There is an almost unanimous opinion that WWE failed to capitalize on the Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair feud ahead of WrestleMania VIII and completely threw the opportunity out of the window by the time the “show of shows” arrived on April 5, 1992.
WrestleMania VIII was originally supposed to have Hogan and Flair in the main event for the top title. WWE (then WWF) had even announced the dream match during a pre-mania conference and advertised it on television but later scrapped the plans altogether.
While Flair took on Macho Man Randy Savage for the WWF title in an excellent contest, Hogan squared off against Sid Justice in an umm… passing of the torch match. Hogan was leaving WWF at the time to sign with rival promotion WCW and Vince wanted someone with the looks and build to carry his company.
Fans aren’t sure to this day over why WWE did not went with Hogan vs. Flair. Many believe the dream match had the potential to break wrestling records and make WrestleMania the highest grossing PPV at the time. Others suggest Vince did not proceeded with the match due to the drawing power factor.
The “Nature Boy” himself believes drawing power may have been the reason behind WWE pulling the plug on his match against Hulk Hogan for the company’s top prize at WrestleMania VIII.
“I don’t know. I’ve heard two stories,” the 72-year-old said on the debut episode of his WOOOOO Nation! podcast. One is that they were having a cash flow problem… let’s say we sold out Boston and sold out [Los Angeles], Oakland we sold out, the Garden we didn’t sell out.” he told co-host Mark Madden.
“Our first show in the Garden, we did not sell out, so I don’t know whether people thought I couldn’t draw, because it’s funny, my whole career had been Southern-based until I got the belt and then I’m traveling across the country.
“I still was never mainstream TV on the east coast, so being the NWA Champion, I was never in New York, I never was in Philadelphia until this small building came along and then we were there every night and went against those guys [WWE] when they were in the Spectrum.”
The multi-time WWE Hall of Famer said WWE not viewing him as a major draw could’ve been the reason behind Vince calling off the contest and that ever one thought the match would have shattered records.
“We got together afterward, which was a good time — but I don’t think, maybe they didn’t perceive me as being over enough. Everybody’s speculation [says] it would have been the biggest thing ever, but you never know. I’ve heard Hulk wanted to go off and do TV, he did that Thunder In Paradise show, who knows? I’ve never questioned it.
“To this day, [people ask] ‘Aren’t you mad about that?’ I said mad about what? I spent a year-and-a-half [there], I wrestled Bret Hart, I wrestled Hogan, I wrestled Jake [Roberts], I win the Royal Rumble, I wrestled [Randy] Savage, I win the world championship twice, and then I go back [to WCW]. How could I be mad? I traveled with [Ted] DiBiase, [Roddy] Piper, the Nasty Boys, the Road Warriors, I mean look at the crew we traveled with.”
Hogan and Flair wrestled each other in singles matches at WWE live events before WrestleMania and according to podcast co-host Madden, the Nature Boy had the crowd cheering for him especially during their November 1, 1991, house show contest in Pittsburgh.
“I saw that match at a house show in Pittsburgh, which was very close to sold out, by the way. And they booed Hogan and cheered you,” he said. He continued, “It wasn’t universal, but it was definitely a mixed crowd, and I don’t think WWE wanted that to get on pay-per-view, I don’t think they wanted that to get on TV.”
“You look at the Royal Rumble, which we’ll talk about at length on a later podcast, Ric, but that Royal Rumble that you won, they cheered. They booed Hogan with that routine at the end and I don’t think that Vince ever wanted that on TV in a singles match.”
Flair made his televised debut for WWE in August 1991 and stayed with the company till January 1993. During his brief stint with the company, Flair won the Royal Rumble ’92, capturing the company’s top prize as part of the main event’s stipulation. Check out his post-match promo:
What’s your take on this story? Sound off in the comments!