Being British, if you mentioned wrestling to me as a child it would instantly conjure up the image of two fat men with names like Big Daddy or Giant Haystacks bounding around the ring wearing swimming trunks (or worse still, what looked liked a woman’s swimming costume) on Saturday afternoon television.
If you came from the US though, wrestling would likely trigger up something similar yet still entirely different. The fat men were (for the most part) replaced with tall, bronzed, muscular guys, who for some reason couldn’t talk without shouting and pointing their finger menacingly. The wrestlers names were also far more butch sounding, as witnessed by the subject of today’s post, Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan was arguably the most famous face of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation, not the panda logoed wildlife charity, who incidentally forced WWF to change their name to WWE) but had he decided to keep his birth name of Terry Gene Bollea, maybe that wouldn’t have been the case.
In more recent years he has had to change his name to Hollywood Hogan and even wrestled in a mask under the name Mr. America for a time. Ironically this was partly due to not actually owning his own name, and partly due to Marvel comics understandably being a little annoyed at the use of the word Hulk, especially when fans were said to have “Hulkamania” during the height of his career.
British kids were blissfully unaware of all this though until WWF wrestling hit Sky TV. I’m fairly sure home grown wrestling had stopped being shown on TV by this time, so it gradually became the case that British kids stopped knowing who Big Daddy was, and started embracing Hulk Hogan and company instead, to the extent that when he appeared in the infamous section of Gremlins 2, where the film burns up and he gets up from a cinema seat and starts shouting at the Gremlins to get the film started again, kids in this country didn’t go “Who’s that?” but instead said, “Oh, look, it’s the Hulkster!“.
The Gremlins 2 role may have only been a cameo as himself, but it likely helped kickstart his acting career. He did appear in Rocky III in 1982, but after Gremlins 2 was released in 1990 Hulk also had lead roles in the films Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny, and also the TV series Thunder In Paradise, where he captained a big hi-tech motorboat. This was kind of Knight Rider but in a boat (and really should have been called Knight Boat, as featured in The Simpsons).
Today Hulk Hogan is still wrestling and also hosting his own TV shows (including a celebrity wrestling show) but I do wonder if he has at last learnt how to properly take off a T-Shirt. You pull it off over your head Mr. Hogan, not grab it at the front with both hands and tear it off. He must have run up a huge bill for T-Shirts, but maybe that balanced out with the savings he made on not having to wash them?