On February 17, 2002, at the No Way Out pay-per-view, Hulk Hogan made a triumphant return to World Wrestling Entertainment as part of the company's attempt to resurrect the New World Order. Almost immediately, speculation ran rampant as to which dream matches fans could expect as a result of the Hulkster's comeback.
They would get their answer rather quickly.
Just one night later, Hogan had a mid-ring showdown with The Rock during which the challenge for a match was laid down by wrestling's most electrifying star. Hogan accepted and found himself on the receiving end of a Rock Bottom.
Hogan's NWO cohorts Kevin Nash and Scott Hall hit the ring, joined the Hulkster in beating Rock down. Eventually, the Great One was locked into an ambulance, which was then run over by a semi driven by Hogan.
It was quite the convoluted television segment given the fact that a simple challenge could have accomplished the same thing.
On March 11, during the final Raw before WrestleMania, Rock returned to the ring and teamed with former rival "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to take on Hogan, Nash and Hall in a handicap tag match.
Thanks to a big boot and leg drop, Hogan scored a huge pinfall victory over his 'Mania opponent and seemed to have all of the momentum heading into the huge match.
For Hogan, a victory at WrestleMania would cement his legacy as the greatest star in the event's history.
For Rock, a win would mean the passing of the torch from one generation's star to another.
To say that the clash between The Rock and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 was not a wrestling masterpiece would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Hogan was nowhere near ready to have a truly great wrestling match, nor would he have one the rest of his career. But what the match lacked in holds and counterholds, it made up for in story, crowd participation and near falls.
The fans in Toronto treated Hogan like the returning icon that he was and it had great effect on the match.
The Rock was the uber athlete in his prime, arguably the biggest star in the sport and preparing to launch himself into mainstream consciousness thanks to a blossoming film career.
In a fair fight, no one would ever confuse Hogan with being a legitimate threat to Rock.
But on one night, with more than 60,000 fans behind him, the Hulkster summoned up enough courage, said enough prayers and took enough vitamins to hang with wrestling's most electrifying personality.
Though, he ultimately lost, and did so graciously, fans were treated to a match that will live forever in the annals of WWE.
The match marked the beginning of a career renaissance for Hogan.
Within a month, he would defeat Triple H and capture the WWE Championship as nostalgia ran wild. Unfortunately, that nostalgia would wear off quickly as fans had a hard time believing that the aging Hulkster could legitimately beat the younger stars in the business.
He would put over both Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar cleanly before taking a hiatus from the company.
In early 2003, he would return to start a program with Vince McMahon that would ultimately lead to a street fight between the two at WrestleMania XIX.
Prior to that match, however, Hogan would once again clash with Rock in the rematch of their iconic bout 11 months earlier.
The less said about that match, the better.
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