STOP(PING) THE MADNESS
(THE ONE WHERE HOGAN GOT HIS WIN BACK WITHOUT EVER LOSING IN THE FIRST PLACE)
The year was 1985. After WrestleMania's smashing success, Vince McMahon continued his push to nationalize his sports entertainment brand, signing a variety of performers; some of them were talented wrestlers and others were colorful personalities. Usually he found one but not the other. In Randy Savage he found both.
Savage began his work with The World Wrestling Federation in June of '85, and was pushed immediately as the so-called "top free agent in wrestling." Less than a year into his WWF career he was Intercontinental champion and, had the term existed in those days, was instantly seen as "the next big thing." He had a unique presence in the ring, carrying himself unlike any other worker. He had a natural charisma to go along with great agility despite his big size. He wasn't huge but he wasn't a lightweight.
He was one of a kind.
After disposing of George Steele at WrestleMania 2, Savage's next big title feud was with Ricky Steamboat. Savage played the heel in the run up to the contest, attacking "The Dragon" before a match between them and injuring his throat. By the time Steamboat returned (not coincidentally around the time of WrestleMania 3), he and Savage were ready to settle their differences on the big stage.
Some have criticized the show-stealing match between the two as too reliant on pre-match preparation without any room for the standard mid-match improvisation. My opinion: You can criticize the chef if his steak is overcooked, but don't criticize him because your steak isn't a bean burrito. Apples and oranges. Savage's infamous commitment to detail, and insistence that he and his opponents work out their matches, spot-for-spot (using, according to Steamboat, flash cards and pop quizzes) elevated the Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania 3 to such a degree it is widely considered one of the greatest matches of all time.
After WrestleMania 3, Savage won the King of the Ring tournament and with his charisma and talent impossible to deny (both in the ring, on the mic, even on commentary, no one could touch him), the Macho Man turned babyface and resumed chasing after the Intercontinental championship (now held by Honky Tonk Man). In the course of this late-1987 feud, Savage would first team up with Hulk Hogan. The two were the undisputed number one and number two fan favorites on the roster so their aligning with one another, while exciting, was not headline news.
In early 1988, Hogan lost his world championship to Andre the Giant and, as you know, the title was vacated soon after and a tournament was created to decide the next champion. Though Hogan and Andre were the expected final two combatants, the tournament instead booked them against one another in the quarterfinals (which was stupid), in a match that ended with a double-DQ (which was even stupider). As a result of the match, the fans were promised that, by the end of the night, there would be a new champion walking out of WrestleMania.
By the end of the night, it was Randy Savage.
At least I think it was. If...Hogan...could...just...get out of the way...I could get a good look at him.
Vince paid who knows how much money to Robin Leach (of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) to be the B-celebrity in charge of handing the new championship to the new champion. Instead, Hogan nearly hops over the table and yanks it out of Leach's hand -- looking like some kind of obnoxious, hyperactive child on Christmas morning -- so that he could be the one to personally deliver it to Savage.
Not only that, but Hogan nearly cost Savage the match when he interfered -- UNNECESSARILY -- and whacked Ted DiBiase with a chair. Did the Hulkster have a beef with DiBiase? Certainly. But save your acts of vengeance for your own time. This was Macho Man's hour, but the bald butthead just kept hogging the spotlight.
As Savage and the lovely Mrs. Elizabeth were genuinely moved by the moment and tried to celebrate the championship win in peace (a victory that came after 15 years of working in the business), freaking Hogan just kept mugging for the camera with his goofy facial expressions.
GET OUT THE WAY!
GET OUT THE WAY, HULK!
GET OUT THE WAY!
Oh, well. At least the torch had been passed and Macho Man could take the belt and run with it the way Hogan had before him.
Despite more than carrying the WWF banner throughout 1988, with house show revenue strong and Savage popular in every audience he performed in front of, Hogan was always right beside him, never giving the new champ a chance to breathe.
They main-evented the inaugural SummerSlam together and again teamed up at Survivor Series. In other words, there wasn't a major PPV event where Savage was allowed to stand alone, though he was the champion. Hogan was always there, making sure fans never forgot him.
Macho Man began to think so, especially after he caught the Hulkster having eyes for Elizabeth. It had been a while since Savage had really let out that "jealous boyfriend" side of his character but on a January 1989 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event (SNME), he teased just that. Hogan and Savage, the so-called Mega Powers, had been working against their long-time rivals (look at me, I'm even describing them as a tag team and not, you know, the WWF Champion and his hanger-on), The Twin Towers. In the midst of the action, Hogan was beaten down until Savage drove the heels away with a chair. While Savage played the hero, Mrs. Elizabeth (now the manager of both men) helped the Hulkster to the back, leaving the champion all alone in the middle of the ring.
Naturally, Savage was peeved. Who wouldn't be?
A month later, the Mega Powers took on the Twin Towers on SNME and late in the match Savage was knocked into Elizabeth. Hogan carried her to the back, leaving Savage once again looking like a chump.
Backstage, Savage confronted Hogan and threw down the gauntlet "You want to challenge me for the belt, I'll beat you 1-2-3, that'd be okay." Hogan, meanwhile, hammed it up begging for Elizabeth to talk some sense into the champion, until WHAM! Savage attacked Hogan, cementing his heel turn and setting the stage for WrestleMania V's main event.
People have tried to compare this feud to the year-long feud between The Rock and John Cena, but that comparison is inaccurate. This match wasn't booked a year out; it was only made a month or two before the two locked up. But it FELT like it had been building for a year. The fact that both events occurred in the same venue, and featured the two dominate babyfaces from the year prior, gives the short-feud the feel of a slow build.
The story is timeless (a feud over jealousy and insecurity), and relatable by non-fans of pro wrestling. Both characters played their parts to perfection too (and I am firmly in Macho's corner), and when it was time to wrestle they tore the house down. Savage's obsession with in-ring perfection led him and Hogan to have the best match of the Hulkster's career up to that point.
I suppose in terms of storytelling the right man won. My criticism is on the need to turn Savage after a successful year as champion just so he could be fed to Hogan. Why did Hogan need the belt back? It's not like business was tanking like it would with Ultimate Warrior as champion. It just seems like everything that happened was in place going back to February of 1987 when Hogan was screwed out of the title in the first place. He never really lost the belt so now he gets it back. It's just a shame that Savage only got one year and half the spotlight with the belt before Hogan got his win back. But I'm a Savage mark so maybe I'm biased. Take my bias out and there's no fault to be found with this main event. It had everything you could want: great story, great drama, great atmosphere, great commentary (Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura ... swoon), great characters, great match.
Is it the fourth best main event in WrestleMania history? I sure think so. I can explain this feud to a non-fan and pique their interest and I can show them the incredible match and maintain their enthusiasm all the way to the end (though I have to explain the concept of "hulking up" and why Hogan makes that stupid duck face every time he does it). That's the hallmark of a great main event and this match more than delivers.
Sound off, Cagesiders. What's your opinion on this main event? Is it worthy of such a high spot or is it overrated (it's not, but I welcome your very wrong opinion if you think so!) now that we're so many years removed?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
No more teasers: Tomorrow's main event is the number three entry on the countdown. See you then!
- Ranking Mania main events #5: Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H
- Ranking Mania main events #6: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior
- Ranking Mania main events #7: Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle
- Ranking Mania main events #8: Triple H vs. John Cena
- Ranking Mania main events #9: Steve Austin vs. The Rock
- Ranking Mania main events #10: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
- Ranking Mania main events #11: John Cena vs. The Rock
- Ranking Mania main events #12: Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena
- Ranking Mania main events #13: Undertaker vs. Edge
- Ranking Mania main events #14: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels
- Ranking Mania main events #15: Batista vs. Triple H
- Ranking Mania main events #16: Mick Foley vs. The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Big Show
- Ranking Mania main events #17: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna II
- Ranking Mania main events #18: John Cena vs. The Rock II
- Ranking Mania main events #19: Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase
- Ranking Mania main events #20: Hogan & Mr. T vs. Piper & Orndorff
- Ranking Mania main events #21: Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
- Ranking Mania main events #22: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy
- Ranking Mania main events #23: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
- Ranking Mania main events #24: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice
- Ranking Mania main events #25: John Cena vs. The Miz
- Ranking Mania main events #26: Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid
- Ranking Mania main events #27: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter
- Ranking Mania main events #28: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna
- Ranking Mania main events #29: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow