Welcome to an all new edition of the Phat Daily Column. Today is Saturday, unless you have a hard time reading calendars (or I do?). If you've read the Saturday columns, well then, you know it's the day that we all hop in the Time Machine to take a look at the Past.
A past that is somewhat overlooked in making wrestling decisions today. Today, we take a look at one of the biggest figures in the business, Hulk Hogan. But we won't be doing a career recap, OH NO! We'll take a look at some of the decisions involving Hogan's creative power or backstage politics. Yes, the real dark side of everyone's hero. On to the PDC.
Now Hulk Hogan was thrown the World Title immediately, because he was hugely over in the WWF when he arrived and he was the American hero facing the evil Iran Sheak. Fans loved him instantly, and Hulkamania was born officially. Hogan was still growing as a star, and the WWF had plans for him to wrestle Andre the Giant. This, of course, occurred at Wrestlemania 3, if you were left in the dark back then. Anyway, I was watching The Unreal Story of Professional Wrestling this past week, which is the BEST wrestling documentary ever, and they talked about the Hogan vs. Andre match. Before the match, Hogan was said to be somewhat in a panic because he was scared that Andre wouldn't "do the job". Reports say that Andre got wind of this, and became very angry! Hogan might have been just very hungry for the top spot, but he should have trusted Andre, who was said to have a very big heart for the business. Could you just imagine if Hogan did that to Goldberg or Scott Steiner? They wouldn't have jobbed after that, but Andre did.
The WWF made Hulk Hogan invincible, and had no plans to take the title off him whatsoever. That is, until, a movie deal came about. Hogan was cast in the wrestling film No Holds Barred to be filmed in late spring/early summer, and since the WWF was very demanding back then, the discussed with Hogan to take the title off him. Which he did, losing it in the famous Dave Hebner screwjob finish at a Saturday Night's Main Event. Macho Man would win the title at Wrestlemania 4, and he would then start feuding over Hogan after an incident with Miss Elizabeth. Hogan won the title then, to put him back on top. It was a reasonable decision.
One of the very few times Hogan became generous to the business was when he put over the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6. It's probably the only clean job I've ever seen Hogan do, and I've seen a lot of Hogan matches over the years. It was good for the business! The WWF, however, immediately lost confidence in the Warrior at the top. So riding off the Gulf War, the WWF gave the title to Sgt. Slaughter, and they relived the Sheak feud. But the WWF didn't have much long term plans after that... that is, until Ric Flair arrived! Whooo! Reports, back then, said that Hogan avoided a Flair match as much as he could. Flair was always considered by tough critics to be the better champ than Hogan was, even though Hogan had the large WWF crowds in love with him. Hogan would lose the title to Undertaker, and then win it back in a controversial fashion, thus making Jack Tunney declaring it vacant. I don't know if the WWF asked Hogan to fight Flair for the title, but it's evident that Hogan avoided Flair for any TELEVISION (not houseshow) event.
Hogan would then "retire" after fighting Sid at Wrestlemania 8, and he'd remain that way, until Vince McMahon hit the panic button. With Bret Hart as World Champion, Vince saw the ratings slowly dropping, and he immediately got on the phone with Hogan to ask him to come back. Hogan said he would, if and only if he would win the World Title. Hogan just used his leverage to get Vince to put him back on top, over young stars like Yokozuna and Bret Hart. So because of Hogan, we saw the famous Wrestlemania 9 finish, to where Hogan defeated Yokozuna after Bret Hart lost the title. Damn, I hate that show!
But Vince and the WWF had other plans for Hogan and the title. They wanted him to defend it or lose it to the likes of Bret Hart, which could have been a huge draw match back then. Instead, Hogan stayed away from Bret Hart, which really hurt Hart's career. Bret was just the World Champ, and he couldn't get into the World Title picture? Hogan kept fighting with the WWF on this issue, refusing to wrestle with any younger stars. They finally convinced him to drop the strap to Yokozuna at the first King of the Ring, but it had to be a screwjob finish. The famous camera flash screwjob, with Yokozuna defeating Hogan. I believe Hogan said he was leaving the WWF before this match, since he didn't want to do good for the business on the way out.
So Hogan was retired from wrestling, right? Wrong! WCW made him a very lucrative offer. We're talking millions of dollars, movie deals, and the worst thing you could put into a wrestler's contract: FULL Creative Control. Whatever Hogan wanted, he could just make it a Storyline. He easily convinced Bischoff to be his whipping boy, too, and he let his pals Bossman, Brutus Beefcake, Honky Tonk Man, and Jim Duggan to dominate hard working WCW stars, such as Steve Austin. Duggan beat Austin's ass many times, and after Austin was fired from WCW due to an injury, Austin went to ECW where he proceeded to make fun of Hogan at every instant he got!
Hogan FINALLY fought Flair, since at first, Hogan was told he could win those matches. Then, we go to Starrcade 1994, where Hogan was booked to lose, in a screwjob fashion, to Ric Flair. However, after being put over by Flair several times, Hulk Hogan REFUSED to lose. The Creative Power and Ego has struck! So instead, Hogan made his buddy, Brutus Beefcake, turn heel and become an instant heel main eventer for his Starrcade opponent! Hogan could have seen another big money rematch with Flair after Starrcade, had he lost... but noooooo!
In 1995, nobody beat or came close to Hulk Hogan. Hogan wouldn't let Vader, the top heel for 2 years, defeat him. They had two Pay Per View matches in a row, and Hogan won both. They should have had Vader win the first, and Hogan win the second. Hogan didn't see it that way, and Bischoff would agree since his head was way up his ass! Hogan needed time off in 1996 for some movies, so he arranged for a stupid situation for the World Title to be vacant after Halloween Havoc 1995. Savage, a long time Hogan pal, would win the title, but with controversy. Hogan booked himself to get pulled out under the ropes by the Giant, with the ref distracted, thus tarnishing Savage's first WCW title win.
Hogan calmed himself down with the time off, and was welcome to turn heel for the New World Order. He was a better person, until the middle of 1997. Hogan won the title from the Giant at Hog Wild 1996, and he kept it until Luger beat him at a Nitro. Hogan won it back about 5 or 6 days later at "Road Wild" 1997, but Hogan's ego came back. He really started to take time off from wrestling anybody, and would require more television time to talk. He saw the likes of Benoit, Jericho, Guerrero, Booker T, all of the Luchadores, and many other greats, banging his door down. So with influence on Bischoff, he had all of those guys held back from any success. Success meaning the "step to the next level". Bischoff agreed since the NWO was hot then, and Hogan was the main boss of it.
Things got worse. Sting, the man who was in the federation since late 1987, was now set to fight Hogan at Starrcade 1997. Instead of letting the MEGA-face, Sting, defeat him cleanly to satisfy the fans, Hogan tarnished Sting and the ending to Starrcade with the "fast count" controversy with Bret Hart. Stupid, stupid, stupid! The company realized that Sting should be champion, so they scheduled a rematch for Superbrawl 1998. Sting did defeat Hogan, but not without something to tarnish the image. Hogan booked Randy Savage to come down and give Hogan a shot, to make sure Hogan was "out" when Sting got the pin.
Things got EVEN worse. Hogan helped to get Macho the victory over Sting 2 months later at a Pay Per View, and on the next night on Nitro, Hogan booked himself to win the World Title again! This was in the Spring of 1998, which had the WWF starting to become the top federation. Hogan's title win, here, iced it, and he wouldn't hardly defend it until Bill Goldberg defeated him, later in the summer. This downtime with the World Title helped the WWF get the edge on WCW. WCW asked Hogan to drop the strap to Goldberg, and he agreed..... BUT only if he would be the first one to defeat Goldberg for the title and his streak! This was to happen at Starrcade 1998....
But that didn't happen. Hogan saw the embarrassment of the Warrior feud at Halloween Havoc, and he also saw the sagging ratings. So instead, he "retired", again. Later, Kevin Nash, the NEW head booker, would book himself to defeat Goldberg at Starrcade 1998 instead of Hogan, who was "retired". Hogan wasn't finished yet, though. Oh no! Hogan convinced Bischoff and Nash to let him be World Champion again, and to start up a NEW NWO. So on the first Nitro of 1999, Nash laid down for Hogan, and Hogan was champion again. Hogan was back at his old ways, never defending that title, like usual. Hogan did let Ric Flair finally get the win over him at Uncensored 1999, but of course, with a screwjob ending.
There was a 4 way match at Spring Stampede 1999, with DDP, Sting, Flair, and Hogan. DDP injured Hogan's knee in that match, and it's very unknown if Hogan was to win that and they improvised the finish, or what? Very unknown. Hogan took time off to rest the knee, but he would come back in the summer... Bischoff was fired before the summer, but they didn't hire anybody with balls to run the company. Hulk Hogan came right in, actually returning as Hulk Hogan, and won the title. He would lose it to Sting, but it was a screwjob, if you remember the Sting heel turn.
Vince Russo was hired after this, and Hogan just disappeared off the scene. He knew that Russo would be harder to influence, so he took his time off, waiting for the right opportunity to return. After Russo was fired, Hogan came back during the Sullivan era. For some reason or another, Sullivan was high on Sid being the World Champion. Hogan did have his shots, but there was always a Rick Steiner run in. ARGH! Hogan did try to work with younger talent, at the time, too. He fought the Wall in a horrible match on Nitro. He tried, at least, but the turnout of the match was just horrible for him to continue doing it.
Russo came back, and Hogan agreed to work with him. Russo tried to change Hogan's image by making him a badass, and doing "shoots" on Billy Kidman. Hogan started to put over younger talent, like Kidman and actually Mike Awesome, but Hogan had a plan in the works. With his creative power, he convinced everyone that by winning a PPV match against Kidman, he'd be rewarded with a World Title shot at Bash at the Beach. Jeff Jarrett was the World Champion then, and Hogan WOULD NOT wrestle it if he was to lose.
So Russo convinced Hogan to play along in a "shoot", which would make a very controversial ending at the Bash. It was agreed upon that Hogan would defeat Jarrett easily, and then Russo would come down and "shoot" on Hogan. This was to set up a Russo vs. Hogan feud afterward, but it didn't happen! Russo, by some means or another, actually kept Hogan completely out of WCW at this point! So what was originally worked, turned out to be reality. So feeling the screws, Hogan filed for the lawsuit that is still pending today.
But what's the point? Well, Hogan is one of the, if not the top, player in this industry ever. His popularity surged both the WWF and WCW, but Hogan didn't give back to the business. In the WWF, he hurt both Yokozuna and Bret Hart's careers, and in WCW, he conspired with his Creative Control to give him whatever he wanted. It could be that his attitude changed when he saw nothing coming out his loss to the Ultimate Warrior in 1990. Who knows? But if you ask me, WCW wouldn't have gone downhill in 1998, had Hogan's ego not destroyed the company. Had he put over certain wrestlers cleanly, OR if he didn't want to be the top man and NOT defend the title at all, then the WWF would have taken longer to beat WCW.
I'm really waiting for Hogan's next move. Will he go to WCW again, to have a good stranglehold on Eric Bischoff again? Or will he wait until March 2001 to let his WCW contract officially run out, and join the WWF one last time? I can't say for sure, but whoever gets him will indeed gain some headaches, due to what he's done in the past.
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@That's all for today. I'll be back with God knows what tomorrow, unless I'm forgetting about a Pay Per View somewhere? Ah well... take it easy!
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