When it comes to WrestleMania weekend and the spectacle that is “the grandest stage of them all,” it’s hard not to mention Hulk Hogan. His reputation is questionable at best these days, but I can still remember when I had his poster on my bedroom wall and I was wearing out old WWF pay per view videos from a local rinky-dink shop every weekend. The guy was truly an icon, even if the luster has worn a bit in the years that followed.
He recently sat down with Bill Simmons for his ESPN radio show/podcast to talk a bit about his career and it brought back a lot of memories about Hulkamania — both good and bad. Simmons gleefully floated from moment to moment, sort of devouring each tidbit that Hogan fed him like it was his birthday.
If you have any interest in wrestling, it was probably a lot of things you’ve heard before. But that’s where the interesting stuff lies. We’ve all heard about WrestleMania III and we know about the ins and outs with Macho Man Randy Savage, but there’s always something that changes or that we didn’t know when these interviews happen.
With last night’s WWE Hall of Fame ceremony in the bag now, it’s a good time to look at some of those moments from the Simmons interview and maybe do a little compare and contrast while taking a nice stroll down memory lane. Even if memory lane seems to have a very rosy tint.
Don’t Worry, There’s Plenty Of WrestleMania III Talk
There’s never going to be a public moment with Hulk Hogan where WrestleMania III doesn’t come up at some point. It’s a cultural milestone for a lot of reasons, so much that it get’s a reference in Street Fighter and stands as one that transcends wrestling.
The Simmons’ interview doesn’t break a lot of new ground here. There’s talk of torn muscles, Andre possibly not losing the match, the size of the crowd at the Silverdome, and plenty of other stuff that’s been covered before.
What I think is interesting is how he handled it at last night’s Hall of Fame ceremony. As one commenter pointed out in the previous article, he did indeed bring up his match with Andre. The difference this time is the amount of praise he threw towards Savage/Steamboat, describing how it stole the show. I’d never heard him mention it before, usually because he was too busy mentioning his shredded back muscles, so that was a standout moment for me.
The Macho Madness Apparently Never Stopped
Speaking of Randy Savage, Hogan elaborated on their relationship a bit in the interview. It mirrored his Hall of Fame speech in a lot of ways, but it always feels weird when he looks back fondly on Savage because you don’t know how to take it. The stories are out there, so are the disses on certain hip hop albums, and it just makes you question the personal relationship.
What you won’t question is the idea that Savage was always on. Poking Hogan in the face, staying super competitive in jet ski racing (some sort of Hogan mark of friendship if you listen to his interviews), the voice. It all adds together for one focused professional and it’s not a shock when Hogan claims it was 24/7. It’s not a negative either.
Who Clicked In The Ring?
This is the part of the interview that actually surprised me the most. Hogan names a few guys you’d expect to hear, namely Piper and Savage, but then he drops Kamala’s name out there and claims he probably “clicked” the most with the Ugandan giant.
We’ve talked about Kamala’s interesting history in the past and it’s cool to hear Hogan give him some credit out of nowhere. It’s welcome surprise.
Hulk Hogan Writing No Holds Barred With Vince McMahon Is Still Hilarious
If you listen to the How Did This Get Made podcast, you know how hilarious the image of Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan sitting in a hotel room writing No Holds Barred can be. It’s such a ridiculous movie that the creative motion behind it either has to be equally ridiculous or boring as toast. Either scenario is funny to me.
They don’t spend enough time talking about this portion of Hogan’s career, which is understandable but disappointing. He could’ve tied in his time in Japan to his co-star Stan Hansen or talked about the tie-in matches that followed. Instead we got some talk about how this film led to Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando, which according to the Hulkster allegedly put New Line Cinema on the map. That’s right, it was Mr. Nanny that put New Line Cinema on the map and not A Nightmare On Elm Street. That’s plausible.
Nobody Could Out Hulk The Hulkster — And He Kinda Liked That
The New Line Cinema thing was one of the most glaring bits of Hogan lore that got tossed out, but there were others. A classic is the idea of Hogan passing the torch during those declining years of Hulkamania. There’s no mention of guys like Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, but we do get plenty of the Lex Express.
I think the idea of replacing Hulk Hogan with a similar character is something that would never work and I enjoyed that he enjoyed that. There is truly only one Hulk Hogan, but there’s also only one Stone Cold Steve Austin and one Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The Ultimate Warrior had his own issues, but there were plenty of moments where Hogan probably didn’t do as much as he could to really pass on that top guy status. Not to mention WrestleMania VIII and IX.
Wrestlemania X-8’s Crowd Was The Most Memorable
Hearing Hogan talk about the wild Toronto crowd from WrestleMania X-8 was a nice change of pace. He could’ve easily went with the Silverdome crowd — and mentioned them being a very loud, confusing mess — but he picked out the match against The Rock and I loved that, at least from a personal perspective. I always thought this was THE marquee type event, bigger than the “Twice In A Lifetime” showdowns with John Cena and on equal footing with the Stone Cold main events of the prior years, mostly due to it being Hogan’s big return and the crowd’s reaction.
Knowing how the performers feed off of the audience and how the audience just pumped so much energy into the match, it’s a cool highlight. Possibly the best match of Hogan’s later career, which doesn’t say much considering some of the garbage heaps his name is attached to. It is the peak nostalgia trip for a Hogan fan, no matter what happened in the years that followed.
“I Wanted To Do The Bad Guy Thing”
This is probably the most obvious of the Hogan embellishments throughout the entire interview. There’s plenty of people on record, including Eric Bischoff, saying that Hogan was worried about turning heel. Hogan even said as much in those Monday Night War documentaries that the WWE loves so much.
I just think the idea that he wanted to be a heel from the start or at least had a desire to be heel is just silly. They’ve even said that Sting was in the conversation to be the mythical third man at Bash At The Beach. This was before he opted to stay golden, turn into the crow, and eventually quit wrestling until reappearing in the WWE at this past Survivor Series. That’s the official story, right?
The Brutus Beefcake Friendship Explained (Kinda)
I’ve never dived into the history of Ed Leslie and his various different gimmicks over the years. It’s a fun thing to look at from a distance, but I feel that a person could go mad if they ventured too deep into Beefcake territory. Luckily Hogan shined a little light there and talked a bit about how their friendship started.
It explains a lot. Hogan is a good pal now and he’s always looking out for his close circle, but you can at least give a guy the correct times to meet you at the beach to hang out. It does help explain why Brother Bruti is always right there at the Hulkster’s hip, like a tiny little Kuato. He just wants to be loved, invited to the beach to ride jet skis, given a title run. Simple things.
Roddy Piper IS The Best Heel
The final point I took away from the interview was Hogan’s feelings that he was the top heel of all-time. I don’t see how anybody could agree, especially Hogan. He’s stood across from some of the best ever and they’re hard to top.
Roddy Piper especially is a heel that really set himself apart from the Hollywood era Hulk Hogan. People wanted to hate on Roddy Piper because he gave you a storyline reason to hate him and really provided that blueprint for how a heel should act.
Hogan as a heel was nice in a corrupted, shadow copy sort of way, but I always felt that I hated him more due to the fact that he was always there. He wasn’t really shocking or too dastardly past Bash At The Beach. That’s a strong start, but it’s hard to compete with a guy who found himself to be a heel by nature and thrived on it.
On top of that, Piper might not even be the best heel in wrestling if you expand out beyond the Hogan sphere of influence.
It might be negative to knock the Hulk so many times on his points, but I don’t see it that way. I think pointing out fact and questioning stories is fine because the myth is big enough to take it. If Hogan didn’t have the legacy to take shots, he wouldn’t be giving interviews like this in the first place. And it doesn’t affect the things I do really enjoy about Hulkamania. The Simmons interview doesn’t shine too much light, but it is a nice listen for a pre-WrestleMania walk.