Having friends in the right places can be essential in the sports entertainment industry, so it should go without saying that the self-proclaimed biggest icon in wrestling has more than a few supporters. Despite negative press in recent years surrounding racist comments made during a sex tape, Hulk Hogan remains one of the most well-known names in wrestling, and that status is unlikely to ever change. Hogan has fallen out of favor with WWE as of late, but he still has plenty of friends in the wrestling business supporting him through his personal dramas and public snafus. Most of Hogan’s closest confidants unsurprisingly come from the sports entertainment industry, with his best friends typically be the ones he worked with on screen the most.
Hulk Hogan has been accused of being one of the most political wrestlers ever to play the game, and his Rolodex would most likely agree with that accusation. Although Hogan is credited with helping put WWE on the map in the 1980s with the power of Hulkamania, his egomania has also been accused of tanking WCW in the late 1990s, and there’s a reason only a handful of people spoke out in his defense after he made the racist comments. Nonetheless, a few people have spoken out in his defense, and some have in fact made it very clear they will always support, love, and honor the Hulkster, however, they can. Keep reading to learn which WWE superstars know how it feels when it comes crashing down and it hurts inside with our list of 15 wrestlers you didn’t know were close friends of “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan.
15. Mr. T
Forming a tag team is an easy way for two wrestlers to become fast friends, and the union of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T was one of the most legendary in WWE history, so it perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising that the Hulkster and his WrestleMania I partner still consider one another good friends more than three decades later. Hogan and Mr. T were partners in another way as well, in that the two hosted Saturday Night Live together the night prior to the first time they stepped into a ring as a tag team.
As far as celebrity wrestlers go, Mr. T has a longer resume than most, and this fact stems primarily from his friendship with Hogan. Mr. T and Hogan achieved great heights together in WWE, but the pity was on the other foot when T headed to WCW, to say the least. Despite the pitfalls of their professional relationship, Mr. T has proved the connection remains strong even after Hogan made racist comments, when T was quoted as saying he “[hasn’t] lost any respect” for Hogan over his comments.
14. The Rock
It isn’t unusual for a feud to turn into a friendship in the world of pro wrestling. However, the incredible extremes underwent by Hulk Hogan and The Rock are still pretty ridiculous to look back on over a decade later. Hogan attempted to in no uncertain terms murder Rock by running him over with a truck one week, and then shook his hand and did a pose-down at WrestleMania X8 after the power of Hulkamania demanded they become friends. In reality, Rock and Hogan had actually been friendly with one another for a very long time, and Rock still remains on good terms with the Hulkster even after his racist comments were made public.
The story of Hulk Hogan and The Rock actually begins in the 1970s, when The Rock was a young boy, and Hogan was still training in the finer points of wrestling with Rock’s father and uncles. It is because of Hogan’s longstanding relationship with The Rock’s family that Rocky believes Hogan’s statements were not indicative of lifelong racism, and were only “disappointing” thoughts expressed in a time of weakness.
13. Greg Valentine
Hulk Hogan’s personality means that his closest friends were the people he made the most money with, and he rarely interacted on screen with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, so perhaps this entry might be a surprise. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll realize that Valentine was the WWE Intercontinental Champion for a good portion of Hulkamania’s peak, and suddenly the connection between Hogan and Valentine seems a little bit clearer. Valentine is also amongst the dozens of wrestlers to earn long term WCW employment thanks to the Hogan connection, and the most telling element of their friendship is that they kept making money together outside of the ring, as well.
Valentine joined Hogan and many others in various “Hulk and Friends” tours, answering questions about their careers and times together in and out of the ring. Valentine also had a few matches against Hogan in the 80s, and it could be relevant that The Hammer teamed with Hogan’s best bud Brutus Beefcake to form the legendary WWE World Tag Team Champions The Dream Team, too. Regardless of how the bond was formed, it must have been one that lasted for Valentine to have entered Hogan’s circle the way he did.
12. Dennis Rodman
Being Hulk Hogan’s friend in modern times could be considered a mildly controversial move, but when your other celebrity best friend is Kim Jong-Un, the controversy probably doesn’t irk you too deeply. Dennis Rodman is a rather unique figure in pop culture, one who would befriend just about anyone, and his union with The Hulkster started sometime around 1990. Their acquaintanceship blossomed into a lifelong friendship in the late 90s, when Hogan introduced Rodman to the world of wrestling as a member of the new World order.
Most of Hogan’s friends would agree he helped out their wrestling careers, although Rodman takes it a step further by having practically only ever appeared on-screen with Hogan or their mutual friend Randy Savage. Of course, WCW was simply happy to have Rodman’s mainstream star on board, and Hogan was definitely benefiting from the Rodman’s fame, too, which is likely why he kept him around. Hogan and The Worm would keep wrestling together years later on Hogan’s reality show Celebrity Wrestling, a contest that Rodman won.
11. Randy Savage
It would be fair to say that plenty of friendships wax and wane, although few of them reach the low point of one former friend releasing a rap song about how much they hated the other. Randy Savage wrote “Be A Man” about Hulk Hogan refusing to fight him, and yet, The Hulkster claims the two were able to reconcile shortly before the Macho Man’s death. In the years before that, Hogan and Savage had a rollercoaster relationship with dizzying heights and outlandish lows, primarily dictated by whether or not they were making money together during the particular time in question.
Despite the ups and extreme downs of their relationship, according to several sources, the long history of Hogan and the Macho Man actually ended on good terms. Hogan told Chris Jericho on his Talk Is Jericho podcast that he was in the hospital for one reason or another when Savage came to visit him, ready to bury the hatchet and put their many problems behind them. Randy’s brother, Lanny Poffo, has later implied the story was accurate, and that their respective families were even planning a get together shortly before Randy’s untimely passing.
10. The Big Show
The Big Show takes things a step further than most of the others on this list in terms of how much they owe their careers to Hogan, as thanks to Hulk, Paul Wight won the WCW World Championship in his very first professional match. Hogan had met the future Big Show at a basketball game thrown by mutual friend Danny Bonaduce, and the two quickly hit it off. Hogan and Show’s friendship was such that the man then called The Giant was allowed on Hogan’s private plane with only a handful of others, and the two formed an obvious friendship during their many travels together.
Friendship can’t survive everything, though, and The Giant once did something to upset the Hulkster badly enough he got kicked off the plane for some time. Big Show later explained on The Steve Austin Show that he can do some solid impressions of both Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, which fans might enjoy, but the real deals didn’t appreciate as much back in the mid-90s. Hogan and Show must have eventually patched up, however, as they continued working together a few more years, usually connected to one another on television.
9. Bobby Heenan
The absolute last person anyone would ever have expected to be a secret Hulkamaniac is Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. That is, until you stop and consider how much money the two have made while feuding one another. Heenan and Hogan first connected long before Hulkamania had any power, when it was actually Bobby who got Hulk his job in the AWA. Hogan’s time in the AWA made him a massive star, but mismanagement of his talent meant that star was headed to WWE, and this time Hogan helped his friend Bobby come along for the ride as soon as his contract allowed him to do so.
Fans of ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s wrestling would all agree despite millions of other feuds going on throughout the years, very few reached the level of hatred The Brain would spew towards Hogan. Nonetheless, it was this same hate that made them friends behind the scenes, as the money it made them both would bring any two people together. Heenan has been hugely supportive of Hogan and his career no matter where the two of them have gone, and Hogan responded in turn by making sure Heenan always had a job where he was able to keep calling him a jerk.
Wrestlers ask their friends in the industry for jobs all the time, and sometimes, they don’t even have to ask. According to John Tenta, the man wrestling fans remember as Earthquake in WWE and Avalanche or The Shark in WCW, Hogan lobbied for Quake to join WCW despite the fact he was still signed with WWE. Because Hogan was able to get Tenta a better offer than he had with Vince, Earthquake became Avalanche, and his once dormant feud with Hulk Hogan was back in full force in a brand new locale. Earthquake was just one of a handful of wrestlers make the jump down South with Hogan, along with names including Tugboat and Brutus Beefcake. Although the initial feud between Hogan and Earthquake was a big success for WWE and headline SummerSlam 1990, the feud between Hogan and the Dungeon of Doom, which Avalanche was a member, was far closer to wrestle crap than anything fans would want to remember. It didn’t stop the two from being friends, though, and Hogan would keep Tenta employed despite him getting less and less screen until he jumped back to WWE in 1998.
Despite the fact that the nWo had literally dozens of members over the course of its existence, most fans would probably agree on who the worst member was. Whether going by the name Vincent in WCW or Virgil in WWE, Mike Jones hasn’t done much of note in the wrestling community, outside of portraying Ted DiBiase’s servant in an angle with horrible racial undertones. Due to these undertones, perhaps it means less than anyone else that Virgil has spoken out in defense of Hogan after Hulk’s racist comments were made public, although they also confirm the long-standing connection between the two is more than simply what happens on television.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise Virgil and Hogan were friends considering how much screen time they shared, with Hogan often giving lengthy promos with Vincent as the only other person in the ring with him. This was partially to make it clear who the star was, but it was an honor for Vincent to get the spotlight like this nonetheless, and one clearly given to him out of friendship. Regardless of all the circumstances surrounding Virgil himself, he also appears to be one of the strongest Hogan supporters around, very plainly stating, “Hulk Hogan has never given me any reason to believe he is a racist.”
6. Eric Bischoff
At first glance, it seemed like Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff primarily became friends due to the fact they both hated Vince McMahon at the time, and went on to make incredible amounts of money together. The fact their union has lasted several decades and through multiple wrestling promotions, with both cooling down on their hostility towards McMahon, should imply there was always something deeper between Hogan and Bischoff, and a true friendship indeed may lie at the core of their relationship.
Bischoff no doubt started to befriend Hogan by courting him to WCW, but it wasn’t long before the two realized they had a whole bunch in common. They also knew how to bring out the best in each other on screen and off, although that may have gone to Bischoff’s detriment when Hogan started outright controlling the backstage scene of WCW during the promotion’s dying days. Despite whatever damage the duo did to WCW, or the fact they may have done the same to TNA more recently, Hulk and Bischoff seem like they’ll be friends until the end, when they’ll inevitably hop on their Harleys and ride into the Sturgis sunset together.
5. Jim Duggan
You can hardly blame a person for defending their friend in times of public turmoil, especially if they feel the public is being particularly unfair in the manner their friend is being portrayed. Jim Duggan’s approach to the Hulk Hogan racism controversy was still pretty bizarre, given the fact he basically claimed to be a much larger bigot himself, so it wasn’t that big a deal. Duggan told WrestleZone Radio, “I would hate to have people tape me at home when I go off about something…I’m like Blazing Saddles!”
Ignoring the weird specifics of how Duggan defended Hogan, the point is, the two have been friends for decades and remain such to this day. Duggan made those comments during an interview in which he was arguing WWE needed to forgive Hogan and bring him back to the company as soon as possible, another thing that one would only do for one of their closest friends. Duggan is also another wrestler said to have benefitted hugely from Hogan’s influence during their shared time in WCW, although it rarely reflected in any onscreen stories, as the two almost never interacted.
4. Vince McMahon
It might be fair to say Vince McMahon has a strange love-hate relationship with virtually every superstar to become in any way famous while working for his company. Despite his claims that his family built their empire by themselves, McMahon has to be aware that it was actually built on the work of his superstars, and sometimes the best of his employees have quickly become the best of his friends when he realized how symbiotic their relationship was becoming. Of course, they also turned into the worst of enemies when that relationship became toxic…only to become BFFs again, and they rivals, and then…well, you get the idea.
Currently, Hogan and McMahon are still on the outs, thanks to the racist tirade Hogan made on his sex tape. WWE didn’t have much of a choice other than to fire Hogan during the public scandal, although it would be fair to point out Hogan has arguably returned to the company after worse, i.e. trying to put WWE out of business during the Monday Night Wars and testifying during the 1994 steroid trial. Since Hogan and McMahon were able to bounce back from that, we imagine it will only be a matter of time before the two are either hugging or fighting each other in the ring once again.
3. Jimmy Hart
Hulk Hogan was the level of star that generally didn’t need a manager, and considering how he built that star, Hogan was obviously more than capable of doing all of his talking by himself. Therefore, the fact that he still employed Jimmy Hart as his manager multiple times throughout his career should say a lot about Hogan’s respect towards Hart’s talents. Perhaps even more telling is the fact Hart in many ways acted as Hogan’s actual manager, helping him in business decisions and being one of Hogan’s most frequent traveling partners from a very early point in his career.
Hart and Hogan achieved incredible amounts of success together, arguably more than any other manager-client pairing in history. Through managing Hogan, Hart became the first person to manage a WWE and WCW World Champion, a feat the tandem were able to accomplish in less than a year after Hulk’s (then) final reign with the belt in WWE. Jimmy turned on Hogan on screen shortly after that, but the friendship would never die, and the two would continue working together in wrestling and on a variety of other business ventures, including music, restaurants, and reality shows.
2. Brian Knobbs
Fans of Hogan Knows Best most likely tuned in for the inside look at the family life of wrestling’s biggest icon, although the fact that a few other stars from the wrestling world would occasionally pop up probably didn’t hurt ratings, either. Instead, the wrestling buddy of Hulk Hogan to appear on his reality show the most was Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs, who is definitely one of the Hulkster’s all time closest friends in the business. Hulk only ventured into the tag team division on rare occasions, and Knobbs never escaped the WCW hardcore division when he attempted his hand at a solo career, so the two almost never crossed paths on screen. Well, not in WCW, anyway. Both Knobbs and his Nasty partner Jerry Sags would, however, appear on Hogan Knows Best all the time, as well as it’s spin-off Brooke Knows Best, and Hogan’s other reality shows based on celebrity wrestling. Obviously, these are the shows where Hogan’s closest allies actually would be appearing, and thus Knobbs ranks as one of Hogan’s best buds despite never matching his star power in the wrestling ring.
1. Brutus Beefcake
While all of Hulk Hogan’s various friends most certainly appreciate the effect his presence had on their careers, none of the others on this list come anywhere near Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in terms of owing everything they own to the power of Hulkamania. Beefcake was a better wrestler than he is generally given credit for, although that is somewhat of a moot point, as the real issue is the fact one would be hard-pressed to find an instance of the real Ed Leslie ever managing to hold down a job without Hogan first getting said employment for him.
The careers of Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan are inexorably connected, as the two trained together in Florida, and taking things a step further, the first several wrestling names Beefcake used were all references to Hogan’s names at the time. Hogan started as Terry Boulder, so Beefcake was Ed Boulder. Terry Boulder became Hulk Hogan, so Ed Boulder became Dizzy Hogan. That was kinda weird, so next was Eddie Hogan. In WCW, they took away Beefcake’s names altogether, and simply referred to him as The Disciple, presumably of Hulkamania. The relationship between Hogan and Beefcake actually goes so deep some fans have long speculated there may be more to it than mere friendship, and Hogan’s ex-wife Linda added fuel to this fire during their infamous divorce proceedings. We won’t go that far, but suffice to say, Beefcake owes a lot to Hogan, and Hogan was fine with this happening because he sees Beefcake as his brother.