When Hulk Hogan first signed his TNA Wrestling contract in late 2009, the IWC, and many fans, questioned the move by a company who was undoubtedly on the rise. What fans and so-called experts in the IWC failed to realize was that TNA Wrestling was reaching out to the most recognizable faces in the sport of professional wrestling. The likes of Larry Zbysko, Jim Cornette, Curt Hennig and more had come and gone, always leaving with the same result. TNA Wrestling has had some of the brightest young stars in the business, names such as Bobby Roode, Chris Sabin, James Storm and Samoa Joe- talented workers who needed the guidance, the experience, the confidence and the ‘Game’ in order to make it in the promotion. For these and many other reasons, what Hulk Hogan has done in TNA can not be understated.
Simply put, the brass at TNA Wrestling put Hogan in his position in order to take the company where it likely wouldn’t go without his help. If you were a promoter, would you not find it advantageous to sign to your roster the person who body-slammed Andre The Giant in front of over 93,000 people (not counting the millions, like me, who were watching on closed-circuit television)?
There is no denying that Hulk Hogan is the face of professional wrestling. Insiders and experts would rather argue that Ric Flair is the person to carry that torch into 2013, though a true fan of the sport of professional wrestling will likely go in the way of the Hulkster. Sure, he wasn’t mechanically sound like Bob Backlund and he wasn’t a sideshow character ala Andre The Giant. Hulk Hogan was the one who put personality into the sport of professional wrestling, bridging the gap that was narrowed in the 1970’s by the immense success, and constant dominance, of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham and Dusty Rhodes.
My first memories of Hulk Hogan was his feud with Rowdy Roddy Piper in the early 1980’s, a feud that would culminate into the main event of WrestleMania I. It was here that Hulkamania was truly born in the eyes of the wrestling world and the fans who love the sport. Hogan would spend the 1980’s doing what he dreamed of doing as a Florida-based bass player in a band called Ruckus- lighting up a crowd with his energy, his enthusiasm and his determination to make the product better than his predecessors. His feuds with Piper, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Andre The Giant cemented his role as the top professional wrestler in the history of the business. By the end of the decade, little did we know at the time, he was only beginning.
His tenure in the WWE would predictably come to an end, with Hulkamania showing up in WCW. While I believe his initial booking in the company is showed what was wrong with the sport leading into the 1990’s, however it would ultmately lead to the formation of arguably the best heel faction in the history of pro wrestling- the NWO. Turning Hogan heel in the 90’s was brilliant, a direction that VKM would never go. It propelled WCW onto a new level, a storied transition with a storyline that didn’t get stale.
Hogan’s last appearance in WCW- the famed ‘lie-down’ by Jeff Jarrett during the Bash At The Beach in 2001 set the tone for the future of WCW. When Hogan got on the microphone and told Vince Russo that the company was in the “damn shape it’s in, because of bullshit like this.” The look on Hogan’s face and the way he placed his foot on the chest of Jeff Jarrett, that the business had taken a turn for the worse, and the man who helped build it, was apparently dying inside. We wouldn’t see Hogan again until he returned to WWE. There, we got to see him take on The Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton and even VKM himself, cementing himself as a WWE Hall Of Famer, before striking out yet again. It was only a matter of time before Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett (who famously called out an unsigned Hogan as a challenger for the NWA Title) were able to lock in his services.
Hogans tenure in TNA Wrestling has been tremendous. The formation, and eventual breakup, of Immortal, the addition of Eric Bischoff, and the continuation of his rivalry with Sting and (however short-lived) Ric Flair has brought definition and direction to TNA Wrestling. Even while focusing on Hogan, Sting and Kurt Angle, TNA is still able to support their up and coming talent,
The route that Hulk Hogan has taken in the world of pro wrestling is one that is less traveled. Only a fortunate few have been able to even taste the success that he has. His influence in the ring can be seen in every venue, every house show and every pay-per-view. This is a man who has put his heart and soul into the world of professional wrestling, an industry that loves him and hates him at the same time. Think of him as the Michael Jordan of professional wrestling, however with succinct differences, most notably, a passion for the business, a mind for the craft and a name that will forever touch the masses, young and old.
Whether Hogan is up for another match is strictly up to his body. If he thinks he can do it, then he will. Though even if he doesn’t lace up his boots for one more match, Hogan will forever be the influence of our future generation of wrestling talent. Workers like Chris Sabin, Austin Aries and Roode (the future of the sport, in my humble opinion) can only benefit from the presence of the Immortal Hulk Hogan.