WrestleMania X8 was a classic show.
WWE swung for the fences in 2002, as the Show of Shows emanated from the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada.
The undercard featured matches like Kurt Angle v Kane, The Undertaker v Ric Flair in a bloody, brutal No Disqualification match, Stone Cold Steve Austin v Scott Hall and the Icon v Icon match that saw The Rock take on Hulk Hogan.
While it wasn’t the main event – that honour went to Triple H v Chris Jericho – it stole the show, and featured perhaps the most bonkers crowd ever seen in professional wrestling.
Once the entrances were over, the two stared each other down, as duelling chants of ‘Rocky’ and ‘Hogan’ erupted.
The greatest commentator in the business, Jim Ross, summed it up perfectly – “this is the match we never thought we’d see”.
They took a minute and a half to touch in the ring, before engaging in a collar and elbow tie-up. Hogan won the test of strength, pushing Rock to the ground, and the pop from it rivals anything we’ve seen in the modern era.
That’s a pop for a push.
Rock didn’t actually get any offence in for the first few minutes, bumping for Hogan, including taking a great looking clothesline.
The actor now known as Dwayne Johnson went for a Rock Bottom early but Hulk rebounded, firing off with elbows, clotheslines and punches.
This wasn’t a classic technical bout and it doesn’t hold a candle to some of the clashes we see in 2020 – this was about as far from Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles as you can get.
But it told a story, and as the match reached its eight-minute mark the crowd turned, and started booing Rock.
The story beforehand had seen Hulk lead the reformed New World Order, also featuring Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, into battle against Rock, and angles showed him brutalising his younger opponent with a belt and even with a truck.
But nostalgia gripped the raucous Canadian crowd, and they wanted to see another Hulk victory at WrestleMania, even cheering as he bit his opponent in the corner.
Hogan was clearly working as a heel, but the crowd cared little, as two icons went toe-to-toe.
It was a brawl throughout, even to the point where referee Mike Chioda was floored by an errant clothesline. That led to Rock hitting a spinebuster and locking in a Sharpshooter, as Hogan visually tapped out with the referee down.
Hogan recovered, though, and hit a Rock Bottom to a thunderous ovation. Rock kicked out at two, somehow, and the crowd exploded.
With the ref not fully recovered, the leader of the NWO started using his belt on his rival, until a DDT, which led Rock to use the belt for himself.
A Rock Bottom followed, and Hulk, in a moment that gives every wrestling fan goosebumps, powered up, kicking out at two, jumping up, and laying Rock out, before landing a leg drop.
As JR screamed “he beat Andre the Giant with that move”, Rock kicked out at two. The crowd screamed themselves hoarse.
Rock recovered and hit two more Rock Bottoms in quick succession, then a People’s Elbow, and pinned his rival for the win.
And then, the magic happened.
The action in the ring was basic, if we’re being totally honest, but it was two icons laying it all on the line for the millions and millions of fans all over the world.
The fans in attendance were on their feet, giving the two performers a standing ovation, and after Rock had climbed every turnbuckle in celebration, he turned to see Hogan staring at him.
The referee got between them, and for a second it looked like we might have the bout start up again.
And then Hulk extended his hand and Rock decided to shake it.
Rock muttered “thank you” to the iconic icon of Hulkamania, before leaving the ring, and allowing the older man the space and time to soak up an ovation of his own.
Until the NWO appeared and began to beat the snot out of their former leader. As if we hadn’t had enough pops, Rock sprinted back into the ring as the newly teamed opponents cleared the ring, before Rock told Hogan to Hulk Up, and cup his ear to every fan in attendance. He did it. The crowd went mad again.
Superfluous? Yes. Awesome? Also yes.
This was a match for the ages, and one that will go down in history as featuring perhaps the loudest continuous crowd reaction in WWE history.
Whatever you may think of the state of the company right now, they simply don’t make stars like they used to.
And spare a thought for Jericho and HHH, who had to follow this. Spoiler alert: They failed.News Now - Sport News