Tuesday, October 19, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
It's Hogan's turn to step back
I have no disagreement whatsoever about Hulk Hogan's contributions to wrestling. He transformed wrestling into a new, exciting level from the start of Hulkamania in the mid 80's up to its rebirth in 1999. Years from now, fans would still remember the greatest matches he participated in: against Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior and Bill Goldberg, to name a few.
On the day that he publicly announces his official retirement, I will stand up and join the millions of fans in giving him a thunderous applause for everything that he has done. But from now until the time that he retires, I will be wary of his motives. What has he done lately to improve the state of wrestling?
As a kid, I grew up with Hulkamania for more than a decade. He has been at the center stage in the WWF against his battles with foreign invaders (Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, pro-Iraq Sgt. Slaughter), friends turning foes (Randy Savage and Andre), money (Ted Dibiase) and death itself (Undertaker). Now that I am an adult, I still see him trying very hard to stay on top of the pedestal which he rightfully ruled during his prime but not so now.
With the entry of Vince Russo, impending changes are to be expected in WCW. Unfortunately, these changes are not beneficial to Terry Bollea. It would mean having to gradually relinquish the main event status to the younger and more agile wrestlers. It would mean having to take losses against the other wrestling stars. This is rightfully so for the future of wrestling lies in the hands of the younger generation who have the capacity to further improve their craft and reach their potential.
Hulkamania can still go on at the forefront. Hulkamania can still persist in the center stage until the next millennium. No doubt about it. But at what cost?
It would mean having to put to a halt the ascent of the younger stars. It would mean having up and coming stars like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Buff Bagwell, Goldberg and settle for the consolation prize while Hogan continues to have the grandest prize of them all. It would mean turning a deaf ear as to what the majority of the fans want. More important is the fact that Hulkamania has reached its peak several years ago. Whatever angles they put, whatever themes they add to Hulkamania it would never spread like wildfire and have the longevity the way it used to during its peak from the mid 80's to the early 90's.
The NWO was a relatively short-lived success at two years featuring "Hollywood" Hogan. And sure, a jam-packed crowd still goes crazy on the appearance of a rejuvenated Hulk Hogan but you'll never witness Hulkamania overpowering Austin 3:16 or The Rock's roody-poo rhymes in attendance and following. Times have changed and so must the major players in the wrestling scene.
Seasons come and go. The sun rises then sets on the same day. This is but nature's cycle. EVERYONE follows nature's cycle. People grow old, reach their peak, and then fade away after passing their prime.
An important indication which shows a person's true character is how he acted on his way out. Was it by ensuring the continued existence of what he stood for all his life by helping it in whatever way he can? In Hogan's case, his life was wrestling. What has he done lately to ensure that wrestling and his company (WCW) will continue to move on and survive long after he's gone? Has he passed on his legacy to any of the younger wrestlers the same way Andre passed on his immortality to him or the same way Flair has passed on his greatness to most of the younger stars? Being the "GREATEST" does not necessarily mean having to be the victor all the time at every wrestling match. And it certainly does not mean having your whims and desires being followed all the time backstage.
What now Mr. Bollea? From hereon up to your final match, the whole world will be watching you: watch you with pride and respect or in contempt and hatred. It's your call.
Joseph Balatbat is from Ayala Hts. in the Philippines. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.