Over the course of Hulk Hogan's wrestling career, he faced some of the biggest, nastiest villains the industry has ever produced. More importantly for his status as a hero to millions of Hulkamaniacs around the globe, he overcame the challenge of those monstrous villains.
King Kong Bundy, Kamala, Andre the Giant, Zeus, Hercules and Big John Studd were just a few of the mammoth heels and ruthless strongmen who fell at the feet of the Hulkster, victims of his vaunted big boot and leg drop.
As the 1990s dawned, however, Hogan was less invincible than he had ever been before.
At WrestleMania VI, he lost the WWE Championship to the Ultimate Warrior, his shoulders pinned cleanly to the mat in what many considered a shocking defeat. But the inspirational star held his head high and soldiered on.
Then it happened.
He was confronted with his toughest challenge since Andre, a vicious and vile villain who took tremendous glee in pummeling and nearly ending his career. His name was Earthquake, and the Canadian-born Superstar vowed to put an end to Hogan and Hulkamania forever.
At SummerSlam 1990, amid fan speculation that Hulk may never be the man he was following a historically great injury angle, the two clashed in one of two main event matches.
This is the story of that contest.
From the moment he debuted, siding with heel manager Jimmy Hart and his charge Dino Bravo, WWE presented Earthquake as a force of nature no other babyface could put a stop to. He tore through the likes of Hercules and Greg Valentine, veteran midcard wrestlers who may not have been as hot as they once were but whom victories over still meant something.
Then, on the May 26 episode of WWE's syndicated Superstars show, he made the biggest move of his career.
During an edition of the Brother Love Show with guest Hulk Hogan, Earthquake attacked the top babyface in pro wrestling, using a steel chair to debilitate him, then delivered the vicious Earthquake Splash that instantly injured the ribs of his prey.
Medics carried Hogan away from the show's set on a stretcher, his status for the future unknown. The future of Hulkamania was uncertain for the first time, the greatest hero ever promoted by Vince McMahon in danger of never setting foot inside the squared circle again.
Video packages paid tribute to Hogan, but it was only a matter of time before the Hulkster summoned the same energy and passion he had demonstrated throughout his career, fought through the injury and returned to the ring.
With Bravo by Earthquake's side, Hogan recruited friend Tugboat. When his rival injured Tugboat, thus sidelining him for SummerSlam 1990, Hogan turned to the Big Boss Man, setting up a star-studded main event match.
Who would leave the Spectrum in Philadelphia with their arm raised in victory?
More importantly, would it be the last time fans ever witnessed Hulkamania run wild?
The co-main event of SummerSlam 1990 was so much better than it had any right to be. A heavyweight battle between two behemoths, it was the story of an overwhelming force, an oppressive star in Earthquake who wore down Hogan by targeting his injured ribs. Even a bear hug—a traditionally slow, plodding, uninteresting rest hold—worked to perfection because fans bought the idea of Hogan's badly hurt torso.
Of course, the Hulkster mounted the comeback and was well on his way to victory when the referee counted Earthquake out.
There were certainly fans who felt as though the finish of the bout was a cop-out, but this was one scenario in which it worked.
Earthquake could hardly afford the loss, especially if the intention was to continue using him as the top heel in the promotion. Hogan certainly was not going to lose in his grand comeback, so of course WWE had to book a screwy finish.
With Boss Man and Bravo right there, a double disqualification would have been more suitable, but for what it was, the count-out finish worked spectacularly.
The feud between Hogan and Earthquake continued throughout 1991, leading to a high-profile tag team elimination match at the 1990 Survivor Series.
Hogan's team defeated the massive Canadian's team, with the Hulkster serving as the sole survivor of the bout. It was a major blow for Earthquake, who was then eliminated by Hogan in the Royal Rumble match the following January.
The Hulkster almost always came out on the winning end, proving that Earthquake was just another massive heel built up for the sole purpose of putting the company's greatest pop culture phenomenon over.