Back then, professional wrestling was a secretive and brutal boys-only club. A lot of people wanted to be wrestlers — but getting in was nearly impossible if you didn’t have the connections.
To be a wrestler, another wrestler had to train you. But before they actually trained you, they tried to break you — in addition to punishing exercises and bullying, real wrestling was involved, with painful stretch holds and stiff strikes thrown in.
Hogan’s first day of training did not go well. He was paired with Hiro Matsuda, a tough guy wrestler from Japan. After exercising Hogan to the point of him passing out, Matsuda ordered him to get in the ring, where he promptly snapped his leg.
“I was so out of it by then they practically rolled me into the ring. Suddenly Matsuda comes out of nowhere and jumps on top of me. I hit the canvas. He drops down, puts an elbow down in the middle of my left leg, grabs my foot, and wrenches it as hard as he can — in the opposite direction than your leg is built to go. Crack! He broke my leg in half, right in the middle of my shin,” writes Hogan in “My Life Outside the Ring.”
After 10 weeks, when his leg had healed, he headed back to Matsuda for more training.
It would have been a slightly heartwarming story had Matsuda and the rest of the wrestlers welcomed Hogan back with open arms, impressed by his guts. That didn’t happen.
The brutal trainings continued, and Matsuda continued to try and break Hogan (but not more of his bones) for a year before Hogan finally received an actual wrestling match.