For those of us, like myself, that grew up in the '80s, there is one name that is synonymous with wrestling. That name is Hulk Hogan.
So on the news that Hulk Hogan may or may not be appearing at Wrestlemania this year, on what is the 25 anniversary of the first event, I thought what better time to write about my journey as a fan of pro wrestling and how Hulk Hogan and some others effected me for live and gave me a life long love for wrestling.
If you grew up in the '80s and watched wrestling, unless you were an odd child, The Hulkster was probably one of your favorite wrestlers. Ok I admit, in 1985 when I first started watching wrestling, Hillbilly Jim was my favorite.
But I was only 10, and I had just gotten into watching reruns of Beverly Hillbillies on TBS Superstation, and well I don't know if it was Ted Turner's magical color enhancement or that down-home hospitality of Jed Clampett, but my love for hillbillies crossed into the word of wrestling.
But that's another story alltogether, and involves me not getting the rubber LJN Hillbilly Jim action figure for that Christmas. The result was I soon made Hulk Hogan my favorite.
Like many kids from the 1980s, I became hooked to Saturday Night's Main Event.
Once a month NBC pre-empted Saturday Night Live for an edition of SNME. Which is impressive seeing SNL was actually still good back then.
From the opening music of "Obession" to the build up before the theme song started of the featured wrestlers selling what they were going to do that night, there was something magical about Saturday Night's Main Event.
That's where I discovered Hulk Hogan for the first time. Sure, Hillbilly Jim could do an awesome hoe-down, but The Hulkster could get you to hang on every word.
And if selling their product at 11:30 PM on Saturday Night's Main event was what it took to get you to watch the whole show then Hogan was a huckster.
Maybe it's no coincidence then that when I started to watch wrestling on Saturday mornings with my grandmother later that year, she would confusingly call him "Huckster."
Sure, she got names mixed up but maybe she knew what she meant. It only took 30 seconds of promo time at the top of SNME for Hogan to wield his magic and python's and you'd be hard pressed find someone changing the channel at that point.
Mad TV alum Will Sasso said it best once when he said Hogan was like a giant red-and-yellow street light.
With yellow and red colors. When you saw him back in the 80's you stopped and he had your attention.
Sadly, 22 years later Hulk had got our attention again, this time though not for what he says in a prematch interview or what he does in the ring but what happened to his family.
Like any Hogan fan, I watched Hogan Know's Best. It's hard for me to say I came away with the idea that Hulk and Linda would be divorcing. Looking back at all the episodes I watched, some things now stand out in my mind.
Hulk really catered to his family. Much can be said about the life of a wrestler and the toll it takes on a family life, but Hulk treated his family very well. If you watched any episodes, you would have to agree Hogan indulged his wife and kids a lot. From the trips, to pets, to letting Linda get that damn chimp.
Nick and Brooke basically got anything they wanted, right down to Hulk moving the family to Miami to further Brooke's singing career.
Some would say obsessed father, I say devoted. By the Hulkamaniac's Hulk gets treated like royalty, by his family Hulk got treated like a peasant.
I can think of many reasons and find fault with why the Hogan's divorced. But It be a travesty to say Hulk Hogan is majorly to blame.
His children were raised with everything they could possibly want. Linda Hogan as well I'm sure has lived very nicely for the past 20 plus years.
Unless Hulk was completely opposite off camera then he was on, I see him as a very serious responsible father who wanted to teach his kids things about respect. I also see no wrong in the effort Hulk took in helping Brooke in her singing career.
He could have easily told her to make it on her own with no help from him and without the "Hogan" name.
You could see it in the episodes when Nick would get in trouble with the police for taking cars of the Hogan premise. Or when Brooke went missing for hours when the family went to Key West Florida.
Only to turn up later that evening fine and nonchalant. It seemed that no matter what the kids did, they never really learned anything from it.
I don't know who's to blame for the drag racing accident other then Nick himself. It's easy to say, "Well the parents are to blame as well for raising him that way." But I'll leave that for others to say.
The one thing I found interesting is according to TMZ, who has has become in recent years Hogan Central for the latest Hogan Family news, that Linda was quoted as saying she loved drag racing and the rush you get from it.
Take that for what it's worth. Of course Linda's reps now claim she never said this.
I met Hulk Hogan and Linda back in 1993. It was a dream of mine to meet him that took an eight year journey to complete. It started with me watching SNME and Saturday morning wrestling with my grandmom, to me learning the ropes as a teen journalist from my mentor who wrote for a local paper a wrestling column.
To my mentor passing away right when I was learning the trade. I met my wrestling journalist mentor Alan Raskin in 1991.
I used to read weekly the South Philly Review for Alan's wrestling column. Back in those days there wasn't an Internet, and the way to find out what was going to happen for the next month in wrestling was to either go to one of WWF's four or five hour tapings , or get your hands on the entire tape before it was sent to the networks, where they sliced it up into four separate hours over a period of a month.
Yep, folks; that's how WWF worked back then.
So if you were in the know, you got a hold of those tapes or talked to people that did.
Alan Raskin was in the know. Each week I would read his column with bated breathe looking to find the scoop on what was going to happen for the next month.
And then of course I would go and tell my friends who had no idea about this newspaper and watch them marvel at my predictions. To some I was deemed "Wrestling Nostradamus."
It wasn't long before I started entering contest and calling Alan Raskin's wrestling phone line.
Eventually I won tickets to an event from him in a contest and our friendship formed. My contest win was a pair of tickets to a TWA wrestling event in Philly where I saw a young Mick Foley nearly bleed to death. (TWA wrestling never took off, ironic seeing it sounded like an airline instead of a wrestling federation.)
After winning the tickets, I wound up corresponding to Alan Raskin, and would call him on his home phone which he gave me.
There we would talk for hours after a pay-per-view about what happened. Him teaching me the terms of wrestling. Heel? Face? back in 1991 I had no clue. We would also debate who was the best wrestler of that era. Hogan or Flair. Alan was a Flair man. And he made a very good argument.
One I'm sure I'll talk about in another blog. But me, I was a teen who was a child of the '80s and well "The Huckster" still had me sold. I guess I cant dislike the kids of today then who buy the John Cena hype. After all, he's the Hogan of this generation. ( Feel free to send me hate mail for that comment my friends.)
Alan Raskin and I would chat for hours, and within a couple of months I began doing guest appearances in his column on the weeks he felt like taking a break from writing. My skills as a wrestling journalist grew.
Then I started doing what a lot of would be future wrestlers (Chris Jericho included)and wanna be reporters would do. Hang out at the hotels waiting to meet the wrestlers. This went on for two years.
With me reporting back to Alan. It was Feb of 1993 by then and Alan was going to be getting married soon and was working on a children's storybook. I was a senior in high school, and planning on a communications major. The last time Alan I had talked, we talked for hours as usual.
About a week later in the mail with his monthly newsletter, Alan sent me a Hulk Hogan friendship bracelet. If your a fan of wrestling from the 80's you'll remember those WWF friendship bracelets that they sold in the WWF catalog in the center of every magazine.
No matter how much we debated who was better Hogan or Flair, Alan still respected Hogan was my favorite. About three weeks later, I, as usual, went to my grandmother's and picked up a copy of the Review Newspaper to read Alan's weekly column.
To my shock and sadness there inside the first page was a story and picture that The Review's very own Alan Raskin had died that week from a brain aneurysm. The same paper that brought me joy every week had brought me devastation.
My mentor and wrestling friend had died. And it felt as if Hulk Hogan had just dropped a leg drop on one of his opponents. That was March 1993.The next several months I muddled along.
May came around and with it was an WWF event at the Spectrum on a Saturday afternoon card. Scheduled to appear was new WWF champion Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake.
A month before Hulk Hogan made his return to WWF after a hiatus to recapture the gold from Yokozuna at Wrestlemania. After weeks of trying to convince family and friends to come with me to the event, I would up going by myself.
Here it was just two months after loosing my mentor, and I couldn't even drag along any of my friends or family to come with me to see Hulk Hogan at the Spectrum.
I cant say I remember a lot from the card. Other then Hulk teaming with Brutus Beefcake against The Million Dollar Man and IRS in a rematch from their Wrestlemania match. I also remember Doink was one of the highlights that day. Doink was still being played by Matt Bourne and had the crowd really into his antics.
Before the show ended I wound up buying one of the newest Hulk Hogan Bandana's. Like any Hulkamaniac I already had at least four or five bandana's, but this was his newest one since returning and I needed to add it to my collection.
After the event I met up with some kids who had attended the event. After the WWF shows at the Spectrum some fans would hang around by the side ramp entrance hoping to get a glimpse or actually meet the wrestlers.
For some reason after waiting for about a half an hour or so I got the bright idea of getting my car and parking on the side street right where the ramp leads to the street and wait for me to recognize a WWF star and follow them to a red light.
At least that was my plan. Oddly, it was something I had never thought of before. Within a few minutes, these kids that I had met that day decided to come with me and sit in my car. We had all agreed we'd wait for a half and hour hoping Hulk Hogan would drive out the ramp and we could follow his car.
It only took 10 minutes.
All of a sudden up the ramp an onto the street we see a sedan with a woman driving. In the back seat I see a dude with blond hair, a bandanna, and a blond fu manchu. The Hulkster motorcade had begun.
I followed the car up the street until it turned left onto Pattison Ave. Which was right in front of the Spectrum. And all of a sudden the light in the middle of street turned red.
For you all to understand the importance of the light turning red, you must understand this: This light never turned red.
It was a light that was at the center of Pattison Ave, right in front of the Spectrum with a cross walk to the old Vet's stadium. No traffic at that point, no pedestrians crossing. and Wham the light turns red.
The first thing I did was go to my glove compartment and look for a decent marker or sharpie. All I found was a Bic pen. The next thing I did was bolt from my car with my Hulk Hogan bandanna and approached the back passenger seat. There was Hulk Hogan sitting.
His window rolled half down. Luckily he didnt pull a Jon Voight on Kramer bite on me. "Excuse me Hulk, I'm one of your biggest fans and I wondered if I could have your autograph."
Hogan looks up and says "Where did you get this bandanna brother?" I respond "From inside the Spectrum I watched you wrestle today"Hogan then signed it and said "Ok brother, here you go" I thank him and before you know it the light had turned green.
Looking back at this moment I often wonder where Hulk Hogan thought I got that bandanna from. I guess he didn't put two and two together and realize I had attended the event. I also wondered though if maybe he had no idea what Vince McMahon had licensed and was selling with his name on it.
Anyway, the light had turned green and I got back into my car. My new friends were too scared to get out while we were at a red light. Of course at this point we were still behind Hulk Hogan's car, so my new friends suggested I follow the car a little seeing if it stopped so they could meet him.
I agreed I'd follow the car a little but if it got on a highway, I would stop following them.
So here I am following The Hulk Hogan motocade for about a mile or so when the car turns and stops and pulls into an A-Plus mini market a mile or so from the Spectrum. I park my car at the mini mart, too.
Out of the car comes Hulk Hogan, Brutus Beefcake, Jimmy Hart and some blonde woman who I had no clue who she was until Hogan Know's Best aired many years later. Me and my new friends walk right behind The Hogan Entourage as Jimmy Hart holds the door for me from behind.
At this point I start talking to Jimmy Hart.
For some reason, I never addressed Brutus Beefcake. Maybe I was afraid he'd pull out one of his pairs of hedgeclippers. Within a minute of being inside the Mini Mart with Hogan and crew the cashier recognized it was Hogan and a crowd former.
Poor Hulk Hogan was just trying to get some Evian water and split.
My new friends then approached him and had him sign there hand and baseball cap. I quickly realized what it must be like to be a celebrity and instantly recognized. An interesting note is it was only 1993 but Hogan was wearing all black and white out in public.
This is three years before Hollywood Hogan was born. It still stands out in my mind because It was the first time I remember seeing Hogan with all that black on. When Hogan and his crew was done in the store the crowd followed him and Beefcake and Jimmy Hart outside to the parking lot.
I remember kids, people of all ages swarming around them. Hogan stood and signed autographed. I then started talking to him. Looking back they were half decent questions. At least they weren't as bad as the questions I asked Chris Jericho recently.
I asked what kind of motorcycle Hogan had. Knowking he rode harley's I meant what type of harley. He responded he rode a harley, I then asked him what type of Harley, and he responded "A Soft Tail."
At this point Hogan was done signing and they went tot he car where none other then Linda Hogan waited away from the chaos. As they were walking towards the car I turned to the crowd and said "Let's hear it for Hulk Hogan" and then motioned to the crowd with my hand over my ear like Hulk does himself.
The crowd cheered. Hogan, Beefcake and Jimmy Hart got in the car and Linda got in the drivers seat and off they went. Yeah Linda Hogan was driving. Linda was driving, too, when the Hulkster Motorcade pulled out of the Spectrum.
And let me tell you from this incident, it may had only been 1993, but I followed the Hogan car for at least a mile, and at the time Linda drove like she was in a school zone.
If she had a need for speed she sure wasn't showing that day. Out of all the story's and wrestlers I met, this one was my favorite.
Immediately after meeting them I knew it was something special, and a stroke of luck to get him at a red light in front of The Spectrum. To have a bandanna ready to sign, and for them to stop at a mini mart for my new found friends to meet him and for us to talk to Hulk.
Will Sasso said it best watching Hulk Hogan as a kid in the '80s was like seeing a red and yellow street light. That day I think my mentor Alan Raskin was looking down and made a red light for me and "THE Red and Yellow Light" to meet.