Hulk Hogan's Best, Worst and Most Outrageous Moments in WWE Career
There is no greater icon in WWE history than Hulk Hogan.
The key to WWE's expansion to a national promotion and worldwide entity, Hogan's larger-than-life personality invaded homes across the globe and brought new fans to Vince McMahon's product. He was a Superstar that inspired children to say their prayers, take their vitamins and hit the gym.
His demandments, along with unforgettable matches and moments with the top stars of his era, helped Hogan become the embodiment of a living, breathing superhero.
His WWE career was full of more good than bad, thanks to iconic battles, but it was not without its black marks.
Political power plays earned him the disdain of fans who saw him as a master politician who often made backstage maneuverings that best benefited himself.
Even with those less-than desireable moments, though, it is impossible to deny Hogan's spot in WWE history.
Without him, the industry fans spend so much time devoting themselves to would not exist.
In honor of The Hulkster and his many contributions to the sports entertainment industry, relive these best, worst and most outrageous moments that defined his WWE career.
Best: Hulkamania Is Running Wild
On January 23, 1984, WWE received the shot of adrenaline it needed to become a worldwide entity when Hulk Hogan defeated The Iron Sheik to become the promotion's heavyweight champion.
It was a booking decision that would unleash Hulkamania on an audience of unsuspecting fans and create a larger-than-life star capable of crossing over into mainstream media. The fans inside Madison Square Garden knew they had witnessed history, recognized that Hogan had momentum on his side and erupted at the thought of the representative of the United States overcoming the evil foreign villain.
They just did not know or understand the enormity of the situation.
Hogan's reign as champion would give Vince McMahon the fire power he needed to launch a national expansion and a star around whom he could build his empire.
It was the start of a magical period in sports entertainment and the beginning of, arguably, the greatest career in WWE history.
Best: WrestleMania I
Without Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania I would not nearly have been the success it was.
That is not at all to say that Vince McMahon's vision and Roddy Piper's ability to talk people into spending their money to see him get his ass kicked were not essential to the grand scheme of things, but Hogan had a larger-than-life presence and magnetism about him that forced audiences to sit up and take notice.
If The Hulkster had not appeared on MTV and hosted Saturday Night Live with Mr. T, the masses would not have been alerted as thoroughly as they were, nor would they have been enticed to find out what all the buzz was about. Hogan brought eyes to WrestleMania that otherwise may never have tuned into a wrestling show.
While T, Muhammad Ali and Cyndi Lauper drew interest, Hogan was the wrestler at the forefront of the promotion.
When the show went off without a hitch and the future of WWE was secure, so too was Hogan's place at the top of a thriving and booming industry.
Best: The Unstoppable Force vs. The Immovable Object
There is no bigger, more significant match in the long and illustrious history of WWE than the 1987 showdown between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III.
The culmination of Vince McMahon's massive undertaking to take his promotion national, it was an iconic bout featuring the two biggest draws in North America.
Faced with the unenviable task of ending Andre the Giant's eight-year undefeated streak, Hogan entered the historic Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit the underdog, despite holding the WWE Championship.
In one of the finest performances of his career, Hogan overcame the overwhelming onslaught of Andre and delivered a bodyslam heard 'round the world.
A leg drop and a three count later and Hogan had firmly, and undisputedly, established himself as the greatest Superstar of his generation.
Best: The Mega Powers Explode
The epic storyline featuring Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth that began at WrestleMania IV and culminated a year later is, undeniably, one of the greatest arcs ever devised by Vince McMahon.
Building on real life animosity and genuine jealousy of Savage, the story began with Macho Man's WWE Championship victory and formation of The Mega Powers at The Showcase of the Immortals. It then marched through SummerSlam, featured an unforgettable split on Saturday Night's Main Event and culminated in a title defense between the champion and Hulkster at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City—the home of WrestleMania IV a year earlier.
Hogan would win, fending off the proverbial crimson mask to regain the title, but it was the story as a whole that represented the powerful writing that can be achieved in WWE when McMahon has a vision, stays true to it and does not allow a bump in the ratings or slightly down merchandise numbers to interrupt his plans.
The Hulkster, at the height of his popularity at that point, was absolutely key to seeing the thing through to a satisfying conclusion.
Most Outrageous: ZEUS!
In 1989, Hulk Hogan starred in the major motion picture No Holds Barred. In the so-bad-it's-good film, he combats a monstrous brawler known simply as Zeus. Pro wrestling imitated Hollywood as Tiny Lister, the actor behind the Zeus character, signed on to make several appearances with WWE.
Shortly after the film's release, Zeus debuted on television, carrying over his rivalry with The Hulkster as if he had not quite figured out the director had long ago yelled, "cut!"
He assaulted Hogan, and at SummerSlam, he teamed with Randy Savage to battle The Hulkster and Brutus Beefcake in a massive tag team spectacle.
The entire ordeal was a bit too much for fans.
Zeus' leap from the movie screen to WWE was illogical and difficult to invest in.
That it came on the heels of a major flop only served as a reminder that Hogan's initial foray into Hollywood blockbusters was an unmitigated failure.
Worst: The 1992 Royal Rumble
Hogan's popularity was waning as 1992 arrived.
After being booed during a WWE Championship match with The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991, it was clear that audiences were growing tired of the same old song and dance from The Hulkster.
Late in the '92 Royal Rumble, Hogan was eliminated by Sid Justice. The crowd erupted, understanding the gravity of the situation. The guy who had been the hero to millions around the globe was old news. When he grabbed onto the hand of Justice, attempting to pull him out, fans got a look at a guy desperately grasping on to his main event spot.
That is probably why The Hulkster generated resounding boos as he assisted Ric Flair in pulling Sid to the floor. After all, he had just cost the bigger, cooler new good guy an opportunity to become new champion.
It was a bad look and the most obvious example of fan backlash toward Hogan and his continued push.
Worst: The WrestleMania IX Debacle
WrestleMania IX sucked.
Over the years, it has garnered a cult following from fans who appreciated the unique theme, the arena setup and some of the larger-than-life characters who took to the stage that April 1993 night in Las Vegas. For all of the pomp, circumstance and notorious gimmicks, it is difficult to shake the lasting impression from the show.
After a year away from the spotlight, during which young and talented stars rose to the top of the promotion, Hogan trotted back in the door like a skullet-wearing thoroughbred and defeated Yokozuna to capture the WWE Championship.
This despite competing in a tag team title match with Brutus Beefcake earlier.
This despite the fact that Bret Hart had just lost his title in an attempt to make a star out of Yoko, only to have the massive competitor defeated with a single leg drop.
It felt dirty.
Watching Hogan celebrating to close out WrestleMania IX felt like watching a political hitman execute the entire creative direction of a company for no reason other than to pat his own back.
The decision easily could have killed Hart's career as a top draw for WWE. Luckily, his connection with the audience ensured that would not happen.
Best: Coming Home
In 2002, Hulk Hogan returned to WWE for the first time in nine years.
Clad in the black and white of the New World Order, he was brought back to the company as a heel, but the love and admiration longtime fans had for The Hulkster earned him a warm response from fans eager to see him back in the company he helped build.
Though he was flanked by Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, and sported the colors of a renegade fashion that had inflicted such evil in WCW, fans were eager to see Hogan back. They wanted to cheer the Superstars they grew up watching.
At the No Way Out pay-per-view, his insincere and disingenuous promo promising a new and improved nWo was met with curious positivity from a fanbase eager for a nostalgia kick.
The remainder of 2002 would bring with it inspiring performances from The Hulkster.
Whether a heel in black and white or a hero in his trademark red and yellow, Hogan had a renewed passion for the sport that saw him take a step back when necessary and devote himself to putting over young talents, such as Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar.
For a Superstar routinely criticized for his insistence on positioning himself as favorably as possible, it was refreshing to see him give back from a creative standpoint.
Best: Icon vs. Icon
Hogan's return to WWE in 2002 introduced the wrestling world to several dream matches.
While it was never graced with The Hulkster vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, it did get the next best thing at WrestleMania X8, as Hogan squared off with The Rock in a match labeled "Icon vs. Icon."
The bout, one of the most unforgettable in event history, saw Hogan turn back the clock and deliver an awe-inspiring epic with The Great One in front of 60,000-plus fans in Toronto.
While he fell to a People's Elbow, Hogan was the biggest winner of the night.
The fans loved him, cheered wildly with every familiar spot and genuinely wanted to see him win.
So vocal in their support was the audience that the decision was made to turn Hogan babyface that same night in a post-match moment that saw him band together with Rock to fend off Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
The quality of the match, coupled with the love the fans showed Hogan, led to an improbable nostalgia run that netted him another championship reign just over a month later.
Worst: Mr. America
When the evil Mr. McMahon fired Hulk Hogan in 2003, the legendary competitor returned to television under the guise of Mr. America.
Sporting a star spangled blue mask and matching tights, he winked and nudged his way through months of television. He even entered arenas to Hogan's iconic "Real America" theme song, apparently making zero effort to disguise his true identity.
Yes, it was a throwback to prior gimmicks such as Dusty Rhodes' Midnight Rider and Brian Pillman's Yellow Dog, but it was very much a story out of time. It did not work in the early 2000s, when fans demanded better and more Attitude Era-like angles from the company.
A southern staple, it did not translate to a national audience.
When Hogan left the company without any sort of resolution to the program, it only served as further proof of a failed gimmick and flawed story.
Best: Hall of Fame Induction
In 2005, Hogan returned to WWE and headlined that year's Hall of Fame class.
A major part of WrestleMania 21 weekend, his enshrinement capped off a class seemingly dedicated to the Rock and Wrestling Era of Vince McMahon's company. As the biggest star of that period, he was the main event attraction of the ceremony.
He was the Superstar fans tuned in to see take his place among the immortals.
Hogan was gracious and humble through his speech, even if it was hard to remain that way after being presented for enshrinement by the great Sylvester Stallone.
Reliving a handful of stories and discussing some of his greatest moments, he captivated the audience and gave them a taste of the natural charisma that helped him achieve greatness in the first place.
It was the perfect culmination of decades of dedication to the sport and a fitting way for Hogan to wave goodbye to the audience as anything but a special attraction performer.