Hogan's return adds muscle to WrestleMania 30
Friday, April 4, 2014
Once billed as "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, wrestling's marquee star has a scaled down title at 60.
Try, Host Hogan.
With Hogan more suited these days for an AARP membership than a WWE championship, it's unlikely he'll deliver a thunderous boot to the face, followed by a leg drop for the 1-2-3 on the challenger of the month.
That's why he'll be hosting Sunday's WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans. However, Hogan might have a few hard fists left in the red-and-yellow tank.
"I guarantee you, his presence will be felt at WrestleMania 30, and he'll make an impact on the show," said Paul "Triple H" Levesque, a wrestler and WWE executive.
Few wrestlers have made an impact on the WWE's signature event quite like Hogan during the first 29 WrestleMania's. His bodyslam of Andre the Giant is etched in sports-entertainment lore.
Hogan will be part of history on Sunday, with WrestleMania aired for the first time on the WWE Network.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon gambled that fans have grown weary of the traditional pay-per-view model and were ready to plunk down $9.99 a month for the right to watch the biggest cards, on-demand classic events and other premium shows not available elsewhere.
The WWE Network launched Feb. 24 as a streaming service with a six-month commitment and included all 12 pay-per-view events.
Hogan was thrilled to bring his famed 24-inch pythons to the 24-hour network. He's ready to start searching through more than 1,500 hours of archived programming.
"I'd probably start when I had a full head of hair," Hogan said. "I'd probably roll back to 1977, '78 when I first went to work for Vince McMahon Sr. I'd probably start with my first match ever at the TV tapings in Allentown, Pa."
The PPVs are still available in their current format through cable or satellite providers. The 4-hour WrestleMania card costs $64.99 in high definition.
The network is available on desktops and laptops via WWE.com. WWE Network is also available through the WWE App on various devices. George Barrios, WWE's chief strategy and financial officer, said at the launch that research showed "it's within the realm of possibility" that WWE could have between 2 million and 4 million subscribers.
Even WWE's big boss man is hooked.
"I get caught watching it," Triple H said. "I don't get anything done."
Wrestling fans are a vocal bunch, and they'll howl in protest if there are glitches in the telecast.
So WWE collaborated with MLB Advanced Media for technology services, including operational support for reliable cross-platform distribution.
"That's the question, whether it holds up and if they can get through the pay-per-view without any major hiccups," Prowrestling.net editor Jason Powell said. "I'd hate to work for their customer service department if anything happens during WrestleMania."
WWE was expected to announce the first batch of subscriber numbers next week. Powell, who has covered the pro wrestling industry for 15 years, said anything around the 300,000-350,000 mark was a strong first indicator the network was a smash.
The 1 million PPV buyrate is now obsolete.
For the inaugural WrestleMania, Hogan paired with Mr. T in a tag-team grudge match against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff in front of 19,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. Even more watched on closed-circuit television.
Fast forward to WrestleMania 29 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey when John Cena pinned The Rock in front of 80,676 fans and another 1,039,000 who bought the pay-per-view.
WWE is expecting another packed house Sunday at the Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints, for the anniversary event.
The Undertaker faces former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar in one of the signature bouts. Triple H wrestles Daniel Bryan, the company's most popular star, and the winner advances to a triple-threat match for the WWE championship against Randy Orton and Batista. Cena takes on Bray Wyatt and there's even an Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Holding the mayhem together is Hogan. His style hasn't changed much since 1985 when his hand was raised in victory by guest referee Muhammad Ali at the first WrestleMania.
Hogan wore the signature red bandanna, yellow sleeveless shirt emblazoned with "Hulkamania" on the front and sunglasses on a recent "Raw" segment that paired him with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
From The Greatest to The Terminator, The Hulkster has wrestled himself a supersized spot alongside the great entertainment icons of the last 30 years.
"I got to go from WrestleMania I to a career I could have never, ever dreamed of having," Hogan said. "It doesn't even feel real."
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