The sight of Hulk Hogan ‘Hulking Up’ is one most famous images in all of professional wrestling.
While Hulk Hogan might have been beaten down all match, dominated and put through the ringer. Those in attendance wondered if this was the time that Hogan wouldn’t be able to come back. Then it happened. The big kick out, followed by the shake of the head, the shaking of the arms, and Hulk was back in business.
But where did ‘Hulking Up’ come from? Speaking on the latest episode of Jim Cornette’s Drive Thru, the legendary wrestling personality has offered his thoughts on where the set piece originated. Looking back through history, Cornette said that the big comeback spot had been around as long as wrestling itself, so Hulk Hogan was far from the first to incorporate it into his matches.
“Hulk Hogan did not invent ‘Hulking up’, it’s been called that because he was so obvious with it. With Lawler, it was dropping the strap, Jay Strongbow was the War dance, Bearcat Brown, he did a dance. You know, when kids in Louisville got in fights in school in the early 70’s, they would start to do Bearcat Brown’s swinging his fists out from side to side and kicking his foot up in the air like he was gonna make the comeback. Every babyface that was a main event star or was a top guy had a manner of starting his comeback, and some elevated it to an artform. It’s old as the hills that the babyface would be getting the shit kicked out of him and then finally something would happen where you would detect that he was not going to put up with this anymore. They would gradually start showing that they had life, or they had fire, whether it be a look up to the people in the bleachers or the way they would twist their body when they would get hit and you would start to see some erection go back in their spine.”
“Every babyface down through the years that was over had some manner of doing that, and the key word is ‘over’, because the people had to give a shit.”
Cornette expanded further, initially by criticising Hogan as being unrealistic in contrast to someone like Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler.
“Hogan’s was, not only from a visual standpoint, it was phony because he would have everybody, including the biggest people in the world, just throwing shitty punches at his left shoulder while he walked away from them shaking his fists. That’s shitty from a visual standpoint for the fans, but also for the guy working with you, Hogan’s [Hulking up] drove me crazy.”
“[Jerry] Lawler would be selling and then suddenly he’d take a punch and instantly he’d turn his head, his back would shoot up straight, he’d grab his chin and get a look on his face with his eyes crossed and it would be like a visual ‘You motherfucker!’ The people would stop from the rumble they had while he was getting beat on and they would roar, then he’d take another shot, recoil from that, but he would stand up even straighter and look back at the guy with that look on his face, and the people would blow louder and the heel might try one more time. That time he wouldn’t even sell it, he would then take that right thumb, put it over the left shoulder strap, drop the strap and put his hands up like he’s ready to fight and they would throw babies in the air. Before he had landed a punch, when the strap dropped, the people came to their feet, and then he’d throw those punches and every one he landed, they’d go ‘Ooh!’, and he’d make his big comeback.”
The legendary manager was then pressed on where Hogan may have gotten the idea. Cornette surmised that having been exposed to Lawler and Dusty Rhodes at an early stage in his career, both would have played a major role.
“I’m sure he got it from Lawler because he’d been Lawler’s tag team partner when they introduced him in Memphis, so he saw that in the Coliseum or in the Gardens every week. I mean, that’s not unique in wrestling, he’d been watching Florida, remember Dusty would get down on his knees and have you get the nerve hold on the shoulder muscle, he’d be bleeding, and he’d put his arms out to his sides like he was on the cross. Then his wrists would start circulating around a little bit, his arms would come up a little higher, then he’d give a double fucking finger, the place would blow, then he’d stand up, elbow, and start making a comeback. So Hogan could’ve seen it in Florida with Dusty, but he didn’t invent it, it wasn’t the best one. I didn’t like Hogan’s because it just didn’t look good, but he was so over, and the more over you are, in some cases, the less good your shit has to look. The poor sucker heel, instead of at least having an opponent in front of you that’s reacting to what you’re doing like Lawler or like Dusty, you’re just having to follow him around the ring as he does his fucking Hulk up thing and punch him on his left shoulder because he won’t turn around and take one. It was odd.”
Elsewhere on the episode, Cornette delved into how he would book ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt. The former Head Booker of OVW and Smokey Mountain Wrestling described Wyatt’s presentation as some of the “worst stuff that I’ve ever seen in wrestling.”
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