Part Twenty Seven
WrestleMania VI’s main event, “The Ultimate Challenge” was ready to begin. There was no doubt that this was a main event in terms of star power. After all, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were the WWF and Intercontinental champions respectively, as well as the promotion’s top two babyfaces.
Behind the scenes, there was the question of what kind of match both men could put on. The Ultimate Warrior traditionally worked short matches that made him look like a powerhouse, and hid his weaknesses (much as had been done years earlier with the Road Warriors). However, the fans would not be happy with a short match, and you can be certain that Hulk Hogan wasn’t going out in a squash. While Hulk Hogan didn’t have the in-ring limitations of The Warrior, he was not a Ric Flair caliber wrestler, capable of carrying an inferior opponent to a mat classic (or as has been said for decades, the ability to carry a broom to a five-star match).
Hogan had carried Andre the Giant through their main event at Wrestlemania III, but no one would argue that that was a good match in terms of quality in the ring (although the build-up angle and subsequent hype was simply phenomenal). In the case of Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, ring general Pat Patterson put together a match for both men that surprised many fans, and exceeded many fans’ expectations. In the end, it was a fantastic match that kept both men strong in the eyes of the fans, and kept them on the edge of their seats.
A series of highlight videos showed the events that led to the main event, beginning with Hogan and The Warrior’s confrontation at the Royal Rumble, their subsequent tag match on Saturday Night’s Main Event, and their respective efforts to thwart Earthquake’s attempts to injure the two of them. Tensions had risen and while there was no apparent bad blood between the two champions, there was burning desire to see who was the better man.
At long last, the Ultimate Challenge was ready to begin. The Ultimate Warrior ran to the ring, leading color commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura to wonder whether or not The Warrior should conserve his strength for the biggest challenge of his career. Jesse noted that the fans seemed split down the middle between their cheers for The Warrior and the Hulkster. The Hulkster walked into the SkyDome to his song “Real American” (ironic given that the match took place in Canada), the cheers so loud that Jesse Ventura and his broadcast colleague Gorilla Monsoon chose not to say anything until the match began.
Hogan ripped off his shirt and cupped his ear to soak in the fans’ cheers. The Ultimate Warrior stood waiting, anxious to begin the match. Both men stared each other down, talking trash as they did. Then, the Warrior shoved Hogan back. The Hulkster shoved the Warrior back, showing that he wasn’t backing down. Jesse Ventura observed that both men were merely sizing each other up. Hogan and the Warrior locked up with the Warrior, hurling Hogan into the corner.
The Hulkster locked up with the Warrior again, and after a bit of a struggle, he hurled the Warrior into the corner. Hogan posed and flexed, taunting the Warrior. The Ultimate Warrior decided to see who the stronger man was by challenging Hogan to a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. The Hulkster slowly locked up, lifting his arms for the challenge. Gorilla Monsoon noted Hogan’s slight size advantage as the two titans went at it.
At first, neither man could get the advantage, but after a heated struggle, The Ultimate Warrior managed to use his power and leverage to bring the Hulkster to his knees. Displaying his tremendous heart, Hogan fought back, rising up on one leg, then rising to his feet. The Hulkster overpowered The Ultimate Warrior, sending the Warrior down to his knees.
It was clear that both men were evenly matched in strength and determination. The Warrior fought back, getting to his feet before the Hulkster tripped him to the ground and dropped an elbow on him. Hogan covered the Warrior for a pin but the Warrior kicked out easily.
The Hulkster and The Warrior seemed to be confused about how to go about their battle. Both Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were used to having the strength advantage in most of their matches. Neither man could overpower the other but they tried. The Warrior and The Ultimate Warrior tried a shoulder block against each other to no effect. Hogan managed to bodyslam The Warrior but it had next to no effect. The Warrior slammed Hogan with little better results. However, The Warrior followed up with a clothesline, knocking Hogan out of the ring and to the floor.
The Hulkster clutched at his knee as he lay outside the ring. Hogan tried to walk things off but it was clear that he was having difficulty putting any weight on his knee. The Warrior came out and stomped away at Hogan, rolling back into the ring to break up the count. The referee checked on Hogan’s status. The Warrior came back out and went after Hogan, undoubtedly aware that he could not win the WWF title on a count out. The referee tried to keep The Warrior at bay but Warrior shoved him aside (risking disqualification) and threw Hogan back into the ring.
The desire for victory soon saw both men throw out the rule book (both Hogan and The Warrior were known for their brawling style and their propensity to throw out the rule book as needed).
The Ultimate Warrior kicked at Hogan’s weakened knee, a move that both Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura agreed was a wise course of action. Hogan fought back with a thumb to the eye, hoping to break the Warrior’s momentum. The two men exchanged eye rakes and punches.
The referee tried to restore order but it was to no avail. Both men continued brawling. While referee Hebner argued with The Warrior, Hogan saw an opportunity and slugged The Warrior. He then launched an offense of his own, throwing Warrior into the corner and following up with a clothesline. Hogan body slammed the Warrior, then dropped two elbows on him, covering him for a two count. Gorilla Monsoon speculated that the Hulkster's knee might have popped out earlier, but popped back in. Regardless, it seemed that Hogan was no longer injured.
Hogan continued his offense, locking The Warrior in a front face lock (Jesse Ventura made an inside joke, noting that Richard Belzer knew what they felt like) before rolling him up in a small package. The Warrior kicked out, leading to Hogan unloading with more power based moves such as a clothesline, punches, chops, and a backbreaker. Hogan went for the pin two more times but The Warrior kicked out at the two count, leading to Hogan questioning the referee’s count.
The Hulk went to wear The Warrior down, slapping a reverse chin lock on him. Jesse Ventura noted the wisdom of Hogan’s course of action, pointing out that Hogan’s strength could easily wear down The Ultimate Warrior. Hogan released the hold in order to deliver several knees to The Warrior’s back. Hogan lifted his weary opponent up, suplexing him down to the mat.
Hogan covered The Warrior, but failed to hook the leg (as astutely noted by Jesse Ventura). The Warrior kicked out at the last moment, keeping him in the match. Hogan went back to the reverse chin lock. The move would allow him to wear The Warrior down further, and also allow himself the chance to rest. The Warrior lifted his arm, calling on his fans to cheer him on. The Warrior’s fans cheered as the Warrior rallied, delivering two elbows to Hogan’s gut, allowing him to escape the chin lock.
Hogan went back to the reverse chin lock. The move would allow him to wear The Warrior down further, and also allow himself the chance to rest. The Warrior lifted his arm, calling on his fans to cheer him on. The Warrior’s fans cheered as the Warrior rallied, delivering two elbows to Hogan’s gut, allowing him to escape the chin lock.
The Warrior and Hogan bounced off of the ring ropes, clotheslining each other in the process. Both men fell on their backs, causing the referee to begin counting both of them out. If neither man got to his feet before a ten count, the match would be a draw.
However, The Warrior got to his feet, calling on his Warriors to rally around him. The Warrior began shaking the ropes, a sign that he was channeling the fans’ cheers into an adrenaline-fueled fury. The Hulkster rained blow after blow on The Warrior but The Warrior shook them off, seemingly impervious to pain. With a renewed energy, The Ultimate Warrior whipped Hogan across the ring, hurling him into the corners of the ring and clotheslining the WWF champion. The Warrior suplexed the Hulkster, then covered him for the pin.
The Hulkster managed to kick out but it was clear he was in trouble. Gorilla Monsoon commented that he’d seen Hogan in many matches, but never in such trouble as tonight. Seizing the momentum, The Warrior locked the Hulkster in a bear hug. Now, it was The Warrior’s turn to regain his energy, while he sapped The Hulkster of his energy. Hogan tried to escape by grabbing The Warrior’s hair but the referee quickly stopped that.
Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon talked of how both men were fighting like true champions, but that only one man would emerge with the two championship belts.
Slowly, The Hulkster’s energy faded away. Finally, the referee lifted Hogan’s arm, checking to see if he had reached the point of no return. The referee lifted Hogan’s arm two times, with the Hulkster failing to respond. If Hogan dropped his arm a third time, the match would be over.
Battered and beaten, things looked bleak for the WWF champion. Join me in the next edition of “The Enduring Legacy of Hulk Hogan” as we conclude the epic encounter known as “The Ultimate Challenge.”