Part Forty Three
WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior had triumphed against Sgt, Slaughter, General Adnan, and Colonel Mustafa at SummerSlam 1991’s “Match Made in Hell” with the Hulkster pinning Slaughter after a tenacious fight. With the threat of the turncoat Marine finally turned back, the WWF Champion looked to new challenges. Hogan didn’t have to wait long as his longtime nemesis Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was boasting that he was going to bring in the “Real World’s Champion,” a man he said was far greater than Hulk Hogan.
Around this time, the WWF was also busy promoting a pay-per-view special titled, Titan's Hot Ticket: Hulk Hogan - A Real American Story. The special featured several Hogan matches as well as “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewing Hulk’s parents as well as the Hulkster himself. This special was the second and last in the Hot Ticket series, with the first being WrestleMania's History & Heroes a look back at the history of WrestleMania.
Outside the ring, Hulk Hogan was preparing for the release of his film Suburban Commando. The film debuted on October 4, 1991 with a domestic gross of $6,948,859 according to the website Box Office Mojo, falling short of its reported $11 million budget. Hogan co-produced the film and while it did not prove successful, it did not keep him from making future films such as Mr. Nanny and Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain. Just as he had done so many times in the ring, Hulk Hogan’s movie career would “Hulk up” just when the latest dud seemed to mark the end of his career in Tinseltown. Hogan made few appearances around this time, as he was likely making publicity appearances for Suburban Commando. Nonetheless, the WWF was building up for a confrontation with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair as well as the looming threat of the Undertaker.
On the August 31, 1999 episode of Superstars, Bobby Heenan appeared on The Funeral Parlor, telling Paul Bearer that comparing the belt that Ric Flair held to the belt that Hulk Hogan held was like comparing prime rib to lunch meat. Bobby Heenan talked about the many loudmouths in wrestling like Hulk Hogan who talk and hide. The Brain (or “Weasel” depending on your point of view) told Paul Bearer that there’s another loudmouth, one who professes to be a broadcast journalist—Roddy Piper.
Piper (who was providing color commentary) left the broadcast booth and confronted Heenan, telling him there was only one championship that mattered—the WWE Championship. Heenan dismissed Piper’s comments as The Rowdy Scot’s opinion, and said his opinion didn’t matter to Ric Flair. Piper proclaimed that “I scare Flair!” as the fans erupted in cheers. Nonplussed, The Brain told Piper if Flair was here, Roddy would be on his hands and knees shining Flair’s belt. Piper then asked Heenan if he wanted him to shine the belt. Heenan fell into Piper’s trap as Roddy spit on the belt saying he’d give it a spit shine. He then spit in Piper’s face and said Flair was next. Clearly, the WWF was getting things ready for Flair’s first real challenger.
Meanwhile, the Undertaker continued to wreak havoc in the WWF. During Prime Time Wrestling and the WWF’s syndicated shows, fans learned of a horrifying incident after SummerSlam’s “Match Made in Heaven” marriage ceremony of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Miss Elizabeth. After Elizabeth opened a gift, a snake emerged and the wedding was crashed by the unholy trinity of Paul Bearer, Jake Roberts, and the Undertaker. The Undertaker clobbered Savage with the urn, laying him out. In one of wrestling’s most heinous acts, Roberts took a cobra and tried to drape it on a cowering Miss Elizabeth. Fortunately, Sid Justice was on the scene and kept things from getting any more dangerous.
Nature Boy Ric Flair debuted on the September 9, 1991 edition of Prime Time Wrestling after much fanfare by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Flair talked of his collaboration with the greatest mind in wrestling and how after years of challenging Hogan, he decided to come to the WWF’s door and issue a challenge. First, Flair addressed the Piper situation, promising revenge for Piper spitting on the real world’s championship. Next, Flair proclaimed himself “The Real World’s Champion” and told Hogan he had two choices—give up his title and walk away so he didn’t get hurt or “put up or shut up.” Flair gave his trademark “Wooooo!” as he left the studio.
Although the Hulkster wasn’t wrestling too much, he took time to appear on the September 14, 1991 episode of Superstars, with Mean Gene Okerlund interviewing the WWF Champion at the Rochester War Memorial Arena. Okerlund gushed with praise for the Hulk, telling him he called the Hulk Hotline every day (remember those 900 numbers?). Hogan told Gene life was good and he had a great relationship with all his Hulkamaniacs. However, there was a pressing issue he had to address—Ric Flair and Flair’s challenge. Hogan told Mean Gene he’s familiar with Ric Flair’s credentials and as far as he’s concerned, he’s the cream of the crop. Hogan said he’s already talked to WWF President Jack Tunney and he wants to make it perfectly clear, he’s not rolling out the red carpet—he’s rolling out the red and yellow carpet of Hulkamania and open the door wide open. Hogan said he recognizes Ric Flair and he openly welcomed Ric Flair’s challenge. Hogan told Okerlund before he could be at peace with himself, he had to find out who the better man is and who the real world’s champion is. “Whatcha gonna do Ric Flair, when Hulkamania runs wild on you?”
Ric Flair continued to challenge Hogan, appearing on talk segments such as The Funeral Parlor and Brutus Beefcake’s Barber Shop. Flair was scheduled to wrestle enhancement talent Mark Thomas on the September 21, 1991 Superstars, but decided to attack Roddy Piper instead, waylaying Piper with the NWA Championship. When Piper came to his senses, he accidentally hit Vince McMahon with a chair, leading to Vince doing a stretcher job and Flair attacking Piper again, this time with a chair. The two met in the ring, with Flair getting an incredible number of pinfall wins over Hot Rod (albeit with the usual Flair chicanery) at house shows and on TV like Prime Time Wrestling.
As Ric Flair challenged the Hulkster, a bigger challenge loomed over Hulkamania—that of the Undertaker. On October 12, 1991, Mean Gene Okerlund announced on Update that the upcoming Survivor Series would be main evented by WWF Champion defending the title against the Undertaker. Dubbed, “The Gravest Challenge” Hulkamaniacs and wrestling fans in general wondered if Hogan could defeat an opponent who had steamrolled over most of the WWF since his 1990 Survivor Series debut.
Of course, the match fans were waiting for was Hogan vs. Flair and the WWF decided to run some trial matches between the two. According to Graham Cawthon’s well-researched site, The History of the WWE, the first-ever Hogan vs. Flair match was at the Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio on October 22, 1991. There, Flair defeated Hogan by count-out when Bobby Heenan grabbed the Hulkster’s leg, preventing him from reentering the ring. Flair had scored a win over Hogan, but not the WWF Championship.
Was Flair up to the challenge of defeating Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship? Join me next time as we look at more of Hogan and Flair’s house show matches as well as the events leading to Survivor Series’ “Gravest Challenge” between Hogan and the Undertaker.
Betzold, Michael. “Suburban Commando.” All Movie.com. https://www.allmovie.com/movie/suburban-commando-v47516/cast-crew. Accessed 2 Feb. 2019.
Cawthon, Graham. “The History of the WWE. Results. 1991”. The History of the WWE. http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/91.htm. Accessed 22 Jan. 2018.
“Suburban Commando.” Box Office Mojo. https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=suburbancommando.htm. Accessed 2 Feb. 2019.