Vince McMahon planned for the dream match between Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin to take place yet it never came to fruition. Here’s why.
As wrestling fans, we have a tendency to sometimes dream up fantasy match scenarios where we put legends of different eras together in a hypothetical match situation and ponder the magical question, “What if?” Sometimes we get that dream match and it doesn’t pan out for one reason or another (take Sting vs. Triple H or Goldberg vs. Undertaker, for example). There are other instances where it hits on all cylinders (The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 comes to mind). But of them all, there is one match that over the years has been rumored and talked about but never saw the light of day — Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan. So why did Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin never have a one-on-one match? Here, in their own words, both men give their reasons.
HULK HOGAN (on Wrestling with Rosenberg):
“Was there some legitimate heat [between Austin and I]? There was.
When me and Scott Hall and big Kev’ [Nash] came into the WWE with the nWo we had such an edge and we were getting cheered. I guess the babyfaces [Austin and The Rock] weren’t used to it. [They] were complaining, ‘Those guys are turning us upside down and we’re getting booed instead of cheered…’ So there was some legitimate heat there, you know, on a business level.
I never got to work with him but Stone Cold always said, ‘If there’s money to be made – let’s make it.’
I steal that quote all the time because I loved hearing him say that. I don’t think there was that much heat at that time but there was some heat during [Bret Hart’s] Hall of Fame [induction]. There was a situation backstage that kind of got us a little heated up.
Bret had been a really good friend of mine. We started in the business together – actually lived in the same apartment complex down in Atlanta. We’d been friends through our whole wrestling career.
When I used to do my interviews for like, 7 or 8 hours with Mean Gene, I’d sweat through the title belt – Vince would have to get me a new belt every month because the leather would rot, I’d sweat so much.
A lot of times Owen would come in and listen to my interviews and Bret came in a couple of times. We were really close friends.
I remember I was cutting an interview and I said, ‘I’m the greatest there was, is, or ever will be…’
First time I said it I thought, ‘That’s a cool line…’
Bret started using it.
I went… [shrugs]. We all steal from each other – I stole a bunch of stuff from Superstar Billy Graham, I stole the [shaking] finger from Dusty Rhodes – so when Bret started using my line – no problem. I mean, it wasn’t really my line, I just said it out of nowhere. We’ve always been cool.
And then all of a sudden there was a situation where I was getting ready to leave [the WWF] and Vince and I were disagreeing about all kinds of stuff (usually money; you know, if we didn’t talk about money, we were fine) so I said I’m done with this, that and the other.
I had some problems with putting the belt on the right person because if you put the belt on the wrong person when you come back, it’s hard to get the business going again.
I made a deal to drop the belt to Yokozuna – you know, do whatever I did at Caesars Palace [WrestleMania 9], steal the belt from Yoko’ and then at the next pay-per-view drop it on the way out.
And I guess Vince had told Bret that HE was getting the belt.
So Bret came to me and he was all upset about it. I said, ‘No, it’s not that I don’t want to drop the belt to you – it’s [just because it’s] not the deal that I made.’
We went in Vince’s office and we sat there and Vince was really nice to all of us and he told Bret, ‘[That you were getting the belt] is what you THOUGHT you heard.’
If Vince had told me to drop the belt to Bret I would have done it, but since he asked me I said: ‘I need to drop to Yokozuna, he’s red hot right now. He can carry it.’
So that was pretty much it. I don’t know what was really said to Bret or maybe that’s what Bret thought he heard…but that’s where the heat started.
[Although] I may have said something really stupid behind closed doors about Bret like, ‘You know what, he’s not that ‘main event guy’ yet…’ Because, you know, my perception of him was tag-team, intercontinental level – he hadn’t got to that [top tier level] at that time.”
“When we put the belt on the Ultimate Warrior, we had such a roll going and it didn’t work. There was no Rock, no Stone Cold [type situation] where we had an A and B team [for house shows]. I was on the ‘A’ team with a lot of guys and the venues did great – and the ‘B’ team was the Ultimate Warrior. When the guys would get their booking sheets they would always see which team they were on. Everyone wanted to be on the ‘A’ team because they would make more money.
So at the end of the day I may have said something like that that got relayed back to [Bret] – and I actually think it did. It was no disrespect [intended] but that’s how I saw it – that if we had to put the belt on someone, we had to get him ready for that ‘A’ run and I thought he needed a little more time.
[Years later] Bret was mad at me and Ric Flair and a bunch of other people because we told the truth on the [never released] ‘Screwed’ DVD about him. My view on the 1997 Survivor Series – that match where Bret screwed Bret in Montreal – is that Vince needed to get the belt off him, because he wasn’t drawing any money, and Bret acted totally unprofessionally. So I gave that opinion on the DVD. I said when Vince McMahon asked him to lose the belt, then he should have lost it.
Because wrestling is not real, it’s entertainment.
Bret says the business is a work but he really thinks it’s a shoot. He really believes he’s the greatest wrestler ever. Of course he’s not – Kurt Angle or a lot of guys could beat him if it was a real wrestling match.
Bret had talked all kinds of crap about me [in response] and then I walk into the Hall of Fame and there he is.
I walked up to him and said, ‘Hey brother, how you doing, it’s good to see you…’ And I stuck my hand out. He just looked at my hand; he wouldn’t shake it.
Out of nowhere, Stone Cold Steve Austin came and grabbed him by the front of the shoulders and said, ‘Let’s get out of here, Bret,’ and walked him away.
And I went, ‘Hmm…that was really weird.’
So there was really heat there. Whether he was just getting Bret away from me – because it was a smart thing to do; or whether he was getting Bret away from me because he’s Bret’s friend; or just to stick it in my face, I don’t know. I would rather have kept my hand out and said, ‘What’s your F’n problem?’ – but Stone Cold pushed him away and put him in a back room and they stayed together.
So when we got on stage…”
STEVE AUSTIN (during his Bret Hart induction speech at the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame with Hogan seated on stage behind him):
“You know, it’s funny. I was, uh, going through my bag in the back… I couldn’t find something, I lost something – I went into the back looking through my bag and I found a can of whoop-ass and it had Hulk Hogan’s name on it!”
(Crowd erupts. Cuts to shot of Hogan looking less than impressed…)
WATCH: Stone Cold Steve Austin mocks Hulk Hogan during his Bret Hart induction speech at the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony
HOGAN (in response to Austin’s jab at the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony):
“I was working. I wanted to have that match [with Austin]. That was the one match I never had. I want to do good business, help the sport and give the fans what they want. And working with Steve would [have done] all three.
I’ve got no idea why Steve didn’t want to have a match at WrestleMania. I don’t know if he has a problem with me personally.
When we were in WCW, and he was Stunning Steve Austin, he talked to me a couple of times about different ideas he had to work with me. The ideas were okay, they weren’t home runs but they were pretty good.
I always put over anybody they asked me to put over. I think most of my WCW run was doing jobs.
I wish I could’ve put over Steve Austin…”
AUSTIN (discussing his dream opponent on an episode of The Steve Austin Show):
“I gotta say, Hulk Hogan. Because one of the biggest draws in the history of the business. Everybody thought that match between ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan should have happened a couple of years back and it never did. Just for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like stepping back in the ring. It sounds like a good match on paper but I just didn’t think it would look so good once you got into the ring. I think Hogan was ready to go, but I wasn’t. And so, I never got a chance to wrestle that guy, and it would’ve been fun to be in the ring with him, because I was watching an old match on YouTube between Paul Orndorff and Hulk Hogan, and I watched how Hulk Hogan was down there on that mat, and he was just selling his ass off.
Paul Orndorff was just kicking the snot out of him, and then finally, finally, finally after all this heat, started making that trademark comeback… He started firing up that comeback, the people started going crazy, and I realized that guy wasn’t born on top, he worked his tail off to get to the top. So I’d say Hulk Hogan right off jump street.”
Bruce Prichard, Vince McMahon’s right-hand man at the time, spoke about this very topic on a recent episode of Something to Wrestle. Prichard mentioned that the plan was to have Rock vs Hogan first and then build towards Steve Austin vs Hulk Hogan as WWE felt this was the bigger match.
“I think everyone agreed that Austin and Hulk was the bigger match that we had to get to,” Prichard revealed. “The feeling was why not give it to [Rock and Hogan] first and then build it some more. Rock and Hogan were interchangeable in their careers. Originally it was planned for Rock and Hulk and then eventually get to Austin and Hulk at some point, whether that be at the next WrestleMania or not. There may have been discussions where one wasn’t going to put the other over, but that was just gesturing and positioning.”