WM Top 25: #20 – Hogan’s Retirement and Warrior’s Return

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WrestleMania VIII was the start of another changing of the card in World Wrestling Federation history.

Since 1983 Hulk Hogan had been THE guy and the face of the WWF, and it was announced that after WrestleMania VIII Hogan would retire from pro wrestling to focus on other projects, namely being an actor.

WrestleMania VIII would be Hogan’s swan song as he would leave after the event. Conventional wisdom would say that Hogan would face Ric Flair, then-current WWF Champion, in a battle of ‘80s wrestling icons, but McMahon, Hogan and the company in general didn’t want Hogan to lose in his last match, and he sure wasn’t going to beat the current Champion in his final outing. So it was changed that Hogan would battle fellow 300 lbs. powerhouse Sid Justice as part of a double main event with Flair defending the WWF Championship against “Macho Man” Randy Savage. It would be the first time in WrestleMania history that the event would be billed as a “double main event.”

In another unprecedented move, the Savage-Flair WWF World Championship match went on in the middle of the card so that Hogan could have his spotlight at the end of the show. The Macho Man went on to beat Flair to win the WWF Championship to solidify himself as the new lead good guy in Hogan’s absence. At the end of the show Hogan beat Sid by disqualification, but was attacked by Sid and his new cohort Papa Shango. A returning Ultimate Warrior saved Hogan from the bad guys, and Warrior and Hogan celebrated as the show went off the air. Knowing that the company’s hero Hulk Hogan was leaving the company it was important to end the show on a high note by having a returning favorite come back, and to have another good guy reign as WWF Champion. It was a way to show that young fans would still have heroes to believe in.

Meanwhile on the undercard of the show, Bret “Hit Man” Hart pinned the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper to win his second Intercontinental Championship in an often unrated match, and then-relative newcomer Undertaker pinned Jake “The Snake” Roberts in a passing-of-the-torch moment from one evil phenom to another. Also in the opening match Shawn Michaels picked up his first high-profile singles victory over Tito Santana, starting him down the road to the main event singles glory that he would achieve for years to come after that night.

With Hogan now out of the picture, the company could now set the stage for a new era in WWF lore, with “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior leading the good guys against Ric Flair at the top of the card for the time being, while new stars like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker were being developed in order to one day take over the mantle of the company, which they would in the months and years to come after.

It was a night to show that the WWF would and could go on without the hype machine of Hulk Hogan leading it, and could reinvent itself into something completely different while setting groundwork for new main-event level stars.

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