The image of iconic wrestler Hulk Hogan is being used to promote no less than three current WWE products: The Top 25 Rivalries in Professional Wrestling DVD, The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden DVD, and the upcoming video game WWE 2K14.
This would not be so unusual if the Hall of Famer were not currently under contract with another wrestling promotion, TNA.
When news of Hogan's presence in the video game broke in August, Hogan's friend and longtime collaborator, TNA producer Eric Bischoff, took to Twitter to explain, "WWE is simply utilizing tradmarks/assets [sic] they currently own in a repackaged video game. Nothing new."
I have not seen any of the MSG DVD, so I cannot comment as to how Hogan is treated in its content.
For me, the story here is how Hogan has been repeatedly abused by WWE when he is not under contract with the company. We saw it during the Attitude Era in home video releases that sought to diminish the legend's role in WrestleMania and the promotion's history, and we are witnessing it again, most recently in the Rivalries DVD.
The DVD started with promise. The unexpected appearance of Shane Douglas to discuss the Taz/Sabu rivalry in ECW was a well-produced segment that highlighted the feud, offered some backstage perspective and did not insult the viewer's intelligence.
The three Hogan rivalries included in the list, however, not only insulted the viewer's intelligence but awkwardly tried to rewrite history in a manner that WWE should be embarrassed by.
The only segment of the three that works is CM Punk recounting the Mega Powers exploding, which is No. 11 on the list. Punk begins by citing Hogan and Randy Savage as "both phenomenal superstars at the top of their game and at the top of WWE."
Things start to turn when Punk editorializes the ending of WrestleMania IV: "Randy doesn't need Hogan's help to win the title, but Hogan helps anyway and celebrates afterwards. It was definitely Savage's time, he was the champion, the focus should have been on him, and you have Hulk Hogan parading out, like he missed that spotlight, like he missed being champion."
Even in a segment on a DVD, Punk is able to demonstrate why he is one of the best workers today, effortlessly melding into kayfabe mode with: "As a kid, maybe you don't look at it, but looking at it now, you can definitely see why Randy Savage has every right in the world to be pissed off."
Commenting on the action, you can sense Punk is having fun when he delivers, "[Hogan] kind of picked [Elizabeth] up in a suggestive manner, too, and he carts her off to do God knows what to her. If I was Randy Savage, I'd be pissed, too."
Two reasons why this segment worked: One, Punk played kayfabe beautifully. He didn't have to say he was for us to know he was—a delineation lacking from the Big Show's segment, which I'll touch upon later.
Two, this segment has context. For one, I commented in a previous article that Punk had the mystique to be John Cena's foil, just as Savage had the intensity to match Hogan. Of all the wrestling stars today, I don't know of another who reminds me more of Savage than CM Punk. It isn't imitation—it's just an energy.
Punk tweeted his shock at Savage's untimely death in May, 2011, and in the following Raw, he appeared in tights that were an homage to the Macho Man. That night, Punk also began using what I call "the Savage Elbow," starting with the signature stance Savage took while perched upon the top rope. Since then, that maneuver has become part of his move set.
And while Savage was billed as hailing from Sarasota, Florida, he, like Punk, was a Chicago boy (Downers Grove, Illinois, to be specific) who once considered a career as a White Sox catcher before entering his father's trade.
However, when you take away the fun that Punk was sharing with the viewer, and you remove the context that Punk is a Randy Savage guy, the viewer is left in the following segments with uneven and astoundingly embarrassing attempts to discredit the man who is probably the most recognizable professional wrestler on the planet.
The first segment is No. 21, Hogan/Piper, which is narrated by Ted DiBiase Jr. It covers the heated feud that set MTV ratings on fire for the "War to Settle the Score" broadcast and up to the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania.
It is the only Piper rivalry on the list, and ample time is given to showcase the Hot Scot's magnetism and talent.
While the overall segment is fair to Hogan, the first jab is thrown in the closing lines, when DiBiase remarks, "Honestly, I believe the Hogan/Piper rivalry is what created Hulkamania; is what started Hogan, so, he can thank Roddy."
This is just patently untrue. Prior to headlining WWE, Hogan was drawing sold-out houses in the AWA during his emotional title chase against Nick Bockwinkel and against his mortal enemy, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and that promotion's version of the Heenan family.
Frankly, that rivalry perhaps should have made the list. Heenan was Hogan's nemesis not only in the AWA but for most of Hogan's original WWE Championship run, orchestrating the main event opponents for WrestleMania II (King Kong Bundy) and III (Andre the Giant). Behind the scenes, Hogan was instrumental in bringing Heenan to the WWE.
Regardless, Hulkamania arrived in WWE fully formed, with the phrase already having been coined in the AWA. Vince McMahon Jr. already had bankable superstars in Jimmy Snuka and the great champion Bob Backlund, but Hogan was something else altogether, a rock-star personality generating a connection with the fans the industry had never experienced before. He was the perfect keystone McMahon needed to build his vision of a wrestling promotion.
Hogan's larger-than-life persona warranted an equally larger-than-life villain, and the intense Roddy Piper was the first man to step into that role. A few years back, Wizard: The Comics Magazine did a list of the 50 greatest villains in pop culture, and Piper was the only wrestler to be mentioned alongside the likes of the Joker. Piper earned his spot in people's imaginations.
But if DiBiase was seriously suggesting that Hogan needed Piper, it only stands to reason that Piper needed Hogan. Wrestling is a team sport, and both of these entertainers defined an era and set the template for modern professional wrestling.
Rather than highlighting that golden age, WWE takes the low road and diminishes Hogan's contributions when the company could have been celebrating the fact that this rivalry steered McMahon's ship into the future.
The final segment on the disc recalls what Coliseum Home Video dubbed "The Giant Betrayal." This is rivalry No. 4, Hogan/Andre, as told by Big Show.
This entire segment was a complete mess and prompted me to write this article. Andre is cast as the greatest man who ever lived, and Hogan is relegated to a guy who fought him once.
To a normal person, the absolute biggest main event in the history of the business is worth celebrating and worthy of a serious review, but for WWE, it is just another excuse to smear Hogan.
I am unclear as to what WWE wanted Big Show to accomplish with this segment, other than play a character who disses Hogan. Shane Douglas, Ric Flair, Joey Styles and the rest of the narrators seem genuine, while Show, frankly, looks uncomfortable being cast in this segment.
Show comments on Hogan "turning purple and peacockin'" while Andre was calm at the contract signing, a "real giant."
One of WWE's worst attempts at rewriting history followed, showing Andre pinning a Hogan whose shoulder was clearly off the mat for the three count in the ending to the Main Event NBC television special. Big Show assures, "Doesn't matter, [Andre] knew he could beat Hogan."
Andre raises his hand in victory and is announced as the champion, to which Show responds, "It was amazing."
A despondent Hogan is shown, naturally, but the edit cuts away before revealing the actual result of the match. Andre handed the title to Ted DiBiase, an evil twin referee was revealed, and the decision of the match was scrapped in favor of crowning a champion in a tournament at WrestleMania IV.
Big Show then says, "When Andre had the big afro and the blue trunks, earlier, the red and yellow wouldn't have stood a chance, but, you know, that's the way some great rivalries happen."
It was at this point I realized the segment had become "Katie Vick" bad.
What a blown opportunity this project was for WWE. The company should not even do projects like this unless it is going to strip away the kayfabe that Vince McMahon personally turned the curtain back to reveal.
WWE had the chance to show a rivalry that began in the late 1970s when an evil rookie tried taking down the established giant. Hogan slammed Andre then but never got a victory—and how canny Vince McMahon was as a promoter to hide that fact from the new legions of fans that Hogan's popularity had brought to the business.
WWE could have talked about how Hogan really did travel with Andre to help the oversized superstar get through everyday life the rest of us take for granted; how they teamed in the AWA as well as the WWF; and how Andre was to be defeated at WrestleMania III, but neither Hogan nor Heenan knew for sure on match day that Andre would lay down, and how that tension added to the event.
The DVD could have mentioned that their ratings blockbuster rematch on the Main Event brought wrestling back to prime-time television. It could have discussed how Andre felt about turning heel, just as Hogan would turn heel a decade later. It could have remarked on the shadow of this rivalry taking shape in WCW when Big Show made his debut as Andre's son and how he felt about filling those shoes.
Triple H's new onscreen character is always talking about "what's good for business." Having a chance to expose a new viewer to wrestling history he might never have seen before is good for business. But twisting that history for the singular purpose of slandering a former employee is not only bad for business, it's childish, bush league and tiresome.
Grow up, McMahon.
By attacking Hogan, WWE only makes its own promotion look idiotic for having invested in the character for so many years. It only devalues the worth of its own library.
Why should I, as a consumer, purchase a video game celebrating "30 Years of WrestleMania," when WWE is telling me that the man who headlined the first nine, and subsequent others, was a sham?
Why would I buy the Madison Square Garden DVD, of which Hogan is featured prominently, when I just watched a DVD telling me what a fake and a loser he is?
I won't be.
When Coliseum Home Video showed those great Ken Patera matches, the Muraco/Morales feud, Snuka leaping off the cage and Bob Backlund and Pat Patterson putting on a clinic, it made me love the sport more, because great entertainment stands the test of time. It helped me understand why Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect thought the Intercontinental Championship was worth fighting for and why Bruno Sammartino deserved to be called the "Living Legend."
Hogan the man isn't perfect, but then, should we go down the list of imperfections for everyone who ever was called champion in WWE? Hogan was the industry's top box-office draw for a reason, and any attempt to diminish that says more about the jealous tongues wagging than it ever will about the entertainment that he and his opponents provided.
Here's the bottom line: If WWE has no respect for wrestling history and the men and women who shaped it, then why should anyone else?