Professional wrestling has been home to thousands of larger-than-life athletes, from muscle-bound maniacs to masked luchadors to dead men and face-painted vigilantes.
Among the pantheon of pro wrestlers, brother, there’s no one more iconic than Hulk Hogan himself.
With a monstrous physique, an unmistakable blond Fu Manchu mustache, and those famous twenty-four-inch pythons, the Hulkster’s® thirty-eight-year career brought him through WWF, the WCW, TNA, and New Japan Professional Wrestling.
And that doesn’t count the numerous Hollywood movies he starred in.
But before all that–before bodyslamming Andre the Giant, before forming the Mega Powers with the Macho Man, before leading the nWo takeover of WCW–Hulk Hogan® faced off against The Iron Sheik for the World Heavyweight WWF Championship.
On January 23, 1984, Hulk Hogan® made history.
In This Corner…
The Iron Sheik was no slouch.
The Iranian-born heel would march into the stadium with a turban on his head and the flag of his homeland waving over his shoulder.
If that seemed a little offensive during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Sheik didn’t care. He would proudly extol the virtues of his native land while insulting these United States of America.
And his bite was just as bad as his bark.
He decimated opponent after opponent with his terrifying Camel Clutch.
The move was inescapable: he would straddle his victim and stretch their arms across his knees so they couldn’t escape. Then, he would clasp his hands beneath their chin and lean back hard.
The Camel Clutch rocketed the Iron Sheik through the ranks at WWF. The crumpled bodies of his opponents lay in his wake, victim to his brutal submission hold.
Armed with his brutal signature move and unflappable arrogance, Iron Sheik challenged the current champion, Bob Buckland, for a chance at the belt.
After injuring Buckland’s neck with a club, the Iron Sheik put him in the dread Clutch. While Buckland refused to submit, his manager forfeit the match, fearing longer injury.
On Christmas Eve, 1983, Buckland’s six-year run as the WWF champion came crashing down.
The Iron Sheik wasted no opportunity to boast about Iran’s superiority over the United States, and the championship belt around his waist was all the proof he needed.
But his run would prove short-lived…
And the Challenger…
When Bob Buckland’s six-year reign as champion was shattered, Hulk Hogan® was a relative unknown. He had fought in the WWF for a short time in 1979, managed by the heel Classie Freddie Blassie.
His commanding stature and ferocity brought him some acclaim. He laid heroes like Gorilla Monsoon and Ted DiBiase to waste. He feuded with Andre the Giant and even Bob Buckland.
But, he ultimately left the WWF and fought for a few years in the AWA.
While Buckland started on a neverending championship run, Hogan became one of the most popular superstars in the AWA. He left Blassie’s dirty ways behind him and become a hero of the American way.
In December of 1983, the Hulkster® returned to the WWF. He had unmatched charisma, but people questioned his alliances. Would he return to Blassie? Would Buckland fire up the old feud?
But on January 7, 1984, those questions were laid to rest.
Bob Buckland was pitted in a three-on-one match against the Wild Samoans.
Overpowered and out-cheated, Buckland left the ring and went into the locker rooms.
He returned to the stadium. Followed by one Hulk Hogan.
Hogan® and Buckland cleaned house. The Wild Samoans were no match for their combined might.
After the match, Buckland announced to Mean Gene Okerlund and all the fans watching that the Hulkster® had “changed his ways.”
He was a great man. He wasn’t going to have Blassie hanging around anymore.
The Main Event
Two weeks later, Buckland and the Iron Sheik were slated for a rematch at Madison Square Garden. But, Buckland was still injured. So he announced his replacement for the match: Hulk Hogan.
The Iron Sheik had already defended the title successfully, most notably against Tito Santana. No one could defeat the power of the powerful Iranian and his Camel Clutch.
Backstage, The Iron Sheik and his manager “Ayatollah” Blassie–yes, the same Blassie that managed Hogan®–denounced Buckland’s switch. They called it a cheap move.
But it didn’t matter, they said. Hogan® would fall to the Camel Clutch just the same.
Adorned in traditional Iranian robes, the champion stood in the ring as the crowd booed relentlessly.
Suddenly, “The Eye of the Tiger” blared over the loudspeakers. Hulk Hogan® emerged, wearing a T-shirt that proudly declared, “MADE IN THE USA.”
The crowd erupted. Madison Square Garden exploded in a torrent of cheers.
These cheers only grew louder as the announcer introduced him.
But when the Iron Sheik was introduced, the cheers turned to boos. There wasn’t a man, woman, or child in the arena that wanted to see the champion win the match.
The Bell Rings
At the bell, Hogan® attacked like a rabid animal. The match was scheduled to last an hour, but Hulk® wasn’t going to waste any time.
The Sheik hadn’t even gotten his robe and turban off before the Hulkster® charged at him. His fists rained down as the Iron Sheik struggled to find his bearings.
Hulk Hogan® tossed him around the ring like a rag doll. He threw the Sheik into the ropes and clotheslined him with his own robe.
The referee broke it up, but Hogan’s® onslaught continued. He whipped the Sheik into the turnbuckle, beating him mercilessly.
He effortlessly lifted the Iron Sheik into a choke hold, the Sheik’s feet dangling helplessly above the mat. Once more, the ref broke the move. Hogan® threw the Sheik down like a sack of potatoes and spat on him.
Sheik managed to get to his feet, but was immediately Irish whipped into the ropes. Hogan met him with his patented Big Boot.
Three minutes in, the Sheik hadn’t gotten a hit on Hulk. Hulk went for the pin.
A two-count. Hogan® dropped a big elbow on him and tried again. The Sheik kicked out again.
He needed a little more softening up.
Hogan® picked him off the mat and threw him into the turnbuckle.
He aimed his massive 303-pound frame at the Iron Sheik and charged at him with the power of a freight train.
But at the last minute, the Sheik got out of the way. Hogan® crashed into the turnbuckle like a brick wall.
The Tables Turn
The Iranian champion took full advantage of the opportunity. As Hulk® writhed from the force of his own blow, the Iron Sheik rained kicks down on Hogan’s® back.
As the crowd chanted “USA,” Hogan® rose to his knees.
But the Sheik continued his onslaught. He struck Hogan’s® head and lifted him up for a backbreaker.
Hogan got back on his knees, but Sheik was relentless. He kicked him in the throat, then returned to kicking the Hulkster in the back.
He hit Hogan® with a suplex and tried for a pin. But Hogan® would not go down: he lifted the Sheik off of himself with so much force the Sheik flew three feet in the air.
Hogan® tried to get his bearings, but Shiek would not let up. He took his boot to Hulk’s® back again. He grabbed Hogan’s® feet and put him in the Boston Crab.
But Hogan® wasn’t done. He did a push-up and threw the Sheik off of him.
The Iron Sheik would not stop. He threw Hogan® in a back suplex and tried for a pin. Hulk® got an arm up, but the worst was yet to come.
The Camel Clutch
The Iron Sheik had had enough. After only four minutes, he straddled Hulk Hogan’s® prone body and applied the dreaded Camel Clutch.
Hulk Hogan’s® time had run out.
The Sheik locked his hands around Hogan’s® chin and leaned back with all his might. Hogan’s® body contorted. It seemed like it was all over.
But then, Hogan® lifted his index fingers and waved them. His body began to shake with power.
His giant biceps wrapped around Sheik’s knees. He lifted himself to his feet. The Iron Sheik clutched on. Hulk Hogan® rose as easily as if he was giving a child a piggyback ride.
With the Sheik still holding on, Hogan® rammed back hard into the turnbuckle.
The Iron Sheik laid dazed in the center of the ring. Madison Square Garden was filled with cheers.
Hogan® saw his opportunity. He bounced hard against the ropes and hit the Iron Sheik with his trademark Leg Drop.
The eruption of the crowd was deafening. The Iranian heel had been defeated by a real American. Hogan® lifted the Championship Belt high into the air.
A new champion was crowned.
Hulkamia Runs Wild
Hulk Hogan® would remain the WWF World Heavyweight Champion for four years.
During this time, he would reach levels of superstardom that no other professional wrestler had ever dreamed of.
He became the undisputed face of professional wrestling. Thirty-four years after his first WWF Championship, Hulk Hogan® remains the most recognizable athlete in the business.
If you want to keep up with the Hulkster®, make sure to bookmark our blog.
And remember: say your prayers, take your vitamins, and always, always, be a real American.
P.S. Until midnight January 23, you can enter to win a signed wrestling belt when you purchase $25 or more on the Hogan’s Beach Shop® Store! Click here to see the details!