Part Forty Four
The fall of 1991 saw Hulk Hogan dealing with the combined challenges of arguably his greatest challengers to date, veteran NWA World Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the young, but incredibly intimidating challenger of the Undertaker. Fans wondered if Hogan would be able to make it through 1991 with his WWF Championship intact and if not, who would be the first to win the belt, Flair or the Undertaker. Although the Undertaker was scheduled to face the Hulkster at Survivor Series, the WWF Champion still had to face Ric Flair at a number of house shows with the WWF title on the line.
As we saw last time around, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was finally in the WWF after weeks of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan talking up the arrival of “The Real World’s Champion.” Flair and Hogan had met at a house show in Dayton, Ohio with Flair winning via countout. Several more challenges were held at house shows as the WWF seemed to be preparing Hogan and Flair for a major program down the road.
On October 25, 1991, Hogan defended the WWF Championship against Flair at Oakland, California’s Oakland Coliseum. While this is often cited as the first bout between Hogan and Flair, that is not the case (as discussed in part 43). Nonetheless, it was a huge match as Flair defeated Hogan for the WWF Championship after using a foreign object—that is until a second official brought the shenanigans to the first official’s attention. The decision was reversed and an irate Flair locked Hogan in the figure-four leglock until Greg Valentine and Davey Boy Smith made the save. As often happened in the days before the Internet made house show results common knowledge, the WWF repeated the scenario at another show, this time the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California on October 26, 1991 where Flair again won with the help of a foreign object, only for the referee to reverse the original decision.
The WWF repeated this match several times around the country as talk of the Hogan/Flair encounters began circulating in the “Apter mags” such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated. WWF fans could sense that something big was coming, but when would the WWF officially pit Hogan and Flair against each other on TV or at a pay-per-view? For now, it looked like the Undertaker would get a title match against Hogan first.
The WWF built up Flair further with more tainted wins over “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, establishing Flair was more than just talk. Flair locked up with Jim Neidhart on the November 9, 1991 Superstar, defeating “The Anvil” with the figure-four leglock. Flair reapplied the hold on Neidhart, injuring the future Hall of Famer.
Things continued heating up as Survivor Series drew near. On the November 16, 1991 Superstars, Hulk Hogan was the guest on The Funeral Parlor. Paul Bearer welcomed the fans and pointed to the special coffin the Undertaker had built for Hulk Hogan, complete with “Hulk Rules” bumper stickers. Hogan arrived and opened the casket to make sure the Undertaker wasn’t hiding inside. The Hulkster then turned his attention to the standing wooden casket on set, the same one the Undertaker had emerged from when he ambushed the Undertaker months earlier before trapping him in a coffin (see my book Wrestling’s Greatest Moments for more details on this classic beatdown).
Before Hogan could check the casket, Nature Boy Ric Flair emerged, getting into Hogan’s face and telling him “You know how long I’ve been waiting for this moment, big man?” Slick Ric revealed how he’d grown tired of all the years of hearing about the 24-inch pythons. The cocky Flair next told Hogan not to worry about the butterflies rumbling inside his stomach. Flair confidently told Hogan he’d just burst his bubble and he was now here, with the real world’s championship.
“Whatcha gonna do when Ric Flair runs wild on you? Flair asked, to which Hogan responded by ripping off his shirt and shouting “Well let me tell you, Ric Flair” Hogan scoffed at Flair’s claim to being the real-world champion but before he could get too far, the Undertaker skulked out of the casket, blasting Hogan with the urn. Flair began stomping away at the fallen Hulkster while the Undertaker began choking him. Thankfully for Hogan, Randy Savage and Roddy Piper were on set providing color commentary and ran to Hogan’s aid, chairs in tow. Piper hit Flair with a chair as Savage delivered a chairshot to the Undertaker, only for ‘Taker to stand as if he’d been hit with a feather. Ric Flair grabbed Hulk Hogan’s WWF Championship and raised it along with his real world’s championship. The Undertaker, Paul Bearer, and Flair left Hogan laying, but not before the Undertaker ripped off Hogan’s cross and dropped it on the fallen champion’s chest.
It would take more than that to stop Hulkamania however.
The next week on Superstars, Mean Gene Okerlund interviewed the WWF Champion, telling him that some people were claiming Hulkamania would be dead. Challenging the best televangelists of his day, the Hulkster told Gene he wanted to remind the teeny Hulksters what Hulkamania was about. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no Undertaker.” Hogan pointed to his yellow Hulk Rules t-shirt and reminded everyone that the yellow stood for the training, the prayers, and the vitamins; and that the light would blind the Undertaker at Survivor Series. Hogan then pointed to his red bandana, which he said symbolized his immortality.
Then, in an incredible spiritual revelation not seen since the time Oral Roberts told viewers in 1987 that God told him he needed to raise eight million dollars by the end of the year, or God would take him home (Roberts raised $9.1 million, apparently saving his life), the Hulkster revealed a previously unknown Scripture. According to Reverend Hogan, when the Big Man upstairs spilled His blood on the cross, “He swore to me that Hulkamania would never die”. The Hulkster was just getting started though as he promised the light of Hulkamania would blind the Undertaker’s henchman Ric Flair. Hogan’s rhetoric continued as he said when the Undertaker attacked him, he could smell the cold, lifeless flesh burning when Undertaker grabbed Hogan’s crucifix and had to drop it. Hogan says at that moment he knew he would survive the Survivor Series. “Whatcha gonna do Undertaker when Hulk Hogan and the red of immortality run wild on you?”
The Undertaker had already been on a rampage in the WWF for the last year and now, he’d made an impressive statement going into Survivor Series. Could even the power of Hulkamania prevail against the power of the dark side or would the Gospel of Hulkamania prevail? Join me next time as we look at one of Hogan’s greatest championship challenges, the match aptly-named “The Gravest Challenge.”.
Cawthon, Graham. “The History of the WWE. Results. 1991”. The History of the WWE. http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/91.htm. Accessed 22 Jan. 2018.