If Not Hulk Hogan…Then Who?


Pro wrestling is filled with an abundance of “What if?” scenarios that change or reshape the wrestling scene. For example, what if The Undertaker had originally debuted as The Eggman? Alright, that’s not a major one. What if Ric Flair had been sitting in the seat Johnny Valentine was in during the infamous plane crash of ’75? Johnny Valentine was paralyzed and his career was over. Would Flair have been dealt the same fate or something worse? With this year being the thirtieth anniversary of Hulkamania, what would have happened if Hulk didn’t take the offer? Who could Vince recruit and could that guy have had the same impact as Hogan?

[adinserter block=”1″]First, we should at-least acknowledge that the stars were properly aligned when Vince McMahon managed to lure Hulk Hogan away from the AWA. Many people tend to believe that Gagne didn’t want to transition the belt to Hogan because Hulk wasn’t a shooter nor had a legitimate background. Hulk himself claimed that he didn’t get the belt because he refused to marry Verne’s daughter, which might explain why Larry Zbysko got the belt. Considering that Hulk claimed that he fought in PRIDE and was going to be in Metallica, a grain of salt is need. The reality came down that Verne wanted a significant share (Around 25%) of Hulk’s merchandise profits and his money made from Japan. Then Verne would be willing to give Hogan the belt, but there’s another problem with that idea.

This problem came from the fact that Verne had signed a deal with All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1980 which meant that the world champion work tour with All Japan. This was a major feather in the cap of All Japan since they had two world champions associated with them, rather than the one that New Japan had. If Hulk were to be given the belt, he’d have to break off with well-paying deal with New Japan and work with All Japan. Hulk was in a good spot in NJPW, he was one of the top foreign stars for the company while AJPW was filled with all the big name foreign talent from the NWA.

There was also one more problem and that came from the booking, the chase concept and the dusty finishes being employed. In the eighties, the concept of the chase was a staple in most territories in contrast to the formula Vince Sr. employed. Vince Sr. usually had the first match end non-decisively, the heel wins the second match by count-out or DQ and the face would win the big blow-off match that was usually a cage or some gimmick. For example, Bob Backlund and Pat Patterson had a series of match for the big belt in 1979. Patterson won the first one due to excessive blood loss on Backlund’s end, the second bout was a double count out, Patterson won the third bout by brass-knuckles assisted count-out and Backlund won the blow-off in the cage.

What most of the other territories employed, was the concept of the chase. Now, I personally have nothing wrong with the chase, but in certain instances you have to pull the trigger. For example, using poor Verne as an example, The Midnight Rockers chased Buddy Rose and Doug Somers from May of 1986 till January of 1987. It should be noted that they had the chance to switch the belts at a heavily hyped December card (8,000 at the Civic Center) in a cage, but waited for the 1/27 card that drew 850 people. The event drew an $8,000 gate for an arena that cost $10,000 to rent. Verne did the same thing with Hogan and began sprinkling in dusty finishes to keep the fans paying. Once again, the dusty finish is smart to use but only in small doses. It eventually results in the fans being burnt by the product if you do it too often and it can kill you territory. So, let’s just say that Hulk stays with Verne through some dark Minnesota wizardry, so who does Vince go with?

The consensus number one overall pick was Kerry Von Erich from Texas. Now, for many people their only exposure to Kerry might be his stint in the WWF, but that doesn’t tell the story. Kerry was chiseled out of stone and was a damn good athlete as well as a worker. The guys wanted to be him and the girls of Texas wanted him. What makes this scenario of Kerry jumping so interesting is that Fritz and Vince didn’t exactly hate each-other. Vince let Andre work dates for them in 1984 after Vince started his expansion (Mostly in tags and six mans) and the WWF even did a tribute to David after he died. Heck, he even let Ricky Steamboat work a stadium card for them in 1986. Obviously Vince would try to work out some type of deal with Fritz since trying to take on Fritz head-on would be suicide for Vince. Then there is this from the May 12, 1984 edition of Championship Wrestling:


It should be noted that Vince pulled the wool over many of the promoter’s heads by claiming that he wanted to feature their big talent on his TV show’s to actually help them out. It was obviously a con job by Vince, but the early stages of the WWF expansion is really odd to look out. Various workers from different territories are showing up on TV and winning matches but end up never being seen again. Vince was obviously working out the kinks in his national expansion and the television and the booking was inconsistent at times. Roddy Piper came into the company as a manager originally managing Paul Orndorff and Big John Studd surprisingly. Hulk really didn’t have a solid feud and working against Valentine, Studd, Muraco, Schultz and Sheik.

Alright, sorry for going off the rails for a bit, but there were two problems with Kerry. While Kerry was a good worker, he wasn’t a great interview. In a territory in-which being able to talk is a plus, that could be an issue. They could obviously fix that situation by giving him a manager, Lou Albano would have been a good option since he was appearing in the Cyndi Lauper video anyway. The other issue was that Kerry was into drugs pretty bad and the Von Erich boys were into them pretty bad. In fact most of the big names (Freebirds, Gino Hernandez, and Chris Adams) were into drugs pretty bad and it cut Gino Hernandez’s career short when he died of a drug overdose in 1986. Would Kerry have been able to handle the presumed stress of being on the road and dealing with the WWF’s insane travel schedule? What happens if Kerry crashes and burns?

[adinserter block=”2″]So, who would be a good second option? Paul Orndorff would be a good pick. Orndorff was a good talker, a good worker and I think the fans were behind him when he was a face after WrestleMania. Steamboat would be a great choice, but once again there was the issue that he wasn’t the most charismatic guy on the roster. They could put him Albano to cover that. My pick would actually be Randy Savage. He was a great worker, had charisma oozing out of him and most of all he could play a great babyface and an even better heel if they went that route. We’ll never know what would have happened if Hulk Hogan had decided against joining up with Vince, but it gave me the inspiration to write this.

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