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It's ''Hollywood'' Hogan vs. The Rock

It’s ”Hollywood” Hogan vs. The Rock. Wacky, yes, but Mike Flaherty couldn’t be happier at the latest developments for ”Wrestlemania X8”

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Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan: WWF

It’s ”Hollywood” Hogan vs. The Rock

With the dreadfully disappointing ”No Way Out” pay per view behind it, the WWF set out on the road to ”Wrestlemania” with a confrontation on Monday night’s edition of ”RAW” (Mondays, TNN, 9 p.m.) that was the the stuff of which grappling dreams are made.

With the dreaded nWo now on board, it was only a matter of time before the sparks started flying. So, when the thuggish trio’s leader, ”Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, made his way to the ring for a promo, it didn’t take a psychic to know that history was about to be made. After reminiscing with the fans at Chicago’s Allstate Arena about his mid-’80s glory days and thanking them for their support in making him the biggest star ever to prowl the squared circle, he then returned to classic heel form and blamed those very same hordes for eventually letting him down and forcing him to leave the WWF for the not-so-green pastures of Ted Turner’s WCW. As he went on to proclaim himself the biggest star of WWF past, present, and future (ha!), it was just as clear that his self-love fest was about to come to a dramatic end. And it did, with the emergence of the Rock, the clear heir to Hogan’s legend.

From there on, it was bizarro world all the way. As the two men stared each other down, Rock reminding the crowd that it was the vitamin-taking, prayer-saying Hulkster who had let the fans down, not the other way around. Then, as if the mere sight of them together wasn’t mind-blowing enough, they decided to settle their many differences at ”Wrestlemania X8” on March 17.

Fans would do well to have no illusions about this matchup: Both Hogan and the Rock have created their legends not from ring expertise, but irresistible, relentless charisma (no doubt the reason why it’s matinee-idol Rock, and not brilliant brawler Steve Austin who made the challenge). So, no, it won’t be the match of the century as far as mat work is concerned, but it will be the biggest and most hype-worthy attraction in Toronto on March 17.

As if their priceless repartee (and the Great One’s Rock-Bottoming of the Hulkster) wasn’t enough to make last night’s show historic, things got even weirder. After Hogan and his nWo cronies, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, laid a merciless beat-down on Rocky that left him unconscious, the real fun began.

As the ambulance carrying the Rock entered the arena parking lot, it was suddenly blocked by an nWo-driven tractor-trailer. Hogan, Nash, and Hall proceeded to eject the EMTs from the vehicle and chain all of its doors shut. Then, incredibly, Hogan got behind the wheel and, with a good 100-yard head start, rammed the ambulance with the semi, crushing it like a tin can. Much worked drama and hushed silence ensued inside, while a slew of emergency vehicles came to assess the carnage. Now, THAT, my friends, is wrestling!

Dontcha think?