Warning: This article may contain strong opinions that may offend certain people! I will try to tone down on opinions that may seem insulting to the party in question (Hulk Hogan) and I suggest you do the same for me!
Professional wrestling is a great past time for a lot of us here on Bleacher Report. We watch it every week. We spend top dollar on almost every PPV. We get on wrestling websites and argue about which wrestlers should receive attention, which angles are good, which angles are bad, and every other topic we can think of.
In professional wrestling we have our icons, our legends and our household names. Some of these household names include Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and "the Immortal" Hulk Hogan. The latter name is one who is often surrounded in controversy.
Many claim that Hulk Hogan is the greatest of all time. Others argue that Hulk Hogan is tarnishing his legacy and the title "greatest of all time" is a broader subject than just marketability. For the sake of this article, no, I do not believe that Hulk Hogan is the greatest of all time. But that's not what this article is entirely about.
Hulk Hogan, on any given day, receives an abundance of praise or an abundance of criticism. But which does he really deserve?
I'm going to offer some insight into both sides of this argument and not focus on my own biased opinion on Hulk Hogan. Yes, it seems impossible, I know, but it's hard to dispute facts, so the majority of the arguments stated here will be facts rather than opinions.
However, that doesn't mean that I won't state certain opinions either, so don't bombard the comment section with "I thought you said this would be nothing but facts!" Just look above at the disclaimer and you'll know that opinions will be featured.
I'm going to offer up reasons Hogan should be praised, reasons he should be criticized, and my final opinion on the matter. Just try to keep an open mind about this whole thing.
Hulk Hogan deserves praise
Hulk Hogan was the first megastar in the WWE. Yes, we had icons before Hogan's time, such as Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes and Buddy Rogers, but Hogan's popularity was immense compared to previous legends. The man so popular that he was constantly in the spotlight and helped sell out an arena of over 90,000 in 1987.
Hogan was the face of the WWE for a long time. Even after "passing the torch" to Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI, he still ended up being the major focal point, after Warrior failed to live up such expectations. Though he is not well known for his wrestling ability, Hogan knew how to work a crowd and (during his time) could make almost any match seem interesting (though the only redeeming quality of the lackluster WrestleMania III match against Andre was the famous "Body Slam heard around the world", hence the words most and not all).
Hogan was a great role model for children. He didn't cheat and he didn't back down. The famous catchphrase "Eat your vitamins and say your prayers" reflected the culture of that time; Saturday morning cartoons often featured the main characters giving some kind of helpful lesson to its young audience, in an attempt to make certain habits and mannerisms seem more appealing. Hulk Hogan was another idol who performed this kind of promoting, furthering the fact that wrestling personas of the 80s were cartoony, but lovable.
Speaking of catchphrases, Hulk Hogan is famous for yet another: "Whatcha gonna do brother, when Hulkamania runs wild on you!?" This catchphrase is actually one of the best descriptions of Hogan's time.
In an era that I like to refer to as "Hulkamania," Hulk Hogan was the most over wrestler with the crowds (and this is during a time when a large majority of wrestlers were over as well). Any opponent that Hogan faced would also feel the fury of the Hulkamaniacs. Whether it was a massive heel or a popular baby face, Hogan was almost always the recipient on the most cheers.
His success in WWE is undeniable. I mean, he headlined eight out of the first nine WrestleMania events! But, Hogan also achieved great success in WWE's greatest rival, World Championship Wrestling. In his WCW beginnings, Hogan faced off in a "dream match" of sorts against Ric Flair. He seemed to follow a rather similar path to his time in WWE, but that isn't the Hogan everyone remembers from WCW.
At Bash at the Beach 1996, in what was arguably the most genius promotional tactic of all time, Hulk Hogan officially turned heel when he betrayed WCW to join the Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) to form the most famous wrestling faction of all time, the New World Order (nWo). Hogan was the leader of this group of renegades, who seemingly "took over" WCW.
As a result of this development, one of the most popular wrestling personas of all time was born. Sting, a popular wrestler of the time, changed from a bright and colorful persona to a dark and enigmatic one (a persona that is often compared to the Crow). He began to wear black and white face paint, hung out in the raptors, carried a baseball bat to the ring, and became a one man army against the nWo.
At Starrcade 1997, in what should've been the end of the nWo, Sting defeated Hulk Hogan to win the World Heavyweight Championship, though the match had an anti-climactic ending, as Hogan previously won the match after referee Nick Patrick made a "fast count" (though it is reported that Hogan used his creative control and convinced Patrick to do a rather normal count), until Bret Hart came out and restarted the match (how he had the power to do so, I'll never know).
After WCW was bought out in 2001 by WWE, Hulk Hogan made his return to WWE television in 2002. He reformed the nWo and had what is arguably the greatest match of his career; the Icon vs Icon match against the Rock at WrestleMania X8. During the match, Hogan received the majority of the cheers, despite being the heel of the match. A few years later Hulk Hogan was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Hulk Hogan is a household name. He has transcended wrestling and has appeared in movies, TV shows, and TV ads. But now that we've focused on Hogan in a positive light, let's take a step back and see what some of his downfalls are.
Hulk Hogan doesn't deserve praise/deserves criticism instead
Hulk Hogan was definitely an icon and a true showman in the ring. But is he still? During his time in WCW, which was a prominent point in his career, Hulk Hogan was already past his prime. He could still go and had some good matches with the likes of Sting and Goldberg, but he wasn't the superstar he once was.
Even further still, he became WWE Champion in 2002 at the age of 48. Think about it. A 48-year-old man was chosen to represent a wrestling company as their "Undisputed" Championship. I can understand respecting a legend by allowing them one last great run, but Hogan wasn't exactly lacking in the championship department. I mean, he held the WWE title five times before that run!
Did they really need to make him champion during a time when there was so much talent was, shall I say, running wild? To make things worse, Hogan's biggest asset was his mic skills. His mic skills and crowd control were part of his legacy and arguably carried him to success.
During his 2002-2003 run, he had a few notable botches and often got tongue-tied. Though slip-ups are common in the WWE, it was obvious that Hogan was becoming less and less like the star he used to be as each year passed.
I almost forgot to mention one of the biggest mistakes that probably still haunts him to this day: WCW. Yes, he was a big star in the company, but he had a hand in taking that company down. Poor booking decisions and ridiculous angles are the biggest reasons for the failure of WCW, but Hulk Hogan and the other megastars of the company also had their part in its destruction.
Hogan and a lot of his friends had creative control over their characters. They could choose whether or not they accepted certain angles or outcomes. Obviously, Hogan and the others didn't want to look bad and chose not to put over many young guys.
Is Hulk Hogan still an icon? Or is he ruining his legacy?
In a rather infamous event in WCW history, Hogan refused to lose to Jeff Jarrett for the World Heavyweight Championship at Bash at the Beach 2000. During the event, Jarrett laid down and allowed Hogan to pin him, as Vince Russo came down and threw the World Title at Hogan's feet.
Russo claims the plan was for Hogan to beat Jarrett, but it turn out to be a "fake" title and the real match would take place later that night between Jarrett and Booker T. Hogan's side of the story is that they agreed that he would take the title off Jarrett, but when the match started, Jarrett just laid down, taking Hogan by surprise and feeling angry at how Russo handled the situation.
After insulting Russo, Russo said a few choice words about Hogan, which resulted in a lawsuit. No matter which side your on in that debate, one thing is clear: the event would not have happened if Hogan would've just agreed to put someone over.
That's the biggest argument against Hogan: He doesn't put anyone over. Throughout his entire career, I only witnessed a handful of clean losses for Hogan. In fact, his first clean loss in the WWE came at WrestleMania VI when he "passed the torch" to Ultimate Warrior. He spent almost his entire career refusing to lose in order to protect his image.
He has failed to truly "give back" to the business like other wrestling greats have (most notably Chris Jericho). One great example of Hogan not putting over a younger talent was his Summer Slam 2006 match against Randy Orton. During this time, the "Legend Killer" persona of Orton was at its peak. After taking down famous legends like Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair, Orton was starting to make a name for himself.
Hogan, however, defeated Orton in their match. Let me tell you something. Even the Undertaker lost to Orton during this time. It may not have been at WrestleMania (which, by the way, Taker was all for Orton ending the streak), but he still beat him at one point in their feud. Hogan's ego often prevented him from listening to his boss and has caused him to leave many companies, despite how much he was being paid.
And that's one of my major beefs with Hogan: its all about the money. Almost every interview I have seen Hogan in about his career, he often cites "not being paid enough" at the time. Hogan actually complained because he wasn't being paid the most during his 2006 run.
He claimed that the crowd was "dead" during every other match on the card and complained that he wasn't the main event. The main event, against Randy Orton. At the time, Orton wasn't exactly main event-caliber. Does anyone believe that Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Orton was more important than the WWE or World Heavyweight Championships in 2006?
Hogan's a spotlight hog as well. Though he main evented eight out of the first nine WrestleMania, Hogan has never stepped out of the spotlight. He was the focal point of WWE in the 80s; he was the focal point of WCW in the 90s; now, he is the focal point of TNA in the 10s.
No, he's not squashing younger talent and he's not winning championships. But the biggest story in TNA at the moment is named after him. Immortal? "The Immortal" Hulk Hogan? Also, he's doing yet another takeover angle and is even considering returning to in-ring action this year. I guess having to get eight back surgeries wasn't enough to keep him away. Hogan doesn't know when to step aside and accept the fact that his time is done.
Hulk Hogan truly believes he is bigger than the industry. He may have helped put WWE on the map, but it wasn't just him. Vince McMahon was a major player, too, as well as all of the other memorable characters in the 80s (Macho Man, Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase).
When questioned about criticism from other wrestlers, he often only says "I was selling out Madison Square Garden long before them." Can you really demand such respect from a fellow performer when you yourself show no respect to your peers or to the business itself? AJ Styles said "glad he's not with us" in 2005 about Hulk Hogan and it seems a little coincidental that Styles is now an afterthought in TNA (then again, it could be coincidental).
In conclusion, Hogan is definitely a controversial figure. Does he deserve our praise? Well, yes. He did help make WWE what it is today. He inspired many future superstars (notably Edge) and helped WWE gain recognition. That's not to say that he hasn't earned his fair share of criticism. Though he helped make the business great in the 80s, he still has yet to give it up and move on. Each year that passes by is further tarnishing a once great career.
Think of it this way: say I get all A's my first year of high school. The next year, I get all B's. Then, all C's, then all D's. Each year, my grade point average drops lower and lower. Think of that like Hogan's career. Each year, it gets worse and worse and is ruining his legacy overall. Its unfortunate, but soon, the worst of Hogan's career may soon overshadow the best of his career.
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