Professional wrestling fans are at times spoiled; fans get to see feuds and matches that in other aspects of sport and entertainment are next to impossible to see.
We set aside disbelief for that one moment, that one match in time that will truly shape us as fans for the rest of our lives. Moments like the Rock vs Hollywood Hogan match at WrestleMania X8 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This event took place at the historic SkyDome, where over a decade earlier we saw Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior in the main event for the then WWF Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships. Twelve years later, and many roads traveled between these two icons, we are fortunate to see yet another illustrious meeting at the “showcase of the immortals” between two of the best to lace up a pair of wrestling boots. This match was one of those matches that truly shaped many wrestling fans, young and old alike for the rest of their fandom, both as fans and people.
After purchasing World Championship Wresting (WCW) about a year prior, Vince McMahon attempted to create matches that would send fans sprinting to the ticket office to purchase their tickets.
However, there wasn’t that one iconic match booked that could really play with your emotions until WrestleMania X8, the night after No Way Out on Raw. On that episode of Monday Night Raw, the recently debuted New World Order (nWo) consisting of Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall made their presence felt as they took out The Rock with many objects including a semi truck while the Rock was inside an ambulance. At that moment, the WWE writers and backstage staff had to know that they had the fans in the palm of their hands.
In their eyes, we were going to see Tyson vs Ali, we were going to the iconic match that everyone fantasy booked, but never got to see.
In the Raw leading up to WrestleMania, we saw Hogan drop the leg on Rock and pin him to the mat. Was this a look into the future of Sunday at WrestleMania? A lot of WWE fans seemed to think so. That is why the lead up alone to this match truly shaped me as a wrestling fan, including many fans around the world like me. We grew up “Hulkamaniacs,” but at this time, wanted to see the Rock truly lay the smackdown on Hogan once and for all.
Gone are the days of the red and yellow of the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan, and gone are the days of the young up and coming star Rocky Mania. At WrestleMania, we got Hollywood Hogan versus The Peoples Champ, the Brahma Bull himself, The Rock.
This match wasn’t going to be a classic “five star” match on the Meltzer scale. It was going to be a fight - plain and simple.
This match was a clash of when wresting was wrestling against the Attitude Era of professional wrestling. However, what was to come was truly a moment that will forever stand out in my mind as the moment that the torch was passed from one era to another. In front of over 68,000 fans at the Sky Dome in Toronto, Rock and Hogan entered the match as two of the biggest babyfaces in all of wrestling history. After these two icons locked up, and when Hogan threw Rock across the ring numerous times, the crowd decided right then and there that Hogan would be the face in this match.
The WrestleMania X8 match quickly became a match that was talked about for years to come.
In 2002, there were so many things going on in the world and in my life specifically. This match made me forget all of the bad things that were happening and literally shaped me as the wrestling fan that you see today. Additionally, I am comfortable saying that I am not the only one that this happened to. Iconic moments like this in history play on fans heartstrings both in person and each and every time you re-watch it.
Matches that bring emotions out of you are truly remarkable. You remember where you were, what you were wearing, and who you were with. When wrestlers tell a story like what Hogan and Rock did in this match and in this feud, you can’t help but get emotional thinking about it and while watching it. The roars of the crowd and the roars from fans at home watching it on their respective televisions truly shaped this match then, now, and forever.
RJ Kruszynski is the host of Ringside Rant podcast. He is a lifelong wresting fan and a huge Yankees and Bills fan. Follow him on Twitter @Ringsiderant_RJ