Longtime readers know what eventually happened to Crusher Hogan. But what was he like during the peak of his career? Look no further than this month's issue of "Tangled Web" for the truth, and it may not be what you think.
"My business, I'm what's known as a shooter. My business, a shooter works a match for real. My business is wrestling. And I KNOW how to wrestle."
Crusher Hogan is one of the best at what he does. Unfortunately, real wrestling doesn't bring in the crowds. After a typical match one night, Hogan steps into his boss' office to find out that they didn't make enough money to cover payroll again. He accepts this, for he knew it was coming. His boss--Bobby--tells Crusher to take the offer from Global Wrestling, a higher-profile competitor. Crusher turns him down flat, detesting the idea of gimmick-filled matches. Also, he knows that leaving would bankrupt Bobby and his wrestling group. "Crusher," Bobby says, "No offense, but things stay the way they are? We're outta business with or without ya."
Later that night, Crusher's wife finds him alone in the kitchen with a bottle of booze. She asks if Bobby made good, and his silence is answer enough. She tells him to talk to the man from Global, and Crusher again says no. "Global's all about gimmicks, Marie." "Then it must be gimmicks that the fans are payin' to see, Joey. They don't care nothin' about your skills--they just want a piece of you!" Furious, Crusher throws his glass of alcohol into the far wall and tells her to leave him alone. He sits in the dark for awhile, then an idea begins to form.
After Crusher's next match, he seizes the microphone and issues a challenge to the fans: $10,000 to whomever can last three minutes in the ring with him. His fellow wrestlers are shocked. Bobby is furious. But word filters into the locker room that people are already lining up for next week's match. Having no other choice, everybody buys into the plan. Bobby mortgages his house, Crusher visits a loan shark for the prize money, and they rent out the Civic Arena.
The night of the fight arrives at last. Crusher enters the ring with a smile on his face. "The roar is deafening. They all want a piece of me. And the money insured they always would." He puts the first few fans down flat, shooting to a packed house...
...until a young masked man hops into the ring....
The best part about this story is how well it fits into the continuity. Tom DeFalco's 1985 story about Crusher Hogan picks up years later in the man's life, painting the picture of a broken-down janitor who makes up stories about training Spider-Man to earn even the slightest respect from his peers. There is little, if any, difficulty in connecting the dots from this story to that one. The reader can easily imagine what happens next: Crusher's company goes bankrupt, Crusher does whatever he can to pay off the shylock, his wife probably leaves him... and all this because he did what he swore he'd never do--play the gimmick card--in a last-ditch effort at success.
Unfortunately, that is the weakest aspect of this story, I thought. I just can't see this Crusher Hogan--a man who sees wrestling as practically a religion--willingly come up with something like this. Crusher Hogan is not a nice man by any stretch, but he isn't somebody who would sell himself out like this. The idea would have worked better if Crusher's wife or boss had convinced him to try it; his loyalty to them could plausibly be enough to make him subvert his principles, but I doubt he would do it without being coerced. The story might have lost a little dramatic punch at the end, but it would have been more internally consistent.
Speaking of punch, one thing Azzarello and Levy did well was illustrate how much of an impact Peter Parker's immaturity had. Re-read Amazing Fantasy #15 and you'll see that Peter only took on Crusher to test his new powers. That test cost several people their jobs and their livelihoods, and with his spider powers the fight wasn't even fair. The hyper-responsible man that Peter would grow into would never try something like that. The young teenager who had yet to lose his Uncle Ben wouldn't have thought twice. Good writing.
A good comic with a killer ending and slightly inconsistent protagonist. Three and one half webs.
Note that co-writer, Scott Levy, is actually a professional wrestler himself. He wrestled under the name Raven for many years. Raven was also known in his wrestling career as a hardcore comic book fan, and would often wear Daredevil T-Shirts to the ring.