Why Hulkamania almost never happened
We all know how immensely popular Hulk Hogan was in the 80s. We all know what he did for the business. But all that aside, there was the possibility that Hulkamania almost never happened, at least at the starting point and extent that it did.
Now, I've been reading the Observer a lot lately and I've come across some from 1983, which quite possibly could have been the year that altered the rise of Hulkamania.
At the time, 3 talents were widely regarded as the most popular in America at the time. Hogan was a big draw in Minnesota but from what I read, the Von Erichs were just as big, if not, bigger in Texas. It was said that Vince always spoke highly of the Von Erichs back then, especially Kerry, as Vince's own WWE Magazine in those days often had coverage of Kerry and Vince even wanted to snatch him up for his national expansion but Kerry stayed loyal to his father and family promotion, the same promotion Kerry was promised to own & operate after Fritz stepped away.
But, there was someone else, who in 1982-1983, rivaled both the Von Erichs & Hogan in popularity and that was Jimmy Snuka.
But, here's what I'm getting at. Vincent J. McMahon, at the time of filming for Rocky III, still owner of WWF, did not want Hogan to participate in the film, for reasons I don't know but I assume because the elder McMahon did not want the business to be viewed in that light. So in 1981, Hogan left for AWA. The film was released in May of 1982, less than a month before Vincent K. McMahon purchased WWF from his father.
But 6 months prior to this, we saw the debut of Jimmy Snuka. Despite initially being a heel (in a series of matches with WWE Champion Bob Backlund), Snuka was cheered in the northeast, generally after his first leap off the cage in the summer of 1982, about 3 weeks after Vince purchased the company. From there, an angle was done to turn Snuka babyface and align him with Freddy Blassie. At this time, Snuka was regarded as the number 1 babyface in the company and seemed to be on the verge of a push.
But then problems began. On January 17, 1983, Jimmy Snuka was arrested in a motel room in Syracuse, New York after brawling with 9 police officers after his girlfried, Nancy Argentina, was heard screaming by the motel manager. It made several newspapers and obviously had to affect the push of Snuka, although he never served any time, or was formally convicted of any wrong doing.
And less than 4 months later, on the night of May 11, 1982 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Nancy Argentina was found dead in Snuka's motel room. However, Snuka was once again never charged with anything.
Both of these incidents occurred before Vincent K. purchased the WWF. Upon his buyout, Snuka was engaged in a feud with Don Muraco, which was a hot ticket in NYC. As a matter of fact, a July 23, 1983 match in Landover, Maryland drew a sellout of 19,800, which should really be commended, as it was the only match of the show. Meanwhile, Hogan was selling out arenas in the midwest, engaged in a feud with Masa Saito.
By that October, Vince begins expanding, Snuka works match of the year with Muraco in NYC and Hulk Hogan defeats NWA World Champion Harley Race by DQ in Japan, that drew criticism, as it was supposed to be 2/3 falls but Hogan refused to take a pin, even for a fall. Later that month, AWA drew big with a series of battle royals involving Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan. By the end of the year, Hogan had returned to WWF on December 27, 1983 and won the title about a week later. The next year, Snuka was placed in a feud with hot newcomer, Roddy Piper.
The point of this thread was to address reasons why I feel Hulkamania almost didn't happen. Obviously, Vince, Sr. and Hogan fell out regarding Rocky III, which lead to Hogan's departure in 1981. Snuka had been built up over the course of 1982 and 1983 but by mid 1983, ended any possibility of him becoming the top guy. Hogan's popularity had greatly taken off and, IMO with all the headache provided by Snuka and Vince, Sr. not running the company anymore, was brought in to be the face of the company.
But it seems that had Vince, Sr. (along with Skaaland and Monsoon) had not sold all their shares to Vince, Jr., Hogan would have never been brought back. At the same time, it's a possibility that if the incidents not occurred in January and May of 1982, Snuka may have been pushed to the top and at least delayed Hulkamania, if it happened at all.
I know, long post but just something to think about. Had Vince, Sr. and Hogan not fell out, would Hulkamania have been as big? Would Vince, Sr. have forgave him and continued doing business? Would Vince, Sr. have instead built up the top babyface of WWF in 1983, Jimmy Snuka, as the next champion?