In the mid 80s there wasn’t much of anything that was more front and center of the pop culture zeitgeist than professional wrestling. The popularity of wrestling, specifically the WWF, was white hot and off the charts thanks to their crossover with MTV and the “rock ‘n’ wrestling connection” which started off as a bit on Roddy Piper’s “Piper’s Pit” when “Captain” Lou Albano – a “heel” (bad guy) manager claimed that he was pop star Cyndi Lauper’s manager. The story of how that all played out – how Mr. T became involved, how the first Wrestlemania got its main event – is a story unto itself and deserves its own multi-part look back. But for our purposes here all we need to know is “rock ‘n’ wrestling” was a thing and it was a very popular thing at that.
To extend the reach of the brand, the WWF partnered with DiC Entertainment and CBS in the fall of 1985 and bestowed upon us one of the most most loved and cherished cartoons of all time. Well, they COULD have, instead they gave us two seasons and 26 episodes of Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling from September of 85 to December of 86, with reruns lasting through June of 1987. Each episode was 30 minutes long and had live-action sketches mixed around the animated segments. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be that big of a deal and, in fact, should have been a plus, but, because of their travel schedules, the wrestlers whose likenesses were in the cartoon weren’t able to record the voices for their characters. This resulted in, for the most part, two jarringly different sounding voices within moments of one another. The closest voice was Hulk himself who was voiced by Brad Garrett who would become Ray’s brother on Everybody Loves Raymond but was, at the time, just doing voice over work. As a side note, The Junkyard Dog was voiced by James Avery who would go onto become “Uncle Phil” on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Most interestingly, it was Cyndi Lauper, along with her then manger-boyfriend Dave Wolff, who came up with the concept of the show and would sometimes appear as herself in the episodes.
The episodes themselves followed two factions – the good guys (led by Hulk Hogan and included the aforementioned Junkyard Dog, Captain Lou Albano, Andre The Giant, Hillbilly Jim, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Tito Santana, and Wendi Richter) and the bad guys (who were made up of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Nikolia Volkoff, The Iron Sheik, Mr. Fuji, Big John Studd, and The Fabulous Moolah) as they encountered situations that would sometimes force both sides into working together. Naturally, once the crisis was resolved, the bad guys would go back to their selfish ways. But usually it was just Roddy and his pals being a fly in Hulk’s ointment. A live action segment would wrap things up wherein we’d usually get our lesson of the day delivered to us from “Mean” Gene Okerlund and the Hulkster himself. The other sketches would generally be either a comedic skit (like Andre the Giant showing a guy how he catches fish by shouting “I want a fish!” whereupon an off-camera crew member threw a large, fake fish at Andre resulting in comedy gold) or a montage of wrestling action with a popular song running over it.
Thankfully Sadly, the series in unavailable aside from long out-of-print VHS tapes and videos on YouTube. It was running for a short time on the WWE network in early 2015, but following Hulk’s racist musings on his daughter’s choice of dating material, the WWE removed it when they scrubbed their entire website of all things Hogan. Rock ‘n’ Wrestling is entertaining enough as curiosity fare and any fan of old-school wrestling deserves to watch at least one episode, but it’s best served as a relic from a bygone era.