Say what you will about Hulk Hogan, but looking back at the legacy he's created is just a whole lot of fun.
These matches go back to a time when wrestling was, for lack of a better word, more innocent than it is now. Sure, a lot of the matches (especially where Hulk was involved) were cartoony and not as competitive, but it's hard to deny how pumped the fans were for their wrestling.
I was really looking forward to this release because, as the title suggests, a good chunk of the matches here hadn't been released before (at least on DVD). I do recall a couple of these on an old Betmax release, and others I'd seen either live or on video back in the day.... but I'll allow WWE some latitude on this. They're definitely rarities.
Unlike many recent WWE releases that either have a biography or someone like Matt Striker introducing the segments, the matches are simply introduced as freeze-frames are shown in a CGI-style art gallery, while an unidentified announcer sets the clips up (it actually makes for a good chance of pace).
Unreleased Collectors Series contains 27 matches, including the following bouts:
Hulk Hogan vs. Harry Valdez - Hogan is managed by Classy Freddie Blassie here, and this is little more than a squash match. Post-match, some announcer named Vince McSomethingorother interviews Hogan, who lacks the polish he has today.
Nothing overly notable here, but interesting to watch.
Hulk Hogan vs. Bob Backlund - One of Hogan's first main events (circa 1980) against Backlund, at the time WWWF Champion, out of the Philadelphia Spectrum. TONS of restholdage here - way too long for Hogan - and a good argument why there will never be a "Best of Bob Backlund" DVD set. On the plus side, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are dubbed in, calling the action and providing interesting background.
Hulk Hogan vs. Steve King and Angelo Gomez - Just another squash match on television. See... THIS is how a handicap match should work: Big guy beats the crap out of two little guys. McMahon (on commentary) sounds like he's been drinking scotch all night before he went on air. Post-match, Blassie does a hilarious interview about some lucrative magazine offer for Hogan to pose in the buff.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant - Sure, this is a famous match-up, but the match itself I'd never even heard of. This is weeks after their famous Shea Stadium clash, and some six and a half years before their WrestleMania III match. You have five WWE Hall of Famers here - Hogan, Andre, Blassie, ring announcer Howard Finkel and special referee Gorilla Monsoon. JR and The King - two more Hall of Famers are dubbed in, calling the match here.
As a side note.... I'm a little surprised WWE has never dedicated a biography-style DVD to Andre (though they did re-release an old videocassette a few years back, but that's the hardly the same thing).
Hulk Hogan vs. Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby Heenan - Over to the AWA now, where you have another four Hall of Famers involved (Hogan, Bockwinkel, Heenan and ring announcer Gene Okerlund). Hogan, having filmed Rocky III by now, is crazy over with the fans. Maybe it was because of Heenan bumping like a madman, but this was the first REALLY enjoyable match on the DVD collection.
From there, we're shown our first vignette, where a sweat-soaked Mr. T and Hogan go through a health food store to bulk up. The clips of them injecting each other in the ass with 'roids must be an extra later on the disc. Hilariously, a legitimate crowd is gathered in the background watching this insanity unfold.
Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage - This is three years before their WrestleMania V match, taking place at a house show in Detroit. I have to say, Miss Elizabeth was smoking hot back then. Really lame ending, but otherwise this match was quite similar to their usual bout. The first of many ten-minute posedown session follows.
Hulk Hogan and Junkyard Dog vs. Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy - OMG! A little backstory here.... I remember BEGGING Canadian Bulldog Sr. to buy tickets for The Big Rybowski and I to see this match, held at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. We didn't end up going, because my old man was a jerk (I kid, I kid - I don't think he could get tickets because it was a legit sellout).
I was a HUGE Bundy mark at this time, and had only seen parts of this match, clipped to shreds, on local television.... until now. Hogan and JYD were the two most popular guys in wrestling, while Bundy and Studd were this iconic "big man" team that never quite got their just due.
I'm not going to lie - this was a tremendous nostalgia trip for me, and all four of these guys worked their asses off in front of the red-hot Toronto crowd (though I should have been there.... just sayin').
Next up is a "Snake Pit" talk show, with both Jake The Snake Roberts and Hulk Hogan as faces. Here, they unveil the "extra-large" WWF World Title belt created solely for Andre The Giant, something that was never seen after.
Hulk Hogan vs. Kamala - Nothing out of the ordinary here, other than a ring announcer that looks a nervous Billy Ray Cyrus. Oh, and local (Houston) promoter Paul Boesch handed both competitors a bouquet of flowers before the match, something you don't see every day outside of Japan. Mr. Fuji and Kim Chee were at ringside for Kamala (and JR and Lawler hinted at who the mysterious Kim Chee may have been). Pretty standard match, otherwise.
Hulk Hogan vs. Killer Khan - Khan was kind of a rarity, feuding with Andre The Giant in the 1970's, then making his return a good decade later and immediately challenging Hogan, then feuding briefly with Outback Jack, then disappearing again for good.
This wasn't all that similar to the previous match, even though Fuji was again managing the foreign barbaric heel. I'll say this for the (very annoying) commentary team of Gorilla Monsoon and Pete "Duke of Dorchester" Doherty: Doherty actually got to call the promotion the "WWF" without being bleeped out by the censors.
Hulk Hogan vs. One Man Gang - The second disc begins at a house show in Philadelphia. One Man Gang was the quintessential "monster" heel that really should have had a bigger feud with The Hulkster. This was as formula as formula gets, complete with Hogan beating up The Doctor Of Style Slick at the end. However, the post-match confrontation with Andre The Giant, I didn't see coming.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ravishing Rick Rude - Okay.... here's one I've never seen before in any form; this is from a house show in Boston, and must be early on in Rude's WWF tenure, given his non-airbrushed tights. For some reason, WWE dubs in a different version of Rude's "stripper" music. I haven't seen too many matches before that denegrate into an arm-wrestling contest, but here you go.
Hulk Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Ted DiBiase and Virgil - Hey, I wonder if this Ted DiBiase guy is any relation to the one from Legacy? Here's another match I remember doing the house show circuit, and as it turns out, this was taped in nearby Hamilton, Ontario. Hogan and Bigelow have Oliver Humperdink in their corner, while DiBiase and Virgil have Andre The Giant. Announcing duties are being held by Craig DeGeorge and Nick Bockwinkel, which HAS to be the strangest commentary combination yet. A fun little tag team match.
Hulk Hogan vs. King Haku - Notable only because Hogan is carrying the little-seen Hulk Helmet with a fist on top of it. Otherwise, this match was a big steaming load of meh.
Hulk Hogan vs. Big Boss Man - One of their earlier encounters, from a television taping in Los Angeles. This was more of a brawl than their typical match, complete with Hulk handcuffing Slick to a corner post and assaulting him repeatedly (!) This wasn't as good as their famed Saturday Night's Main Even cage match, but it certainly wasn't bad, either.
From there, we look at Hogan's promo on Randy Savage, leading to the main of WrestleMania V. Hogan denies he ever lusted after Elizabeth, but hell, I dont think any his Hulkamaniacs would have frowned on him for tapping that.
Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage - A rematch from their WrestleMania V bout which did the house show circuit, this time from Boston. Savage has "Scary" Sherri in his corner. Savage wins by countout, but at least Hogan gets to beat Sherri numerous times afterwards... Tony Schiavone and Lord Alfred Hayes make for a terrible announce team.
Next up is Hogan cutting a promo on The Ultimate Warrior ahead of their WrestleMania VI classic. I remember this one quite well, being among the 67,678 attending this live.
Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake - From Madison Square Garden, this match was shortly after Hogan lost the WWF Title to The Ultimate Warrior, but before he was "injured" on the Brother Love Show. The Hulkster's act was starting to get a bit stale at this point, and -- keep this is mind -- this was almost twenty-five years ago!
From there, Hogan cuts a patriotic promo on Sgt. Slaughter ahead of their WrestleMania VII match, including Hogan's promise to wrestle other Hulkamaniacs once he dies and goes to heaven. Alrighty then.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter - This was a rematch for the WWF title from London, England. I would have loved to see one of their "Desert Storm" matches that did the house show circuit, but instead we get a regular match. As if there's any doubt who won this one.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair - Here's another rarity: Hogan and Flair's only Madison Square Garden clash, one of a handful of house show matches they did before scrapping the program entirely. I'm STILL not sure why, almost 20 years after the fact, they didn't go with Hogan versus Flair for WrestleMania VIII. This wasn't a bad piece of business at all, much better than it would be if, say, they were to fight today in Australia or something. The commentary by Bobby Heenan is priceless.
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair and Big Van Vader - The third disc begins in WCW, as our identified announcer revises history and says Hogan was "immediately" popular in the rival promotion. This was from the Slamboree PPV, and the match is just slightly overbooked with the presence of Jimmy Hart, Arn Anderson, The Renegade, Angelo Poffo and a cameo by the then-unnamed Giant (Big Show).
Still, this deviated a bit from the usual Hogan tag team match formula and was worth watching. Oddly, the cut out the angle at the end where Flair and Anderson beat up Poffo.
Hulk Hogan vs. Big Van Vader - This was a steel cage match from Bash at the Beach in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis Rodman (who would later team with Hogan in the nWo) is in The Hulkster's corner, as is Jimmy Hart. Hogan is surprisingly agile here, making for a decent title match.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sting - This isn't their infamous "botched finish" Starrcade match, this one is two years earlier from Monday Nitro, when both guys were faces. Hogan looks very strange without his moustache here, and is wearing pre-nWo black as the result of some sort of shenanigans with The Dungeon Of Doom. Hogan was booed like crazy here, but they never really embraced it. Lame, overbooked finish.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Giant - This was from nWo Souled Out, which featured no ring music or pyro for the faces, propaganda commentary by Eric Bischoff and Ted DiBiase, and a gloomy black-and-white set. Today as The Big Show, The Giant would have been a fantastic opponent for Hogan, but a decade earlier, he just didn't have the chemistry to pull this off.
Hulk Hogan vs. Bret Hart - Wow, I didn't even realize these two ever had a one-on-one match. This, not surprisingly, was put on Nitro instead of being built properly into a PPV match. Silliness between the nWo Hollywood and Wolfpac factions prevented this match from being anything special.
From there, we go to an interview segment on Raw some four years later. Hogan had just wrestled The Rock at WrestleMania X-8, and the fans in Montreal give him a ridiculously-long ovation.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair - This match took place in Toronto, meaning I likely went to the Raw taping for this, and yet I don't remember this ever happening. Shows you how I've been trying to block out my early 2000's WWE. Tons of outside interference by X-Pac, Bradshaw, The Big Show, and..... Stone Cold Steve Austin. Seriously, how do I not remember this happening? Nothing all that special here, and both guys are really showing their age.... a good SEVEN YEARS before they did it again in Australia!
Hulk Hogan vs. Triple H - This wasn't their PPV title match where Hogan won the title, but rather a rematch on SmackDown. Hogan's age is really showing here, as this lacked a lot of what it should have had. A sign in the crowd says "WE LOVE YOU, NOAH" - he was only two at this stage, so I'm not sure how they expected him to see that... Wait a sec.... the first match on this DVD set that Hogan gets pinned, and it's to Triple H? I'm calling political BS on this one.
A series of "mutual-admiration-society" promos and group posing follows.
Hulk Hogan and Edge vs. Billy and Chuck - This took place a week after Hogan and Edge won the titles on SmackDown, and this is the customary rematch. Edge really sucks as a wimpy babyface. This match was nothing special at all.
Hulk Hogan vs. Kurt Angle - Hey, it's a TNA match! Oh, wait, it's a match on SmackDown to determine the next shot at Brock Lesnar. Hogan was actually pumped up for this one, and as a result, put on a better performance than in some of the other matches on this DVD. Very watchable, and a nice end to the matches.
There are also a series of bonus features on the third disc, ranging from promos with Mr. T to vignettes with Shawn Michaels and The Dungeon Of Doom. Most of them I'd seen at one point or another, but not a bad collection of extras.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this DVD collection. It's got virtually every chapter of Hulkamania except for his stint in TNA (which isn't likely to be covered on a WWE DVD, at least until they buy the video footage some day).
Unreleased Collector's Series