2002 was a strange year for the wrestling business. Heck, it could be argued that it was even weirder than 2001, and that was a weird year *cough* XFL *cough*.
In January, Chris Jericho was the undisputed Champion, Steve Austin was still around, as were the Intercontinental, European, and Hardcore Championships. By December of that year we had a brand split, with two separate world titles, Brock Lesnar, a guy who only debuted months prior to main-eventing, and Shawn Michaels had come out of retirement. Not to mention, in the middle, Hulk Hogan returned to the company for the first time in around 10 years, to become the World Champion once again.
See? Absolutely bizarre! But, as previously stated, Austin and Hogan were, at one point, both in the same company at the exact same time. The face of the Rock n’ Wrestling generation from the 80’s, and the face of the edgy Attitude Era from the 90’s. These two facing each other in the ring is stuff dreams are made of… but, it never happened.
Of course though, it was a match that was discussed internally. As a matter of fact, the legendary “Icon vs. Icon” bout we saw at WrestleMania X8 wasn’t to feature The Rock, but instead to feature Stone Cold, in a Clash of the Eras contest. Austin reports himself, via Jim Ross’ Podcast, that management did come to him proposing the idea of the two modern day legends clashing on the biggest stage of them all, WrestleMania. However, it was Steve Austin who turned the idea down!
“I guarantee you, if my head had been at a little different place, then by all rights, a [match] should have happened… Physically and mentally where I was at, I could go. I think Hogan probably would have been a step or two behind that. That wasn’t acceptable to me, and I didn’t want to slow myself down. I say that with all due respect to Hulk Hogan, because he had a hellacious run. That was my thought process back in the day. I didn’t think we could deliver.”
2002 was an incredibly difficult year for the Texas Rattlesnake on a personal level: Austin’s wife, Debra, was filing for divorce, citing domestic abuse allegations. His daughters from his previous marriage were planning on moving to England to live with their mother, and he was struggling creatively with his character – in both the storylines he was presented with, and the company’s direction after the Monday Night War had come to an end. Due to this, Austin had become increasingly difficult to work with, and often voiced his disapproval at the writers ideas.
Whilst Austin’s claims of Hogan being a step behind due to his age could be argued as being true, one would reply saying that a wrestler is only as good as their opponent. Whilst Rock vs. Hogan, which ultimately creative went with, will never be considered a 5 star match from a technical wrestling standpoint, the sheer spectacle that the two put on was enough to make the match a stand-out of the night.
Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan never did have their one-on-one dream match, as Austin went on to face Scott Hall instead… who made the match into a farce, and turned Austin’s penultimate Mania bout into something absolutely forgettable. Austin then ultimately walked out on the company a few months after Mania. The closest the fans got to seeing it was on an episode of Raw a few weeks before WrestleMania X8, where Rock and Austin teamed up to face the nWo in a 2-on-3 handicap match – which, to be honest, could have main-evented a pay-per-view in of itself.
What do you think? Would you rather have seen Austin v. Hogan at Mania? Or are you happy that it turned out the way it did? Let us know in the comments below!