Ever since 1987 there has been something in the professional wrestling industry known as “The Torch.” This mythical Torch officially came into existence at Wrestlemania 3 shortly before Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant. But I personally believe Hulk Hogan unofficially held this Torch before Wrestlemania 3. Hulk Hogan possessed what The Torch represents several years before the concept of the Torch was officially labeled.
The way Hulk Hogan tells the story, he and Andre the Giant were in the locker room getting ready for Wrestlemania 3. At this point, Andre specifically told him “I am passing the torch to you tonight.” In other words, Andre the Giant was telling Hulk Hogan the responsibility of being the leader of the wrestling industry would be his from that point on. This is when the concept of The Torch officially was labeled and considered a valuable asset as a concept, particularly by Vince McMahon. Mr. McMahon apparently appreciated and placed great value on that concept, since he has tried to replicate the process (albeit unsuccessfully) several times since then.
We all know that at Wrestlemania 3 Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant and took the wrestling industry to new heights that it had never seen before, setting worldwide attendance records in the process. Hulk Hogan essentially took that Torch and raised it to new heights it had never reached when being held by Andre the Giant or anyone else. The entire wrestling industry gained popularity with Hulk Hogan as the main attraction. Hulkamania was running wild, carrying that Torch throughout the 80’s and early 90’s!
But in case people didn’t notice, Hulk Hogan was actually leading the wrestling industry all over the world prior to joining the WWF. And it was in 1984 (three years before Wrestlemania 3) when Hulkamania was born after Hulk Hogan defeated The Iron Sheik. It was actually rather arrogant of Andre the Giant to say he was passing The Torch to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 3, especially when you consider it was Hulk Hogan that was invited to be in Rocky 3 as Thunderlips in 1982. Hulk Hogan was travelling from America to Japan and all over the world as the biggest star ever seen in the wrestling industry. I believe that although the concept of “The Torch” was not officially labeled yet, Hulk Hogan was in fact the industry leader prior to Wrestlemania 3.
At Wrestlemania 6 we saw that Vince McMahon wanted Hulk Hogan to “pass the torch” to The Ultimate Warrior. This ended up being a failure that would repeat itself several times. Vince McMahon told Hulk Hogan to lose the match, and Hulk Hogan did his job by doing so. At Wrestlemania 6 Hulk Hogan showed sportsmanship by handing his Heavyweight Championship belt to The Ultimate Warrior. Hulk Hogan was then branded as “Immortal” (something that would later haunt Vince McMahon and help TNA Wrestling).
As Hulk Hogan returned to the locker room we saw the disappointed fans cared more about Hulk Hogan leaving the arena than they did cheering for The Ultimate Warrior in the ring. It was no surprise that The Ultimate Warrior only held the WWF Championship for a short time before he lost popularity with the fans. At that point you could say The Ultimate Warrior dropped The Torch.
McMahon thought that it was simple to “pass the torch,” as Andre the Giant said. But in reality, Andre the Giant didn’t pass The Torch to anyone. In reality, Hulk Hogan had taken The Torch in order to take the wrestling industry with him to new heights never seen before.
Unfortunately for the wrestling industry, nobody else was available to pick up The Torch after it was dropped by The Ultimate Warrior. The business side of the wrestling industry significantly damaged the relationship between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon in real life. Hulk Hogan had made it clear that he was not ready to pass The Torch to anyone yet. Yet Vince McMahon selfishly wanted to make sure he had someone else in place leading the industry.
Hulk Hogan was not willing to work in the wrestling industry if his talents and skills were not being fully taken advantage of. This is when Hogan started working on TV shows and movies as a full-time job. Consequently, the ratings of the entire wrestling industry dropped to its lowest point in a very long time.
But in the early 90’s Hulk Hogan realized it was time for him to return to the world of professional wrestling. The TV show Thunder in Paradise had a nice run and Hulk Hogan made several movies. But he realized it was time to return to the wrestling ring. Hulk Hogan then got a nice offer from Eric Bischoff working for billionaire Ted Turner and the new World Championship Wrestling organization known as WCW. The offer was too good for Hulk Hogan to refuse.
When Hulk Hogan made his return to the wrestling world as a member of WCW the fans went crazy with excitement! We finally got to see legendary matches that we had always wanted to see. Thanks to Eric Bischoff and Ted Turner it was now possible to see “The Hulkster” Hulk Hogan versus “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. And it was now possible to see Hollywood Hogan versus “The Icon” Sting! The ratings of World Championship Wrestling shot through the roof and it was clear that Hulk Hogan was once again carrying The Torch as the industry leader of professional wrestling.
It was in WCW where Hulk Hogan did something unprecedented to take the entire industry to new heights never before seen. This is considered the second Golden-Era of professional wrestling in the eyes of many people, since the overwhelming majority of industry talent was in the WCW. While in the WCW Hulk Hogan said he started to realize that people showed a lack of interest in his character, perhaps because they knew what to expect after seeing the same thing for such a long time. He and Eric Bischoff decided it was time to do something never before thought possible – turn Hulk Hogan into a villain! This is when the real American hero known as Hulk Hogan became the selfish Hollywood Hogan.
When Hollywood Hulk Hogan came into existence it nearly put the WWF out of business. At one point Vince McMahon told the Hart family there was a danger of bankruptcy. New technology such as satellite broadcasting made it possible for people to watch WCW on TNT in markets that previously were not possible with cable TV. All of this was a benefit to WCW thanks to Hulk Hogan.
DirecTV said they constantly had people subscribing saying the reason they wanted to subscribe was so they could watch Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Nobody could believe Hulk Hogan was a bad-guy, and everyone wanted to see it for themselves! But Hollywood Hogan was the guy everyone loved to hate, which is why they watched every week. Obviously Hollywood Hogan had taken The Torch, raising it and the entire industry to new levels of success never before seen.
At the end of the 90’s Hulk Hogan decided he wanted to leave the industry for a while. Hulk Hogan is a believer in Andre the Giant’s concept of “passing the torch,” so he agreed to lose to Bill Goldberg in order to make him the industry leader. Goldberg was a wrester whose energy was very similar to The Ultimate Warrior. Goldberg was even able to use a brainbuster finishing move on the 500 pound villain known as The Giant! This meant he put a 500 pound man over his head in a suplex style move and held him there before dropping him to the ground!
Of all the people that ever held a chance of successfully taking The Torch from Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg really was the most qualified. Unfortunately, we never got to see how things played out. Bill Goldberg was rebranded as “Goldberg,” which caused him to lose popularity. Goldberg was now seen as a gold iceberg rather than a tough person with a temper in the eyes of many people. Without Hulk Hogan WCW lost its popularity and was eventually purchased by the WWE. Vince McMahon’s poor management completely destroyed the character known as Goldberg, motivating Bill Goldberg to leave the wrestling industry.
When it became clear to Vince McMahon that none of the characters in the WWE had the ability to take the industry to new levels on their own, he decided that it would be best to bring Hulk Hogan back for Wrestlemania 18. McMahon wanted Hulk Hogan to pass The Torch to The Rock in the main event. Hulk Hogan agreed to do so, but it was at this point in time when we saw that Hulkamania would truly NEVER DIE!
Vince McMahon brought Hulk Hogan to the WWE as a villain shortly before Wrestlemania 18. Hulk Hogan was playing the role of Hollywood Hogan. Nevertheless the fans were glad to see the Hulkster again! Fans continuously rooted for the Hulk, even though he was being portrayed as the bad guy! This is something I had never seen before!
At Wrestlemania 18 we saw The Rock beat Hulk Hogan, essentially passing The Torch from Hulk Hogan to The Rock in the eyes of Vince McMahon. But at this point we saw that The Rock held The Torch for less than one second before dropping The Torch and being completely burned by it!
The moment the referee reached the count of three, the fans (including me) were in disbelief. Even though Hogan was the bad guy, we still wanted our Hulkster to win! All of the fans in the arena started “BOO-ing” The Rock! Dwayne Johnson was in disbelief when this happened!
Hulk Hogan realized that Vince McMahon had once again selected the wrong person to try and be the leader of the wrestling industry. On the Larry King show, Hulk Hogan referred to that incident as a “disaster.” I personally believe this event put an end to the wrestling career of Dwayne Johnson, because after this incident he left the wrestling industry.
This confirms once again that McMahon did not select the right individual to receive The Torch from Hulk Hogan. Dwayne Johnson did not show the loyalty McMahon expected. Vince McMahon has said many times over the years that he wants his employees to concentrate on wrestling as their primary career. Dwayne Johnson left the WWE for years in order to concentrate on his acting career rather than wrestling. It kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if the fans would have cheered for The Rock instead of booing him. Maybe we wouldn’t have seen all those bad movies Dwayne Johnson was in.
The next person Vince McMahon wanted Hulk Hogan to try passing The Torch to was Brock Lesnar. Once again Hulk Hogan was asked to lose the match in order to try passing The Torch, this time to a young athlete qualified in amateur wrestling and mixed martial arts. Brock Lesnar was never capable of having The Torch successfully passed to him. Lesnar simply didn’t care enough about his career in the professional wrestling industry to remain a part of it.
Brock Lesnar’s overall charisma was not right; he didn’t have the fascinating resources needed to portray himself as the leader of the professional wrestling industry. Brock Lesnar didn’t look like an Ultimate Warrior, sound like a Macho Man, or charm ladies like a Nature Boy. Lesnar looked like a baby-faced 17-year-old trapped in a body filled with steroids. Consequently, Lesnar left the WWE in order to concentrate on mixed martial arts.
2011 is the year we currently live in. Hulk Hogan has now officially become an Immortal in TNA Wrestling. The instant Hulk Hogan joined TNA the weekly ratings saw their highest levels ever! This continues to happen each time stories continue to unfold and plots reveal themselves.
It was The Nature Boy, Ric Flair, who said “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” Up to this point, we haven’t seen anyone take The Torch away from Hulk Hogan. With that in mind, Hulk Hogan is still the one carrying The Torch that lights up the wrestling industry. The question I want answered is whether or not anyone will ever take The Torch from Hulk Hogan? If so, who will it be?
Sting is currently the most exciting active wrestler in the industry. The WWE recently did everything possible to try and get Sting to sign a contract with them in order to be in the main event at Wrestlemania. Thankfully, Sting listened to the fans and decided to remain with TNA. I was very pleased when I saw “The Icon,” Sting, had made his return to TNA two weeks ago! The fans ERUPTED with CHEERS!
I believe there is an excellent chance Sting will lead the industry as its biggest attraction for quite a while. I don’t know if it’s possible to just “pass the torch” to a young wrestler and expect him to lead the industry to new levels. In today’s environment it may be necessary to allow experienced wrestlers to lead the industry as long as they can remain active wrestlers. TNA saw its highest ratings of 2011 when Sting returned two weeks ago. With that in mind, I think Sting will remain Heavyweight Champion for quite a while!
But we saw at Wrestlemania 18 that Hulkamania will never die and will always remain the top force in the history of the wrestling industry!
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