Hulk Hogan's Most Iconic Role Got Him Fired from WWE
How Hollywood once body-slammed Hulk Hogan's wrestling career.
Hulk Hogan, known for his charisma and larger-than-life persona in the wrestling world, took a leap into Hollywood with his role as Thunderlips in the 1982 film Rocky III.
This wasn't just any role; it was a significant part in a major Hollywood franchise, where he went toe-to-toe with the movie's protagonist, Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone.
The scene was intense, with Thunderlips and Rocky battling it out in a boxer vs. wrestler match. The fight was so intense that Stallone later admitted to Hogan himself for a WWE interview, that Hulk's blows were the hardest he ever took, even leaving him "traumatized."
One would assume that a top-tier star like Hogan starring in a Hollywood blockbuster would be a moment of pride. However, for WWE and, in particular, Vince McMahon Sr., who was at the helm of the organization, it was a matter of concern. Upon learning about Hogan's role in the movie, McMahon Sr. took immediate action.
Back in the late '70s and early '80s, the wrestling world had a strict code: "If you're a wrestler, you're a wrestler." There was no crossing over into movies or TV.
Hogan himself recalled telling McMahon Sr. about the movie offer, only to be met with a stern response. The ultimatum was clear: drop the movie role or leave WWE. Hogan chose the former, leading to his firing.
While the firing might have seemed like a setback, it was far from the end for Hogan. He ventured to Japan, wrestling with New Japan Pro Wrestling and earning the affectionate title Ichiban, meaning Number One.
But Hollywood wasn't done with him. The success of Rocky III and Hogan's undeniable charm caught the attention of Vince McMahon Jr., who saw the potential in bringing Hogan back to WWE. By 1983, Hogan was back in the WWE fold, leading the charge in what would become the era of Hulkamania.
Today, the lines between wrestling and other entertainment forms have blurred. Wrestlers like The Rock, Batista, and John Cena have successfully transitioned to Hollywood, and WWE even has its own film division.