During the most recent episode of ‘Grilling JR’, Jim Ross recalled the early rumours and plans for WrestleMania 14 in 1998, surrounding the WWF return of Hulk Hogan.
1998 was an explosive time for professional wrestling. With the ‘Monday Night Wars’ in full effect, Monday Night Raw and Monday Nitro were amongst the hottest shows in all of television. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and D-Generation X would lead the way for WWF, whilst Hulk Hogan and the NWO stood atop the WCW mountain.
WrestleMania that year would see Steve Austin face Shawn Michaels in the main event, and with the help of Mike Tyson, ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ would win his first WWF Championship.
During a watch along of a 1998 Monday Nitro, JR recalled the rumour and innuendo circulating regarding Hogan jumping ship back to WWF, to face Austin at ‘Mania. Ross admitted that although the attraction would have been a financial success, the match itself may not have lived up to the hype:
“It would have been interesting to see. You’ve got two of the most amazing attractions in the history of Pro Wrestling, as far as ticket sales and pay-per-views. I’m sure they would have probably been a success financially. However artistically, maybe not so much.”
Steve Austin has previously stated that he was never in favour of working with, ‘The Hulkster’, during his heyday. Jim Ross defended rumours that Austin wouldn’t have nixed the plan out of malice for Hulk, but due to a styles clash between the two:
“Austin never had confidence that he and Hogan would have enough chemistry to live up to the hype. There’s always been the stories, Austin didn’t like Hogan and he didn’t want to work with Hogan and all that stuff, which is great for internet gossip and chatter…
I just think the clash, the styles clash was more than Steve wanted to attempt. I don’t think it had anything personally to do with Hogan […] I think Steve’s issue is that Steve had a very high pace. Intense, aggressive, somewhat snug high pace. And, you know, that may not have fit Hogan’s stylings at that time…
It would have been a great poster, it would have been a great promo, it would have drawn interest. It would have made money. But I don’t think the match had a chance in hell to live up to the hype of the two stars.”
Hulk’s next appearance on the ‘Grandest Stage of them All’ wouldn’t come until 2002, where he would face The Rock in a legendary ‘Icon vs Icon’ match, while Austin would face Hogan’s NWO partner Scott Hall on the undercard.
Ultimately, Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan would never face each other one on one in the squared circle. The dream match remains one of the biggest ‘what if’s’ in pro wrestling history.
Credit for the interview: Grilling JR Podcast