January 18, 2005
Graham Cawthon

October 25, 1991
Oakland, CA
Coliseum

WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair (w/ Bobby Heenan)

The Hulkster against the Nature Boy. The WWF against the NWA, at least symbolically. The two biggest stars of the 1980s one-on-one to determine where the power lies in professional wrestling.

Some say it would never happen. But in 1991, it did. It happened almost every other night from October 91 to January 92. We just never saw it on TV unless we were lucky enough to have the MSG Network. Hogan and Flair battled twice at the world’s most famous arena but that wasn’t the only venue in which they faced off.

On October 22 in Dayton, OH, Flair and Hogan had their very first meeting. It came as a complete surprise to those who turned out to see the taping of WWF Wrestling Challenge as it was Roddy Piper, not Hogan, who was scheduled as Flair’s opponent. But when Piper failed to show, the Hulkster was named as a substitute.

Flair won that first meeting on a count-out technicality. It’s been said that Vince McMahon himself stood by the entranceway to watch the historic meeting between the two icons.

Three days later, Flair and Hogan met once more in a highly publicized battle in Oakland. This was the first *advertised* card with the two headlining against one another and 15,000 fans turned out to see the dream match.

The Match:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at the real heavyweight champion of the world, Ric Flair!” - Bobby Heenan during Flair’s entrance

The music of the champion hits the PA and Hogan comes to the ring to a thunderous ovation, though it was not without audible boos. Flair, wearing the NWA heavyweight crown around his waist, looks on as Hogan plays to the crowd. Hogan then rips his shirt off and throws it in the face of his opponent to goad Flair on. The Nature Boy stays calm and collected as ‘Real American’ continues to play and Hogan commences with some pre-match stretching.

With Hogan still wearing the championship around his waist, the two men meet in the center of the ring and share heated words, leading to Flair shoving the champion. Flair, hearing the Whooo’s of the crowd, shoves Hogan once more, causing Hogan to quickly unstrap his belt and raise his fist in the air in preparation to use it on the challenger. The bell rings and the match is underway.

After the two pace around the ring, Hogan goes to grab Flair but the Nature Boy moves out of the way, frustrating the champion. Moments later, Flair traps Hogan in a headlock. Hogan sends Flair to the ropes and a shoulder block soon connects which sends Flair tumbling to the mat. With Flair on his knees, Hogan does the Nature Boy strut and gives his own Whoo, clearly challenging Flair to bring all he can.

Hogan then locks on his own headlock. Flair sends the champion to the ropes and attemps a hiptoss but the champion counters with a clothesline, resulting in Flair rolling to the floor to regroup. The crowd chants ‘Weasel’ in unison to Bobby Heenan as Flair takes his time getting back into the ring.

Back inside, Flair gives Hogan a chop to the chest and follows by measuring the Hulkster for a punch to the face. A second chop knocks Hogan between the ropes to the floor. Moments later, a third chop knocks Hogan to the canvas but, as Flair celebrates with his back turned, Hogan jumps to his feet and drops the challenger with a clothesline. Another clothesline follows and Flair begs for mercy in the corner.

Hogan sends Flair into the opposite corner, with Flair flipping upside down and landing on the apron, only to fall victim to a clothesline from the champion that sends him to the floor. Heenan runs around the ring to check on his man while Hogan flexes and poses for the fans.

Flair and Heenan, seemingly having had enough, make their way backstage but Hogan runs out to meet them and throws Flair back inside the ring. The Nature Boy immediately takes advantage and attacks Hogan on his way inside the ring, keeping him down on the mat with a series of stomps.

Flair heads up top but is caught and slammed to the mat right at the 5-minute mark. After taking a few chops in the corner, Hogan again takes control of the match after Flair hits the opposite corner head-on. The champion lands two elbow drops, then asks the fans if they want a third before raking his boot across Flair’s face.

The Hulkster grabs Flair by the hair, pulls back and lands a punch to the face, then another, then motions to Heenan as if to say, “This one’s for you”, before dropping Flair with a third blow. Heenan climbs up on the ring apron but before Hogan can land any punches, Flair runs off the ropes and connects with a knee right into the back of the champion.

Flair stomps away at Hogan and quickly goes to work wearing away at the champion’s legs. Heenan holds Hogan’s leg down against the bottom rope, allowing Flair to drop his weight across the champion’s knee. Moments later, Heenan again climbs up on the ring apron while Flair goes to the floor, grabs a steel chair, and slams it against the Hulkster’s knee. The crowd gives a mixed reaction of cheers and boos as Flair measures the champion for a knee drop to the injured leg back inside the ring.

A resounding chorus of Whoos is heard as Flair signals for the figure-4. However, upon attempting the hold, Hogan kicks Flair off in total desperation. Moments later, Flair tries again with the same result. The Nature Boy tries one more time and is kicked into the corner for his efforts.

Flair hit’s a back suplex and gains the first cover of the match at 9:55, only gaining a 2-count. Hogan immediately goes into his come-back mode, shaking his head as Flair lands two punches to the face. The champion gets to his feet, with Flair then running the ropes and attempting a shoulder block but bouncing off Hogan and hitting the mat.

Hogan shakes his finger at the Nature Boy, blocks a punch, then lands three of his own before sending Flair to the ropes and hitting the boot to the face. A bodyslam and the leg drop follow. Referee Earl Hebner makes a 2-count before realizing Flair’s foot was on the bottom rope, the result of Heenan putting it there.

At the 11-minute mark, Hogan celebrates his apparent victory, not realizing the match was still going on. While the referee is busy explaining to the champion that Flair’s foot was on the ropes, Heenan - in plain sight to everyone in attendance - slips Flair a pair of brass knuckles and gives him a signal to knock the Hulkster out with them.

With Flair using the ropes to hold himself up, Hogan goes back to his opponent but is nailed right in the face by the weapon, knocking him to the mat and out cold. Flair drops on top of Hogan, not bothering to hook a leg, and gets the pinfall victory at 11:35.

Hebner raises Flair’s hand in victory as the Nature Boy is announced as the new WWF Heavyweight Champion. Heenan and Flair hold up both the NWA and WWF title belts as two officials enter the ring and inform Hebner of the devious tactics that led to the finish.

Once Flair and Heenan realize what’s going on, they both attempt to strong arm the officials, with Flair chasing one out of the ring as it’s announced that Hebner has reversed the decision and awards Hogan the win on a disqualification.

With the title belt laid across the champion’s chest, Flair - enraged at the announcement - locks the Hulkster in the figure-4. Seconds later, Greg Valentine and Davey Boy Smith run out to the ring, with Flair then making a hasty exit.

Hogan continues to sell the brass knuckles and figure-4 as he’s helped out of the ring, still in possession of the WWF crown.

My View:

It rarely gets more historic than this. Not only was this the first advertised meeting between the two biggest names of the 80s, it was a rare occasion in which Hogan was pinned to the mat for the 1-2-3. True, the decision was reversed. But only a handful of men were able to pin Hogan, clean or otherwise, from 1984 to 1993. And none of those took place at a house show.

The match itself is good. All three men play their part well and the crowd is very receptive. It’s not as good as Bash at the Beach 94 but I would rank it to be as good if not better than their other WCW bouts. It seems like this match was nothing more than a tease for a future encounter, a WrestleMania bout that never came to be. *** ½

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