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1980s / Hulk Hogan Meets Johnny Carson - 1982
In the early 1980s, pro wrestling was a regional enterprise with only a niche following. In 1982, Sylvester Stallone recruited Hulk Hogan to portray the role of Thunderlips in Rocky III, elevating Hogan to a new level of stardom and introducing him to a wider audience. This amusing clip is the 28-year-old Hogan's first appearance on The Tonight Show in June 1982. At that time, Hogan was employed by the American Wrestling Association (AWA). He had been with Vince McMahon Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) from 1979 to 1982 but was fired for accepting the role in Rocky III. When Vince McMahon Jr. took over the reign of the WWWF (and shortened its name by one W to the WWF), Hogan was brought back into the organization in late 1983 and groomed to be its champion. (Excuse the two minutes of music and NBC promos in the middle of the clip.)