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  Friday, April 5, 2002

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Special to SLAM! Sports

A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column
Boarding the Hulkamania bandwagon

Down the Ramp

By NICK TYLWALK -- For SLAM! Wrestling

One of the great things about writing a wrestling column is that there are very few times when I'm totally stuck for ideas. Even when the dreaded writer's block is lurking, enough crazy things happen that a topic always pops up by Friday morning. Take this week as a case in point. On Monday night, it looked like we would be seeing Triple H defend the undisputed title against the Undertaker at Backlash. Just three nights later I was left amazed at the awesome power that is Hulkamania, Round Two.

Just a few short weeks ago, before WrestleMania, there were plenty of questions about Hulk Hogan. Though his addition did seem to give the return of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall a little boost of legitimacy, no one knew how the fans would react to him. I'm guessing that if Vince McMahon and the Hulkster himself were completely honest, even they had to be pleasantly surprised at the warm reactions Hogan received during his first few television appearances.

There were also doubts about what Hogan still had left to offer in the ring and that's being extremely polite. Internet writers had a field day with the idea of Hogan at the top of the card. Surely there was no way Hulk could hang with studs like The Rock or Kurt Angle. Yours truly was no exception, as I told anyone who would listen that I was looking forward to the Steve Austin-Scott Hall match a lot more than Rock-Hogan.

And I'll admit: I was wrong. Hall's match was average at best while Hogan and Rocky stole the show. It was obvious the fans were eating it up and even with the limitations he must have been feeling because of his age, Hogan put on a darn entertaining match. Ten years from now, when people are asked about their fondest memory of WrestleMania X-8, most of them will undoubtedly mention the Hulkster.

Hollywood Hulk Hogan gets ready to pound The Rock at WrestleMania X8 in Toronto. (Photo by: Mark O'Neill, Toronto Sun)
Stop and think about all of this for a second. In Toronto, the crowd actually booed The Rock because he was facing Hogan. The same thing happened to Triple H last night on Smackdown, suggesting that Hogan is more over than anyone. He's bringing in the dough in the form of merchandise as well, as my admittedly unscientific survey of fans at the WWF draft edition of Raw last week found more Hulkamania shirts and bandanas sold than anything else. The popularity of the Hogan farewell tour is simply mind-boggling.

After all, it's not like this hasn't been tried before. Anyone who thinks one last run for the red-and-yellow was an automatic gold mine obviously wasn't around for the post-Vince Russo era of WCW. I've been trying to block the memories of some of those pay-per-views out of my mind but I seem to recall Hogan turning face and working main events against Kevin Nash. I'm sure there were plenty of good seats available for those events, if you know what I mean. As my favorite columnist - ESPN's Sports Guy - would say, not good times, bad times.

Here's the part where you might expect me to come up with a theory for why this is working now. Unfortunately, I don't have any answers. Some of it is nostalgia but there's more to it than that. I'm just past 25 and I can just barely remember Hulkamania in its heyday, so that era couldn't mean that much to fans younger than me. Part of it is the way he's been put over by The Rock and others, and that's reflected in the way Hogan has been saying all the right things in interviews, like a man who recognizes this is really his last run.

But even that's not it. Hogan has that undefinable characteristic, that timeless ability to get over, that still resonates today. He's in the right situation now, back with the company where he made so much history, and the fans are showing their appreciation for a man who, all hyperbole aside, really is an icon. Maybe I've been overanalyzing it. Maybe it really is as simple as that.

I have to give the WWF props for striking while the iron is hot. The heck with the nWo angle, Hogan turned face as soon as he got those cheers at WrestleMania. A feud between Triple H and the Undertaker was met with indifference, so bam - now we've got Triple H against Hogan at Backlash. The fans want it and the WWF is giving it to them. This isn't rocket science folks.

Consider me officially on board the Hulkamania bandwagon as of now. I don't think you'll ever catch me in the red and yellow, but I will be enjoying this ride for as long as it lasts.

Previous Columns

March 29 ... WWF split finally here
March 22 ... WWF should just relax
March 15 ... WrestleMania, slamdunk or air ball?
March 1 ... WWF return a test for Hall
Feb. 22 ... WWF return a test for Hall
Feb. 15 ... Nick who?

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