(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31356295/?contentId=31356295&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania)
I knew we’d come to this bout sooner or later. ‘The ULTIMATE CHALLENGEEEE,’ as Vince McMahon screamed during the opening video package of WrestleMania VI. We saw the two biggest babyfaces of the early WWF go one on one in the ‘ultimate’ WrestleMania main event. Like #49, pitting Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The Rock (click here for my review of that match!), Hogan vs The Warrior is placed on the list more for its significance in WWF/E history rather than its in-ring brilliance. It isn’t as terrible as some would make it out, let me say that first. But it isn’t anywhere near the quality that one would expect from a Best 100…List.
We’ve had babyface clashes since then, but they pale in comparison to this one. In the era of cartoon characters, Hogan and Warrior were the most beloved and absurd. Just listen to a Warrior promo. In fact, listening to Warrior promos non-stop should be a torture technique. They were two larger than life wrestlers, both literally (steroids have never found better men!) and metaphorically. It’s hard to explain how much their collision meant to the wrestling fans of 1990. There’s no modern day comparison to help the explanation. Even in the Attitude Era, there was no babyface on the same level as Stone Cold. Nowadays, babyfaces often fight each other due to the deluge of WWE programming that exists. Back in 1990, seeing a babyface fight a babyface was as rare as a Dratini on Pokemon Go.
But could they actually wrestle? Hogan relied on his character to connect with the crowd, rather than his wrestling technique. But he knew his audience. The Americans favoured pomp over wrestling. When he wrestled in Japan, he put a hell of a lot more effort into his wrestling, because that’s what the Japanese audience wanted (and still want). The Ultimate Warrior, however, was limited to two minute matches because he was terrible in the ring. It was his character that the audience loved, not his wrestling ability. Hogan knew he’d have to carry Warrior for a relatively lengthy match. With The Warrior usually exhausting himself simply running to the ring during his entrance, Hogan had a big chore ahead of him…
So what we see is a match almost exclusively based on rest moves. This match is not for the modern audience by any measure, apart from satisfying curiosity or a study of wrestling history. The commentators try to force a psychology onto the match, but it fails. Both wrestlers oversell or undersell in ridiculous measures. For example, Hogan is clotheslined out of the ring early on. He tweaks his knee and sells it for all of two minutes. It doesn’t bother him for the rest of the match! Rest holds are supposed to allow the wrestlers time to breathe before executed the next sequence of wrestling moves. Here, it’s the other way round. You’ll see a suplex followed by a three minute bear hug. There are moments of rapid action, but they are few and far between. Quite simply, it’s a dull match looking at it from modern eyes.
As a wrestling contest, this shouldn’t be anywhere near the Best 100…List. But try to put yourself in the shoes of a wrestling fan from 1990. Listen to the crowd’s reaction to anything Hogan and Warrior do. A mere chinlock gets an reaction any modern day wrestler would die for. Like Andre vs Hogan, this isn’t about what happens in the ring. This is about a ‘Clash of the Titans.’ It’s God vs God (or even Superman vs Batman. That’s actually a good comparison!). It’s silly and ridiculous, especially when Hogan and Warrior run the ropes in criss-cross fashion. If you watched it at the time, you may be more sympathetic to the match. From a modern day perspective, in the ring Hogan vs Warrior is mediocre. Check out The Ultimate Warrior vs Rick Rude from SummerSlam 1989 instead.
VERDICT: 5/10 It may be called ‘The Ultimate Challenge’ simply because enduring this match is a feat worthy of the gods! It’s isn’t that bad, actually, it’s just boring. But Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior isn’t about the wrestling (like most of Hogan’s matches). It’s about the most epic babyface vs babyface clash in the history of wrestling. Nothing like it will ever happen again…
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Click here for my review of#49 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WWE Wrestlemania XIX)