I had enjoyed wrestling previously, but it wasn’t until I watched, with great concern, as Hollywood Hogan and his Outsider brethren formed the New World Order of professional wrestling and were enacting gang violence upon many helpless victims, that I became thoroughly hooked.
Surely some badass hero or heroes would step up and stand up to these low lifes.
The most badass of heroes did step up: Sting.
A new-look Sting appeared, clearly inspired by The Crow, and, without speaking much at all, he spoke to my preteen, vigilante-aspiring heart.
The slow weekly build up of tension between Sting and the Hogan led NWO made wrestling must-not-miss for me. What I had previously just enjoyed as a cartoon violence, fleetingly-interesting-situational-drama, became a serious series that had to be watched in sequence.
It took me a few years of age, and understanding, to come to the enlightening realization that it was not Sting that had captured my interest to the point that, as a school-loathing youngster, I looked forward to Mondays more than Saturdays: it was the disrespectful-to-the-esteemed-position World Heavyweight Champion.
Hulk Hogan had done, for me, what he had already done for the generation of fans of the previous decade; he made me fall in love with professional wrestling.
What an amazingly deep pit of affection he dropped me into; twenty years later and I am still falling.
After the Monday Night Wars ended in WCW defeat, and I started to grow into a man-on-the-verge, I continued to watch wrestling but always with a longing to re-live that must-tune-in fervor that I had as a boy…
Alas, it seemed that phase had passed.
As I moved into the next phase of my relationship with wrestling, becoming a wrestler, I learned that it wasn’t in with the cool kids to like Hogan. I was told he couldn’t wrestle, which seemed weird, but who was I to question what seemed like the consensus-reality of my peer group and our mat-mentors?
Yeah, well, I guess Hogan sucks then…
I learned to play along, but that idea always seemed silly. Could millions of fans be wrong, were they just not smart enough to see that he wasn’t so great? Had they been had? Were they…(*cringes-to-the-brink-of-nausea at the term*) marks? The idea made me feel disgustingly dirty, but who was I to go against the angry, freeway-traffic of community thought?
Yeah, well, I guess all those Hulkamaniacs were just marks then…
*My stomach heaves.*
As I went from a body-slamming baby, to back-breaking boy, the skepticism of some of the bullsh__ that had been airplane-effect-spoon-fed started to creep in. The Tooth Fairy-esque mat mythology didn’t seem quite so believable.
As I went from a back-breaking boy, to testy top-rope-testing teen, l became completely atheistic to all the ol’ tyme ‘restligious dogmatic dogsh__.
I had entered my own age of reason. I began to question and remove-through-logic all of the ignorant views that were obscuring a true vision of professional wrestling.I reflected on the trial of Hogan V. High-booted Hipsters, of which I was a reluctant-to-convict juror, that had relented in the face of overwhelming, send-him-away attitudes.
Did Hogan suck?
I tested it against simple critical thinking using the Socratic Method:
Socrates: What is the most essential point of professional wrestling’s existence in this world?
Me: Hmm… To entertain people?
Socrates: Good. Did Hogan suck at entertaining people?
Me: Hmm… No; considering that he is the only wrestler to ever be a main factor in two separate boom-periods in professional wrestling, I would go so far as to conclude that he is the greatest entertainer in wrestling history, just going off of the sheer numbers of people entertained.
Socrates: Good. But does he suck in-the-ring?
Me: Hmm… I’m...not sure?
Socrates: Well, what’s the point of a protagonist wrestler?
Me: To get the fans behind him.
Socrates: Yes, what else?
Me: To inspire the Heroic Spirit in the audience by withstanding and, eventually, overcoming great pain through his own heroic spirit.
Socrates: Good. Did Hogan get the fans behind him, garner sympathy in the face of overwhelming conflict, and resolve said conflict with inspiring strength and courage?
Me: Yes, Hulkamania was a legitimate sub-cultural phenomenon and Hogan consistently faced off against larger, meaner opponents, and made chill-bump-inducing comebacks against them.
Socrates: So, was the Hulkster a great protagonist?
Me: Yes, in my opinion, one of the best ever.
Socrates: Good. What’s the point of a antagonist wrestler?
Me: To be an overwhelming obstacle for the protagonist to overcome.
Socrates: What else?
Me: To give the audience a reason to dislike them; thus giving them a reason to get behind the protagonist.
Socrates: Good. So, was Hollywood Hogan a loathsome force, which inspired a yearning for a reckoning at the hands of a courageous hero?
Me: Yes, not only was he the biggest star in the history of the artform, making himself a fortress of accomplishment, but he also surrounded himself with, and utilized, a castle wall of lowlifes, and a mote of lowlife tactics. He captured the essence of the cruel king archetype like no one else in wrestling, before or since.
Socrates: So, was Hollywood Hogan a good antagonist?
Me: Yes, in my opinion, one of the best ever.
Socrates: Does it matter how well he executed moves?
Me: Only to the extent that the audience could understand them and accept them as legitimate.
Socrates: Did they?
Me: For the vastest of majorities; yes.
Socrates: So, did Hogan suck in-the-ring?
Me: No; logically speaking, he may be the greatest of all time.
Socrates: Now, that you’re smart enough to realize that the wrestling fans were the smart ones, all along, who do you think are the real marks?
*Get’s cut off by another 5th Century philosopher*
Siddhartha Gautama: C’mon, Socrates. Be nice! All beings are suffering from ignorance in one way or another. So, all beings are marks, in the traditional sense of the word, and since all beings are marks, really no beings are marks, because that word, by its very nature, is empty of meaning. Let it go.
*I bow to the wisdom of the great beings that I carry in my heart, before ending the dialogue, and this series.*
Me: Thank you, Hulk, so much!