The Enduring Legacy of Hulk Hogan

Part Eighteen

The Mega Powers were no more. The dream team of Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage had been torn apart by Savage’s overwhelming jealousy towards his manager and girlfriend Miss Elizabeth, the woman who had brought Savage and Hogan together in the first place. Savage’s jealousy slowly consumed him until he turned his back on Hogan, the fans, and the woman he professed to love.

 

In an interview conducted shortly after the events of the Main Event, Hogan talked of how he’d let the small things slide for the sake of the Mega Powers. The Mega Powers were such a great team that he was willing to deal with Savage’s insecurities. Misunderstandings were part of any relationship. The Hulkster told Mean Gene Okerlund that even when Savage slapped him in the face during their match against the Twin Towers, there was still time for reconciliation. However when Savage laid him out with the WWF championship, he’d crossed the point of no return.

The Hulkster continued talking about the Mega Powers and how great they had once been. Even though he was no longer WWF champion, Hogan said that he was happy with Savage holding the WWF belt because the Macho Man had been such a good role model. Now that Savage had returned to his dark ways, that was no longer the case. Hogan said he was aiming not only for Savage but for the WWF championship, a title that Hogan claimed he’d never lost (which given the circumstances of Hogan’s title loss, was a legitimate statement).

 

At first Savage refused to give Hogan a title shot. On the February 12, 1989 edition of Wrestling Challenge, Savage said that he would give the title shot some thought. The Hulkster was confident that he would get a match with Savage sooner or later. Things quickly changed the following week when a match was announced on Wrestling Challenge. Hogan would face Savage at WrestleMania V.

 

With WrestleMania V still nearly two months away, Hogan found himself facing the Big Boss Man at house shows. Hogan met the Boss Man in regular matches as well as steel cage matches. Savage continued defending his WWF championship,  squaring off against Bad News Brown as well as Intercontinental champion the Ultimate Warrior in title vs. title matches.  

 

Despite these challenges, Savage held on to his WWF championship. Hogan was determined to wrest the belt from the “Macho Man” but he had to know that it would be a difficult battle. Savage had the champion’s advantage in that he could lose the belt by disqualification or count-out without losing the belt. Savage had shown in the past that he knew how to bend or break the rules if the situation arose.

The Macho Man took things to a new low when he began showing video footage which he claimed proved that Hogan had lusted after Elizabeth. Watching the footage, it looked as if Hogan may have taken liberties with Elizabeth when he raised her on Savage’s shoulders.   Had Hogan made a cheap feel? Was Randy Savage justified in claiming that Hogan was lusting after Miss Elizabeth?

Hogan counterattacked, showing the video footage that Savage had used in his claims then countering it with complete footage of the alleged incident. Hogan made it clear that the “Macho Man’s” claims were dubious. There was no way that the Hulkster was going to allow Savage to besmirch him in the eyes of his Hulkamaniacs.

Finally, WrestleMania V had arrived. The main event had been hyped for weeks as “The Mega Powers Explode!” Announcers Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura pointed out how Wrestlemania IV had been held at the Trump Plaza just as this year’s event was. More importantly, they talked of how much things had changed since then. At Wrestlemania IV, Hulk Hogan had helped the Macho Man fight off outside interference to win the WWF championship. Now, the former friends were battling over that very championship.   

 

Backstage, announcer Tony Schiavone (who had recently jumped from Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling in 1989) attempted to interview the WWF champion. Unfortunately for Schiavone’s cameraman, the Macho Man went berserk, knocking him over and leaving the scene.

Mean Gene Okerlund was able to interview the challenger. Hulk Hogan said that the Macho Man had never believed in the three demandments (the prayers, the training, and the vitamins). Macho Man was jealous of his (Hogan’s) Hulkamaniacs and now it was time to regain the WWF championship.

Before the match, Savage and Hogan’s manager Miss Elizabeth declared that she was going to watch the match from a neutral corner. She regretted that both men had decided to settle their differences in the ring and her only prayer was that neither man suffered serious injuries.

The match began with the champion entering first (traditionally the challenger came out first, a tradition that color commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura pointed out to his broadcast partner Gorilla Monsoon). Savage had held the WWF championship since Wrestlemania IV, becoming the first heel champion to defend the belt at Wrestlemania (This feat would not be repeated until Sgt. Slaughter defended the WWF championship against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VII).  

 

Both men had advantages over one other. Hogan was clearly bigger and stronger but Savage possessed quickness, aerial skills, and more stamina than Hogan. Both men had wrestled as opponents and as tag team partners so they were well aware of each other’s repertoire. The wild card in the match was the presence of Elizabeth. While the lovely Elizabeth said she would stay in the neutral corner, could she remain neutral?

 

As many expected, the match saw no one getting the early lead. Savage attempted to play mind games by ducking out of the ring and making Hogan chase after him. However Hogan managed to keep his cool. Hogan bided his time until Savage returned to the ring. These two men had had classic matches against each other in 1986 and this match was quickly shaping up to be another mat classic.

 

After much back and forth action, Savage got the advantage when he opened a cut above one of Hogan’s eyes. Savage began targeting the eye, trying to make it bleed even more, well aware that Hogan would be less able to defend himself if blood was obscuring his vision.  Hogan did his best to protect his eye without focusing too much on the defensive end of things. Hogan had to know that his best chance of regaining the belt depended on him mounting a strong offense.

Part of what made this match so memorable was the color commentary of Jesse “The Body” Ventura.   Ventura was known for favoring heel wrestlers but rarely had he been as outspoken as he was here with his longtime friend Randy Savage squaring off against Hogan. Ventura referred to Hogan as “the Luster”, mimicking Savage’s accusations that Hogan had lusted after Elizabeth. Ventura derided Hogan for setting his sights on his best friend’s girl and referred to Hogan’s fans as the Pukesters. Ventura pointed out Hogan’s tendencies to bend and break the rules, delivering a tirade against Hogan the entire match. As one-sided as Ventura’s comments were, they were very entertaining and make the match enjoyable no matter how many times you watch it. 

 

In the end though, what happened in the ring (and a few moments outside of the ring) is what makes this one of Hogan’s greatest matches.  The in-ring work was one of Hogan’s best Wrestlemanias ever (with a lot of help from Savage of course) and the story of friend turned foe seemed fresh with the twist of Savage’s jealousy over his own girlfriend leading to the split. 

 

And then there was the presence of Elizabeth. After many minutes of remaining in the neutral corner, Elizabeth finally could not hold back her feelings anymore. When Hulk Hogan tossed Savage over the top rope, Elizabeth went to check on the “Macho Man”.  However Savage was not interested with Elizabeth’s concern.  In fact, he seemed angry with Elizabeth and began to manhandle her.

 

Seeing Elizabeth in trouble, Hogan went after the WWF champion. Hogan lifted Savage onto his shoulders and was ready to throw Savage into the ringpost like a javelin. Hogan could not believe what he was seeing - Elizabeth was blocking his path! While Hogan tried to figure things out, the ever opportunistic Randy Savage pushed Hogan into the ringpost, stunning the challenger.

 

Miss Elizabeth then went to check on Hogan. It was obvious that she didn’t want to see either Hogan or Savage get hurt. Unfortunately for her, Savage couldn’t care less. The Macho Man pulled Elizabeth off of Hogan and began shouting at her. He led her down the aisle until the referee escorted her to the back. The Mega Powers’ former manager was now taken out of the equation.

With Hogan still recovering from Savage’s early attack, the WWF champion went to finish the Hulkster off. Savage delivered a devastating flying axe-handle from the top rope outside onto Hogan. Hogan’s neck slammed against the guardrail separating the fans from the ring. Long-time WWF fans had to remember a similar incident in which Randy Savage targeted the neck of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, eventually putting Steamboat out of action for several months.

 

At this point in the match it was obvious that Savage was going to stop Hogan whatever the cost.

The “Macho Man” began targeting Hogan’s throat, blatantly choking him with his hands and then wrapping some of his wrist tape around Hogan’s neck, hiding the illegal object from the referee’s sight. One had to wonder whether Savage even cared about getting disqualified by this point. 

 

With Hogan in serious trouble, Savage prepared to deliver the coup de grace. Savage dropped a knee onto Hogan then climbed to the top rope.   Jesse Ventura predicted that if Savage hit his finisher the flying elbowsmash, the match was over.  Savage indeed hit his finisher then covered the Hulkster for the pin. 

 

And Hogan kicked out. 

 

Hogan’s ability to absorb a mind-boggling amount of punishment and channel the fans’ cheers to come back had come through once again. The Hulkster kicked out of Savage’s pin. Anyone familiar with Hogan and his matches knew what was coming. A big boot and a legdrop later, Savage’s shoulders were done for the count. Hulk Hogan became the second man to win the WWF championship for a second time (the first being “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino). Hogan’s first reign had lasted four years and had taken the WWF to heights unheard of.   What did the future hold for the Hulkster?  

 

Join me next time as we look at the beginning of Hogan’s second title reign and the movie he dropped the WWF title in order to make.

Thanks again to Graham Cawthon for his awesome resource page The History of WWE!

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