentum TNA had worked so hard to gain and stopped it in its tracks. I guess Hogan really didn’t know best eh?
Now as I said earlier, I am not going to judge him as a person only as a performer. If I were to include his real life in the mix, the answer would be an emphatic no because he is not the best or nicest human out there.
So, to answer the question ‘Was Hulk Hogan actually good?’ I would say the answer isn't so simple as a yes or no. He wasn’t the best worker; he wasn’t a technical genius and he certainly wasn’t the nicest of people backstage, from a work perspective, it's a resounding no.
But, from a purely entertainment aspect you absolutely have to say yes! When you think of Hulk Hogan you still hear Real American, you still do the poses, you still ‘Hulk Up’ and point at someone while shouting “YOU!” you still remember the Red and Yellow and then you suddenly realise that he was a huge draw and without The Hulkster wrestling wouldn’t be where it is today.
And that is just my 2 cents. Thanks for reading.