Inside how Hulk Hogan manipulated Vince McMahon to help him steal Bret Hart and Yokozuna’s moment at WrestleMania 9 and become WWE champion

Remember WrestleMania 9 way back in 1993?

If not, allows talkSPORT to remind you. The main event was WWF champion Bret Hart taking on the red-hot challenger, Yokozuna. And Hulk Hogan walked out the WWF champion.

Hulk Hogan found a way to end the event on top

That’s the short version. Of course, the story is far more complicated.

For context, Hulk Hogan was the biggest star the wrestling business had ever seen to this point. He had grown WrestleMania and WWE on his back headlining seven of the first nine shows by the climax of WrestleMania 9.

Even so, there was only so much saying your prayers and taking your vitamins fans wanted to do. Hogan’s run at the top of WWE was coming to a close and McMahon was building around the ‘new generation’.

The likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would be the leaders of that movement and Hart had been with the company for nearly a decade by this point and only broke through as the WWF champion in 1992.

Bret Hart is one of the best performers WWE has ever had

The plan heading into WrestleMania was to crown Yokozuna the champion for the first time and continue his feud with The Hitman. However, as Bruce Prichard revealed on Yoko’s Icon documentary on the WWE Network, plans changed at the last minute.

“First of all, going into WrestleMania 9, the plan was for Yokozuna to be our champion for the immediate future. That changed the weekend of WrestleMania.

“The reasoning was because of the international tour we had coming up. It was going to be Hulk’s farewell tour in a lot of respects and we felt it would be better to have Hulk as the champion. Hindsight… [big sigh].”

Bret Hart and Yokozuna was a hotly anticipated matchup

In Hart’s book, the Canadian goes into great detail about what transpired over the course of of WrestleMania 9 and how Hogan worked his way into the prime spot.

“On April 2, 1993, [I] went to my room just in time to answer a call from Vince, who asked me to come to his suite to talk. I knocked on his door, and he answered it with that goofy grin.

“We sat down, and Vince said, ‘This is what I want to do. I want you to drop the belt to Yoko tomorrow.’

“This was not what I had expected. I sat there dumbstruck as he went on to explain how Fuji would screw me by throwing salt in my face, blinding me.

“After Yoko was handed the belt, Hogan would rush to my aid and in some kind of roundabout way Hogan would end up winning the belt from Yoko right then and there!

Hart and Yokozuna did end up working together at WrestleMania the very next year

“Like I was handing Vince my sword, I told him I appreciated everything he did for me and I’d do whatever he wanted. Vince said,’Don’t get bitter. I still have big plans for you.’ Sound bites flashed through my mind of Vince assuring me that I was the long-term champion, and not to worry about Hulk Hogan, who still hadn’t even spoken to me yet.

“As I stood up to leave, I asked, ‘Did you take the belt from me because I didn’t do a good enough job?’

“‘Of course not! I’m just going in a different direction. It’s still onwards and upwards for you. Nothing is going to change too much for you.’

“By the time I got to the dressing room the following afternoon, word that I was losing the title had leaked out to the boys.

“Most of them were quiet and some were angry. The Nasty Boys, Shawn [Michaels], ‘Taker and several others expressed their utter disappointment.

“Knowing I was losing the belt didn’t stop me from planning on having a great match. I went over everything with Yoko and designed the match so that all the best moves were left for the final minute.

Bret Hart had to wave Hulk Hogan into the ring, but he really didn’t want to

“Hulk Hogan arrived with his entourage: his wife, manager, Beefcake and Jimmy Hart. Clearly, he’d been in the know all along, probably from the first day he came back.

“Now he was suddenly acting like my long-lost old pal and wearing a big smile that rightfully belonged to me,” Hart wrote.

Then it went down exactly as McMahon described. Hart was robbed of the title, but he didn’t get his final minute of awesome action because Yokozuna was too tired. Hogan came down to care for his cheated ‘friend’ only for Mr Fuji, Yokozuna’s manager, to challenge Hogan to a match there and then.

With Hart’s encouragement – storyline wise of course – Hogan accepted, ducked the salt, hit the big boot and the leg drop and within a minute or so, he was the new WWF champion and closed WrestleMania.

Hulk Hogan acted shock on live PPV, but he was the brains behind it all

Hart continued: ‘A few minutes later, Hogan came up to me excited and happy and said, “Thank you, brother. I won’t forget it. I’ll be happy to return the favor.’ I looked my old friend in the eye and said, ‘I’m going to remember that, Terry.’”

In the same Yokozuna documentary, Hogan admits he planted the idea in McMahon’s head. He had no problem stealing the spotlight from Hart and Yokozuna and he managed to politic his way into the biggest spot in the industry once more.

What makes it even more crazy was the fact that everyone basically knew that Hogan was leaving. But McMahon saw Hogan’s star power and thought he could make a bigger star of the next champion by having them beat Hogan.

Who would beat Hogan and how would be the problem McMahon should have anticipated.

“To the best of my recollection, I knew I was leaving. I couldn’t remember if I was going to do a movie, but I talked [Vince McMahon] into, ‘Hey man, what’s the finish in the main event?’

“He told me what it was and I said, ‘Brother, if I go out and help Bret Hart. Hulk Hogan, Yokozuna, you can book us in the next pay-per-view.’

Despite their differences down the years, it’s well known Hulk Hogan is the superstar who really built WWE and Vince McMahon favoured him

“It was my hare-brained idea and it caused quite a controversy. It was one of those audible, wild wild west type situations. You know?”

McMahon had called Hart a month after WrestleMania and told him he was getting the belt back. He then had to call Hart back and explain that Hogan didn’t want to give him the belt, something he’d promised he’d do after WrestleMania 9.

That’s when the problems turned into real heat.

In Hogan’s mind, he always told McMahon he wanted to drop it back to Yokozuna. That was a part of the plan they originally concocted. Furthermore, McMahon told Hart Hogan didn’t believe he was ready to be the world champion.

“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.

Bret Hart is very open in his dislike of Hulk Hogan today

“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 to 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.”

Vince McMahon was at the centre of the issues

However, Hogan did concede he may have indeed said what McMahon claimed he did about Hart not being ready to be world champion.

“[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.”

Hogan did indeed drop the belt to Yokozuna at King of the Ring 1993, the same event where Hart won the titular tournament and got himself back in position to meet the champion.

However, Hogan didn’t truly put Yoko over. He lost because of a bright flash from a photographer who inexplicably climbed up on the apron gave Yoko the opening to beat him.

Hogan would depart WWE as expected. He sat out the rest of the year until his contract expired and then in March 1994 he joined WCW. Ironically, Hart would follow him to WCW in 1997 and he would retire there through injury.

Hogan, on the other hand, would return to WWE in 2002 with the NWO that he formed in 1996, a move that for 83 weeks had WCW defeating WWE in the ratings.

Source: Sport

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