Hulk Hogan could captivate a wrestling audience and quickly become the most powerful person in the arena on any given night. He was a superhero, the good guy that saves the day, in a dark and violent world filled with hate and suffering between the fighting in the Middle East and the war on drugs in America. He arrived at the right time in our country’s history while changing the landscape of professional wrestling in the process. He gave people a person to admire, to love, to root for when times get tough.
However, when a professional wrestler reaches near immortality, his ego tends to step in the way. For Hulk Hogan, it was no different and he slowly became one of the most controlling, selfish, back-stabbing, Superstars in wrestling history. It became more about him and less about the fans, or the sport, or even the other wrestlers backstage trying to make it in the business.
Some fans respected his selfish antics and praised him for being a smart businessman but his act got old and he left the WWE before he faded away. He controlled his fate and made the biggest move in wrestling history by going to the WCW. The groundbreaking transition is one of the greatest moments of his career. His turn to heel will never be matched, by anyone. He was the greatest face, and he quickly became the worst heel.
But he never changed his style, and although it is admirable, he is not technically exciting to watch either. His matches were good but only a few were great. It was the promos, the feuds, and the selling that made up for a lack of style in his slow but consistent moves.
Let’s head back to the time of Hulkamania and the Golden Age of wrestling, the 1980s, and talk about 15 professional wrestlers that were better than Hulk Hogan.
15 Andre the Giant
For nearly 15 years, not including the Japanese matches he wrestled in or the lame draws that he was a part of in the WWE, Andre the Giant went unbeaten in the WWE until he faced Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. He later teamed up with Ted DiBiase for a tag team match at the 1987 Survivor Series and lost to the duo of Bam Bam Bigelow and Hulk Hogan.
Although Andre the Giant was suffering from gigantism and, later, acromegaly, he still managed to stay healthy enough to give the wrestling fans one of the most historic moments in WWE history when he lost the title match to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. The match was nothing to be excited about, in fact, it was one of the most boring of the show itself, but it was a handing of the baton to Hogan and was the real beginning of Hulkamania.
If Andre the Giant matched up with Hulk Hogan ten years earlier, the outcome would have been much different.
14 "Ravashing" Rick Rude
Physically, "Ravashing" Rick Rude was a beast of a man at 6’3”, 250 pounds and a legend in the sport of wrestling. He was also one of the most hated wrestlers ever and in 1992, he was named the Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Most Hated Wrestler of the Year.
But the two men barely had a chance to wrestle one another on a one-on-one basis throughout their illustrious careers. In 1988, they fought twice for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with Hogan winning both times. It was most likely Hogan’s call to win them both but that was the moment during Rick Rude’s career that he was supposed to finally win the title.
The man was one of the best when it came to production value and showmanship but Rick lacked the technical prowess that would have turned him into one of the best ever. However, he was still better than Hulk Hogan.
13 Tito Santana
Throughout his Hall of Fame wrestling career, Tito Santana was always a step behind Hulk Hogan because the two of them came up at the same time. Imagine being a wrestler and meeting Hogan, working with him, practicing, traveling, and doing everything with this man only to watch him explode into something that couldn’t be controlled.
That isn’t to say Tito Santana is jealous or has any regrets, he has never mentioned this before, he appreciates everything Hogan has done for the business and respects the man for changing the sport of professional wrestling.
That said, Tito was the WWE’s original Mexican hero and could get the audience out of their seats with a flying elbow drop. He was amazing to watch, a truly skilled wrestler, but the WWE missed out on a chance to create something that could rival Hogan instead of a man that stood in a far second place.
12 Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
The difference between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Hulk Hogan is timing. Hulk Hogan had all the luck and exploded into a WWE Champion before Ricky even got his shot. By the time Hogan was champion, there was very little chances that he would lose to The Dragon, probably because of his skill set.
Ricky Steamboat was a better wrestler than Hogan but not a better performer. But that could be blamed on the WWE’s lack of confidence in Ricky and their lack of effort to support him and a title run. He remains one of the greatest WWE wrestlers to never have won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
So why didn’t he get a shot? There is a good chance it was Hulk Hogan telling Vince McMahon he wasn’t going to lose to him or simply because Vince had a certain style and look of his champions and Ricky just did not fit the bill.
11 "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
In 1979, Hulk Hogan made is WWE debut against none other than the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.
It would be a long time before Ted DiBiase would wrestle Hogan in the ring after his 1979 debut. It happened after WWE The Main Event match of 1988 when Andre the Giant beat Hogan for the WWE Championship after a screwjob was setup by none other then DiBiase.
The two wrestlers were on the same level at their peaks but because Hogan was already dominating the sport, it wasn't easy to let others come in and beat him without losing the audience in the process.
Hulk's greatest power in wrestling was his audience. He was able to do whatever he wanted and he ended up keeping others from reaching the same level of success because of it.
10 Harley Race
During Hulk Hogan's first year in the WWE, 1979, he wrestled under the name Terry Boulder. Right away, he was sent into a feud with Harley Race, the NWA legend and, at that time, NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Harley won the matches for a while before Hulkamania happened and things began to change.
Harley Race was a star before anyone knew the name Hulk Hogan. In fact, during a 1978 match against Andre the Giant, Harley lifted Andre up high and over his head before landing a body slam that few fans remember. It was better and cleaner than when Hulk did it during WrestleMania III but no one cares because less people watched Harley do it a few years earlier.
His technique was taught from old school wrestling and was nearly flawless compared to wrestlers today, including Hulk Hogan.
9 Bob Backlund
If you are reading this and have no idea who Bob Backlund is, then you need a refresher course on wrestling legends because he was the main guy in the WWE during the '70s and '80s, before Hulk Hogan.
He was a highly trained NCAA Champion wrestler that held the WWE World Championship title for 2,135 days, second longest streak of all time, almost 700 more days longer than Hulkamania held it. If you combined John Cena, Kurt Angle, and Steve Austin into one wrestler, you would get Bob Backlund.
Bob and Hulk wrestled for a few years between 1979 and 1984 but then Hogan turned into a Superstar and Backlund was old news. But it doesn't change the fact that Backlund was a better all-around wrestler than Hogan. Of course, Hogan had Backlund beat with charisma.
8 Jake "The Snake" Roberts
In 1986, during a house show match in Providence, Rhode Island, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was doing an episode of his talk show segment, The Snake Pit, and was interviewing Hulk Hogan. The interview got heated and it ended up with Jake landing a DDT on Hogan and the crowd went nuts. However, because Hogan is supposed to be the face, or good guy, and Jake the bad guy, or heel, it ended up being cut from the show and the only people who saw the segment were apparently the fans in the arena and the ones in the region where it was still shown.
That was one of the first times Hulk Hogan nixed a feud that could have become legendary. But he didn’t understand that at the time. He has since come out and spoken on the incident and the failed storyline and admitted it could have been huge.
This is one of the first examples of how Hulk Hogan was a great wrestler but a selfish person that was afraid of not being the most admired character in the WWE.
7 The Ultimate Warrior
In March of 1981, Tony Atlas beat Hulk Hogan by pinfall at a WWE MSG Show. The next time Hogan would lose by pinfall would not be until April 1, 1990 at WrestleMania VI.
His opponent was The Ultimate Warrior and it was the first time in his career that he was competing for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This match would propel The Ultimate Warrior to icon status in WWE. When Hogan and Warrior met years later in WCW, their chemistry had faded and the magic of that 'Mania match was gone.
The two men peaked around the same time and were a big part of the WWE's historic run in the 1980s. The Ultimate Warrior is a better wrestler than Hulk Hogan. The proof is in the results.
6 Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka
In their seven matches against one another, Hulk Hogan holds the upper hand with a 7-0 record against Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. So right away, we are off to a bad start for this argument but stick with us. He did team up with Hulk Hogan for a few tag team matches, in which they won. But as opponents, he never got a shot.
Most people forget that after his rough start in the WWE, Jimmy moved on to another company, ECW. He became the legend of legends in Extreme Championship Wrestling and was the first ECW World Heavyweight Champion after winning a tournament for the belt.
His rivalry with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper propelled his career into stardom but once he got there, he was nearly invisible at the top of the WWE. Maybe it had something to do with Hulk Hogan's ego. Hulk was one of those guys that believed he was above other lesser competitors and at that time, he probably saw it that way and kept Jimmy away from ever reaching his dream.
5 Bret "Hitman" Hart
Are you ready for this one?
Of all 12 of their matches, the only wins happened when Hulk Hogan beat Bret Hart three times in 1979 followed by several more times in the late '80s before each wrestler went their separate ways until they came face-to-face in the WCW.
But since Hogan had pretty much the ability to say and do whatever he wanted in WCW (it was in his contract), he made it his main job to keep Bret Hart from becoming more popular than himself. If Hogan did not have the veto power over matches and stories in WCW, then chances are we would have seen a heated rivalry between the two right away.
Instead, we get a Bret Hart that turned heel and became a whining little baby that remained below Hulk Hogan on every single ticket. Hogan's ego prevented one of the best feuds that never happened.
4 Dusty Rhodes
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes is a professional wrestling legend. He was the inspiration for Hulk Hogan. Hulk was a fan of Dusty and used to go watch him wrestle when he was younger, hoping to be him one day.
The two were years apart in age so a match between them would not have been the best, or maybe it could have been. Of course, the idea of dream matches has always been a topic of discussion among wrestling fans, and this is definitely one of them.
So why include Dusty Rhodes on this list? Because he was better than Hulk Hogan ever was at wrestling. He was the first of many things but most importantly, he was the man that inspired a legend. Without Dusty Rhodes, we may not of had Hulk Hogan.
3 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper against Hulk Hogan is one of the greatest rivalries in professional wrestling history.
From their first matches in WWE in the early '80s until their time fighting one another in WCW, these two men owned the crowd, they won over everyone, and taught wrestlers what it means to build up a story. Their feud is still used to this day. Everything you see between wrestlers feuding, began with these two. Not the idea of a feud, but the pageantry behind building it up.
Sadly, Rowdy Piper never got an actual chance to show off his skills and beat Hogan for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He beat him once but it was a countout and the belt was never awarded to Rowdy Piper. That was the closet he would ever come to beating Hogan.
2 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
Professional wrestling is fake, the wrestlers are not. These are real people playing a role for our entertainment. So even when "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were feuding on-screen, they were mostly best buds off-screen.
But it is not show friends, it is show business and the best buds eventually became enemies that would never truly repair a broken relationship. They would only mend it for the sake of the sport.
Even when Hulk Hogan inducted Macho Man into the Hall of Fame, the fans were outraged. They did not want to see this man have the final words about the wonderful career of one of the most underrated wrestlers of all-time especially knowing that they stopped talking after a while.
Macho Man could have been a champion on his own but he got put into Hulk's corner and became one of his people instead of a man that stood on his own and earned everything he got in life. His partnership with Hogan held him back from becoming the next great Superstar that even Hogan could not stop.
1 Ric Flair
If you were asked to name the five greatest wrestlers of all-time, you would have to pause and think about who would be in your top five. But it should not take long to figure out who is the number one wrestler ever. No, that is easy as pie. It is Ric Flair.
Long before Hulk Hogan was making bad movies and starring in cheesy television commercials, Ric Flair was carrying the NWA on his shoulders to new heights never seen before. He was earning his paper and doing it with the old school style and skills that turned the sport into the success it remains today.
Although Ric Flair did not join the WWE until 1991, the Golden Age of Wrestling lasted into the early-90s. It was not just the 1980s, it was a 15-year window between 1978 and 1993 that could be considered the Golden Age of Wrestling. During that time, Hulk Hogan was the biggest wrestler in the sport’s history but Ric Flair was better, hands down better. In style, skill, showmanship, entertainment, and anything else you want to mention. He was better. Hogan simply had a much larger voice and had an easier time controlling the powers that be so he remained on top.