If you were to use just one word to describe Vince McMahon, “insane” would be it. If you were to use another, you’d think “big”. McMahon himself is an impressive physical specimen, a “workout” fiend. Even his grapefruit-sized balls are big, figuratively and, you’d have to imagine, literally.
Vince McMahon thought big when he reimagined pro wrestling as a glamorous, worldwide enterprise of sports entertainment. Insidiously purchasing the various North American wrestling territories to create one big national - and subsequently international - company, Vince McMahon selected a big talisman to carry the whole thing across his tanned, rippling shoulders: Hulk Hogan. Vince knew that the ethnic regional stars of the old WWWF, the Italian-American Bruno Sammartino and the Puerto Rican Pedro Morales, were no longer fit for purpose. Vince McMahon instead went with Hogan, a living superhero with the moral compass to convince Middle America to fall for Vince’s shiny and repurposed blood sport.
Hogan modelled himself after the equally big Superstar Billy Graham, using his own heroic charisma to become a big household name. His act was practically magic. Who else but Hogan, the very sight of whom inspired goosebumps, could get away with the hokey “hulk up” routine?
This routine was a sensation, and turned the regional WWWF into the big WWF - a national mainstream powerhouse. The underrated commercial run of the muscled Macho Man Randy Savage not withstanding, it was Hogan who built that house.
We mock Vince for falling behind the times, but he grasped the wider zeitgeist perfectly in the 1980s; the stars of the squared circle and silver screen alike were über-inflated action heroes, the pinnacle of masculinity.
When Hogan attempted to join his spiritual brothers Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone in Hollywood, McMahon thought big when appointing his replacement. That replacement was the equally rippled Ultimate Warrior. Warrior had muscles on top of muscles on top of problematic opinions. He had muscles where his talent should have been. That, to McMahon, was enough. CONT'D...