This week’s Columbo Villian of the Week (note incorrect spelling of Villain is deliberate!) is star of 80s wrestling, WWE hall of famer and VH1 reality TV star Hulk Hogan AKA Terry Bollea. A soft target some might say and they’d be right but I’m on holiday and time is short.
Hogan rose to fame in the late 70s and early 80s as the face of the then WWF as its owner Vincent K McMahon (a sure fire future CVW) changed the face of wrestling from a series of cheesy regional promotions to one cheesy national promotion. It was the golden era of professional wrestling when the Real American could do no wrong dominating the entertainment world whilst telling kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers.
Everything the big guy McMahon calls Monster touched turned to gold. Movie deal followed TV deal. They didn’t even care when he started to lose his hair. And in many ways that’s where the trouble began. Hogan jumped ship from the WWE and went to WCW for more money. Slowly the wheels started to come off.
You see Bollea wasn’t the larger than life, whiter than white superstar many believed him to be but rather an arrogant, overbearing, beer swilling red neck not that dissimilar to a certain other megastar of the wrestling world. And those pythons didn’t get that size by hard work but a fairly impressive amount of steroid consumption that Monster would later lie about on national television. Those weren’t pecs but man breasts.
Exposed during a federal court case as a pill popping nut job Hogan began to be left behind by a harder more edgy style of wrestler. Amidst this turmoil Hogan demonstrated the first in a series of remarkable turn arounds to his declining career. He turned heel. For the world of wrestling fans this was a fairly unpredictable turn in a world where predictability is a fact of life, they lapped it up and Hogan became the biggest bad guy in town. He made an even bigger shitload of money than he had as the Real American. And money is what the Hulkster is all about.
Then in the late 90s old Vinnie Mac managed to bring down WCW, buying the whole company in the process. This left Hogan without a home. Hogan’s TV show Thunder in Paradise turned out to be more like a Damp Fart in Tooting and things look bleak once more for the Bald One.
However Hogan lies down for no man and hit upon the idea of a reality TV show based around his life. By this point wrestling’s dirty secret (that it’s a work) was no longer a secret and the carnival world behind scenes all part of the sub culture. Hogan is onto a winner and his initial run on VH1 is a triumphant success. A headliner once more he returns to the WWE on numerous “final runs”.
Now Hogan is slated to host American Gladiators, his series Hogan Knows Best is still running and all looks rosy for Monster. Or does it? Hogan has fallen out with WWE, his lucky charm, and indeed is no longer on speaking terms with his one time best friend McMahon. Gladiators is a risky gamble, a show that had its day and lost. Reality TV gets old real quick these days. Hogan could be on the way out.
Begging the question just what won’t the big guy do to stay on top? I’m betting nothing. I can see it now…
Gladiators is an unmitigated disaster and studio execs have egg on their face – polls reveal it’s not the games but the host that is at fault. They just can’t take Hogan’s over the top, blue-eyed schmooze. The studio replace him but not with just anyone – oh no – they replace him with Randy Savage, once a good friend now a raving lunatic he can’t stand.
Meanwhile Hogan Knows Best is declining in the ratings, VH1 is getting worried – has the audience had enough of the Real American. Hogan can’t afford to lose the show, it’s his meal ticket and is funding a real estate deal that he’s sunk all his cash into. If it goes, he goes.
As he has already proved Hogan knows how to get an audience hooked, how to play them to perfection and as his plump wife enters the room Hogan had A Good Idea. Live on VH1, his wife is found floating in the pool – choked to death by an inflatable thumb – now the Real American is the picture of a Real Widow, distraught, grief stricken and ready for his close up.
The ratings soar, the real estate deal is secure and Vince even calls to see if he’s up for one last match. Everything would be great if that annoying little detective would stop hanging round the locker room asking Monster to show him some holds. Still he does have some nice cigars and man does he have an eye for a work, he knows just when the boys are playing him.
Oh Yeah Just One More Thing Champ…