Hulk Still Rules
How many athletes who rose to prominence in 1984 are still going strong, 21 years later?
Okay, Roger Clemens. But other than The Rocket, there aren't too many performers still getting it done who first caught our attention back in that fateful year that gave us the Mondale campaign, The Karate Kid and, perhaps most notably, Scarlett Johansson.
One who's as good as ever, though, is the immortal Hulk Hogan. He won the WWF title for the first time in 1984 and has been huge ever since.
I don't know if you've ever watched wrestling. If you haven't, you've still certainly heard of Hulk Hogan, which is in itself a testament to his stardom. Think of it: how many professional wrestlers who came along in the last 25 years have become honest-to-God household names? Hogan, The Rock and maybe Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that's about it (Andre the Giant became famous years before, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura wasn't quite so nationally known until he became governor of Minnesota, so I'm not counting them). Even the names Ric Flair or Bret "The Hitman" Hart are likely to draw blank stares from Joe and Jane Q. Public, though Flair and Hart are two of the biggest and most well-respected stars in the wrestling history.
So it was that the WWE (for those of you who missed it when it happened three years ago, the WWF has changed its name) got me to pony up 35 bucks for their annual "Summer Slam" pay-per-view. Hulk Hogan, at 52, was headlining for what could very well be his last time (or it might not be; you never know with wrestlers). He was taking on Shawn Michaels, in his own right a legend in the business but a guy most people walking down the street have never heard of.
The fact that Hulk Hogan is as good as ever is true, although when applied to his in-ring abilities it's damning with faint praise; Hogan was never that electrifying as an actual wrestling performer (and, from what little I've heard from hardcore pro wrestling fans, is occasionally resented because of it). But there's a lot of other stuff involved in professional wrestling, and Hogan did all the other stuff as well as anybody. No one could give a pre-match interview or engage in a post-match muscle-flex like Hogan, and for those of us who were kids in the '80s really figured that if we trained, said our prayers and ate our vitamins like the Hulkster said, we could be bigger than life someday, too.
And even though most of us knew that wrestling was fake -- our dads never missed a chance to point this out to us, but we understood better than they did that it was a TV show, the same as any TV show (only quite a bit more compelling) -- we still watched enraptured when Hogan beat Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, we still "Hulked up" against our little brothers down in the basement, we still envied that first kid who showed up at school with the Hulk Hogan figurine (don't call it a doll).
So when Hogan's music hit on Sunday night, when he pointed that finger in Shawn Michaels' face, blocked that punch, raised that big boot, dropped that leg, covered for the three count and posed in the middle of the ring, it gave those of us who are just now realizing that life actually consists of going to work and paying your bills the chance to feel like we were kids again. Anybody who can do that deserves a round of applause, even if the match itself won't go down in history as particularly great, or even particularly good.
But Hulk Hogan, at 52, still delivered the goods, just like I expected him to. Just like he's been doing for over 20 years.