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by Marty Goldstein on 2002-03-26

How The Wrestling Universe Evolved

I am writing this while watching the WM 18 classic, here is my watching the tape here in the studio with Tony Schiavone analysis. My measuring stick is the Rogers-O'Conner title match. It had all the elements of a classic confrontation, so any classic has to be as good as the Nature Boy's Victory.

That said, having held out, gotten a lot of cash and a push after riding WCW to the dirt, and then DELIVERED, Hogan is a genius. He refered to himself as the greatest star, not the greatest wrestler. In his promo he only told the truth. That generates emotional attachment to an angle. Old style psychology. And he had the greatest foil possible to make this larger than life.

I digress. In 1982, Walter Shefchyk of New Brand Wrestling fame ( he who broke in a slew of Winnipeggers in the early 80's) went to work on a couple of tours for Peter and Lia Maivia in Hawaii, via his connection with outlaw promoter/star Lars Anderson. There, Walt met their 12 year old grandson, Duane Johnson. Prepubescent Rocky.

At the time, Walter foresaw the greatness of Hogan, we all did. One thing Hulk had in the AWA was credibility as a very good athlete. He had great matches with Nick Bockwinkle, we in Winnipeg felt that was the turning point in his development, and as a matter of fact they should have put the belt on Hogan, have him hold it for 2 years, heel on Greg Gagne when he has to, etc etc...

The charisma he showed as Thunderlips and on the Carson show , his promos were so strong, he had delivery like few others. Like a crafty fox at Wrestlemania Hogan pulled out everything he learned and knew and came across as a new franchise. Again.
20 years later.

Bobby Duncum, Dave Shultz, Mr. Saito were all incredible heels, as was Blackwell and of course Bobby Heenan, the nemesis of Hulkamania. The pacing of the match, playing off the spontaneous crowd craziness that was the hallmark of Hulk Hogan in the AWA, all perfected in his AWA days, his first big babyface run.

And, it should be noted, it happened when he was programmed, with Johnny Valiant as his mouthpice , as a heel. But the houses had a different idea.
History repeats itself.

For the business to bust open into the big mass market, it needed not only a flagship- and I respectfully set aside the Ric Flair and Steve Austin roles in this to a later date- but it needed to get beyond racial and social lines.

Rock is like Tiger Woods, an appealing cool racial mix. He got all kinds of people behind the product. He is going to be on so many talk shows and covers in the next while that he runs the real risk of being overexposed. That is as big as it gets here in LA.

Back to the match itself, it had the added twist of the Canadian audiences, lauded on Southern California Sportsradio stations as the best for hockey and wrestling in the world, literally turn the booking."A UNIQUE DICHOTOMY", said JR .

I have some theories about the differnce between our crowd reactions, but it is great to see the WWF get humbled by their audience like that. Canadians just don't like having ideas jammed down our throats that don't ring true.

The introduction of the NWO wasn't established enough to get real heel heat on Hogan. And he spoke the truth. The crowd grew up on this guy. Rock grew up with them. Pop Culture melded with marketing and athletics, timing, experience, nostalgia ( the voice of Finkel)... the heel turn of Rock in the match was using the Bret Hart-Stone Cold angle with the sharpshooter- the hilarity of the nostalgia act, people rooting to see Maivia, the cockiest wrestler alive, humbled by the old master -the superman comeback by this 50 year old guy. (hey how old was Verne when he quit in 81?). The crowd pop is a hoot, genuine, heartfelt and affecting.

(And you know what. Look at the tape of Verne beating Bockwinkle to win his last match. Biiig Pop. The people cared. That is what matters. Or used to.)

But the point is, this was fated when Rock, born into a multiracial- um, and part Canadian as well- wrestling dynasty, with great genetics and determination to learn- was eagerly asking Walter if he had ever worked with Hogan up in Winnipeg. IMAGINE THAT.

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Quotes from the boys: Ed Moretti says "Hey kid, its already ten minutes in, people are going crazy, and we ain't even tied up yet".
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