How did Hogan become the WWF’s new golden boy?
This week’s column was originally planned to be a ”Wrestlemania X8” recap, but events Sunday night in Toronto and Monday night’s night’s ”RAW” (9 p.m., TNN), indicate that there really is only one story right now in the WWF: The unlikely emergence of Hulk Hogan as the WWF’s golden boy.
Despite Vince McMahon’s best efforts to destroy his own company with ”injection” of the diabolical nWo into the WWF mix, the 68,000-plus fans at the Toronto Skydome greeted Hogan with a level of affectionate pandemonium the likes of which I haven’t seen since his match against Andre the Giant at ”Wrestlemania III.”
As Hulk and the Rock squared off in their self-described ”battle of the icons,” not only did the cacophony of ”Hogan! Hogan!” chants drown out whatever vocal support there was for Rocky, as the match progressed many of those chants turned to ”Rocky sucks!” It was as bewildering as it was thrilling. How did this happen?
The only reasonable explanation is that Hogan’s legend — he is, after all, still the single most significant figure in the history of the biz — simply overshadows even the most brtual, skillfully orchestrated heel push. I mean, three weeks ago, the guy locked the Rock inside an ambulance and rammed a semi-truck cab into it! What does he have to do to be hated, kill someone?
Whatever its original intent, the WWF has decided to run with Hogan’s facedom… at least for now. In Montreal, the Hulkster opened the show to another thunderous welcome, telling the fans ”Damn, I love you guys.” He was then joined by the Rock, who left his withering tude backstage and told Hogan he’d be ”honored” to fight him again. Not surprisingly, that led to the two of them facing off against the nWo, who have disowned their onetime leader.
So, what’s next? As with most wrestling scenarios, there are two possible outcomes:
1) That Hogan will, in fact, remain a face (which would seemingly require an A-list heel turn to even the good-vs-evil score — Triple H, maybe?), continue to battle the nWo (which seems likely to acquire another member any day now, most likely the dreaded X Pac), return to taking his vitamins and saying his prayers and, who knows, perhaps once again don the yellow and red of his halycon Hulkamania days.
2) That this is all a big work, and sooner rather than later (hmmm…. maybe at next month’s Backlash pay-per-view), Hulk will turn on the Rock and/or Austin and resume his campaign of destruction. As sensible as this idea is plot-wise, it’s hard to imagine that McMahon and co. would want to squander the ratings pop, merchandise opportunities, and sheer excitement of keeping Hogan on the virtuous side.
Where do you think this is going?
PS: As announced by Linda McMahon last night, next Monday’s RAW will feature a draft officially splitting of the WWF roster into two sub-promotions. Ric Flair will be the head of the RAW contingent, Vince of the Smackdown group. Not to be missed.