The 1980s belonged to the man who redefined how we look at professional wrestling, Hulk Hogan. Long before he went “Hollywood,” Hulk Hogan was getting all his Hulkamaniacs to say their prayers and take their vitamins, as he became the biggest baby face the industry has ever seen.
But his rise to stardom wasn’t as rosy as it seems.
His first run in the WWF was unlike what we know today. Originally wrestling as a heel under the tutelage of “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Hogan never quite found his own in the WWF. He left the company in 1980 to return to the AWF and New Japan, where he’d finally get his big break.
Known as "Ichiban" or No. 1 in New Japan, Hogan caught on quickly with the Japanese crowd. He had everything going for him there from t-shirts to CD’s. But most of his draw in the States was due to his part in Rocky III.
As Thunderlips, Hogan captured the attention of moviegoers nationwide, more importantly he found favor in Verne Gagne and the AWA. Hogan was quickly turned baby face and started using the Eye of the Tiger, the theme for Rocky, as his entrance music.
Hogan later claimed to be the first person to ever use entrance music and he paid the jabroni in the truck $5,000 to play it.
But as popular as Hogan had become, Verne refused to put the AWA title on him and opted to stay with then champ Nick Bockwinkel. This didn’t sit right with Hogan who decided to bolt back to the WWF.
Seeing he was about to lose his biggest cash cow, Verne promised Hogan the title, only it was too little too late. Hogan was set to return to the WWF.
Upon his return to New York, Hogan set the WWF on fire. Hogan was brought back as a heel once again, but this was quickly discarded as he was set to feud with then champ Iron Sheik after coming to the aid of Bob Backlund. Hogan beat the Iron Sheik for his first of twelve world titles.
Hulk Hogan went on to usher in a huge era in wrestling known as the Rock ‘n Wrestling Connection with MTV. This put wrestling out there for pop culture to eat up and it led to both the first ever Saturday Night Main Event and the first ever Wrestlemania.
And despite achieving the dubious distinction of the “Worst Match of the Year” by the Wrestling Observer, his 1987 match with Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania is known as the slam that changed the wrestling world forever.
Hulk Hogan was the WWF’s world champion for five of the ten years and without a doubt the flagship for the company in a time where there were no other superstars. Hogan crossed over to movies, and even music, and quickly became a household name as he toured the late night and early morning talk show circuits regularly.
Hogan went on to become the one of the most recognized people in the world, and wrestling’s first cover on Sports Illustrated. Hulk Hogan was not only the most dominate wrestler of the 1980s, but possibly of all-time.