I’m not a Hogan fan in the least, but his mark on Wrestlemania history is undeniable. There’s no way you could’ve had one without the other. Much the success and promotion of the very first Wrestlemania is thanks to just how world renowned Hogan was becoming at that point. The first WM was promoted at a much different time for the wrestling business. The WWF in the mid-80’s had gained mainstream acceptance thanks to their collaborations with MTV, deeming it the Rock ‘n Wrestling Era. The very first WM was hyped to be a blend of wrestling and celebrities and featured Hogan in the main event, teaming with Mr. T to take on Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.
Before Hogan’s departure in ’93, he would compete in 8 of the first 9 Wrestlemania main events. This included what is probably the most famous match of all time, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3. I haven’t seen the match in its entirety, but I’ve seen clips of it countless times over the years and it’s widely regarded to be the defining moment for wrestling fans of that generation.
Hogan returned to the WWE in 2002 and put on another classic bout at Wrestlemania X8 when he passed the torch to The Rock. The match is far from perfect as far as the actual wrestling goes, but the crowd turned it into one of the most memorable matches of all time. The 68,000+ fans in attendance were divided on who they wanted to win; Rock, one of the top babyfaces (ie. good guys) of all time, or Hogan, their childhood icon. The highly vocal majority rooted for Hogan, ultimately forcing the WWE to turn him face (ie. make him a goody guy) and put the world title on him a month later. Hogan would also wrestle at WM19 the following year in a Street Fight against the owner of WWE, Vince McMahon, in a match that was billed as 20 years in the making. It wasn’t as memorable or noteable as the match with the Rock, but was still exceptionally good given that both men were well into their 50’s at the time. He made a brief, surprise appearance at WM21, the same weekend he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Only time will tell if Hogan’s got another noteworthy Wrestlemania appearance left in him, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him make at least one more grand return somewhere down the line. Although, at his age and with all of his medical issues, I think it’s time to forget about ever seeing the ultimate dream match: Hulk Hogan vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin.