Hulkamania gets hucked
By TJ Madigan
On Monday morning, Hulk Hogan made an appearance on a Florida radio show to give his first interview since his departure from the WWE. Never one to put himself in a situation where he might actually be presented with a difficult line of questioning, Hogan (Terry Bollea) chose to appear on a syndicated morning show belonging to Bubba The Love Sponge -- a Tampa-based Howard Stern-wannabe who just happens to be a close personal friend of the Hulkster.
Needless to say, the show was filled with all the usual pro-Hogan propaganda but somewhere between the idle chat and name-dropping, the Immortal one actually addressed some semi-serious issues. When the subject of his contract dispute came up, Hogan denied he ever actually had a contract with the WWE. He claimed he agreed to work just a handful of dates for the company (he apparently fulfilled those obligations by late February) and was bound only by a handshake with Vince McMahon. Hulk dismissed rumours (started by McMahon himself) that he's booked to compete at Wrestlemania, instead claiming the writing team has nothing for him and there are no set plans for his return.
Needless to say, Hogan omitted certain parts of the story and did some editing work on the information he did choose to divulge. In reality, the reason he vanished from WWE television had nothing to do with the lack of creative direction. Like so many of pro-wrestling's backstage bust-ups, it all came down to the almighty dollar.
Back in August, Hogan approached McMahon to discuss his financial rewards for the upcoming Global Warning show in Melbourne, Australia. Hogan felt he should receive a pay-per-view bonus for appearing, while McMahon argued the show was untelevised, therefore he'd receive the usual house show deal (believed to be a percentage of the live gate, on top of his high-end guaranteed salary) but at the highest main-event level. McMahon was starting to realize that Hogan's drawing power was fading but his price-tag was still growing and besides, as the main attraction at a 50,000-seat stadium show, Hogan stood to earn substantially more than the rest of the wrestlers on the tour.
Unimpressed with the prospect of a 16-hour flight that would cause him to spend his birthday overseas, Hogan balked at the idea of working without an above-average payoff. Rather than pander to Hogan's ego, McMahon chose to remove him from the lineup, blaming a Brock Lesner-induced injury as the reason for the icon's no-show. Hogan left the building, and hasn't appeared on television since.
The Australian event suffered a brief fan backlash for failing to deliver the heavily-advertised Hogan match but at the end of the day, the show was a runaway success. The Rock and the WWE PR team even poked fun at Hulk's age during the Aussie press conference, a move that apparently infuriated the 49-year old Hogan.
Since then, the WWE has made little reference to the Hulkster on the air, except when crediting Brock Lesner (in storyline context) with ending the icon's career. And as if further evidence of cutting ties was needed, the WWE dropped Hulk's nephew, Horace Hogan, from their developmental roster last month.
So does this mean Hulkamania is officially finished? Come on, be serious. As long as Hulk Hogan has a breath in his body, he'll be back to bask in the spotlight whenever he feels the need to get his face on the tube. And despite the minimal impact Hulk's last stint had on WWE coffers, Vince McMahon will always welcome his first big star back with open arms. After all, if they kissed and made up after the low-blows of the Monday Night Wars (remember the 'Huckster' character, anyone?), a minor pay dispute shouldn't be a particularly big hurdle.
While Hogan definitely won't be showing up at next weekend's Calgary house show, insiders expect him to be back in the ring by the end of the year. And despite his claims to the contrary, it's highly likely he will indeed make an appearance at 'Mania next March, wrestling his retirement match (the first of many, I'm sure) against Vince McMahon.
Talk about art imitating life.