Wrestlemania X-8: The Rock vs. “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan
Inducted by LWO4Life
Chicks Dig Rock and Hogan
I remember when I was dating the woman who would be my wife, she wanted to watch wrestling with me. This had never happened before, and well, it hasn’t happened since. I knew it had to be a special match, one which she knew the wrestlers in the ring and a match that would keep her interest. So I popped in my tape of Wrestlemania X8, and fast forward to Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. the Rock. I ordered that Pay Per View live in March of 2002, and I had watched that match countless times since. It’s the match I turn to when I introduce new people to wrestling. And this match has never let me down. Heck, I even had one ex-girlfriend clap, jump up and down, give me a hug and say, “I love you so much,” after viewing this match. Yeah, chicks dig this match.
The Set Up
The interesting thing about this match is usually the story and set up are an important part of why we care. To be perfectly honest though, the build up to Hogan vs. the Rock was terrible. I hated it. Maybe there is someone out there that can justify slamming a semi truck into an ambulance with the Rock’s already should be dead body in there. Seriously, they hit the Rock over the head with a hammer, stretchered him out, then rammed a semi truck into him. After all of that the Rock was ready to wrestle 4 weeks later? So yes, the set up to one of the most important matches was, terrible. Luckily Katie Vick happened, and Super Cena happened, or we’d be talking about this terrible set up in WrestleCrap history. With that said, the build up does not ruin at all this match, and especially the payoff.
WrestleMania Night- Icon vs. Icon
Oh, I knew this match would be special the moment I saw the Rock’s promo. The night of WrestleMania, my roommate and I were arguing over who would have the better match, Hogan/Rock or Austin/Hall. Being a huge Austin fan, he swear up and down that the Austin match would steal the night, where I told him that Rock/Hogan would steal the night. Well, that argument stopped the moment the Rock opened his mouth in his backstage interview. The look of his eyes, you could see the burning fire inside of him. There was no talk of 4 weeks earlier, the Rock was focused on the here and now, the match. Because the Rock’s sole focus of his promo was Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania, not the nWo attack, this interview is now a timeless piece of history. The Rock is laser focus, and he talks about all the things we’ve heard about for decades. Training, the prayers, when Hulk Hogan ask whatcha gonna do, the Rock wants him to bring it. This interview was very important, as it almost erased all the bad writing leading up to this point and it reset this important match for the night.
Ring the Bell
Once the nWo music hit, it was clear that this was special. It would be the first one on one match up for Hulk Hogan in a WWF ring since 1993; and judging by the crowd’s reaction this was a big deal to them. Hogan came in with his traditional Hollywood Hogan entrance, nWo theme and all. This would be followed up by the Rock and his traditional entrance routine, which the crowd seemed pretty loud for as while. Both men stared each other in what seemed like forever, looking at the crowd, then each other, then the crowd, then each other. It was great psychology, as they let the moment build up, they let the fans dictate when they were ready to start the match. As the crowd got louder and louder, it looked like Hogan and the Rock heard the volume they were happy with, so they started to get read and the ref rang the bell. The crowd exploded with noise and we were on their way.
Opening Heat Check
If you watch any number of Hulk Hogan matches, you come to expect a few spots he loves to rely on. One important spot is the opening lock up which he battles his opponent in a test of strength. Usually when he’s a heel, this is done to show he’s the stronger of the two, and the face will have to overcome Hogan’s strength. Usually it worked, as in the 90’s people had tired of Hogan’s old tricks and they were bored of this spot. But on this night, in front of a nostalgic crowd seeing their hero for the first time in 9 years, this opening spot may have doomed the Rock for the rest of the night. Once the Rock hit the canvas after being thrown by Hogan, the crowd erupted with approval. The paid good money to see Hogan, and they were getting all of Hogan in all of his glory.
Maybe sensing this, it looked like Hogan did a wrestling version of a heat check. If you don’t know what a heat check is, in basketball when a shooter seems to not be able to miss, they’ll sometimes throw an off balance or long range shot they’d normally miss. They are trying to see if they are going to have one of those nights which they are hitting every shot. Well in wrestling, Hogan followed up that big pop by going into a headlock, which could kill even the wildest of wrestling crowds. Using this move as a way to slow down the match, and make the Rock right out of it, it looks like Hogan was gauging exactly where this crowd was. Well, basically the crowd kept cheering. Even as the Rock tried to fight out, the crowd chanted Rocky Sucks. Oh yes, it would be that type of night. It looks like it was there that Hogan and the Rock decided to switch places in terms of working heel and babyface. Both are two of the most professional performers in wrestling history, and they knew that you can either fight the crowd to tell the story you want, which could really kill the crowd, or you can tell the story the crowd wants to see and let it live in immortality. They made the right choice, obviously.
Telling the Story and Establishing the Characters
Once Rock fought off Hogan and Hogan shoulder tackled him for the knockdown, Hogan started to act very face like. His mannerisms changed, and there seemed to be a little bit of more energy in his movement. From there when Hogan was clubbing the Rock with strong forearms, he was yelling “meatball,” at his younger opponent. After hitting the Rock with his Axe Bomber clothesline, Hogan would take charge and go for another one, which the Rock countered and hit his signature Jumping Clothesline of his own. This led Hogan to have a more serious look on his face, as he went to shove the Rock. The Rock countered and then hit his signature punches into a spitball punch. Hogan at this stage of his career could not go over the top rope, though he did try. It’s a very small, and really unimportant nitpick, and honestly I prefer my matches to have some flaws. When matches flow too perfect, it doesn’t look real. So little things like this add to the match in the moment.
As the match continues, the Rock continues to lay into Hulk. After being in charge of the match the Rock goes for the Rock Bottom. Of course its way too early, and Hogan counters. What interesting is during the Rocks offensive burst, the crowd is pretty subdued, but with one elbow the crowd comes alive. Then Hogan gives the Rock a punch that hit like a grenade, then a running elbow that looked like it hit the Rock’s head like a butting ram. Hogan then followed with one of my favorite spots as a child, the three elbow drops in a row, except instead of the third elbow Hogan rack the eyes with his boot. And of course the crowd cheered.
Let’s Fast Forward a Bit
Oh I can break down the whole match, but it’s better if you watch it. Back and forth they went, trading signature spots and the crowd reacting. It was truly amazing as both major stars worked hard to entertain the fans. Eventually we saw a ref bump, when the Rock was able to get Hogan in a Scorpion Death Lock. With the ref being knocked out, Hogan got to the ropes but there was no ref to break the hold. Hogan was left with no choice but to tap. This started an argument between Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler of which was more important, Hogan getting to the ropes or Hogan tapping. It’s a great debate as I personally always think the moment a wrestler taps, they are telling the world they’ve had enough and this match should end. With that said, the ref was still out so the Rock went to wake him up. Then we get the finish, and exactly how I dreamt up the ending.
The Rock turned his attention to Hogan, who was waiting with a Rock Bottom. Finally the ref started to wake up, only to see Hogan pinning the Rock. One, two… Rock kicks out. Hogan then uses his belt, which was always a major heat spot in WCW, but in WWF Hogan can get away with it. Eventually the Rock turns the tables on Hogan, wiping him as the crowd showers him with boos. Hogan gets up a walks into a Rock Bottom. One, two, and not only do we get a kick out, but a Hulk Up! And what a Hulk Up, he’s impervious to pain as Gorilla Moonson would say. The throws his Spitball Punch but Hogan blocks it, and hits the three punches into the Big Boot. With the Rock on the floor Hogan goes for the Atomic Leg Drop, one, two, kick up. All of this plays perfectly on how their signature moves would interact with each other. Whoever though of this finish was truly doing their homework. Watching live, I had hoped this would all play out like this, and I wasn’t disappointed.
When a Call Makes a Moment Special
When Hogan hit the Atomic Leg Drop, Jim Ross shouted at the top of his lungs, “He beat Andre the Giant with that move!” This stands as one of Jim Ross’s top 5 calls of all time. In that moment, you forgot all the times Dave Meltzer criticized Hogan’s leg drop, you forgot all the times people online scoffed Hogan’s famous finisher. Instead, as Hogan jumped in the air, all you could remember was Hogan bringing that leg down on Andre, pinning the unbeaten Giant. There is no way the Rock would kick out of this. So when the Rock did kick out, it was special. In that moment, Jim Ross forced the audience at home to forget all the things Meltzer and the more critical wrestling audience had said, and he forced you into this moment and the significance of it.
Hogan went for a second Atomic Leg Drop, this time finding nothing on the map. This finish was similar to Hogan, Warrior, as Hogan missed a second Atomic Leg Drop which led to the finish. But this time instead of what seemed like a fluke splash, the Rock hit Hogan with two Rock Bottoms. Hogan looked legitimately hurt after the first one, grabbing his stomach. The Rock, picked him up for a second Rock Bottom, and then used the People’s Elbow to finish off the match. One, two, three, and FINALLY the crowd popped for the Rock. They stood up and applauded the match. It was history, and we can tell the way everyone reacted. This is when my ex-girlfriend in college screamed “I love you,” to me. Yeah, chicks dig this match. My now wife looked at me and said, “I see why you love this.”
Match of the Night
Once the finish happened, the Rock and Hogan shock hands and it looked like this was the moment the crowd decided the Rock was alright after all. It was a passing of the torch moment. Hogan was gracious in defeat, the Rock was humble in victory, and the audience was happy. Of course what happened next, with Hall and Nash coming out and attacking Hogan for the Rock to save him was called on the spot. It was always rumor that Vince send Hall and Nash during the match to turn Hogan face afterwards. Though no one 100% has confirmed the rumor, the usual response is the had no plans for Hogan to turn face so it had to be called on the spot. Hogan and the Rock worked together to take out Hall and Nash, which capped off a great night. The young lion, and old lion stood side by side, both working together to now keep order in the WWF. It was everything I had hoped for when I split the $50 cost of WrestleMania with my friend. Oh yea, and he did agree Hogan vs. Rock stole the night. Even Chris Jericho agreed, and he would know, he had to follow this match.
Do yourself a favor, watch this match, and if you are trying to get someone into wrestling, trust me, chicks dig this match.
Lords of Pain.net/Wrestling Headlines.com welcomes Rock vs. Hogan, from Wrestlemania X-8, into the Hall of Fame class of 2020.
Related Links: John Cena Says The Rock VS. Hulk Hogan Is His Favorite Match Of All Time
Bruce Prichard On Whether Rock Vs. Hogan Was Always The Plan For Wrestlemania X-8
LOP/WH Hall of Fame Class of 2020- Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels, Wrestlemania XXIV