Hulk Hogan was the biggest name from WCW who missed out on a trip to North Korea, and for very good reason.
WCW teamed up with NJPW in 1995, as Antonio Inoki attempted to bring world peace with a super show in the capital of an isolationist country in North Korea.
Collision in Korea was a two-day event, which pulled in an eye-watering 355,000 attendance figure (under threat of death, mind you). The 190,000 on night two is still the biggest crowd in wrestling history.
That show was headlined by Antonio Inoki vs Ric Flair, pitting Japan’s biggest star against one of America’s most popular athletes.
However, Ric Flair was not the first choice for the main event match in North Korea. For the bout in Pyongyang, Antonio Inoki wanted Hulk Hogan to face him, in the historic bout.
The reasons for wanting Hogan were threefold.
The first was a simple one. Hulk Hogan was the biggest star in wrestling history. There had never been anyone bigger and more popular, and if he wanted to make it the biggest show ever, he needed the best.
Second is the pairs history together. Hogan had battled Inoki multiple times over the years, with Hulk Hogan beating him in the final of the G1 Climax, to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Thirdly, was to play into the story of the match and get the crown behind Inoki. North Korean wrestler Rikidōzanwas a hero to his countries people, revered still today, half a century after his death.
Inoki was the protégée of the legendary grappler, and the bout was seen more as a “North Korea vs America” bout, due to Inoki’s connection to Rikidōzan.
Nobody represented the United States, an enemy of North Korea, than Hulk Hogan. He was the perfect opponent for Antonio Inoki to face in front of 190,000 fans, but it was not to be.
Hulk Hogan turned down the chance to wrestle in that show, with Eric Bischoff revealing the reasons behind it.
Why Hulk Hogan Rejected North Korea Match
Hulk Hogan turned down the chance to wrestle in North Korea in 1995, going against the wishes of WCW and Antonio Inoki.
The Hulkster was the most popular wrestler in the world, although his stardom was waning. He was just one year out from his heel turn and formation of the NWO, but he was still a main eventer in the company.
He was the biggest merchandise seller in the world, making millions of things like T-Shirt and action figure sales.
However, North Korea was a poor country, isolated from the rest of the world and suffering from a deadly famine. They did not have the money to line Hogan’s pockets.
This is why he ignored the invite.
Hulk Hogan didn’t wrestle in North Korea because there was no possibility for making money from merchandise, which is where the bulk of his money came from overseas tours.
Eric Bischoff revealed on 83 Weeks podcast that he tried to convince Hogan to make the trip to North Korea for Collision in Korea, but the star simply stroked his moustache and said “I can’t make that one, brother“.
“Contractually, Hulk wasn’t obligated to do any international live events. There were a couple that he wanted to do because we felt that they would be very profitable and we’d move a lot of merchandise, and obviously, he was very vested and had a great stake in merchandise sales.
So, he went over to Germany and things like that, but going over to North Korea, no.
So, in order to get him to do it, I had to get him to volunteer to do it, particularly because there was going to be no licensing or merchandising opportunities in North Korea.
It was a long trip, no doubt about it, and the fact that he just didn’t really want to travel that extensively. So, in terms of where did I go, I was down in Florida, and I had spent a lot of time in Florida, you know, between shooting shows of Disney-MGM studios and dealing with Hulk and Randy.
A lot of talent was already down there, and it was often times easier for me to go down to where they were in a more relaxed environment than to have creative meetings and discussions inside the CNN center, which just always seemed too formal.
So, I was down in Florida, I was at his home, and I said, ‘Look, this is gonna be a hell of an opportunity. By that time, Muhammad Ali was already on board, he was excited to do it, and I did my best.
You know, I can be a pretty decent salesperson when I have to be, and I put on my salesman shoes, and I was dancing, I was doing all kinds of my best salesman moves, and the way I described it in the book is really accurate.
You know, Hulk just looked at me, and he’d let me get my pitch out, and I was just full of energy and enthusiasm and excitement, and he stroked his fumanchu and said, ‘Yeah, so I can’t make that one, brother.’
And I pretty much expected it. It wasn’t that I wanted all to go over as much as it was Antonio Inoki really wanted Hulk Hogan.
I think from Antonio’s point of view, to be able to bring Muhammad Ali, who was just such an amazingly respected world figure even at that time, to be able to bring Muhammad Ali and Hulk Hogan over to Korea, I think would have been absolutely the best thing that could have happened for Antonio from a political point of view, but I was just not interested, and he wasn’t obligated.”
Instead of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair was chosen to face Antonio Inoki at Collision in Korea.
He lost to the Japanese legend, a move which Hulk Hogan would surely have claimed “wouldn’t work for me, brother”.
What do you think about Hulk Hogan rejecting the historic match in North Korea? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments section below.