A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON ULTIMATE WARRIOR'S WAY TO THE RING...
(THE ONE WITH THE "BEING HULK HOGAN CHAMPIONSHIP")
The year was 1991 and Jim Herd (WCW President) wanted Ric Flair to shave his head, put in a nose ring and go by the name Spartacus. And if you think that's ridiculous, so too did Flair.
Somewhere a middle aged Batista thought it was just swell though.
Flair was fired by WCW and quickly signed with WWF in August 1991. Now remember that at the time WCW was sort of a separate entity to the NWA, though the two were partners. NWA recognized the WCW champ as their champ, and vice-versa. Flair's firing stripped him of the "WCW Championship", a title that existed only on paper. It did not, however, strip him of the NWA championship, a title that existed in the form of the Big Gold Belt Flair held on lease, until September, a month into his WWF career. For a time, Flair appeared on WWF television with Big Gold and called himself the "real" world's champion. And rightly so.
It seemed a quasi title vs. title match was on the horizon for WrestleMania VIII.
Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan was coming off a WrestleMania VII that saw him reclaim the WWF world heavyweight championship he had dropped to Ultimate Warrior the previous year. Hulkamania was running, but not exactly wildly. Response to WrestleMania 7 was so tepid the entire show had to be downsized from the 90,000-seat LA Coliseum to the 16,000-seat LA Sports Arena.
Vince McMahon needed a new face for his company, not only because of Hogan's diminishing popularity but also because of the steroid scandal that was starting to rumble under Vince's feet. At the time, however, there was no one big enough to fill Hogan's shoes.
Randy Savage sure seemed like as good a replacement as any. He had be the clear number two guy during the era of Hulkamania and had carried the belt so successfully (as opposed to Ultimate Warrior's run in 1990) that Vince apparently considered keeping the belt on him at WrestleMania V.
And then there's Sid "Justice."
Like Flair, he too had made a WWF debut in mid-1991, appearing as a babyface ref during the SummerSlam main event. He was a massive brute, looking like a more chiseled Undertaker or a taller Brock Lesnar. He had a great presence in the ring that those two also enjoy, but lacked the skills of either. He wasn't bad in the ring, necessarily, but big men who can fly around and actually "wrestle" are a rare exception to the rule.
Sid was the rule.
Still, big lumbering brutes with little ring skill have been a staple of Vince's wrestling empire from (Earthquake) the (Giant Gonzalez) very (Big Show) beginning (Great Khali).
Sid was certainly in the Hulk Hogan mold to be the replacement for the red and yellow sensation. He lacked the promo skills to truly take Hogan's place, however.
As the build for WrestleMania VIII approached, it was clear the only guy who could be Hulk Hogan was, well, Hulk Hogan. According to long-standing rumor, the plan for the event would have featured the champion, Hogan, taking on the challenger, Flair. The latter would win the title and a returning Warrior would run in and start a program with the new champ (and allow the fans to leave the arena happy).
Hogan and Flair wrestled in numerous house shows in the early part of 1992 but a combination of factors led to the chances of a match between them going from being a foregone conclusion to remote at best. Those factors involved the aforementioned steroid scandal, Hogan not wanting to job to Flair, and an apparently tepid response to the match on the house show circuit. The official story that was given years later was basically "it was a match that was a few years too late." Imagine if Flair had signed in 1988 instead of 1992. We're talking about a completely different WrestleMania IV card. Personally, I tend to believe all three reasons given to be true.
Whatever the reason, Vince realized he needed a new WrestleMania main event and he had four guys at his disposal: An established superstar losing his luster, a solid number two who has proven himself more than capable of taking the reigns, a potential replacement to the current top guy, and one of the greatest heel champions in wrestling history.
Typically this is where I insert a snarky comment about lolHoganMainevents, but honestly you can see the dilemma and the reasoning behind this one having the only official "double main-event" in WrestleMania history.
Conventional wisdom says with Hogan vs. Flair off the radar, you have two matches to choose from: Sid vs. Flair or Savage vs. Flair. You'd think the idea of Flair not in the main event foolish.
Of the two options, Savage vs. Flair is the safer bet. Hogan was about to take a hiatus and this show was going to be billed as his last match; Sid no doubt had potential in Vince's eyes but he wasn't ready to carry the torch as the company's top babyface. On the other hand Vince never quite could commit to Savage as the guy to carry his company (a mistake he just kept making over the years). This is the reason Warrior was going to be brought back.
Flair vs. Sid was never going to happen, especially since that leaves Hogan with no one to work with. His only logical opponent in that scenario would have been Undertaker (who took the title from him in the first place). But holy crap...Holy crap, can you imagine in an alternate universe Hogan beating Undertaker at WrestleMania VIII? It's funny when you start booking how certain things ripple into place.
No, Hogan had to have a prime match so it was decided to turn Sid heel and let Hogan have one more match against a monster bad guy.
(Photo via WWE.com)
Savage vs. Flair would certainly be a great main event in terms of ring work, and with the right story to get the fans invested the two of them could put on a legendary match. All the pieces were lining up for this to be a great WrestleMania.
So how'd we end up with Sid vs. Hogan closing it out?
Certainly the match makes sense, but not to close the show; not to main event. Don't give me that nonsense about a "double" main event either. You end the show with the MAIN event. This was a stunt by Vince, either to sell snake oil to the fans or to appease Savage and Flair (probably both). Vince very strategically placed the title match in the exact middle of the show. To him it's not the undercard, it's the main event of the first half. How Orwellian! But it's smart; if he puts the title match on second-to-last there's no doubt which match he considered more important.
Still it's clear which wrestler he considered more important. And even though Hogan was leaving, I'm sure McMahon was motivated to send the big guy out happy, what with the feds breathing down his neck and Hogan being, along with Vince himself, the number one character in that saga.
Booking 101 says "the top babyface and the top heel fight for the top belt in the top match of the top show." This time the rule was broken. And even though Savage and Flair had a true blood feud going into the pay-per-view (PPV), and even though they were probably the two best in-ring storytellers working in anyone's upper card, they were positioned as 1B to Hogan's 1A.
Sid had the pleasure of main-eventing WrestleMania for the "Being Hulk Hogan" Championship. And he lost ... by DQ.
Do we have to talk about the match? Watching it like a smark is infuriating. You have to remember that this big guy was brought in as a big time babyface. He's taking on THE big time babyface. And the match is basically "walk over to Hogan, punch Hogan, Hogan reels, walk over to the other corner, kick Hogan, Hogan reels, HOGAN MAKES A COMEBACK, Sid endures it, walks over to the other corner, punches AND kicks Hogan..."
And it goes on like this.
Until the ending. That's when it gets entertaining (for all the wrong reasons).
Sid starts to beat down Hogan, and if you've ever seen a Hulk Hogan match, literally ever, you know that if he gets beaten down past the 10 minute mark, there's a victory a-coming. Sure enough, Hogan does his thing where he hulks up. Gorilla Monsoon just sells it ("THE HULKSTER HAS BECOME IMPERVIOUS TO PAIN") like its Al Michaels calling the Team USA miracle. He was such a professional, not even a wink to the silliness of it.
Anyway, Hulk does his shtick and goes for the boot, only Sid doesn't take the fall. That's fine. That sells the big man's size and power. But Hogan plays to the crowd for a good 10 seconds leaving Sid to just...wobble there with a dazed and confused look on his face.
The chuckles begin.
Hogan motions to the crowd that he wants to slam the big guy. Okay, whatever. Slam him. I mean he's not King Kong Bundy here. Hogan lifts him up-effortlessly-and drops him to the ground. But then Hogan winces and holds his back like this was some heretofore insurmountable obstacle in his quest to
regain the gold not lose.
The chuckling grows more intense.
Hogan goes for the cover and you can count the 1-2-3 in your sleep. Except, unexpectedly, Sid kicks out. Suddenly that little twerp Harvey Wippleman (Sid's manager) jumps onto ringside and Hogan picks him up over his head. The bell starts ringing and somehow, though Hogan was clearly the aggressor here, Sid gets disqualified.
Now I'm chortling.
Hogan lightly tosses Harvey into the arms of Sid.
When suddenly, out of nowhere, mother-loving Papa Shango (the artist future-ly known as "The Godfather") appears. In all his voodoo makeup he starts running down the loooooong Hoosier Dome isle. And I mean long. Count it on the tape. It's a good 10 seconds from the time Gorilla announces it to the time he slides into the ring. The camera cuts back to the action with Hogan and Sid...then back to Shango (still running), then back to the action...then back to Papa Shango as he finally reaches the ring.
I'm dying because every time I see it I think of Sir Lancelot running toward the castle in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.
The double team is on before...
*crash dun dun dun dun crash dun dun dun crash*
ULTIMATE WARRIOR IS BACK.
AND LOOK AT HIM RUN.
OOOOH HE'S RUNNING...
DOWN THE LOOOONG ISLE HE'S RUNNING...
HUFFING AND PUFFING AND I CAN JUST HEAR HIM SAYIN "I made it! *gasp* I'm not late!"
Everytime I see it... I'm laughing as I type this. Hold on I'm going to pull it up on YouTube...
And just like Hogan cupping the ear while Sid wobbles, as soon as Warrior hits the ring, even though Papa Shango is right there ready to pounce, Warrior still has to take a moment and do his little fist pump, leaving Shango standing there like a putz waiting to be taken out.
Bless his heart, the gimmick stops for no man.
As the two celebrate in the ring (complete with Hogan clearly mouthing "raise my arm brotha") Howard Finkle declares Hogan the winner by DQ. Which makes no sense at all but at this point the match "ended" so long ago who cares.
(Photo via WWE.com)
It was such an explosion of stupidity, hilarity and insanity it's amazing it was on the same show that featured maybe Roddy Piper's best match and the aforementioned brilliant WWF title bout.
Having this close the show is like eating a fine steak dinner and then capping off the night with a game of naked twister at your in-laws house.
Again, I can see why this went on last. But c'moooon. The title match was such a great feud, with so many components working in its favor. The show (which is already considered "not bad" by most) would have been viewed much more favorably if the sight of Savage hoisting the belt had been the closing moment.
Instead, the circus came to town.
Sound off, Cagesiders. Did you like the Hogan vs. Sid match? Should it have closed the show or should the "double" main event have been switched? Let us know in the comments below. I didn't even get into the Royal Rumble, where Hogan clearly acted like a heel against the still-babyface Sid. The fans jeered him for helping Flair eliminate Sid and win the Rumble. Had Hogan turned heel and passed the babyface torch to Sid with a clean loss, what would that have meant?
Something to think about...
We're coming up on the number seven entry in the series, which means it's only the 23rd worst main event in WrestleMania history. I hope you have a shovel with you, but if not, I know a guy who always has one handy...
- 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