While it’s hard to say that one single storyline turned Hulk Hogan into the person he became, the way he was treated in the AWA — with the double whammy of getting screwed out of merchandising money for things he paid for by himself and being held down professionally by the same people picking his pockets, all because he wasn’t a “great wrestler” — probably had a great deal to do with the way he handled himself for much of his career after his time there.
The sheer ridiculousness of Bockwinkel not giving up the belt to Hogan is best explained by our beloved David Gibb, from #AWAWeek
“This video does a spectacular job showing everything that was right and wrong with Hulk Hogan’s run in the AWA. Bockwinkel, the shorter, self-aggrandizing, big-bumping heel cuts the perfect promo to set up the intense, emotional babyface effort from Hogan. Their match is a strong, worthy main event effort, and Hogan’s post-match promo hints at the greatness he would reach during his prime in the WWF. Unfortunately, the booking of the finish gets in the way of this match (and Hogan’s AWA run in general) reaching the heights it could have”
And almost singlehandedly set in motion everything that was to come over the next 30-plus years. After easily dispatching the Iron Sheik to signify the re-birth of Hulkamania in WWF.
Hogan would essentially go unchallenged for three years. Even his feuds with the likes of King Kong Bundy and Rowdy Piper weren’t challenging the status quo, they were maintaining Hogan’s considerable drawing power. But, following the quasi-debacle that was WreslteMania II’s three ring circus — not a bad idea in theory, but an almost total disaster in practice — the company needed to make as big a splash as possible with their next WrestleMania.
We all know what happened next: Andre got angry about the size of his trophy, wanted a title shot and got it.
What many people don’t realize is that this was the beginning of what would be a series of feuds over the next few years that would paint Hogan as either slightly in the wrong — as was the case with Andre, who it could at least be argued (and was, by the incandescently brilliant Jess Ventura) should have been given a title shot at some point by a crusading Hogan — or completely at fault — as was the case with Savage, Elizabeth and Hogan’s “jealous eyes — to anyone with a discerning enough palate for tomfoolery and chicanery.
We covered some of that with this week’s Better Know as well as Savage’s Essential Viewings, but we didn’t look at was precisely how awkward and mean Hogan could be if he wanted to get himself over. Hogan’s takedown of Savage before their match is almost completely personal, featuring what feel like worked shoot jabs at Savage not being able to get as over as Hogan did, and considering that Hogan not surprisingly politicked his way into another title reign (this will get increasingly familiar), it seems exceptionally crass.
And while the Warrior would fare better the next year, Hogan’s pretty notorious need for the spotlight would rear its ugly head at the end of the match, when he spend pretty much all of Warrior’s designated post-match celebration time… celebrating with Warrior. This was eerily similar to what he did to Savage following his win at WrestleMania IV and is exactly the type of stuff that makes people who don’t know Hogan personally think he might be a bit of an egomaniac.
But, much as it had happened with Savage — though for entirely different reasons — Warrior was simply unable to take over for the Hulkster, essentially forcing Hogan back into the spotlight with his feud hotshotted feud against Sgt. Slaughter, where Hogan beat Slaughter in the quintessential Hogan Bad Good Match: neither of them are particularly good workers, but they the crowd REALLY hates Slaughter, loves Hogan and is into the match in a way that completely belies the aesthetic “quality” of what’s happening in the ring.
Next year’s crowd for WrestleMania VIII wouldn’t be so understanding — or so lucky — as the match between Sid and Hogan had three pretty sizeable things going against it: the crowd was not into the Hogan mystique at even 1/10th the level they were even the year before, the main event should have been Savage-Flair or, better yet, Flair-Hogan and Syco Sid “Justice” was involved. By no means the worst match of all time, it’s not nearly as fun/exciting as the previous year’s match and don’t have any stakes involved to get the crowd to care nearly as much as they could have. If this is the 2nd to last match, WrestleMania VIII is in the “all-time WrestleMania discussions” and not “a pretty good PPV with a not that good ending.”
Whatever good will that Hogan had was completely gone by the time WrestleMania IX hit, though. Which is why it was especially egregious how it all ended. But that’s something we’ll get to tomorrow.