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Passing of the torch – Similarity between Rock and Hogan

The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 18

I’ve been a fan of pro wrestling since a very young age. While I was growing up, I was witnessing a historic movement in the landscape of professional wrestling. The Attitude Era was in its initial stages, and the Monday Night Wars was in full swing. WCW and WWF were going head to head, and every episode on Monday was a must watch for both the shows. As a kid who got introduced to WWF, I was one of those fans who tuned into RAW every Monday to see all my favourite superstars. It was one of the more fascinating periods in the history of professional wrestling, and due to the competition, there was a boom in the industry.

Now, during the pre-Attitude Era, WCW were beating the WWF convincingly in their ratings war. Eric Bischoff had creating something that revolutionized the business, and shook the business to its very core, which was the New World Order (NWO). Hulk Hogan, who was the face of WWF for over a decade, was not only the biggest name in professional wrestling, but was also the most clean cut guy in the business, whom the kids adored. During his time in WCW, all the fans got tired of the same clean cut antics of Hogan (like the fans now with John Cena), and it was about time something had to be done. And what did Bischoff do? He made Hogan do the biggest and most shocking heel turn in the history of professional wrestling. Hogan had joined hands with the Outsiders, and now they were called the New World Order. This led to WCW over taking the WWF in the ratings, and for 84 weeks straight, WCW dominated the WWF.

The WWF then responded to the challenge by creating a more edgier, provocative product which sold to the masses rather than to the kids. This resulted in the Attitude Era taking shape, and the WWF taking over WCW in their tug of war. New superstars like Austin and Rock made their mark in the industry, and became some of the biggest names the business had ever witnessed. The Hogans and Flairs were replaced by the Austins and Rocks. When you think about the changing times in the industry, you can see the similarities between the old war horses and the pioneers of Attitude era. I’ll explain what I meant by that as we move along.

I was watching WrestleMania 18 yesterday, and the Hogan-Rock match intrigued me a lot. It reminded me of the present situation between the Rock and John Cena. Hogan was the face of WWF nearly 2 decades ago while going into WrestleMania 18, and Rock was the face of the WWF then. Similarly, when you look at 2013, Cena is the face of the WWF while Rock is the old timer. We can see the overlapping similarities between both the storylines. You had the older veteran coming back and trying to dethrone the current top star, while the current face of the company tried to cement his legacy by beating the former top dog of the company.

Back in ’02, when WWF bought WCW, Hogan returned to the WWF nearly after a decade. He was then involved in a feud with the Rock, and they both faced each other at WrestleMania. During the event, the fans, who were loyally behind the Rock till then, turned on him and started to cheer Hulk Hogan, which wasn’t expected by Vince at that time. After all, Rock was the current top star in the company while Hogan was old news. But the fans chose to support Hogan while jeering the Rock, and that created a great atmosphere during their match. If you see any similarity in the current scene, then you might have understood my point already.

The match was made as a way of ‘passing the torch’ from Hulk Hogan to the Rock. Of course, in the end, that didn’t make much sense as Rock left the WWF for Hollywood. But that match was intended as a way to pass on the baton, from the older war horse to his younger counterpart. In professional wrestling, the torch passes whether you like it or not. From the Sammartinos to Hogans to Brets, the younger guy had always taken over to carry the company, and that is how the business works and survives. The same thing happened a decade ago at Skydome in Toronto, Canada. Hogan had put over the Rock, which signified the passing of the torch to the Brahma bull.

A decade later, Rock finds himself in a similar situation. Cena, who has been the face of the company for nearly 8 years, was confronted by the Rock 2 years ago. The fans cheered on the Rock, who became their hero, and turned their back on Cena, similar to what the fans did with Hogan and the Rock. Since then, they had a match at the previous edition of WrestleMania, where the Rock defeated John Cena. This had certainly raised many eyebrows, as people expected Rock to put Cena over, similar to what Hogan did. But perhaps, no one knew the complete story, as Rock and Cena will square off once again this year at WrestleMania, and this time for the WWE Championship. This doesn’t only raise the stake higher, but also provides a reason for Cena’s loss the previous year. Not only can Rock put Cena over in the match, thus passing the proverbial torch to him, but he can do that while making Cena the WWE champion once again, thus signifying, and

So when you look at it, Rock’s role this year is very similar to Hogan’s role a decade ago, and Rock finds himself to be right in between as the transition of both the eras. Rock took over the baton from Hogan, thus taking the responsibility from the older generation, and has the opportunity to pass it to Cena, who is the face of the new generation. One can say that this completes the circle, with Rock right in the middle of it. It will be interesting to see how things pan out, but once again, looking at it from a distance, the unfolding of the story is smooth, and while some can argue that it was a coincidence, in the end, professional wrestling always moves on.

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