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The Enduring Legacy of Hulk Hogan

Part Five

“In jealousy there is more self-love than love.”

François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665


Emotions play a big part in professional sports. Some, like confidence, courage, and passion can lift athletes to never before reached levels of achievement. Others, like jealousy can consume an athlete’s and destroy an athlete’s relationship with his teammates.


Hulk Hogan’s position as WWF champion made him the envy of many WWF Superstars. Usually they were men on the heel side of the roster who envied the Hulkster’s popularity and the wealth and prestige that came with being WWF Champion. However one man who was supposed to be the Hulkster’s friend fell victim to the big green monster and this not only ended his friendship with the Hulkster but it sparked one of the biggest feuds of both men’s careers.

Following his win over King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania II, Hulk Hogan defended his WWF Championship against contenders such as Don Muraco, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and “Adorable” Adrian Adonis. Hogan teamed up with the Junkyard Dog on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event to battle Dory and Terry Funk. The Hulkster also teamed up with Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff in house shows.


The partnership between Hogan and Orndorff had come about as the result of both men’s hatred of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Orndorff and Piper had fallen to the team of Hogan and Mr. T at the inaugural Wrestlemania, and Piper had laid the blame at Orndorff’s feet. This led to a falling out between Piper and Orndorff. Orndorff cemented his status as a babyface when he saved Hogan from a two-on-one beatdown at the hands of Piper and Piper’s henchman, “Cowboy” Bob Orton. From there, Hogan and Orndorff teamed up to take on Piper and Orton in house shows.


By the summer of 1986, the Hogan/Orndorff team was still going strong but one man saw a chance to destroy it, using Orndorff’s volatile temper as the catalyst. That man was Adrian Adonis. Adonis, a journeyman wrestler with several major championships to his credit, had recently adopted a bizarre gimmick where he portrayed himself as “Adorable” Adrian, an effeminate, flamboyantly dressed man in heavy make-up. This new image was in stark contrast to Adrian’s previous persona of a leather-jacket wearing biker.


Adonis’ new identity sparked controversy (he would go on to win the “Most Embarrassing Wrestler” award in 1986 as well as “Worst Gimmick” in 1986 and 1987) but it also propelled him to the top of the WWF. Adonis’ rise came at a time when the WWF’s top heel “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had taken some time off from the company. In an effort to copy the success of Roddy Piper’s heel talk segment “Piper’s Pit”, Adonis began hosting his own talk segment, a show known as “The Flower Shop”.


It was during an episode of “The Flower Shop” that Adrian Adonis interviewed Orndorff, implying that he had gone soft since teaming with Hogan, and that Orndorff was living in the Hulkster’s shadow. Always a hothead, Orndorff didn’t take kindly to Adonis’ remarks. 


However the seeds of doubt had been planted. As Shakespeare wrote, “And oft, my jealousy shapes faults that are not.” Othello Act 3 Scene 3. Orndorff was beginning to see his partnership with Hogan in a different light. 


The following week, Hulk Hogan interrupted an appearance by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan on “The Flower Shop” to tell Adonis to back off on his comments about him and Orndorff. Ever an instigator, Adonis didn’t stop. The following week he interviewed Heenan again and during the segment, “Mr. Wonderful” interrupted. Heenan issued a challenge to Orndorff and Hogan to face his team of “Big” John Studd and “King Kong” Bundy. Orndorff agreed to the challenge and he said that all he had to do was call Hogan to seal the deal.

Unfortunately during the match, Orndorff hogged all of the action himself. Although Hogan was eager to tag in during the match, Orndorff wrestled the entire match by himself.


Was he proving to the fans that he didn’t need Hogan’s help? What was going on in Orndorff’s mind? Whatever it was, it wasn’t a good sign for the team’s upcoming match against Studd and Bundy. Everyone but the Hulkster knew that things weren’t going to end up well.


The next week, Hogan and Orndorff teamed up against Heenan mammoth team of “Big” John Studd and King Kong Bundy. Heenan had billed the team as “Can’t be Slammed (Studd) and Can’t be Pinned (Bundy)”, offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who accomplished either feat.


The bout between Orndorff/Hogan and Bundy/Studd was reminiscent of the previous week’s match. “Mr. Wonderful” started the match and he tried to take on Studd and Bundy by himself. To Orndorff’s credit, he did well initially but no man is capable of taking on a team like Bundy and Studd alone. Eventually Bundy and Studd’s size and power caught up with Orndorff and he wisely tagged in the Hulkster. The Hulkster did well when he entered the ring, slamming Studd at one point then posing for the fans. This infuriated Orndorff who made his displeasure known by slamming on the ring ropes.


Bundy and Studd fought back and after a while they had Hogan on the ropes. At one point in the match, Hogan accidentally collided with Orndorff, sending his tag team partner onto  the floor. With Orndorff temporarily neutralized, Bundy and Studd began a vicious double team on Hogan. Eventually, they left the referee with no choice but to disqualify them.


Meanwhile, Orndorff had regained his wits and he entered the ring, clearing it of Bundy and Studd. He helped Hogan to his feet, gave the number one sign, then proceeded to clothesline Hogan. The powerful Orndorff then hoisted the helpless Hulkster into the air and executed his finisher, the piledriver. Hogan was left laying in the ring, no doubt wondering what had happened.


After the match, Orndorff was seen celebrating with the Bobby Heenan Family. Heenan and his charges shouted “Wonderful! Wonderful!”, congratulating Orndorff on his devilish deed. Adrian Adonis, the man who had instigated the Orndorff/Hogan split congratulated Orndorff as well.


If the fans had any doubts about Orndorff where loyalties lie, they were dispelled when “Mr. Wonderful” introduced Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as his manager during anepisode of “The Flower Shop”. Orndorff added a bit of psychological warfare to his game plan when he began coming out to the ring to the tune of Hulk Hogan’s entrance theme “Real American”. 


Orndorff mocked the Hulkster furthermore by mimicking Hogan’s post-match pose-downs and adding them to his repertoire. 


Now that the stage had been set for a Hogan/Orndorff feud, how would it translate into ticket sales? The WWF would soon find out at an event known as “The Big Event”.

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