Wednesday, March 17, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Wrestling needs Hulkamania
It was a dark day when the greatest hero of them all turned heel and crushed legions of his fans. Was it the lure of money? Boredom at being 'the invincible champion?' Regardless of the reason, it was possibly the most shocking event in wrestling history. Hulk Hogan went Hollywood and joined the NWO.
Since then, of course, his air time has been spent on excruciatingly boring and drawn-out interviews, 'matches' in which he used his big belt to whip his opponent down before his hired thugs came out to help him finish the job, and running the most powerful faction in wrestling today.
Fast-forwarding to March 14, 1999, at WCW/NWO Uncensored, we see Hogan and Flair in what is essentially a winner-take-all title match. It was the best card WCW has put on in a long, long time, and the final match promised to be a thriller as well. And despite the rumors that both would be turning, we knew very well who was to be cheered and who was to be vilified. Everyone wanted Ric Flair to win it for an incredible 14th (or 17th, depending on who's counting) World title. Everyone wanted to see Hollywood Hogan get beaten bloody.
But something strange happened, something totally unexpected. During was was proving to be one of the most exciting matches in a long time, Hollywood Hogan became, just for a few brief moments, Hulk Hogan once again. The mannerisms were there, the moves, the charisma, all of it. It was magical. Suddenly Hogan was the fan favorite as he exhorted the fans to cheer him on with his hand cupped to his ear. Suddenly Hulk Hogan was shaking off Ric Flair's mighty chops, shaking his head as if to say he was impervious to Flair's best. Then the shaking began, not only in the ring but in the living rooms where we watched the transformation. It was as if the past few years were being washed away. Suddenly, hard-bitten cynical wrestling fans were cheering on the ultimate super-hero again, hoping he'd pull out another miracle despite facing a fellow ring legend and a crooked referee. And it almost happened. It could have happened. We WANTED it to happen in spite of ourselves, in spite of everything he has done in the last three years.
Who didn't feel a chill when he started to shake in the corner? Who didn't want to shout out as Ric Flair fell to his knees and begged off? Who didn't feel a sense of injustice that Flair won the match?
We wanted to see Hulk Hogan again, because he is the hero we so desperately crave for. Deep down, despite all the choruses of "Hell, yeah!" and "Suck it!" and "Wolfpac in da house!", or perhaps because of them, we want to believe in a real hero again. We want to believe in the prayers, the training and the vitamins, we want to witness the rise of Hulkamania once more. It was only a few moments, but they had their effect. What will happen if he turns all the way around and brings back the Hulk of old?
That's easy. We'll cheer as loudly as we did before, because he is Hulk Hogan, the greatest hero of them all.
Glen Sprigg is from Barrie, ON, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.