Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Wrestling Favorites--Part 3 of 5

Back for more? Of course you are! If you're just joining us, "My Wrestling Favorites" is a five-part series where I discuss my five favorite current wrestling stars and my five all-time favorite greats of the game. Controversy and fun have abound in the previous two entries, and I'm sure that will be no different in the third installment. Let's begin...

1 of 5 All-Time Favorites: Hulk Hogan

Love him or hate him, I challenge anyone to argue that he isn't the biggest star that the sport has ever seen. I can remember as a child marveling at the fact that even my grandmother knew who Hulk Hogan was.

I've mentioned before that I feel I'm the luckiest kind of wrestling fan. I enjoy both the athletic side and the entertainment side equally, as long as they don't stray too far in one direction. Hulk Hogan definitely plays more toward the entertainment side. Seeing as how Hogan's popularity boom helped to usher more of that entertainment into pro wrestling, it's easy to understand why fans of previous eras aren't fond of the legend. As far as growing up during the "Rock n' Wrestling era," only the most jaded fan who feels that they're "too cool for the room" will completely deny ever being sucked into the Hulkamania magic. Even if you loved his opponents, as I did, at one point or another you felt chills as "Real American" played and The Hulkster lived to fight another day...and another monster heel.

Hogan also does not get enough credit for his in-ring skills. A look at his work in Japan will show you that The Hulkster could in fact wrestle, but didn't incorporate it much as far as his stateside character went. What he did do here worked. It drew money. It made him the biggest star that the industry had ever seen and probably ever will. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

A list of Hogan merchandise may also be second-to-none. Although the stars of the "Attitude Era" such as Steve Austin and The Rock certainly come close, the length of their careers on top are nowhere near that of Hogan's. Shoelaces, lunchboxes, shampoo, shirts, pajamas, hats, shoes, underwear, and even a cartoon--you name it, Hulk had it.

While even I went through a bit of Hogan fatigue around the time he joined WCW in 1995, his captaining of the nWo was a well done reinvention. It also made a return to the red and yellow all the sweeter. Though some feel that he has overstayed his welcome in the business, I feel that there will always be a place for Hulk Hogan. The WWE has tried to market Hogan as "The Babe Ruth of Wrestling." I've always enjoyed that moniker and hope that "The Immortal" continues to go in that direction as long as Father Time will allow.

1 of 5 Current Favorites: Rob Van Dam

Although he's been around for two decades, RVD is indeed a current star. For various reasons, Van Dam is one of the few ECW originals who has been able to remain a star no matter where he goes.

Controversy seems to come natural in my "current" choices and this one will be no different. Despite the nostalgia, ECW doesn't hold up in this fan's eyes. Sure there is some replay value as there is with all wrestling, but the fact is that so much that made ECW innovative is run-of-the-mill in today's product. With WWF and NWA wrestling from years past you have presentation and style that fans long for today. Clones and reintroductions of ECW have been attempted too many times and in turn watered down the original. Chunks of the style and presentation of ECW that have been inserted, albeit terribly, into the current product have in no way helped the matter.

RVD is probably the brightest star to make his name in the promotion. While some would say that his best days are behind him, Van Dam still goes out of his way to give an entertaining match full of innovation in an otherwise stale environment. It's telling that the man still has hoards of admirers, some of whom were not even alive when RVD was first making his mark.

Although names such as Rocca, Snuka, and Savage are often credited for high-flying wrestling innovation in the United States, Van Dam long ago earned his right to be alongside of them. Even today, watching a Rob Van Dam match is different from matches of nearly any other wrestler. As mentioned in some of my other favorite profiles, it's a case of having the complete wrestling package. With RVD, you get a unique style, charisma, and skill that many other wrestlers would love to have all rolled into one.

Due largely in part to his wide array of singlet designs, Van Dam has had a variety of action figures over the years. The favorite of many and even Van Dam himself is the "Limited to 5000" figure produced by Jakks exclusively for Toys "R" Us. The figure is based upon Van Dam's duel reign as ECW and WWE Champion. Both belts, a figure sized ECW shirt, and a "Money in the Bank" briefcase are included as accessories. Van Dam has told me that despite it being his favorite, he himself does not own one. For those of you with one, I have just given you a way to become a "Five Star" friend of the man himself.

Wait. A friend of who?

Rob...Van...Dam! (I couldn't resist.)

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