Hogan’s Beach Shop in Orlando
Picture it, West Virginia……1985…….at the height of the “Rock N’ Wrestling” era, a young ME finds his true love: the WWF (now WWE)! Flipping through the channels of our new satellite dish, I happened upon a (now very infamous) episode of a talk show called “Hot Properties”. Who was this muscular, blonde “superhero” that was hanging out with my idol of the moment, Mr. T, as guests on the show? It didn’t take me long to learn about this man, THE IMMORTAL HULK HOGAN, and to change my weekly routine from cartoons and comics to televised wrestling and live WWF events.
Flash forward more than 30 years later. Despite a bit of negative publicity for the man, I still have fond memories of my days as a “Hulkamaniac” and I wouldn’t trade that fandom for anything. So, when I learned of the existence of a Hulk-owned tourist trap in the Orlando, Florida area known as “Hogan’s Beach Shop”, well, immediately heading there was a no-brainer. Folks, it did not disappoint.
The sheer awesomeness begins before you even walk in the door. The facade of the Beach Shop features a caricature of our favorite wrestling champ flexing and surfing on the back of a shark. If that’s not a precursor to the greatness that is about to unfold before your eyes, I don’t know what is!
And then, you walk in the door. Immediately you incur sensory overload that any 1980’s wrestling fan would drool over. There’s merchandise as far as your eyes can see, and not just Hulkster-themed items. There’s also wrestling action figures, t-shirts……you name it, for the current “superstars” of the day. Of course, I couldn’t leave without getting a Hogan’s Beach Shop themed shot glass for my collection! Oh, and a magnet. And a key chain. And don’t forget the postcards. You get the idea.
It doesn’t end with all of the merchandise to waste your money on, however. Walking around, you will run into several life-size statues of the Hulk himself (and even one of his “manager” and friend, Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart), perfect for anyone who goes nuts for a good photo opportunity (that would be ME). There’s also more relics from Hogan’s time in wrestling, notably championship belts and unique personal items (for example: an autograph from Liberace to Hulk, which can be yours if you have thousands of dollars handy). And to set the mood, the WWE Network is playing on multiple flat screen televisions. A classic Hulkster vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude match from Madison Square Garden was playing while we were there. The other screen featured Hulk vs. Bill Goldberg from his days as a “villain” in WCW.
I must say, without hyperbole, that Hogan’s Beach Shop provides an INCREDIBLE experience for both current wrestling fans and anyone feeling some nostalgia for the greatest wrestling star of the 1980’s and, maybe, of all time. I’m just glad this wasn’t around when I was a child. I would have died from happiness.