Throughout the 1980s, there was no greater force in professional wrestling than the phenomenon known as Hulkamania. Starting when Hulk Hogan won his first WWE Championship from The Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden, Vince McMahon made a concerted effort to take his father’s New York wrestling promotion and turn it into a global affair, which by 2017 he has more than accomplished. Pretty much ever since, Hogan and McMahon have argued publicly and privately over who deserved more credit for what they collective accomplished, ensuring their relationship with one another would be flawed and complicated from the very beginning.
At the time this article is being written, Hogan and McMahon are still on the outs, the latest break in their alliance due to the latter’s racism, caught on camera. There’s always a good chance they’ll get over it, though, and even if they don’t, the legacy they created together will forever mean their partnership was one of the most important and fruitful in wrestling history. To learn the whole story, keep reading to learn 15 things you never knew about the Hulk Hogan-Vince McMahon relationship.
15. Hogan Was A Nobody Before He Met The McMahon’s
All one needs to do in order to understand why Hulk Hogan may not have been able to hit it big without Vince McMahon’s influence is take a look at the first couple years of his career. Prior to Hogan’s first stint in WWE, he bounced around the southern territorial scene as was the style at the time, with one little catch – he wasn’t a star in any sense of the word. Hogan wrestled in Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, using names like Sterling Golden and Terry Boulder. Early on he introduced his friend Ed Leslie to the industry, occasionally competing in a tag team and pretending they were brothers. Sterling Golden did manage some success, once challenging Harley Race for the NWA Championship and winning the NWA Southeastern Championship, but neither of these accolades gave him exposure outside of a regional level. More importantly than that, can anyone really picture arenas filled with sold out fans all there to see The Boulder Brothers? It’s pretty unlikely, and that’s just one reason Hogan needed the McMahon’s influence to guide him in the right path to greatness.
14. How Vince, Sr. Was Involved
While the main focus of this article is Hulk Hogan’s relationship with Vince McMahon, Jr., it can’t be ignored that, like virtually everything in Vince’s life, his father Vince, Sr. played a deceptively huge role in their success. Vince, Jr. gets all the credit for being the most brilliant wrestling promoter in the world, but his father was pretty darn clever himself, and he proved it for perhaps the last time when he created the name “Hulk Hogan.” To be fair, Hogan himself came up with the “Hulk” part after meeting Lou Ferrigno, but he was still calling himself Terry “The Hulk” Boulder when he first wrestled for WWE in 1979. There’s something to be said about clever alliteration, and wanting to build an Irish sensation to mimic the success of his Italian sensation Bruno Sammartino, Vince, Sr. thought Hogan was the perfect last name for The Hulk. Granted, Vince, Sr. also wanted Hogan to dye his hair red, and it’s probably a good thing the Hulkster talked him out of that one. Either way, McMahon, Sr. is still the one who came up with the name that sold billions of tickets, and his son’s empire will always be thankful because of it.
13. Vince, Jr. Realized Hulk’s Potential And Created Hulkamania
So, if Vince, Sr. came up with Hulk Hogan’s name, why doesn’t he get more credit for his role in Hulkamania? Well, if anything, Vince, Sr. nearly killed it before it happened. Mistake number one was making Hogan a heel, although that was justified enough through his persona and look. However, there was no justification for letting Hogan leave for Japan in 1980, then nearly become the world’s biggest wrestler for the AWA. It wasn’t until Vince, Jr. took over for his father and decided to take WWE national that he needed a gigantic, charismatic performer to lead the way, and Hogan was handpicked as the man to do the job. It wasn’t particularly hard to steal him away, as Hogan wasn’t enjoying his time working for Verne Gagne thanks to Gagne’s reluctance to make him champion. Vince had no such reservations, putting the WWE title on Hogan less than a full month after he made his return to the company. From there, the rest is history, and the two began their friendship in earnest.
12. They Were Neighbors At One Point
When talking about Hulk Hogan, it can sometimes be confusing to separate the truth from what he thinks is the truth. Case in point, a statement he once made about how he and McMahon were neighbors for “most of the 1980s.” Hogan later amended the statement from them being neighbors to simply living in the same general area. Even that seems a little suspect, as Hogan was talking about the McMahon residence in Stamford, Connecticut. Based on his testimony in a future legal proceeding this list will cover as it continues, Hogan had a residence in Stamford where he was there “from time to time.” This is a pretty harsh downgrade from bragging about being neighbors, and yet it’s still obviously what the benefits were for a politically minded top star to have a side home so close to the boss. Hogan’s testimony also implied he didn’t buy his home in Stamford until the late ‘80s, making his reasons for purchasing the property rather transparent, even for him. Maybe that’s where “Diamond” Dallas Page got the idea…
11. They (Allegedly) Did Heavy Amounts Of Drugs Together
Nothing brings friends together like commonly shared interests, and Vince and the Hulkster had far more in common than the fact they were both sports entertainers. The 1980s were a different time for wrestling, when the top stars were basically expected to take steroids, and Hogan was very much so fulfilling that notion. McMahon also partook, although steroids were really only Vince’s second favorite drug at best, far behind cocaine as his substance of choice. Anyone who witnessed Hogan manically ramble about the power of Hulkamania might assume he’s sniffed a little nose candy as well, and it’s only reasonable to guess the boss and the top star would occasionally party with one another and do their favorite drugs together. Hogan has come forward about some of his drug abuse over the years, specifically admitting to using steroids with McMahon on the set of No Holds Barred. Further speculation tends to imply the two were also using cocaine together, which to be fair, has never been confirmed. In fact, everything related to Vince’s drug use is suspect, mostly based on the book Ring of Hell and with little first hand accounts to back it up.
10. They Wrote A Movie Together
Speaking of No Holds Barred, no discussion of Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan’s friendship can be complete without a closer look at the bizarre motion picture the two created together. Officially, Dennis Hackin, a small time screenwriter who also wrote the Clint Eastwood film Bronco Billy, was the credited scribe. However, the generally agreed upon story is that Hogan and McMahon weren’t happy with Hackin’s script, at all, and so they spent the next three days locked in a hotel room making extensive rewrites, basically creating an entirely new film. As anyone who has actually sat down and watched No Holds Barred can tell you (and there aren’t many), the result was a bizarre mess filled with the lowest forms of humor and basest level of storytelling. The most confusing part was the villain, Zeus, who later debuted in WWE as a real wrestler with the exact same character he had in the film. Unsurprisingly to everyone except Hogan and McMahon, the film was a huge bomb, with even McMahon admitting as such years later on an episode of Raw.
9. Hogan Tried To Put Vince Out Of Business In WCW
From 1984 to 1993, Hogan and McMahon were the top two names in the wrestling universe. WWE was far and away the top company around and Hogan was still McMahon’s top star, although his fame was clearly starting to wane, with certain crowds outright rejecting his every move. Hogan took a hiatus after the 1993 King of the Ring to decide how to turn things around, and he ultimately wouldn’t return for almost nine years, instead heading to WCW and going to war with his former boss. Depending on when he was asked, Hogan at times denied he was trying to take Vince on, and other times claimed it was his sole goal. Whether he was constantly thinking about his old boss or not, Hogan definitely managed to continue his unmatched successful in the new environment, arguably even doing better work than even before when he turned heel and formed the nWo. Of course, Vince wasn’t doing too bad himself, spearheading the Attitude Era and reinventing wrestling as we know it to take down his former top star.
8. Hogan Testified Against Vince During The Steroid Trial
Although most wrestling promoters would consider losing their top star to a rival as the most catastrophic event of their year, Vince McMahon had a whole lot on his mind in 1994 that made Hogan’s WCW debut secondary at best. Far more pressing was the fact he was on trial by the US government for steroid distribution, an ordeal that started way back in 1991 when former WWE employee George Zahorian suffered the same fate. Zahorian saw prison time, but that wasn’t enough for the government, and Vince was next on their list. However, time would soon discover the US government may have been a little quick in charging Vince with distribution, considering they had virtually no evidence that he explicitly told his wrestlers to bulk up through unnatural means. The best bet the prosecution had was getting wrestlers to testify against Vince, and there was no better name for the job than his former biggest star and best buddy. As it turned out, though, while Hogan and Vince did steroids together, he never witnessed Vince distribute them. If anything, it was the other way around. Because Hogan’s testimony didn’t prove anything, Vince was ultimately cleared of all charges.
7. Vince Got Petty When The Huckster Went nWo 4 Life
Any businessperson who loses one of their best employees is bound to feel bitter about the situation. Knowing Vince McMahon’s penchant for grandeur, it goes without saying that bitter didn’t even begin to describe the feeling he must have felt when Hulk Hogan helped Nitro beat Raw in the ratings more than 80 weeks in a row. Making matters worse, he also lost his number two star, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the year after Hogan jumped ship, and plenty more wrestlers would follow from there. Angry, betrayed, and more than anything else, pathetically petty, McMahon fired back by airing vignettes about “The Huckster” and “The Nacho Man.” That the videos were horribly received didn’t stop them from going on forever, as WCW’s continued success during this period only served to make Vince madder. Even after The Huckster and Nacho Man were finally taken off television, McMahon continually instructed commentators Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler to make pot shots at WCW and Hogan in particular, reminding fans it would be a long time before the two would be on good terms again.
6. They Patched Things Up When WCW Went Under
More than anything else, Vince McMahon is a person who knows how to make money, and he’s willing to use that knowledge by whatever means necessary. Even with everything that had been said and done between him and Hogan by 2002, he knew that there was still money to be made both in Hulkamania and the nWo brand, so he hired Hogan back for another run in WWE. Nine years after Hogan made his last appearance, he was once again amongst the most popular acts in the company, which meant he and Vince were best buddies again behind the scenes. McMahon was so happy to have his top star back he rode the wave of Hulkamania all the way to one last WWE Championship run, proving Vince was truly willing to let bygones be bygones and welcome Hogan home. One can only hope the drug use was well behind them at this point, and Hogan wasn’t willing to buy a house near Vince again so they could stay close, but that they were even willing to work together again was an obvious sign their relationship had withstood years of fighting (at least for the time being).
5. They Were The Co-Main Event At WrestleMania XIX
Such is the nature of the professional wrestling industry that just about every friendship is bound to end in spectacular fashion with thousands of fans as witnesses. Since Vince and Hogan are two of the biggest personalities ever and shared one of the most important friendships in the industry, the only place big enough to stage their inevitable battle was WrestleMania. It happened in 2003 during the 19th Showcase of Immortals, in an appropriately violent, bloody, and messy affair. Technically, the main event saw Brock Lesnar beat Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship, but promotion of the show made it look like Hogan-McMahon was the real selling point. The encounter was repeatedly hailed as “twenty years in the making,” with the source of their argument dating all the way back to the early ‘80s: who between them is more responsible for creating Hulkamania? After Roddy Piper symbolically got involved in the match to offer a third answer to the question, Hogan defeated McMahon in definitive fashion, but the story between them was far from over.
4. Hulk Claimed He Was Building His Own Company To Bring Vince Down
Once the curtain dropped on WrestleMania XIX, there wasn’t much left for Hogan to do in WWE. After a questionable run as Mr. America, he left the company for short runs in NJPW and TNA, although neither amounted to more than a few appearances. McMahon again welcomed him back to WWE with a Hall of Fame induction, and matches with Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton followed. Hogan wasn’t too happy with them, though, specifically the Orton match, and so he again left WWE on his own accord. Trying to replicate his success in WCW, Hogan started claiming he was going to form his own promotion in 2007 with the implicit goal of taking down Vince. The main issue seemed to be that Vince no longer treated Hogan like a tiptop star, putting his match against Randy Orton relatively low on the SummerSlam card. Whatever Hogan was planning, it never quite came into fruition, the closest version of a company he created being his Hulkamania tour of Australia. That didn’t come anywhere near competing with McMahon, though, so he needed to look elsewhere for new partners on that endeavor…
3. When He Couldn’t Take Vince Down Alone, Hogan Signed With TNA
Outside of a few diehards desperate for an alternative to the McMahon’s sports entertainment, few people would argue TNA is equal to WWE, let alone WCW. There have been a few times the company has at least come close to the former, at least in terms of attempting to recapture the glory former stars experienced elsewhere. In line with that credo, Hulk Hogan has had two runs in the company, with his second attempt at taking TNA to the mainstream far more memorable. His days in the ring were almost over by the time he made his 2010 debut, and so the Hulkster became an authority figure, allegedly with a lot of pull backstage to add verisimilitude to the role. Unfortunately for TNA, Hogan wasn’t a particularly good authority figure, in no small part because it took a long time before his role was exactly defined. Even after it was clear Hogan was Dixie Carter’s business partner, it didn’t help any of the younger talents to have a bigger star in a non-wrestling role constantly hogging the spotlight. Since Hogan didn’t do anything new in the role, fans didn’t like it, either, and Hogan was gone from TNA a little over three years after he signed with the company.
2. His Career On The Decline, Hogan Made Good With Vince Once More
Perhaps the ultimate sign that Vince McMahon will always have a place in his heart for Hulk Hogan is that the Hulkster’s latest comeback came almost entirely at random, and for very little reason. After his time in TNA was over, Hogan’s star power had almost entirely faded. Practically at random, Vince McMahon hired Hogan back one more time in 2014 to promote the WWE Network, and Hogan went on to make a handful more appearances promoting random movies, house shows, and wrestlers. His last high profile appearance during an actual match came at WrestleMania 31, when he and the other original nWo members interfered in Sting versus Triple H, even more randomly than Hogan’s return to the company in general. There wasn’t much value left to these appearances, but the point was that Hogan and McMahon were on good terms once again, and was looking like they could keep working together through anything. Well, almost anything…
1. Vince Hasn’t Spoken To Hogan Since His Racist Outburst
In July 2015, footage was leaked to the Internet containing Hulk Hogan making a number of highly racist comments about a man dating his daughter Brooke. Hogan knew the press wouldn’t like this, and they most certainly haven’t, nor have the majority of people who once called themselves Hulkamaniacs. Accepting his fate, Hogan called Triple H the day the tape leaked and warned him about what happened. According to Hogan, Triple H discussed the situation with Vince McMahon and possibly a few USA Network executives, called Hogan back, and asked him to resign. From that moment on, Vince and Hogan have yet to speak again, at least if the Hulkster is to be believed. These days, Vince is more corporate than ever before, and it makes sense he would distance himself from such an obvious scandal. That the two were friends only makes things worse, as there’s always the implication they could’ve bonded over the matter, especially since Vince hasn’t been the most racially sensitive guy in the past himself. That probably isn’t the case, but that doesn’t mean McMahon and Hogan will never make up, either. Vince has forgiven dozens of wrestlers for much worse, so there’s always a chance Hulkamania will ride again yet.
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