Modern Culture12 Nov 2010 01:42 am
WrestleMania? There is ideology. There are plotlines worthy of a Lifetime made for TV movie. There is also wrestling, albeit not of the “legitimate” Greco-Roman-sort that can’t help but look extremely homoerotic. No. WrestleMania has very little to do with sports, and everything to do with show biz. In fact, the promoters determine the outcome of most matches in advance, and all of the mayhem in the ring is scripted.
However, it would be a mistake to dismiss pro wrestlers just because they aren’t “playing a sport” in a traditional sense. Precisely because pro wrestling is a roughhouse-ballet form of improvisational comedy, the wrestlers must be superb athletes, as well as charismatic performers adept at getting a rise from the famously fickle WWF audience.
Hulk Hogan has been the undisputed king of the WWF since he became the face of pro wrestling after the runaway success of the first WrestleMania (often referred to as WrestleMania I), the first pro wrestling event produced by the World Wrestling Federation. The event took place on March 31, 1985, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. 19,121 rabid fans were in attendance, and the event was viewed by over one million fans through closed-circuit television, which made it the largest showing of an event on closed-circuit television in the United States at the time it aired.
The show featured nine professional wrestling matches, and the main event match teamed Hulk Hogan with the legendary Mr. T against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, who were unsurprisingly defeated by their more charismatic rivals. With this victory, “Hulkamania” swept the nation. Hogan frequently referred to his fans as “Hulkamaniacs” in his interviews and introduced his three “demandments”: training, saying prayers, and eating vitamins. Eventually, a fourth demandment (believing in oneself) was added during his feud with Earthquake in 1990. Hogan’s ring gear developed a characteristic yellow-and-red color scheme; his ring entrances involved him ritualistically ripping his shirt off his body, flexing, and listening for audience cheers in an exaggerated manner.
Hogan was named the most requested celebrity of the 1980s for the Make-a-Wish Foundation children’s charity. He was featured on the covers of Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, and People magazines, while also appearing on The Tonight Show and having his own CBS Saturday morning cartoon titled Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. Hogan went on to headline eight of the first nine WrestleMania events, and he also co-hosted Saturday Night Live on March 30, 1985 during this lucrative run. AT&T reported that his 900 number information line was the single biggest 900 number from 1991 to 1993. Hogan operated the 900 number through his stint in WWF and then recreated it when he joined World Championship Wrestling.
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