Mr America took the WWE by storm in 2003, as Hulk Hogan breathed new life into his character that had become stale after decades at the top. He returned to the WWE in 2002 as part of the NWO but soon donned his classic red and yellow of Hulkamania as fans begged to see their childhood hero back again.
The transformation began at Wrestlemania X8, when Hogan faced The Rock in one of the greatest matches of all time. The Canadian crowd flipped the script on the match, booing the babyface Rock and cheering the supposedly heel Hulk Hogan as they longed to see Hulkmania back in the WWE.
He soon rolled back the clock to win the WWE Championship for the final time, beating Triple H at Backlash 2002. The match was overall disappointing, especially given how much momentum The Game had after winning the Royal Rumble that year and defeating Chris Jericho in the Wrestlemania main event. However, it didn’t matter to the Hulkamaniacs, as the legendary Hogan was back and doing what he does best – “hotdogging and grandstanding“.
His run in WWE would end after Wrestlemania 19. At the event, Hogan took on Vince McMahon in a match that pitted the Chairman of WWE against his greatest creation, in a match that was one of McMahon’s best at Wrestlemania. Hogan picked up the victory in the bout, but it was his boss that had the last laugh as he fired the Hulkster and sent him packing from the WWE. As far as the fans thought, this was the last they’d see of their childhood icon and seemed like a fitting end to a legendary career.
As the void left by Hogan hit the WWE hard, Smackdown General Manager Stephanie McMahon already had plans to fill the hole in her roster. The daughter of the WWE Chairman revealed she had found a new wrestler for her roster who was said to “embody the very spirit of this great country” [The United States].
A series of vignettes were produced over the next few weeks, featuring some of the great moments in US history. Some of these moments included;
- Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
- Neil Armstrong walking on the moon
- Ronald Reagan’s Berlin Wall speech
- George Bush’s 9/11 address
At the end of each video, a simple message would be displayed for the world to see – “Mr America Is Coming”. There was intrigue and curiosity about who this Mr America could be. It was unknown if this would be a new character or a rebrand for a wrestler already at the company. All people knew was that WWE was very behind this character and they would surely be pushed hard when they finally debuted.
Mr America was not actually shown in the videos hyping his debut. This left his identity a mystery and over the next few weeks, fans and on-screen broadcasters alike would debate who he could be. The mystery was finally revealed on May 1, 2003, when Mr. America made his WWE debut on the Piper’s Pit segment.
The second he walked out onto the stage, it was obvious that Mr America was Hulk Hogan. Painfully obvious in fact. He entered the ring to Hogan’s own “Real American” theme song, and performed all of the Hulkster’s signature poses and mannerism. He was also just clearly Hulk Hogan in a mask, which was not hard to see considering he is probably the most recognisable wrestler in the history of the WWE.
Vince McMahon interrupted the charade and accused Mr. America of being none other than Hulk Hogan in disguise. Mr. America denied the accusation, retorting with Hogan’s famous catchphrase, “I am NOT Hulk Hogan, brother!”. This popped the fans and made everyone watching laugh, with it being hilarious how blatantly they weren’t even trying to hide who Mr America truly was.
McMahon was incensed that Hogan had tricked him and that everyone else was pretending that Mr. America wasn’t Hogan. Determined to prove the truth, McMahon planned to have Mr. America take a lie detector test on May 29, 2003. If Mr. America failed the test and it was revealed that he was indeed Hogan, McMahon threatened to nullify his contract and ban Hogan from WWE permanently.
Somehow, the lie detector test proved that Mr America wasn’t Hulk Hogan and he was able to keep his job. This made very little sense, because he clearly was Hulk Hogan and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind on the contrary. It was an iconic moment in WWE history however and one that was fondly remembered. Vince McMahon, furious at the outcome, the strapped himself to the lie detector and answered some questions which embarrassed him greatly, much to the fans delight.
While this seemed like it was building to a rematch between Hogan and McMahon (Mr America vs Vince McMahon was rumoured to take place at The Great American Bash 2003), Mr America only wrestled three times in the WWE. His first match was against long-time rival Roddy Piper at Judgement Day, where Hogan would win a poor match in just under five minutes. Piper was well past his peak at the time and had no business wrestling in the ring, especially not in a big match against his long-time rival.
His next bout was against Piper’s protegee, former WCW prodigy Sean O’Haire. Mr America actually lost the match by count out, which forced him to take the lie detector test that embarrassed McMahon (as previously mentioned). If he had won the match, it would have meant that Roddy Piper would be fired from his job in the WWE.
Mr America’s third and final match in WWE was a six-man tag team match on Smackdown, on June 24th, 2003. He teamed with Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle, as the three former WWE Champions wrestled Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas and the Big Show. Mr America’s team lost in under 20 minutes, giving the masked “mystery” man a losing record in the company.
After his matches, Mr America would lift his mask up to reveal to the fans that he was, in fact, Hulk Hogan. This was to mock McMahon, although it would eventually cost him his job in the WWE.
…Well, not really, but it became a useful storytelling device when Hogan and McMahon quibbled about money. They disagreed on how much money Hogan should be paid and eventually caused the former WWE Champion to walk out of the company, not to be seen until two years later and completely devoid of the Mr America gimmick. McMahon used the footage of his unmasking as a storyline reason for Hogan no longer appearing on TV, ending the short-lived reign of Mr America after just three matches.
However, Hulk Hogan always thought that Mr America could have lasted much longer and been part of a multi-year storyline in the WWE.
Hulk Hogan On Mr America
Hogan revealed, while appearing on Ringside Collectables’ YouTube channel, that he thought Mr America could have worked as a gimmick for “two, three years” and be a main event gimmick. Comparing it to Dusty Rhodes; “Midnight Rider”, he though the gimmick was going to be huge and was disappointed by how it turned out.
Speaking to Ringside Collectables, the WWE Hall of Famer said;
“I thought that Mr. America was going to kind of do like the Midnight Rider thing that Dusty Rhodes did in Florida – be around for two, three years, mess up all the main events. When I got there, we had a six-man tag and of course, I thought Mr. America was going to rock on and be a huge angle, and they said ‘Hey brother, you’re doing the job tonight.’ And I went ‘Hmm, I guess this isn’t going very far’ […]I just figured they didn’t like the gimmick, so at the end of the match, I kind of pulled the mask up if you guys remember. and showed everybody it was me.”