It was 30 years ago this week that Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF Heavyweight Title, ushering in Hulkamania in wrestling and setting the stage for Vince McMahon’s national expansion.
Hogan’s victory also planted the initial seeds of the first WrestleMania, although I’m not clear if McMahon had a supershow in mind at this point.
As I wrote earlier, the Sheik had shockingly defeated Bob Backlund for the belt on December 26, 1983, at Madison Square Garden. At the next monthly house show at the Garden on January 23, 1984, Hogan challenged for the title and won.
The shift in champions and power was shocking in ’84 because of how quickly it all happened. I remember in Boston growing up that we could get WWOR from New York on our cable, so I was aware that Hogan was fighting the Sheik at MSG. Given the circumstances, I suspected even as a youngster that Hogan was winning the belt. It sure doesn’t take long to figure out how wrestling works, which is part of its appeal I suppose.
During the match, Pat Patterson, who served as color commentator alongside Gorilla Monsoon, yelled a line I’ll never forget: “I’m so excited, I don’t want to talk. I want to watch the match!”
The fans at MSG exploded when Hogan pinned the Sheik with his legdrop. It was a changing of the guard that didn’t happen very often those days in the WWF. Hogan went on to hold the belt for a little more than four years before he lost it to Andre the Giant in one of the most watched wrestling matches in history.
If you’ve never seen Hogan’s first WWF championship win, it’s a short, exciting match that still get me going when I watch it. It will be interesting to see if Hogan gets one more chance on the big stage in 2014 at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, as rumors are swirling that the Hulk is gunning for a retirement match.