Power Ranking Hulk Hogan's 5 Greatest WrestleMania Moments

David Bixenspan@davidbixFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2014

Power Ranking Hulk Hogan's 5 Greatest WrestleMania Moments

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    Corey Struller

    When it comes to the first several WrestleManias, nobody is synonymous with the event like Hulk Hogan.  He was in the main event (or a main event in the case of WrestleManias 2 and 8) in all of the first eight shows and in the co-main event of WrestleMania 9.  For years, WrestleMania was all about ending with Hogan posing and celebrating.  He also had two huge matches as part of his WWE comeback a decade ago, one of which is the most memorable in WWE history.

    So, which of these are his greatest WrestleMania moments?  Let's count them down.

5. Stealing the Ultimate Warrior's Thunder

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    It's hard to argue against the premise that Hulk Hogan's performance against the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 6 is one of the greatest of his career.  Warrior was an entertaining character, but he was very difficult to have a match with; Ted DiBiase and Mr. Perfect did OK, but only Rick Rude had figured out a formula to reliably get a great match out of him.  While "WrestleMania main event" didn't always equate to expectation of a great match back then, Hogan still needed to deliver.

    The common story about the match is that it was laid out move for move by Pat Patterson in the agent/producer spot.  Even if he put the match together, Hogan still needed to be on top of his game for a number of reasons, and he was.  He did a brilliant job pacing the match, taking it down when Warrior needed a breather and generally working much harder than he usually did.  While it's been eclipsed since then several times over, it was the best WrestleMania main event up to that point and wasn't really topped for several years.

    Not only that, but Hogan got one over on Warrior after the match.  The post-match ceremony with Hogan handing the belt to Warrior, embracing him and riding to the back while looking forlorn was all planned, but Hogan stole the show from Warrior with his facial expressions.  Within the wrestling business, the talk after the show was all about Hogan taking the spotlight away from Warrior during what was supposed to be his moment.

4. The First WrestleMania Main Event

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    Associated Press

    Without Mr. T, WrestleMania would not have succeeded.  Without Hulk Hogan, who knows if they would have had Mr. T?  Being associated in the eyes of the public from their roles in Rocky III and with Mr. T's The A-Team at the height of its popularity, T was the perfect celebrity partner for Hogan.  America believed he was the toughest man alive, and he looked the part; he was actually a good amateur wrestler in high school, and it made sense that he'd team with Hogan.

    When you watch the first WrestleMania years after the fact, most of the card looks like a loaded Madison Square Garden house show.  The main event is the only thing that really feels unique and special to it being a "supercard."  It's a testament not just to Mr. T's presence, but also just how amazingly charismatic Hogan was in 1985.  Coming off a week-long media blitz culminating in a last-minute Saturday Night Live hosting gig just hours earlier (the first WrestleMania started at 1 p.m. local time), he made it absolutely clear that nobody else in the wrestling business could have filled his spot.

    WWE Network subscribers can watch the match here.

3. The Mega Powers Explode

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    B. Vartan Boyajian

    The most brilliant storyline in WWE history is the Randy Savage-Hulk Hogan saga, which built for about a year-and-a-half before its climax at WrestleMania 5 and continued on and off for another year after that.

    It started in the fall of 1987, when Savage turned babyface by virtue of feuding with the then-intercontinental champion, the Honky Tonk Man.  When the Hart Foundation joined Honky Tonk Man in attacking Savage, though, he had no friends in the locker room.  Manager Miss Elizabeth had to run to the back and drag Hulk Hogan to the ring to get him to make the save.  After briefly teasing that they'd fight, Hogan and Savage shook hands, leading to them forming the Mega Powers tag team.

    Throughout 1988, they teamed on major shows, but Savage was getting increasingly jealous of what he perceived as flirting between Hogan and Elizabeth.  In early 1989, when Savage was thrown into Elizabeth during a Mega Powers match against the Twin Towers (Big Bossman and Akeem), Hogan abandoned the match to tend to her in the makeshift hospital room backstage.  He came back to help win the match, but the pressure cooker of emotions exploded, and he got attacked by Savage, who also threatened Elizabeth.

    It all led to WrestleMania 5, which set pay-per-view records that weren't eclipsed for a long, long time.  With Elizabeth in a neutral corner, Hogan won the WWF Championship from Savage in probably his second best WrestleMania match after his miracle with Warrior.  While they had better matches together, none of them was on this big a stage with this kind of story and drama.

    While all traces of the match have been scrubbed from YouTube, WWE Network subscribers can watch it here.

2. Returns with Style Against the Rock

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    When Hogan returned to WWE in 2002 after a nine-year absence, there were two obvious WrestleMania 18 opponents for him: The Rock and Steve Austin.  The Rock got the nod, and the result was probably the most famous match of the "modern" WrestleManias.

    You probably know the story: It was in Toronto, historically a great city for Hogan, and the crowd was 100 percent for him even though he came in as a heel.  Hogan and Rock ran with it and had an amazing match.

    Nowadays, most discussions of the match lose a lot of the context around it.  The type of hardcore WWE fan that makes up the live WrestleMania audience had not been into Hogan for years.  He had spent almost nine years away, with six years in WCW, and WCW had just been embarrassed in the "Invasion" storyline that dominated the back half of 2001.  While fans at the shows leading up to WrestleMania were very into the Hogan-Rock feud, Hogan was very firmly positioned as a heel and those crowds were with the alignments WWE booked.

    So when Hogan got a reaction like he was God, it did surprise a lot of people.

    Sure, he lost, but it really doesn't get much better than this.

1. Slams and Pins Andre the Giant at WrestleMania 3

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    While the first WrestleMania was the biggest one to mainstream America, WrestleMania 3 was the biggest to wrestling fans.  Not only was there a giant sold-out stadium crowd with close to a million people watching on pay-per-view and closed-circuit television, but the ultimate pro wrestling dream match of that era took place for the first time on a national stage: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.

    Yes, they had feuded all over the country in the early '80s, but most newer fans didn't know that.  Besides, the roles were reversed then and Andre had never been a heel in the United States.

    While it's not much of a match athletically, the drama is amazing, and the match is a crash course in wrestling psychology and how to build to a big moment.  When Hogan did the unthinkable, slamming and pinning Andre, it was as if he had done the impossible.

    Most of his other WrestleMania matches are better technically, but this is Hulk Hogan's WrestleMania moment.