The Hulk Hogan era of WWE wrestling saw arguably the greatest collection of wrestling talent come through the WWE. As important as Hogan was to success, so was the entire WWE package. Unlike today, there was only one belt and it wasn’t going to be passed around.
WWE world titles are booked much different today than at any other time in wrestling history. Today, it is a given that anyone on top will get a run with the belt. Years ago, that was not the case. Many wrestling greats were passed over for WWE title reigns.
The Hogan years of 1984-1991 saw more great wrestlers cheated out of WWE title reigns than at any other time in WWE history. There were great ones that came through WWE history at other times that didn’t get their run. However, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that if the belt was booked then as it is today, we would have had 20 champions.
Roddy Piper – The old motto regarding Piper was that “he didn’t need a belt.” That may be true, but imagine if he had one. I am looking at the prime of Piper’s WWE years between 1984-1986. I could argue that Roddy Piper was the hottest heel ever in the business during this time.
Ric Flair recently did an interview and was asked about this. He said, “You can’t tell me that business would have changed if Piper got the belt.” Actually I would argue with him on that. I think that business may have actually improved with Piper on top and Hogan chasing. In today’s booking, Piper would have had the belt numerous times.
Paul Orndorff – Like Piper, Orndorff was a sizzling heel during this time period. If Hogan never came, I tend to wonder what business would have been like if Orndorff took the belt from Bob Backlund for a short run. I think he could have had a Superstar Graham run at that time.
However, I am talking specifically about his heel run in 1987 against Hogan. I have spoken with Orndorff about this and he cites his inability to play the political game as the reason he didn’t get the belt. In terms of money, he was arguably Hogan’s greatest opponent. Imagine the money they would have drawn if it was Hogan chasing Orndorff for that belt?
Jake Roberts – Jake’s lack of a feud with Hogan has been a recent topic lately in the wrestling world. Hogan recently said in an interview that he wrestled Jake once and he wasn’t over enough to warrant a feud. As someone that ate and slept wrestling then, I don’t believe that.
Just as Piper and Orndorff turned babyface, Jake Roberts got red hot as a heel. I don’t know if the chemistry would have been there with him and Hogan. However, one could argue whether it should have been in Macho Man’s spot when Hogan took a leave of absence.
I think Jake would have been a tremendous champion. He was already one of the best promos in the business at that time. Imagine what he could have done if he was promoting the top match? I think Jake Roberts missed out big time and should have had at least one run with the WWE strap.
Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig – This is one that could easily be debated. Some could argue that Curt Hennig didn’t have the size. I can see it, but I don’t buy it. He was so red hot at the time that it wouldn’t have mattered. He wasn’t much smaller than Randy Savage and nobody really thinks of Savage as being a small champion.
For one thing, he already had a championship presence when he came to the WWE. Hennig was a former AWA world champion and was featured weekly on ESPN. Wrestling fans knew who Curt Hennig was long before he became Mr. Perfect. I think that the WWE missed the boat on not only a Hennig title run, but a big feud with Hogan.
Rude could have pulled it off. Here is a guy that had tremendous matches with someone as limited as Ultimate Warrior. Any time Rude got an opportunity at the top, he delivered. There were a lot of great babyfaces that could have played Rude’s foil during a title run. Nobody is going to convince me that Hogan coming back and feuding with Rude wouldn’t have done huge business.
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