HULK HOGAN VS. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR
The Greatest Crappy Match Of All Time"
April 10, 2005 by Dave Hanson
Everybody has had at least one movie that they loved as a child, something they watched over and over again, only to watch later as an adult, and realize that it's really not all that good. The same concept can be applied to wrestling matches. The best example of this that comes to mind is the match dubbed "The Ultimate Challenge," but which, after being viewed with more educated eyes, could have been dubbed "The Twenty Minute Headlock." The match I am talking about, ladies and gentlemen, was the main event of WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior, and I will now explain why to me, it will forever be remembered as the greatest crappy match of all time.
April 1, 1990: It was the same night that included "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's infamous "half-black body painting" incident, and the Hart Foundation setting the record for the shortest match in WrestleMania history by beating the Bolsheviks in under ten seconds. In the main event, the WWF World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan, was set to go one-on-one in a title-for-title match with the WWF's latest up-and-coming mega-superstar, the reigning Intercontinental Champion, the Ultimate Warrior. In terms of fan interest in the match, and all the pre-match build-up, it looked to be the greatest match of all time. The fans were divided fifty-fifty between the two wrestlers. In terms of pure wrestling ability, however, it was a recipe for boredom-yet somehow the fans still revelled in the electricity of the match-up; the crowd never lost interest, there was nary a single audible "BORING!" chant in the house, and the arena exploded when the Ultimate Warrior rolled out of the way of Hulk Hogan's Big Leg Drop finishing manoeuvre, to land his patented frog-splash, get the 3-count on Hogan, and walk out of WrestleMania 6 with the World Heavyweight Title.
When I watched this match as a ten year old boy, I knew nothing about actual technical wrestling ability; I had no real interest in the type of wrestlers who would, later in life, become my favorites-guys like Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Chris Benoit, and Ted DiBiase. At that age, the charm of professional wrestling for me was the stories-the clash of good versus evil, the bad guys who always cheated versus the good guys who always played fair. The Warrior and the Hulkster were the epitome of this concept, these seemingly invincible titans who would always find a way to magically become invincible at the end of every match, always triumphing over adversity. The fact that they were now going head-to-head was, in my 10-year-old mind, the equivalent of Superman fighting Batman. By the time it was over, I felt I had seen the greatest match of all time. And, as old WWF tapes soon became lost to the mists of time, I never got a chance to really watch it again--that is, until the release of WrestleMania 18 on DVD.
The Hogan/Warrior match was included as part of the special features of the WrestleMania 18 DVD. You can imagine my excitement when I bought it. Finally I would once again be able to view my favorite match from my youth! Sure, I had gone from rooting for mega-faces like Hogan and the Warrior to guys with more in-ring ability like Christian, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle, but still, I remembered loving this match! Surely it would still be as great. Oh, how wrong I was.
My excitement quickly died down as I watched the match. There was no actual moment when I thought, "wait a minute, this match sucks!" Rather, my excitement gradually decreased from the opening bell, to the final three count almost a half an hour later, where I was left asking myself, "Why had I thought this match was so spectacular""
It starts with a long test-of-strength between Hogan and the Warrior. Hogan proceeds to control the match early on with punches, punches, and, just to add a little variety, more punches. Also, let's not forget the very long stretches where Hogan has the Warrior in a headlock. I have read that the Ultimate Warrior was prone to exhausting himself early on in most of his matches, with all the unnecessary running around and shaking and fist-pumping he would do to pump up the crowd. I can only imagine that the Warrior needed to be put in these time-consuming submission moves, so that he could lay still and recuperate for the next spot in the match. Or, it could just be because the headlock was one of only about four (not counting their finishers) offensive moves that Hogan or the Warrior ever used.
You know you're going to have a sub-par match when you have two men facing each other who are legendary for no-selling their opponent's moves. At one point, Hogan is tossed over the top rope, and hobbles around as if he had hurt his knee (this is another long, boring stretch of the match, as Hogan limps around outside of the ring with the Warrior just standing there watching). Then, before you know it, Hogan is back in the ring, dominating the Warrior, and his knee injury seems to have magically disappeared. Gorilla Monsoon, who was calling the match with Jesse "The Body" Ventura, has a tough time thinking up an explanation to cover this up, actually suggesting that perhaps Hogan dislocated his knee when he was thrown outside, and that somehow the knee got popped right back into place a few minutes later, completely erasing all pain Hogan was feeling.
Another loss of credibility actually gets caused by a comment Jesse The Body makes later in the match, when the ref bump happens. Usually, when a ref gets knocked out during a match, it means that anything goes. Other wrestlers can run in, weapons can get used, blood can gush, any number of things can happen to take the match in a different direction. But not in this case! No, sir, both men are good guys! The only purpose of the ref bump in this match seems to be to give both men an opportunity to cover the other for what would have been a three count, to increase the crowd's anxiousness about the match. At one point while referee Earl Hebner is down, Hogan gets the Warrior flat on his back, and pins him, counting the three himself. Obviously the pinfall doesn't count because the ref is out. Hogan becomes frustrated, because he clearly had the Warrior down for much longer than a three-count. At this moment, Jesse says, "And how many times has this happened to Hulk Hogan opponents"" to which Gorilla replies, "Lots." This, to me, is a huge blow to credibility, because it makes the viewers at home think, "Yeah, hey, that HAS happened a lot in Hulk Hogan matches! The only times when Hulk's opponents have him beaten down enough for a three count happen to be when the ref is knocked out!" A comment like that was more potentially damaging in 1990, since it was still back in the days when Vince and the wrestlers didn't readily acknowledge that wrestling was staged, when appearing on non-WWF/E programming. These days the WWE has no problems with putting the Undertaker in a commercial where he's dressed up as Dirty Harry; the fans go along with it, no problem. But back then, it would have destroyed the mystique of the whole Undertaker character. Back then, the last thing Jesse and Gorilla should have wanted to do is call attention to a spot that has been used numerous times in Hulk Hogan matches.
Credibility problems aside, the match continued. Then, finally, after stare-downs, tests of strength, long headlocks, a bear-hug, a double-knockdown or two, countless punches, and at least three separate spots where one wrestler was no-selling all of the other's moves, the Warrior gets the pinfall and wins the title. The crowd, despite this amazingly lacklustre performance (not that either men underachieved in this match; Hogan and the Warrior just don't have much to work with in the way of wrestling skill), goes nuts, cheering like crazy. Everyone had bought the match-up, and was thrilling to its conclusion. So, what does this all mean" That they were all a bunch of suckers" That they were stupid for being excited about this match" That Hogan and Warrior were completely talent less when it came to ring work, and were undeserving of their pushes over guys like Ted DiBiase and Ricky Steamboat (neither of whom ever held the WWF Heavyweight Title-and I don't count the whole "Andre the Giant sells DiBiase the belt" angle from 1988)" No. What I am trying to say here, is the exact opposite: any two men who can turn in a match this pedestrian, and still have the crowd on the edge of their seats, must have something special. That something special might not be in the ring, but they sure have it. No one held a gun to our heads and forced us to cheer for Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Brock Lesnar and Goldberg wrestled essentially the same match as this one at WrestleMania 20, and got booed out of Madison Square Garden (the fact that all the fans knew Brock was leaving for the NFL didn't help either). In spite of all the criticism of Hulk Hogan by "real" wrestling fans, the man had a way of capturing the audience's imagination and drawing ticket sales like no one else in the history of the business. One cannot ignore the fact that without a guy like Hulk Hogan, there would be no one around anymore to sign the pay checks of guys like Chris Benoit and Shelton Benjamin. Professional Wrestling is an art form that combines athletic ability with storytelling ability; you can't have one without the other. The fact that this match, with all that it lacked in wrestling skill, has achieved such a level of greatness in so many people's minds is a testament to the two men involved, even after I have now explained how completely lacklustre it was. That is why Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI will always be remembered, in my mind, as the greatest crappy match of all time.
by Dave Hanson ..
Kirsty Quested (OWW Editor) wrote:
As the editor of all columns for this website, I get to read all sorts
of opinions, all kinds of points of view. If I responded to them all in
feedback I'd never get home for a glass of wine. But after reading and
editing this piece, I had to say something, and that something is AMEN
BROTHER. Dave, what a trip down memory lane! I remember that match so
clearly, and I have it at home. I hadn't watched it for nearly 10 years
but recently I popped it in again, just to compare and contrast today's
wrestling with that of yester-year. And I just wanted to say one or two
things. Firstly, it's true that neither Hulk Hogan nor the Ultimate
Warrior were the greatest ring technicians. Quite the opposite was true
I would say. But that match was the first of it's kind - a babyface
title match at WrestleMania, and all the performers needed was an
abundance of charisma to carry it off - which they did. That's why there
were no run-in's, no dirty tricks. That's why in the promos before-hand,
Hogan and Warrior paid lip service to each other while seemingly making
threats simultaneously. You have to remember what wrestling was about
back then. You're comparing it to what it's like now - and it's evolved
so much as to be almost unrecognisable as the same cartoon-like
entertainment we were so fond of back then. This was a clash of the
titans, a rare chance to see two huge favourites play fair, play
graciously. Hell, I'm no Hogan fan (or Warrior fan either for that
matter) but I don't mind admitting I had tears in my eyes when Hogan
handed the belt to the Warrior and they embraced in the ring. Maybe
that's just a chick thing to do (I was only 16 at the time) or maybe I'm
just a sentimental old schmuck now, but it will stick out for me as one
of the greatest wrestling moments of all time. You talk about their lack
of wrestling ability, but really when you think about, great technicians
like Mr. Perfect and Bret Hart were rarities back then, and were not in
fact the WWF's top stars. Their time came later. This was the time of
the colourful gimmicks, the grinding into the camera, of Hulkamania and
of the Warrior, of cartoon-like super-heroes and above all, of charisma.
They both had it in spades. No, they couldn't wrestle. Yes the
stare-downs, the bear-hugs and the headlocks are just yawn fodder - NOW.
Back then, it was a way of keeping the tension up between two guys who
actually couldn't wrestle that well. It will still go down, in my mind,
as the greatest match of all time that didn't involve any real
wrestling, but between two guys who knew how make that arena roar.
Bill Tyrell wrote:
That was a great trip down memory lane, and it really did bring back great
memories of my childhood cheering for Hogan and Warrior not caring who won, I just wanted to
see a great entertaining, and that is exactly what it was, and I am still pleased to this
day that I got to see it. You say it was a lackluster performance, but reality it was a great
performance by two quality entertainers, they went out there and they delivered one of the most
entertaining matches of all time. Though my opinion may be biased, because might be the only person
that will still admit that I loved watching the Warrior wrestle, I truly thought he was and
still is the most entertaining wrestler ever, everytime the Warrior wrestled you knew you were
going to get energy, entertainment, and one of coolest finishers that everybody hated. As far as Ted
DiBiase and Mr. Perfect, I completely agree that it is sad these two icons never got there
chance to hold the world championship. Especially DiBiase, the greatest heel of all time, and with
everybody else a distant second, this man made you hate him, it truly was impossible to like him,
you could respect his wrestling ability, but you truly hated him, and that is what heels these
days lack, the ability to make the fans hate you like they hated DiBiase, and I truly saddens
me that this never held the title, but Mr. DiBiase you will be forgotten by this fan, you will
always be remembered as the wrestler everybody loved to hate, and as the greatest heel ever.
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