WrestleMania is on the horizon and the fact that it’s hitting its 35th entry is nothing short of impressive. A lot of the early success to the show is thanks in part — love him or hate him — to one Hulk Hogan. Hell, it wasn’t even going to be called “WrestleMania” in the beginning but “Hulkamania.” While the quality of his in-ring work was sometimes questionable, he absolutely owned the first nine years. He main-evented every show except one, where he was still standing tall and celebrating in the final moments. Then, years later, he returned for a couple of more memorable appearances.
Let’s take a trip through time and break down Hulk Hogan’s matches on the Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
The Setup: WWF and MTV joined forces for the most 80’s cross-promotion since Heathcliff was shown watching Inspector Gadget cartoons and vice versa. Roddy Piper hated rock music and antagonized Cyndi Lauper, leading to Hogan standing up for her. The two battled as the main event of The War to Settle the Score, which was broadcast on MTV. It was a DQ finish when Piper’s buddies Bob Orton and Paul Orndorff attacked Hogan. In the crowd was A-Team star Mr. T, who entered the ring to defend his buddy, Hogan. With Piper’s longtime rival Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in their corner, Hogan and Mr. T challenged Piper and Orndorff to face them at WrestleMania.
Notable Promos: The most famous pieces of lead-up included their appearance on Saturday Night Live and that time they showed up on Richard Belzer’s talkshow and Hogan accidentally knocked him out for real from demonstrating a wrestling move, causing a lawsuit. My favorite was footage of Mr. T training Hogan by leading him through a market and getting him all sorts of random health foods to build him up. It was pretty funny just because even as whacked out as Hogan was, he had to play the straight man to Mr. T.
The Match: The show was especially mediocre on the whole, but at least the main event felt like a big match in comparison to what followed. It wasn’t super great, but it worked. Even though Piper seemed to take liberties with Mr. T during their opening mat wrestling exchange, Mr. T showed off some basic wrestling moves and appeared passable. The faces took control until Orndorff attacked Hogan from behind and sent him to the outside, where Piper waffled him with a chair. Then it was mostly Hogan taking abuse until Mr. T got tagged in and took abuse himself. Pretty by-the-numbers tag match, really, outside of Muhammad Ali storming the ring to take a swing at Bob Orton.
The Ending: After Hogan got the hot tag, all hell broke loose. Orton jumped off the top and swung at Hogan with his arm cast, only to miss and hit Orndorff. Hogan pinned Orndorff with ease, causing Piper to punch the ref and leave in disgust. Mr. T showed concern over Orndorff, who got up with his fists ready, not sure where he was or why he was been abandoned by his so-called buddies.
The Aftermath: Considering Mr. T wasn’t going to be sticking around so often once WrestleMania was over, the ending was pretty brilliant. Piper and Orton blamed Orndorff for their loss and turned on him, which caused Orndorff to back Hogan and become his sidekick. Orndorff battled Piper and Orton across the country with a variety of different tag team partners. Mr. T did eventually reenter the picture to battle Piper a year later in a boxing match that ended in a disqualification.
Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a Steel Cage for the WWF Championship
The Setup: King Kong Bundy had been unstoppable for well over a year, remembered for crushing Special Delivery Jones at the first WrestleMania in mere seconds. On Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hogan defended his belt against “Magnificent” Don Muraco and had it won until Bobby Heenan interfered. Bundy blindsided Hogan from behind and then annihilated him with two Avalanches and a splash. Hogan’s ribs were destroyed and with the match signed between the two, it would be a wonder if Hogan would be in any shape to compete and come out in one piece.
Notable Promos: WrestleMania 2 spent an awful lot of time checking in on Hogan, including footage of him lifting weights while selling his taped ribs. The best was when Hogan cut a promo on the street, only for Mr. T to randomly show up. Thing is, Mr. T had absolutely nothing to add and just kept loudly agreeing with Hogan’s ramblings, loudly yelling, “UH HUH!” and, “YEAH! THAT’S RIGHT!” during every beat.
The Match: Bundy didn’t bring anything to the table, although the match was definitely watchable, giving a dynamic that Bundy was fighting for the sake of business while Hogan was fighting harder because to him it was personal. The real drawback that made it hard to take seriously was how, as a cage match, Hogan was about climbing out to win, while Bundy was so big that he had to walk out the door. Too many times, the match made Bundy look pretty tame due to how hard it was for him to figure out the complexities of walking out a door with Bobby Heenan trying to help.
The Ending: The two went back and forth until Bundy really went at Hogan’s ribs with an Avalanche into the corner. Hogan started to get pumped and a second Avalanche was completely no-sold. Hogan tore into the bloody Bundy, powerslammed him, and followed with a leg drop. Hogan climbed up the cage, kicked Bundy off of him, escaped before Bundy could crawl through the door, and celebrated by brutalizing Bobby Heenan.
The Aftermath: This was the blow-off, so there wasn’t really any aftermath. Hogan moved on to feuding with Paul Orndorff while Bundy floundered around for another year or so before leaving the company.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Championship
The Setup: Hogan and Andre were good friends for years in WWF and on the interview show Piper’s Pit, the two were awarded trophies. Hogan got a huge one for being champ for three years and Andre got a less huge one for being undefeated for 15 years (which he was most certainly not, but go with it). Andre took offense and left without explanation, only to return weeks later as a client of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Andre demanded a title match and showed he meant business by tearing off Hogan’s shirt and crucifix necklace while somehow cutting him open. With a heavy heart, Hogan accepted the challenge.
Notable Promos: The contract signing between the two was legendary. A bunch of guys in suits all talking as background noise while Hogan and Andre silently glared at each other. Then Hogan gave one of his most dramatic speeches about how he would have given Andre a title shot if he wanted, but by siding with Heenan, he betrayed all the fans. Just as cool was a promo the night of the show where Heenan went over how Hogan had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of as even though he’d lose, he was still a three-year champion. All the while, Andre just stood there, wordless, giving a disinterested yet ominous glare at the camera.
The Match: Wrestling purists hate the match and to be fair, it was very slow at times. I don’t care. It was pure spectacle and that opening staredown can never be topped. It was the final end boss of Hulk Hogan matches as he battled his greatest foe with the odds stacked against him. The main pattern was that Hogan would go at him like a house of fire, only to make a mistake, like trying to bodyslam him early on and getting flattened. Probably the best part is seeing Hogan mount a comeback by unloading with fists to Andre’s head, all while selling the punches as extremely painful to himself.
The Ending: Andre missed a boot to a running Hogan and ate a clothesline, knocking Andre to the mat. Dazed, Andre got back up and Hogan caught him with a bodyslam. One leg drop later and it was all she wrote. Andre stood on the mobile mini-ring (used for entrances that year), looking disappointed while Heenan appeared near tears.
The Aftermath: Hogan and Andre rested their rivalry for a few months until the very first Survivor Series, where Andre’s team defeated Hogan’s. Another contract signing happened at the very first Royal Rumble, leading to a rematch for the title at Saturday Night’s Main Event…
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
The Setup: In that Main Event match, Hogan lost due to screwy officiating thanks to the ref having a twin brother who wasn’t above taking bribes from “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. Dibiase then bought the title from Andre, but Jack Tunney refused to accept that and declared the title vacant. WrestleMania IV was to be a 14-man tournament for the title with Hogan and Andre each getting a bye into the second round. Meanwhile, Hogan had formed a strong partnership with “Macho Man” Randy Savage after rescuing him from a three-on-one beatdown.
Notable Promos: Hogan gave one of his top three craziest promos the night of WrestleMania where he swore that he’d bodyslam Andre so hard that the ground would open up and the arena would fall into the ocean. Then Hogan would rescue Donald Trump, who would give up all of his worldly possessions for the good of Hulkamania. The whipped cream of the rant was how Hogan would openly weep while discussing how he’d banish Andre into the depths of the earth, but the cherry on top was how once he was done, Hogan flexed his arms and then backstroked out of frame. Cocaine-fueled 1980s promos rule, man.
The Match: People hated this one, but I kind of dug it. The glacial pace of their WrestleMania III match would no longer work because Hogan was no longer painted as the underdog. He beat Andre, so they were considered on the same level and that introduced a very different in-ring dynamic. Mainly due to how much shorter the match was, Hogan and Andre brought a more energetic performance instead of Andre just toying around with Hogan.
The Ending: There’s no defending the ending, though. With the ref not looking, Dibiase hit Hogan with a chair. Hogan stole the chair and used it on Andre, who stole the chair away and used it on Hogan back. The ref ruled it a double disqualification. Hogan took out his frustrations by suplexing Virgil onto the floor and then bodyslamming Andre in the ring. He then proceeded to celebrate for far too long as Jesse Ventura on commentary wondered why, considering he lost.
The Aftermath: With both disqualified, Ted Dibiase got a bye into the finals, where he met with Randy Savage, weary from having to face his fourth opponent of the night. Andre was in Dibiase’s corner, countered by Hogan showing up to back Savage. Savage won the title and the feud continued to SummerSlam, where Hogan and Savage as the Mega Powers defeated the Mega Bucks thanks in part to Savage’s valet Elizabeth taking her skirt off and distracting Andre and Dibiase with her underwear.
Hulk Hogan vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WWF Championship
The Setup: Hogan and Savage’s friendship started to crack over time. Savage became paranoid that Hogan was interested in stealing away Elizabeth and when Hogan eliminated him from the Royal Rumble, Savage started to suspect that Hogan wanted his belt. The two feuded with the Twin Towers (Big Boss Man and Akeem the African Dream), escalating into a tag match where Savage accidentally got launched into Elizabeth. Hogan took Elizabeth to the back for medical attention, leaving Savage to endure a beating on his own. When Hogan returned, Savage smacked him in the face and left. He had lost his patience with Hogan and wanted to annihilate him at WrestleMania. All the while, Elizabeth was left in the middle, unsure of what to do.
Notable Promos: As the show got closer, Savage appeared on Prime Time Wrestling to discuss how pissed he was with Hogan. He went through their time as the Mega Powers, accompanied by clips to prove his point, such as how Hogan cared more about his ego than helping Savage and Elizabeth. Then came the clip where Hogan claimed that he loved Savage like a brother and loved Elizabeth. Savage tore off his glasses and boiled in anger to the point that he seriously looked like he was about to explode. Hogan claimed he loved him, but Savage hated Hogan’s guts.
The Match: In a more refreshing battle, Hogan finally wrestled someone more on his level in terms of style, even if Savage was more about speed than strength. Great chemistry between the two with Savage slowly getting more and more devious in his tactics throughout the match. One of the better moments was Hogan throwing Savage out of the ring. Ventura mentioned that if he was Savage, he’d stay down and lose by count-out, since he’d keep the title. Gorilla Monsoon insisted Savage had more honor than that, which in its own way painted Savage as not being too terrible. Then seconds later, a worried Elizabeth helped him up and Savage snapped at her for getting in his way. Even though Elizabeth protected Savage moments later, Savage was still seething with jealousy and demanded she leave the ringside area.
The Ending: Now without distractions, Savage attacked Hogan’s throat. Things became predictable as Savage dropped the elbow off the top and Hogan kicked out, Hulking up. Even though Savage wasn’t all that exhausted at this point, he lost after taking the boot and leg drop. Hogan won the belt and Savage was quick to recover, leaving the ring and pointing out that it wasn’t over between them.
The Aftermath: The rivalry continued and took a very bizarre turn. Hogan had just appeared in the movie No Holds Barred and his in-movie antagonist Zeus showed up in-character to wage war on Hogan. Savage and Zeus became a team, facing Hogan and Brutus Beefcake in a couple of high-profile matches until Hogan and Beefcake came out winners in the final blow-off.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior for the WWF and Intercontinental Championships
The Setup: Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior came to blows during the 1990 Royal Rumble match, where they fought to a standstill. Later on, Hogan accidentally-on-purpose eliminated Warrior, sending him into a frenzy. The match was signed as “champion vs. champion” with both titles being on the line. While the two had nothing but respect for each other, tension mounted when they would attempt to assist each other (usually against Earthquake) and it would get really awkward.
Notable Promos: Considering who was involved, the all-star here was most certainly Warrior. Most famous was his promo where he talked about hijacking Hogan’s plane to WrestleMania, killing the pilots, and crashing it into Parts Unknown. Also hilarious was their contract signing, where Warrior wore street clothes, had his hair in a ponytail, and still wore facepaint. Warrior let loose a ridiculous speech about who in the hell knows and Hogan’s response was an almost disinterested, “Sign…” while motioning at the contract.
The Match: Ultimate Warrior was a bad wrestler, but somehow he tended to have really great WrestleMania matches. This one was pure superhero vs. superhero, like watching Superman trade blows with Shazam. It was like a mirror match with Hogan going up against his younger, crazier self. Lot of fun, especially when Warrior started doing his own Hulk up counterpart where he’d shake the ropes while powering up. Hogan kept punching him from behind to no avail and there was a frustrated look on his face all the while. Like, pumping yourself up while no-selling your opponent’s offense? That’s not fair!
The Ending: There was a ref bump where neither could make the pin. Warrior Gorilla Press Slammed Hogan, but Hogan kicked out and Hulked up. He hit the boot and went for the leg drop, only for Warrior to move out of the way and hit a splash. Warrior pinned Hogan with Hogan kicking out an instant too late. Hogan handed him the belts, hugged him, and rode off into the sunset on the ring cart.
The Aftermath: Warrior’s nine-month-long title reign was set up to fail, as WWF failed to give him any appealing challengers. Hell, they even had him joined with the Legion of Doom to feud with Demolition for a while rather than defend his title. Meanwhile, Hogan moved on to feud with Earthquake, which was far more legitimate than anything Warrior had going on. It was decided that there would be no rematch between the two due to fear for each wrestler’s well-being. Warrior was stripped of the Intercontinental Championship and a new champion was decided via tournament. Hogan and Warrior became buds again in WWF, but met for a rematch as enemies in WCW years later. It was famously bad.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sergeant Slaughter for the WWF Championship
The Setup: Sgt. Slaughter reappeared in WWF to badmouth the country for not being man enough to go to war with Iraq. Then America went to war with Iraq, so they changed it around and had Slaughter actually sympathize with the enemy and surround himself with Iraqi manager General Adnan. Thanks to Randy Savage’s interference, Slaughter won the title off the Ultimate Warrior at Royal Rumble 1991. Shortly after, Hogan won the Royal Rumble match, dedicating his victory to the armed forces. More patriotic than ever, Hogan challenged Slaughter for a match at WrestleMania to teach him a lesson and regain what was rightfully his.
Notable Promos: Directly before walking out to the ring, Hogan cut a promo about how Slaughter’s tactics changed him and made him do a 360. That’s… that’s not how that works, dude. Getting into the moment, Hogan tore his shirt off and stormed to the ring. When he came out for the match, his shirt was back on.
The Match: Ugh. It started out fine with Slaughter taking some crazy bumps for a guy his size and age, but after a few minutes, it became insanely boring. Though it was funny how when Hogan had the advantage and did the same offense he usually did, Bobby Heenan tried to play it like Hogan was going over the line compared to usual. Also funny was a spot where Slaughter had Hogan in the Boston Crab, directly next to the ropes where Hogan could have easily touched them to break the hold. He did so after two minutes or so of enduring the pain, yet during all of that time, guest commentator Regis Philbin kept wondering why he wasn’t reaching for the ropes since they were obviously right there. Heenan and Monsoon tried to ignore that question.
The Ending: A bloody Hogan was able to get out of the Camel Clutch, but he was spent and Slaughter took him back down. Slaughter spread the Iraqi flag over Hogan’s body and went for the pin. Hogan kicked out, Hulked up, tore the flag in half, hit the boot and leg drop, and won like that. The usual ending, only with more ‘MERCA!
The Aftermath: When Hogan returned to the locker room while being interviewed, Slaughter was waiting for him with a fireball in hand. Hogan recovered from the burns and kept the feud going until reaching its conclusion at SummerSlam, where he and the Ultimate Warrior faced Slaughter, Adnan, and Colonel Mustafa (Iron Sheik) in a handicap match and utterly destroyed them. Warrior was fired that night, Hogan moved on to a feud with Ric Flair, and Slaughter turned face by apologetically crying about how he wanted his country back.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice
The Setup: The entire scenario played off like something out of Bizarro World. At the Royal Rumble, Sid removed Hogan from the ring in the exact same fashion that Hogan had done to Savage and Warrior in previous Rumbles. Hogan felt betrayed by his good buddy, so he grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out, causing Ric Flair to win the match and vacant WWF Championship. Hogan was given a title match against Flair for WrestleMania due to fan vote, but turned it down when Sid turned on him during a tag match against Flair and Undertaker. Keep in mind that in the backstage interview prior to that match, Hogan was being a complete asshole to Sid by interrupting everything he had to say with his own loud promo and refused to let him get a word in. Sid destroyed the set of Brutus Beefcake’s Barber Shop interview show and got Harvey Whippleman as his manager, which was somehow enough for Hogan to say no to competing for the championship. Also, the Flair/Savage title match was thrown into the middle of the card while the Hogan/Sid grudge match would be the main event. For Christ’s sake…
Notable Promos: With Hogan about to make a big attempt at a film career, he didn’t really do much to hype the match other than a sitdown interview where he suggested that he might be done soon (Ha!). Sid had to carry the angle and carry it he did. The promo that sticks out to me years later is one where he told Hogan that when he’d say his prayers and eat his vitaimins he should pray that Sid would get struck by lightning on the way to WrestleMania VIII, because that was Hogan’s only chance of surviving.
The Match: Hogan went to town on Sid upon entering the ring and sent him packing before his theme music could even stop playing. Hogan kept the advantage for the opening couple minutes until Sid challenged him to a test of strength. Sid simply overpowered Hogan and for the rest of the match, it was just Sid kicking Hogan around with no opposition.
The Ending: Hogan Hulked up after taking a powerbomb. He beat on Sid, gave him the boot, bodyslammed him, and followed with the leg drop. Sid kicked out – the first time anyone had done that in response to the leg drop – but it wasn’t planned. Papa Shango was supposed to do a run-in and cause a disqualification, which was strange, since he had nothing to do with either guy. Instead, Harvey Whippleman got in the ring and shoved the ref, causing the DQ. Papa Shango showed up late and helped Sid beat down Hogan. The Ultimate Warrior – himself not having appeared in six months – came to the rescue and helped defend Hogan. The two celebrated in the ring as the show came to a close.
The Aftermath: Hogan left for a year, so that was the end of him for a while. Sid was about to feud with Warrior, but after a couple house show matches, Sid got fed up and left the company on the spot. That meant the only real aftermath of this high-profile PPV main event match was the infamous Warrior vs. Papa Shango feud where Shango made Warrior vomit on TV via voodoo curse.
The Mega Maniacs (Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake) vs. Money Inc. (Ted Dibiase and Irwin R. Schyster) for the WWF Tag Team Championship
The Setup: Due to a horrible parasailing accident that busted up his face, Brutus Beefcake existed in WWF in an on-air role that didn’t involve wrestling. Once he was cleared, they did an angle where he played up the sympathy of his plight, only to become targeted by the tag champs Money Inc. The two beat him down and prepared to smash his face in a second time via IRS’ briefcase. Their manager Jimmy Hart thought they were going too far and begged them to stop. They ditched Jimmy and moved on. Hogan returned from semi-retirement to help out his #1 Hulkamaniac. Beefcake wore a very, very goofy metal mask to protect himself from any possible face-related injuries.
Notable Promos: All right, so maybe the promo leading up to this match was even crazier than the Donald Trump one from WrestleMania IV. Hogan told the tale of how he reacted when he saw Beefcake assaulted. He ran outside in horror, accidentally (?) stole Beefcake’s motorcycle, rode it to the beach, stuck his ear into the sand, heard thousands of Hulkamaniacs praying, rode for a week straight to New York City, burst into a Ramada, and found Beefcake chilling out and watching the Three Stooges. I didn’t make up any of that. Then it continued to get strange with Beefcake mentioning how he hung out in the desert and cut up small mountains with his shears and Hogan boasting about how he went fishing for hammerhead sharks with his bare hands and found some mermaids that he’d use on Money Inc. I…what?
The Match: It will be forever overshadowed by the hated later match, but this one was seriously pretty fun. It was probably the most unHogan WrestleMania match of all because he seemed to really want to get Beefcake over. That meant that even though he Hulked up while in the Million Dollar Dream, it wore off in time and he passed out, just so Beefcake could make the save. There was a neat callback spot where Money Inc. tried to walk away and keep the belts via count out, which they did a year prior against the Natural Disasters. This time, the ref claimed that if they did, they’d forfeit the titles.
The Ending: With the ref knocked out, IRS tried using Beefcake’s mask as a weapon. Hogan stole it away and used it on IRS and Dibiase instead. With both members of Money Inc. knocked out, Hogan and Beefcake each made the cover. Jimmy Hart turned his jacket inside out so he was wearing stripes, counted the pins himself, and they acted like they won the belts. Another ref came in to disqualify them and he was punished for his sensible decision by being thrown out of the ring by Jimmy. Hogan and Beefcake celebrated for a long while to the point that “Real American” looped about three times. It was okay, though, because they went so over-the-top hammy on it that I implore you to find the match on the WWE Network and skip to the end. You need to see Hogan’s reaction upon opening up IRS’ briefcase and finding a huge chunk of money in there.
The Aftermath: Brutus Beefcake wrestled a handful of house shows, but never another televised match in WWF. He was gone a couple months later. Money Inc. held onto the belts for a few more months, bragging about how they were able to defeat the Mega Maniacs. As for Hogan…
Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna for the WWF Championship
The Setup: Bret “Hitman” Hart suddenly became champion on an un-aired house show against Ric Flair and spent the next couple of months defending the belt almost every week against all comers (as opposed to Hogan, who only wrestled on PPVs, house shows, and then-defunct Saturday Night’s Main Event). Bret needed to be legitimized as a champion, but he was looking golden at the time. His biggest challenge came in the form of the unstoppable Yokozuna, who dominated the Royal Rumble and earned his spot in the main event of WrestleMania IX. Although Bret had him in the Sharpshooter, Yokozuna’s manager Mr. Fuji threw salt into Bret’s eyes, which caused him to writhe on the mat, making him easy pickings for a pin.
Notable Promos: Prior to Bret vs. Yokozuna, Hogan talked to Mean Gene about how he looked into Bret’s eyes and saw such determination that it made him question his own ability and the power of Hulkamania. That’s good. Then Hogan asked for a title shot against the winner. That’s also good. When doing so, he referred to Yokozuna as, “the Jap.” That’s not so good.
The Match: Hogan went to the ring to complain about the loss because cheating’s only okay when Hogan does it. Fuji challenged Hogan on the spot and put the title on the line. With Bret giving Hogan his blessing, the Hulkster marched into the ring.
The Ending: Immediately, Yokozuna held Hogan back as Fuji threw salt at his face. Hogan moved out of the way, meaning Yokozuna got hit instead. Hogan knocked him down, leg dropped him, and made the pin, winning his third WWF Championship and inspiring Money in the Bank winners for years to come.
The Aftermath: I still feel that this would have been a fantastic piece of booking if they went along with the original plan of Hogan passing the torch by losing to Bret at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Hogan left the company and dropped the title back to Yokozuna at the next PPV, King of the Ring. Bret was stuck having to feud with Jerry Lawler until finally getting back into the main event in time for the next WrestleMania, where he got his win back against Yokozuna. The way he won was somehow dumber than Hogan’s win, but people give it a free pass because Bret deserved another run as champ.
As for Hogan, he spent the next several years in WCW, where he revitalized his career as leader of the nWo. During the absence, McMahon poked fun at Hogan through a WrestleMania XII pre-show match where elderly wrestler the Huckster met with the equally old Nacho Man as the climax of the cringe-worthy Billionaire Ted skits.
Hollywood Hogan vs. The Rock
The Setup: Vince McMahon grew more and more insane due to Ric Flair owning half of the WWF. He decided to “inject poison” by bringing in the New World Order (Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall) to destroy the company like they destroyed World Championship Wrestling. The nWo went to war with top stars Rock and Austin, mainly after Rock berated Hogan, challenged him to a match at WrestleMania, and then dropped him with a Rock Bottom. Hogan got his revenge when they put him in an ambulance and drove a semi into it.
Notable Promos: I always had a soft spot for a segment where Hogan – totally straight-faced – told the Rock about a question he asked every one of his victims before destroying them at WrestleMania: “What’cha gonna do?” Rock responded by saying he’d end Hogan’s legend, but in the meantime, suggested that Hogan be the one to say his prayers.
The Match: Before the bell rang, you could argue that the crowd came off as 60% Hogan and 40% Rock. Then once Hogan shoved Rock across the ring and flexed, Hogan had the crowd in the palm of his hands. Without a doubt, one of Hogan’s most entertaining matches. It was Toronto practically begging Hogan to turn face while he used his regular heel antics (though to be fair, these were moves he’s used as a face) and he and Rock played it up. Sure, Hogan botched a little bit, but the whole thing was electric, from Hogan’s poses to Rock spitting on Hogan’s weightlifting belt to Hogan Hulking up after taking a Rock Bottom.
The Ending: It took three Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow to finally fell Hogan. Rock celebrated in the ring until a humble and almost frail Hogan stepped up to him and offered his hand in respect. The two hugged and Rock left. Then Hall and Nash stepped in, angry at Hogan’s behavior. They beat him down until Rock helped fend them off. Then Rock insisted that Hogan pose to the crowd for a few minutes. Rock’s exaggerated mannerisms when trying to get Hogan to pose will forever be engraved in my mind. He looked like Bugs Bunny having a fit.
The Aftermath: Hogan went back to the red and yellow and was so popular that he won the Undisputed Championship from Triple H a month later. The nostalgia died down and he dropped the title, but Hogan remained in the company for a year and change. Hogan didn’t have creative control as part of his contract, which in turn gave us a very respectable run where he put over the likes of Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar.
Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon in a Street Fight
The Setup: McMahon intervened in a rematch between Hogan and Rock, helping Rock win. McMahon revealed that he hated Hogan and believed himself to be the one behind Hulkamania and its success. McMahon was mainly angry over Hogan testifying against him during the infamous steroid trial (which Stephanie had once, in sincerity, compared to 9/11 mere days after the Towers fell) and running off to WCW. The two agreed to a Street Fight at WrestleMania where if Hogan lost, he’d have to retire.
Notable Promos: At the contract signing, McMahon stabbed Hogan in the face with a pen and signed the contract with his blood. You’re not beating that.
The Match: Still mind-boggling to watch and in a good way. Most McMahon matches would give him kind of a Lex Luthor style, like a guy who wasn’t physically good enough to face his full-time wrestler opponent, but was smart and underhanded enough to make it even. Here, McMahon came off as Hogan’s equal, dominating much of the match with no problem. Though to be fair, they were in similar physical shape at the time and this was one of the final instances where McMahon looked genuinely imposing. It got insane when McMahon jumped off a ladder and leg dropped Hogan through a table to a thunderous, “HOLY SHIT!” chant, something I never, ever thought I’d see in a Hogan match. Both guys were wearing crimson masks, which led to the iconic and terrifying image of a bloody McMahon slowly rising from behind the apron with a sinister smile on his face. Then Roddy Piper showed up out of nowhere just to hit Hogan with a pipe and spit on them both.
The Ending: The ref, out of compassion, tried to stop McMahon from using the pipe on Hogan. McMahon ejected him from the ring and called in his own personal ref. Hogan kicked out of another McMahon leg drop, Hulked up, and took care of both McMahon and the evil ref. Another ref showed up as Hogan delivered three leg drops to keep McMahon down for good.
The Aftermath: McMahon decided to fire Hogan anyway, which led to one of the most entertainingly ridiculous storylines of the era where Hogan was re-signed as the masked patriot Mr. America. Roddy Piper stuck around and mentored Sean O’Haire, a promising WCW import who would have been a Bray Wyatt-like Satanic heel had he been able to cut a promo in a live setting without cracking up. Mr. America eventually removed his mask, which was used as an excuse to kick Hogan off TV for good.
Mentally-challenged midcarder Eugene was in the ring, talking up how much he loved WrestleMania history when Muhammad Hassan and his manager Daivari appeared to complain about how the yet-to-be-pinned Hassan was kept off the card due to racism. Hassan attacked Eugene and put him in the Camel Clutch until Hogan came to the rescue and smacked Hassan and Daivari around. Coincidentally, a PPV main event came out of this months later when Michaels begged Hogan to come back to be his partner against that duo.
Hogan was really there for the sake of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, along with many others involved with WrestleMania 1, such as Paul Orndorff, Roddy Piper, Bob Orton, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and Jimmy Hart. Obviously, it was because this was the 20th anniversary of that very first show. Ah, the days when WWE understood what the term “anniversary” really meant.
Hulk Hogan hosted the 30th WrestleMania and came out in the beginning to talk up the new Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. This is most memorable for him referring to the Superdome as the Silverdome and getting continually razzed for it. Hogan’s promo led to Steve Austin storming out and confronting him. Then The Rock showed up. The three talked up the new generation of wrestlers and celebrated the future by drinking down beers and celebrating.
Later in the show, Hogan and Mr. T finally buried the hatchet with Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorf, much to Piper’s reluctance.
Oh man, I don’t even know. So, Sting showed up to help oust Triple H from power in WWE, which lasted mere weeks. A match was signed for WrestleMania. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon insisted that this was about how Sting was mad at WCW losing the war against WWF. Sting explained, no, it was not. Triple H ignored that and said it was. Then during their match, D-Generation X showed up to back up Triple H and the original nWo showed up to back up Sting. As in their main nemesis. All the while, JBL on commentary verbally shit on WCW extensively via Vince McMahon’s orders (apparently annoyed at Nash’s speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony that weekend). The elderly nWo and the over-the-hill DX awkwardly brawled until Triple H won. Yay, WWF!
That would be Hogan’s last big WrestleMania appearance. He took part in a leaked sex tape that wasn’t controversial for the humping, but for the pillow talk where he started getting all racist and even outright said he was racist. WWE scrubbed him from their website overnight and didn’t touch him for years. They started gradually using footage of him again, had him apologize to the locker room (where he said he was sorry he was caught. Dude.), and brought him back for the already-too-controversial Saudi Arabia PPV Crown Jewel. Hogan showed up in the beginning and got zero response.
On American TV, he returned to eulogize Mean Gene Okerland on Raw. The crowd gave him an overwhelmingly positive response. Word is that he’s supposed to show up at WrestleMania 35 in some fashion. We’ll see if the audience will be so forgiving.