If you are a wrestling fan, at one point or another, you have come to the defense of wrestling. Whether it was battling the stereotype of wrestling being fake, the punches don’t land, or the blood comes in the form of a capsule. We all have had to defend ourselves at one point or another. Never was this more apparent than in the mid-80's.
The beginnings of immortality
The WWF was gearing up towards WrestleMania I. The Main Event would have Hulk Hogan and Mr. T take on “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. As per the usual with any spectacle such as the size of WrestleMania, the stars often make media appearances. Most of the time, it would be along the lines of Johnny Carson or David Letterman. Not too often does a star find himself on a late night talk show on cable.
That was the situation Hogan and T found themselves in when they were to appear on Hot Properties on the Lifetime Network, hosted by Richard Belzer. If that name sounds familiar, Belzer has played Detective John Munch in Law and Order SVU, and Homicide: Life on the Street. Long before he was a wise cracking, conspiracy theory loving New York and Baltimore Detective, he was a stand-up comedian and writer who landed a Conan O’Brien-esque show. This was also before Lifetime was the female angst driven vehicle it is now for made for TV movies.
Late night talk shows and wrestling don’t mix
Back to the matter at hand. Mr. T was out first. As you can imagine, Belzer’s line of questioning was a lot like his character. It was abrasive and lined up very much with a heel persona. When the Hulkster came out, he became more belligerent and went so far as to blatantly say it was fake. Back in 1985, kayfabe was king and Hogan was not impressed with the pencil necked host.
Belzer got the testicular fortitude to ask Hogan to show him a few moves. To Hogan’s credit, a lesser man with less control of his ego would have done far worse than a front face lock. (See Dr. Death box the ears on 20/20 reporter John Stossel.) Hogan played it up to the crowd and Mr. T as he applied what he said was 10% of the force. However, after a few short seconds, Belzer was out cold.
Hogan dropped him like a sack of potatoes. Belzer hit the hardwood floor with enough force to warrant stitches in the back of his head. Mr. T, in all his glory, told the audience that it was nothing to worry about, and he was just sleeping. Belzer came to in a puddle of his blood and popped to his feet. He threw it to commercial.
At least he was resilient
When the show came back, none of the three were there. Belzer was on his way to a hospital to get sewn up, and Hogan and T were on their way to make history at the inaugural Show of Shows.
Some claim it was a work. Back in those days, things were not as cut and dry as they are today. We all know when Triple H put Jimmy Fallon through a table, it was a just for fun kind of thing. This did not have the same appeal.
When Belzer popped up the way he did and gave a decent send off to the break, it was odd, to say the least. Belzer, on the next show he had, showed his stitches off and said he was not in on it. Whether the comedian turned late night talk show host was truthful, is yet another story. Back when kayfabe existed, the gray area of real or make believe was vast.
Belzer would see his show get canceled not too long after that. He would find other work as Detective Munch in the hard-hitting crime drama, “Homicide: Life on the Street”. That character would later come into the Law and Order canon, and Detective Munch would be a mainstay in “Law and Order: SVU”.
I think we all know how Hulk Hogan’s life turned out. No one really came out of this looking bad. Hogan became a hero to millions by defending his sport (and by knocking out someone who closely represented a weasel in the eyes of the public).