Friday, February 4, 2011

Throwback Thursday: Hulk Double Cro$$ed

Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

February 5, 1988:  It's hard to believe it's been 25 years this week that history was made by the WWF.  I was an awkward teenager working a part time job as a bagboy at the local grocery store.  It was a Friday night and I had to work, but had the VCR set up to record "The Main Event" on NBC. This was the first live prime time wrestling special to air in my lifetime, so I was very eager to get home.

Vince McMahon was behind the effort, bringing his Saturday Night's Main Event
that aired at 10:30 p.m. central standard time to a prime time crowd. I got home from work just after the show ended and quickly rewound the tape. This was long before Internet spoilers, Twitter updates, and wrestling blogs. I was stoked to see Hulk Hogan defend the World Wrestling Federation title against Andre the Giant.

I had recently climbed back on board with the whole Hulkamania craze.  You can see more about that in My Confessions of a Hulkamanic video on YouTube. Anyway, I watched as the champ fought the evil giant who now had the financial backing of "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.  DiBiase and his bodyguard Virgil stood by ringside watching the action.

The match was far from epic. Andre was past his prime when the two had met a year earlier at Wrestlemania 3.  He looked to be in more pain than he was in 1987.  As the match was winding down, Andre gained the upper hand and suplexed Hogan (I think it was a suplex) and landed on top of the exhausted champ. Hogan's shoulders were clearly off the mat as referee Dave Hebner made the 3 count. 

A new champ?
Photo courtesy: WWE
 A new champ was crowned.  I was shocked.  Moved to tears even.  Yes, at nearly age  15, I cried the day Hulkamania seemingly died. More than 4 years as the champ was over.  To make matters worse, the new champ quickly announced he was surrendering the title to his benefactor, Ted DiBiase.  The Million $ Man stood proud in the ring as Andre put the belt around his waist.  He did his evil, trademark laugh and strutted out of the ring with his cronies in tow.

But something wasn't right.  No, not at all.  As the camera returned to the ring after following DiBiase outside of it, we saw Hogan standing with two Dave Hebners.  What?  Turns out that DiBiase bought the services of one of the twin brothers and it ended up costing Hogan.  And all of his Hulkamanics, like me.

Hogan wants answers
Photo courtesy: WWE
Hogan, confused and distraught over losing his championship attacked the brothers, not knowing if it was Dave or Earl who had betrayed him. He launched one of them over the top rope and into the waiting arms of DiBiase and gang. This of course was all the set up to Wrestlemania 4. 

WWF President Jack Tunney announced on Superstars that weekend that since DiBiase never won the title in the ring he was not the rightfully champion.  Even knowing the actions were despicable, Tunney kept the referee's decision in tact, and Hogan was still without the title.  But so were Andre and DiBiase. That lead us to a 14 man tournament set up for Wrestlemania 4, which was won by the  "Macho Man" Randy Savage.  It was the start of a new era in the WWF.  A temporary one, as Hulkamania would return and be in full force once again, but never quite the same as it was during those first four years of his title run.

In a recent interview I did with the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase recalls this as one of his most memorable nights in wrestling.  Take a look.

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