In 1982, when I was 13 years old, I saw Rocky III. The action in
the film, a lesser entry in the Rocky franchise, is built
around the fights that take place between Rocky Balboa (Sylvester
Stallone) and Clubber Lang (Mr. T). But in an early scene, Rocky has a
charity exhibition “fight” against a professional wrestler named Thunderlips.
So, Thunderlips (because repeating it
just never gets old) was played by a tan, blonde oak tree named Hulk
Hogan – a little-known professional wrestler in real life. At this point
in history, professional wrestling had grown tired. It was born (as we
know it) in the late 1800s and it catapulted into the mainstream thanks
to 1950s television broadcasts, but by the early 1980s, the
personalities of the sport ... well ... were losing their personality.
Fast forward less than two years to an event that was the professional
wrestling equivalent of the first time someone took the acoustic guitar
and decided to plug it in.
Hulk Hogan burst onto the newly-revamped World Wrestling Federation stage
in a slash of tan and blonde and moustache, with his trademark red and
yellow uniform and headband. He didn’t just add life to the sport; he
GAVE it life. And as for his size, his chest was like the grill of a
Mack truck, his legs like torpedoes, and his arms like the “24-inch
pythons” he himself proclaimed them to be. Was he the biggest wrestler
in the game? No, that title went to Andre the Giant; but where Andre was
soft and oafish, Hulk Hogan was solid and nimble. And when it came to
charisma, Hogan’s well was bottomless. In addition to being
part-bodybuilder and part-acrobat, he was part-leading man and
part-carnival barker, with a shtick so perfectly delivered you not only
believed it, you believed that HE believed it too.
Thus HULKAMANIA was born. Every kid who watched professional wrestling in
the ‘80s could walk into a room and do the following: nod heartily and
cup his ear in the direction of all four walls (the way Hulk did towards
all four sides of the ring as a way to get the crowd cheering louder);
strike poses the way Hulk struck poses after a winning; call everybody
“brother” in that not-quite-gravelly voice the way Hulk did in pre- and
post-match interviews; and espouse (and live by) Hulk’s Three “Demandments”:
Train, Pray, and Take Vitamins.
Eventually, many of those Hulkamaniacs grew up and moved on to other
things ... but we’ll always remember.
Before Hollywood gave fanboys the comic book characters-come-to-life that
we see so often today (Batman, Superman, the X-Men, and so on), Hulk
Hogan was our living, breathing superhero – a four-color character
dropped into a black-and-white cartoon. And in a sport that thrives on
characters larger than the sport itself, Hulk Hogan was larger than
that; he was larger than life.
> Visit Hulk Hogan's
official web site