We here at BlurayMMA like to think of ourselves as a diverse bunch. While we enjoy mixed martial arts, we’re also big fans of professional wrestling, which is why we’re taking a look at this rather ironic release from World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s ironic because as Hulk Hogan made his first appearances for TNA, WWE decided to release yet another DVD compilation dedicated to the man, featuring rare and unreleased matches, entitled Hulk Hogan’s Unreleased Collector’s Series. So what is this three disc set like then? Well, that’s what I’m hoping to find out.
November 13, 1979: Hogan faces Harry Valdez, accompanied by his manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie. It’s basically a squash match against an unknown jobber on the WWF’s Championship Wrestling programme. Hogan throws him around for a few minutes before getting the submission win with an over the shoulder back breaker. Vince McMahon interviews Hogan and Blassie after the match as they go into basic promo mode. A good way of getting the newcomer over.
April 12, 1980: Hogan challenges Bob Backlund for the WWF title in Philadelphia. This is a perfect example of the style of wrestling back then. In no way could anyone get away with applying a side headlock for ten minutes these days. It’s a good old fashioned back and forth encounter lasting about thirty minutes, with Backlund frustrating Hogan early on by using his amateur wrestling skills to counter Hogan’s strength advantage. Hogan’s power came into play later. An exchange of airplane spins would see both men tumble out of the ring. Backlund then went for another spin at ringside, pushing Hogan back into the ring before falling to the ground because of dizziness. This proved costly for the champion as Hogan gained the count out win, but not the title. If matches were like this today the internet marks would pull their hair our. Me, I thought it was great.
September 10, 1980: Hogan takes on Steve King and Angelo Gomez on an episode of All Star Wrestling. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book here, putting your monster heel against two jobbers to get him over. It’s the same as the previous squash match, with Hogan beating the hell out of the jobbers before pinning them both at the same time after taking them both down with back breakers.
September 22, 1980: Hogan tackles Andre the Giant at Madison Square Garden, with Gorilla Monsoon as special referee. Of course, this was some years before Andre’s health problems took their toll, and in many ways this match is far superior to their Wrestlemania III encounter. It’s essentially a test of power and strength between the two big men, with Hogan proving to be Andre’s most difficult opponent at that point in his career. Andrew came out on top here. Having body slammed the Giant once, Hogan went to the well again, but the second body slam attempt failed as the Giant came crashing down on him, with Monsoon making the fast three count. Another good match.
May 2, 1981: Hogan takes on AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkle and his manager Bobby Heenan in a handicap match. Hogan went to the AWA after Vince McMahon Senior fired him for wanting to appear in Rocky III, although, naturally, our voice over man doesn’t mention this. Hogan by now is a beloved fan favourite, while Bockwinkle and Heenan are great in their roles as cowardly heels who try everything in the book to take the Hulkster down, including choking him with foreign objects and removing turnbuckle pads. Hogan manages to overcome the odds and eventually pins Bockwinkle after the big boot/leg drop combination. Another good match, and it’s also interesting to see how different the AWA style was compared to that of the WWF.
April 26, 1986: Forward five years, and Hogan is back in WWF territory, facing a man who would become a perennial foe and ally – “Macho Man” Randy Savage, two years before the formation of the Mega-Powers and three years before their classic at Wrestlemania V. These two always had great chemistry in the ring, and never more so than in this match. Savage was at his villainous best here, using every trick he could get away with, including using his manager Elizabeth as a human shield. It wasn’t Savage’s night though. Hogan kicked out of the pin after Savage’s top rope elbow, and sent the Macho Man running for cover after the big boot. Savage went for a second big elbow, but Hogan raised his foot and caught Savage in the jaw. Hogan got the title retaining pin, but Savage was done, attacking Hogan after the bell and running off with the title belt, with the Hulkster regaining his prize moments later.
May 4, 1986: Hogan teams with the Junkyard Dog to take on King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The first tag match of the collection is an entertaining affair with an absolutely white hot crowd. Hogan does what Bobby Heenan says is impossible by body slamming the two big men, costing Heenan a few thousand dollars in the process. The Dog does his part for the team, as Heenan gets his man disqualified just as Hogan is about to pin Studd after the big leg drop. Heenan’s night wasn’t over there, as he was accidentally on the receiving end of a Bundy avalanche.
June 26, 1987: Hogan takes on another monster as he defends his WWF title against the Ugandan giant, Kamala, in Houston. Kamala was one of the hottest stars in the WWF at the time, so it seemed natural to put him in the ring with Hogan. It’s a relatively short match, but still entertaining as Kamala controlled most of the action before Hogan kicked out of the pin after the big splash, getting his own pin after the body slam/leg drop combination. More action followed as Kamala’s handler Kim Chee and manager Mr. Fuji were sent running for cover after a failed post-match attack.
September 12, 1987: Hogan faces Killer Khan at the Boston Gardens. This is actually the first time I’ve seen Khan in action, and this guy looked pretty impressive. Khan took the referee out early on with the dreaded green mist, and his replacement was pretty lenient when he let Hogan clobber Khan with a chair. The Killer, with repeated interference from his manager Mr. Fuji, came close to getting the win, until Hogan kicked out after Khan’s knee drop to get the winning pin after his patented leg drop.
December 5, 1987: Another match from Philadelphia as Hogan squares off against the One Man Gang. For me the Gang was one of the best big men of that era, sadly later saddled with the awful African Dream gimmick. This is a nice example of the Gang’s work here as he works over the Hulkster’s back, before Hogan made the inevitable comeback, sealing the win after body slamming the big man and finishing him off with the leg drop, getting in a few licks on the Gang’s manager Slick for good measure. There’s also a brief appearance from Andre the Giant as he stares at Hogan from ringside.
January 9, 1988: A return to the Boston Gardens sees Hogan defending the WWF title against one of the unsung greats of wrestling, “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Before the match begins Rude and his manager Bobby Heenan challenged Hogan to an arm wrestling match, which Hogan promptly wins a few minutes in. From there Rude more or less dominates, even clobbering the Hulkster with a wooden chair while the Brain distracted the referee. Hogan then makes his comeback, kicking out of a pin after a top rope fist drop, before finishing Rude off with the leg drop. If there was one thing that Rick Rude was good at it was making his opponents look great, and her certainly did that job here.
March 12, 1988: Maple Leaf Wrestling action as Hogan teams with Bam Bam Bigelow against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase and Virgil, who have Andre the Giant in their corner. Of course, Hogan isn’t the WWF Champion here, having “lost” the belt to the Giant in the controversial double referee angle. Bigelow and Dibiase were at their best in this one, putting in great performances. Even Virgil didn’t look too bad as he got his licks in. The bodyguard took the fall here, and this time it was Bigelow who got the pin after his big splash, although Hogan did get in his leg drop for good measure. The Giant got a few head butts in after the match as well.
October 16, 1988: Hogan’s in Los Angeles, and he’s then to take on royalty in the form of King Haku. Like his stable mate Rick Rude, Haku was great at making his opponents look great, and it’s the case with this match. Haku was in the best shape of his career as he really took it to the Hulkster. The King nearly got the count out win, but he stopped the referee’s count. The Hulkster mounted his comeback and got the pin after the leg drop. He also sent Bobby Heenan packing for good measure.
December 17, 1988: Another trip to L.A. sees Hogan square off against the Big Boss Man. This one started off on the arena floor, because the Boss Man kept threatening Hogan with his nightstick whenever he tried to get into the ring. When the action eventually got to the ring Slick tried to interfere, which resulted in the Doctor of Style getting handcuffed to the ring, until his charge managed to release him. The Boss Man really took it to our hero, with Hogan hulking up after kicking out of the Boss Man’s pin. However, he soon found himself handcuffed after another ringside brawl. Hogan would later break the cuffs, before getting the pin on the Boss Man after the trademark leg drop. I really enjoyed this one, mainly because it followed a slightly different formula.
June 3, 1989: Hogan once again takes on Randy Savage, but this time it’s after the explosion of the Mega-Powers team, and Savage is now managed by Sensational Sherri. It’s another example of the great chemistry Hogan and Savage had, with Sherri adding the kind of variety that Miss Elizabeth never had. These two go through their usual routine, but vary it at the end, with a brawl at ringside that sees Savage getting back in the ring just in time to beat the count. Savage and Sherri then grab the title belt, but are sent packing by the Hulkster. Out of all the matches I’ve seen between these two over the years this is one of the best.
April 30, 1990: Having lost the WWF title to the Ultimate Warrior, Hogan moves on to his next foe at Madison Square Garden, the massive Earthquake. I presume that this was before the angle on the Brother Love Show where Earthquake took out Hogan and put him on the shelf until that year’s Summerslam (or so he could go off and make one of those bloody awful films.) It’s actually a relatively short match, and quite early in Earthquake’s WWF career, with Hogan kicking out of the sit down splash, and getting the disqualification win when Jimmy Hart broke up Hogan’s pin attempt. A good match, but it lacked the drama and atmosphere of their Summerslam encounter.
April 24, 1991: In one of the most controversial angles of WWE history, Hogan defends the WWF title against Sgt. Slaughter in London. It was controversial because Slaughter declared allegiance to Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. Now say what you want about the angle, but these two had some really heated matches. The action was crisp, with some of Slaughter’s corner bumps looking brutal. Slaughter, with the aid of his commanding officer General Adnan, tried all the dirty tricks in the book, including using a chair while the referee was taking a snooze. The official woke up just after Adnan accidentally threw powder into Slaughter’s eyes, giving Hogan the chance to get the pin after the trusty old leg drop. This one may have been better than their Wrestlemania VII encounter.
December 29, 1991: The dream match that fans around the world had waited years for, as Hogan faced Ric Flair at Madison Square Harden. No titles on the line in this one, as the WWF title had been held up after the controversial Hogan/Undertaker match a few weeks earlier. Hogan more or less dominates this one, even using the figure four leg lock at one point. Flair managed to get in a few shots, but it’s Hogan who gets the win via count out after one of the many ringside exchanges. It was okay I suppose, but I was surprised at how little offence Flair got in.
May 21, 1995: It’s on to WCW territory next, as Hogan teams with Randy Savage against Ric Flair and Vader at Slamboree. I always thought that WCW handled the Hogan/Flair feud a lot better than their WWF counterparts. This is actually a very good match, with both teams putting in great performances. I kind of forgot how good Vader was, my memories of him having been tarnished a little by his last WWE appearance. Mention must also be made of the ringside brawl between Arn Anderson and fake Ultimate Warrior Renegade. Hogan got the pin for his team in this one, taking care of Flair with the leg drop after Anderson’s attempted interference backfired. There was also an interesting cameo here, as the man who would later become the Big Show made his first WCW appearance, observing part of the match from the entrance.
July 16, 1995: Once again Hogan faces Vader, this time in a steel cage, and with the WCW title on the line at the open air Bash at the Beach. No technical Masterclass here, it’s basically two big guys beating the hell out of each other, throwing each other into the cage whenever they can. Once again Vader puts on a good show, and Hogan manages to Bodyslam him at the third attempt, and with Dennis Rodman stopping Kevin Sullivan and the man with a thousand gimmicks Ed “Zodiac” Leslie from entering the cage, Hogan retained the title by knocking Vader off the top rope and climbing over the cage to the floor. A good enough match, but bumping on a mat constantly exposed to blazing sunshine must have been a right pain in the you know where.
November 20, 1995: On an edition of Monday Nitro, Hogan teases a heel turn, wearing black and taking on Sting for the first time. Yep, WCW gave away a massive match like this for free. It’s a kind of pre-cursor to what happened the following year, and it’s a far superior match to their much hyped Starrcade encounter two years later. It’s a great back and forth affair, with Hogan missing the leg drop, and Sting locking in the Scorpion Death lock before the Dungeon of Doom stormed the ring and the Giant cleaned house, before he was sent packing by a chair shot from Hogan and Sting. An example of the Monday night wars at their finest.
January 25, 1997: Now in full heel mode as the leader of the New World Order, Hogan defends the WCW title against the Giant at the NWO’s only pay-per-view, Souled Out. The heel version of Hogan is a far more aggressive beast, and he bends and breaks any rule he can. As for the Giant, it’s a good performance from the big man, but he’s a hell of a lot more agile in this match than he is today, as was evident with his top rope elbow attempt. Now, if you’ve been used to Hogan kicking out of finishers, you’ll find it odd to see the Giant kicking out after the big leg drop, taking Hogan out with a choke slam. The Giant didn’t get the title winning pin though, as referee Nick Patrick kept stopping his count. The big guy went ballistic, choke slamming several NWO members until Hogan clobbered him with a guitar that Eric Bischoff had given him. A chair shot took the Giant out completely, with Hogan finishing the job with his trusty can of spray paint, ending a nice piece of action.
September 28, 1988: In another match that should have been on pay-per-view, Hogan faced Bret “Hitman” Hart for the first time ever. Now this is a strange and somewhat disappointing one. Hogan begins the match matching the Hitman hold for hold, but when Hogan centres his attack on Hart’s already injured knee, NWO Wolfpac members Sting, Lex Luger and Konnan stop Hart from continuing, with Sting replacing Hart while the Hitman is carried away on a stretcher by Luger and Konnan. So while Sting is facing Hogan, NWO Black & White members Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell attack Luger and Konnan backstage, and sent Hart back to the ring, and just as Sting has Hogan in the Death lock, Hart takes him out with a DDT, turning heel as Sting is taken out. This match could have been so much more if it wasn’t for the overbooked angle, and it’s a shame that fans didn’t get what they really wanted.
May 13, 2002: Back in WWE territory, and back in the red and yellow, Hogan defends the WWE title against his old rival and then-owner Ric Flair on an edition of Raw. Quite a short match here, and despite the advancing years of those involved, as well as a couple of dodgy moments, it’s still quite an entertaining encounter, with Hogan using the figure four against the Nature Boy again, before we get a brawl involving NWO members X-Pac and the Big Show against Bradshaw. The ending saw none other than Steve Austin taking Flair out with a Stunner, and Hogan getting the pin after the big leg drop.
June 6, 2002: Having lost the title to the Undertaker, Hogan faces Triple H for the number one contenders spot on an episode of Smackdown. An entertaining affair, with some ringside brawling, the use of the old Savage sleeper spot, and the countering of finishers until the Game got the winning pin after finally taking Hogan down with the Pedigree. Hogan then sealed the deal by calling Triple H back into the ring and shaking his hand, before the inevitable pose down.
July 11, 2002: Hogan teams with lifelong fan Edge to defend their newly won WWE Tag Team titles against former champions Billy and Chuck, once again on Smackdown. The quickest match of the collection sees the former champions, ably assisted by their stylist Rico, use Edge as a punching bag before Hogan comes in and cleans house, getting the title retaining pin on Billy with the big leg drop. Entertaining, but I would have chosen the match these teams had the week before.
August 1, 2002: The final match of the collection also comes from Smackdown, as Hogan faces Olympic hero Kurt Angle. Angle is one of those guys who can draw a good match out of anyone, and his encounters with Hogan were probably the best matches the Hulkster had during his WWE return. It’s the best match of the collection between two unique storytellers, with both men pulling out all of their signature moves, combined with referee bump and failed interference from Brock Lesnar, with Hogan getting the disqualification win after Angle clobbered him with a chair just as the referee recovered. The fight between Hogan and Angle continued after the bell, with Hogan getting the upper hand until Lesnar got back into the ring and took the Hulkster down with the F5.
Disc 3 is where you’ll find the special features, various promos from throughout the Hulkster’s career in WWE and WCW.
In conclusion – it took me three nights, but I finally got through this massive collection. While some of the matches, in particular those from the mid-to-late 80’s, follow the same formulaic script, all of the matches chosen for this collection are a fitting tribute to arguably the greatest star the wrestling business has ever seen, and it’s definitely worth adding to your collection. But now that I’ve watched this thing in it’s entirety, it now seems even more ironic that WWE are paying tribute to one of the men now at the helm of their biggest rival. What are they going to do next? A collection paying tribute to other wrestlers who have recently jumped ship?
Oh wait…Jeff Hardy…..
Hulk Hogan’s Unreleased Collectors Series is available to buy online at www.silvervision.co.uk.