Princeton brains vs. pro wrestling brawn

i-a95dbabd1ebd25a508a2556b2b940ab9-debate.jpgBy Katy Pinke ’10

In March 2009, VH1 television contacted the Princeton debate team. The network was planning to shoot a new week-long program called “The Great Debate,” and the producers wanted to do an “All Stars vs. Ivy Leaguers” episode. The show would premiere in early July as a miniseries in which D-list celebrities debate issues related to pop culture.

Anthony Loring ’11, Charlie Metzger ’12, and Jim Hao ’12 were selected to represent the team in this uncharted forum for debate. Once the three students had agreed to participate, they were provided with a list of topics and possible points and counterpoints.

Their topic: “Which is the better Hulk?” The intimidating opposition — wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan — positioned himself in favor of … himself. The Princeton debaters, on the other hand, argued resolutely for the superiority of a comic-book superhero, the Incredible Hulk.

In May, Loring, Metzger, and Hao were shown around VH1’s New York studio, prepped with hair and makeup in the green room, and led out to stand in front of a green screen — which in the TV version displays a background that looks something like the Rockefeller College dining hall. Hao started off the debate, asserting, “We on the Princeton debate team firmly believe that the Incredible Hulk is way better than Hulk Hogan.”

Though the episode aired for the first time in July, it gained renewed attention last month on Princeton’s campus, as well as on the University Press Club’s blog, The Ink, after it aired as a re-run in December.

According to Loring, “They instructed us to react in different ways depending on what Hulk would say.” Because the wrestler’s part was filmed separately, at his home, the three debaters — new to show business — were directed to “look this way and pretend you’re responding this way to Hulk,” or to “say that with a little more sarcasm.”

Loring clarified: “Not to disappoint anyone, but this wasn’t real debating, this was saying debate-like things over and over again in front of the camera. But it was still a lot of fun, and very amusing, to go behind the scenes.”

Hao brought the debate home for Princeton, channeling Hogan with his final firm position in favor of the Incredible Hulk: “He’s way better than ya, brother.”

Below, video of the Hulk vs. Hulk segment:

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