WWE has a way of giving us the dream matches we’ve always hoped for. Sometimes they’re magical (think Hogan vs. Rock at WrestleMania 18). Sometimes they’re … well … something else. The matchup between Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam 2005 was a bizarre clash of two of wrestling’s biggest egos. What resulted was one of wrestling’s weirdest and most controversial matches ever and an unbelievable story of two men who learned to hate each other over the course of a month.
So let’s take a look…but first a bit of history.
In The Beginning…
By the time Shawn Michaels made it to the WWF in the late ’80s, the company — and wrestling as a whole — was firmly in the hands of Hulk Hogan. Hulkamania had run wild and wouldn’t stop for years. While Michaels and his tag team partner Marty Jannetty were tearing it up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, they were never really seen as main event-level talent in the company. That space belonged to Hulk Hogan and musclebound guys who “looked the part.” However, the workhorses were gaining steam. By the early ’90s, Hulk Hogan was wrestling halfway through the house show cards while teams like The Rockers, The Hart Foundation and The Brain Busters were actually main eventing them. But there was no way that would translate to TV or WrestleManias. The Hogans, Warriors and Earthquakes of the world were going to dominate the top spots while the little guys would put on high-quality matches halfway through any pay-per-view.
Then some serendipity happened — namely a steroid scandal that would rock Vince McMahon and his company. Soon thereafter, Hulk Hogan would leave wrestling. The loss of Hogan combined with the steroid scandal forced the WWF to look at some of its smaller wrestlers as potential main eventers. Bret Hart would be the first smaller workhorse to take over the main event position. Shawn Michaels was close behind, winning the Royal Rumble in 1995 and becoming an official headliner.
Meanwhile Hulk Hogan would go to WCW with his American Hero persona before leading the NWO into the new millennium.