After a decade as the top star in wrestling, Hulk Hogan decided to leave the WWE in 1993. His departure left a vacuum in the WWE main event scene that forced them to push previously lower-card talents, like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Kevin Nash into the WWE Championship scene. This ignited the “New Generation” era in WWE that prioritised smaller wrestlers who could work faster paced, more dynamic matches and started the decline of the “big man” in the WWE.
Hulk Hogan left the WWE in 1993 upon the expiry of his contract. He would only last a year out of wrestling however, as he signed for direct rivals WCW in 1994 and was immediately positioned as their top star. He was given a bumper contract, creative control and had the whole show written around him as the “main character” of the entire company.
He became the highest paid ever at that point, even though his star had begun to wain. He soon reinvented himself as “Hollywood”Hulk Hogan as the leader of the New World Order. Under his stewardship, the NWO became the biggest and most popular faction in wrestling history and their t-shirts still remain top sellers even now, 26 years later.
He was still the biggest name in wrestling in 1993 when he walked out on WWE. But why did Hulk Hogan leave WWE? What led him to leaving Vince McMahon’s company and going out on his own, eventually settling in WCW as Hulkamania went down south?
Why Did Hulk Hogan Leave WWE?
There were a few key reasons why Hulk Hogan left WWE in 1992.
The first was that Hulkamania was coming to an end. Some could even argue that it was already over. With each year, the buy rates for Wrestlemania grew weaker and weaker with Hogan on top, and crowd sizes and tape sales also diminished. His star was fading and the crowds did not want to see the era of Hulkamania any longer. They began to boo their former hero, with reports that WWE had been piping in cheers when the crowds were truly against Hogan. He clearly took this Hart, as he refused to work with and put over faces like Bret Hart, instead only fighting the “monster of the week” as he always had doen, to diminishing returns.
The children who had grown up with Hogan were now rebellious teenagers who were sick of saying their prayers and eating their vitamins. The era of the jacked up, musclebound superhero were over a more jaded cohort wanted something different a bit rougher around the edges. A heel turn for Hogan could have given him a second wind, but he refused on account of his merchandise checks and his aspiring career as an actor.
This was the second reason for him leaving – Hollywood was calling. Well, Hogan thought it was. He had previously taken a role in Rocky III, which had originally gotten him fired by Vince McMahon Sr. He thought he had potential to become a big action star like Arnold Schwarzenegger, although he had very little success.
He had seen the money that Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura had made in the world of cinema. There was good money in Hollywood that didn’t involve him throwing his body into the ground for 8 shows a week. He focused on action and comedy films although he never had a big hit. He starred in failures like Mr Nanny, No Holds Barred and ___, which did not inspire confidence in him becoming a big hit in the world of cinema. He did have his own TV Show – Thunder in Paradise. It was a relative hit for The Hulkster, and it was filmed in the same studio as WCW, which facilitated him moving to the company in 1994.
The famous WWE Steroid Trial was the final straw in his departure. Hogan had been showcased as a behemoth in the WWF, a Greek god moulded from granite with bigger muscles than God himself. To claim he wasn’t on steroids was foolish, although somehow Vince McMahon managed to avoid prison for the scandal. The aftermath did keep the eyes of the world on the world of wrestling, forcing Hogan to get off the juice and slim down in time for Wrestlemania 9. He had to step away from the business due to the scrutiny he was under after the steroid trial, although he would later bulk up when he went to WCW as “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.
When he went to WCW, owner Ted Turner gave him the biggest contract imaginable. He was afforded millions of dollars in pay with a host of perks that anyone would be extremely luck to get now. He was given a part time schedule, with no house shows. He was brought in as the top star and made WCW champion on his debut, as well as having creative control written into his contract (which he would use for the worse – ask Sting). He also was given his own TV show and the chance to do a number of kids movies, trying desperately to crack Hollywood once again.
Vince McMahon couldn’t offer any of these things and certainly couldn’t afford to pay him as much as WCW. He reluctantly led his former World Champion go to his rival, and he would not return until Vince bought WCW, making his second debut in 2002 alongside the NWO.