Dave: Hey, brah.
Nick: Hey, Brother. See what I did there?
Dave: I almost missed it because I was blown away by the miraculous way autocorrect did not change “brah” to “bray.” I feel like I can die in peace now. But it’s fitting that it occurred on the day we are discussing THE IMMORTAL Hulk Hogan. It’s strongly implied he’s a god, right?
Nick: Does that make Hulkamania a religion and the 3 Demandments its holy doctrine?
Dave: And Yappapi its highest sacrament.
Nick: When I was writing my essential viewings this week, I used something from your one for the AWA. Looking back, you can totally see why Hogan ended up the way he did. Which is to say, a embittered old man willing to hold down anyone to get himself over.
Dave: Hogan is the ultimate “student of the game” in the he learned at the feet of the most difficult, tight-fisted, demanding figures of his age. Actually, I take that back: He’s not the ultimate student of the game, he’s the ultimate student of the business.
Nick: Yeah, the dude has known how to make money for himself since you could do screenprinting on t-shirts. And for all you can say about him, he never stop finding new ways to do it. Especially if Vince McMahon was involved.
Dave: Oh, definitely. If it wasn’t for his divorce and Nick’s car accident, he would still be a very wealthy man. So, I’ll get it out of the way here because it seems like a good time to say it: He’s the most successful pro wrestler ever, bar none. There’s no reason to even argue whether that statement is true or not.
Nick: It’s not debatable on any level. He’s the most recognizable figure, the most consistently beloved, the most successful, worked the biggest matches and has probably the longest sustained success of anyone near his level of stardom. Taker is really the only other person in the discussion for that last one.
Dave: I’m cribbing a line from Wade Keller here, but “wrestling is the thing that Hulk Hogan does” to 99% of the world’s population. He is a transcendent star.
Nick: He’s one of the truly transcendent figures in any artistic medium.
Dave: And while I shudder to compare these two ethically on any level, he’s transcendent of his sport to a near Jackie Robinson level.
Nick: Exactly! Or, less controversially, Wayne Gretzky.
Dave: Yeah, that’s much better and more current. I’m just jazzed about baseball.
Nick: Though the level to which he’s transcendent is definitely Robinson-esque. He’s just so unbelievably popular and well-known to everyone And for all the grief he gets about his work, it’s pretty well deserved.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, Hulk Hogan’s positives are/were manifold, but you’re right in that a lot of people who identify themselves as internet fans have sort of learned the Hulk Hogan story backwards. They were exposed to him without the magic first.
Nick: And the magic is considerable.
Nick: In fact, it’s maybe the only part of Hogan’s legacy worth considering from a big picture perspective. Nobody really cares that he held people down or helped run two companies into the ground.
Dave: And Wrestlemania 1-6 was just the best run anybody’s ever had.
Nick: Or will ever have.
Dave: In terms of getting pushed to the moon and making tons of money. I know that Steve Austin recently said Cena is approaching the all-time run on top, but you can’t compare him to Hogan in the ’80s.
Nick: Like you intimated earlier, Hogan IS wrestling in the Zeitgeist.
Dave: Yeah, he is unique. There will never be another him.
Nick: There’s no way someone could usurp that, in the same where there’s no one who could usurp Neil Armstrong no matter how many times steps they took for Mankind. Even the Rock, who is the most successful person ever to come out of wrestling, isn’t nearly as synonymous with wrestling as Hogan.
Dave: No, The Rock is a movie star who makes people say “Ha-ha. Isn’t it funny that he used to be a wrestler?” whereas Hogan is a wrestler who infiltrated all forms of media at the dawn of the information age.
Nick: Is it fair to say he’s bigger than the WWE itself? Even now?
Dave: I think the “Hulkamania” brand (I hate using that word) is as strong as anything. This is a goofy comparison, but think about how quickly the cult of Tim Tebow fell apart. He still has passionate fans (who are mostly fans of bad teams desperate for anything at quarterback), but for a year or so, he had the biggest following of any pro athlete. But Tebow couldn’t touch Hulkamania in terms of duration or passion, honestly.
Nick: Hogan has survived a sex tape, a drug scandal, a major divorce and his son basically being a murderer. Tebow couldn’t survive a four-man rush.
Dave: He is the phoenix, brother. What makes Hogan really great is that we can have a conversation like this about the eternal miracle of Hulkamania, then turn a sharp left and talk about all the awful stuff he did to wrestling (or or events that were created inadvertently by his enormous wake).
Nick: Yeah, and only about a quarter half of it is his fault. While the other half is just the natural progression of markets. Hogan was the model for a thousand shitty guys, because no one — Vince McMahon included — understood what made Hogan Hogan.
Dave: I think that’s a pretty spot on comment. When he became not only a powerful, well-paid guy with creative control, but also the horse to which the wagon was hitched again after his heel turn, Hogan did a lot of awful stuff. But, it could be argued, all said awful stuff could have been avoided/assuaged in a better-run company. And I’m not even comparing WCW to WWE when I say that, I just mean that any well-run corporate enterprise would, you know, stop a mutiny.
Nick: Yeah, what he did in WCW is borderline inexcusable. But he was enabled by people who didn’t understand they were being manipulated by him. Because they were caught up in the celebrity of Hogan. Hogan fought Jay Leno! ON THE TONIGHT SHOW!
Dave: Can we pause for a minute on that. Because, if you really think about the Jay Leno deal, that is a perfect indicator of how much Hulk Hogan changed the wrestling business. When the Andy Kaufman angle happened on Letterman in ’80,
Letterman wasn’t even taken into confidence and smartened up because he was a show biz guy, an outsider. When Hogan wrestled Leno at basically the end of this relevance as a top wrestler in 1998, Leno was IN THE RING GETTING OVER ON HOGAN because it’s all showbiz, brother. And that’s the impact of Hulk Hogan in a nutshell.
Nick: Is that good or bad, though?
Dave: It’s not good or bad to me; just change.
Nick: And, also, would any of this happened with Vince McMahon in charge? Because, while he wasn’t immune to Hogan’s charm — see: WrestleManias 8 and 9 — he seemed to be at least able to say “no” every once in a while.
Dave: Well, it almost ties back to the last point, because I think Hogan had “wrestling respect” for Vince McMahon and Antonio Inoki and even Verne Gagne in a way that he considered Bischoff a “TV partner,” not a wrestling promoter. So, to answer your question more directly, I don’t think Hogan ever had a stitch of respect for any promotion he came to after he had reached the top of the world.
Including, as you say, Wrestlemanias 8 and 9. I don’t think anybody ever really contained him effectively after, say, 1990, including Vince. Minus maybe his run in the 2000s WWE.
Nick: So, what you are saying is that it’s probably for the best we’ll never have another Hulk Hogan?
Dave: I think someone or something will profoundly change the wrestling business again, but I would really prefer never to see a conscious attempt to recreate Hulk Hogan. …Because I saw the Lex Express.
Nick: Amen to that, Dude.