Fifty-fifty is what he told us. This week Hulk Hogan was asked about a return to the ring, and his answer was that it could happen. He claims there is a fifty-fifty chance he will get in the ring and wrestle again. Impact Wrestling does seem to be building towards a potential Hogan-Sting showdown. Rumors even have the two squaring off in October at Bound for Glory. Last week I wrote a little bit about Hogan and the big man has been on my mind over the past week, especially with his comments lately, as well as the speculation about an in-ring return. It’s crazy to think how much Hogan has accomplished in his career. He is not perfect, but he does get hammered by a lot for some strange reasons. In an interview this week, Hogan said he felt like the crowd in Toronto at WrestleMania XVIII was telling him to remember who is was. When I hear or read what people say about Hogan, I wonder if we forgot who he is.
Hulk Hogan had an epic run in the World Wrestling Federation during the late 1980s. Even in the early 1990s he was still going strong. By the time he left the company in 1993, a lot of people had grown tired of him. He had been on top for quite a while so a break from Hogan was much needed. When he went to WCW, there were those who had their reservations, but he did do some pretty good things for the company. But over time things began to change. As the rise of the internet wrestling community began, so did the number of Hogan critics. By the end of the 1990s, Hogan was one of the most hated men among internet fans. No matter what this guy did, he could not catch a break. He did himself no favors by his words or actions, particularly in his creative control. You can only fault Hogan so much for jobs he didn’t do, or matches and angles in which he refused to participate. A lot of guys have taken their ball and gone home. If Hogan’s refusal to play was out of hand, it had more to do with the company that allowed it in the first place than Hogan himself.
Before I go any further, I want to confess that I too felt negatively about Hogan for some time. I cannot be too critical of others when I was that way. I was one of those guys who hated Hogan. I wanted him to just go away and retire so the other guys on the card could rise up and run with the ball. Part of that was the way WCW handled him. By the end of his time in WCW, people didn’t want to see him, but when he went back to WWE in 2002, people were screaming for him. Part of it was WCW, but a lot of it was the way I let myself view Hogan. I allowed myself to get caught up in the call to build the roster on guys who could do more than five moves in a match. If there is one thing I have learned to enjoy about wrestling, it’s that the number of moves a wrestler can do is irrelevant. Being able to do a moonsault doesn’t necessarily make anybody good. It means that they are physically talented, but any guarantee of being a talented wrestler because of that is nonexistent.
There was also the political issue. Hogan was accused of being a backstage politician. Maybe he is, but it’s hard to blame him when others are granting him the sway. After all, he’s Hulk Hogan. There lies the paradox. Because he is Hulk Hogan, he is given control that allows him to get away with things some fans see as detrimental to other guys. Yet because he is Hogan, people will give him that power.
When WCW had Hogan it seemed they always realized they had something big, but were not sure how to utilize him, so he utilized them. The company was able to do some big things with Hogan, but was trying to recreate his run in the 1980s without understanding how to build the brand around him, as opposed to just making him the main character. Never was WCW’s misunderstanding of Hogan more evident than their re-launch under the Bischoff/Russo regime.
The supposed makeover of WCW was set for April of 2000. Eric Bischoff appeared on television that night and claimed that he had made mistakes in the past, and then listed off most of the main event guys from the past five to ten years. On that list was Hogan. It was only a wrestling promo, but it did seem a bit odd that Bischoff would make those comments. That night Hogan began a feud with Billy Kidman. During this time Hogan even started doing powerbombs.
What I find hard to understand is the way fans saw what happened, and then proceeded to forget all about it. If there was ever a time in wrestling history that proved that it’s not what is done, but how, this was it. For years fans clamored for WCW to create new stars and here they were putting guys like Kidman, Vampiro, Shane Douglas, Mike Awesome, and Jeff Jarrett in the ring with legends like Hogan, Sting, Flair, Kevin Nash, and Dallas Page. But it didn’t make a damn bit of difference. The forced escalation didn’t help anyone. And why was Hulk Hogan doing powerbombs? One criticism of Hogan that really bothers me is the one people say about his Japanese style as opposes to his American style. People say that if Hulk Hogan wrestled in America the way he wrestled in Japan, he would have been so much better. Really? You mean if he had done more headlocks and armbars, you would like him more? When he started powerbombing guys through tables in 2000, it didn’t change anything for the better. It just looked out of place and made Hogan no different from anyone else.
The last several years we have been graced with Hogan’s presence every so often in WWE until he entered TNA. Every day that goes by we get further and further away from the character Hogan was and know him as something altogether. Wrestling fans have long memories, but they seem to lose the context of those memories. We remember that Hogan slammed Andre, but we forget how inspirational it was, how he was our hero.
Do I think Hulk Hogan should get in the ring and wrestle again? No! For the sake of his body and his family, I wish he would refrain from doing so. Hulk Hogan is the biggest wrestling name of our time, regardless of what anybody says about Austin or Rock. We need to remember who he is. Hogan’s the guy who slammed Andre at the Silverdome. Hulk Hogan is the man that headlined seven nine WrestleMania shows in a row. He made us change the channel to wrestling and became one of the greatest heroic television characters in history. Hulk Hogan deserves to go out with pride and dignity. He has gone through a lot on the past few years, and as he said, wrestling was the one thing he could always count on, so he has remained active in the industry. His activities may just lead to another match. Hogan keeps on keeping on. I just worry that if he keeps this up, he won’t go out the way he deserves.