Every once in awhile a great pro wrestling rivalry spills from the world of make-believe into the world of real life. Considering the fact that Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan are two of the smartest businessmen in pro wrestling, it is surprising as to how much heat the two have outside of the ring. Personal issues aside, Hogan vs. Savage is one of the greatest rivalries of all-time.
Hulk Hogan vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
There are many factors to consider when labeling a wrestling rivalry as one of the greatest. Longevity, money, fan interest, storylines, and excitements are what I would consider the key factors in a legendary rivalry. Hogan vs. Savage had it all.
On paper this didn’t look like it would be anything other than a routine challenge for Hogan. Savage came into the WWF without ever wrestling on a main stage. Savage didn’t have the monster muscles that most of Hogan’s rivals had at the time. Savage by all standards looked to be a perfect fit for WWF’s Intercontinental title division.
Savage and Hogan would wrestle on house shows right in the midst of his Intercontinental reign. There was something different about these matches. Unlike most Hogan matches, the fans began cheering Savage. The two had immediate chemistry and it was evident from the start that these two would see bigger things in the near future.
An interesting backstage story to this feud is that this rivalry may have never been on the books if not for of all people the Honkytonk Man. Ted DiBiase was originally booked to win WrestleMania IV with Savage chasing him for the title while Hogan was away filming a movie. Savage was booked to defeat HTM on the NBC Main Event special to win the intercontinental title. Honky refused to do the job and this new change of plans caused the WWE creative team to change direction. It is highly likely that had Savage won the I-C title from Honky and DiBiase won the tournament at Mania that Hogan would have been challenging DiBiase at WrestleMania 5 and not Savage.
Timing was Randy Savage’s best friend. Hogan started to develop an interest in doing movies. At the peak of his fame, Hogan had agreed to star in No Holds Barred. Hogan needed time off and the WWE needed someone to carry the company. Vince McMahon gave Savage his vote of confidence, turned him babyface, and gave him the all-important championship run. The run of course was temporary until Hogan returned.
The seeds were planted a year out from Hogan and Savage’s biggest match. Savage won the WWF title at WrestleMania IV. Hogan came into the ring and put Elizabeth on his shoulders. Savage gave Hogan a subtle glare which planted the seed of doubt into Savage’s babyface intentions. A brilliant idea that most fans didn’t even catch until the tape was replayed a year later.
Hogan finally returned to active wrestling in the summer of 1988. Hogan and Savage teamed up as the “Mega Powers” to take on Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase at SummerSlam. The two would continue to team on big shows including the Survivor Series. The tension began to mount when Hogan took Savage’s manager Elizabeth as his own manager around this time.
Savage’s legendary jealousy behind the scenes would be the catalyst for one of the greatest feuds of all-time. Savage’s off-screen jealousy was written into the storyline. Savage finally had enough and attacked Hogan following a tag team match on The Main Event. This last attack would finally make the match that had been built up for almost one year between the Mega Powers.
WrestleMania V was entitled, “The Mega Powers Explode.” A year of tension would finally explode into one of the most memorable WrestleMania matches of all time. Elizabeth would take a neutral corner as her two colleagues would battle for the gold. Elizabeth would later be ordered to return to the backstage area after she blocked an offensive move from Hogan.
365 days of tension would end in a little over 17:00 on the biggest stage of the year. Savage looked on his way to victory as he leaped off the top rope and nailed Hogan with his patented flying elbow drop. Hogan miraculously kicked out to the roar of the crowd. After a big boot and a leg drop, Hogan pinned Savage at 17:54 to win his second WWF world title.
As I said earlier, longevity was a key to this classic feud. WrestleMania V would not be their last encounter. Savage would now become the victim of a double-cross at the hands of his old nemesis. Hogan turned on Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger in WCW to join the N.W.O. Once again these two legends would be a part of one of the biggest money-making angles in pro wrestling history.
The two would continue their feud with several matches over the next couple of years in WCW. Due to the inconsistent booking, the two actually reunited in one of the many N.W.O. stables. Their final go-around ended when Hogan regained the WCW title at Savage’s expense in 1998. In over 10 years of matches, Savage would never pin Hogan.
Behind the scenes, this feud has become legendary in the wrestling business. It is hard at times to decipher what is real or what is a work when it comes to these two. Savage’s wife Elizabeth left Randy and stayed with the Hogan family for awhile. This would cause an enormous amount of tension between the two colleagues.
No matter what you think of Hogan or Savage, together they combined for one of the greatest rivalries of all-time. Every great hero needs a great villain, and Savage may have been the greatest of Hogan’s villains. It is this combination of fiction, fact, and drama that allows me to honor Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage as one of wrestling’s greatest rivalries.