25 years ago today, Hulk Hogan(Terry Gene Bollea) was waking up somewhere in New York City as the new World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion.
The night before in the hallowed ring of Madison Square Garden, he defeated the nefarious Iron Sheikin little over five minutes after breaking his camel clutch and dropping a leg on him. While revisionist history paints this as the “birth of Hulkamania”, that actually occured a couple years earlier, when Hogan competed for Verne Gagne‘s AWA promotion based in Minnesota. Hulk would come close to unseating AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel several times, but as his buddy “Mean” Gene Okerlund would say “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
It is safe to say that this historical event officially kick-started the WWF’s huge national expansion effort. While little things had been happening already, Hulk appearing fresh out of the AWA and Japanese rings (with the added hype of having appeared in Rocky III in 1982) was just the tip of the iceberg. Right around the same time, “Rowdy” Roddy Pipercame in from the Carolinas, “Dr. D” David Schultzand Okerlund from the AWA, and Paul Orndorffwas a relatively new acquisition as well. Before long, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and others would be added to the mix.
I didn’t see Hulk Hogan live for the first time until January 1988, when he faced “Ravishing” Rick Rude at the main event of a card in Vancouver’s PNE Coliseum. While I was never much of a Hulk Hogan fan, you’d have to be insane to not notice how he captivated that crowd, and many more to come.
For the benefit of those that have never seen the Hulk-Sheik match, or those that want to see it again, here it is below…
Iron Sheik (champion) vs. Hulk Hogan (challenger)
January 23, 1984
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY