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The Enduring Legacy of Hulk Hogan

Part Twelve

During the heyday of the Rock and Wrestling Era, the WWF had the luxury of pacing angles over long stretches of time.   The formation of the Mega-Powers is a good example of this. The formation of the Mega-Powers wouldn’t officially occur until 1988 but the angle that led to their formation began on the October 3, 1987 of Saturday Night’s Main Event. 


Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the son to wrestler Angelo Poffo, debuted in the WWF in 1985.  His exciting combination of mat and aerial skills, a muscular physique, and one of a kind charisma made him an instant star in the WWF.   By 1986 he had wrested the Intercontinental Championship from two-time IC winner Tito Santana in controversial fashion, using a foreign object to get the win.  Savage feuded with WWF champion Hulk Hogan as well as George “The Animal” Steele and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

Savage was unique in many ways; one of them was that he was the only WWF Superstar to have a female manager, the lovely Miss Elizabeth.   Unlike most of the female managers/valets in other promotions, Miss Elizabeth was not portrayed as a heel.  

She never interfered in the “Macho Man’s” matches and the few times she was allowed to speak, she came across as an all-around nice person.   What added to the dynamic between Savage and Elizabeth was that Savage treated Elizabeth like dirt.   He constantly browbeated her and even used her as a human shield during his matches.   On one edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, he told Jesse “The Body” Ventura that he was going to teach Elizabeth how to swim.   Savage then proceeded to push Elizabeth off of a diving platform into a pool.

Despite Savage’s questionable treatment of Miss Elizabeth and his cheating ways in the ring, Savage began to win over the hearts of WWF fans.   After his epic match against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Wrestlemania III (a match still considered by many to be the greatest match of all time at Wrestlemania), Savage slowly began turning face.   While he continued his feud with Ricky Steamboat, working a series of steel cage matches at house shows, he faced occasional heel opponents such as Butch Reed and the Honky Tonk Man (HTM).


The Honky Tonk Man had upset Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental strap, a belt that Savage had hoped to regain.   Savage was the first to congratulate HTM but a rivalry  developed after the Honky Tonk Man proclaimed himself the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time and that the fans should forget about past champions including “The Macho Man.”

Savage began facing HTM at house shows, usually winning the match but not the belt due to disqualification victories.   The Savage/HTM rivalry intensified after a 9/26/87 episode of WWF Superstars where Savage interrupted the HTM during an interview and challenged him to a match.   The HTM refused but a match was inevitable. On the October 3, 1987 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Savage and the HTM fought over the belt.  


Savage seemed well on his way to winning a second Intercontinental championship when the Hart Foundation (Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and Bret “The Hitman” Hart) interfered.   They began beating down “The Macho Man” and held him fast as the HTM prepared to blast Savage over the head with a guitar.   When Miss Elizabeth tried to stop HTM, he shoved her aside.   Miss Elizabeth left the ring and the HTM broke the guitar over Savage’s head.   Things were going very badly for “The Macho Man".


Where was the lovely Elizabeth going?   Was she abandoning her longtime charge after years of abuse?   No, she was going to get help for her man-help from the most unlikely of sources.   The fans could not believe their eyes when Elizabeth returned to the ring with the WWF champion Hulk Hogan.   Hogan helped “The Macho Man” clear the ring of the heels, saving Savage from a further beatdown.   Then in an unbelievable turn of events, Hogan and Savage shook hands.   The two men had engaged in some brutal battles over Hogan’s WWF championship but in true wrestling tradition, their former enmity was forgotten as soon as Savage joined the side of the angels.

Despite the possible alliance between Hogan and Savage, the two men went their separate ways over the next six months.   As we saw last time, Hogan dropped his belt to Andre the Giant in controversial fashion, leading to the 14-man tournament at Wrestlemania IV for the now vacant WWF championship.  Hogan worked tag team matches against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Virgil, usually teaming with “Bam Bam” Bigelow.  When Bigelow suffered a real-life injury, Jim Duggan teamed with the Hulkster. 


However on the March 12, 1988 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, WWF fans got another preview of how Hogan and Savage could work together against a common foe.  This time, Savage was facing Ted DiBiase.   Savage lost the match by count-out after interference by DiBiase’s henchman, Andre the Giant.  After the match, DiBiase and Virgil delivered a shellacking to Savage until Miss Elizabeth went to the back, returning with Hulk Hogan.   With a steel chair in hand, Hogan cleared the ring of the heels, saving the day just as he had done in October.

The bond between Savage and Hogan was growing but it was about to get a real test at WrestleMania IV.   Professional wrestling is full of tales of friends becoming enemies over a championship belt.   Hogan and Savage’s friendship was just beginning.  How would they react if they found themselves against one another during the Wrestlemania IV title tournament?  


Would this reignite their rivalry and see them tear each other apart? Hulk Hogan was the odds-on favorite to win the WWF championship tournament.   Hogan had four years of experience as a champion as well as his legions of Hulkamaniacs.   Furthermore, Hogan (along with Andre the Giant, the man who had defeated him for the title) would receive a bye for the first round of the tournament and face Andre the Giant during the tournament’s second round.

WrestleMania IV took place at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City on March 27, 1988. WrestleMania had propelled the WWF to the top of the wrestling world but the WWF’s dying rival Jim Crockett Promotions was determined to ruin the WWF’s flagship pay-per-view just as the WWF had sunk JCP’s flagship show Starcade and its new PPV the Bunkhouse Stampede. 


The Bunkhouse Stampede PPV fizzled out after the WWF ran its special the Royal Rumble for free on the USA Network.   Now, JCP was going to give the WWF a taste of its own medicine by running a free show directly against Wrestlemania IV.   JCP put together a star studded show known as Clash of Champions, headlined by a 45 minute match featuring rising JCP star Sting taking on “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for his National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship.  The show would air on Superstation TBS and hopefully hurt the WWF, giving JCP more time to stay afloat. 


Wrestlemania IV offered intrigue both in front of the camera and behind it.   WWF fans were excited to see if Hulk Hogan could recapture the belt he had held for so long.   They also wondered who might replace Hogan as the champion.  If the WWF crowned a new champion, what direction was the WWF headed for?   


Behind the scenes, there was intrigue of another sort.   On one hand, the WWF had fourteen men competing for the vacant WWF championship in a four round tournament.   A battle royal and a handful of other matches would round out the WWF’s fourth Wrestlemania PPV.  The fans would have to pay to see that show.   With its competitor running a PPV quality show for free, would the WWF be able to capture the phenomenal success of Wrestlemania III?  


As we shall see next time around, the intrigue on and off camera would have fans talking for some time to come.

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