Eric Bischoff has discussed the myriad of influences on Hulk Hogan that nearly stopped him from turning to the dark side with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in the New World Order in 1996.
Bischoff was WCW President at the time and came up with the idea that Hulk Hogan do the unthinkable and turn heel. Hogan had been known for over a decade as a much-loved persona so convincing Hulk to become Hollywood took a good deal of persuasion on Bischoff’s part.
One of the influences on Hogan was his long-time manager Peter Young. According to Bischoff, who was speaking on his 83 Weeks podcast, Young had Hulk’s best interests at heart when he was trying to dissuade him from going along with Bischoff’s plan.
Eric Bischoff explained:
“Peter Young has a deep affection for Hulk Hogan and still does. Peter Young has been Hulk’s manager probably since early WWF and the bond between those two is very real and very close and I respect that. I will say that Peter Young truly has Hulk’s best interest at heart so I don’t want to make it sound like Peter was selfish or concerned about himself or anything like that.”
“But, Peter Young is one of those guys that’s always afraid that the sky is going to fall. In my experience with him, Peter was one of those guys that was always so fearful that something negative was going to happen based on something Hulk was going to do that I was pretty sure that he was that voice in Hulk’s ear. He didn’t mean to do it but because of his affection for Hulk and his role as Hulk’s manager, I was pretty sure that Peter was in Hulk’s ear on a pretty consistent basis, trying to talk him out of this in his own way.”
Another influence on Hulk Hogan at the time was his then-wife Linda. Bischoff says that Linda’s mind was not on whether Hulk should be a babyface or heel, but was on the almighty dollar.
“Linda was all about the money, she didn’t give a sh*t. She was obviously a strong influence, she could wear you down, she had a strong personality and if Linda thought that this would be a bad financial move for Hulk because let’s face it, heels don’t sell merchandise. Generally speaking, clearly not the case with the nWo because they’re still making money as we heard from Scott Hall a couple of weeks ago. But at the time, we didn’t know that Hulk didn’t know that, Linda didn’t know that, Peter Young wouldn’t have known that. Typically in the wrestling business, once you turn heel, your merchandise sales go down dramatically.”
“I would imagine from Linda’s perspective that was a concern but even though the kids were very young, that was one of Hulk’s primary concerns. When I went down to Hulk’s house to talk to him about the idea of turning Hulk, his primary concern was the effect it would have on his kids, the first thing that he brought up. ‘Man, I’ve got young kids that are in school. I live in a community where people are into the Hulk Hogan character. I’m a positive influence and I do a lot of positive things for charities.’ At the time, I think he had made more Make-A-Wish appearances than anybody in history.”
Eric Bischoff concluded by discussing the commercial opportunities and good causes Hogan would potentially be giving up if he swapped his red and yellow for black and white:
“Hulk was really aware that a lot of those opportunities to work within the community and to sell merchandise, he was venturing into the unknown. Even though Hulk’s merchandising and things like that weren’t as popular as it was in the mid-80s, early 90s, it was still significant. He was still getting a lot of commercial opportunities and endorsement opportunities. He knew that turning heel would be waving goodbye to all of that. There was a lot of genuine concern about a lot of issues but the kids were a big part of it even though they were very young, Hulk was very concerned that turning heel would have some kind of adverse effect on his kids. Kids are kids, it is what it is.”
Ultimately Hulk Hogan joining the nWo was one of the catalysts for the wrestling boom of the late nineties. A refreshed Hogan went on to have memorable feuds with the likes of Goldberg and Sting.