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WrestleMania 36 is right around the corner – well, a scaled-down, audience-free version of it, anyway – so today we thought we’d chronicle the career of one of the industry’s most recognizable figures. Since making his in-ring debut in 1977, Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) has been both celebrated and reviled, embraced and ostracized, and loved and hated. But make no mistake, it was Hogan who, along WWE chairman Vince McMahon, sparked the pro wrestling boom of the 1980s, paving the way for future stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena.

Here are the five biggest moments in the career of Hulk Hogan. And remember, What’cha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on YOU!?

No. 1. January 23, 1984: HULKAMANIA IS BORN – It was the match that gave birth to “Hulkamania.” In Madison Square Garden, Hogan challenged the villainous Iron Sheik for the WWF title. Hogan, riding a rave of popularity thanks to his appearance in Rocky III, powered out of the Sheik’s vaunted camel clutch, and then kayoed the champion with a big leg drop. Just like that, Hogan became the new face of the WWF and pro wrestling.


No. 2. March 29, 1987: SLAMMING THE GIANT – WrestleMania III was the stage for the most hyped wrestling match in years: Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant. According to the storyline, no one had ever bodyslammed the 7-foot-5, 500-lb. giant, who had turned “heel” to challenge his former friend. (In reality, plenty of wrestlers had successfully slammed Andre in the past.) Could the Hulkster overcome his biggest challenge to date?


No. 3. April 1, 1990: “AND NEW…!” – Not all of Hogan’s big moments were victories. His WrestleMania VI main event match against the Ultimate Warrior was billed as a clash for the ages. It was also unusual because it pitted good guy vs good guy. The Warrior pulled out the victory and Hogan graciously presented the title belt to the victor in a passing-of-the-torch moment.


No. 4. July 7, 1996: “HULK HOGAN, YOU CAN GO TO HELL.” – On this day, the unimaginable happened: Hulk Hogan turned bad. The moment occurred at WCW’s “Bash at the Beach” PPV. The crowd erupted when Hogan came out to the ring at the end of the evening’s main event, ostensibly to help fellow good guys Sting and Rand Savage. Instead, Hogan turned against his friends and joined Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the New World Order. This turn shocked the wrestling world and, in truth, revitalized Hogan’s career.


No. 5. March 17, 2002: ICON VS ICON – It was a battle of past vs present – the dream match that wrestling fans never thought they’d see: Hulk Hogan vs The Rock. Hogan was supposed to be the villain here, but early on in the match the fans started rooting for their old hero. The Rock emerged the victor at the end, but at least for this one memorable night, Hulkamania lived again.

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