Welcome back to the series that keeps on giving…. Retrospectives on old matches. For anyone who missed Vol 1, check out my piece on Undertaker vs Kane. And while you’re at it, check out my articles covering the ending of the streak and a retro review of ECW Wrestlepalooza 98!
To catch everyone up to speed to hasn’t read vol 1, this series is meant to compare highly publicized, often well received, matches and compare them to their follow up matches that are often less fondly remembered. Now (like with Undertaker and Kane), some matches listed will be between guys who have had dozens of matches together. I’m looking for the match with the biggest, most well remembered initial entry, as well as the most notable 2nd (and sometimes 3rd) installment.
Vol 2 – Rock vs Hogan – Mania 18, No Way Out 2003
First up – Mania 18
A Rock vs Hogan graphic appears on screen and we get one of the Mania 18 themes, “Tear Away” by Drowning Pool. Nothing like a C-grade nu-metal song on the biggest show of the year.
Anyway, video package:
Hogan is back in WWF as NWO Hogan with his pals Hall and Nash. He talks about how he and the fans shared all these great memories but then the fans turned their backs on him and how dare they because he’s the reason they’re all here. There’ll never be a bigger star then him. Enter the Rock. Rock puts him over and asks for a match. Hogan says sure. Apparently at some point the NWO tried to kill the Rock by slamming a semi-truck into an ambiance he was being driven away in after some beat-down angle. Anyway, Hogan’s first Mania match in 9 years. Past vs future.
Hogan out first to a huge pop. And fuck me, he panders immediately. He is huge btw. Wellness policy be damned.
Rock out next to a big ovation.
Hogan is such a shit here. Pre match he does all he can to turn the crowd on the Rock. He motions to the crowd and then to himself (IE: “they’re on my side”). You’re the heel asshole.
Lock up. Hogan wins and, yeah, poses. Hogan with more displays of power and posing. The two pause to take in the crowd noise.
A couple brief exchanges. Rock takes control. Basic stuff.
Hogan is still working a heel style, albeit in a crowd pleasing fashion, as he rakes his boot across the Rock’s face.
Miscommunication as Hogan and Rock jumble moves in the corner but Hogan covers for it well enough.
Rock with a dismal takedown followed by some weak punches.
Hogan back in control and, oh yeah baby, 3 back rakes. I popped big for that. Corner punches and a bite from Hogan. Hogan takes the Rock down with what appears to be the worlds worst chokeslam followed by a blatant choke. Hogan unwraps his wrist tape and we get blatant choke #2.
Both men to the outside. Fighting around the announcers table. Rock goes to hit Hogan w/ a chair but the ref pulls it away and Hogan capitalizes.
It’s a good time to point out the crowd is ravenous. They are firmly behind Hogan. The Rock is getting no love.
Back in the ring we get a ref bump. Sharpshooter on Hogan. Hogan reaches the rope but Rock won’t break the hold. Hogan taps! Amazing. It’s only a visual tap of course as the ref is still down. A “Rocky sucks” chant breaks out.
Hogan recovers and hits a low blow and Rock Bottom on the Rock. The ref crawls over for a 2 count. Hogan takes off his weight lifters belt and starts whipping the Rock.
DDT from the Rock and he whips Hogan. It’s about 70/30 boos/cheers for the Rock.
Rock Bottom from the Rock. And fuck you Hogan, he kicks out at like 2 and 1/10.
Hulk up. Three punches. Big boot. Big leg. Kick out.
Hulk up continues. Three punches. Big boot. Misses big leg.
Rock Bottom to Hogan is met with huge boos. Rock Bottom again, more boos. Rock does a kip up straight into the People’s Elbow and gets a face pop! People’s Elbow connects. Three count. Face pop for the Rock!
Rock does his corner poses. Face off w/ sad Hogan. Hogan offers his hand and the Rock accepts.
Hogan gives Rock the ring (IE: “this is your time”)… But then hangs around. This leads to Rock giving Hogan the ring (IE: “no one likes a sad Hogan”).
Hall and Nash come in. They’re like “wtf brah?” And attack Hogan.
Rock runs back in for the save.
Hogan tries to leave. Rock motions for him to stay (IE: pose brah). Hogan does his best “well, if you insist.” Hogan hot dogs. Rock hangs around for it. It goes on forever but the crowd is still hot for Hogan.
Rock and Hogan leave together.
***1/2. Man oh man, what a mixed bag this was. As a straight up wrestling match, it was nothing special. They didn’t always appear to be in-sync and the match lay-out was just a mess. It annoys me so much that Hogan went out of his way to ruin the psychology of both the match and the feud. I mean, he turned the crowd against the Rock before the match even started. Don’t get me wrong, the crowd was red hot for Hogan, but he could have at least pretended to play the part of the heel for a few minutes. He dominated most of the match and pandered to the crowd taking all the heel and face heat. To his credit, he did allow himself to give a visual tap out and take a clean pin fall to end the match. But then after the match it was back to “sad Hogan” circa 1990 after he dropped the belt to Warrior. Poor sweet Hogan did the job. Everyone feel bad for him as he mopes around the ring.
The reason for the high star rating is mainly due to the crowd. Just a bunch of lively, energetic wrestling fans. Also, at the end of the day, this was a great spectacle match. He may drive me crazy at times but there is no denying Hogan is a mega star and seeing him and Rock face off is just an awesome image. Overall, a bit of fun despite its flaws.
Next – No Way Out 2003
Rock vs Hogan graphic as we hear “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence.
Video package as we get a recap of the Mania 18 match. January 23, 2003, Hogan returned to WWE in his traditional yellow and red attire. A furious Vince McMahon comes out and books a Hogan/Rock rematch. Rock, now heel, is tasked with the job of killing Hulkamania. His gimmick is actually not all that dissimilar from Hollywood Hogan. He’s a mega star who now fills he’s above the fans. There’s not a lot to this feud aside from Rock being disrespectful and spitting at Hogan.