This is the start of a four part series chronicling Hulk Hogan’s first two years in WCW.
[adinserter block=”1″]This year we’ve celebrated the birth of Hulkamania and the event that was built on the shoulders of Hulkamania. Now, we look back at the moment that shifted the wrestling industry and the way the big two signed talent. We look back when WCW shocked the wrestling industry and landed the biggest fish of them all: Hulk Hogan
In 1993, after disputes with Vince McMahon over the direction of his character and booking, Hulk Hogan would leave the WWE. Hogan had been the face of the organization since 1984, the headlining act for eight of the nine WrestleMania events. Hulk was a headliner of countless PPV’s and the man the WWE PR golden boy that the company sent everywhere. Need somebody for Regis and Kathy to promote the Survivor Series? Send Hulk. When the average person heard and still hears the words WWE, their minds would probably show them one image, Hulk Hogan. So, for Hogan to no longer be associated with the WWE that was something that people couldn’t believe.
One person, who couldn’t believe it, was Eric Bischoff. Bischoff an ambitious television announcer had secured the position of Executive Producer for WCW in 1993. Depending on who you talk to, Bischoff is either a genius or a one hit wonder. He famously pounded Vince McMahon against the ropes for two years and could never put him away. When Vince started to pound back, Bischoff could put never McMahon against the ropes and pound on him again. What’s my opinion of Bischoff? While he famously went from the top man in wrestling to a cautionary tale, he did do some good in my mind. While many criticize him taping blocks of television at a theme park and at Centre Stage/CNN Center, I can counter that WCW’s live event attendance including television tapings were never WCW’s strong suit. He did famously let go of Austin, Foley and many of the players that helped to build WCW but he also recruited some of the best talent from the US and overseas. For every good move that Bischoff made, there will always be a “Yeah, but” counter from the other side. He did beat Vince in the ratings war, but WCW’s pay per view business was never that great is an example.
WCW rarely made a signing this large, sure the company had acquired big names every now and then but it was nobody on Hogan’s level. Plus, none of the big names still had the star power and exposure that Hulk had, even with being gone from wrestling for a year. Rude had been out of the spotlight for almost a year, working the occasional independent along with touring Japan. Steamboat had been through a demeaning run as a literal dragon, Sid disappeared for softball after WrestleMania VIII and Davey Boy Smith was never a huge star. Before you guys point out Flair, he was pretty much the exception to the rule.
Bischoff had a new vision of WCW that of which didn’t gel with many of the folks whom took a previous shot at running the company. While the Bill Watts and Dusty Rhodes saw WCW as southern style wrestling driven with blood and guts, Bischoff saw WCW as a WWE-style company, WWE South you could call it. Bischoff knew that he needed the man who helped to build the WWE and went about doing so. There was a certain convenience of having Flair as head booker whom Hogan got along with from their WWE days. Bischoff threw in everything he could to get Hogan signed: A cut of pay-per-view revenue (Anywhere between 600k to 1.5 million a year), a nice cushy schedule and most of all control over his entire character.
Wooing Hogan would be difficult however as Hogan had some reservations about coming to WCW. I can understand why if I was in his shoes, the company had never proven itself to have stable management and it had yet to turn a profit since being bought by Turner. If Hulk does sign and his run is a disaster, he could lose his bargaining chip with Vince for a possible return when his deal was up.
While Vince and Hogan’s relationship had been strained, this is a big and I mean big MIGHT, but there might have been a possible chance for Hogan and Vince to reconcile. Once the steroid heat died down, I could have seen Hulk and Vince having a secret meeting at a hotel and patch things up. They keep Hogan’s return on the down-low until the fall, where Hogan fills in for Bret at MSG after Survivor Series 1994. Hulk drops the leg on Backlund and the company preps the new big monster for Hulk to slay at WrestleMania, maybe a KOTR rematch with Yokozuna. What happens to Bret? Most of all, would Savage stay around?
In reality, Hulk could have stayed retired probably since he was still working the big dates for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Also, Thunder in Paradise probably didn’t cost a lot to produce so it could find life on syndication. There was also Hollywood (Don’t laugh) and cameos playing off his image in comedies.
[adinserter block=”2″]Oh well, we’d never know as Hogan would come to a deal with WCW in the spring and WCW played it off rather well. Hulk’s first major appearance came in an on-set interview with Mean Gene in-which Hogan played coy about returning to wrestling. Heenan then barged in and demanded that Hogan give him an update on his status, citing a PWI cover that had Hogan and Flair meeting:
Hogan would sign with contract on live television at Disney-MGM Studios, with a ticket-tape parade and all. Mean Gene would sum it up: Get ready for the ride of your life. Truer words were never spoken.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.
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