Earlier this month, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a guest on 105.3 The Fan in Texas, and among many questions, the Texas Rattlesnake was asked the doozie of all doozies: Who’s the bigger legend, Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin? A tougher question has perhaps never been asked, as us wrestling fans would be hard-pressed to offer the in-depth analysis that it deserves (FWIW, Austin gave a perfectly cromulent and embiggened response that was jazzed up elsewhere for convenience). However, if you’ve only been paying attention to the last 10 years or less, and even if you have no clue who Austin is, the answer probably isn’t Hogan, because nobody wants to watch a dad greasing up his daughter’s upper thighs as a prelude to a sex tape in which he bangs his best friend’s wife.
But you all know me by now, and I’m a nostalgic guy who always loves to think about the more precious days of my youth and, more accurately, the 1980s, which I believe is when I was meant to be an adult, so I could have fulfilled my destiny of being Hollywood’s greatest coke dealer. Obviously, the market was competitive enough back then, what with Howard the Duck, Over the Top and generally anything that starred Cynthia Rothrock actually being made, but I would have taken things to the next level by really promoting Hulk Hogan’s acting career, because he and the WWE basically wasted an entire decade of his crossover appeal. After all, you can’t just thrust him into the Hollywood spotlight as Thunderlips one day and then call him Rick the Blond Henchman in an uncredited role in Bimini Code the next.
Hogan should have been a huge movie star in the 80s, as it could have helped catapult him and the WWE to unimaginable heights. Instead, we’re left to simply wonder, “What if?” As the Hulkster turns 61 today, I thought we could all take a moment to recognize the man who was born Terry Bollea and his greatest cinematic achievements so that we don’t have to think about other things, like his family and especially that sex tape. As always, some of these might be obvious, while others will BLOW. YOUR. MINDS.
(Disclaimer: The author provides no guarantee that your minds will be blown.)
10) The Secret Agent Club (1996)
Right off the bat, I know it’s hard to believe that a scene involving both Hogan and acting legend Richard Moll (as well as Lesley-Anne Down, who was like Dana Delaney’s more available sister) could be ranked as low as 10, but this specific film was dominated by amazing child actor performances, including a tour-de-force by Matthew McCurley, who had previously stolen scenes as Nubie in Little Giants and “Kid” on Seinfeld.
9) Spy Hard (1996)
They say that the finest actors in the history of the craft can deliver the most complex emotions without even uttering a single word. In this finely-choreographed fight scene from the comedy Spy Hard, Hogan barely utters more than a macho growl as he attempts to save Agent Dick Steele from certain doom. However, as the battle becomes too much for even him, we can see the pain and shame in Hogan the thespian’s face as he must surrender to a more willing protagonist. I believe this kind of raw, powerful emotion and the fierce dramatic style through which Hogan delivers his agony and humility is why so few people actually regard Spy Hard as a comedy.
8) Assault on Death Mountain (1999)
Also known as Shadow Warriors II, this film was less about Hogan’s performance – he was incredible as always – and more about his intense artistic vision. Very few actors are ever able to deliver a sequel that is greater than the original; however, Assault on Death Mountain somehow managed to take the already-raised bar of 1997’s Assault on Devil’s Island and raise it even higher. In fact, many of today’s greatest action stars and directors have said that when they make their summer blockbusters, they use Assault on Death Mountain as a blueprint, because it is, as so many film critics have stated, “An action movie so great that it makes Die Hard look like your dog’s b-hole.” (Citation needed)
7) The Ultimate Weapon (1997)
Even an actor as talented and naturally gifted as Hogan needs a decent supporting cast every now and then for the sake of the entire movie. The Ultimate Weapon was a different story, though, as it showcased Hogan’s insane ability to carry an entire film on his back while portraying one of his strongest and most emotionally-developed characters to that point in “Hardball” Cutter. Film historian Calvin Felch once wrote that “Hardball” Cutter is “by far the greatest name ever written into an action story, but played by any other actor, it would have just seemed stupid as f*ck.” Truer words have never found paper.
6) Rocky III (1982)
A lot of times when a person from one medium tries to cross over to another, like when Arnold Schwarzenegger switched from acting to politics or similarly when Sasha Grey went from porn to acting, that person’s mainstream appeal takes a huge hit, because it’s impossible to accept him in another role. In the case of Hogan’s portrayal of Thunderlips in Rocky III, he was so incredibly natural as a professional wrestler, a benefit of his chose trade obviously, that he made Sylvester Stallone look like he’d never acted before. In fact, it has been surmised by many that Stallone, humiliated with how much better Hogan’s performance was than his own, set out to keep making Rocky films until he died so that we would eventually reconsider him as the franchise’s greatest character. Best of luck with that, Sly.
5) Thunder in Paradise (1993)
Being an action star is not always as simple as “BANG! BANG! You’re dead, bad guy!” Very few actors, let alone action stars, have shown the ability to play a macho tough guy who actually has a heart, but Hogan was inarguably the best of them. As he showed in Thunder in Paradise, he not only had the ability to save the damsels in distress and take on the bad guys, but he also did it all while sharing a story with an adorable child in a way that would have made Orson Welles retire from shame.
4) Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
A wise man once said that “there are no small roles, only small actors, brother.” Even in one of his smallest roles, Hogan stole an entire film, as all these years later, very few people recall that Gremlins 2 was ever made, but they remember that Hogan was snubbed for Best Supporting Actor at the 1991 Academy Awards. In fact, I believe that this role is the reason that he only agreed to appear as himself in movies and TV shows 6,000 more times. It’s a shame that he became so reclusive, but artists aren’t perfect.
3) TIE – Suburban Commando (1991) and Mr. Nanny (1993)
Very few action hero characters are written with the kind of heart and compassion that reminds them that at the end of the day, our kids are the most important natural resource on the planet. First, in Suburban Commando, Hogan’s Shep Ramsey risked his own life to save the kid that was too stupid to realize there was a sports car being driven down his street by a stoner A-hole and his friend. The way that Hogan portrays Shep in this scene, you can almost feel his rage in your own blood as he pulls that car door off.
But while Suburban Commando wasn’t necessarily a flawless performance by Hogan, he’d eventually perfect his amazing emotional depth in Mr. Nanny, while introducing us to a new comedic side that we’d never have imagined from such a tough guy. (And not to mention the raw sexual magnetism that he delivers in a small towel, am I right, ladies?)
2) Santa with Muscles (1996)
Let’s forget about Hogan for a second and focus on everything that Santa with Muscles offered us – a story of redemption, as told through the heart and eyes of a man blinded by success and wealth, complete with a Christmas miracle that unfolds as a case of amnesia forces Blake Thorn to believe in Santa Clause, all because he thinks that he is Santa Claus. Holiday movies are often seen as cheesy cash grabs, especially unapologetic fluff like Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street, but Santa with Muscles, and most notably Hogan’s incredible performance as a man seeking a second chance while saving Mila Kunis and some orphans from certain doom, is a true Christmas miracle.
1) No Holds Barred (1989)
The greatest scene in the history of motion pictures.