It has been almost three decades since Hulk Hogan won his first WWE championship, and needless to say, during that period pro wrestling has exploded into the mega-entertainment industry it is today.
In an interview with Sky News Radio (and reported by WrestlingInc.com), Hogan says he looked upon his craft back then as a genuine athletic sport. But in 1984, when he defeated The Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden to begin the first of his six championship reigns, the wrestling legend had an epiphany about the future of that sport.
In the interview, Hogan calls that night “the perfect storm.” His battle with the Sheik reflected the political situation at that time—the good-guy American against the villainous Iranian:
But, what came out of that was a different performance level. It wasn't just a wrestling match with good vs. bad with good prevailing. it was the birth of entertainment in this business. As I looked to the crowd, the look and the reaction from the crowd got just as much as acknowledgment as the move in the ring.
Hogan tells the radio interviewers that he changed his whole mindset about the business with that one look into the crowd. He says he began to acknowledge their reaction, so he began to play to their emotion, and “it was kind of like the beginning of the entertainment being born that day.”
Hogan would appear off and on in WWF/E before leaving the company again in 2003 to join TNA Wrestling. He made another run in WWE in 2005 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Over the next two years, Hogan would become involved in storylines involving Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton. He defeated Michaels at the 2005 SummerSlam and Orton at SummerSlam the following year.
Hogan left WWE again in 2007 and re-joined TNA two years later. He now is TNA’s storyline general manager.
During his WWE time, Hogan had some memorable feuds with the likes of Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase and Randy Savage.
In the interview, Hogan cites his program with Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff as one of the toughest he ever had:
His work was just so incredibly good. It was good and bad for me (because) I felt like I had been in a car wreck when I got out of the ring working with him. But, his stuff was so good, solid and intense that he just knew how to really turn that dial up and make people believe and make people hate him. Which made it easier for me as far as selling, making huge comebacks and making the buildings rattle.
In the interview, Hogan also calls Orndorff “an ongoing opponent that I made a ton of money with." Coincidentally, the now-retired Orndorff was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the same year as Hogan.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at #BAtkinson1963.