Say what you will about goofy, fruity, cheesy WWE Champion John Cena, but at least’s he’s a company guy. If Vince McMahon told him to drop the title to Daniel Bryan he would do it. If McMahon told him to lose the strap to Paul Heyman, he would do it. So when Cena wrestles Bryan this Sunday at SummerSlam, it will be a great, exciting, thrilling match, even if Cena (God, let’s hope not) walks away with the gold.
But that will be an entirely different scenario than what happened at SummerSlam eight years ago, when the most popular wrestler of all-time wrestled the best in-ring performer of all time. We can all be glad that Hulk Hogan is long gone from the WWE.
In 2005, Hulk Hogan wrestled “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., in what was simultaneously one of the best and worst main event matches of all-time. As usual, like a bratty 3-year-old, Hogan did not want to lose. Hogan always saw himself as bigger than the business.
Even though Michaels was enjoying a George Foreman-like comeback, tearing houses down with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle the two years prior, Hogan, of course, had to beat HBK at SummerSlam. To put that into perspective, it would be like Larry Bird demanding that he beat Michael Jordan in a Slam Dunk contest. It just wasn’t logical.
Michaels, of course, during the first stage of his career faked more injuries than a flopping LeBron James, to avoid “jobbing” or losing a match. He was beat up by the “nine Marines” in Syracuse, New York. There was the time he lost his smile and walked away.
But after a four-year layoff from a back injury, Michaels returned in 2002 as a legitimate born-again Christian, a guy whose priorities shifted, a guy who didn’t care anymore about winning matches. He was the Kurt Warner and Kirk Cameron of wrestling (not that those guys would ever take a razor blade to their foreheads), but you get the point. Michaels was now a genuine good man. He just wanted to go out there and perform (and probably make money because he didn’t have any hunting TV gigs back then).
For some reason, McMahon decided to pair these guys as a team and then have Michaels turn on Hogan leading up to a match at Summerslam. Michaels played the role of the jealous, more talented little guy, who never understood why fans cheered for a big goof whose idea of a marathon match was going 11 minutes.
Hogan, of course, had no reason for wanting to fight Michaels because he could never muster up the courage to call Michaels the greatest in-ring performer of all-time. Hogan never wanted to put anyone on his level, even though in a real fight Hogan couldn’t hold his own with Joe Rogan.
So Michaels, instead of faking another concussion or knee injury, went through with the match and lost, like a good company man. He wasn’t (thankfully) totally honest in his effort. Just to let the fans in on the inside joke that a consummate athlete like Michaels had to lose to a dweeb like Hogan, Michaels oversold every move in the match.
When Hogan hit him, Michaels dropped to the ground, flipped like a fish out of water, rolled out of the ring and then ran into the ringpost. Sure, it wasn’t the most professional way to lose, but Hogan had it coming.
Hogan wasn’t qualified to lace Michaels’ boots. Hogan was no longer a draw in 2005. There was no reason for Hogan to win other than he was Hogan and at one time the most popular wrestler in the sport.
Michaels had so much fun making Hogan look like a fool that night that Hogan refused to carry the storyline forward. The angle was dead and Hogan never mentioned Michaels on television again.
At least with Cena and Bryan we have two guys in their primes who deserve to be in the top angles. Bryan is far more talented than Cena, but Cena is not yet a broken-down shell of himself trying to cling to his old glory at the expense of younger talent.