During the Monday Night Wars, WCW started to beat WWE in the weekly ratings because of one big storyline — the nWo invasion. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall showed up from WWE, and soon Hulk Hogan joined them, turning the wrestling world upside down. However, WWE soon regained its footing with the Attitude Era and won the Monday Night Wars thanks to stars like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
In WCW, the maneuverings of the nWo in the locker room destroyed the chemistry of the roster. Eventually, WCW went out of business, purchased by WWE. Nobody realized it at the time, but this massive purchase set the stage for The Rock and Hollywood Hogan to battle it out on the grandest stage. Billed as Icon vs. Icon, their match is regarded as one of the best WrestleMania matches of all-time. It was also the most unusual.
By 2002, Nature Boy Ric Flair and Vince McMahon were feuding over control of WWE, with Flair winning control from McMahon to run the company as he saw fit. McMahon believed Flair was destroying the company he built and decided if anyone destroyed WWE, it should be him. McMahon hired Hogan, Hall, and Nash to come to WWE, hoping they could destroy the locker room the same as they did in WCW and put WWE out of business before Flair could.
The two men that stepped up to the plate to defend WWE from the new nWo invasion were the two men most responsible for putting WCW out of commission during the Monday Night Wars. Stone Cold Steve Austin started a feud with Scott Hall, with Kevin Nash being in Hall’s corner to stack the odds against the Texas Rattlesnake. Meanwhile, The Rock focused on Hollywood Hulk Hogan. The matches for WrestleMania X8 began to take form.
When the nWo arrived in WWE at No Way Out in 2002, they claimed they didn’t want any problems. They just wanted to work and do their jobs. However, there was something about them that rubbed many superstars backstage the wrong way.
Hollywood Hogan came out the night after No Way Out and talked to the fans about beating monsters, Russians, and even bodyslamming the “700-pound” Andre the Giant. Then, Hogan claimed the fans turned on him and drove him out of WWE, the same way that the Bulls fans drove Michael Jordan out of Chicago (Raw was in Chicago that night). Hogan said no one is a bigger icon than he is, and there will never be a bigger star in the wrestling business than Hollywood Hogan.
That brought out The Rock, who explained that the people didn’t drive out Hulk Hogan. He said the people and The Rock believed in Hulk Hogan. However, after years of Hogan talking about eating vitamins, saying prayers, and ripping his shirts, people got sick of him. Rock called Hogan a legend, an icon and “quite possibly the best ever.” The Rock challenged Hulk Hogan to a match at WrestleMania X8. After Hogan accepted, The Rock shook Hogan’s hand and then promptly laid out the legend with a Rock Bottom.
Hall and Nash showed up, and the three men beat down The Rock. That was just the start. As The Rock was on his way out of the arena in the ambulance, the nWo attacked again. Hogan got into a semi-truck and drove full speed into the ambulance several times. The attack took The Rock out of commission for three weeks, but the WrestleMania match still took place.
However, something amazing happened at WrestleMania X8. The fans took Hogan’s side. Even though Hollywood Hogan basically tried to murder The Rock in a vehicular manslaughter-styled attack, the fans at WrestleMania recognized Hogan was back at the event he helped create, and they couldn’t help but cheer for him.
The Rock took a look around and made a change on the fly. He started heeling it up in the match, mocking Hogan, and allowing his opponent slowly to morph back into the Immortal Hulk Hogan. By the end of the 16-minute match, the fans were on their feet, cheering on Hogan as he battled the top star in WWE. It was The Rock who beat Hulk Hogan that night, and after the match, the two men shook hands.
That was the end of Hollywood Hogan. The next night on Monday Night Raw, the two men shook hands again, and Hogan ripped up his nWo shirt. That brought out Hall and Nash, who then turned on Hogan. The main event saw The Rock teaming with Hulk Hogan to battle Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, and the iconic feud between Rock and Hogan ended, with Rock proving to be the best in the world and Hogan proving he truly was immortal.
At WrestleMania X8, the best WWE wrestler from the '80s returned to battle one of the faces of the Attitude Era as Hulk Hogan took on The Rock.