That Time Hulk Hogan Almost Killed Richard Belzer
Richard Belzer wasn’t the first wise guy, professional comedian or otherwise, who pointed out the glaringly obvious fact that professional wrestling is staged. For some reason, speaking this truth makes professional wrestlers very, very angry. Back in the 1980s, it was Hulk Hogan and Mr. T who took exception to Belzer’s smart-aleck skepticism--and Belzer paid the price.
A skinny comic thought wrestling was fake? The Hulkster begged to differ. On Belzer’s show Hot Properties, the well-oiled rassler showed up to prove to Belzer that his sport was on the level. He pointed to Mr. T -- “you just tell me, brother, when you want him to quit squealing” -- before bending Belzer over and wrapping massive arms around his neck. “This is called a front chin lock,” chuckled Hulk over the sound of Belzer’s audibly cracking neck. Wanting the comedian to get his deserved punishment, Mr. T advised Hulk to hold the host there for a little while.
And that’s probably what Hogan would have done had Belzer’s body not gone limp before falling hard to the floor. The audience gasped at the impact, despite Mr. T’s somewhat panicked assurances that “it’s all right, he’s just sleeping! He’s sleeping! Really!” (Apparently, no one ever explained to Mr. T the difference between “sleep” and “being choked into unconsciousness.”)
It wasn’t long before Belzer started to come to, aided by Hogan slapping the comic's face back into our reality. After a few moments, Belzer popped to his feet with a goofy grin, telling the audience the show would come back after “a word from … you know who” -- so maybe everyone was in on the joke?
“It was no joke,” Belzer told ESPN’s Roy Firestone. “I wouldn’t do it again in any form or fashion. He came very close to killing me. I was told by sports medicine experts that if I had fallen a few inches either way, I could have been crippled for life. I could have been dead.”
On the next episode of Hot Properties, Belzer confessed he had no idea where he was when he regained consciousness, managing to throw to a commercial while still in shock. He turned his back to the camera and parted his hair to show the audience the stitches in his head, courtesy of his skull slamming into the stage after he passed out. There was also a spinal injury that, thankfully, didn’t cause Belzer to disrobe for illustrative purposes.
Now the real fight was on. Belzer sued Hogan for $5 million in damages for personal injury. Belzer vs. Bollea (Hogan’s real name was Terry Bollea) was due to be heard at the New York Supreme Court, but before the trial, the two men settled for an undisclosed amount. The money that Belzer received couldn’t have been insignificant, however, as he used the settlement to purchase a farmhouse in France. He recently passed away in that very same residence. The name of Belzer’s new home?