Hulk Hogan reflects on one of the most talked about matches in WWE history.
On March 17th, 2002 inside of the SkyDome in Toronto, nearly 70,000 fans inside of the dome witnessed WrestleMania X8. There were twelve matches total that took place during the show and while all were memorable, when WrestleMania 18 comes to mind there is one match that wrestling fans think about and that was the clash of eras featuring The Rock versus Hulk Hogan.
Going into the match The Rock was the fan favorite and had the crowd on his side for years but a shift occurred when he and Hogan stepped into the ring at WrestleMania and the Toronto faithful quickly got behind Hogan and turned on The Rock. Hogan and Rock battled for over 16 minutes and at the end it was Johnson who picked up the victory but not to the pleasure of the fans in attendance. During a recent edition of Bill Apter's 'Apter Chat' podcast, Hogan joined the pod and towards the end of the conversation he discussed his WrestleMania match with "The Great One" and that aforementioned shift that happened when the crowd was pro-Hogan and anti-Rocky.
“Well I knew the character was really catching on. I knew the Hollywood character was really catching on just by the horrible, terrible stuff we did and we still got cheered like hitting The Rock in the head with a hammer and running [him] over with the ambulance. If you don’t get booed doing that then there’s somebody that’s definitely miscalculating the situation and we did, and it was… I mean I guess… Vince likes crazy stuff so I think when I walked out and probably started getting cheered he was probably smiling knowing Vince the way I do." Hogan explained. "He probably was thinking that was cool as hell and lets see how this goes. Vince likes taking a ride on that Thunderbolt too. He likes to really, really go out there and see what happens. That’s what he used to love to do was get out there and just wing it man, back in the day so, when I went out and they cheered me like crazy and I got in the ring and I felt that momentum I could've… you could've easily done the Scott Hall, punk somebody out, steal all their steam and flatten them out like a flat tire where they’re ruined but that’s not my deal bro. Once I felt that energy I said, ‘Oh lets roll with this’ and it turned out to be great.”
Hogan stated that most in that situation would have rubbed it in The Rock's face storyline-wise that the crowd was turning on him but in this particular situation he had to play it smart and give the fans and Dwayne Johnson the respect so that he would not push it in terms of the crowd favoring him.
“Well it was crazy though but I had a bunch of tools - the whole Hollywood gimmick and having an artistic liberty to steal from Scott and Kevin because we were all the n.W.o - we did the same stuff." He continued, "A lot of the stuff I had to be careful with. I told you about how Scott Hall will look at you and go, ‘Oooo’ with his fingers and twinkle his fingers and he gets it, it works, and Scott’s the perfect guy to do it. If I would have tried to do that it might have hurt the match. I didn’t wanna make fun of The Rock because he was getting booed. When they booed him I still looked at the people with a respect for him. A lot of babyfaces would jump on that bandwagon and try to rub it in. I went the other way with it and I think that’s what kept the match so… booking…. The storyline looked so competitive because I respected how great The Rock was. It was a lot of fun man but I did not expect the reaction.” Hogan concluded.
On a related note, Fightful has an all-time WrestleMania results article published and by clicking here you can view the results from WrestleMania X8.
If you are going to use the quote above, please credit 'The Apter Chat' podcast with an H/T to Fightful for the transcriptions.