In Perspective: Yellow and Red versus The HeartBreak Kid

Growing up, I never owned a Hulk Hogan Wrestling Buddy. I used to wrestle this tall-as-me styrofoam stuffed bear for my Mom’s oversized belt (the championship) and cut promos like Ravishing Rick Rude and pretended I was Brian Pillman. I’ve never been able to relate to the “dude” billed from Venice Beach, California with the blonde hair and the twenty-four inch pythons.

The person who I idolized more than anyone else growing up was Shawn Michaels. He was this ladies’ man from San Antonio, Texas, with the leather chaps, dripping chains and small mirrors, the long hair and trademark smile, and constantly took risks in the ring but made it look effortless. If someone doubted that someone at 6’1″ would make a good world champion, he proved them wrong in the Ironman Match against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at Wrestlemania 12. Shawn Michaels has been proving people wrong his entire career.

The Stats:
Hulk Hogan, has been a professional wrestler for almost 28 years, since August 25, 1977. At approaching 52, he’s 6’5″ and 302 pounds and supposedly 24″ pythons of arm mass that he’s been billed as having throughout his professional career.

Shawn Michaels has been a professional wrestler since 1985, wrestling for 20 years. Michaels recently turned 40, at 6’1″ and 225 pounds, he’s been the underdog throughout his career and is still the smaller man in this match-up.

Company Men:

Hogan has done more bouncing back between companies based on his career moves outside of wrestling than Michaels. Hogan started off in the National Wrestling Alliance based in the Alabama and Tennessee area, then was signed by Vince K. McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation on November 13, 1979. Sylvester Stallone offered Hogan a role in Rocky III which drove Hogan to want to focus on a Hollywood career, upsetting McMahon so he was released from the WWF. Hogan then joined the American Wrestling Association based from Minnesota, however received a different reaction the he had previously as a heel, he was cheered by the AWA audience. Hogan as a result, became a face, and was able to ride the wave of popularity from his work as “Thunderlips” in Rocky III. Also during this time, Hogan wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling and was practically worshipped by the Japanese audience. Once Vince McMahon Jr. bought the WWF from his father in late 1983, he lured Hogan back to build the World Wrestling Federation to epic proportions around the world instead of just regionally like WWF was at the time, using Hulk Hogan’s name and starting wave of popularity as the diving board. This proved to be a great move on McMahon and Hogan’s part because clearly Hogan is the most popular wrestler in the 1980s and the most recognized name from that time period, and possibly, representing professional wrestling as a whole. Hogan remained with the company for the next ten years, leaving to concentrate on his Hollywood career once McMahon was involved in the steroid trial scandal and decided to phase out muscular types for smaller, more technically sound wrestlers such as Bret Hart.

World Championship Wrestling, under the guidance of Eric Bischoff lured Hogan to return to professional wrestling for a lucrative paycheck in hopes to bring Hulkamania to a different audience and ride the wave of Hulkamania again. However, this would prove to be a challenge because a large portion of WCW’s fan base were anti-WWF. Hogan was given absolute creative control of the Hulk Hogan character in WCW which isn’t considered a given right to most talent. The yellow and red mania didn’t take off like it did in the WWF with WCW, so Hogan took some time off and returned on July 7, 1996 for perhaps the biggest risk of his career – returning as a heel, in black and white, as Hollywood Hulk Hogan, the third man of the nWo (new world order) with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash turning on the top faces of the company at the time. Hogan was not only able to reinvent himself in his 40s, but he was part of the WCW victories on Monday nights against the WWF, topping them for 83 straight rating victories. He remained part of the company and turned on what was left of the nWo on July 1999 and went back to the familiar red and yellow Hulk Hogan character. He was absent from October 1999 through February 2000 due to injuries and frustrations and the last straw with WCW was on Bash of the Beach 2000 when Hogan was in a championship match with Jeff Jarrett. Trying to exercise the creative clause where he could control the finishes of his match, he did not want to job to Jarrett, and felt he should be crowned the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Russo instructed Jarrett to lay down so Hogan could just pin him, Hogan got on the microphone and pulled a worked shoot, blasting the company and Russo, Russo then came out and responded that he wanted to phase out all the “old guys” and announced that a new WCW World Heavyweight championship would be created since Hogan would not take a loss to Jarrett setting up Booker T versus Jarrett later that evening. Hogan filed a defamation of character lawsuit against WCW and Russo soon after that remained unresolved.

Months following the demise of Ted Turner’s WCW in March 2001, Hogan underwent surgery for both his knees so he could be able to wrestle again. He did a brief stint for his friend Jimmy Hart’s XWF defeating Curt Hennig in a match in a test to see if he still had it in him to successfully compete.

Hogan accepted an offer to return to the WWF in February 2002, reprising his role as Hollywood Hulk Hogan with the nWo. Once again, the audience swerved the creative gods of wrestling, by turning the heel nWo Hogan face at Wrestlemania X8 against the Rock during the match no matter what heel 101 basics he tried to convince them otherwise. The Rock became the heel during the match by default, as the crowd cheered for everything Hogan did. nWo tried to turn on Hogan after the match after his loss, however the Rock saved him after the match. During this time in 2002, he had a month reign as Undisputed Champion, and was featured on and off from 2002 to 2003, even becoming a whole new character all-together, a masked red, white and blue, Mr. America. This character never took off as the Hulk Hogan character had and eventually, it phased itself out.

Hogan returned once again this year during the Hall of Fame Ceremony when he was inducted for Wrestlemania 21 weekend. Fans had chanted “one more match!” during the ceremony and as a result, Hogan teamed up with Shawn Michaels against Muhammad Hassan and Daivari at WWE Backlash. Hogan again returned for a special RAW six man tag to help aid John Cena and Shawn Michaels against Chris Jericho, Christian and Tyson Tomko. Hogan made an appearance on Carlito’s Cabana to hype up his new reality series on VH1, Hogan Knows Best, Kurt Angle showed up to further antagonize him, and as Carlito and Angle attacked Hogan, Michaels made the save to set up a match later that night Carlito and Angle versus Hogan and Michaels. Michaels later superkicked Hogan after they won the match. Michaels appeared on Piper’s Pit the following week asking for the “one more match” to be Shawn Michaels versus Hulk Hogan for this year’s Summerslam for which Hogan has since accepted.

Shawn Michaels started out his wrestling career with the American Wrestling Assocation in 1986 teaming with Marty Jannetty as the Midnight Rockers. They stayed with the company for two years and then joined the WWF in 1988, and became The Rockers. They stayed a tag team until early 1992, when Shawn Michaels turned on Jannetty during the infamous Brutus Beefcake’s segment the Barbershop, when Michaels superkicked Jannetty through a plate-glass window. Michaels from this point on focused on his singles career as a heel. He eventually became a face in the mid-1990s and won his first WWE championship against Bret Hart in the 60-minute Ironman Match. He became the company man at this point, taking part in various feuds with his real life close friend Kevin Nash, The Undertaker, Sid, Vader and the British Bulldog. Backstage was a part of the infamous Clique, a tight group of wrestlers who had a reputation of stirring up trouble backstage and influencing creative control of the company. He also as WWF World Heavyweight champion made mainstream media appearances, including the cover of Playgirl Magazine. In 1998, due to a back injury, Michaels passed the torch to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, made occasional appearances for the WWF as a non-active competitor. In 2002, he made his return to active competition and has remained with the company ever since, despite various injuries that would have put that in jeopardy, some have said he’s in better condition than he was before his back injury.

What Every Wrestler Inspires For:

It’s been said that in professional wrestling you only have two main goals: 1)to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion and 2)to headline a Wrestlemania. Both men have accomplished this in their careers.

Hulk Hogan has been Six-Time WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Champion
and has headlined or was part of the main event of nine Wrestlemanias. In total, he’s participated in making an appearance of wrestling for 11 different Wrestlemanias.

Shawn Michaels has been Three-Time WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Champion and has headlined three Wrestlemanias. He has however been apart of 12 Wrestlemanias.

Showstopping:

An amazing 93,173 people packed the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III on March 29, 1987, the largest indoor attendance for any event in history and fans witnessed Hulk Hogan defeating Andre the Giant. Andre wasn’t someone who a creative team could control, and there’s nothing in the ring that Andre did that he didn’t want to do. It’s been the greatest blessing to Hogan’s career that Andre put him over in such a grand fashion.

Shawn Michaels won his first WWF Championship defeating Bret Hart in the main event of the Ironman Match. The match that defined Shawn’s career as the Showstopper was at Wrestlemania X when he fought and lost to Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match for the WWF Intercontiental Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 20, 2004.

Ring Psychology/Promo Ability:

Though it doesn’t seem to be a requirement of today’s sports entertainment, the best ring work is based on ring psychology. The ability to get the fans to react to whatever you present in the ring. Good faces can get a crowd to sympathize for them and cheer them to victory with the help of the believable heels. Believable heels make the crowd hate them for getting the win over the crowd favorite and making them want it more with each additional match up. Both Hogan and Michaels have played faces and heels throughout their career. Hogan started off his career as a heel with the WWF during his first run, and until he was nWo, he stuck with what wasn’t broken, the yellow and red of Hulkamania. Hogan was able to get fans to pop for anything he did, no matter how basic the wrestling move it was (such as the Hogan Boot to the face and the Hogan Leg Drop). Hogan could also cause a crowd to hate him, as he turned himself into Hollywood Hogan, and denouncing the red and yellow. Michaels was a baby face being able to draw popularity based on his good looks and Fabulous Freebirds influenced ring style. When he became a heel, it elevated both qualities even more and he’s done variations of himself being a cocky superstar who could back up his own hype. His ring style has always been a fast paced match up, taking high risks, influenced by past ring legends such as Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

For this match to work, both men have to play on their strengths and not just one style or the other. Hogan knows how to feel out a crowd, because no matter how old he gets, they see the same monster of a man who took the wrestling world by storm by being the original electrifying man of sports entertainment. Michaels has the same ability, accept he has to keep his movements quick and at the same time mask Hogan’s weaknesses (looking extremely gassed out during the match), to not depend on rest holds but to make every move count and to take some of the famous risks that makes HBK the Showstopper.

Pin Me, Pay Me:

Michaels was a tag team specialist superstar for a few years with Marty Jeannetty but it was pretty clear to everyone involved that he was due for single stardom. Given that push, he ran with it, up the ladder as he accomplished singles success being the first superstar to be a Grand Slam champion, holding every major championship belt in the WWE at some point in his career. Michaels was part of the Degeneration-X movement as a heel where he often said “I lay down for absolutely nobody!” Who has done the right thing for the direction of the company more often, in other words, who put more people over? Hogan has also been accused of not putting over enough people if it jeopardized the legend of Hulk Hogan as much as Michaels has been accused of only putting his friends over though it appears Michaels has been more generous in the last few years of letting other’s get their turn in the spotlight. Perhaps Michaels most memorable match to date where he was able to pick up a victory but at the same time, put over his opponent was Shelton Benjamin in the Gold Rush Tournament on RAW in May 2005 for one of the best matches of both their careers.

Whatcha Gonna Do?:

The current problem facing Hogan versus Michaels, “one more match” dream match, is how the storyline is portrayed now. Michaels looks nothing like the Michaels heel of old until this week’s RAW on July 25th. Before this week’s show, he’s pleaded with a crowd that is uninterested in his story until Michaels had become passionate about it himself, because he’s came across as the born-again Christian that he is, not interested in selling himself as the bad guy. Hogan isn’t telling us anything we haven’t heard, seen and don’t already know, but the fans are popping for it anyway. Hogan’s role however, is a face, the red and yellow and he’s played it this way for years, without even having to try. It’s hard for me to get over that Hogan is on WWE TV to help sell his reality show, just like most things involving Hogan, it has to have a Hollywood/interest outside other than wrestling tie. Michaels has never really given a Hollywood career much of a go, besides the occasional talk show or special appearance, Michaels is more likely to be giving an inspirational speech discussing his faith outside of the ring. His promo on RAW this week was affective because it was the truth, Michaels has never pushed himself as anything other than a WWE performer. Michaels hopefully is taking a lesson from Eddy Guerrero, who is able to play a very affective heel and separate himself Eddy Guerrero the family man and Eddy Guerrero the WWE superstar.

WWE should bring up that while Shawn Michaels was bringing the WWF Attitude to audiences unlike no other, Hogan was palling up to his Clique, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash of the nWo. If allowed, a effective “surprise” idea would bring in Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in, and see where they would stand between these two men. Maybe even have Nash side with Michaels and Hall side with Hogan. It would also be a good chance to bring up various aspects of their career in some always affective video packages of each man similar to the style they used with Hart and Michaels for Wrestlemania 12. The highlights would give more compassion to Shawn’s argument that he’s the best entertainer of the two, it would also in the same breath show that Hulk Hogan brings people to a level of enthusiasm like no other could and has been making kodak moments his entire career. The videos could showcase all the different type of gimmick matches and injuries Michaels has endured over the years, to bring the fans “the show.” Hogan could counter showing how he was apart of some of the most memorable moments in the history of sports entertainment for instance when he slammed Andre the Giant and retained the WWF World Championship. Michaels could get frustrated, and then try to create his own memorable moment of history on Hulk Hogan. What the storyline desperately needs is a history reminder and less going through the motions, to make this match standout in history as a dream match up and that’s putting it in perspective. Thanks for reading, take care and feel free to drop me comments anytime at Bam@insidepulse.com.