In the world of professional wrestling, the names just don’t get any bigger than Hulk Hogan. His meteoric rise to fame in the 1980s tracked the growth of the WWF/WWE into the sports entertainment juggernaut the world knows today. Each has the other to thank.
But the Hulkster has long since transcended the squared circle. He’s become one of the most recognizable faces in society over the past three decades, appearing in movies, on television and all across the cultural landscape. He’s larger than life, which is no small feat, even for someone of his size.
Here are 17 things you didn’t know about Hulk Hogan, the most legendary of wrestling legends.
1. Hulk Hogan, originally named Terry Eugene Bollea, was born in Augusta, Georgia. When he was a toddler, his family moved to Port Tampa, Florida, where Bollea grew up playing little league baseball.
2. The athletic Bollea was a talented pitcher in his teenage years, attracting attention from New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds scouts. An injury at the age of 16 stopped his potential baseball career before it could get started.
3. Bollea ate more than the typical teenager, which is not surprising given his increasingly obvious size. His breakfast could include 10 eggs, 3/4 pound of hamburger and a quart of orange juice — lots of protein and vitamin C for a growing boy. He reached 6’7″ by the end of his senior year, and tipped the scales at 300 pounds.
4. Bollea also grew up playing bass guitar and by adulthood was talented enough to earn money performing in clubs and as a session musician. He was part of many Florida bands, including the rock band Ruckus, which was big in the Tampa area in the mid to late 1970s.
5. Bollea enrolled at Hillsborough Community College and later the University of South Florida, where he took classes in music and finance. He dropped out before earning a degree to play music fulltime.
6. Many local wrestlers frequented the clubs where Bollea worked, including brothers Jack and Gerry Brisco, who wrestled as the Brisco Brothers tag team. The two introduced him to Championship Wrestling From Florida (CWF) trainer Hiro Matsuda, who also trained Paul Orndorff and Tito Santana.
7. Bolea wrestled his first match in 1977 for CWF. His early stage names include Terry Boulder, Super Destroyer (for which he wore a mask) and Sterling Gordon.
8. Terry Boulder teamed up with Ed Leslie — later known as Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake — to form the Boulder Brothers tag team. The duo wrestled as part of Memphis Championship Wrestling in the late 1970s. The two men were and are very good friends.
9. While in Tennessee, Boulder appeared on a local talk show with Lou Ferrigno, the actor who played the Incredible Hulk. The host noticed that Boulder was actually bigger than Ferrigno, leading him to take on the name “The Hulk.” When he joined the WWF in late 1979, promoter Vincent McMahon wanted him to adopt an Irish persona with the last name “Hogan.” His name became Hulk Hogan.
10. Hogan made his WWF debut at Madison Square Garden in December of 1979. He quickly defeated Ted DiBiase.
11. Hogan grew into one of the more recognizable faces in wrestling throughout the course of the 1980s. Andre the Giant, another giant of the sport, is a big reason why. Their first feud culminated in an August 1980 match at Shea Stadium, where Andre defeated Hogan. The two wrestlers feuded again in 1987 in the months leading up to WrestleMania III. At the Pontiac Silverdome, in front of 90,000+ people, Hogan pinned Andre after body slamming him. The match remains one of the most epic moments in WrestleMania — and pro wrestling — history.
12. Hulk Hogan has appeared in eight final matches at WrestleMania. He held the WWF World Heavyweight title six times, the WCW World Heavyweight title six times and the WWE World Tag Team title once. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
13. Hogan has entered the ring to many songs over the years, and is widely credited with spreading the use of entrance music in wrestling. His walking on to Survivor’s smash “Eye of the Tiger,” from Rocky III started the trend. Other notable accompaniments include “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Jimi Hendrix, “Real American” by Rick Derringer and the classical piece “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
14. Hogan’s movie career grew along with his wrestling prominence. His first major role was Thunderlips in Rocky III, for which Sylvester Stallone personally recruited him. He also stars in No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny, and shows up in Muppets from Space, Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Spy Hard. His television appearances include The A-Team, Suddenly Susan, Walker, Texas Ranger, Robot Chicken and American Dad! His highest profile TV role was Hogan Knows Best, which debuted in 2005 and tracked the lives of his family.
15. In the late 1990s, Hulk Hogan’s agent presented him with three endorsement options: a meatball maker, a blender and a grill. Different versions of the story have him choosing either the Hulkamania Meatball Maker or the Hulk Hogan Thunder Mixer. The product he didn’t endorse went on to become the George Foreman Grill, which sold over 100 million units and earned Foreman over $200 million.
16. Being successful musician is one of Hogan’s lifelong dreams. When Metallica was looking for a new bassist in 2003, he submitted his tapes, which included a performance of Gary Glitter’s “Leader of the Gang” with rock band Green Jelly. Metallica never responded, though Hogan claims he would’ve happily quit wrestling to join the band.
17. Hogan has supported many charities during his long career, including Make-A-Wish, American Diabetes Association and The Special Olympics. He remains one of the more in-demand celebrities for charity event appearances.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.