OF CONSTELLATIONS AND MOONBATS
(THE ONE WHERE HOGAN WAS ACTUALLY THE LESSER DOUCHEBAG IN THE RING)
INTO A NOSE DIVE...
The year was 1990.
Wait ... are we really gonna do this all serious like? This one?
Look, it's 11:45 p.m. as I write this. I'm a little tired, so this one might not be as tight and focused as previous articles. I just finished watching the most recent WWE Countdown episode, looking at the top 10 blunders in WWE(‘s tape library) history. It's hilarious, especially the work of Dean Ambrose. Of course Ultimate Warrior was on there, with his stupid voodoo feud with Papa Shango being spotlighted.
I was kind of hoping they'd just devote a segment to Warrior's promos. They had such a unique style and were so passionately delivered. The only problem was Warrior had this bad little habit of talking in circles (more like a drain) and losing his train of thought leading to sentences going on a journey to parts unknown.
But man, what a character.
I know the backstage stuff. I know he was widely considered to be certifiably insane. I know he was a prick to Vince McMahon, holding him up for money literally seconds before running out to work a SummerSlam main event, no showing scheduled dates, etc. I know he failed to appreciate the numerous "second chances" he was given, and each return was shorter and shorter (and less and less special).
But in 1990 there were few bigger.
In fact, you could argue there was only one bigger guy in the World Wrestling Federation, and that was the champion Hulk Hogan. His popularity was not nearly what it was just two years before when he and Andre the Giant looked set to rematch for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV. Instead, Macho Man Randy Savage came away with the gold and he and Hogan shared the spotlight until THE MEGA POWERS EXPLODE(D)!
After WrestleMania V, Hogan basically picked up right where he left off before dropping the belt a couple years prior. The only difference was, the peak of the Rock-N-Wrestling era was behind him. Now, away from the "fad", pro wrestling would have to get by on the more passionate fans that stuck with the psuedo-sport after WrestleMania III's success.
Passionate fans equal impatient fans, fans who want the "next big thing" to hurry up and get here. You can get by for a long time with a lot of casual support. By the very word, a "casual" fan is one who has other interests, tunes in and out for the big events, and doesn't follow the show as closely as others. Thus, things don't get stale quite so fast.
The WWF audience in 1990 still had a lot of casual fans, but largely the fanbase was comprised of the dedicated audience that either had existed pre-WrestleMania I or came in soon after and took to the product like white on rice. Either way, they'd seen a lot, they'd seen it repeated, and they were ready for something new.
Because of that, Hulk Hogan's popularity had dipped a bit, allowing for a true magic moment to occur during the 1990 Royal Rumble match. Soon after Hogan entered, the ring was cleared and all that remained was the Hulkster and the Warrior. It's one of those great little moments that occur seemingly spontaneously (this wasn't a showdown between the final two -- there were still half a dozen eliminations to go), but of course there was nothing spontaneous about it at all. This was classic Vince McMahon, letting the crowd be his barometer. Based on their reaction (they went nuts for the brief 1-on-1 showdown), Vince had his WrestleMania VI main event.
Soon after the Rumble, the main event was set and then the stipulation was added that it would be title for title. The Intercontinental championship today means little compared to its standing in 1990. Back then it was the only other singles title in the company and one of only three total (for comparison's sake, there are six championships floating around Raw and SmackDown today). "Title for Title" sounds like a meaningless gimmick (it certainly would be today) but back then it was a legitimately big deal.
The build to the main event featured both guys having each other's backs in matches against heels while also cutting some of the most bizarre promos on one another. Everyone knows Warriors "HO KOGAN" promo, but people forget just how eccentric Hogan could be on the mic in those days. At one point he basically stated his desire for Ultimate Warrior to die and be reincarnated as a newborn Hulkamanic.
Can you imagine Cena cutting that promo on The Rock in 2011?
The build was everything you could ask for with the fans fully invested and both men rallying their respective fans behind them. Hogan may have lost a little bit of his shine, but that only allowed the Toronto crowd to be truly split between the two men.
Let me take a minute to point out the wonderful introduction to the PPV itself. Vince has this wonderful little monologue about constellations in the galaxy, ending with him screaming in his patented gravelly voice "IT'S...THE ULLLLLTIMATE CHALLLLENGE!" I love it. WrestleMania VI is my favorite of the early shows. There's junk here, like all the old WrestleMania's have, but the good is very good, and fun.
The main event sold the show, however, and it delivered in spades. Is it a technical masterpiece? Of course not. You have to know what you're getting when you go into a Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior match. The former had good cardio for a worker his size, and if you watch his work in AWA and in Japan you'd see that he could actually "wrestle." He's not Curt Hennig but he can go better than you might think. Warrior on the other hand, to this point had maybe two good matches on his resume (vs. Rick Rude at WrestleMania V and SummerSlam 1989). To have doubts about Warrior's ability to work a main event match was certainly justifiable.
Right off the bat the two men defined their characters and made this a match between more than two "wrestlers." This was a main event between the two biggest "characters" in the WWF. Hogan had his big Real American entrance, complete with all the bluster and bravado he was famous for. Warrior ran down to the ring and did his own patented shtick. Jesse Ventura naturally called him stupid for intentionally gassing himself before the match ever starts. Gorilla Monsoon brushed it off and then remarked how the place was "going bananas." Ah, the days when commentary was good and charming.
Again, the "match" isn't Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels. It's a heavyweight clash of the titans. They didn't do a lot in the match but that's not a knock against it. They simply took what they DID do and made each move THE MOST EPIC THING EVER. Tie ups, headlocks, bear hugs, THE GREATEST TEST OF STRENGTH EVER; all of it was like Zeus vs. Jupiter. The crowd sold it, the commentary sold the crap out of it, and both guys in the ring sold it.
The finish is iconic, with Warrior hitting his Gorilla Press Slam and Splash combo, only getting a two count, followed by Hogan hulking up and going for the leg drop...MISS...BIG SPLASH BY THE WARRIOR...and freaking Earl Hebner with his insufferable slow count on the 1-2-3 (a trademark that ruined many big finishes)...
WARRIOR WINS Hogan kicks out at 3 ½.
Criticism abounds regarding Hogan's no sell of Warrior's finisher, but I read on the interwebs that this was his first clean pinfall defeat since a 1981 heel loss to Tony Atlas. If so that's incredible. Sure it was a different era, but pushing a decade without laying down for the "three second tan" is remarkable.
If you couldn't tell I love this main event. I've said before that, while I love a technical showcase, I'm a mark for big "clash of the titans" main events. This is that. For that reason, and for everything just "clicking" with it, I think it's the sixth best main event in WrestleMania history.
Sound off, Cagesiders. What do you think of the main event? Can you look past the limitations of the bell-to-bell action or is there just not enough going on between the ropes to justify the high position? Let us know in the comments below.
Like the winner of this main event, tomorrow's main event can only be found in parts unknown. See you then!
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