“I cannot in clear conscience allow these two men to once again batter each other beyond the point of exhaustion, past the threshold of pain, and at the expense of risking torturous injury. Therefore, I will not sanction a rematch in the near future.”
That’s the memo WWF’s figurehead President Jack Tunney sent out immediately after WrestleMania VI to explain why there would be no rematch between the new champion Ultimate Warrior and the former champion Hulk Hogan.
Of course, smart money would say that a rematch between the two men was a lock for WrestleMania VII the following year, especially given the big box office the first match did…
…not to mention Hogan’s need to get his win back.
Instead, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and Vince McMahon got the bold notion that building the next Mania around a real-life war would be enough to shatter all attendance records and sell out the 100,000+ capacity LA Memorial Coliseum, a venue that dwarfed the 67,000-capacity Sky Dome of WrestleMania VI.
Thus, Vince cut Warrior’s title reign short, putting the title on an Iraqi-sympathizing Sgt. Slaughter to set up a match with Hogan at the big event. Vince needed the USA vs. Iraq angle to make a big difference in Mania attendance. How big? 30,000 fans big. And it certainly did make such a difference, and then some – 1991’s WrestleMania drew 40,000 fewer fans than the previous year’s show.
Fans never saw Hogan-Warrior II – if they only watched WWF, that is.
Or if they watched WCW but were smart enough not to buy it on pay-per-view.
The year is 1998, and the Warrior has returned to the ring to finally avenge his… victory – is that right? – against Hogan.
The place? Halloween Havoc 1998 in front of 10,633 fans…
…according to the same Wikipedia page that calls me a “journalist”.
With a rematch this big, emotions run high and tempers are bound to flare.
Warrior comes into the match having waged an intense campaign of smoke, trap doors, and mirror tricks, while Hollywood Hogan, for his part, launches into an escalating series of threats against Warrior.
“I could kill this guy!”, he says to one group of fans.
“I’m gonna murder the bum!”, he says to another.
“I’m gonna kick your BUTT!”, he says to Warrior’s face.
The action starts before the bell even rings and doesn’t let up for a second. And by “action”, I mean, “stalling”, as both men spend most of the match pacing around in and out of the ring.
The men’s first exchange comes when Hogan applies a wristlock on Warrior. I know Lou Thesz liked to say that Hulk didn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch…
…but do you really think the Hulkster ever intended to sell Jay Leno’s wristwatch?
That was embarrassing, yes, but at least Jay looked like he was trying to hurt Hogan; Warrior appears to give Hollywood a very enthusiastic handshake that nevertheless has the Hulkster howling in agony.
Hogan powders out of the ring and stalls some more…
…before the two men do a collar-and-elbow deal. I refuse to call it “locking up” when these two don’t even bother shutting the door.
Hogan proceeds to punish Warrior with an endless series of feather-light punches and kicks before draping his knee across his opponent’s neck. Warrior sells by humping the air.
From there, they re-do the test of strength spot from 1990…
…except that sometime in the intervening 8 years, someone has clued them in that it looked like Warrior was blowing him.
Another difference between 1990 and this event is that Diamond Dallas Page would be wrestling for the world title in the main event instead of driving the Honky Tonk Man to the ring.
One more big difference? The “Boring” chants starting to pick up steam five minutes into the match.
Remember, this is 1998, when ECW’s gritty, violent style of wrestling has broken into the mainstream and WCW’s own high-flying luchadors are dazzling audiences nightly. And despite all these changes to the wrestling landscape, and to their own steroid-withdrawn bodies, Hulk and Warrior still choose to try to recreate their 1990 muscle-fest.
Warrior gains the upper hand in the knuckle lock, sending a shock through Hogan’s body.
The two men then start bouncing off the ropes for no good reason. “A little crisscross going on there,” notes Schiavone, restraining his bemusement quite admirably. “I haven’t seen that in a long time in the sport.”
Eight and a half years, to be exact.
Eight and a half years is also the approximate amount of time that Warrior pumps himself up between bodyslamming Hogan and clotheslining him over the top rope.
Hey, haven’t I seen this before, too?
The referee gets knocked down, allowing nWo Hollywood to run in and interfere on Hogan’s behalf.
This poses no problem for Warrior, who quickly dispatches such heavy hitters as The Giant, Vincent (?), and Stevie Ray (??) with clotheslines, which is enough to send them packing for good.
After Warrior scores a visual pin with no referee to count, Hogan breaks out a rare back suplex on Warrior…
…excuse me, wrong year.
Hogan breaks out a rare back suplex on Warrior…
…then takes off his belt to whip Warrior with it.
By now, the referee is fully conscious and on his feet. Tony Schiavone explains away the lack of a disqualification, claiming Nick Patrick is letting Hogan use the belt because he wore it into the ring and it is therefore part of his ring attire and not illegal. “That’s something they’ll argue about in board rooms and front offices in pro wrestling for years.”
Little does Tony know that in twenty years’ time, they’d be arguing in board rooms and front offices about murdered journalists and whether to honor agreements with Saudi royalty.
Hogan starts trying to drop elbows on Warrior, who rolls out of the way. Hogan tries this over a dozen times, each time to no avail.
Okay, I looped that footage, but the real footage is even stupider, as Warrior practices his fire safety to stop, drop, and roll across the mat into Hogan’s legs. How fast can a man log-roll? Not very fast, it turns out, but it’s still too fast for Hogan to dodge Warrior’s never-before-seen and never-seen-since line of offense.
Warrior *just* misses his splash, then humps the mat.
Both men punch each other a few times until Warrior grabs Hogan’s belt for himself and punches him with the buckle. Hogan drops to the ground and blades his forehead, angling for a dramatic camera close-up of his crimson mask.
I repeat, a dramatic camera close-up of his crimson mask.
No close-up comes. Instead, Hogan pops up to his knees after a few seconds, no-selling his own blade job, and waddles over to the corner.
Hogan takes out a plastic bag, some paper, and a Bic lighter, preparing to either light up a J or throw a fireball – most likely the latter. As the Hulkster gets ready to batter Warrior the point of exhaustion, past the threshold of pain, and at the expense of risking torturous injury, Jack Tunney sits in front of his TV set in Toronto, vindicated.
You’ve all seen this spot – Hogan fumbles with the lighter, Warrior sells the phantom fireball, Hogan finally gets the flash paper lit, but it burns up in his hand and misses Warrior by a mile. This is a problem of course, because the Warrior is supposed to act like he’s blinded, setting up the finish to the match. (The fact that they’re preparing to end the match when practically nothing has happened in the first 13 minutes is also a problem. Or possibly the solution)
Announcers immediately cover for the blown spot by talking about how fortunate it was that he missed.
“What a tragedy that could have become,” says Heenan.
“That would have been horrible,” says Schiavone.
Got it? Hogan’s fireball accidentally blowing up in his face is not a botch; it’s actually a miracle, and shame on you fans for complaining about it!
With the Warrior decidedly not blinded, he and Hogan spin their wheels trying to figure out a way to get to the finish. You’d think they’d be used to stalling by now, but it’s obvious they’re lost.
Warrior delivers a series of axe-handle smashes – axe-handle pats, really – which the announcers try to pass off as the reason Hogan’s bleeding from the forehead.
Hogan hits a low blow in clear view of the referee, then clotheslines Warrior, who sells it by stumbling to the mat. Hogan hits one leg drop and attempts a second.
As Horace Hogan, whom Hulk destroyed with a chair on the previous Nitro, approaches ringside with a chair…
Hollywood misses a second leg drop…
…allowing a blown-up Warrior to hulk up – warrior up? – one last time.
So exhausted is Warrior by now that he looks less like he’s making a fiery comeback and more like he’s auditioning for a Cheers to You commercial.
Eric Bischoff, master of damage control (see Victory Road 2011) outright puts Nick Patrick in a headlock so he can’t see Horace hit Warrior with a chair.
“Why. Why,” say the announcers, more exhausted than shocked.
Hogan mercifully gets the 1-2-3, then hugs his nephew Horace…
…who empties a bottle of lighter fluid on Warrior to little crowd reaction. I repeat: a man is about to be set ablaze in the middle of the ring, and after sitting through fifteen minutes of Hogan-Warrior, the fans don’t even care anymore.
Doug Dellinger rushes in to stop Hogan from setting Warrior on fire, as if Warrior had anything to worry about from Hogan and a lighter.
“Do you realize the tragedy that was averted here?” says Bobby Heenan.
Averted? Did you even watch this match, Bobby?
As a final insult to the fans watching at home, the Goldberg-DDP title match got cut off in many cable markets due to the show running over its scheduled 3 hour time slot. That meant that Hogan’s abomination in Vegas somehow ended up closing the broadcast despite Hulk not even being scheduled for the advertised main event, leaving everyone feeling ripped off.
Ironically, though WCW had tried to recreate WrestleMania VI, they ended up recreating WrestleMania IX.