The Hulkster was born Terry Bollea on August 11, 1953 in Augusta, Georgia despite his in-ring hometown of Venice Beach, California.
As a youth he thrived in baseball, but loved to watch wrestling on television, idolizing “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and “Superstar” Billy Graham, the latter of which would form the basis of his entire wrestling character.
After dropping out of University, Bollea made ends meet by playing bass with a band and filled the rest of his time working out at a gym in his new hometown of Tampa, Florida. During one of the gigs, Jack and Jerry Briscoe happened to be in the crowd and marveled at Bollea as a physical specimen. They encouraged him to consider wrestling as a career and before you know it, Bollea started to undergo training.
He received his training from the legendary Hiro Matsuda. Matsuda was extermely hard on Bollea, intentionally fracturing his ankle to see if he was tough enough to return. Return he did and soon enough Bollea was wrestling in Matsuda’s CWF federation. After donning a mask as “The Super Destroyer” and not amounting to anything, Bollea left Matsuda’s territory to search for greener pastures.
He eventually wound up opening a gym with a partner and also was managing a private club called the Anchor Club. He was soon joined by old friend Ed “Brutus Beefcake” Leslie and the two started co-managing the club and working out together.
Bollea and Leslie eventually decided to make a return to wrestling as a tag team, and so they did, appearing in the Alabama territory of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
The two were known as the “Boulder Brothers” and made a paltry sum while wrestling in the Alabama territory. They were spotted by Jerry Jarrett (Jeff’s dad) who offered much more money to jump ship to his own CWA (Continental Wrestling Association).
Jarrett’s wife Mary commented on how large Bollea was, even looking bigger than The Incredible Hulk on television (played by Lou Ferrigno). Soon enough the name struck and Bollea would wrestle in the CWA as Terry “The Hulk” Boulder or sometimes as Sterling Golden.
1979 became a pivotal year for Bollea. The NWA Heavyweight Champion at the time, Terry Funk took a notice of Bollea and referred him to Vince McMahon. McMahon was the one that inspired him to change his last name to “Hogan” and debuted him as a heel with manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie. He had bouts against the future “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund, but his most notable match during this period was against André the Giant whom he would later face at WrestleMania III with the roles reversed.
While still in the WWF, Hogan travelled to Japan to compete in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was here that he really went to wrestling school, developing his patented leg drop finishing move. He won the International Wrestling Grand Prix Tournament and Championship belt by defeating the popular Antonio Inoki.
Hogan then had a brief but memorable role in the film Rocky III which gave him exposure to Verne Gagne who recruited him into his American Wrestling Association (AWA) promotion. He debuted as a heel, yet fans started to cheer him. He got into matches against hated heels Nick Bockwinkel, Jerry Blackwell and future nemesis Bobby ‘The Brain” Heenan.
In 1983, Hogan returned to the television screens of the WWF and ran in to save champion Backlund from an attack by the Wild Samoans. By this point, Hogan was becoming very popular with the fans and within 3 weeks of his return, he won the WWF Heavyweight Championship from the Iron Sheik in a short match.
Hulkamania was then born with Hogan wearing his traditional yellow and red colors, ripping off his T-shirt and posing after every match. He would make impassioned promos telling the children at home to “say their prayers, train and eat their vitamins”. His matches soon became very “cookie cutter”; there would always be a moment when Hogan would be down, seemingly defeated when he would start shaking with the power of the fans and no sell the offensive moves of his heel adversary. He would then point the finger, open the eyes real wide and before you knew out, out came the big boot to the face and leg drop to gain the victory.
McMahon gave Hogan a push to the hilt defeating every heel in the roster. He would form the basis of the Rock N’ Wrestling phenomenon including Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper that would form the basis of the main event of the inaugral WrestleMania. (Author’s note: rumor has it that Hogan’s partner for that match was supposed to have been the late “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka with Mr. T in their corner, but the roles were reversed when McMahon saw how over with the fans Mr. T became.)
Soon thereafter came Hulk Hogan’s “Rock N’ Wrestling” Saturday Morning Cartoon show, and wrestling started appearing everywhere: lunchboxes, bed sheets, action figures, you name it. Hogan appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and co-hosted Saturday Night Live with T.
He would main event the popular episodes of Saturday Night’s Main Event against the likes of Nikolai Volkoff, Terry Funk and friend/rival “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff amongst many others. He headlined WrestleMania II in the Tinker-Toy cage match against King Kong Bundy. He started his own restaurant “PastaMania” at the Mall of America and appeared on late night talk shows as a regular celebrity.
WrestleMania III rolled around and Hogan fought Andre again, although the WWF would tell the fans this was their first encounter. Hogan slammed the giant and pinned him, breaking Andre’s “undefeated” record, another WWF lie to the fans.
Hogan held the WWF Championship for 4 years and during that period he started to develop a huge ego and refused to drop the title to anyone. He eventually succumbed and dropped the belt to Andre the Giant during a televised special called the “Big Event”. Even then, he did not lose the belt fair and square; there was a ridiculous storyline involving twin referees, plastic surgery and a bribe from Ted DiBiase. Don’t ask.
The title shortly became vacated and WrestleMania IV was the tournament for the new champ. Despite not winning the belt, Hogan did help the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage win the title in the finals from DiBiase by holding back André. This formed the basis for the “Mega Powers”, the dream tag team of Hogan and Savage.
The two would have some matches against the Mega Bucks (DiBiase and Andre) as well as the Twin Towers (Akeem and the late Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor). During one such match against the Towers, a misunderstanding developed between Hogan and Savage. Savage later attacked Hogan backstage and the team was split for good… at least in the WWF.
This led to a bitter feud between the two culminating in the main event of WrestleMania V where Hogan defeated Savage to become WWF Champion for a second time.
Hogan would defend the title for a year, defeating the likes of Big Boss Man, Savage and Honky Tonk Man amongst others. He made the awful movie “No Holds Barred” and feuded in ring with his co-star Tiny Lister (aka Zeus).
He finally dropped the belt to the Ultimate Warrior (who was the Intercontinental Champion at the time) in a title vs. title match in this author’s hometown of Toronto, Ontario. Many consider this to be one of Hogan and Warrior’s best matches of their respective careers.
After a brief hiatus to film more garbage movies, Hogan returned to TV and started feuding with the late John “Earthquake” Tenta. The two had a long-standing feud with Tenta on the losing end of things most of the time.
He would then feud with the great heel Sgt. Slaughter and win the WWF Heavyweight Championship again for the third time from Slaughter at WrestleMania VII. He was challenged by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, a newcomer to the WWF and sowed the seeds for many fan’s dream encounter.
Hogan lost the belt to Undertaker briefly and then regained it with interference from Flair in both bouts. Owing to the controversial endings, the title was declared vacant and was up for grabs at the Royal Rumble match which was a first. Flair ended up winning the Rumble and the belt without actually facing Hogan in ring on mainstream programming as of yet (the two had fought in house shows previously).
Hogan started to feud with his former friend Sid Viscous and defeated him by disqualification at WrestleMania VIII.
Hogan would then disappear from WWF TV for quite a lengthy period owing from the controversy surrounding the infamous WWF steroid trials with Hogan lying to the public on the Arsenio Hall talk show saying he never took any and even perjuring himself in court!
He would show up in 1983 and team with old pal Brutus beefcake and called themselves the “Mega-Maniacs”. The two would co-main event WrestleMania IX, easily one of the worst in ‘Mania history. The Mega Maniacs took on Money Inc. (DiBiase again and Irwin R. Schyster (Mike Rotunda). The two did not win the tag titles from Money Inc, but that was not the last to be seen of the Hulkster on that card.
Bret “Hitman” Hart dropped the WWF Championship to Yokozuna after getting salted in the face by Mr. Fuji. Hogan ran into the ring to complain about the tainted win and the match was set to continue.. with Hogan now as contender!! In a disgusting display of egomania, Hogan pinned Yokozuna in about a minute to become WWF Champion yet again.
He would end up dropping the title shortly thereafter back to Yokozuna at the “King of the Ring” Pay-Per-View event. He would then leave the WWF, have a year long stint in New Japan Pro Wrestling and emerge in Turnerland.
While filming the awful “Thunder in Paradise” TV series, Hogan showed up in World Championship Wrestling in 1994 and wouldn’t you know it? He defeated “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in his debut match to win the WCW Heavyweight Championship. He would defeat Flair in subsequent matches.
He also became embroiled in a lengthy feud with Big Van Vader (managed by Flair). He defeated Vader in leather strap matches and cage matches and appeared to be reprising his undefeated WWF streak all over again.
He plowed through Lex Luger and old nemesis Big Bubba Rogers (Big Boss Man once again), but ultimately did lose to the Giant (a pre “Big Show” Paul Wight). He would have a series of bouts against Wight and would ultimately defeat him in a steel cage match to end their feud.
He briefly re-teamed with old pal Savage again and then disappeared from WCW television to pursue more movies/TV opportunities. It was upon his return to WCW in 1996 that Hogan would revolutionize wrestling yet again.
For the very first time in a very long time, Hogan turned heel. After interfering in match with cronies Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall and Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Hogan surprised everyone by dropping the old leg on old friend Savage. He delivered a killer heel promo and the amount of garbage thrown at him by the fans smelled like money. He christened the faction the “New World Order” and shortly would grow a beard and dye it (mostly) black, abandon his yellow and red colors for black and white and wore black bandanas to cover his bald skull. He also changed his name to “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, emphasizing his celebrity status to the world.
Hollywood would regain the WCW title from the Giant at the “Hog Wild” Pay-Per-View event and spray-painted “now” on the belt.
He feuded with the popular face Lex Luger and ultimately dropped the title to Luger. Not having his ego appeased, Hogan won the belt back from Luger 5 days later. He would eventually drop it to Sting in a match refereed by WCW newcomer Bret “Hit Man” Hart.
Sting and Hogan fought in several matches for the belt, but Sting remained champion. Hogan also started a new feud with old friend/rival Savage again.
In a tag match with Hogan and Nash against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and The Giant involving bats of all things, Hogan turned on Nash and slugged him with the bat. This set in motion the splitting on the nWo into two warring factions: the nWo Wolfpack, faces led by Nash and nWo Hollywood, the heel faction led by Hogan.
On top of all this mayhem, Hogan defeated Savage who was the WCW Heavyweight Champion at the time owing to interference from Bret Hart. Hogan would defend the belt successfully until mid 1998 when he did the job for Bill Goldberg who maintained his undefeated streak.
Hogan then got involved in a series of gimmick matches, teaming up with basketball star Dennis Rodman and facing basketball star Karl Malone and also in matches against Jay Leno and Diamond Dallas Page.
In an attempt to reclaim old glory, he faced WCW newcomer the Ultimate Warrior in a horrible match that most considered to one of the worst of their respective careers in total opposition to their previous battle at WrestleMania VI.
Hogan would regain the WCW title for the 5th time from Nash, but this would ironically reunite the warring factions of the nWo together again as one. In 1999 Hogan would drop the strap to Ric Flair in a steel cage match as part of the “Uncensored” Pay-Per View event.
Halfway through that same year, he turned face for the first time in a long time and challenged champion Randy Savage and defeated him for a sixth run courtesy of interference from Nash. After a brief feud with Nash, Hogan made a controversial move against number one contender for the title Sting.
He came into the ring in his street clothes, laid down on the mat and gave Sting the title. This was apparently due to backstage conflicts with head writer Vince Russo.
A similar circumstance would happen later on when current champion Jeff Jarrett laid down on the mat for Hogan to pin him. After he had done so and was declared WCW champion yet again, he began a worked shoot tirade against WCW and Russo in particular. He took the belt and left WCW which was apparently a work devised by Eric Bischoff against Russo.
After his tenure in WCW, Hogan defeated the late “Mr. Perfect” Curt Henning in Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart’s failed XWF project and then returned back to the roots that made him: the WWE.
In 2002, Hogan re-entered the WWE with cohorts Hall and Nash as part of a short-lived, failed attempt to resurrect the nWo of old. When the initial hot prospect was going nowhere, Hogan started picking fights with the likes of the Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, hopefully leading up a dream match for the fans.
It came at WrestleMania X8 once again at this writer’s hometown of Toronto (represent). Hogan, the black-clad heel was cheered like it was nobody’s business while Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, a popular face was booed. No one in the WWE expected this outcome. Plans got changed, storylines rewritten and Hogan turned back to the yellow and red hero of old while fans threw garbage at the Rock.
Hogan would defeat Triple H to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship at the “Backlash” Pay-Per-View event and would drop it later to old rival Mark “The Undertaker” Calloway at the next WWE Pay-Per-View “Judgment Day”.
He teamed with fellow Torontonian Edge to defat Billy and Chuck (Billy “Mr. Ass” Gunn and Chuck Palumbo) to become the WWE Tag team Champions, a first for Hogan. About one month later, the two would drop the straps to the Un-Americans (Christian and Lance Storm).
From there on in, Hogan would face every wrestler who ever dreamed of facing him: Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon, Brock Lesnar and the Rock a second time. It was a great time for wrestling fans seeing their old icon do battles with icons of today. The only one Hogan never, ever faced: Austin.
He was then involved in a stupid angle whereby he would don a mask and call himself “Mr. America”. Everyone knew it was Hogan but could not prove it. This led to a resurrected feud with an aging Piper which was so bad, it should have been left alone. Hogan and the “Mr. America” gimmick left the WWE in 2003 apparently over money disputes.
After leaving the WWE, hints were given of Hogan appearing in Total Nonstop Action (TNA) through video footage, but Hogan never actually appeared in any in-ring competition owing to nagging injuries.
He returned to the WWE yet again in 2005 after his Hall of Fame induction and saved “HBK” Shawn Michaels from an attack by Khosrow Daivari and Muhammad Hassan. This led to a tag match with Michaels and Hogan facing the evildoers to a victory.
He teamed with Michaels again to defeat Carlito and Kurt Angle, but Michaels betrayed Hogan after the match with Sweet Chin Music. This led to a match between the two legends at the SummerSlam Pay-Per-View event with Hogan emerging victorious.
On Raw, Hogan started promoting his daughter Brooke’s pop single “About Us”. Handsome heel Randy Orton made some moves on Brooke and Hogan got upset. This led to ‘The Legend Killer” performing an RKO on Hogan on the roof of a car! Hogan would go on to face the Viper at the next “SummerSlam” Pay-Per-View and emerge victorious as usual.
After a falling out with WWE over money again. Hogan appeared in Dixie Carter’s TNA once again. He was wooed by former nWo mates Sean “X-Pac” Waltman, Nash and Hall to reunite, but Hogan turned them down, preferring to be on the business side of things with cohort Eric Bischoff.
Hogan became a mentor of sorts to Abyss and teamed with him and others to face old nemesis Ric Flair and his team in a series of matches. Abyss would later sever ties with Hogan after turning heel. Hogan himself would later make a heel turn yet gain and assist Jeff Hardy in winning in the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and reunite himself with Abyss and Jeff Jarrett.
An angle was created whereby Eric Bischoff claimed that Carter had signed documents over allowing Hogan and he to become owners of TNA. Carter rebuffed this and suspended Hogan. In reality, this was done so Hogan could undergo spinal fusion surgery for back pain.
At around the same time, Hogan and Bischoff had created their own little faction known as “Immortal” which included members Jeff Jarrett, Abyss and Jeff Hardy. At the same time, Flair had created his own stable called “Fortune” including members like AJ Styles, Robert Roode and Kazarian. Eventually Immortal joined Fortune as one entity.
Hogan had started to feud with Sting over the TNA Heavyweight Championship which he wanted very badly. A storyline was contrived whereby if Hogan should lose the match to Sting, he would give back his “ownership” of TNA to Dixie Carter. Needless to say, Hogan lost to Sting at the “Bound for Glory” Pay-Per-View event and Carter got back control of TNA.
All was not perfect as Immortal members started to attack Sting. But, in a bait and switch, Hogan turned face and saved Sting from a beatdown by Immortal.
In 2012, Sting and Hogan started to feud with a team of masked heels named “Aces and Eights”. They attacked Hogan which gave him some time off to get another spinal surgery he required. Upon his return later that same year, Hogan learned that his daughter Brooke was set to marry Bully Ray (Bubba Ray Dudley).
In the televised wedding on TNA Impact!, Hogan walked Brooke down the aisle only to be attacked by Aces and Eights with Taz revealing himself to a member of the heel group. Other members included Mike Knox (known as Knux), D’Lo Brown and Mr. Anderson.
Hogan had promoted Bully Ray to be the number one contender for Sting’s TNA Championship but when the match came to pass, Ray betrayed Hogan and revealed himself to be the president of the Aces and Eights group! Sting would later save Hogan from another attack by Aces and Eights.
Storylinewise, Dixie Carter had asked Hogan to become her partner in TNA which Hogan refused but in reality it was because his contract was expiring and he wanted out of the promotion.
In 2014 Hogan returned to the WWE and was the Host of WrestleMania XXX. He also appeared in 2015 to admonish Curtis Axel (Joe Hennig) who was imitating Hogan and calling himself “Axelmania”.
He also reunited with nWo members Hall and Nash and appeared in Sting’s corner when he faced Triple H (with DX members X-Pac, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn in his corner) at WrestleMania XXXI.
In 2015, ties between Hogan and the WWE were severed for good when it was revealed that a recording demonstrated Hogan making racial slurs once he learned that daughter Brooke was dating a black man. He was no longer on the Hall of Fame page, his action figures were removed from circulation, and he no longer appeared in WWE video games or merchandise of any sort. Hogan did publicly apologize for his actions, but the damage was done. To add insult to injury, a leaked sex tape of Hogan with his best friend’s wife came to pass which also included homophobic slurs as well!
Hogan’s wife divorced him and revealed a tell-all autobiography of her days of misery being Mrs. Hulkamania. His son Nick was imprisoned for killing someone during a car accident.
He has engaged in multiple entrepreneurial endeavors including two autobiographies, a reality TV series “Hogan Knows Best”, a George Foreman type of grill and a restaurant called “Hogan’s Beach”. His current website also promotes nutritional product, energy drinks and supplements.
Like him or not, one cannot argue that the man took wrestling on the mainstream map and has re-invented himself to great success time and time again. He is recognized internationally as the face of wrestling in the 80’s to present. He will always be revered as a wrestling legend despite his inappropriate behavior behind the scenes.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Balsky for contributing the above wrestler profile.
Dr. Stephen Balsky is a chiropractor currently in practice in his native Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been a wrestling fan since age 13 and is very passionate about the product, especially the “old-school” 80’s – 90’s era. He completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2015 and currently is also working part-time as a professor in both business and healthcare.