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The Enduring Legacy of Hulk Hogan

Part Nineteen

Hulk Hogan was once again WWF champion after his win over Randy “Macho Man” Savage at Wrestlemania V. The Hulkster had carried the WWF banner as champion from 1984 through 1988 and now in 1989, many fans wondered what his second reign would bring. 


The Hulkster’s second reign would see new challenges to his title, the Hulkster settling old scores, and the Hulk carving a new path into Hollywood. Following his success in Rocky III, Hogan and WWF kingpin Vince McMahon had decided to capitalize on Hogan’s popularity with wrestling fans as well as mainstream fans and try to market a movie which would be a vehicle to capitalize on Hogan’s fame.


Vince McMahon decided to hype the film as well as wrestling itself by pitting No Holds Barred’s villainous character Zeus against Hulk Hogan. Hogan would end up fighting Zeus in tag team matches throughout the rest of the year. The tag team matches would allow Zeus to work alongside a good worker and hide his weaknesses in the ring.

Following his win over “Macho Man” Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V, the Hulkster defended his belt against Savage at various house shows. Savage added a new weapon to his arsenal when he brought in former WWF Woman’s champion “Sensational” Sherri Martel as his new manager. Unlike Savage’s former manager Miss Elizabeth, Martel took a much more active role in Savage’s matches, interfering on his behalf. Despite this interference, Hogan was able to hold on to his WWF championship.


Popular wrestler Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake wasted no time in making fun of Savage’s new manager. During the April 22, 1989 edition of “The Brother Love Show” on WWF Superstars, Beefcake was interrupted by Savage and Martel. Martel’s outrageous apparel and makeup led to Beefcake bestowing the nickname “Scary Sherri” on her. Savage and Martel attacked Beefcake and cut his hair, launching a feud between Beefcake and the former WWF champion.   This feud would eventually lead to a program involving Hulk Hogan.


The WWF hyped Hogan’s film No Holds Barred with trailers for the film on WWF TV and vignettes of wrestlers going to see the film and praising it. At the same time, Zeus began making appearances on talk segments such as “The Brother Love Show” in which he claimed to be the real star of the film and that he would destroy Hulk Hogan if he ever came face to face with him. Slowly, the fans were being prepared for a confrontation between Hogan and Zeus.


Meanwhile, the Hulkster had unfinished business with the Big Boss Man. As we saw earlier, the Bossman laid out Hogan on an edition of “The Brother Love Show” leading to a program between the Mega Powers and the Twin Towers. When Savage turned on Hogan, the two men became embroiled in their own feud. However Hogan hadn’t forgotten about the Boss Man.

This led to a cage match on the May 27, 1989 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event (which you can check out on the DVD The Best of Saturday Night’s Main Event). 


While I always preferred the cage matches of other promotions which locked the combatants in the ring and called for a pinfall or submission win, the WWF style of cage matches did produce some excellent cage matches (such was Tito Santana’s win over Greg “The Hammer” Valentine for the Intercontinental title and Hulk Hogan’s successful title defense against Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff on Saturday Night’s Main Event). 


While this wasn’t a classic, it was entertaining and a nice finish to the Hogan/Boss Man feud as well as a good segue into the Hogan/Zeus feud.

Things got off to a bad start for the WWF champion when Zeus attacked Hogan before he could even enter the cage for his WWF title defense against the Big Boss Man. Color commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura told his broadcast partner Vince McMahon that Zeus was taking his film rivalry with Hogan into the squared circle. Zeus laid out Hogan and walked away, leaving the Boss Man with an excellent opportunity to win the championship. The Boss Man grabbed Hogan and threw him into the ring, hoping to capitalize on Hogan’s pre-match beating. The Boss Man wasn’t able to capitalize on things and Hogan rallied, getting to his feet and launching an offense of his own.  The two men traded blows until the Boss Man was able to hit his finisher, the Boss Man Slam (a move which was not executed properly and looked terrible). 


With Hogan down and out, the Boss Man proceeded to climb over the cage. Hogan was still down on the mat apron when the Boss Man reached the outside of the cage. Both Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura predicted that the Boss Man was going to win the title (which would cause any longtime fan to realize the opposite was going to happen). Hogan got to his feet and climbed the cage, grabbing the Boss Man by the throat and lifting him up. Next, Hogan used the cage to choke the Big Boss Man.

Then in an incredible move, the Hulkster suplexed the Bossman off of the cage. The move wasn’t pretty but it was still impressive. While Hulk Hogan was never renowned for having a wide array of wrestling holds, he could ratchet things up a notch when he wished to (as any perusal of Hogan’s matches in Japan will show).   


Both men were stunned by the move. Referee Dave Hebner (or was it Earl?) entered the ring and began counting them out. If he reached a ten count, the match would end in a draw.   Jesse Ventura pointed out that Hogan would retain the WWF championship should this happen. However Hogan sat up before the ten count and the match continued.   Hogan and the Boss Man continued to batter one another.

The Boss Man’s manager Slick decided to lend a hand to the Boss Man and he tossed him a chain. The Boss Man began choking Hogan with the chain. The Boss Man then wrapped the chain around his fist and went to punch the Hulkster. Hogan blocked the punch and began battering the Boss Man with punches and followed up by ramming the Bossman’s head repeatedly into the turnbuckle pad. It was time to give the Boss Man a taste of his own medicine. Hogan punched the Boss Man not once but twice with the chain. A legdrop later and it looked like the match was wrapped up.


Once again, Slick attempted to interfere in the match. This time, “The Doctor of Style” threw the referee headfirst into the unforgiving steel of the cage. Slick then entered the ring as Hogan climbed the cage, attempting to stop him from escaping. Hogan effortlessly kicked Slick off of him and then went after the Boss Man who by now was climbing the cage. Hogan yanked the Bossman off of the cage, causing the Bossman to crotch himself on the ropes.   The Hulkster took the handcuffs from Slick, clobbered Slick with a big right, then handcuffed the Boss Man to the ring ropes.  With the Boss Man shackled, Hogan climbed the cage. The Slickster raced to the Boss Man with the handcuff keys. There was still enough time to release the Boss Man and for him to escape through the cage door. Unfortunately for him, the Hulkster beat him to the punch, emerging from the cage first and retaining his WWF championship.  By now, the referee had regained his senses and he awarded the match to Hogan.


Hogan wasn’t through with his opponent. After the match, he threw the Boss Man headfirst into the cage.   He then returned to the ring where he went after Slick. Slick tried to make amends with Hogan, slapping his hands. Hogan slapped Slick’s hands then threw the Slickster into the cage.

During the 1980’s, cage matches traditionally marked the end of a feud. With the Boss Man dispatched, Hulk Hogan looked on to his newest challenge-the powerhouse named Zeus. While Zeus had no experience in the ring, he’d made an impression when he laid out Hogan before the Hulkster’s match with the Big Boss Man. Boasting size and strength, Zeus appeared as though he might be a formidable opponent.


Zeus was interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund on the June 25, 1989 edition of Wrestling Challenge. Zeus’ interview was interrupted by Randy Savage and “Sensational “Sherri Martel. Savage told Zeus that they had a mutual hatred of Hulk Hogan and that he would stand behind Zeus if he ever decided to get in the ring. During the July 8, 1989 edition of WWF Superstars, Randy Savage, Sherri Martel, and Zeus appeared on “The Brother Love Show.” Savage challenged Hogan and Beefcake to a tag team match. The hype continued on the July 30, 1989 “Wrestling Update” segment in which Hogan and Beefcake accepted Savage’s challenge and agreed to face Savage and his partner at the upcoming SummerSlam event.


With SummerSlam just a month away, Vince McMahon had to be wondering whether ornot the match between Hogan/Beefcake and Savage/Zeus would be a draw. No Holds Barred had fizzled at the box office (eventually breaking even for executive producers Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon). Would the fans who ignored the film have any interest in seeing a match between Hulk Hogan and Zeus? Even if they did, how would Zeus perform in the ring? Join me next time as we see how things played out in the main event at SummerSlam.


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

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