Hulk Hogan, Hulking Down a Peg: Is the WWE Superstar Overrated?
Hulk Hogan was an iconic wrestler who deserves immeasurable praise for catapulting wrestling into the mainstream hysteria and the public conscience in the 1980s.
His passion and charisma were matched by few, and as the WWE struggles to maintain viewership in today's post-Attitude era, the business yearns for a taste of such magic and a glimpse of the next "big thing."
As a role model, entertainer and business man, Hogan deserves the utmost respect.
Hulkamania was a necessary, critical phenomenon in professional wrestling. Still, the boa-wearing muscle-man behind the iconic concept is overrated as a wrestler.
I can hear the nay-sayers:
"He changed the course of the business and made the WWE what it is today! How can he be overrated?"
The answer is simple: WCW.
The real answer is: It's not all about money. Factoring cold, hard numbers ends the debate of his ranking.
I'm ignoring that and judging him as a wrestler and an entertainer of smart, loyal fans. The WWE is a business, but fans don't buy tickets to go to the bank (unless they're scalpers). They buy them to go to the show.
Other superstars of equal or greater caliber (but not value) have come and gone, and will come again. They'll continue to sacrifice their bodies for the sake of sports entertainment and the awe of the fan. Yet, in spite of their skill, they'll never have a chance to be put on the pedestal where the public places Hogan.
I grant anyone the telling of his excellence. That is not debatable. He deserves enormous acclaim for his influence. But, c'mon...
Can't you just admit, Hulkamaniacs, that your legend may have been just a...tad...wee-bit...slightly...overrated?
No? Then, how about that he had imperfections?
Still not budging? Fine. I'm going to give my top five reasons that I feel Hogan is historically overrated anyway.
Or, Hogan loyalists, at the very least imperfect.
Hulking Down a Peg: Honorable Mentions
Vincent Kennedy McMahon
The WWF, as it was known in the 80s, made the radical decision to be blatant about their product. They separated it from sports, dubbing it "sports entertainment."
The public was directly told that what they were seeing was pre-scripted, predetermined match-ups. Essentially, men had their counter to female daytime television. Testosterone made a soap opera.
This decision correlates as much as Hogan with the rise in popularity of professional wrestling, and the brain trust credited with a great deal of the influence toward this new industrial standard: Vince McMahon.
Hogan's shtick was easily fueled with McMahon's vision of the future of his industry. The perfect marriage brought fans to the arena in mass droves, and sent them home exhilarated!
To be honest, the debate about who had more influence, McMahon or Hogan, on 80s wrestling, has been tried again and again. It could be the top reason on most lists, but this focuses more on Hogan's own deficiencies than where to place credit.
Rock, Austin, Hart, HBK
For all of Hogan's popularity, many would say the onset of the Attitude era re-popularized and even improved wrestling .
From comic book antics like Hulking up and eating vitamins, these powerful works of fiction gained a real-life edge, none better or more popular than the WWE's anti-hero of choice, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Where Hogan established a creative identity and concept of character in wrestling, his peers improved the product and, in some way, exceeded fans' enjoyment.
Austin is widely regarded as a better tactical wrestler and character than Hogan, and some even debate that dollar-for-dollar, he was on par with Hogan. I have no desire to see the statistics or finances.
The Rock took microphone skills and creative communication to a brand new level that may never be seen again. Savvy, the Rock combined both identifiable verbal "shtick" with ever-evolving slogans and concepts that kept fans refreshed and interested.
Hart entered the WWE as a fan-favorite and left as a villain, but he did something that was also great for wrestling: he combined the eras.
He blended great tactical wrestling with new age drama and role-playing to create a sense of plausibility coupled with engaging fiction. Nobody managed the ring as well as Bret Hart.
And...Mr. WrestleMania, the Heartbreak Kid! Well, he is the hybrid of everyone listed above. If anyone deserves to be placed on the iconic ladder higher than Hogan....he's the man!
My point is this: other wrestlers were also great. This doesn't mean that Hogan wasn't. It simply means he wasn't necessarily the end-all and be-all for greatest WWE Superstar of all time.
Plenty of other talented men entered the ropes as well, outperforming Hogan on a number of critical levels.
Hulking Down a Peg No. 5: Tired Finisher
Everytime I see a Tombstone or Pedigree, I cringe imagining how painful it would be to have your cranium cranked into the ground.
Perhaps describing the apparent effect as not pleasant would be understating it.
I consider to myself that the move has to be safe enough to execute but—being a finisher—should appear devastating. We all know that its fake, but 30 minutes in the ring warrants a great crescendo for a finale.
Hulk's finisher, which was never changed, adjusted, altered...is the leg drop.
The same leg drop 80 percent of other wrestlers used, even in his day, as a run-of-the-mill attack during the match.
In amateur wrestling, I've seen the move used just to get both combatants to the ground. In fact, a friend of mine called it his "lazyboy maneuver."
Lazy or not, the move is certainly tired and lacks imagination. Then again, using the Pedigree and calling it the Pedi-Hulk...well, that just sounds horrible.
Hulking Down a Peg No. 4: Opinions of His Peers
Like it or not, a great deal of perspective about wrestlers centers on the opinions of their peers. We can dissect things as much as we want, but those who have been there and done it are the only ones truly in the know.
While everyone admires Hogan's influence on the industry (and I do as well), many of his peers have fired negative comments about the athlete's career. They've describe him as tactless, over-egocentric (though who can blame him?) to the point of refusing to lose, and unwittingly outdated.
Ric Flair is perhaps one of his largest non-supporters. Flair talked about his tactlessness, particularly with scathing recounts of his time with Terry in his biographies.
Hogan was scheduled to beat his son with a belt, and—true or not—it is claimed that Hogan went beyond the number of whips that was called for...mercilessly beating on the lad until he felt contented.
While this may be over the top, or even false, the fact of the matter is that the WWE has graduated a number of class acts. Many of his own peers hold little regard for Hogan, the man. When we're talking about legacies and All-Time rankings, this factors—fair or not.
Hulking Down a Peg No. 3: Redundancy
In a game of "guess who," pulling the final famous name with a chance to win, I hope to someday pull Hulk Hogan.
What I'll say is:
"Eat your vitamins." (Obligatory flex, violent head nod, and growl.)
In fact, his most original and necessary character change came when he joined the N.W.O. His stint in the New World Order in WCW gave his outdated monotonous character new life.
Hulking Down a Peg No. 2: Superstar Billy Graham
Let me be clear before I finish my last two reasons that Hulk Hogan, albeit legendary, is overrated as the infallible legend in much of the public eye.
I respect the (insert expletive here) out of what Hogan did for the industry and his passion/dedication. I like Hulk Hogan. I'm a fan of Hulk Hogan.
I'm just willing to call a spade a spade. There are better.
On a video released by WWE, a rating of his peers saw his rank at No. 23. Debate raged, and I truly agreed that this was far too low! As I sifted through comments and responses, I saw most people stating that he should be obviously in the top five, and most likely rated as the best wrestler ever.
I considered HBK, the Rock, Austin, Triple H, Bret Hart, Macho Man...and others. I couldn't figure how everyone was so sure of this ranking. I admire Hulk Hogan, but I'm not blinded by money or nostalgia.
I also respect the opinions of others, who have every rate to rank him as the top Superstar ever if they desire. I just ask for some open-mindedness.
Another reason that Hogan is overrated is simple. He's a PARTIAL rip-off. Ahead of all of his other flaws, this is the most obvious to me. The man was a different wrestler at a better time. Hulk Hogan was Superstar Billy Graham. At least physically.
Billy Graham entered the WWE a few years ahead of the "new wave" era of blatant fiction and high-flying action. His bald look and blond mustache—even his vibrant yellow shit—were a new look in professional wrestling.
Mutually, shortly after losing a title match to Bob Backlund, he and Mr. McMahon decided his character profile wasn't working. And, into the night he sailed.
Many argue that he and Hogan mutually created the character concept, but chronology causes me to question this altogether. I think Hogan brilliantly decided to use this idea and implemented it at the perfect time and era.
Is this a fault of Hogan's? That's to debate. It certainly wasn't a bad idea. It sold wrestling to millions of homes.
But...you can't tell me the best ever wasn't even...original. That doesn't sit well with me.
Hulking Down a Peg No. 1: In-Ring
Eye rakes. (optional)*
*In varying orders
Enter: next opponent.
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