If we decided to put this list together 20 years ago, Hulk Hogan would be at the top of the list. He’d be days before his WrestleMania VIII main event match with Sid Justice, having main evented every WrestleMania up to this point. If we decided to put this list together just 10 years ago, he’d be high off his WrestleMania X8 match with The Rock, which was the best received match on the card. He’d still have been top 5 on most people’s list at that point and probably still in the top 3 for me.
So why is Hulk Hogan, one of the two people most responsible for the success of WrestleMania and this current era, so far down this list at number 16? Well, I think it mostly has to do with his failure to let go and his current reputation. At one point, the biggest star in the business, he’s been humanized and not in a good way.
I’m going to argue for him being higher up on this list, while listing reasons why he’s not as well.
Argument for higher ranking:
- Main evented the first eight WrestleManias and is the biggest reason outside of celebrity promotion for why the first one went off without a hitch.
- With Andre The Giant, he was featured in the most watched match on US television (read more about it in Big D’s write-up of Ted DiBiase).
- Was the babyface in huge money making feuds with Paul Orndorff, Andre The Giant, Roddy Piper, and Macho Man Randy Savage.
- Drew on top longer than Rock, Triple H, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
- Business mover who turned WCW business around initially in 1994.
- Reinvented himself as part of the nWo and helped WCW become the biggest wrestling company in the US for two years.
- With Rock, “stole the show” at WrestleMania X8, becoming the most talked about match on the show despite it not being the main event.
- Put over Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar late in his WWE return run.
- Had a great run under the mask as Mr. America. Okay, that one wasn’t really an argument for.
And now, arguments against him being ranked higher:
- Overshadowed Bret Hart and Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX by leaving the show with the WWE Championship after winning an impromptu match against the new champion Yokozuna.
- After helping WCW increase business with his arrival in 1994, used his power to bring in all his friends, including main eventing Starrcade in that year against best friend Brutus Beefcake (as The Butcher).
- After helping WCW overtake WWE as the top wrestling company in the US, was one of many people who were part of the reason for the downfall, which had a bigger impact around the business than their previous successes did.
- Left TNA hanging in 2003 even after shooting an angle with Jeff Jarrett.
- Even though matches with Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels were better than they had any right to be at back-to-back SummerSlams, left WWE with a bitter taste in his mouth, complaining about his payoffs.
- Failed in his attempt to get TNA to compete with WWE and the company isn’t in any better business shape with him then they were without him.
As you can tell, most of his failures came late in his ever-continuing career. If Hogan had left the business after his match with Rock at WrestleMania X8, he’s probably still in the top 3-5 of this list. Add in a very public divorce with his wife Linda, which seemed to be aided by his constant attempt to further his daughter Brooke’s singing career and reality TV show after reality TV show, and you have a guy who was seen as one the ultimate box office attractions become someone who is seen simply as a broken down wrestler trying to stay in the limelight.
Personally, I still think he deserves to be in the top 10 of our list, but I can’t complain when my fellow colleagues rank him much lower. Hulkamania should live forever. As long as he doesn’t kill it dead.
Defining Match Of The WrestleMania Era: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage at WrestleMania V
It would be easy for me to pick his match against Rock at WrestleMania X8 as his defining match. But I really don’t think it is. I think his match vs. Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III is his most famous. But his match against Randy Savage at WrestleMania V was his best work when it came to building up an angle, putting Savage in a spot to shine, and ultimately giving the fans what they wanted by winning in the end. Randy Savage may have been even better here, but together, they were dynamic.