Hulk Hogan has revealed that he was fired by the WWE for appearing in Rocky III – a strange decision for a company looking at building a top star in the company.
The Immortal one became a huge star after his appearance as the menacing “Thunderlips” in the third film in the Rocky franchise, battling the titular star – played by Sylvester Stallone – in a “boxer vs wrestler” match that went awry. It drew similarities to the famous Antonio Inoki vs Muhammad Ali match in New Japan which alleged to have over a billion viewers watch the bout.
Thunderlips fought Rocky to a draw in the match, with both men tossing the other over the top rope and into a crowd of fans catching them. It ended amicably and both men came out of the match as friends, although at points in the match it looked like Thunderlips was going to hurt Balboa for real.
One would think having a top star appearing in a Hollywood movie – one at the stature of the Rocky franchise no less – would be a huge coup for WWE. However, Vincent J. McMahon, the father of current WWE owner Vince McMahon, thought differently. Once he found out about Hogan starring in the movie as a wrestler, he immediately sought action against the future Hall of Famer and fired him from the WWE.
While this may seem odd, Hulk Hogan himself explained it perfectly. Speaking to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on “The Steve Austin Show“, the former WWE Champion explained that the idea of wrestlers being actors in those days was heavily frowned upon and could get you kicked out pro-wrestling entirely.
“The mindset back then wasn’t like it is now. “I told Vince Sr., ‘Hey, I got this call from Stallone,”. “Back then, ‘78, ‘79, if you were a wrestler, you didn’t do TV. You didn’t go do a movie. If you’re a wrestler, you’re a wrestler.”
He also noted that he actually thought the call from Stallone, who played the titular Rocky, was a prank call from one of his wrestling friends. He called it a “rib”, a common name in wrestling for a practical joke played by one wrestler onto another. They can vary in harshness from a harmless prank to physical violence, depending on how much they like or dislike the victim.
Hogan would be rehired by the WWE in 1983. The move, which came out a year prior, had become a huge hit and Hogan a big star. He wrestled for the AWA in the years away from the WWE and new boss Vince McMahon (Jr) was interested in bringing him back.
McMahon had bought the company from his father and was beginning his nationwide expansion. Buying up the top talent from the regional promotions, his goal was to form one super-company, putting on events all around the country and, most importantly, a nationally syndicated TV show. He achieved all of this with Rocky’s opponent Hulk Hogan at the helm of his country and he remains one of the most famous wrestlers even to this day.
Nowadays, wrestlers are encouraged to take on movie roles – look no further than the likes of The Rock, Batista and John Cena, as well as the stars of the many, many terrible movies made by WWE Studios.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.