wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews & Ranks Hulk Hogan’s Mania Matches (Pt. I)

April 17, 2020 | Posted by Larry Csonka
WWE WrestleManias WWF WWE WrestleMania III Andre the Giant Hulk Hogan WrestleMania's Hulk Hogan’s

Despite the fact that many of us, myself included, may not like Hulk Hogan as a person, and I never was a fan to begin with as I grew up on the NWA, I do think it’s important to have perspective. While I may not like Hogan, I can fully appreciate that he’s one of the biggest, most successful, and iconic stars the wrestling business has ever seen. From his rise in the AWA to the move to the WWF, the Rock & Wrestling Era, his move to WCW, the n.W.o. & Monday night wars; Hogan was the guy brother… dude… jack. But let me tell you something, I personally find that one thing many fans ignore is Hogan’s impact on the success of WrestleMania. Hogan was without a doubt the anchor of the early Mania events, and without his impact on their early success, Mania would not have blossomed into the financial, stadium filling monster it is today. So today, I start my two part look back at he Hulkster’s WrestleMania matches, and at the end of part two, will rank them from worst to first. Thanks for reading! It’s wrestling, we love it and will disagree. The only rules are “have a take, be respectful, and don’t be a dick.”

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WrestleMania – Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/Jimmy Snuka) vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff (w/Bob Orton) [**¾]: We go back to the beginning, and in many ways the perfect match to kick things off. Many fans and writers look back on this as the culmination of the rock and wrestling expansion, and the bottom line is that it worked. You had Hulk Hogan, the biggest star in the promotion with his perfect rival Roddy Piper. Orndorff, Orton and Snuka were all top names that the audience knew and were invested in; they were perfectly placed and played their roles very well. And then you add in Mr. T, who was huge coming off of Rocky 3 (which also was great since Hogan had a role in it) and was also starring on the A-Team. They had the venue of New York City, you had celebrities involved outside of the match, you had Mohammed Ali as a special referee; they had all of the parts involved to succeed and I feel that they largely did. The match is rather average, but it’s more of a spectacle than anything else. Mr. T looks great and does well enough in his performance, gets a great hot tag and the heels make him look very good. The final product comes off as greater than the sum of its parts, it has a good crowd, is very entertaining and overall was a huge success for the show and the company.

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WrestleMania 2 – WWF Heavyweight Title Steel Cage Match: Champion Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (w/Bobby Heenan) [*½]: The WrestleMania 2 main event is a match I have long hated, not because of it’s match quality (although that never helped) but because I always thought that it should have been Piper vs. Hogan. To me it made the most sense, and a match I feel should have main evented the biggest show of the year. You always hear the phrase, “this was a product of its time,” and that is exactly what this match was. This was the Hulk Hogan vs. the monster heel formula. Now, before you accuse me of being a Hogan hater I willfully admit that this was a successful formula for the company. They could build up and feed the big heels to Hogan, and he could make the big “superhero” like comebacks. The crowds ate it up during these days, and they made a lot of money doing this. This was the Hogan vs. Heenan family monster; build the monster, allow the monster to get one up on Hogan at some point and or possibly injure him, and then set up the big blow off match. And that’s exactly what this is. Bundy controls a lot here, working the injured ribs of Hogan and ripping off his bandages. It’s just not a good match or overly interesting. Bundy works over Hogan, hits his finish, Hogan Hulks up, fights back, says fuck your moves and escapes the cage before Bundy can and then works over Heenan a bit for good measure. I was never a fan of the match when I was young, and am not a fan today. But you have to respect that Hogan formula, it made a lot of money for a lot of people.

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WrestleMania 3 – WWF World Heavyweight Title Match: Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (w/Bobby Heenan) [*]: WrestleMania was the first and set the ball rolling; WrestleMania 2 was an experiment by the company, one where they got a bit too ambitious. But as they worked to WrestleMania 3, everything seemed to fall into place for the company. They pulled the turn of Andre the Giant, they set him to feud with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and while it was every Hogan vs. monster feud in many ways, the build worked and sold the masses on the match. This is considered the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling by many, and it was certainly one of not the most important ones for the company. Disputed attendance aside, putting that many bodies in the Silver Dome was impressive; it simply worked. The match is not good in any way shape or form; but is one I completely appreciate for its historical importance. I can appreciate matches that aren’t technically very good. I see that they drew a huge crowd, that the crowd hated Andre and that it was the Hogan vs. monster formula. But it is also obvious that the match suffers, mainly due to Andre’s deteriorating physical condition. Andre’s back was so bad that he was barely mobile, and the more I go back to watch the match, I have a really hard time watching it on certain viewings. Just because it was one of if not the biggest matches in wrestling (certainly for WWE) that doesn’t make it good. They accomplished exactly what they wanted to with the match; Hulkamania was an even bigger phenomenon than it was going in as he defeated the mystique of the giant. It wasn’t pretty, but it made a lot of money and in reality made the WWF the undisputed big dog in wrestling.

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WrestleMania 4 – Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [DUD]: This is the big rematch from WrestleMania III, but this time, Hogan and Andre got byes in the first round because they were the two guys who were involved in all the controversy when Andre beat Hogan for the title with the double Hebner gimmick, Ted DiBiase bought the championship from Andre, and angry WWF Dad Jack Tunney stepped in, leading to the lethargic and really bad tournament on this show. In all honesty, the WrestleMania III match is absolutely no good in any way, but at least it had the epic feel and accomplished its goal, which was making money and continuing the rise of Hogan. This fell to the sequel curse, in that 99% of sequels can’t live up to the original, which shouldn’t have been hard, but unfortunately the WrestleMania IV match is actually worse than the WrestleMania III match. Andre is even more immobile a year later, they do nothing, and what they do is beyond lethargic, has no magic and the five-minutes feels like an hour. The double DQ finish does it no favors, one of many poor matches that take place on an all-time bad Mania.

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WrestleMania 5 – WWF Title Match: Champion Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan [****¾]: When you bring up Hogan vs. Savage, the first thing that pops into my mind is that they are part of one of the best and one of my favorite match builds ever. I absolutely love the story arc between WrestleMania 4 and 5; Savage won the title at WM 4 and went on for a year as the champion. He had teamed with Hogan as the Mega-Powers, a true super team playing off of the Mania 4 finish, and one that just worked on several levels. But in storyline, their egos and Savage’s jealousy in regards to Elizabeth were too much for them to overcome, and the team couldn’t survive. One year after Savage won the title, he would return to Trump Plaza, the site of his title victory, this time defending the title against the man that helped him win it, his former partner Hulk Hogan. It just worked so well, and was an example of great storytelling, when WWE had a vision and planned things out very well. The match itself is excellent, and one of Hogan’s top tier matches. It was laid out well; it had great action and the feeling that everything they did had a purpose. While the ending feels anticlimactic (a lot of Hogan’s matches do, kick out of finish, Hulk up, big boot and leg drop) it worked overall and this was an excellent match to go back and watch. So many matches lose something over time, but I feel this one is still very strong. This was the first great WrestleMania main event, and in a way it is no surprise. These men had great chemistry and this match was an excellent example of it and I absolutely loved the Mania to Mania build for it. They had the crowd where they wanted them and the hatred poured out in everything they did. The dynamic was perfect. It’s one of the best Mania main events and one of if not Hogan’s overall best matches ever.

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WrestleMania 6 – Title vs. Title Match: WWF Champion Hulk Hogan vs. WWE IC Champion Ultimate Warrior [****¼]: Regardless of what happened after WrestleMania 6 with Warrior’s push and all, the fact was that this was the very essence of a “WrestleMania Feud.” In the same vain as Hulk vs. Andre and Hulk vs. Savage, this had that “big match” feel to it, and it delivered. This was Hogan’s only real effort to build and put over a new star, and for one night we had that. It’s just a shame that it didn’t stick, as the booking let Warrior down because Hogan was still in the spotlight way too much. This was champion vs. champion, one match for it all, a match that today means nothing overall (the stipulation) because WWE ran non-title champion vs. champion matches into the ground. The question here was would Hogan continue to dominate the WWF, or would a new champion emerge? The important thing here is that this was the one time, the one time where Hogan honestly gave up his position because he really thought he was leaving. The pre-match promos were CLASSIC Hogan and Warrior, in that they were comical to a point in today’s eyes, but intense, fun and really selling the match. They were a product of the time, but I still find enjoyment from them. The match, which many fans today wouldn’t expect much was great, and probably about as perfect as you could hope from these guys. They had incredible crowd heat, two men working hard in a smartly booked match and the final fall of the “hero” to the new one was well done. This match meant something, and it felt as if everything they did meant something. It’s not as good as Savage vs. Hogan, but it was the second truly great Mania main event.

STAY TUNED FOR PART II

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The 411 on Wrestling Podcast returns to the 411 Podcasting Network for episode 107. On the show, 411’s Larry Csonka & Steve Cook hit a quick news roundup as things continue to get crazy, and then review the weekly AEW vs. NXT Battle. Kevin Pantoja joins to review WWF Backlash 2002. The show is approximately 163-minutes long.

* Intro
* News Roundup (WWE Cuts): 2:45
* AEW Dynamite (4.15.20) Review: 1:07:55
* NXT (4.15.20) Review: 1:25:10
* The Head to Head: 1:39:19
* Retro WWF Backlash 2002 Review w/Kevin Pantoja: 1:44:11

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– End scene.

– Thanks for reading.