The Birth of Hulkamania (1983–1984)
After purchasing the company from his father in 1982, Vincent K. McMahon had plans to expand the territory into a nationwide promotion, and he handpicked Hulk Hogan to be the company's showpiece attraction due to his charisma and name recognition. Hogan made his return at a television taping in St. Louis, Missouri on December 27, 1983 defeating Bill Dixon.
On the January 7, 1984 edition of Championship Wrestling, Hogan confirmed his face status for the WWF fans by saving Bob Backlund from a three-way assault. Hogan's turn was explained simply by Backlund: "He's changed his ways. He's a great man. He's told me he's not gonna have Blassie around." The storyline shortcut was necessary because less than three weeks later on January 23, Hogan won his first WWF Championship, pinning The Iron Sheik (who had Blassie in his corner) in Madison Square Garden. The storyline accompanying the victory was that Hogan was a "last minute" replacement for the Sheik's original opponent Bob Backlund, and became the champion by way of being the first man to escape the camel clutch (the Iron Sheik's finishing move). The backstage story was that the WWF Champion Bob Backlund had refused to let Hogan win the title from him, demanding that any wrestler to whom he lost the belt have a legitimate wrestling background. As a consequence, The Iron Sheik won the title from Backlund first and then dropped it to Hogan.
Immediately after the title win, commentator Gorilla Monsoon proclaimed "Hulkamania is here!" Hogan frequently referred to his fans as "Hulkamaniacs" in his interviews and introduced his three "demandments": training, saying prayers, and eating vitamins. Eventually, a fourth demandment (believing in oneself) was added during his feud with Earthquake in 1990. Hogan's ring gear developed a characteristic yellow-and-red color scheme; his ring entrances involved him ritualistically ripping his shirt off his body, flexing, and listening for audience cheers in an exaggerated manner. The majority of Hogan's matches during this time involved him wrestling heels who had been booked as unstoppable monsters, using a format which became near-routine: Hogan would deliver steady offense, but eventually lose momentum, seemingly nearing defeat. He would then experience a sudden second wind, fighting back while "feeding" off the energy of the audience, becoming impervious to attack—a process described as "Hulking up". His signature maneuvers—pointing at the opponent (which would later be accompanied by a loud "YOU!" from the audience), shaking his finger to scold him, three punches, an Irish Whip, the big boot and running leg drop—would follow and ensure him a victory. That finishing sequence would occasionally change depending on the storyline and opponent; for instance, with "Giant" wrestlers, the sequence might involve a body slam.
Over the next year, Hulk Hogan became the face of pro wrestling as McMahon pushed the WWF into a pop culture enterprise with The Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection on MTV, drawing record houses, pay-per-view buyrates, and television ratings in the process. The centerpiece attraction for the first WrestleMania on March 31, 1985, Hogan teamed with legit friend Mr. T to defeat his archrival "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. On the first edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, Hogan successfully defended the WWF title against Cowboy Bob Orton in a match which Hogan won by a disqualification.
Hogan was named the most requested celebrity of the 1980s for the Make-a-Wish Foundation children's charity. He was featured on the covers of Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, and People magazines, while also appearing on The Tonight Show and having his own CBS Saturday morning cartoon titled Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling. Hogan, as the premier WWF icon, headlined eight of the first nine WrestleMania events. He also co-hosted Saturday Night Live on March 30, 1985 during this lucrative run. AT&T reported that his 900 number information line was the single biggest 900 number from 1991 to 1993. Hogan operated the 900 number through his stint in WWF and then recreated it when he joined World Championship Wrestling.
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