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WWE Classic of the Week: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy from WrestleMania 2

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2015

Credit: WWE.com

At WrestleMania 31, John Cena will battle the mighty Rusev in a match that will test the franchise player's ability to overcome a physically superior star.

It is hardly the first time that scenario has been presented at the Showcase of the Immortals. In fact, World Wrestling Entertainment's top heroes have been overcoming the odds presented by bigger, stronger and more ferocious villains for years.

WrestleMania has been home to conquering babyfaces dating all the way back to its second incarnation in 1986, when Hulk Hogan defended the World Heavyweight Championship against the massive King Kong Bundy inside a steel cage.

It was Hogan's first opportunity to wrestle a singles match on the grandest stage of them all and Bundy's chance to prove that the WWE champion could beat any number of heels put before him but he could not defeat someone of his size, his strength and his brutality.

While looked back upon now as one of the lesser main events in the show's history, it was a colossal clash between the valiant champion and the one Superstar who, at the time, looked like the man to crush Hulkamania.

Now, as Rusev attempts to put an end to the Cenation in the name of the Russian Federation, hop back in the DeLorean and travel back to 1986 for this Classic of the Week, featuring an iconic Superstar and one of the most impressive big men in wrestling history.

The Background

In November 1985, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant teamed up to battle King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd in tag team action on Saturday Night's Main Event.

That night, the Hulkster would score a big win in his war with the Heenan Family, but the next time he'd set foot in the same ring with Bundy, that would not be the case.

The March 1, 1986 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event saw Hogan battle the hated "Magnificent" Don Muraco. Despite a victory, Hogan found himself attacked by Bundy. Worse yet, he suffered broken ribs as a result of the heavyweight's brutal assault.

Suddenly, there were questions about the Hulkster's ability to compete at WrestleMania. Every week, commentator Vince McMahon wondered aloud how the WWE champion would be able to compete in Los Angeles for the third leg of the historic WrestleMania 2 event.

Eventually, the resilient champion went against his doctor's orders and vowed to compete against Bundy. Not only that, but he accepted the challenge to fight inside a steel cage.

In the moments prior to the contest, footage aired of Hogan working out in the gym, attempting to build his body, crushed ribs and all, against what was sure to be an onslaught at the hands of Bundy.

The Match

Analysis

Today's wrestling fan has become so desensitized to the formula used in this match, thanks to the complete and utter dominance of John Cena over the last decade, that it becomes harder and harder to appreciate matches such as the WrestleMania 2 main event.

Hogan was so incredibly underrated when it came to taking a beating and convincing fans to emotionally invest themselves in him. With body language alone, he told this story of a heroic champion overcome by the physical onslaught of a much larger competitor.

But he never gave up, and fans respected, appreciated and loved him for it. He did not allow the pain he was enduring to keep him from fighting for the title and, more importantly, for all the little Hulkamaniacs in the crowd.

It was simple wrestling booking, the type that helped Vince McMahon take his company national and become the biggest sports-entertainment empire of all time. He capitalized on that connection between Hogan and the fans and rode it straight to the bank.

Is Hogan vs. Bundy a classic in the truest sense of the word? No. In fact, it's average at best.Β 

But what the match offers is a look back at a time when wrestling was a much simpler art form than the sometimes jumbled mess that it has become.

The Aftermath

Hulk Hogan continued to carry the WWE banner, helping the company achieve the greatest success it ever had. By the time 1987 approached, McMahon vowed to make WrestleMania III the biggest show in the history of the sport. To do so, he would have to put his hero at an even greater disadvantage.

He did, booking an improbable Andre the Giant heel turn and putting the top two stars in the industry on a collision course.

The WWE Championship match at that year's 'Mania remains arguably the greatest main event the business has ever seen. Over 93,000 fans packed the Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit for the show and watched as Hogan brought Andre's 15-year undefeated streak to an end.

It was a defining moment for Hogan, McMahon, the company and, most importantly, the world of professional wrestling.

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