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-   -   Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining In Ring Worker (https://www.wrestlingforum.com/columns/2391814-hulk-hogan-entertaining-ring-worker.html)

AliFrazier100 04-21-2019 05:57 PM

Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining In Ring Worker
The contributions of one Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, to the world of professional wrestling are undeniable. At a time when the American wrestling business consisted of several big territorial promotions, he significantly helped make Vince McMahon’s vision of turning the WWF into a national promotion a reality. With his overwhelming charisma and creative mic skills, he knew how bring thousands of fans into arenas across the nation to watch him beat up the villain of the month. Sold out venue after sold out venue packed into the nosebleed sections… he was certainly the biggest star of his era. However, many so called “smart fans” claim that Hogan was a performer who was very charismatic and a good talker, but not a very good worker. And while I agree he may not fit the definition of a GOOD worker by the standards of Dave Meltzer, Wade Keller or most internet smarks, it is my opinion that he was an ENTERTAINING worker. At least from 1984 to 1992.

When Hogan wrestled in Japan in the seventies, he actually learned good technical wrestling. If you watch one of his matches in Japan, you’ll see him do moves that you probably never or rarely witnessed him do in the United States, like a drop toe hold into a front face lock. But that was because Japanese wrestling fans were more appreciative and demanding of actual in ring work than American wrestling fans. American wrestling fans, generally speaking, have always cared more about the storylines and the Hollywood aspect of wrestling, and because of this, Hogan didn’t bring his technical skills from Japan over to the U.S. In the WWF, his offense was pretty basic. Punches, clotheslines, body slams, suplexes, elbow drops, atomic drops, a big boot and a leg drop…that wasn’t his entire brawling repertoire but you get the picture. You weren’t going to see sunset flips or a crucifix pin from him.

But that’s not to say he didn’t still care about giving American wrestling fans their money’s worth during his matches. Fans who paid their hard-earned money to see him wrestle some bad guy still got a good show from him between the bells. He brought lots of entertainment DURING his matches. I am not talking about how he “worked the crowd” and elicited big crowd reactions, but rather what he actually did between the ropes was entertaining.

The first reason I will discuss is his use of facial expressions. Hogan always had the gift of having an overly animated face. Whether he was attempting to convey a burst of intensity while throwing punches at The Genius or body slamming the 400 lb. Kamala, getting angry at Jimmy Hart for interfering, or laying on the canvas, exhausted and writhing in pain, you could see it in his face. He usually overacted, both during his matches and in his promos, but you could always feel the emotions he was giving off and it was certainly fun to watch. Some wrestlers, like Bret Hart, are criticized for always having the same expression on their face during their matches and it is a valid criticism. But one thing you can say about Hogan is his face was always animated during his matches and it made them more enjoyable to watch. (For the record, in spite of this Bret Hart was obviously still a great worker.)

The next reason I will discuss, as I alluded to earlier and will now expand on, is Hogan’s ability to sell for his opponents. Hogan was usually pretty good about letting the other wrestler get in a decent amount of offense during a match, at least in the eighties. In fact, many times his opponent would dominate him for the entire middle part of the match before he started his usual comeback. He tried his best to make fans think he was experiencing a great deal of pain at the hands of Mr. Perfect, Randy Savage, King Kong Bundy, etc. and, in my opinion, conveyed to the fans that he was in danger of losing the match. He even bladed sometimes and seeing the blood run down his face helped fans understand the excruciating pain he was feeling.

Yes, he did no sell for his opponents while he was doing his “Hulking Up” routine. But the situation called for it. The whole idea was that Hulk was suddenly getting a huge adrenaline rush and for a brief period of time and just couldn’t feel pain. His character was sort of a super hero, so the Hulking Up sequence was appropriate. But before this point in the match, he normally sold very well for his opponents. And as I’m sure you all know, the more punishment a wrestler takes during a match, the more exciting it is when they hit their comeback. While Hulk wasn’t quite as perfect at executing this concept as Shawn Michaels, he was still very good at it.

But something I hardly ever see anyone give Hogan credit for is the many, many times he would add a gimmicky sequence, for a lack of a better term, to his matches to add some extra entertainment value and make them more fun to watch. This is hard to explain without offering examples, so here it goes. Most of the time when Hogan was wrestling someone that was 400 or more pounds, he would attempt to body slam them early in the match, but act like he wasn’t strong enough. Then near the end of the match, while he was Hulking Up and was full of adrenaline, he would attempt the body slam again and this time successfully pull off the great feat of strength. The fact that he tried it once before and failed added drama when he successfully attempted it the second time. Hulk pulled off this routine with King Kong Bundy, Kamala, Earthquake, and most famously with Andre The Giant at WrestleMania 3.

But Hogan had a lot more tricks up his sleeve than just failed body slams. On an edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event when he wrestled the Honky Tonk Man, the two of them did a sequence during the match where Hogan took Honky’s guitar, chased him around the ring with it, and finally managed to crack him with it as he climbed back into the ring. During another Saturday Night’s Main Event Match, this one against Harley Race, they did a spot where Harley attempted to do a splash on Hogan, who was lying on a table. Hogan moved just in time and you heard a loud crack as Harley hit the wooden table (it didn’t break). We’ve witnessed many table spots in today’s wrestling, but in the 80’s in was innovative, and it added some much needed entertainment value to the match with the slow, prodding, old Harley. At WrestleMania 7, during his main event match with Sgt. Slaughter (the Gulf War was going on), they did a sequence where the Iraqi sympathizer Slaughter draped the Iraq flag across a prone Hogan before he pinned him. Hogan kicked out and angrily ripped the flag in half, making for a perfect lead in to his Hulking Up routine.

Another common gimmick Hulk employed was imitating someone’s trademark to mock them. Like slapping his stomach during a match with Kamala or prancing around the ring to mock The Genius. It was fun to watch and livened things up. During an early match with the Macho Man, while Macho was lying outside the ring, Hulk went and put on the same trademark sunglasses that Randy wore during his entrance to make fun of him.

Even his trademark Hulking Up routine itself added another element of fun to his matches. Whether Hogan was bouncing King Kong Bundy’s head off all 4 top turnbuckles in succession, motioning to the crowd that he would pull off Masked Super Star’s mask, or whatever, he always had fun ideas for his matches to add some more theatre to them. He was a true showman.

Now, Hogan wasn’t all about facial expressions, selling and gimmicky routines in the ring. At least not from 1984 to 1992, his original run in the WWF. Hulk actually had decent mobility for a big man and was a good brawler. Not as good as Stone Cold Steve Austin in the late nineties, but he was respectable. And at the time he could still take a fair amount of bumps during his matches. But as time went on his body got more broken down (I think using the leg drop as his finisher contributed greatly to his back problems). By the time he turned heel in WCW, he couldn’t move around the ring as well and couldn’t take as many bumps. No matter how animated his facial expressions were then or how fun his gimmicky ideas for his matches were, nothing was going to make up for his deteriorating physical skills. He could also sometimes be a selfish worker, as he dominated Sting and Bret Hart during matches in WCW when the storyline didn’t call for it. By 1996 Hulk Hogan truly was a bad worker, and really did fit the definition of someone who was charismatic but just couldn’t wrestle.

While I don’t recommend wasting your time on the WWE network watching WCW pay per view main events with Hogan during his N.W.O. run, I highly suggest watching his old Saturday Night’s Main Event matches. You won’t see matches filled with exciting near falls like Steamboat/Savage, and you won’t see cool technical maneuvers and gritty realism like in a Bret Hart match. But you will have a lot of fun watching Hogan’s decent brawling, combined with his animated facial expressions, dramatic selling and fun added sequences to his matches. He didn’t offer skilled wrestling, but he did offer entertainment before, during, and after the bells rang. And I feel you will be entertained greatly by most of his matches from 1984 to 1992.

Blissed Phenomenon 04-21-2019 08:37 PM

He was an entertaining performer definitely just not that good of an In Ring worker but he didn't need to be anyway.

TripleG 04-22-2019 08:43 AM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
Hogan was a showman and knew how to get the most out of the least.

And by working a limited style, when he did do something a little crazy, it was more shocking. Look at his cage matches with Bossman with their Superplexes off the top of the cage or even his match with Muta where he did an Enzuguri (I literally almost shit myself watching it).

Back then, the performers were more like magicians, and would put a lot of theatrics into their matches. It wasn't just Hogan either. Look at guys like Piper and Jake, guys known for being great characters and entertainers, but very minimalist in the moves they did. Even more technical guys like Ric Flair had, pardon the pun, a flare for the theatrics. Drama, character, and story came before highspots, and they'd focus on little nuances and small moments to make things matter. its why matches like Jake Vs. Martel in a Blindfold match worked well in that era and wouldn't work as well today where action takes precendence over everything else.

I recently rewatched all the old episodes of SNME and if there was anything that stood out to me, it was how those shows demonstrated how special Hogan really was and what the appeal was during that time period. Look at his matches with Race, Bundy, Bossman, Orndorff, and even a forgotten gem with Bad News Brown, and you really see what made him so special during that time period. He was one of those guys that was so over that he could get people to react to anything and lead the crowd like a conductor.

Now if you want to see a more technical side of Hogan, check out his work in Japan.

jroc72191 04-23-2019 01:00 PM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
if i have said it once i have said it a million times. hogan is the most underrated in-ring talent by the iwc in wrestling. i would rather watch him do basic punches and clotheslines than ricochet do 100 fucking flips or cien almas or aleister black do their thing any day of the weak.

RunzaQ 04-23-2019 02:01 PM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
He was, and he will always be an entertaining worker. I really wish he was healthy enough to go for one last match at WrestleMania 35. Imagine if he was given a chance to have one more final match despite of his physical health? One is the immortal, one is the deadman. Reliving the legendary rivalry and the golden era for one last time. If he does, I think The Undertaker would be a perfect opponent at a surprise main event after the Women's Championship match. It would have been a perfect and awesome main event for sure.

AliFrazier100 04-25-2019 11:24 AM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
Hogan didn't need to be a good in ring worker, but he still went out of his way to put on a good show during his matches.

Hogan did know how to do a whole lot with just a little bit. Theatrics is a good word for what he did during his matches.

He probably is the most underrated wrestler by the IWC.

A lot of people would like to see him wrestle one more match, but I think he's 65 now. It can't happen.

TripleG 04-25-2019 01:17 PM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
My Top Ten Favorite Hulk Hogan Matches (In No Particular Order)

1) Vs. The Ultimate Warrior: Title for Title at Wrestlemania VI = An epic face vs. face showdown. If you were a fan of either one of or both of these guys, this was a dramatic thrill ride with an ending that left me speechless the first time I saw it.

2) Vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania X-8 = I don't even know how to accurately describe this match. The most emotionally charged bout ever? Possibly. The definitive Wrestlemania dream match? Probably? An entertaining and classic showdown for the ages? Absolutely.

3) Vs. Sgt. Slaughter: WWF Title Desert Storm Match from MSG 1991 = You can find this match on the Network and boy oh boy is it a hidden gem. This version of Hulk with the camoflauge get up and more of a hardcore style is one that could have revitalized his babyface run in the 90s if they had leaned into it and used it outside of these matches with Slaughter. This is a wild and bloody match and represents the best both men could offer in 1991. Slaughter is particularly great in this match.

4) Vs. The Great Muta from NJPW event in 1993 = Such a cool and unique pairing and a different style of Hogan than what US fans are used to seeing. All of Hogan's work in Japan is a bit more technical, but this is probably my personal favorite of his Japanese work, mainly because I was a huge fan of Hulk as a kid and Muta is the first Japanese wrestler I ever became a fan of, so this is just a treat.

5) Vs. The Big Bossman: Steel Cage Match MSG 1989 = This is another one you can find on the Network and I first saw on a Best of Hulkamania tape as a kid. I think most people think of their SNME Cage match when they think of these two, but I saw this one first, so I have more of an attachment to it. You get blood, and you get a wild superplex spot that spits in the face of all those that say Hogan never did anything crazy. Basically, it is the same as their SNME match but without Zeus worked into it.

6) Vs. Randy Savage for the WWF Title at Wrestlemania V = This is the first wrestling match I remember seeing, so obviously, I have a special connection to it. The angle and build up are stupendous, and fortunately, the match itself was a main event worthy of Wrestlemania with plenty of drama and excitement.

7) Vs. Vince McMahon in a Street Fight at Wrestlemania XIX = This was just wild and chaotic fun. Its one of those bouts that regardless of how you felt about it, you sure as hell will never forget it.

8) Vs. Paul Orndorff: All Matches = They had a couple on SNME, including their memorable cage match, and they had that encounter in The Big Event infront of that massive crowd. There was just something about this pairing that just clicked. They were physically similar to each other yet completely opposites in terms of personality and it resulted in these personally changed and wild matches. I can't pick a favorite out of that bunch as I enjoyed them all.

9) Vs. Harley Race from SNME = Two legendary champions having a crazy ass match. This one is one of the most memorable matches in SNME history for a reason.

10) w/Tenryu Vs. The Road Warriors from Wrestlefest 91 SWS/WWF Supershow = This is such a weird "How the hell did all these guys get in one match?" type of deal, that I can't help but love it.

And I actually had to narrow that list down. There are still plenty of other Hogan matches I enjoy whether they be his bouts from SNME, his historical battles with Andre, his matches with DDP in WCW, the epic Nitro title changes to Goldberg and Luger, and his Bash at the Beach match with Flair and plenty of others.

The XL 2 04-26-2019 04:44 PM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
Hogan could work. There is this incorrect notion that workrate and doing high spots is what makes a great worker. That couldn't be further from the truth. Fact is, Hogan was a better worker than most of todays supposed great "workers"

Flair Flop 04-26-2019 05:08 PM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining Worker
Hogan had a way of building the atmosphere of a match like no other. I’ve always said that no one has ever made a title feel as important as Ric did, but no one ever made standing across the ring from them feel quite as important as Hogan did. Hogan found a routine that worked for him. Years later it’s easy to say that his bulking up comeback routine is ridiculous but it worked back then. Brilliantly. It got the crowd involved. They always knew I was coming and erupted every time. He just got it. His facial expressions were great. He knew how to make you care about what was happening and he didn’t need world class athleticism to do it.

yeahbaby! 05-28-2019 12:51 AM

Re: Hulk Hogan Was An Entertaining In Ring Worker
Of course he was. The proof is in the pudding, if you get the crowd going nuts for you in the ring then you're entertaining and doing your job.

I think part of the feeling he wasn't good is translating what he did to the current day. If Hogan was on RAW and Smackdown every week then the crowd is going to get sick of his shtick pretty quickly.

It's just a different time now. The curtain wasn't lifted in the Hulkamania era like it was now - so crowds were more keen to go nuts and get on with the show.

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