“Define…everything,” Hogan said, leaning back in his chair, wanting McMahon to clarify his promised future if Hulk signed on the dotted line.
McMahon stared at Hogan for several moments before deciding on how he should play his cards.
“In a year, maybe two, I’m going to be the biggest promoter the world has ever seen,” McMahon stated confidently.
“Like P.T. Barnum?” Hogan chuckled.
“Bigger,” McMahon said calmly as he leaned forward. “And I’m not just talking about wrestling. I’m talking movies, TV shows, commercials, endorsements, magazine—“
“How are you going to”—, Hogan tried to interrupt.
“—And I don’t mean just wrestling magazine covers,” McMahon interjected. “And I don’t mean just wrestling movies. When I’m through, wrestling is going to be so mainstream that rock n’ roll, Johnny Carson, Sports Illustrated…all of them and more will be standing at our door, trying to get in.
I’m taking wrestling mainstream. It’s going to be bigger than football,” McMahon finished.
Hogan stared at Vince, trying not to show any of the emotions racing through his heart and mind.
Sure, wrestling had always been popular and (when managed correctly) a promotion could be rolling in dough. But rash decisions, bad book keeping and champions with chips on their shoulders could (and had) quickly make all that go away.
Hogan swallowed hard and asked: “How are you gonna make wrestling bigger than football?”
Vince smiled and Hogan continued: “I mean, I know it can be big, I’ve wrestled at Shea Stadium. But…” Hogan’s voice trailed off.
Vince looked at him hard.
“Obviously, I can’t tell you everything, Terry,” Vince said truthfully. “But you wouldn’t be in this meeting if you didn’t want to hear what I have to say.”
“You haven’t really said much, so far,” Hogan answered.
“True,” McMahon said, nodding. “But I’ll tell you this: the wrestling business as it’s been done for…I don’t care how many years…is over.”
McMahon stood up and opened the window behind his chair. The crowd across the street was ooh-ing and aah-ing.
“You hear that?” McMahon asked.
“Those people need someone new to cheer,” Vince said softly.
“They need a champion they can believe in. Yes, Bob Backlund’s a fine wrestler, a great one. And he’s been a wonderful champion. But the new heavyweight champion of MY promotion needs…has…to be bigger.
“Bigger than Bob, bigger than most of his opponents. Bigger than wrestling.
“If I’m going to fill stadiums and coliseums – and I AM – both here and abroad, my champion has to have a following. He has to have fans everywhere. His name has to be synonymous with wrestling. He has to be the first person, the first thing, that people think of when they hear the word. He can’t just be a wrestler. He has to be an inspiration. He has to be bigger than life. He has to be what kids around the world look up to.”
Vince continued: “That’s what sells tickets, that’s what sells millions of t-shirts. That’s what puts a hundred thousand asses in seats.”
Hogan sat, motionless, (almost) stunned into silence by Vince Jr.’s speech.
This was all too much. How could it be done?
Hulk got up and – against his better judgment – poured himself a drink.
“And where do I fit into all of this?” Hogan asked, clearing his throat.
“You’re who the kids look up to. You’re the wrestler who’s bigger than life. You’re gonna be a living, breathing Superhero that kids will bug, beg & plead for their parents to take them to see in the flesh. You’re the poster those kids will have on their walls, whose action figure they’ll play with, who they’ll root for on TV and turn out in droves to see in person,” McMahon said with a gleam in his eye.
“Ok. I get that you’re expanding, Vince,” Hogan said. “But there’s a whole area of the country that doesn’t really like your larger-than-life characters. They want their wrestlers to BE wrestlers. I know my limitations. I’m charismatic, but I’m not much of a technical wrestler,” Hogan added.
“Doesn’t matter,” Vince responded, waving his hand as if washing Hogan’s statement away.
“And what about all the territories. I mean, everybody knows New York but you’re not even as big as Verne,” Hogan said truthfully.
Vince bit his lip. “At least not yet,” Hogan offered in consolation.
“And Georgia & Texas and Oregon. I just don’t see it,” Hogan said, sitting back down.
Vince sat back down across from the Hulkster and leaned forward again.
“That sentence is more prophetic than you know,” Vince said emphatically.
“What I’m doing, I have no doubt, will change the business. And I can’t tell you how I’m doing it all because you don’t even work for me yet, Terry. We’re just talking here.
“But I will tell you this: Nothing & nobody is gonna stand in my way. I have a plan, a plan that’s taken me months to formulate. A plan that somebody else should’ve already implemented years ago. I don’t know why it hasn’t been done, honestly. But I’m gonna do it.
“I’m the coach and you’re the quarterback. At least, I want you to be,” Vince said honestly.
“And the only questions that really remain are whether or not you want to be THE face of wrestling for the foreseeable future”, Vince said, pouring himself another drink.
Vince took a sip of his scotch and walked back to the window. “And do you want to be the one that not just The Garden cheers for, but who the whole WORLD cheers for?”
Hogan finished his drink and stood up, facing Vince.
“And lastly,” Vince said. “Not when are you gonna be a millionaire, but how many times over?”
Millions? That thought hadn’t even occurred to Hogan.
Vince extended his hand and said: “It’s gonna be me and you against the world.”
When Hogan didn’t extend his own hand to shake, Vince placed his on Hulk’s shoulder, like a father giving advice to his only son and said: “You’re either with me or against me. And when I’m done, everyone will either be on my side or they won’t be anywhere. Let me walk you to the door.”
Vince opened the door and Hogan paused, turning to face him.
“I’m headed to Japan,” Hogan said.
Vince nodded. “I know. When you get back, there will be a cashier’s check waiting at your house for you. Consider it a signing bonus. If you cash it, then I’ll know I have the top of my pyramid. If not, I’d get back to Tokyo as quick as you can, where there’s still work.”
Vince closed the door after Hogan was halfway down the hotel hall and then sat down on his room’s couch. He reached over to the end table, picked up the phone and dialed.
“Hi, Linda,” Vince said solemnly. “Ok, I guess. I’m not sure. Call the hotel and get the number downstairs so you can fax it to me. I’m gonna stay here a few more days and go down the list one by one.”
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
“I gotta go. My 2nd draft pick is here,” Vince said with a chuckle, glancing at his watch.
Vince stood up and breathed deep. He walked to the door and stopped before opening it, straightening his tie. He put on his best smile, opened the door and said:
“Ric Flair, how the hell are ya?”