Watching the show backstage, Mary Jarrett noticed that Hogan was actually bigger than Ferrigno, who was well known at the time for having large muscles.On December 1, 1979, Bollea won his first professional wrestling championship, the NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Championship (Northern Division), recognized in Alabama and Tennessee, when he defeated Bob Roop in Knoxville, Tennessee.
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In 1980, Hogan began appearing in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) where Japanese wrestling fans nicknamed him "Ichiban" (which translates to "Number One").
Hogan first appeared on May 13, 1980, while he was still with the WWF.
He attracted scouts from the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds, but an injury ended his baseball career.
He began watching professional wrestling at 16 years old.
In addition, Hogan used the Axe Bomber, a crooked arm lariat, as his finisher in Japan instead of the running leg drop that has been his standard finisher in America.
Hogan still made appearances for the WWF, even unsuccessfully challenging Pedro Morales for the Intercontinental Championship on March 26, 1981.
Hogan enjoyed considerable mainstream popularity between 19 as a face in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), which continued for the remainder of the 1990s in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), where he turned heel in 1996 and performed as the New World Order (n Wo) leader "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan.
A regular pay-per-view main eventer and box office draw in both organizations, Hogan headlined the premier annual events of the WWF and WCW, Wrestle Mania and Starrcade, multiple times; against Sting, he closed the most profitable WCW pay-per-view ever at the 1997 edition of Starrcade.
He occasionally toured the country over the next few years, facing a wide variety of opponents ranging from Tatsumi Fujinami to Abdullah the Butcher.