Every great champion is eventually dethroned. As the saying goes, father time is undefeated. A great champion rises to the top, but they’ll eventually meet a challenger greater and hungrier than they are. It’s the Law of the Jungle. By 1990 Hogan had conquered the world of professional wrestling. He had reigned as WWF Champion for five of the previous six years. His only loss in that time was a screwjob by a crooked referee. He seemed truly invincible. But his greatest challenge was hovering on the horizon.
The Ultimate Warrior entered the WWF in 1987 and took the company by storm. Warrior was nearly undefeated in his run in the WWF, suffering only a small number of losses. He stepped forth in a big way at Summerslam 1988 when he ended the Honky Tonk Man’s record Intercontinental Championship reign in just 27 seconds. Coming into 1990 he was the Intercontinental Champion and seemed poised to challenge Hogan.
Hogan and Warrior finally crossed paths in the 1990 Royal Rumble. They cleared the ring of all their opponents and faced off. The crowd went crazy, knowing they were seeing something special. The two ran the ropes, and then collided with a Double Clothesline that knocked them both out. From there, they went there separate ways. After the Royal Rumble, Warrior issued what became known as the Ultimate Challenge: Hogan vs. Warrior at Wrestlemania VI. Title for title. Winner becomes the first man to unify the WWF Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. But this wasn’t just about titles, it was about immortality: The winner would be the man to lead the WWF into the 1990s, and carry the torch as the top man in the industry.
Hogan accepted, and one of the biggest matches in WWF history was set.
We open with a snazzy video package with Warrior and Hogan as constellations. Vince is narrating using his gravelly “Mr. McMahon” voice.
Robert Goulet performs the Canadian National Anthem. Sad to say our neighbor to the north has a much better anthem than we do.
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are our hosts tonight.
Koko B. Ware vs. Rick Martel
This is another Wrestlemania overstuffed with matches. They get less than four minutes here before Martel gets the win with the Boston Crab.
Rating: *. Totally basic match. Koko was a good choice to kick the show off though.
World Tag Team Championship: The Colossal Connection (c) vs. Demolition
Demolition lost the belts to Andre and Haku on Saturday Night’s Main Event to set this up. Demolition dominates early until The Connection cheat to take over. Andre is mostly on the apron, as he wasn’t in good health at this point. Andre ends up getting tied up in the ropes, allowing Demolition to hit the Demolition Decapitation on Haku to win their third team team championship.
Rating: *¼. Straightforward tag match. Crowd was hot for the Demolition win.
Bobby Heenan gets in Andre’s face and slaps him. Bad idea, Brain. Andre beats down Haku and sends him and Heenan scrambling. Andre leaves to a great ovation. This was basically it for Andre as a wrestler, and he’d be dead a few years later. Classy sendoff for the legend.
Hercules vs. Earthquake
Basically a squash match. Earthquake was on his way to a program with Hogan, and Hercules was on his way out. Quake wins with the Sitdown Splash in less than five minutes.
Rating: ½*. Long squash.
Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake
Perfect is selling at a borderline Shawn Michaels Summerslam 2005 rate here. The Genius distracts the referee and Perfect hits Beefcake with his scroll to take over. Perfect is in total control until Beefcake Slingshots him into the ring post, knocking him out. Beefcake covers and becomes the first man to pin Mr. Perfect in a WWF ring.
Rating: **. Pretty decent match.
Perfect escapes, but The Genius ends up getting trimmed by Beefcake.
We get a pre-match interview with Roddy Piper. I usually don’t mention these, but this one needs to be mentioned. Piper is about to wrestle Bad News Brown, who is African-American. And Piper has half his body painted black. Questionable. At best.
Roddy Piper vs. Bad News Brown
Piper threw Brown out of the Rumble, then Brown came back in and eliminated Piper instant feud. Lots of punching, then they both get counted out. Not a big fan of those kinds of finishes at Wrestlemania.
Rating: ½*. Punch punch punch punch.
The Hart Foundation vs. The Bolsheviks
The Bolsheviks try to sing the Russian National Anthem, but they get jumped by The Harts. Hart Attack, and this one shockingly ends in 19 seconds. I’m totally in favor of that, actually.
Tito Santana vs. The Barbarian
Decent match, but short. Barbarian escapes Tito’s Flying Forearm when Heenan puts his leg on the rope at two. Barbarian hits a Flying Clothesline for the win at about 5:00.
Rating: **. Enjoyed that for the length. Tito always delivered.
Randy Savage & Sensational Sherri vs. Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire
Polka dot Dusty is so awful. This is mixed rules, so the men can only fight each other. I think the cart carrying Savage and Sherri broke on the way to the ring, because it takes forever to get there. Jesse spends most of the match riffing on how fat Sapphire is. This match is good when Savage is on offense, boring when anyone else is. Match ends when Elizabeth interferes and costs Sherri and Savage by shoving Sherri into a cradle. That was reasonably entertaining. Dusty, Elizabeth, and Sapphire all dance to Dusty’s music after the match.
Rating: *½. Some fun hijinks, but I wish Savage had something more important to do here.
Pre-taped interviews with Hogan and Warrior. Both have the usual stuff to say.
Rockers vs. Orient Express
I wish this had more time. These two had a pretty awesome match at the Royal Rumble the year after this. Here they only get seven minutes before Jannetty gets blinded by Fuji’s salt and counted out.
Rating: **½. Good match for the time constraint.
Jim Duggan vs. Dino Bravo
Not a fan of either of these guys. Jesus, Duggan is trying to start the USA chant in Canada. Against a Canadian. Duggan ends up winning with a shot with the 2X4. Enough said.
Ted DiBiase vs. Jake Roberts
It’s always real treat to see two pros go at it. This was a solid match, but the crowd seemed to check out and they literally started doing the wave. Jake escaped the Million Dollar Dream twice, including sending DiBiase into the ring post the second time. Jake struggles to get back in as Virgil assists DiBiase. Million Dollar Man wins by count out. Jake hits the DDT after the match to get his heat back. Then he starts giving away DiBiase’s money.
Rating: **3/4. Love both these guys.
Akeem vs. Big Boss Man
Former tag partners go at it. Boss Man is now a good guy, an honest man of the law instead of a crooked cop. This lasts less than two minutes before Boss Man hits the Boss Man Slam and pins Akeem. Okay, I won’t complain too much about that.
Rating: ½*. Short match was fine here.
Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine are driven out to the ring in a Pink Cadillac. The driver? A (relatively) young Diamond Dallas Page.
They perform a song, then get jumped by The Bushwackers. I should note that I’m pretty sure this segment lasted longer than any match on the show other than the main event.
Jimmy Snuka vs. Rick Rude
Short one here. Snuka misses a Splash, Rude hits the Rude Awakening, and we’re down in under four minutes.
Rating: *. Could have been good with some more time.
Alright, main event time. Nice video package lays out the story.
Title for Title: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Ultimate Warrior (c)
You can feel the energy in the air here. The crowd knows they’re in for something special. Jesse calls Warrior out for idiotically sprinting to the ring and wasting his energy.
I think Hogan’s pop was bigger than the one Warrior got. Hogan was always super popular in Canada.
It’s a stalemate early as they run through various tests of strength. They both slam each other. The first big swing of momentum is Hogan tweaking his knee when Warrior Clotheslines him over the top. Warrior helps Hogan back into the ring and Hogan quickly seizes the advantage.
Hogan applies a Chin Lock. According to Hogan, Warrior wanted them to go to the finishing sequence at this point and Hogan refused. Hogan’s dominating the match, but can’t keep Warrior down for three. Warrior fights out of a Chin Lock and they hit each other with simultaneous Clotheslines. Warrior starts to feel it as he shakes the ropes and levels Hogan with a series of Clotheslines. Warrior connects with a Suplex and locks on a Bear Hug. Hogan fights out and the referee gets leveled when Warrior misses a Shoulder Block. Warrior goes to the top and connects with an Ax Handle. Warrior misses a Shoulder Tackle and Hogan has him pinned, but there’s no referee.
Hogan is frustrated and Warrior sneaks up behind with with a Back Suplex. Now it’s Warrior who has the pin. But still no referee. They do a great near fall with Hogan just barely getting his shoulder up. Now Hogan gets a School Boy and Warrior just barely kicks out. Hogan knocks Warrior to the floor with a Back Elbow. Hogan follows Warrior to the floor but ends up getting his head rammed into the post. Back in the ring, Warrior Press Slams Hogan! Warrior hits the Big Splash! Hogan kicks out! And now he Hulks Up. Hogan hits the punches and the Big Boot. He goes for the Leg Drop. But he’s never faced an opponent this strong before. Warrior has the strength left to roll out of the way of the Leg Drop. Now it’s Hogan who is down and vulnerable. And Warrior goes for the kill: He lands the Big Splash, and he gets the pin at 22:51.
Rating: ****¼. Awesome, awesome match. Great layout and pacing to hide their limitations. Both guys came out looking like champions and legends. This is before finisher kickouts and false finishes were hugely overdone, so it was a real novelty for the time.
Hogan teases walking out without a handshake, but then comes back and congratulates Warrior, handing him the title. This perhaps became a little too much about Hogan, but they were going for a passing of the torch. Both Monsoon and Ventura laud Hogan’s sportsmanship, with Ventura saying “I do believe Hulkamania will live forever.” Warrior celebrates with both belts as the show goes off the air.
This perhaps didn’t turn out to be as big a moment as it was supposed to be. Warrior was meant to take the ball and carry it into the 90s, but his unreliability both in and out of the ring stopped it from happening. The fact that Hogan’s acting career didn’t take off as he hoped probably also played a role in Hogan sticking around. By the next Wrestlemania, Hogan was on top again. But this definitely feels like it was the end of an era, as someone was finally able to defeat The Hulkster.
Overall: Decent show. Main event was awesome, but not much of note on the undercard. I don’t hate it, but it’s getting tiring to watch these shows where they cram 15 matches on the card instead of cutting it down to 10 and letting them work.