Hulkamania dominated the pro wrestling scene throughout much of the 1980’s, turning Hulk Hogan into one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport. By the time 1990 came around, though, Vince McMahon was trying to find the next main event babyface to carry the WWF into the future. Some of the wrestlers who McMahon tried out in the top position from 1990 to 1997 included the Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Diesel, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker. Business struggled at times, particularly in the mid-90’s, and it wasn’t until the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1998 when McMahon discovered his next gold mine.
While promoting WWE’s upcoming Legends Night for next week’s (Jan. 4) Raw, Hogan was asked by India Today about the importance of passing the torch to the next generation in pro wrestling. Here’s how Hogan actually answered that question:
“I think it’s the most important thing in this business, to maintain the artform, and to make sure that the next generation, the next decade of wrestlers, is ready. There was a time I was red hot in the 80s and all of a sudden the 90s came and it was time to pass the torch but, it didn’t happen that way. I mean they didn’t have enough guys ready to lead at that time so, you know, we skipped a generation. It took time to pass that torch, which should have been passed at the end of the 80s. I mean we tried with a couple of guys, putting the belts on them and stuff, but they weren’t ready to run. They weren’t ready like John Cena, they weren’t ready like The Rock, they weren’t ready like Stone Cold. So it’s very, very important that the torch is passed in the correct way and the guys that have all this experience don’t just walk away. They stay there long enough to build the storylines, build the talent, and then pass the torch in the correct way. It’s very, very important.”
This response from Hogan is mostly garbage, because he’s well known as one of the most notorious backstage politickers in pro wrestling during his career. Hogan’s resistance to putting over the next generation of wrestlers was on full display during his waning years with WWF from 1990 to 1993. Here are three examples:
- Hogan famously got his shoulder up right after Ultimate Warrior’s three count over him at WrestleMania 6 in 1990. Hulk later admitted on Steve Austin’s podcast that he intentionally did this to draw attention away from Ultimate Warrior and make himself look good in defeat. (Hogan made sure to get this win back from the Warrior in WCW in 1998).
- At Survivor Series 1991, Undertaker says that Hogan faked a neck injury in an attempt to lay the blame on the Dead Man and sabotage his run as WWF champion. Undertaker dropped the title back to Hogan just a few days later, of course.
- Bret Hart defended the WWF championship against Yokozuna in the main event of WrestleMania 9 in 1993. The show ended with Hart losing the title, but Hogan stepping in to save the day and beating Yokozuna in seconds to walk out as the new champion. Hogan was the champ, and Hart was the chump. Hogan would be gone from WWF just a few months later.
That’s at least three of WWF’s top stars from the 90’s who Hogan went out of his way to undermine, to varying degrees, all in an effort to maintain his spot and not pass the torch.
Hogan was gone from the promotion by the time HBK reached the top of the mountain in 1996, but Hogan eventually returned to WWE in 2005 and politicked his way to a win over Michaels at SummerSlam. A few years before that, at Survivor Series 2002, it’s rumored that McMahon wanted Hulk Hogan to put over Brock Lesnar at Madison Square Garden, but that idea didn’t work for Hogan. The match did not happen on that card.
Perhaps the most frustrating example of all is the bullshit that went down at WCW’s Starrcade 1997 during the convoluted finish of Hulk Hogan’s main event match against Sting.
The point is, Hogan is right when he says that passing the torch in pro wrestling is important. He should know, because Andre the Giant put him over at WrestleMania 3 in one of the most famous pro wrestling matches of all-time. But considering how Hogan’s career played out from there, he is the absolute last person who should be delivering this message about passing the torch to the next generation. Once Hogan became the top star in wrestling, he was often focused on doing whatever was necessary to keep his spot and hold the rising talent down.
That he now pretends like none of that ever happened, and instead lays the blame for WWF’s declining business in the 1990’s squarely on the shoulders of some of the wrestlers who he undermined, is not surprising. It’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from Hulk Hogan.