SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
News of the Week: Hulk Hogan grateful for Boys and Girls Club HOF induction
Hulk Hogan is set to be inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Class of 2018 Alumni Hall of Fame Wednesday evening in a ceremony in San Diego in recognition of his work with children throughout his career.
“The Boys and Girls Club of America is just as Americana as the red, white, and blue and the purple mountains’ majesty,” said Hogan. “They’re as intertwined as you can possibly get with our American values, so it means a lot from them to say I’ve contributed to this country’s youth.”
Hogan will be in good company, as fellow inductees include NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Davis and United States Army Lieutenant General Leslie Smith. Vince McMahon and Triple H are also members of the HOF.
His relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America began in 1963. The then 10-year-old Hogan, who grew up in Tampa, Florida had no legion of supporters. Terry Bollea was a follower, worshipping his brother Allan, who was six years older.
“The reason I ended up at the Boys and Girls Club was my brother,” said Hogan. “I was 10, but my brother was older and already running around with Beatle boots on and his hair slicked back, kind of like ‘The Fonz.’ He was always into something, always in trouble. He quit school in the 10th grade and I was following him around because he was my hero.”
Hogan admitted that he was easily influenced by his brother, and was attempting to spend most of his free time around his brother and his crew of teenage friends.
“That’s why my parents took me to the Boys Club, to distract me from my older brother,” said Hogan. “But when I first saw that swimming pool and baseball field, along with the music program with guitar lessons, I was hooked.”
Hogan would ride his bike five miles to make the daily trek to the Interbay Club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, learning to swim and dive from the club’s diving board.
“It got me away from the path my brother was going down, and it made me want to go to the Boys and Girls Club every day,” said Hogan. “I found the right path, and I thank the Boys and Girls Club for that.”
Before leg drops and body slams, Hogan’s first passion was baseball, which he played every day at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I fell in love with baseball as a kid,” said Hogan. “We didn’t have professional hockey or football in Tampa in the ‘60s, but we did have spring training.”
The idea of Hulkamania running wild around the baseball diamond—or a wrestling world without Hogan—is hard to imagine. But just like the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and a countless amount of other babyboomers, Hogan was infatuated with America’s pastime.
“Baseball had a huge influence on me,” said Hogan. “I played Little League, Pony League, and even high school baseball for a short while. The Yankees came here for spring training, and they were my father’s favorite team.”
Millions of fans have reached over the barrier just to connect with Hogan, which was no different than what he did as a child at spring training in Tampa.
“There was Yogi Berra, there was Roger Maris, plus Mickey Mantle and Lou Piniella were still running around the outfield,” said Hogan. “I could actually stand right next to the fence where the dugout was on their practice field and reach through the fence to touch the backs of their jerseys. I just wanted to say I was so close to the Yankees that I could reach out and touch them.”
Although Hogan was not part of this year’s WrestleMania, he has been increasingly relevant on WWE programming in 2018.
WrestleMania 34 marked Roman Reigns’ fourth consecutive ’Mania main event, a feat that had not been accomplished since Hogan set the bar in 1992. Hogan’s TNA brethren in AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, and Bobby Roode all played starring roles at the most recent ’Mania, and Hogan remains particularly in awe of Styles’ work as WWE champion.
“AJ has turned out to be one heck of a performer, one of the best in the world,” said Hogan. “Beyond that, he’s just such a good person.”
Styles paid tribute to Hogan during the Raw 25 show in January, opening his interview with Hogan’s classic, “Well, let me tell you something, ‘Mean’ Gene!” line.
“What AJ does in the ring is phenomenal, and that’s why we call him the ‘Phenomenal One’, but when he’s outside the ring, he’s even more phenomenal,” said Hogan. “It’s so cool to see how he takes care of his family and loves his kids. If people saw him outside of when he wrestles, they’d have even more admiration for him.”
Hogan has endured his share of difficulties over the past decade, but one aspect of his life that never wavered was the support from his fan base.
“So many people are so loyal,” said Hogan. “That support has given me my pulse.
“I’ve wrestled for four generations of people, but after all these years, I never thought the popularity would still be this big. I’ll be 65 in a couple months, and I had no idea there would still be this groundswell of interest.
“People have stood by me through the good stuff, but also through the controversy. People were loyal and stood behind me even when big corporations made decisions based on their corporate policies. The fans stuck with me. It’s been amazing how loyal they have been to me.”
Hogan will accept his Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame induction later Wednesday evening, an honor he noted is one of the most meaningful he has ever received.
“They’re thanking me for my contribution, and I’m thankful for them,” said Hogan. “The Boys Club is what pointed me in the right direction in life.”
Am I the only one who thinks that season three of Total Bellas will end with a John Cena-Nikki Bella wedding?
The upcoming Total Bellas season, premiering on E! on May 20, takes a look at the stresses and rigors of Bella’s engagement with Cena and their wedding planning. Until the recent announcement of their breakup, the season finale was supposed to be the couple’s wedding.
Brie Bella spoke last week with Sports Illustrated and stated, “This was Total Bellas 3 and we were going to see Nicole and John’s journey all the way to the altar. Obviously, there is going to be one episode missing because there is no wedding.”
Or will there be?
Count this reporter among the faithful who believe that the season will end with a wedding ceremony.
In other news…
• Kofi Kingston was wearing fluorescent yellow and orange on his tights and vest last night on SmackDown. Just like his work in the ring, Kingston is also invested and attentive to his New Day ring attire.
“You have to wear a lot of hats in WWE, even as far as your gear,” said Kingston. “A lot of times people see us and ask, ‘Who designs your stuff?’ We did originally, and we have a designer now but we give him all the ideas we want and collaborate. Nobody in the WWE office is doing that for us, were doing that ourselves.”
Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods just kicked off a new feud with Cesaro and Sheamus, and the trio is extremely active behind-the-scenes to show their value to WWE.
“We’re working on our promos, giving interviews, doing community service,” said Kingston. “We’re year-round. You have to be entertaining and always have your finger on the pulse of pop culture. That’s what has enabled New Day to be successful.”
• Showtime’s documentary on Mauro Ranallo, Bipolar Rock’N’Roller, is set to premiere on Friday, May 25 at 9 p.m. ET.
Ranallo, who is the voice of WWE’s NXT, has Bipolar Affective Disorder, and he is a proud advocate for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. The documentary takes a deep look at mental illness and its effects.
• WWE’s Backlash pay per view takes place this Sunday.
Samoa Joe fans are bracing themselves for disappointment, as the “Samoan Submission Machine” is nearly a certainty to take the fall in his match with Roman Reigns. WWE is planning a Joe-Styles feud for the WWE title (imagine reading that sentence five years ago?), and it will be interesting to see what direction the creative moves in for Shinsuke Nakamura if he is unable to capture the title from Styles on Sunday.
Styles has to wear a protective cup on Sunday, correct? Wouldn’t that be the logical response to the getting-hit-in-the-groin storyline?
Also, for those wondering why Reigns and Braun Strowman had seemingly no issue working with one another on Raw this past Monday after a year of trying to decimate one another, there is no other way to explain it other than a major gap in storytelling.
• Eddie Edwards’ feud with Sami Callihan started on a gruesome note.
This past January during Impact Wrestling’s set of television tapings, Callihan recklessly hit Edwards in the head with a baseball bat, nearly costing Edwards his eye.
By the time the footage aired in March, doctors had already cleared Edwards’ return and he somehow escaped a permanent injury or even loss of vision. The decision was made to continue the feud, which is intensely personal for Edwards.
“This is definitely the most personal storyline I have ever been involved in, it started with me getting hit in the face with a baseball bat,” said the 34-year-old Edwards, who has worked as one of wrestling’s unsung heroes for the past decade. “It’s tough to get more intense or personal than that.”
The storyline has continued with Callihan and the oVe tag team attacking Edwards and stalking his wife on Impact television.
“It’s a chance to show a different side of me and this is just the start,” said Edwards. “I am going to push the limits.”
Edwards is no stranger to injuries, once breaking his elbow in a Ring of Honor match with Kevin Owens in 2009, then competing in a tag team “Ladder War” match the following night with Davey Richards against Owens and Sami Zayn. Edwards also broke his heel in a match against Richards in 2015.
“When I broke my heel, the first thing the doctor told me was I would never wrestle again and that I’d be lucky if I was ever able to walk normal again,” said Edwards. “But the docs never gave me any real reason to think I would be losing my eye, so it was nice not hearing the worse possible thing right off the bat.
“But losing my eye was my immediate concern. As soon as I got hit, I put my hand over my eye, started walking up the ramp to the back and all I was thinking was that I really hoped my eye was not hanging out of my head or in my hand.”
Edwards has turned the injury into a positive, especially after his compelling 6-man tag match victory with Moose and Tommy Dreamer at Impact’s Redemption pay per view last week over Callihan and oVe. The television segments with Edwards on Thursday’s Impact Wrestling show offer a raw and physical storyline that is based off of reality.
“This is far from finished with Callihan,” said Edwards. “Honestly, the 6-man was just the beginning. It’s my first step in getting even. The possibilities of where we can go from here are endless. Tune in and stand by, you will not be disappointed.”
• UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar is a special attraction at this Friday’s “May The 4th Be With You” show for PCW Ultra.
Bonnar will forever live in UFC fame, as his 2009 fight against Forrest Griffin is credited by UFC president Dana White as the “most important fight in UFC history.” Bonnar lost the fight but was awarded a UFC contract, and he will be present at PCW Ultra’s show this Friday to announce whether he intends to sign with the promotion.
“I’m loving wrestling,” said Bonnar, who was known as “The American Psycho” throughout his fighting career. “I get the same adrenaline high I got fighting, and I love entertaining the fans. I love the indie scene, I never knew I’d enjoy it this much. And I get to hustle my t-shirts, which was what I did in the UFC for many years.”
Bonnar started working the indies last August, and he put in time training with Future Stars of Wrestling out of Las Vegas and has also spent time with Jake “The Snake” Roberts working on the nuances of ring psychology.
“I know how to play to my strengths with flashy kicks and highlight-level submission holds,” said Bonnar. “It’s similar to fighting. It’s freeing to get lost in a fight.”
The PCW Ultra show will be streamed on FITE TV, and features an appearance by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat as well as Pentagon defending the PCW Ultra championship against Homicide.
Bonnar has an advantage upon entry with his history as a legitimate tough guy in UFC, and a unique size at 6’4”. Working with PCW Ultra would provide some extra legitimacy to his new career choice.
“It’s one of the best promotions, and I want to align myself with the top indie promotions and help bring back the territories as much as possible,” said Bonnar. “The indie scene reminds me a lot of when I was starting in MMA in my early 20s. It was fun and I getting better with every match and learning and progressing through jiu-jitsu and winning gold glove titles. I get that same feeling learning the art of pro wrestling.”
Bonnar also has history with Jon “Bones” Jones, who is one of the most infamous fighters in UFC history, having entered the Octagon with him in 2009. Before Jones tested positive for banned substances this past July, many believe he was headed for a match in the Octagon with Brock Lesnar. The matchup, Bonnar believes, would favor Jones.
“Jones would out-wrestle Brock,” said Bonnar. “I think Jon Jones would put Brock Lesnar on his back and submit him.”
If Bonnar signs with PCW Ultra, he will add a new level of brutality to the young promotion.
“I’ve missed entertaining the fans and putting on a show for them,” said Bonnar. “Entertaining people with violence, that’s the same. You only get one take.”
• The “Why It Happened” podcast experienced a first this past week, as WWE alum Muhammed Hassan shared that his visit on the show served as the motivation to return to the ring for the first time in 13 years.
“It feels great knowing that after guys are on our show, great things are happening for them,” said the show’s host Rob “Robbie E” Strauss. “Bookings, follows on social media, and returns. It’s super freaking cool.”
The show’s guest this week is Mike Knoxx.
• Major League Wrestling is back in action tomorrow at the Gilt Nightclub in Orlando, Florida show for the “MLW Fusion” television tapings.
MLW now airs every Friday night on beIN Sports, and Court Bauer’s promotion gave beIN Sports a 60 percent boost in their timeslot this past Friday.
Thursday’s taping includes a “Simon Gotch Prize Fight”, which is a cash prize offered to anyone who can last five minutes in an exhibition with Gotch, formerly one half of WWE’s Vaudevillains.
Shane Strickland will defend his world heavyweight championship against Pentagon, MVP wrestles Maxwell J. Friedman, and the show will also spotlight Jake Hager, who was Jack Swagger in WWE.
Hager is managed by Colonel Robert Parker, best remembered from his time in World Championship Wrestling, and he is ready to destroy the competition in MLW.
Although he had some highlights in WWE as Swagger, the company never consistently trusted Hager in the main event spot. His run shared some similarities to the WWF sojourn of Dr. Death Steve Williams, who was presented as a monster nearly everywhere in the world but did not capture that status in the WWF.
Hager is out to prove that just because WWE did not properly decode him, that does not mean he is not wired to be a beast in the ring.
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard and co-host Conrad Thompson returns this Friday at noon ET with a new podcast, with a close look at the WWE run of the Big Bossman.
The Bossman had an incredible run, starting out with Crockett Promotions in 1986 then taking a job in the World Wrestling Federation only two years later at the age of 25, at which point he was quickly inserted into the main event picture with Hulk Hogan.
“He had one of the most underrated runs of the late 80’s,” said Thompson. “The Bossman had an incredible rise from doing jobs for Tully Blanchard in Crockett Promotions to working Madison Square Garden two years later with Hulk Hogan. Then when he comes back in 1998, he works different and looks different, and he was hung at WrestleMania, the ‘Kennel in a Cell’, and some other absurd stuff in the 90’s.”
The Bossman has the rare distinction of wrestling at both WrestleMania V in a tag team match and then a decade later in a “Hell in a Cell” match against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 15.
“I really want to see what Hogan and Vince saw in him as a 25-year-old, and why he lost that opportunity to be a main event guy,” said Thompson. “Where they just trying to feed Hogan monsters who could bump and feed? If that’s the case, he was the perfect foil for Hogan.”
Thompson also unveiled his newest podcast, “83 Weeks” with former WCW president Eric Bischoff, which quickly jumped to number one on iTunes’ list of Sports and Recreation podcasts only 48 hours after its debut. Next week’s episode will cover the infamous “Fingerpoke of Doom” that saw “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan reclaim the WCW title after an inside job over NWO partner Kevin Nash.
“The WCW belt had real credibility at that point, but it was just f------ thrown away over this silly angle,” said Thompson. “I’m curious if Bischoff will find a way to defend it. I really don’t think you can defend that, so I think Bischoff will have to own that it f------ sucked.”
Thompson also previewed his “Something Else to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” on the WWE Network, which looks at Shawn Michaels’ run in the WWF in 1995 on Wednesday’s episode.
“It’s one of the most underrated years anyone has ever had,” said Thompson. “The Kliq first formed with Hunter, it’s Shawn’s first Royal Rumble win and WrestleMania title match, and the rumor and innuendo with Diesel kicking out at one after his superkick that Shawn says changed the whole course of his career.
“There is the forced WrestleMania X rematch at SummerSlam with the edict coming literally the day of the show that you can’t use the ladder as a weapon. He also works with Jeff Jarrett, who quits the promotion before he finishes the angle. The Kliq has the infamous meeting with Vince McMahon, and we end the year with a beating in Syracuse and the subsequent feud with Owen Hart. It’s a monumental year for Shawn Michaels.”
Tweet of the Week
Congrats to Glenn Jacobs, who captured the republican primary for the upcoming mayoral election in Knox County, Tennessee.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.