Torch Flashbacks Detailed story on why Hulk Hogan left WWE one year ago this week
Jun 30, 2004 - 2:33:00 PM
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The following is a look back at the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter "Cover Story" regarding Hulk Hogan's WWE departure one year ago this week. Pro Wrestling Torch is a weekly newsletter that has been published since October 1987 and is the widest read weekly insider publication on pro wrestling in the world. For information on becoming a Torch VIP member with exclusive online access and/or home delivery of the Torch Newsletter, Click Here!.
Torch Newsletter Archive
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
Cover Story Headline: Hulk Hogan and WWE part ways over "creative differences"
Originally published: Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly newsletter #765
Cover dated: July 4, 2003
Due to disagreements over creative issues, Hulk Hogan quit WWE last week in the midst of the angle where he was wrestling under a mask as Mr. America. The decision was made last week during a phone conversation Hogan initiated with Vince McMahon a couple days after the Smackdown tapings. Sources say the split was relatively cordial since it was a case of the two parties simply disagreeing strongly enough over the creative issues that a compromise couldn't be reached.
Hogan was concerned with how he was being used on television. The feeling was that he wasn't at the stage of his career where he could be utilized effectively as just another face appearing every week. He felt that in order to be an effective draw, his appearances on TV needed to be treated as a big deal, not as the third rung of a three-man team in a TV main event. He felt that being on TV in situation where he wasn't the center of attention was water down his image, and he didn't want to finish his career as "just another wrestler," as he has seen first-hand how Ric Flair has been treated the majority of the last or two his career by WWE.
His growing frustration boiled over last Tuesday at the Smackdown tapings at Madison Square Garden. When the crowd chanted "Hogan, Hogan," he felt that Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle should have improvised and responded to that by playing into the chants and tagging him in. Instead, Angle and Lesnar followed the script of the match, which is standard practice for TV tapings where crowd reaction isn't considered justification to deviate from the predetermined storyline points.
It didn't help that Smackdown, headlined by the six-man tag with Hogan, drew the smallest WWE crowd at MSG in over six years, under 9,000 paid (and thousands less than the live Raw just the night before in the same arena). Hogan doesn't like being associated with a "second place" product, and being in the main event of a Smackdown taping that drew so much less than Raw the night before was instrumental in his emotions boiling over last week.
Of course, money is always a factor in these situation, even though "creative differences" sounds more noble. While Hogan's feelings about being misused are genuine, it could be soothed over quickly and more easily if he felt he had been "appreciated fully financially."
Hulk Hogan (photo PWTorch)
There are already rumblings that Hogan may try to get the XWF going again. The XWF ran some TV tapings at Universal Studios in late 2001 and put together a PPV out of that footage earlier this year. The XWF set is still in storage at Universal Studios. The XWF talk could be Hogan genuinely wanting to try to be part of a start-up group to compete with WWE, or it could be an attempt at a leverage move to scare Vince into giving Hogan what he wants creatively and financially. The XWF used Sable, Curt Hennig, Hulk Hogan, and several other lesser names who all ended up getting hired by WWE. The Hennig signing was clearly an attempt by WWE to flex some muscles and take away a major headliner from the upstart XWF at the time, which shows Vince is conscientious of any start-up group threatening his market share, no matter how small they are at the time.
Last Tuesday at MSG, Hogan unmasked for the crowd after the cameras stopped rolling and played into the cheers. That was his way of perhaps saying "good bye" to the crowd in person rather than under the mask just in case that was his last appearance at MSG.
The plan for Mr. America was for him to have that elusive one-on-one "settle the score" match with Vince McMahon with Hogan putting his mask up against Vince's hair. It's not known how WWE is going to handle the disappearance of Mr. America from their ongoing storyline with Zach Gowen, although certainly the focus has shifted recently from Vince vs. Hulk to Vince vs. Zach, so the transition won't be as awkward as it could have been otherwise. With Hogan having been such a huge part of WrestleMania over the years, some level of reconciliation is likely in time for him to be at WrestleMania XX in some capacity.
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