A moment of unforgettable wrestling history, Hulk Hogan praises The Rock for maybe making a comeback at WrestleMania

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Hulk Hogan was among the millions–and millions–who watched The Rock’s return to WWE last week on SmackDown.

Over the past six decades, Hogan has witnessed every major moment in pro wrestling. Yet he still found himself enamored, as The Rock captured his attention and seized his imagination.

“The Rock, he’s one of a kind,” said Hogan. “He’s on another level. That was noticeable right away. But one part stood out to me–and I thought it was very clear. Rock still has wrestling in his blood.”

The ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood has opened an unexpected pathway for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to return to WWE. If he were to wrestle again, the match would be a WrestleMania 40 main event against Roman Reigns.

Hogan, who headlined the inaugural WrestleMania–and WrestleMania IIWrestleMania IIIWrestleMania VWrestleMania VIWrestleMania VII, and WrestleMania VIII, as well as closed out WrestleMania IX–believes a Rock-Reigns match would redefine pro wrestling.

The Rock shares an amazing story about Hulk Hogan

“That would be a moment for everyone,” said Hogan. “Not everyone was around, not even a lot of today’s stars, for the first WrestleMania with Mr. T and Liberace. Or to see me and Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III. But if Rock comes back, people will never forget it.

“For all the people to see him come back, and see greatness right in front of us, it would be amazing. If The Rock comes back at WrestleMania, it will be a moment people will never forget.”

The Rock changed WrestleMania X8 match against Hulk Hogan

Hogan and Rock wrestled each other on two different occasions, and had a fantastic three-on-two handicap match on Raw where Hogan teamed with NWO brethren Kevin Nash and Scott Hall against The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Their most famous moment together took place in 2002 at WrestleMania X8, where The Rock and Hogan electrified the crowd at the SkyDome in Toronto.

Prior to WrestleMania X8, Hogan had not wrestled at WWE’s signature event since 1993, and the build to his match against The Rock was sensational. But a lot had changed in WWE while Hogan had worked for WCW. WWE was no longer his domain, as Austin and The Rock became the company’s two top stars during the immensely popular “Attitude Era.” Life in WWE also changed off-camera, and Hogan was surprised when he asked to run through the match against The Rock during a WrestleMania X8 rehearsal.

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“I’ve never practiced a match in my life,” said Hogan. “But when I finished at WCW and went back to WWE, Vince McMahon told me things were different. I remember him telling me that I needed to bring it if I wanted to keep up. There were other changes, too. Vince and Pat Patterson wanted us to go through the match to see what we were doing. That wasn’t my cup of tea. To me, the art form is calling it when we’re out there.”

Hogan fondly recalls the voice of Rocky Johnson, the father of The Rock, echoing throughout their rehearsal.

“I’d known Rocky Johnson for a long time, even before I started to wrestle,” said Hogan. “He was someone I looked up to. And that day, I can still remember standing in the ring talking with Dwayne, and all we could hear was Rocky Johnson yelling, ‘Dwayne, listen to Hogan!’”

Hogan first met Rocky Johnson while both were living in Florida. At the time, Hogan was a rabid wrestling fan and Johnson was a star of the industry.

“Rocky Johnson was wrestling in Florida, and after the matches in Tampa, they’d all go to the Imperial Room,” said Hogan. “I bet Rock remembers the place because they lived right near it. I’d go just to mark out and see Harley Race and ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham on one side of the room, then Rocky Johnson on the other.

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“This was back when I was in a rock and roll band. I finally got the nerve to speak to the guys, and there was one time where I offered to drive Rocky Johnson to Tallahassee for his match. That was a five-hour drive, but I didn’t care, I was just so excited. I drove him in my girlfriend’s brand-new Ford Torino, and I was so proud to drive him. I ended up driving him a few times, and I’d be gone until the sun came up. Or, if he was on earlier, I’d break every speeding limit to get him back to the Imperial Room before last call. When I went to New York in ‘79 [to work for the World Wrestling Federation], he took me under his wing when he wrestled there. I never forgot that.”

Courtesy WWE
Courtesy WWE

While Hogan and The Rock were in the ring going over their match for WrestleMania X8, Patterson asked them to conduct the actual match as a dry run.

“That wasn’t happening, brother,” said Hogan. “I needed at least 20,000 people in front of me and a couple Miller Lites in me before I could do it at that level, so we walked through it instead.

“And look what happened. When I walked out of the curtain at WrestleMania X8, some people were cheering me. We had to call an audible. The crowd wanted something different, so we called it on the fly. Rock was such a pro and so old school. He listened to the crowd, and it was like a slow dance. It was beautiful. That’s a night I’ll never forget, and I learned firsthand how special Rock was in the ring.”

Hogan was 48 years old when that match took place at WrestleMania X8. The Rock is currently 51, but Hogan does not envision age being a deterrent if The Rock decides to return.

Hulk Hogan: 'If The Rock comes back at WrestleMania, it will be a moment people will never forget' - Sports Illustrated Wrestling News, Analysis and More

“Rock’s in great shape, better than I was, and he is so smart inside the ring,” said Hogan. “It would be great to see him come back. It would be bigger than him, too. It’s something that would be significant for everyone in wrestling.”

WrestleMania 40 takes place next April in Philadelphia. For an event of that stature, Hogan believes that there is no bigger star to headline than The Rock.

“Even though he hasn’t wrestled in a while, if he goes out there, Rock is going to tear that place down,” said Hogan. “Good luck to anyone trying to follow that match.”

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