Augusta, Georgia is commonly thought of as the serene, genteel home of the Masters golf tournament. Rarely is it associated with one of professional wrestling’s biggest stars.
Terry Gene Bollea was born in Augusta on this date in 1953 to a mother who was a dance teacher and father who was a construction foreman. The family moved to Port Tampa, Florida when Hogan was one and a half years old. He was a star pitcher and attracted the attention of major league scouts as a teenager before an arm injury derailed his baseball career. He attended Robinson High School and regulary attended pro wrestling events at the Tampa Sportatorium and was also a skilled bass guitarist. He studied at Hillsborough Community College and University of South Florida but dropped out in order to pursue a music career with his band, Ruckus, which soon became a local sensation around Tampa Bay. He worked out at Hector’s Gym in his spare time and was introduced to Hiro Matsuda, a former pro wrestler-turned-trainer, in 1976, and decided to quit Ruckus in order to try his hand at wrestling. In 1977, he made his debut in Championship Wrestling from Florida, an organization that had featured former pro football players Wahoo McDaniel and Ernie Ladd, and soon took the persona of “The Super Destroyer”. He left Matsuda and Championship Wrestling from Florida to open a gym and manage a club before deciding to return to wrestling in 1978, performing in venues throughout the southeast.
Bollea met World Wrestling Federation head Vince McMahon, Sr. in 1979 and McMahon convinced him to dye his hair blond and take on an Irish persona as “Hulk Hogan”. Shortly thereafter, he joined the New Japan Pro Wrestling circuit, where he crafted new holds and maneuvers that differentiated him from other American wrestlers. He got his big break in 1982 after being cast as “Thunderlips” in the movie Rocky III. Hogan became the top face of WWF as McMahon pushed wrestling into a pop culture enterprise through pay-per-view, MTV and WrestleMania events. Hogan headlined eight of the first nine WrestleMania events and was on the covers of People, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated, had his own Saturday morning cartoon show and appeared on The Tonight Show. He hosted Saturday Night Live on March 30, 1985 and was the most requested celebrity for the Make-A-Wish Foundation children’s charity in the decade of the 80s. He starred in his second film, No Holds Barred, in 1989 and was WWF Champion off and on for much of the decade. He co-founded New World Order [nWo] in 1996 and became known as “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, a persona he retained until becoming “Mr. America” in 2003.
Some of his signature moves included the “Pile Driver”, “Leg Drop”, “Hulking Up” and his costumes included yellow, red and then black bandanas, red kneepads, yellow boots, red and yellow boas and a tee shirt that was dramatically torn off upon entering the ring.
The 6’7”, 280 pound “Hulkster” is a 12-time world champion and is the third longest combined reigning WWF Champion of all time. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 with Sylvester Stallone serving as his presenter. Mr. Hogan has acted in several television and movie roles, starred in a reality TV show, has hosted his own radio show and has released music CDs and video games.