Monday, February 26, 2007

Hulk Hogan

Prior to last Thursday's viewing in class, I had not thought a great deal about Hulk Hogan, or thought a great deal of him for that matter. However, similar to what I experienced when really learning about Andre The Giant for the first time, I found something very interesting and captivating in Hogan as I started to learn more about him.

First of all, like Andre, there's simply something very pure and magnetic about his personality and what he brings into the ring. He isn't that spectactular of a wrestler, yet I feel like he's very much in tune with what wrestling is about. It seems like he just loves the drama and show of wrestling, the crowd, and giving them the best show he possibly can, and I think his love of the "game" (if we should call it that) shines through when he's performing.

Looking at his history too, I think one can see how this all comes together. He never thought he was very good, yet seems to have wanted a wrestling career quite badly. Even after quitting, he quickly came back.

Also, when trying to look at Hogan's character, there just isn't a whole lot there. Unlike other wrestlers, he doesn't seem to have some big backstory or major gimmick to him. His character is nothing other than his presence and letting himself have fun in the ring.

I think this is very similar to what made Andre The Great so interesting to me.

Second, very much unlike Andre, Hogan's business sense and the extremely cold way in which he dropped the AWA over t-shirt sales and money was quite marked compared to the other wrestlers.

In a way, I find it hard to reconcile these two sides of Hogan, yet I think they ultimately work together. Both feel like a product of narcissism to me. Hogan loves himself and his image and is willing to be very cold and business-like to protect it and keep ownership over it, and that's all part of what he enjoys about being in the ring ("on stage") so much.

He sold himself just by being a person who loves to sell himself and letting that out, while having the brains to keep things under his own control, and I think that's a perfect fit for the world of professional wrestling.


Anonymous said...

When I first started watching wrestling, Hogan was not a tv regular, and so when he eventually came back (again) it was a real treat, an amazing thing, to have this giant, this icon back on tv for us newer fans to get a taste of Hulkamania. And it was pretty great to have the red and yellow running wild, even if the Hulk was past his prime, and his moves weren't exactly devastating.

As I learned more about the behind-the-scenes politics of the WWE, a different picture of Hogan emerged, as you noted. Apparently Hogan has always wielded a heavy hand in the backstage politics, regarding money, image, power and respect, which all affect his comings and goings from WWE programming. This cold, calculating, and purely business-minded Hogan disillusioned me as Hulk fan, as the screen Hulk appears as the American Hero, telling kids to take their vitamins and so forth, just an all 'round decent guy. But then we see this almost selfish personality, and it taints the character we've come to love.

I think this is one of the double-edged swords that the WWE has to deal with, where they admit that the act is not 'real' and let fans peek behind the curtain. While this can yield a great deal of profit for the company and satisfy curious fans, it can also reveal things about our favorite wrestlers that we may not actually want to know, and lift that 'suspension of disbelief' that often makes the show so enjoyable

Rob said...

Yeah, there is definitely an image problem with showing that side of Hogan. However, I still feel that when you think about it, that selfish side of Hogan is really very much a part of what makes up the personality that is so attractive in the ring.

I don't think that a Hogan without the part of his character would have been the same great personality he was in the ring. I interpret it as just a deep-seated desire to be greater and larger than life for the fans, which is what makes him such a great character. And with that desire, is a willingness to be as cold and ruthless as necessary to the people behind the scenes to protect and spread that image the viewers see as much as possible.

I don't see these two sides of Hogan as seperable.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong, but either way that's probably not how most people would see it, and so allowing people to see that business side of Hogan (regardless of what it actually means for his character) is definitely a dangerous and disillusioning thing.

As you point out, it starts to ask questions about whether the WWE might be going too far in allowing fans that peak behind the curtain...

Sam Ford said...

Peaking behind the curtain is a phenomenon in an Internet age that you can't really turn back away from. By being a publicly traded company, nationally recognized, etc., there's only so much WWE can do to exist in the margins the way some were once able to.

But as far as Hogan goes, I think Hulk's reality show on VH1 raises another interesting set of questions about the "star image" of Hulk Hogan. Much like Vince McMahon, Hulk seems like he's almost always performing, even when we see him "offstage."

Joshua Shea said...

I tend to agree with Rob mainly said.

About 9 years ago, when I was co-booking and indy with former WWF tag team champion Tony Atlas, we talked about him losing cleanly to one of our younger guys. He explained he couldn't do the clean job because that would make his marketability on the indy scene wane. Even though it was a work, if people jumped on the Internet or read in the wrestling magazines that a nobody beat him, they might less apt to come out and see him. If they are not going to see him, that's less tickets sold so the promoter is not going to book him.

At the time, I was a bit more idealistic and appealed to his better nature of what was good for the company. He said it would effect his wallet, and that wasn't good for him.

I think Hogan is just doing that on a grand scale. Through 25 years of twists and turns, we've arrived at a spot where there is one icon well above all others. He may be 53 and wrestle 1-2 matches a year tops, but for some undeniable reason, fans still pop more for him than anyone else, as was evident at Summerslam last August.

There will come a point where the T-shirts stop selling. There will be a point when he can't work even a match a year schedule. The reality show will get cancelled and Hulkamania will be over.

He must know he's closer to the end of it than the beginning. Who can blame him for trying to make every dollar and soak up every last moment of it that he can? If fans didn't want it, they would turn their backs to it, and they're not.

Hulk Hogan is probably much more like Bret Hart in that there's little blurring between the real life guy and the character, but that's what likely made him capable of rising to the top.

Hogan wouldn't do a job in Canada if you didn't pay him enough...Bret wouldn't do it out of pride. You can argue one way is better than the other, but at least with Hogan's way you pay your mortgage.

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

I remember being a Hogan fan as a kid, and for the life of me don't know why. He really seems to be one of those people that defy rational explanation: you like them because you like them, and that's that.

Even now, doing the readings and watching the films in class, I can't explain exactly why Hulk appears so heroic and charismatic to the 7-year-old me lurking around the back of my brain. He yells a lot, but everyone does that. He's generally unattractive. Yellow isn't a color I've ever been particularly fond of. And, except that I knew/believed he was the champion at the time, I had little actual exposure to his wrestling skill. But he had momentum, and people liked him, and I was one of them.

It's very strange now seeing the rest of him, knowing a bit more about the business angle, seeing him and his family making fools of themselves on VH1 for our amusement. I don't know if it taints my memory of him, but it does break the character. Once an empty symbol designating "hero," now Hulk's just another fragile, flawed human being, and a fairly weird one at that.

Carolina said...

Show me someone with no ego and I'll show you a loser. ~ Donald Trump. I'm using this quote for two reasons. First of all, Donald Trump is involved in wrestling right now, so it's not that off-topic to choose him. Secondly, the quote seems to work in wrestling business.

Stone Cold Steve Austin walked out a few times on the WWE, even after being booked to perform in PPVs (I don't blame him. Stone Cold should never lose to the Coach on PPV). Shawn Michaels had Vince wrapped around his finger in the 90s to do as he wished, by his own admission (and you wonder why he wasn't particularly well-liked, especially by Bret). Hulk Hogan apparently refused to lose even once to Shawn in August of 2005 - was it Shawn getting a dose of his old medicine, or was Hulk ridiculous for not letting the obviously more talented wrestler win?

Hulk Hogan is considered by many to be one of the smartest wrestlers there ever were. To think that his prime was a good 20-25 years ago, and he can still draw (regardless of whether or not he should), then it's obvious that he's done something right. He knows when he can handle a match and against who, and he plays that card extremely well to maximize his profits.

He's a businessman, and while I don't agree with his tactics and am personally not a fan (my favorite wrestlers can all actually wrestle), he knew where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do from the beginning. It was probably with underhanded and cold negotiating, but what's how you gain success in business nowadays...

luistenorio said...

I never really got to see Hulk Hogan in action but I always knew he was the definition of a wrestler in the modern era. He seems to have all the charisma and stage presence. You hit it too, he captivated the fans. I don't agree too much with the whole cold business sense. Sure you have to love what you do but that doesn't mean you have to let someone treat you unfairly. Gagne could have made him champion and that would have put the AWA on the top for a while longer. But he chose not to because he wanted part of what was Hogan's success and not give him his fair share. Sure it is not too great how he left. But he wanted to be at the top and not let anyone ride his coattails. If you look at his history, it is amazing to see the way he captivated the people. He has changed his personality and had heel turns, where he turns bad, and changed up what he has done. I think the lamest but still funny was Mr America. I read about his time in WCW and when he joined the nWo, people were outraged. For so long they loved him, and he turned his back on them. It is only in wrestling where people know it is fake, but still get angry about losing their heroes in such a way.

X P said...

Hulk Hogan may have done several things that many fans may not agree with, but that is what it takes to be successful in the buisness. Holk Hogan was and still is a buisness man. He does whatever it takes to make the money and keep the fans. He acts the way he has to and he makes his own decisions.
I was not a wrestling fan when I was little, but I always knew Hulk Hogan's name, jsut like I knew Andre the Giant's name. Hulk and Andre jsut knew how to run the buisness and some may not agree, but it definately worked.

Ismael said...

I agree with XP about Hulk being a businessman. It appeared that he was the first to come up with using his image for marketing when he would sell shirts. I do question Hulk Hogan appearing in the movie Mr. Nanny though. I don't think seeing Hogan in a tutu really helped his image, but then again he was able to be characterized as a he-man with a name like Terry. I believe Hogan did really revolutionize wrestlers' and wrestling promoters' ideas from the way he did business. I'm sure it played a key role in the global expansion of the WWE as well.