Hulk Hogan: I Changed Rock Match On The Fly
Even though Triple-H defeating Chris Jericho for the Undisputed title went on last at Wrestlemania X-8, the true main event at the 2002 show was Hulk Hogan versus The Rock - a match which was billed as "Icon vs. Icon". Speaking during an incredible second part to his interview with Fighting Spirit Magazine, Hogan talked about his surprise when asked to fly to Miami, Florida and rehearse the entire bout beforehand.
"Out of respect, I go down there (to Miami), and there's me and The Rock and his dad Rocky Johnson, and Pat Patterson," Hogan explained. "The Rock starts telling me that we're gonna lock up, and do this and do that, then start getting some heat on me, and so on. So he talked through the whole match, and I was listening. I respect him, and it kinda made sense, but I'd never done that before. Then they go, 'Okay, let's have the match here.' I said, 'Whoa! You're talking about me taking bumps in this ring, with no people? I'll get hurt, and if I fall wrong one time, then my career is over.' I've got to have the energy of the crowd, so that when I go down, I go down to the mat hard. So instead, we just walked through the match.
"The whole issue I had was what if we got to Toronto, and this doesn't work? So sure enough, when we go to Toronto, I give The Rock one big push, and the place explodes. Then I pushed him again, as we planned, and the place explodes again. [WWE] thought I was gonna get booed. Then I start chopping meat on him, and with every hit the place is going crazy. Then I did what was planned, blocking a punch, and as soon as he started hitting me came the boos."
WWE had theorised that Hogan would be the heel during the confrontation, partly due to his association with the nWo (who had joined the company in February), but also because he had left the promotion in 1993 and joined WCW the following year. What they hadn't banked on was an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia amongst fans, who were delighted to see their childhood favourite back in a WWE ring - especially at the Toronto Skydome, the site of his Wrestlemania VI match with The Ultimate Warrior. Realising this, Hogan took matters into his own hands.
"I went down, and looked up and said, 'You want me to fix this?' And The Rock says, 'Yeah, let's fix it.' I went, 'OK, then listen to me.' But it took him no time to get it right, because he is just so good in the ring. It took us three minutes to get it right, but if we'd done what we had practised, they'd have booed us out of the [expletive] building. I'm not saying I could do it in every instance, but The Rock is so good, we could do that. The Rock doesn't usually talk about planning his matches, so somebody must have made him worry that I was too old and too slow, and that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the work-rate. But once he got in the ring with me, he knew I had a feel for it, and we got it right. That's what I wanted to do with 'Stone Cold', and Bret Hart, too."
Read the second part of this incredible interview, the most honest and open of Hogan's lengthy career, in Issue 91 of FSM, on sale on Thursday, March 21 from WH Smiths and Easons in the UK and Ireland. Both individual issues and money-saving subscriptions are also available from www.FightingSpiritMagazine.co.uk.