In an industry dominated by consummate showmen, it can't be easy to stand in professional wrestling but Hulk Hogan did it on a level so far above anyone else in the game that even if you don't consider yourself a tried and true Hulkamaniac, you've at least got to respect what the man accomplished. Nobody but nobody pumped up a crowd like Hogan did and during his eighties heyday he was not only the biggest star in the WWE (then the WWF) but one of the biggest stars on the planet, period. A few years back WWE Home Video released the Hulk Hogan Anthology and now, much to the fans' chagrin, they dip into the Hogan well once more with three discs worth of some of his best matches, and some of his more obscure ones.
Unlike a lot of the WWE DVD releases that have come out over the years, like the recent Batista - I Walk Alone set, this one does not include a biography style documentary. There is some narration the stage between matches but the vast majority of this set is just good old fashioned wrestling, Hulkamania style. All of the material in the collection is presented in chronological order, which makes sense, but a little more effort on the part of the WWE to make this more than just a collection of matches (most of which aren't actually unreleased, but I digress) but what's here is good so let's get on with it...
A clip montage showing some even earlier material starts this disc off as we see some GWA clips and training clips and then segue into the earliest match in this collection, which is Hulk Hogan vs. Harry Valdez for Championship Wrestling on November 13, 1979. It's fun to see a young Hogan, with pyramid shaped black chest hair, parade around the ring while Bruno Sammartino talks about what a big deal this new talent is going to be. It's a fun match and it's interesting to see him here before he became all decked out in the yellow and red attire. The second match pits Bob Backlund vs. Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship in Philadelphia on April 12, 1980. For some reason the voice over work seems to have been newly created - I don't know why the original wasn't used, assuming it still exists. Regardless, this is another good match from Hogan's early years and it's almost a full half hour long, though at one point you can almost see the defeat in Backlund's eyes and can't help but feel that he's just flat out given up. Up next is Hulk Hogan against Steve King and Angelo Gomez in a Handicap Match that originally aired on All Star Wrestling on September 10, 1980. Here Hogan is planting the seeds of Hulkamania and starting to work the crowd the way we know him to. The showmanship quotient is starting to rise and he really gets things moving along. After the match Hogan's interviewed with Classy Freddie Blassie by a young Vince MacMahon.
With the Hulk's star quickly on the rise, we kick things into high gear in our next match where the legendary Andre the Giant takes on Hulk Hogan at Madison Square Garden from September 22, 1980., Gorilla Monsoon handling the referee duties. This was the second match between the two titans and yes, Hogan does give Andre not one but two bodyslams. From there we get Hulk Hogan versus Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan in an AWA Handicap Match from May 2, 1981. A lot of this match is played for laughs and it's got some bizarre comedic elements to it but it's still worth watching. Things get even more odd when Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. head into a Grocery Store for a Tuesday Night Titans promo that was originally held on March 22, 1985. This is a lead in to Wrestlemania and the two wander around checking out health food and commenting on things. It's very strange but fun to see regardless.
From there we get to check out the early part of one of the WWF's greatest rivalries, with a Hulk Hogan versus Randy "Macho Man" Savage WWF Championship Match that was held in Detroit on April 26, 1986. This is a great match featuring two of the industry's best in their prime. Equally impressive is the tag team match with Hulk Hogan and The Junk Yard Dog throwing down with bad guys Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy held at Maple Leaf Gardens on May 4, 1986. The crowds are pumped for both of these matches and everyone really brings their A game here. Rounding out the first disc is a Snake Pit segment with Hulk Hogan from March 29, 1987, a mediocre Hulk Hogan verus Kamala WWE Championship Match from Houston on June 26, 1987 and a decent Hulk Hogan versus Killer Khan WWE Championship Match from Boston Garden that was held on September 12, 1987.
Hulkamania is still going strong in the late eighties where this second disc picks up, staring with a bought featuring Hulk Hogan versus The One Man Gang in a WWF Championship Match held in Philadelphia on December 5, 1987. It's a decent match with a great bodyslam from Hogan, but it's nowhere near as fun as the Hulk Hogan versus Rick Rude WWE Championship Match that took place in the Boston Gardens on January 9, 1988. Rude really tries his best to woo the ladies here, showing off his physique and playing up his supposed sex appeal, much of which is lost thanks to his rainbow colored tights. This segues into a great tag team match with Hulk Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow taking on The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and Virgil from Maple Leaf Wrestling, March 12, 1988. Lots of tagging in and out here and both sides really get into things in this fight. After that we get a couple of so-so matches when Hulk Hogan takes on King Haku for the WWF Championship in Los Angeles on October 16, 1988 and then takes on The Big Boss Man for the WWF Championship, also in Los Angeles the next night on December 17, 1988.
Things get much more interesting with when we get to check out an amusing Hulk Hogan Promo spot where he trash talks Randy Savage about his relationship with Miss Elizabeth from Wrestling Challenge on February 25, 1989. This leads very nicely into a Hulk Hogan versus Randy Savage WWF Championship Match held at the Boston Garden on June 3, 1989, a very strong fight in which the crowd is obviously super pumped for both contenders and one of the stand outs of this set. A brief Hulk Hogan promo spot where he talks up The Ultimate Warrior from Wrestling Challenge shot on March 31, 1990 is a precursor for what would come later in his career. A mediocre match when Hulk Hogan takes on Earthquake at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 1990 is worth skimming through, but more impressive and more fun is the Hulk Hogan promo spot on Sgt. Slaughter from Wrestling Challenge on March 23, 1991 which leads into an awesome match between the two for the WWF Championship title held in London, England on April 24, 1991. Their rivalry is in full swing here and the energy and enthusiasm that is on display here thankfully carries over into the next match, in which Hulk Hogan takes on Nature Boy Ric Flair to a packed house at Madison Square Garden on December 29, 1991. It's a great match the brings the second disc to a nice close.
The nineties weren't nearly as fun as the eighties were as far Hulkamania goes, but this third disc starts off strong with a clip showing Hogan's joining WCW before moving on to a tag team match in which Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage take on Vader and the mighty Ric Flair from the May 21, 1995 Slamboree. Flair works the crowd in his own way here before Hogan and Savage come out for a really fun and energetic match - the crowd goes nuts and eats this one up. Less impressive but still very worthwhile is the Hulk Hogan versus Vader Steel Cage Match for the WCW Championship from the Bash at the Beach held on July 16, 1995. Hogan puts on some strange armor here as he bashes Vader into the cage - weird! Brutus The Barber and Dennis Rodman show up here. The Hulk Hogan versus Sting match from Nitro, November 20, 1995 is also pretty good. Macho Man watches from the sidelines as these two throw down with some great action taking place on the mats outside the ring. Before he was The Big Show, he was The Giant and he takes on Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship next in this match from Hog Wild, held on August 10, 1996. This was after Hogan had turned on Macho Man and joined the New World Order and it's cool to see Hogan playing the villain here and taking on the man who was supposed to have been Andre The Giant's son. It all builds up to a crazy conclusion where a whole lot of people wind up in the ring who weren't supposed to be there in the first place.
Bret Hart takes on Hollywood Hulk Hogan from a match that was originally broadcast on Nitro on September 28, 1998. This is a good match with a lot of really cool moves. Hogan dominates for much of it but The Hitman definitely holds his own here... until Hogan pulls him out of the ring and hits Hart on his injured knee. Sting and Lex Lugar show up here at the end. A clip where Hulk Hogan rants about his fans from RAW, shot on March 18, 2002, leads into a strong match where Hollywood Hulk Hogan takes on Ric Flair for the WWF Undisputed Championship Match that was originally shown on the May 13, 2002 episode of RAW. Hogan's gone back to his ultra-American red and yellow Hulkamania persona here, and the crowd goes insane for it. The fans are not into Flair at all here, holding up signs that say 'This is NOT Flair country' and booing him at times. The Hollywood Hulk Hogan versus Triple H # 1 Contender's Match from SmackDown on June 6, 2002 which took place after a bout with The Undertaker is a good fight where a young Triple H takes on the legend who controls most of the action and once again takes his opponent out of the ring as often as possible. Hogan's facial hair is at its most ridiculous here but the ending is cool and shows Hulk as a truly good sport. A WWE Tag Team Championship match pits Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Edge against Billy and Chuck for the title on the July 11, 2002 episode of SmackDown. It's a fun match and you can tell that Edge is stoked to be in the ring with his own personal hero. Last but not least is a match where Hollywood Hulk Hogan takes on Olympic wrestler turned WWE star Kurt Angle on SmackDown, August 1, 2002. It's a good match with a lot of solid grappling from Angle who then shows his true colors by knocking down the referee and bringing a steel chair into the ring to pummel the Hulkster with it.
All of the material in this collection is presented fullframe, which is how the matches would have been originally shown, so the format is fitting. Some of the old footage goes back a couple of decades, some of which is isn't as pristine as some of the newer footage is but generally the quality is pretty good. Colors are nice and natural and there are no problems with print damage, dirt or debris. Skin tones look good but there are some pretty obvious compression artifacts evident throughout, probably from cramming three hours of material on to each disc.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is of decent enough quality, though there isn't really all that much to it in terms of channel separation, nor does there need to be. You can hear the interviews and narration on the feature just fine and there is no audible hiss or distortion outside of some of the older archival clips used in the documentary. The matches vary in quality here, just as they do where the video is concerned, meaning that the older ones don't sound quite as clean as the newer ones but there's nothing here to be concerned about, it all sounds fine.
The WWE have provided some fun Bonus Clips: on this release, all of which are quick promo spots and not actual matches or real interviews:
Around the World" Nassau Coliseum - September 7, 1984 is a fun clip with Gorilla Monsoon and Hulk where Hogan talks about his trip to Mexico and all the young studs he saw there and about how he was ready to drop kick people with his cowboy boots. It's pretty insane. "Hogan and Mr. T" Tuesday Night Titans - March 7, 1986 is a ridiculous promo spot where Hogan talks about pumping his pythons and the pain he felt that made him train harder to defeat King Kong Bundy and Bobby Heenan, who previously set him up and injured him. Mr. T. comes out and basically repeats what Hogan says and yells out things like 'Tell him' and 'Uh huh, yeah.' Good job, Mr. T..
Lord Alfred Hayes hosts a clip called "Back to Square One" MSG from February 23, 1992 where Hogan talks trash about Sid Justice and how he's going to take him down after comparing him to Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer, while "The Mega Maniacs" clip from Wrestling Challenge, March 13, 1993 lets Jimmy Hart yell a lot before introducing Hogan and his greasy arms to talk about taking on Money Inc. and how he's going to destroy them. Then Brutus Beefcake shows up wearing a crazy mask which makes him indestructible. Hogan proves this bopping him in the face with a metal briefcase. The "Hulk Hogan and Rod the Bod" clip from the Bash at the Beach, July 16, 1995 is another clip with Hart and Hogan who are joined by Dennis Rodman where they talk about riding Harley's up and down the Pacific Highway looking for fights and trying to find Vader. "The Darkness of the Doom" clip from Nitro, November 13, 1995 features a very evil Hogan cloaked in a black cape and brandishing a sword as he talks about his rivalry with Macho Man, while the "Times Have Changed" clip, also from Nitro, September 2, 1996 features The New World Order and is a cocky black and white clip where Hollywood Hogan talks about the N.W.O. and how the WCW will fall at their feet. The last clip is "Hulk Hogan And The Heartbreak Kid" and it's from RAW, April 25, 2005 and it features Sean Michaels in full on Heartbreak Kid mode, Hulk Hogan and Mean Gene Okerlund spouting faux patriotism and how they found one another as teammates in the locker room.
As far as the rest of the extras go, well, you get some... menu screens and match selection options. That's it. The bonus clips are cool and all but it would have been nice to see some interviews with Hogan or even some of the other wrestlers that he worked with over the years.That didn't happen for whatever reason.
All you Hulkamanaics out there already know you want to wrap your twenty-four inch pythons around this majestic three disc set. While it's a shame that the WWE couldn't be bothered to include any supplemental goodies to elaborate on the context and/or historical significance of the matches it houses, but that complaint aside, there's a lot of great stuff here and it Hulk Hogan's Unreleased Collector's Series comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.