Thursday, May 16, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Shortly after Las Vegas-based wrestler Kenny King wrapped up speaking to the handful of fans Wednesday at the Orleans Arena, Hulk Hogan’s boisterous voice boomed from the back of the room.
“Hold the belt up,” Hogan said.
King did as told, providing photographers with what Hogan called “the money shot.”
“It’s part of my dream come true,” King said of working with Hogan. “If you ask anyone in my family what my second and third words were, they were 'Hulk Hogan.'”
Hogan, one of wrestling’s most recognizable figures, took a moment to speak with the Las Vegas Sun while he was in town to promote the June 29 Impact Wrestling card at the Orleans Arena.
What are some of your favorite memories of Las Vegas?
It started back in the day with the old Showboat. I started coming here with a group called the AWA (American Wrestling Association) with (promoter) Verne Gagne and that group out of Minnesota. It’s where it all started.
Then I came out here with the old WWF into the Thomas & Mack Center, which is a monster (venue). I just remember that atmosphere depended on whom you were wrestling in the ring.
If I was wrestling “Macho Man” Randy Savage or someone like that, then it was electric. If I was wrestling somebody who wasn’t quite as over (with the crowd), it was like pulling teeth out there.
Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna - Wrestlemania IX
Wrestlemania IX at Caesars Palace’s outdoor venue kind of set the precedent for future Wrestlemanias. What was that experience like?
That was a crazy day.
Two days before the event, I get hit in the face with a Jet Ski. It broke my orbital socket.
When I came to Vegas, Vince McMahon saw me, and said, “You’re not wrestling.” I said, “Yes, I am.” He said, “Only if you can pass a physical.”
I pulled the commission doctor aside and told the doc, “The bruises and all the stitching is just made up because we have a storyline where Macho Man beat me up before the event.”
The doctor thought he was in on the storyline, said, “OK, OK,” and signed my physical papers.
(As for the outdoor venue), we weren’t sure how it was going to go and not sure about the weather. Now, it’s like Vince is on good terms with Mother Nature. He has all of these outdoor events.
How does it feel to be working with guys who grew up watching you?
It’s strange because a lot of the young guys who were Hulk Hogan fans are actually the old timers now like (WWE wrestlers) Edge and John Cena.
Now there is a new generation, like Kenny King. A lot of these guys didn’t discover me until I was in the (New World Order, a pro wrestling group of characters that sparked the pro wrestling ratings struggle dubbed “The Monday Night Wars” in the mid- to late-90s).
They don’t even know about the 1978 Shea Stadium show, the first time I slammed Andre (Roussimoff, the performer known as Andre the Giant).
It’s kind of weird to hear them say, “I’ve been a Hulk Hogan fan since 1998.”
Hulk Hogan Vs. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III
It’s really crazy to see when people jumped on the train, simply because they weren’t alive when I slammed Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III.
How does it feel to take a lesser in-ring role but still have a presence in the show?
It’s the way it should be.
I’ll be 60 years old in a couple of months.
The main problem is my knee. I keep cutting on it, and I can’t seem to get it right.
There are all these nice fans who say, “We want to see you have one last match.”
But when I look at myself in the ring at 60 years old, the loyal fans don’t care if I throw a punch or a leg drop.
I had my day, and as much as a great compliment and how kind those words are, truth is, I shouldn’t be in there unless, for some reason, it’s to make the company better or help some young guy reach the next level.
For me to get into the ring and wrestle doesn’t make sense for anybody.
Until I can get physically straightened out, I couldn’t do it anyway.
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).
Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/pauliedelos.