Hulk Hogan has admitted that he was forced to change the scripted plans for his famous WrestleMania X8 match with The Rock.
Hogan revealed that the overwhelming crowd support for him went against what WWE had hoped, forcing the change of plans. He also revealed that WWE wanted him and Rock to rehearse the match ahead of the PPV.
“Out of respect, I go down there (to Miami), and there’s me and The Rock and his dad Rocky Johnson, and Pat Patterson. The Rock starts telling me that we’re gonna lock up, and do this and do that, then start getting some heat on me, and so on. So he talked through the whole match, and I was listening. I respect him, and it kinda made sense, but I’d never done that before. Then they go, ‘Okay, let’s have the match here.’ I said, ‘Whoa! You’re talking about me taking bumps in this ring, with no people? I’ll get hurt, and if I fall wrong one time, then my career is over.’ I’ve got to have the energy of the crowd, so that when I go down, I go down to the mat hard. So instead, we just walked through the match.
“The whole issue I had was what if we got to Toronto, and this doesn’t work? So sure enough, when we go to Toronto, I give The Rock one big push, and the place explodes. Then I pushed him again, as we planned, and the place explodes again. [WWE] thought I was gonna get booed. Then I start chopping meat on him, and with every hit the place is going crazy. Then I did what was planned, blocking a punch, and as soon as he started hitting me came the boos.”
This went against what WWE has planned on, with Hogan being a member of the heel nWo group, as well as it being emphasised that Hogan walked out of the company in 1993, and switched to WCW a year later. Hogan admits the unexpected crowd reaction led to him making some changes there and then.
“I went down, and looked up and said, ‘You want me to fix this?’ And The Rock says, ‘Yeah, let’s fix it.’ I went, ‘OK, then listen to me.’ But it took him no time to get it right, because he is just so good in the ring. It took us three minutes to get it right, but if we’d done what we had practised, they’d have booed us out of the building. I’m not saying I could do it in every instance, but The Rock is so good, we could do that. The Rock doesn’t usually talk about planning his matches, so somebody must have made him worry that I was too old and too slow, and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work-rate. But once he got in the ring with me, he knew I had a feel for it, and we got it right. That’s what I wanted to do with ‘Stone Cold’, and Bret Hart, too.”
Hogan was later criticised by many for overshadowing The Rock and ‘stealing the spotlight’ on the night. However, if this claim is true, it may be to Hogan’s credit that he made the unscheduled change, as the match certainly benefited from the crowd’s reactions.