James Dixon: This is the second tape from Columbia House, rather than Coliseum, and like most of the tapes they brought out it is just a collection of matches found on other related comp tapes. There is nothing on here that you can’t find on the other Hogan tapes, but I will do the reviews again for the matches we have not covered, for the sake of posterity. This is not to be confused with the other Best of Hulkamania tape, released by Coliseum, which features completely different matches. As I did with an Ultimate Warrior tape elsewhere in the book, I am going to attempt to only see the positives in this. It is going to be a mammoth task.
The Iron Sheik (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
This features on a lot of other tapes. It is from Madison Square Garden in January 1984, and is one of the most famous and historically significant matches of all time. There is no hyperbole involved when I say that there has probably never been as important a match as this. It changed the course of the WWF and wrestling in general. Hogan was something completely new and fresh, and even if some didn’t rate him as a worker, his charisma and presence was unquestionably huge. Hogan was money, and Vince was smart and saw that, when Verne Gagne did not. Hogan jumps Sheik to start and dominates him as the crowd goes crazy. Hogan hits the big boot but doesn’t hook the leg, and Sheik kicks out. An elbow to the top of the head and an elbow drop yields the same result. Sheik is yet to connect with a single offensive move. Sheik eventually does take control, and throws Hogan around with suplexes and a back breaker, before locking on the Camel Clutch. Hogan impressively powers to his feet and rams Sheik into the buckles, then hits the legdrop and covers him for the win and the title. There was a constant deafening din in the air all the way through the bout, there are few matches like it where the crowd is just absolutely willing the babyface to win. This is one of them, and that is because the set-up was perfect. Sheik was universally hated, Hogan was new and exciting and by contrast, was adored by the fans. They knew that Hogan winning the title here would change everything, it was obvious to everyone. There had never been a champion like Hogan before, even Superstar Billy Graham, for all his charisma, didn’t have the sheer presence of the Hulkster. The crowd goes absolutely crazy when he wins, it is an unmatchable reaction and impossible to recreate (the exception perhaps being Pedro’s win earlier in the tape). The face of wrestling was changed forever in just under six minutes. Not much of a match, though certainly more than passable by Hogan standards. But either way, this is required viewing for any wrestling fan.
Final Rating: *½
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant
From one incredibly famous match to another, this of course being the main event of the historic WrestleMania III. It is probably the most recycled match of the era as far as making repeat appearances on these tapes, and it can be found countless times elsewhere. Jesse Ventura calls it the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling and for once that is not just hype. The stare down at the start alone is dripping with intensity. This level of match has never been recreated, because it was the two biggest stars of the decade, on the biggest stage, in front of the largest crowd. Nothing has come close in terms of spectacle since, and probably never will. The reason I think it will never be matched is because stars are created in different ways than they were in the 70s and 80s. Andre and Hogan had both been around the circuit, all over the world, for many years before this match. People believed that Andre had never been beaten in fifteen years, even if it was revisionist history on the part of the WWF. Hogan had an aura of being unbeatable as well, he had been the WWF champion for three years, which again is a reign length that will not be matched again. When you combine their respective histories and legendary statuses with the personal issue in kayfabe world that they used to be friends and no-one ever expected Andre to turn on Hogan, you have magic. Other matches since have been huge, epic and historical, but none to the level of this. The slam at the end from Hogan is also something that they have tried and failed to recreate, but it can never happen. Having Kane slam Great Khali at WrestleMania XXIII was not even on the same planet. This is obviously a horrid match for workrate fans, but that is not what it is about. Indeed, most wrestling fans can probably watch this match with their eyes closed and recite every spot. The match content didn’t matter, it was all about the spectacle. Required viewing for all wrestling fans, but you can certainly get hold of this in countless other places.
Final Rating: **½
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
JD – This is from WrestleMania V and is covered fully by Arnold Furious elsewhere in this book. Lee Maughan and I have already covered the match on an earlier tape:
LM – Hogan-Savage at WrestleMania V had the wrong finish. If you look at the numbers, Hogan was on the A-shows and doing 18-20,000 a night, and Savage-Honky or Warrior-Rude or whoever would main event the B-shows and do 10-15,000 a night. Savage got the belt because Hogan was doing No Holds Barred, and suddenly, Savage-DiBiase and Savage-Andre were doing Hogan numbers. Then Hogan came back and his matches against Bossman would draw 18-20,000 sell out crowds, but Savage vs. DiBiase would do the same. They had A and B house shows doing comparable numbers all summer long. Even when Savage turned, he worked with Warrior and did 18-20,000 houses with the title, and Hogan did it without the title. Then Hogan beat him and the B-shows went immediately back down to 10-15,000. They put the title on Hogan, who didn’t need it and took it off Savage, who the numbers proved was a bigger draw as the champion than not. If they’d put Savage over on a screwjob and not just beaten Hogan flat out, they could have had a second summer with two mega-draws, and come back with a cage match, for SummerSlam perhaps. Instead they jobbed out Savage and lost a ton of house show ticket and merchandise revenue, and tried to put ZEUS over instead!
JD– Yeah, but remember, Hogan had never really lost then. If he was beaten, he might have lost his star power and aura, as he did a little when Warrior beat him. Plus, it was a different world in ’89. Vince had to end Mania on a babyface win.
LM – I don’t think he did really. He already wanted DiBiase to leave Mania IV with the title.
JD – Yes, but he didn’t do it in the end. In fact, he didn’t do it until WrestleMania XVI!
LM – Yeah, but that’s adding another eleven years of history to a decision that was made in 1989. I mean, they still hit big numbers after Mania, but that period with Savage as champion and Hogan back working was their peak, and they never got there again. If worst came to worst and Hogan stopped drawing after a screwjob, which he hadn’t done after Andre beat him, they could easily put the title back on him at SummerSlam.
JD – I think there is more to it than that. The ethos of WrestleMania might have been damaged by it. Although, I guess that doesn’t really matter, especially if Savage is still a draw. He might have become an even bigger draw after screwing Hogan, because the fans would have been desperate for him to lose. I am coming around to your logic to a point, for business it could have been good. I think it would have been very bold in ’89 to do that finish at Mania though.
LM – Well, certainly by the standards of the WWF insisting on long-term face champions. Sammartino, Backlund and Hogan set the precedent really, but they were actually an anomaly, the NWA always had heel champions.
JD – Sure, but NWA was different because the heel champion toured the territories and worked the top local babyface. The WWF was self contained, and with them touring the country, it made sense to have a face champion for the fans to come and see, rather than a heel champ they wanted to see get beat. They were completely different business models.
LM – Yeah, but a lot of the territories would have top heel champions locally. It’s gotta be easier to book a “thrill of the chase” angle too. But saying that, I get Hogan being champion for so long, what with being a cartoon show and all. Plus, how can Superman NOT be the champion?
JD – Well, that is the exact argument against Hogan losing.
LM – Yeah, and that’s probably why they did it. Although, I honestly think they could have held off, especially because No Holds Barred was about to come out. They didn’t have to promote Hogan as “WWF Champion”, just call him “the star of No Holds Barred”. In fact, there’s your gimmick: Hogan gets his rematches at house shows and Savage takes count out wins, so on the second go around, they run No Holds Barred matches that are non-title and Hogan wins.
JD – I wouldn’t drag it out quite as long. I think if you have Savage win, then Hogan can go right into the Zeus program on the house show circuit and SNME, keeping him away from the title picture, but still drawing because of the film. That feud didn’t need the belt. Let Savage work with someone else on top for a few months and do Savage-Hogan in a cage at SummerSlam. After that they can go to the Ultimate Challenge at Mania VI just as they did. I don’t know who Savage could work between Mania and SummerSlam though.
LM – Beefcake.
JD – Beefcake!?
LM – Beefcake in 89 man, he was over and he was having good matches at that point with Rude and Savage. Other than that it’s Duggan or Jake I guess.
JD – Tito even, if they had booked him better. They could have had great matches in ’89, and they had a lot of history too.
LM – I’d probably do Savage-Tito on SNME or something, except they wouldn’t play up their history. Isn’t it a piss-take how they try and sell you all these historical DVDs, when they’ve spent a lifetime programming you to ignore it?
JD – Anyway the match is over, what did you think of it?
LM – I would probably rate that higher than Furious did because I really liked it, but that is romanticising it probably. The rating is probably spot on.
JD – I agree, it was really good, but not quite great.
Final Rating: ***½
Sgt. Slaughter (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
Sgt. Slaughter is probably the worst… erm… least best WWF Champion of all time. Okay, it is getting hard to stay positive. With that in mind I’m not going to say anything about how long they are stalling for either. I will say this though: they certainly didn’t leave any room for fence sitting as they had with Hogan against Savage at WrestleMania V and then Warrior the next year. This is as clear a good versus evil confrontation as you are ever likely to see. It’s completely different to most Hogan matches you see at WrestleMania because Hogan is actually selling really believably and the crowd buys that he might lose. No-one thought Slaughter would beat Warrior, but he did and changed the fans’ perception of him. The crowd buys him as a credible threat to Hogan too. They do a strange spot where Adnan distracts the ref as Slaughter has Hogan covered for about a twenty count, and he still only just makes the kick out when the ref counts it. A chair shot which busts Hogan open soon after adds to that belief that he might get beat. It is rare that you see Hogan show so much weakness. I still think Slaughter was a strange choice to be that guy, and after a year he became completely irrelevant in the WWF. Slaughter actually almost kicks out of the legdrop at the end, and it is a very different end to a WrestleMania, with a blood soaked and nearly beaten Hulkster posing with the title, rather than the all-conquering Superman. For years fans had seen Hogan as Superman, but this made him human. Excellent story and a really good match, it far surpassed anything I would usually expect from these guys.
Final Rating: ***¼
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. The Undertaker
This brief encounter has featured on a few different tapes, including the UK release of Wrestling’s Greatest Champions and more pertinently, Hulkamania 6. This is a strange choice, because they do under five minutes and it is just a random bout from a TV taping. All the others have been historical title wins or defences from major shows, but this is neither. I guess they only had a few minutes left and it fit because it is so short. Hey, at least it has a clean finish as well, which makes it five out of five on this tape. You can tell it is not a Coliseum release, because they never even come CLOSE to a 1.0 batting average for decisive finishes on their tapes. There, positive for the whole tape! I deserve a prize.
Final Rating: ¼*
Summary: Whoever was putting these tapes together at Columbia House deserves a hearty pat on the back. Aside from the superb Hulkamania 3, no other Hogan comp puts together such a spot-on collection of his best moments like this one does. It is a best of Hogan tape, so you want to see his biggest matches, his best matches, and you want to see him win. This ticks all of those boxes, which sounds like a no-brainer really, but few of the Coliseum tapes even come close. If you only own one Hogan tape, make it Hulkamania 3. If you get another, make it this one.