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- Vince Fahey
If you grew up in the 80's, then you found yourself smack dab in the middle of Hulkamania. There was a time, it seemed you couldn't turn anywhere without being reminded of Hulk Hogan. Everyone, from the 4 year-old down the street to the elderly folks at the retirement home, they all knew who Hulk Hogan was.
Love him or hate him, any true wrestling fan has to admit that Hogan had a huge and overall positive impact on pro wrestling that no other wrestler past or present has had. Even though wrestling, as it was previously known, went through a complete and utter change from the way it was, it also hit the mainstream in a way that it never had before.
Many have since vilified Hogan... and it was never something I could quite understand. To be clear, I wasn't a Hulkamaniac. But I certainly cannot deny that he was an exciting and charismatic performer. He may've not been the best technical wrestler but there was something visceral and exciting about his in-ring performance and his many promos.
With the cooperation of Simon and Schuster, KM has been provided a copy of Hogan's recently released, self-titled book. After reading pretty much all of the other wrestling bios that have hit the market in the last several years, I can say that I enjoyed this one as much if not more than many of them.
The book starts out with Hogan's earliest years... as a child named Terry Bollea. He touches on his youth, about how he grew to become a fan of wrestling. He talks about how he became involved in a rock band and via that got introduced to several wrestlers in the Florida area who encouraged him to give pro wrestling a try. After some tough times, including having his legs broken the very first day by trainer Hiro Matsuda, Bollea finally got his chance to wrestle. He began working some small matches in Florida, and eventually moved onto the Pensacola, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee regions.
After working these areas, Bollea got discouraged and returned home, thinking he was done with wrestling. However, with the prodding of Terry Funk, Bollea ended up heading to New York to meet with Vince McMahon, Sr. He got a shot with the WWWF and worked some small matches there, getting a taste of a bigger promotion. Then, Hogan was approached by Sylvester Stallone about a part in his movie Rocky 3. Hogan accepted but did not get McMahon Sr.'s blessing. Given an ultimatum to do the movie or continue working for the WWWF, Hogan took the movie and was told he'd never work for the McMahon's again.
Though only playing a small part in Rocky 3, the exposure did two things for Hogan. One, it created a recognition in many peoples eyes, so that when Hogan returned to wrestling, this time for the AWA, people knew who he was. Secondly, it gave Hogan a taste for movie-making.
Hogan debuted for the AWA as a heel, or at least that was the plan but soon the fans were cheering him and Hogan soon became the main foil for AWA Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel. It soon became apparent that the fans wanted to Hogan to become the AWA champ, but for whatever reason, promoter Verne Gagne never delivered. It would be one of the biggest mistakes he ever made.
With mounting frustration over his situation, Hogan received a call from Vince McMahon. Surprised, but also curious as to why McMahon would want to talk to a man he vowed never to let work in the WWWF again, Hogan called. However, he found that it wasn't Vince Sr. he was talking to but rather Vince's son, who had recently bought the company from his father. He had a different view of the business and wanted to bring Hogan back into the company and expand on the Hulkamania concept that had began building in the AWA. Seeing opportunity, as well as dealing with a lot of frustrations over the way he was being handled in the AWA, Hogan made the jump back to the WWF and wrestling history as it had been known irrevocably changed.
Most people know the basic history from this point... of how Hogan won the WWF Heavyweight belt from the Iron Shiek and how pro wrestling became so popular... how Hulkamania went crazy and became a household word during the mid-late 80's.
Hogan covers all of this and it makes for interesting reading. He discusses various topics such as the Dr. D/John Stossel incident, Wrestlemania, Richard Belzer, fame and more.
The book continues on through the 80's and into the 90s which held some major changes for Hogan. As fan interest in Hulkamania waned, and the steroid trial made things uncomfortable in terms of the relationship between Hogan and McMahon, Bollea made the decision to leave the WWF and go over to WCW. It was here that Hogan did possibly his most shocking act... he turned heel. After so many years of school, prayers and vitamins, the thought of Hulk Hogan as a bad guy was unthinkable. Yet it happened and gave Hogan another boost in popularity that spanned several years.
The book takes us up to Wrestlemania 18 in March of 2002. The book contains a decent amount of photos from various periods in Hogan's career. And overall, it's a very good look at his life, told by Hogan himself (and his ghost writer). It certainly gave me some sort of insight into what it was to have been Hogan through those years and in fact, gave me a better appreciation of the man.
As it is with wrestling, it's sometimes hard to differentiate between fact and fiction. How honest Hogan is throughout this book, I'm not able to say. Are there some inaccurate facts. Sure, probably. But I'd like to believe that most of what we're told in the book took place or was how Hogan felt.
Order the hardback version of
Hollywood Hulk Hogan
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