Rocky III is the midpoint of the franchise, but the series doesn’t sag in the middle any more than Stallone did in his 2.8% body-fat days, thanks to pop-culture dynamos Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Could the filmmakers have ever predicted that by casting these two in bit roles, they’d unleash two of the most popular media personalities of all time?
Like peanut butter and chocolate, these two worked so great together that the nation demanded more. Undoubtedly, a little bit of Rocky IV‘s thunder was stolen in 1985 when Hogan brought Mr. T into the ring as his tag-team partner for the very first WrestleMania, going on to defeat “Rowdy” Roddy Pipper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. These two stars orbited each other professionally a few more times, but by then they’d each become so huge that they could barely fit in a room together.
The years haven’t exactly been kind, but that’s probably to be
expected in any occupation that mixes frequent pile-drivers and public
spectacle. Hogan has managed to remain in the spotlight by sheer force
of will, transforming his family drama into a reality television show;
his daughter Brooke, perhaps inspired by her father’s really
enthusiastically bad 1995 album Hulk Rules,
launched her own ill-advised music career. Mr. T on the other hand
became a born-again Christian; he was so moved by the toll that
Hurricane Katrina took on the South that he abandoned his trademark
gold chains and devoted himself to philanthropy. However, a recent
series of controversial ads shows that the big guy hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
It seems strangely poignant in retrospect that the lives and careers
of two tough-guys could be propelled so far by a mid-series sequel that
was only really ever intended as a star vehicle for Stallone (who, like
his Rocky III adversaries, is basically still playing the
roles that made him great almost 30 years ago). If producers had any
brains at all, they’d gun for a new Rocky Balboa sequel that reunites (and maybe even reignites) all three stars.