Hulk Hogan’s turn as Thunderlips in the 1982 film Rocky III took him from wrestling star to movie star. It also got him fired.
“The mindset back then wasn’t like it is now,” Hogan explained during a 2019 interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin, noting that Vince McMahon Sr., the head of the World Wrestling Federation strictly forbade his wrestlers from taking acting gigs.
Things came to a head when Sylvester Stallone called Hogan and invited him to be part of Rocky III.
“I told Vince Sr., ‘Hey, I got this call from Stallone,’” Hogan recalled, noting that he initially thought he was being “ribbed” by the action star. Once he realized the offer was real, Hogan jumped at the opportunity to be in the film. However, his boss was less enthusiastic.
“Back then, ‘78, ‘79, if you were a wrestler, you didn’t do TV. You didn’t go do a movie,” Hogan explained. “If you’re a wrestler, you’re a wrestler.”
Though he described that line of thinking as “pretty barbaric,” Hogan ultimately made up his mind. He agreed to appear in Rocky III and in doing so was fired from WWF.
Watch Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips in ‘Rocky III’
In his first cinematic role, Hogan didn’t hold back. The wrestler reportedly put three men in the hospital while filming his fight scene, and even left Stallone battered and bruised.
“Truthfully, the hardest I was ever hit was actually by you, Hulk Hogan,” the actor admitted during a 2006 conversation with the wrestling icon. “We didn’t put it in the movie because I was so traumatized.”
The role of Thunderlips elevated Hogan’s celebrity beyond wrestling fans. In 1983, he was welcomed back to the WWF, and Hulkamania was ready to take the world by storm.
Unlike other characters in the Rocky franchise, Thunderlips was never heard from again following his debut. Stallone has suggested that the character found a new line of work.
“Thunderlips actually has moved on, became kind of a producer of adult films,” the action star joked. “He became Thunderhips, is what happened.”
‘Rocky’ Films Ranked
Much like the fictional fighter’s life, the Rocky films have experienced both highs and lows. We’ve ranked them all from worst to best.