I have always hated Hulk Hogan.
Since I was a little kid, I never liked him. I never understood why everybody else cheered him. I wasn’t a smart mark or anything like that when I was a kid; I had no idea about the stuff he pulled behind the scenes or anything like that. I wasn’t particularly a fan of all of the bad guys either… I cheered for Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat or George “The Animal” Steele over the various villians and if there was a bad guy who showed up that I wanted to see, it was more likely because I knew he was a pretty good wrestler (Don “The Magnificent” Muraco) over because I liked the whole “bad guy” shtick.
Why? Well, because the basic formula for pro wrestling is this one: The good guy may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but, you know what? He doesn’t give up. He knows he’s right. The bad guy takes shortcuts and the fact that he’s willing to attack the joints and kick a feller when he’s down gives him an edge against the good guy. Heck, the bad guy is probably the only one smart enough to tape the show and watch his opponents and learn from the tape. The good guy may be dumb but he has the power of being right on his side. He’s got that well that he can draw from and, when things are at their most dark, he can… well… “hulk up” and come back and finish the bad guy off.
Why? Because he is Good. Heck, this is why you go to Pro Wrestling matches in the first place. Sporting events sometimes have the best team win… but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the storylines behind the scenes don’t mesh well and sometimes money can buy talent that good clean livin’ doesn’t give you. I mean, remember the first time the Broncos won the Superbowl? Broncos vs. Packers. Gameday starts and we see Brett Favre doing his John Elway impersonation on national television. That’s right: Brett Favre is making fun of Elway on the TV before The Big Game.
THIS CANNOT STAND!!!
Well, Elway got his ring (finally) and everybody cheered except for the (other) tri-state area.
How often does that happen, though? How often does Reality set up something *THAT* perfect? You’ve got a dream storyline with a three-time Superbowl loser going up against a powerhouse team and the leader of the powerhouse team makes fun of his opponent publically? Before the game??? If that had happened in an 80’s romantic comedy, no one would have believed it. And yet… it happened. It was the most exciting football game I had ever watched and I have never seen one better since.
Which is how pro wrestling, ideally, is supposed to work.
You’ve got your good guy. You are supposed to cheer him. You’ve got your bad guy. You are supposed to boo him. You see a match on television or two where it’s established that they’re evenly matched, for the most part, but the bad guy cheats (and the good guy doesn’t). The bad guy has his friend run in or his manager distract at an opportune time. The bad guy takes shortcuts. We, the audience, are supposed to curse the blindness of the ref and the unfairness of the system that doesn’t have instant replay. We are supposed to be willing to shell out money for the final match coming up next Sunday to see this take place in a steel cage where there will be *NO* interference and *NO* ability to sneak in a chair or a championship belt with which to hit while the ref isn’t looking. Man vs. Man… and, of course, the guys in the back know that the best way to get folks to come back and spend their money again is to have the good guy win and the bad guy lose. Why? Because life so rarely gives us a Superbowl XXXII that we’re willing to pay to see a reasonable facsimile.
Which brings us to the strange bearded-Spock universe from which modern day wrestling fans seem to have sprung. Instead of cheering the good guys and booing the bad guys, they’ve turned into a host of Dexter fans.
(Aside: The problem with Dexter, fundamentally, is that the show is asking the audience to sympathize with (and sometimes cheer for) a bad guy. Sure, Dexter is pointed at bad people instead of good people, but watching a guy kill even bad people every week is kind of depressing. What’s even *MORE* depressing is that they (usually) set things up so that he has a bit of stress going on here or there or spends an episode getting yelled at and Dexter killing a multiple murderer provides the audience with a chance to exhale. (“At least *THAT* went well.”))
John Cena, for example, has done more meets for Make A Wish than any celebrity in their history. Than any of them! He doesn’t cheat. He goes on every overseas military show they do. He gets booed out of the building every week. Randy Orton, for example, kicks other wrestlers in the head at the end of the match and brags about ending their careers. He gets cheered to the point where he blows the roof off. Kurt Angle? Well, you’ll just have to watch this.
Where were you people when Hulk Hogan was around???