Hulk Hogan Joins WCW and the Most 'Holy S--t' Moments in Wrestling History

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2020

Hulk Hogan Joins WCW and the Most 'Holy S--t' Moments in Wrestling History

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    There are few chants more overused in today's wrestling landscape than "holy s--t," if only because the industry is dotted with moments that genuinely warrant such a reaction.

    They are moments that alter the history of the sport as we know it, leave fans on the edge of their seats waiting for the next chapter in a particular feud, or cause mouths to gape at the incredible risk some Superstars are willing to take to entertain the masses. 

    Almost 26 years ago, on June 11, 1994, Hulk Hogan jumped ship from WWE to WCW in one such moment.

    But where does that moment, unquestionably one of the most significant in professional wrestling history, rank among other instances that had fans spewing curses in disbelief?

Honorable Mention: Jon Moxley Puts the Exclamation Point on Double or Nothing

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    Jon Moxley's debut at the inaugural All Elite Wrestling pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, was not only an exclamation point on that company's maiden voyage but a message to the wrestling world that was received loudly and clearly.

    A top star for WWE as Dean Ambrose, Moxley was a former world champion and household name among pro wrestling fans. That he opted to leave McMahonland for greater opportunity and creative freedom the new promotion offered was an indictment on wrestling's most storied company. 

    On a night in which AEW announced its arrival with a blockbuster extravaganza, it saved its most memorable moment for last, and the result was an undeniable buzz.

10. The Hulkster Jumps Ship

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    The biggest star in the history of professional wrestling, Hulk Hogan had been synonymous with Vince McMahon's WWE up until 1993, when he seemingly stepped away from the industry to focus his attention on becoming a film and TV star.

    Some recruitment from Ric Flair, and an offer he could not refuse, lured The Hulkster out of Hollywood and back into the squared circle as he signed to join Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling.

    The decision sent shockwaves throughout the industry and was announced in a grand parade through Universal Studios in Orlando, which aired on the June 11 episode of WCW Saturday Night. For the first time in a decade, Hogan appeared for a company other than McMahon's, sporting the logo of WCW on his trademark yellow and red gear.

    It was inconceivable. Unfathomable. Wrong, even.

    He was WWE's guy. 

    Until he wasn't.

    The moment was awe-inspiring and one that forever altered the course of pro wrestling history—as we will see later in this countdown.

    It also evened up the battle for brand supremacy, something that would define the wrestling industry for years to come.

9. CM Punk's Pipebomb

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    For a brief, shining moment in the summer of 2011, CM Punk made pro wrestling cool again.

    The Straight Edge Superstar took a mic, sat cross-legged on the WWE Raw stage, and addressed a number of frustrations he had with the way his career, and pro wrestling as a whole, were headed. 

    Denouncing sycophantic suck-ups, a doofus son-in-law and his lack of push despite his excellence in the ring, on the mic and at the commentary table, he lit up anyone and anything he felt was responsible for his career frustration.

    The moment, forever dubbed the "pipebomb," sparked an interest in pro wrestling that had not been there in a decade, made a household name of Punk and ignited a push that would culminate in him winning the WWE Championship from John Cena at Money in the Bank.

    All while creating a surge of energy and buzz across social media.

8. Michael Hayes Slams the Door on His Friendship with Kerry Von Erich

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    The Von Erichs vs. The Freebirds.

    One of the greatest rivalries in professional wrestling history began on Christmas night, 1982, as Kerry Von Erich challenged "Nature Boy" Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship inside a steel cage. At the time, Von Erich had a friendship with The Freebirds' Michael "P.S." Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts.

    That all changed late in the match.

    Frustrated that Von Erich would not accept his help in defeating Flair, Hayes shockingly slammed the steel cage door on the head of Texas' favorite son, knocking him out and allowing a bloodied Flair to retain his title.

    The moment left fans in awe, stunned by the blatant and despicable betrayal of Hayes and Co. "Holy s--t" was an understatement. Hayes had shocked the world and screwed the most popular babyface in the state of Texas, and the fans could not wait to see him get his comeuppance.

7. Seth Rollins Cashes in

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    In 10 years, never before had the Money in the Bank briefcase been cashed in at WrestleMania. Despite every previous winner having the opportunity to hand over their title opportunity, capture the gold and entrench themselves in WrestleMania lore, no one ever had.

    That is until Seth Rollins rushed the ring during the main event of the 2015 event and cashed in, turning the Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar bout into a Triple Threat Match.

    Mere moments later, a spear by Reigns to Lesnar opened up The Big Dog for a stomp by Rollins, who made the pin and escaped with the title. It was, inarguably, the greatest heist in WrestleMania history and one of those rare moments at The Show of Shows that will live forever.

    It also sparked a push for Rollins that continues to this day and served as the instance where he went from promising young star to one of the elite main event attractions in modern WWE history.

6. Andre the Giant Betrays Hulk Hogan

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    Andre the Giant was pro wrestling's most lovable big man prior to February 21, 1987.

    He traveled the world, a special attraction for promoters looking to draw a house. Advertised as unbeaten, his mystique and aura were undeniable, as was his popularity. After years as the top attraction in the industry, he had to sit back and watch as Hulk Hogan won championships and accolades, forcing the giant to take a backseat to the phenomenon that was Hulkamania.

    That changed on the road to WrestleMania III, as Andre, fed up with playing runner-up, interrupted Hogan on an edition of Piper's Pit and challenged The Hulkster to a WWE Championship Match at that year's showcase of the immortals.

    Stunned by Andre's demeanor and partnership with the evil Bobby Heenan, Hogan pleaded until the giant ripped the Hulkster's shirt off—crucifix, too—and left to a chorus of boos. Hogan would accept the match, but the wrestling industry was still in awe of the shocking events that had just unfolded.

5. The Four Horsemen Attack Dusty Rhodes

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    The rivalry between Dusty Rhodes and The Four Horsemen dominated the mid-1980s Jim Crockett Promotion. It was that company's hottest feud, the stuff of legend, even. The American Dream's battles with Ric Flair were already legendary, but his wars with Tully Blanchard, Arn and Ole Anderson would quickly join them in the pantheon of wrestling lore.

    No angle was more memorable, or awe-inspiring, than the 1986 breaking of Rhodes' arm.

    In a video introduced by the cunning manager JJ Dillon, the Horsemen followed Rhodes into a parking lot in Atlanta, beat him to a pulp and tied his arm to a truck. Rhodes, gasping for air after being choked with a baseball bat, defiantly ordered his foes to "make it good” as they swung the bat and broke his arm.

    The act of barbarism left the NWA fans in shock, a true "holy s--t" moment before they became cool and trendy. Never before had fans of the product seen anything like it. The angle confirmed the depths to which the heels would sink and added heat to an already combustible feud.

    It was a perfect bit of television and one many still point to as peak JCP storytelling.

4. "As God as My Witness, He's Broken in Half!"

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    "As God as my witness, he's broken in half!"

    The exclamation by Jim Ross put over the awe-inspiring moment in which Undertaker grabbed hold of Mankind and sent him flying off the top of the Hell in a Cell structure, crashing through the announce table some 20-feet below.

    The stunned silence that engulfed the Igloo in Pittsburgh, the rush of referees and medics to the ringside area to check on Mick Foley, who appeared dazed, confused and possibly unconscious of his whereabouts.

    Never before in the history of WWE had fans witnessed a death-defying highspot such as that one. It raised the bar for danger, and, more importantly for the performer involved, it bolstered the legacy of wrestling's Hardcore Legend.

    That it was not the only bump of significance he would take that night made that match, and Foley's grit and toughness, much more legendary. 

3. Austin Stuns the Boss

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    Prior to September 22, 1997, few had dared put their hands on the voice of WWE, Vince McMahon. He was the commentator and host of the company's programming, and while some knew he was also the owner of the company, that had never been outwardly addressed on TV.

    That is, until the fall of 1997, when he stood in the ring and implored an injured "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to understand where the company was coming from by not allowing him to compete with a broken neck.

    For a moment, it looked like Stone Cold understood.

    Then, the Texas Rattlesnake struck.

    Austin dropped McMahon with a Stone Cold Stunner and changed the wrestling landscape forever.

    It was the first time McMahon had taken such a bump. Though he had been inadvertently struck with a steel chair by Roddy Piper, and got into fisticuffs with a furious Bret Hart at ringside, this was the first time McMahon was actually a key figure in an ongoing storyline and took a bump to advance a story/character.

    It worked, as Austin's anti-authority, rebellious badass shtick helped make him the biggest star the company had ever seen and brought WWE back from the brink of defeat in the Monday Night Wars. While it would be half a year before they would actually defeat WCW, it was the dynamic between Austin and McMahon and the fallout from that stunner that was the key ingredient.

2. "Who's Side Is He On!?"

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    "But who's side is he on?!"

    Though he would be lambasted for ruining the twist, Bobby Heenan rightly reacted in the moment, a heel with a long history with Hulk Hogan that caused him to question The Hulkster's intentions as he stomped to the ring during the main event of Bash at the Beach 1996.

    As it turned out, Heenan was right to ask the question as Hogan delivered an industry-changing leg drop to friend "Macho Man" Randy Savage and joined Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in the formation of the New World Order.

    After the match, a venom-spewing Hogan blamed the fans turning on him for his actions and demanded they all "stick it!"

    Interviewer "Mean" Gene Okerlund was disgusted by what was unfolding around him, fans pelted the heels with garbage and the industry as he knew it changed forever.

    Any questions regarding Hogan's ability to pull off a heel turn effectively were answered, and WCW suddenly had on its hands the hottest act in the industry. After 12 years as the most recognizable babyface in professional wrestling, he had stunned the world and become the most hated man in the industry.

    It would be 83 weeks before Monday Nitro was beaten by WWE Raw in the battle for ratings supremacy, while the same Hogan many had been begging to retire suddenly had renewed energy.

1. 21-1

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    The Undertaker's unbeaten streak at WrestleMania was, up until 2014, sacred.

    It was untouched. Unblemished. Perfect.

    Then, along came Brock Lesnar.

    The Beast Incarnate returned to WWE in 2012 and tore through any and all who stood before him. John Cena, Triple H and CM Punk had all felt his wrath, and at WrestleMania 30, in front of 70,000-plus fans, so would The Deadman.

    In a moment that plays as vividly in the minds of fans today as it did when it happened, Lesnar dropped Undertaker with an F-5 and pinned his shoulders to the mat for three. Silence fell over the arena. Fans stood in awe, jaws dropped, as they had just witnessed the one thing they never thought they would: the end of two decades of domination on wrestling's grandest stage.

    The eerie quiet that had fallen over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was reflective of the stunning booking decision, but also the death of the fans' childhoods. For 20 years, they knew nothing but Undertaker winning at The Showcase of the Immortals.

    For him to suffer that loss was unfathomable.

    To this day, certain images of fans in awe at the outcome are the subjects of internet memes. It reminded those watching that, when WWE wants to, it can still create those unforgettable moments that leave fans completely aghast.