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HULKAMANIA 25th Anniversary

January 23, 1984 - The Birth of Hulkamania

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(See More of Monique at bottom of page.)

"WHATCHA' GONNA DO...

WHEN HULKAMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU!"

 

(Written January 2009 - WWFuWRESTLING.com)

With TV promotions, arena banners, advertisements and merchandising, it's hard for any of us to forget that WrestleMania 25 is right around the corner. It's amazing when you think that an event of such magnitude could be nurtured and developed from a concept that was once so simple - an annual wrestling card that would be promoted as the greatest of all time. Make no mistake about it, WrestleMania became the cornerstone of Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment.


But amidst all the hype and anticipation, there's another milestone anniversary of a wrestling phenomenon that has pretty much gone unnoticed. This revolutionary force had just as much impact as WrestleMania, and earned just as much fanfare. There isn't so much as a T-Shirt, poster, or magazine blurb that has recognized it, and with all the heavy promotion and build-up to the big event come April 5th 2009, most people have probably forgotten it altogether .


January 23rd of 2009 - marks the 25th anniversary of the biggest fan phenomenon the business had ever seen... HULKAMANIA!

 

On Jan. 23, 1984, wrestling history was made when Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik to become World Heavyweight Champion in the former World Wrestling Federation.  What happened over the following weeks, months and years would go down as the most successful and entertaining run in professional wrestling and would change the very way we watched it.


We all know what Hulkamania meant from a business standpoint. Hogan and Hulkamania did to wrestling what Tiger Woods did to pro golf. It brought the business into a bigger and brighter spotlight than it had ever seen before.

 

With Hulk Hogan as champion and the company's most marketable face, professional wrestling became far more than just a cult following in dingy arenas. It brought in bigger money and bigger paychecks. Hulkamania also helped bring wrestling back to network television for the first time in three decades. With Hogan as the top draw, Saturday Night's Main Event would air every four weeks in NBC's Saturday Night Live time slot. A Saturday morning TV cartoon featuring Hogan and other WWE superstars was produced for CBS.  It also pioneered the business of merchandising, as everything from WWE toys and T-Shirts to trading cards and pencil cases were available to the mainstream public. 


But what's most important to remember is what Hulkamania did for us as wrestling fans.


From a wrestling and entertainment standpoint, Hulkamania was a refreshing change from the old-school stereotypes most people knew as professional wrestling. Gone were the images of the greased up, hairy monstrosities that often entered the ring. Here came a guy with an exciting new look: a cross between a comic book superhero and a real-life Rock N' Roll star. He had shocking blond hair, a golden brown tan and played the guitar. His monologue was hip and worked well at luring in the everyday fan. If looks were everything - and they certainly were in the 1980's - Hulkamania really delivered. Hogan was all-muscle, all flash, and of course, all-American.


Though not revered as a great technical wrestler, Hogan and Hulkamania also provided us with plenty of compelling drama in the ring. His boy scout-demeanour and good guy persona made us cheer like crazy when he won the WWE Title from the Iron Sheik and 'brought the belt back to America.' We gasped in collective horror after King Kong Bundy 'broke his ribs' with repeated splashes on Saturday Night's Main Event. We asked, 'Why, Orndorff, why?' and 'Why, Andre, why?' aloud when Hogan's two best friends - filled with jealousy - turned on him for a shot at the WWE Title. We cheered for him in his great feud with Randy Savage and rallied around him when he challenged Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter.


It's hard to cheer or boo at anyone for too long in wrestling nowadays, but during his nine-year reign in WWE, you had to look pretty hard to find someone who didn't like Hulk Hogan. Whenever he entered the ring to perform, the terms work rate and kayfabe never crossed our minds. Hogan had enough presence to convince us that everything he did was genuine. He commanded an entire arena with a single movement. He moved us with every gesture he made and connected with us by simply extending his arm, pumping his fist or tossing his mane. Hulkamania let us suspend our disbelief for the night and really get interactive with what we were watching. It made us marks.


Granted, wrestling pundits will look back and say that his constant winning and title-holding was the result of backstage politicking with the boss. But who's to say that we common fans knew about it - let alone cared about it at the time? To us, Hulkamania meant accepting any and all challenges, dealing with adversity and overcoming it. And that translated into Hogan facing opponents of all shapes, strengths and sizes and ultimately winning. It was classic good vs. evil storytelling, and Hogan the Good always came out on top.


That being said, you can't mention Hulkamania without discussing its positive effect on people as - dare I say it - a philosophy. This is especially important when you consider the fact that many people who watched wrestling in its heyday were young and influential kids.


One of my fondest childhood memories was sitting with my family on Saturday mornings to watch WWE Superstars, and staying up late with my brother so we could watch Saturday Night's Main Event. We always marked out for greats like Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff and Andre the Giant, but there was always a silence that fell upon me when Hulk Hogan entered the arena. I would 'ohh' and 'ahh' every time he flexed his 24-inch pythons and ripped his shirt for the crowd. I'd gasp with every two-count he kicked out of, and screamed my lungs out when he Hulked up' for the big finale.


But what made Hulkamania so special for me was what he always told Mean Gene Okerlund after winning a match. Mean Gene would simply ask how he pulled off the thrilling victory, and Hogan would remind us over and over again. It was 'Hulkamania running wild, brother'!


For Little Hulkamaniacs like myself, Hulkamania was more than just fan frenzy. It was about the power of goodness. It was about living clean, believing in yourself and loving your country. It was about training hard, saying your prayers and eating your vitamins. It was just that simple. Hulkamania was more than just a gimmick. It was a positive way of thinking from a positive role model.


With a great hook like that, it was no wonder that just about everyone loved Hulkamania. In a time when image meant everything, his presentation was so clean and wholesome even the most reserved doubter could be turned into a die-hard fan. Parent groups never called networks complaining about Hulk Hogan. Kids wanted to be like Hulk Hogan. Sure, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin is very entertaining, but you can't exactly tell your child that drinking beer, raising hell and beating up the boss is the way to go about things (at least not yet). The Rock is a great mainstream entertainer, but how are you going to explain it when your kid says 'Poontang Pie' in front of grandma at the next family reunion?


In a business where just about everything is pre-meditated and pre-packaged, Hulkamania was real, genuine and likable. The very character of Hulk Hogan represented what we all wanted to be - better people.


That's not a bad contribution from sports entertainment, if you ask me.


So if any of you out there reading this are going to a RAW, SmackDown!, ECW, house show or a pay-per-view anytime soon, you might want to think twice about making yet another John Cena or DX sign. Get out your red and yellow markers and make a big banner for the whole world to see:

 

"HULKAMANIA"

 

Happy Anniversary, Hulkamania!



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