It's that time again, folks. Terry Bollea, who wrestled most of his career under the ring name Hulk Hogan, was born on this date in history (Aug. 11, 1953) in Augusta, Georgia.
"The Hulkster" has always been, and will continue to be, a polarizing character in the pro wrestling world. He got his start in the late 1970s working under various names before finding success over in Japan, where he was critically acclaimed as an American attraction for his size and charisma.
It was around this time Hogan got hot in the early 80s with the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and then with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). By 1984, his popularity was such that Vince McMahon Jr. (who had not long before taken over the reins of the company from his father and wanted to go national) hitched his wagon to the captivating big man - and the rest is history.
Hogan won the WWF championship from The Iron Sheik on Jan. 23, 1984, and Hulkamania was born. An incredible run followed, with perhaps the most memorable moment coming when he body slammed André the Giant at WrestleMania 3 in front of an unbelievable number of fans in Detroit, Michigan. He would hold the belt until 1988, when he dropped the strap to André. This happened to occur before a mess of funny business led to a tournament to crown a new champion, which ended up being Randy Savage. The Macho Man teamed with the Hulkster to form "The Mega Powers"; at that point it was clear that everything Hogan touched would turn to gold.
His run with the WWF continued until 1993, when a combination of controversy and audience burnout led to a great decline in popularity. The steroid trials took a toll on the business as a whole. With Hogan at the forefront of it for so long, he was directly in the line of fire. His backstage politicking had also worn thin and with McMahon under pressure from the outside, he was gone from the company by August.
Considering he was the hottest babyface of the 80s and already one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history there was still a big market for him; so a fresh new executive at World Championship Wrestling (WCW) wanted to talk turkey.
Eric Bischoff quickly took the necessary steps to ensure Hogan was paid handsomely and given a hero's welcome once he signed a deal with WCW; the competing promotion to the WWF all throughout the 90s. But his initial run wasn't well received considering the new audience he was playing to. If his babyface act had grown stale with the WWF and its fan base, the southern style so-called "real" pro wrestling fans had zero tolerance for his cartoon act.
Still, he was a big enough star to win the heavyweight championship in his first match on pay-per-view (PPV), with Ric Flair putting him over rather nicely. Over the next year and a half he would be the lead star for the organization, until it became blatantly obvious he wasn't catching on. His contract was so big this was unacceptable, so he started slowly fading out of the spotlight.
Up until he completely reinvented himself by turning heel.
There have been a million heel turns in pro wrestling history but perhaps none as significant as this. Hogan had worked as a babyface since he won the WWF title in 1984. So when he joined the invading Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, known collectively as The Outsiders, to form the New World Order (nWo) at Bash at the Beach in July of 1996, it had far more impact on the industry.
In fact, one could argue it was the biggest contributing factor to the second big pro wrestling boom.
Hogan started dying his beard black, calling himself "Hollywood" and turned into a cowardly rule breaker who always managed to find a way to snake his way to the top. He won the heavyweight title again at Hog Wild in August of '96 and with Hogan at the helm; the nWo became the biggest thing in the business for the next year and a half. WCW started crushing the WWF in the Monday Night ratings war and the Hulkster had managed to pull off a feat so impressive even his biggest detractors had to acknowledge his brilliance.
He was the biggest babyface of the 80s before reinventing himself and becoming (arguably) the biggest heel of the 90s.
This all served to solidify his place in the annals of pro wrestling lore. He would later go on to a memorable nostalgia run with the renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) before fizzling out and ending up with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling where he currently resides today. He's tarnished his legacy a bit along the way but there's no denying his impact on the industry.
Put simply, he's the most popular pro wrestler of all time; at least according to a poll we ran right here on Cageside Seats. He's also made it to the Elite Eight in the Cageside Seats Pro Wrestling Tournament, where he'll take on André in a rematch of their historic WrestleMania 3 encounter. And the purpose of said tourney is to crown the greatest all around pro wrestler, so his getting this far despite his various shortcomings in the ring, also shows how much he meant to the business.
Maybe he wins and makes the Final Four. Maybe he even wins it all - although I can't personally see that happening. Either way, there's no doubt that Hulk Hogan's name is one that will never be forgotten.