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By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Hulk Hogan vs Shawn Michaels 8/21/05
Having talked about the angles and real life animosity playing out in the ring in the last article, it seems apropos that it is Summerslam 2005 that took place just under year previously where two such instances played out. Firstly, the aforementioned Edge and Matt Hardy feud would see the Rated R Superstar bludgeon Hardy in a match that skirted the boundaries between work and shoot as he busted Hardy and rendered him unable to continue in under five minutes. The second, and one of the more famous examples of letting your emotions show a little too clearly in the ring, was the main event between Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels.
Without knowing the specifics of the machinations of the WWE booking machine, and without having the ear of Vince McMahon or anyone else near the top of the promotion, a lot of what gets explored during situations like this is perceived wisdom or consensus understanding. When Hogan returned to the WWE as part of the NWO, he was happy to take a loss to the Rock – by the time he was due to step across the ring from Michaels, he’d ‘proved’ his worth and was unwilling to let Michaels go over him. Depending on what story you believe, rumours abounded that there were due to be three matches between the two, yet Hogan nixed it to one that he would win, or there were suggestions that the winner of the contest was changed fairly late on in the process. Either way, Michaels was not happy that, as a man who still had fuel in the tank, he would be doing the job for an aged Hogan.
There are generally two stances to Michael’s decision to oversell and bump around like a pinball to Hogan’s feather light offense. Some consider it an outrageous affront to wrestling for a competitor to come out and so openly mock the unwritten rules and expectations of the ‘sport’, effectively choosing to throw a tantrum in the ring and decide to not play the game. Others think it is hilarious and that Hogan got what he deserved for still throwing his political weight around even when his best years were far behind him. Either way, it is Michaels’ behaviour and not the match itself that still gets remembered.
The first collar and elbow tie-up sent Michaels flipping backwards and bouncing into the ropes. It soon escalated as a shoulderblock would send Michaels flying head over heels and through the ropes. Michaels laid in the chops that soon followed with little reservation, but would then channel early 90s Heartbreak Kid as he would end up draped across the top rope eating boots to the stomach that led to him getting crotched on the top rope; a common spot during his early heel run, but one highly exaggerated in the glare of a modern wrestling audience. A forwards roll, stand-up and fall that occurred as Michaels was pitched to the outside only served to highlight how willing Michaels was to make this appear as farcical as possible at times.
Not only were the chops that Michaels continued to return to meatier than usual, several slaps to Hogan’s face held little back as well. The ringpost and several right hands would leave Hogan bloody, the red liquid pumping down his face and across Michaels’ arm as he locked on a sleeper hold. Hogan would escape with a back suplex, but it took a missed top rope elbowdrop from Michaels to see Hogan fire up. The ref would end up getting bumped in a collision between the two, allowing Michaels to heel it up some more by syncing in the sharpshooter.
As Hogan eventually fought off a second sharpshooter attempt, wiping out the second referee in the process, Michaels would hit a low blow, smash Hogan with a chairshot and land both the top rope elbowdrop and Sweet Chin Music. When Hogan kicked out at two, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Michaels had one last ‘F you’ as he bumped ridiculously on the big boot, but the legdrop would earn Hogan the win as it always did.
Michaels wasn’t finished. The night after he would cut an insincere promo which basically undermined Hogan’s victory, whilst the fans were back to cheering and chanting his name. It was almost as if this was a blip that could be ignored. As if to prove the ridiculousness of the booking, Hogan would soon leave the WWE once more, whilst Michaels would have another five years before retiring at Wrestlemania 26.