With the annual WrestleMania special airing this Saturday night on NBC, Hulk Hogan did a conference call today to promote the broadcast. Being that WrestleMania was the main topic of discussion, the scope of the questions was generally limited to his thoughts on this year's show and his past WrestleMania matches.
With Daniel Bryan out of action and the fact that telling his story would require covering two matches, he's nowhere to be found on the special. His matches were generally considered the best on the show, though.
When it comes to Hogan's own pick for the best match at WrestleMania 30, his choice may surprise you as it was a match that didn't go over well with the fan base, to say the least.
"The match at this year's show that was my favorite was the Brock Lesnar-Undertaker [match], because I sat back in catering with my son Nick, and there was this large monitor, and I knew about two minutes into the match that The Undertaker was already knocked out. I knew that he was kind of not knowing where he was, he was kind of going through the motions."
The way that Undertaker reacted once he got his bearings especially impressed Hogan. "To see how he carried on, and when you're in there with Brock, it's really, really, really intense, and to see how The Undertaker kept pushing through and what a pro he was and how he pulled it off and how he made it work when a lot of guys couldn't have made it work."
And of course like most people, he had no idea what was going to happen. "I didn't have a clue what the ending was, and so that was my favorite, favorite match without a doubt [this year]."
After I dropped off the line, Jason Powell followed up by asking for Hogan's thoughts on the decision to end The Undertaker's streak with that match. "It was a tough one for me, bro. I don't know The Undertaker's personal side of the story, how much longer he wants to keep pushing it. I don't know physically, where his body's at, because believe me, I'm not saying he did, but I hit a wall at a certain point physically. I don't know if he's there yet or not."
Hogan noted that the impending arrival of one of his most famous opponents makes the result more questionable to him. "Then, all of a sudden, Sting shows up on the scene, and I'm going 'Oh my gosh, that would have been the match of all matches to have Sting and The Undertaker go at it if the streak wasn't broken,' so I'm kind of torn on the finish. It was done for a reason, a business reason."
Before Lesnar ended the streak, he had post-comeback losses to John Cena and Triple H hanging over his head. Now? It's like they never happened.
What was Hulk Hogan's best WrestleMania performance?
Still, Hogan thinks that in the end, Lesnar winning has to be part of a bigger plan for The Undertaker. "I don't know the answer for that, if there's major plans for a rematch...just 'cause you break the streak doesn't mean it's the end of the world. Vince McMahon knows stuff we don't know. He can have a plan bigger than we ever dreamed of. So I'm not gonna second guess him because I've watched him for so long, he's always got a down card. So I just don't know, brother, it's just...I don't know. There's something more to it than we know."
When it comes to picking out his own greatest WrestleMania performance, though, it's a much tougher pick for Hogan than selecting his favorite match from this year's show was. "Well, each match had a different set of circumstances," he explained. "Y'know, when you're in there with Macho, you're like smooth as butter, because he was the Macho Man 24/7, even his moves and his character made it easy."
With Randy Savage, they had worked together numerous times, and it's arguable that they had better matches on house shows. Still, this was the biggest match of their feud by far, on the biggest pay-per-view event in wrestling history up to that point. WrestleMania 3 was available in a smaller PPV universe and still sold a substantial number of admissions for closed circuit screenings.
"The Warrior, I was proud of that match because I kind of had to walk him through that. We got to the four or five minute mark of the match and he wanted to get out of there. I said 'No, brother, we've gotta lay this thing out straight, we do some big moments where you kick out of my finish, I kick out of your finish, we gotta tell this story.'"
That Ultimate Warrior match is generally considered Hogan's finest moment as an in-ring performer, usually for the same reasons he mentioned: He did a tremendous job pacing Warrior to keep him from blowing up.
"And then there's the match with Andre, where I just listened to him and he created a huge scenario of passing the torch, making me greater than anyone had ever anticipated. That was all Andre's doing." While not usually considered the best pure wrestling match, it's one of the greatest spectacles in wrestling history.
"Then you get to the match which was tit for tat, with me and The Rock, where we just went at it, and the fans kind of decided who was doing better in the match. That's a hard question to answer, but if there was one match I had to really, really, really be proud of as far as it clicking and working was the one with The Rock."
He's right to be proud of that performance. For everything you can say about Hulk Hogan, when he came back to WWE in 2002, he showed up to work and was clearly excited to work with the younger talent like The Rock, Chris Jericho and Edge. That match with The Rock has become legendary, and for good reason. Not only was the drama off the charts, but it's one of the last great athletic performances of his career, as well.