Hulk Hogan’s Legendary World Championship History
A few days ago, Hulk Hogan celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his win over Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3, a match that marked the absolute high point of the 80s national expansion of the WWF. It also marked the high point of Hulk Hogan’s first World Title reign, a feat he has repeated many times since. While I won’t say that time flies since it really seems to drag when you spend years doing TNA Impact coverage and waiting for the guy to go away, it does sometimes tend to hit you like a brick when you realize it’s really been that long.
To mark this special occasion, I decided to look back at each of Hulk Hogan’s twelve World Title victories and talk about each one, discussing the circumstances of the title reign and any other fun trivia I decide is worth mentioning.
WWF World Title: Defeated the Iron Sheik on 1/23/1984 in New York City, NY
As I said earlier, this is the one that started it all, but it wasn’t a particularly remarkable match in and of itself. The match lasted all of five minutes, and the Sheik had only been champion for about a month to transition from Bob Backlund to Hogan. This became just another day at the office for the Sheik, while Hogan began a four year title reign, the third longest in WWF/WWE history, and led the company to heights no wrestling company has matched before or since. That said, despite all the crap I’ve given him over the last few years, this really was a magic moment and I defy anyone to watch it, see the crowd react, and not feel like it was something special.
WWF World Title: Defeated Macho Man Randy Savage on 4/2/1989 in Atlantic City, NJ
After having the title stolen from him by Andre the Giant and the Million Dollar Man, Hogan only had to wait a year before regaining the title at Wrestlemania 5 from his former best friend, Macho Man Randy Savage. You can look back at the history (or listen to Jesse Ventura’s commentary during the match) to see how Hogan undermined Savage from literally the moment he won the title at Wrestlemania 4, and spent the next year messing with his mind by driving a wedge between Savage and Elizabeth.
Hogan’s plan worked, because he pushed Savage to the point that he snapped and attacked Hogan, making himself the heel in the situation and absolving Hogan of all blame in the eyes of the fans. It was sneaky, but it worked because Hogan took Savage’s title and his woman, and left him a defeated shell of a man. This was but the first of many times he would do this to Savage over the course of the next decade, as he had seemingly made it his mission in life to leave Savage a ruined wreck of a man.
WWF World Title: Defeated Sgt Slaughter on 3/24/1991 in Los Angeles, CA
After the Ultimate Warrior defeated Hogan for the WWF Title at Wrestlemania 6, Hogan’s only 100% clean loss during his big 1983-1993 WWF run, Hogan spent most of the next year laying low and waiting for someone else to
Slaughter had returned to the WWF about six months earlier as an Iraqi sympathizer who thought the United States had become soft, and had turned his back on his country while singing the praises of Saddam Hussein. The idea was to build to a big Wrestlemania 7 main event where Hogan would be the American superhero who vanquished the evil turncoat Slaughter, and the fans would be crawling over each other to get tickets to see it. The only problem was that the war this angle played off of was over almost before it began, and was no longer topical by the time Wrestlemania rolled around.
Well, there were actually other problems, such as Slaughter being the guy Hogan was facing. He wasn’t a scrub or anything, but he was never within driving distance of a World Title at any point in his career before this, and nobody thought he had a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Hogan. Ticket sales for Wrestlemania ended up being so bad they had to move it to a smaller building and claim security issues as the reason for the change. The Hogan win was anticlimactic at best, but that didn’t stop Hogan from beating up Slaughter and his cronies in various handicap and Boot Camp matches for the next six months while avoiding contenders who would actually have a shot at beating him. You know, like how he started teaming with the Ultimate Warrior instead of facing him again. However, as our next entry will show, he couldn’t hide out from credible contenders forever…
WWF World Title: Defeated the Undertaker on 12/4/1991 in San Antonio, TX
Only a year after his debut, the Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at Survivor Series 1991. Even though Hogan had blown through many “indestructible monsters” in the past, the Undertaker was different. There was no way of knowing at the time what a huge star he would become over the next 20+ years, but you had this feeling like he wouldn’t just be another flavor of the month challenger, and that he might actually be too much for Hogan to handle.
It was an interesting time, because the fans who had grown up on Hogan were just then starting to drift away, and while we would see more concrete examples in the lead-up to Wrestlemania 8 (which I cover in the 1992 Series that I swear I’ll get back to soon), I remember that all my friends at school liked Undertaker better and were pulling for him to beat Hogan. He did end up winning after Ric Flair interfered, but you never really felt like Undertaker was in that much trouble before Flair got involved because the match was laid out very much like the Andre match at Wrestlemania III, where literally nothing Hogan did was putting a dent in him.
However, the Undertaker’s title reign only lasted a week, because WWF President Jack Tunney ordered an immediate rematch due to Flair’s interference. Hogan won the rematch…after knocking Paul Bearer out, pouring the ashes out of the urn, throwing them in the Undertaker’s eyes, and rolling him to get the win. Since both title changes were marred with illegal activity, Tunney stripped Hogan of the title almost immediately and put it on the line in the 1992 Royal Rumble. Hogan failed to win that, then had his Wrestlemania 8 title shot taken away from him so he could face Sid Justice instead, so he beat Justice by DQ and took a nearly year-long vacation. He came back just in time for Wrestlemania 9, where he would once again thrust hiself into the spotlight at everyone else’s expense.
WWF World Title: Defeated Yokozuna on 4/4/1993 in Las Vegas, NV
In another “this would only happen with Hogan” moment, Hulk walked out of Wrestlemania 9 as the WWF Champion even though he wasn’t even supposed to be wrestling for the title on the show. The advertised title match was Yokozuna challenging Bret “Hitman” Hart for the WWF Title, while Hogan would team with Brutus Beefcake to challenge Money, Inc for the WWF Tag Team Title. We should have known something was up when Hogan’s match was in the middle of the show and ended with him losing by DQ, but we all know about hindsight.
So Yokozuna ended up winning the title after Mr Fuji threw salt in Hart’s eyes, but Hogan, ever the opportunist, ran out and pretended to check up on Bret just enough to thrust himself back into the title picture. Fuji had heard Hogan issue a challenge to the winner of the title match earlier in the show, so he made the mistake of offering Hogan an impromptu title shot. Hogan magically forgot all about Bret, rushed into the ring, and won the title in seconds after Fuji, meaning to throw salt in Hogan’s eyes like he had done to Bret, missed and got Yokozuna instead. Hogan quickly laid Yokozuna out with a clothesline, hit the big leg, and won his fifth WWF Title.
Hogan was back on his throne, but he had done quite a bit of damage the way things had played out. Bret had worked his ass off to build credibility as a World Champion, and was rewarded by being completely brushed out of the title picture as the focus now turned to a rematch between Hogan (who refused to work with Bret) and Yokozuna. As for Yokozuna, he was undefeated before Hogan squashed him and turned him into this year’s King Kong Bundy. The fans, who had already begun to revolt on Hogan before he left in 1992, were livid over how he had stepped over Bret and Yokozuna to get his spot back, and were ready for Hogan to go away forever and let the guys who had been carrying the company while he was gone get their shot.
They ended up getting their wish much sooner than even they probably expected, because Hogan and the WWF parted ways again within months, and this time he wouldn’t be back to steal anyone’s thunder. Hogan still refused to drop the title to Bret on his way out, and only agreed to put Yokozuna over if they did a ridiculous finish where some bogus photographer (who was never identified) jumped on the ring apron and shot a fireball in Hogan’s eyes to setting Yoko up to put Hogan away with his own legdrop. Ironically, in much the same way as the Iron Sheik had set Hogan up to be the babyface flagbearer for the company nearly 10 years earlier, Hogan had now set Yokozuna up to become the firs true dominant heel champion in the history of the company.
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Hogan didn’t appear on TV for the WWF again for nearly a full decade, but he made the most of that time by jumping to WCW and making history there as well by winning the WCW World Title on several occasions. We’ll pick up at the beginning of his WCW years in Part 2, but thanks for reading and please send all your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org!
In honor of the thirtieth anniversary of Hulk Hogan’s first WWF Title win in 1984, let’s continue our look back at each of Hulk Hogan’s subsequent World Title wins throughout the years. In Part 1 (which you can find by clicking on the Columns section in the sidebar if you’re an Elite), we left off after Hulk’s fifth and final title reign in the WWF before he left in 1993. Let’s pick up in 1994 as he brought the virtues of Hulkamania to WCW.
WCW World Title: Defeated Ric Flair on 7/17/1994 in Orlando, FL
After taking a year off to film the TV series Thunder In Paradise, Hogan made the move to enemy territory as he signed a contract with WCW. His first match in saw him defeat Ric Flair, WCW’s top star for over a decade, in a match that barely exceeded description as a squash. The message was clear: Eric Bischoff was willing to throw away WCW’s entire legacy and all of its top stars (many of whom would go to work for the WWF and would become instrumental in eventually destroying WCW altogether) in favor of Hogan and his flunkies like Brutus Beefcake, the Nasty Boys, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and the Honky Tonk Man, and Hogan’s win over Flair at Bash At The Beach 1994 was ground zero for those changes.
Hogan treated Flair like a jobber for a few months, retired him, and told WCW management to bring him out of retirement so he could beat him again. Hogan’s push at this time was beyond insane, much worse than anything anyone could accuse John Cena of today, to the point that WCW faked a ticker tape parade for the ceremony where he signed his WCW contract and had “police escorts” to arenas he made appearances at. To add insult to injury, the main event of Starrcade 1994 saw Hogan defend the WCW World Title against his best friend Beefcake, who leapfrogged over everyone else in WCW despite being badly out of shape and greatly diminished from the wrestler he was before the accident. Meanwhile, the guy who made Starrcade, Ric Flair, got to watch from home.
After over a year of this crap, Hogan finally had the title pried out of his hands after losing to the Giant by DQ, only to learn later that his manager Jimmy Hart (who turned on him to go with Giant) had written into the contract that the title could change hands on a DQ in that match. Hogan was then upstaged when poor Randy Savage won the title in World War III, threw a fit and proceeded to undermine him even worse than he did the first time around. He didn’t end up taking the title from Savage (not this time, anyway), but Hogan did everything he could to make Savage look like his second banana and an unworthy champion, when Hogan didn’t even have the decency to lose the title by taking a pinfall.
WCW World Title: Defeated The Giant on 8/10/1996 in Sturgis, SD
Hogan had turned heel and formed the NWO with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash at Bash At The Beach 1996, and pretty much everyone knew he was getting the title back once he got Giant in the ring again a month later at Hog Wild. This PPV was held at a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, and was basically created because Eric Bischoff likes motorcycles and wanted to look like a big shot to guys he could never hope to be as cool or tough as. The WCW fans threw garbage in the ring as Hogan spraypainted the NWO letters onto the title belt, where they would remain for the next year. Oh yeah, and his first major title defense was against Randy Savage, who he squashed and sent into seclusion for months before bringing him back as his sidekick in the NWO.
WCW World Title: Defeated Lex Luger on 8/9/1997 in Sturgis, SD
While the long build to his eventual showdown with Sting was going on, Hulk Hogan spent much of 1997 battling Lex Luger, who racked up one win after another over Hogan in non-title matches. Eventually, JJ Dillon decided that 672 wins over the World Champion qualifies someone for a shot at the World Title, and Luger beat Hogan for the title on Nitro…less than a week before a previously scheduled title match between the two at Road Wild 1997. I’m sure you know what happens next: Hogan pulls out every dirty trick in the book to beat Luger and regain the title after only a few days, cutting Luger’s legs out from under him, and spraypaints the NWO logo back onto the belt. Hogan went on to battle Sting at Starrcade while Luger took a pinfall loss to Buff Bagwell.
WCW World Title: Defeated Macho Man Randy Savage on 4/20/1998 in Colorado Springs, CO
The Hogan-Sting confrontation that we waited over a year for turned into a huge mess when it finally came around, and after months of dumb finishes that destroyed any interest anyone had in the feud, Sting came away looking like the least impressive hero in history even though he wound up with the title. He only ended up being champion for about two months before dropping it to the Macho Man, who got to keep it for a whole day before losing it to his old pal Hulk Hogan. They were doing a storyline where there was dissension within the NWO, and Hogan not wanting anyone in the group but himself to hold the title was a key driving factor in the eventual split of the group into two feuding factions. This match was full of interference like every WCW main event in those days, and Hogan got the win thanks to help from his new buddy Bret Hart, who himself got to come in and be Hogan’s new sidekick even though he was the hottest thing in wrestling coming off the Montreal Screwjob only a few months earlier.
WCW World Title: Defeated Kevin Nash on 1/4/1999 in Atlanta, GA
The infamous Fingerpoke of Doom Incident! Just to recap what got us here: Hogan had lost the title to Bill Goldberg back in July of 1998, and Goldberg continued to remain undefeated until Kevin Nash beat him at Starrcade to win the title, with help from Disco Inferno, Bam Bam Bigelow, and a taser-wielding Scott Hall. Goldberg was supposed to get a rematch on Nitro, but Elizabeth had him arrested on bogus stalking charges,so since Hogan (who had “retired” to run for President…yes, that was really the angle) just happened to be backstage, Nash (who he was still supposedly enemies with after the NWO split happened) challenged Hogan to face him instead. The bell rings, Hogan pokes Nash in the chest with his finger, and covers him to regain the title and officially reunite the NWO. This title change is one of the most frequently cited incidents that contributed to the death of WCW, along with Tony Schiavone’s comment earlier in the evening revealing that the taped Raw on the other channel would feature Mick Foley beating the Rock for the WWF Title. Hundreds of thousands of fans flipped channels immediately, and unfortunately, they missed out on this wonderfully crafted NWO angle.
I’m sure you’re dying for more, but fear not! The conclusion to this series will be up for your reading pleasure tomorrow morning. Until then, please send all feedback to email@example.com.
WCW World Title: Defeated Macho Man Randy Savage on 7/12/1999 in Jacksonville, FL
This was yet the third time Hogan beat Savage for a World Title, the second time he ended one of Savage’s reigns after only a day, and for all intents and purposes was Savage’s retirement match. Savage had won the title from Kevin Nash in a tag match the night before (don’t ask), and of course Hogan came sauntering along to challenge him the very next day. Hogan won, of course, and in doing se he finally achieved his decade-long quest to drive Savage from the business forever (unless you count the TNA stuff, which most don’t).
Hogan’s time around the WCW World Title from here on out gets really depressing to talk about because it devauled the title so much, but here goes. He held onto the title for two months before being defeated again by Sting, who this time turned heel and used a baseball bat to beat the newly-resurgent red and yellow Hulkster. They were supposed to do a rematch the next month at Halloween Havoc, but Hulk came out in street clothes, laid down, and let Sting pin him.
Hogan disappeared for months before returning in 2000 to feud with Jeff Jarrett, who by then was the WCW World Champion. He was supposed to face Jarrett at Bash At The Beach 2000, but once again we were denied the advertised title match because Jarrett now came out and laid down so Hogan could pin him. Hogan was handed the belt and cut some promo about how this is what’s wrong with the company, and then Vince Russo came out later in the night and did the worked shoot promo where he revoked Hogan’s World Title win and set up the real title match later in the evening where Booker T beat Jarrett to become the real new WCW World Champion.
Hogan was not happy about this and eventually sued the company, and BATB2000 turned out to be Hogan’s final appearance with the company. WCW went out of business less than a year later and, with no other truly viable options, Hogan decided the time was right to finally go home.
WWF World Title: Defeated Triple H on 4/21/2002 in Kansas City, MO
Hulk Hogan returned to the WWF in early 2002, reforming the NWO with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash and setting up a huge Wrestlemania match against the Rock. After years of being despised by the majority of wrestling fans for his conduct in WCW, Hogan was overwhelmingly favored over Rock by the fans at Wrestlemania, so much so that he was turned babyface and returned to the red and yellow (again) almost immediately. The WWF quickly decided to capitalize on the fan support and had him beat Triple H to win the WWF Title on PPV the month after Wrestlemania 18.
This was kind of a big deal since Triple H had himself just returned to the ring after nearly a year on the shelf with a torn quad. It just showed how over Hogan was when he returned, and though he would go back to his known Hogan tricks eventually, he recognized coming in that the WWF was the only game left in town and was far more willing to do business than he had been in the past. He had already lost to Rock at Wrestlemania, and he only held the title for a month before losing it to the Undertaker, over a decade after the last time they met, ending what remains Hogan’s last ever World Title reign.
Though the build to the title win was more interesting than the reign itself, it is notable for one very important reason: Hulk Hogan became the first WWE Champion when the company changed its name following the World Wildlife Fund lawsuit.
Hogan was never in line for another title shot again, but was still heavily featured in the WWF for years to come, first by doing clean losses to both Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar over the summer of 2002, then coming back in early 2003 to put Rock over a second time and face Vince McMahon, whom he gave a lot of offense to in their streetfight match at Wrestlemania 19. However, Hogan was still Hogan and, after big timing Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 2005 and going over Randy Orton the following year, he left WWE again for another seven and a half years before returning last month as part of the WWE Network launch.
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And there, in a nutshell, is Hulk Hogan’s World Title resume. It’s really staggering to write a feature like this where you can look back at all of Hogan’s reigns and see how much damage he really did to others while hogging the top spots in both WWF/WWE and WCW. At least now you folks who harp on Cena always squashing the entire roster by himself can look at this and realize how much worse it could be if he was actively pushing for it instead of just doing what he’s told.