Hulk Hogan vs. the Magnificent Muraco (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) for the WWF Championship
So as we head into the fifth Saturday Night’s Main Event in just under a year, there was a major buzz surrounding the promotion as we were about a month away from the sequel to the first Wrestlemania. Going into that show, you knew that one of the big matches on that card would see Hulk Hogan defend his title against someone after being in the big tag match a year ago. While there were no shortage of heels in the company that could’ve been a solid opponent for Hogan, we have seen those matches take place over the last few months so it had to be someone that he hasn’t fought yet. One of the guys that was being built up very strong as a monster heel and could possibly fill that void was King Kong Bundy, who has been building up his cred since his 9 second demolishing of S.D. Jones at the first WM. While he has spent most of 1985 in a tag team with Big John Studd and feuded mainly with Andre the Giant, there was a feeling that he was probably going to be the next contender for Hogan’s title. How we would get to that point was still unknown at the time, but considering that there would be a Saturday Night’s Main Event prior to WM 2 you had a feeling that something major would go down on this show to set up a Hogan/Bundy showdown at WM 2. As for Muraco, he seemed to be pretty directionless heading into WM 2 as his major feud with Ricky Steamboat was pretty much done by this point and he had no major feud going into this show. As a result, it was interesting to see him get a title shot here on this big show with only a month to go before WM, but he was still a pretty solid heel and after their series in 1985 you knew they could work a decent match together.
Since they had their 3 match series at Madison Square Garden over the spring and summer of 1985, Hogan and Muraco have pretty much stayed away from each other as Hogan would move onto various feuds across the house shows while Muraco would mainly feud with Steamboat. Hogan has a string of pretty solid title defenses on the last few SNMEs against the likes of Nikolai Volkoff and Terry Funk while working an MSG series with Randy Savage, and this match was announced prior to this show as it was revealed that Muraco would get a title shot here. As mentioned, it would be interesting to see how this match would play out since there was little chance that Muraco would probably win the title, but again they should be able to put on a solid title match here.
Earlier in the night, we saw King Kong Bundy make super quick work of jobber Steve Gatorwolf as he would defeat him in a mere 41 seconds and it would be interesting to see if he would make his presence felt as he called out Hogan after his match. In a pretty cool touch, Muraco comes out with Bobby Heenan as his manager as Mr. Fuji was supposedly sick and the visual of him with a hot water bag on his stomach was pretty funny. Muraco was pretty hot as a heel though Bobby was just as hot as a heel and Hogan gets a big pop from the crowd as he comes out with his yellow tights and white kneepads which was an odd combination. Muraco gets a shot in on Hogan to start the match and he pounds on Hogan before ramming him into the buckle and scratching his back three times, and he continues to pound on Hogan in the corner and he stomps on him only for Hogan to reverse a whip into the other corner and he hits a backdrop. Hogan scratches Muraco in the back repeatedly and he knocks Bobby off the apron to the floor before knocking Muraco down, and he stomps on Muraco in the corner before whipping him into the other corner and splashing him. Hogan hits an atomic drop that sends Muraco over the top to the floor before going outside himself and he pounds on Muraco, and he rams Muraco into the apron and rolls inside to break the count before throwing Muraco back into the ring. The two men trade blows with Hogan gaining control and he knocks Muraco down for a two count, and he hits a headbutt on Muraco before hooking him in a bearhug only for Muraco to escape with a stiff headbutt to Hogan which knocks him down. Muraco kicks at Hogan twice and hits a legdrop before dropping a knee on Hogan for a two count, and he kicks at Hogan and drives the taped thumb into the throat of Hogan before hitting a kneelift and he bows to Bobby out of respect. Muraco hits another kneelift on Hogan and kicks at him before dropping the elbow on him, and then he hits a falling headbutt to the ribs of Hogan before getting a shot in and he rakes his boot across Hogan’s face. Muraco hits a side Russian legsweep on Hogan before going up to the middle rope and driving the thumb into Hogan, and he stomps on Hogan repeatedly for a two count as Hogan starts to hulk up and he no-sells Muraco’s shots. He fires up on Muraco and whips him into the corner before hitting a back elbow and then he hits the big boot and the legdrop, but then Bobby gets in the ring and stomps Hogan which draws the DQ and Hogan wins the match and retains the title. After the match, Hogan stalks Bobby who begs off in the corner and Hogan grabs him in a choke and hoists him in the air, but then Bundy comes in the ring and nails Hogan from behind before holding him up in the corner. Muraco goes out to the apron and holds Hogan by his arms as Bundy hits a trio of Avalanches to the back of Hogan with Bobby providing extra force, and Hogan collapses to the mat as Muraco drags him to the center and Bundy hits a big splash on Hogan with Muraco providing support. Muraco then turns Hogan over onto his stomach and then Bundy hits a second big splash with Muraco’s help again this time to Hogan’s back, and then they head to the back as the British Bulldogs and Pedro Morales come out to assist along with a doctor who checks on Hogan. EMTs come out with a stretcher and they put Hogan on it before taking him to the back as we see the replay of the attack, and then Hogan is put in an ambulance with Gorilla Monsoon getting in with him as they ride off to the hospital. In an interesting touch, we also see the music video for Hogan’s theme song “Real American” and then Gene Okerlund gives an update that Hogan is suffering from bruised ribs and it is unknown how long he may be out of action.
The match itself was nothing special as both men worked hard for the 7 minutes that they got and put on a basic TV title match, but it was clear that the focus was not on the match but rather the aftermath. You could tell that these two men still had some pretty good chemistry together from their feud back in 1985 and this was pretty much a condensed version of those matches. But once again, it was clear that Muraco was basically just thrown in there to have a title match for Hogan and the focus was on the post-match attack by Bundy who clearly was being groomed as the next big challenger for Hogan. This was a big deal at the time as Hogan may have lost matches every now and then, but he was always left standing tall at the end and to see him being carted out of the ring after an attack was major at the time. They did a fantastic job in making Bundy look like a complete and unstoppable monster in that he destroyed Hogan and put him on the shelf, and he was looked at as the biggest threat to Hogan’s title since his reign started just over two years ago and it did a great job in building towards WM 2. The crowd was into the match and Hogan, but they are left in complete stunned silenced after the attack from Bundy and Muraco as they can’t believe anyone could do that to Hogan. Hogan does retain the title over Muraco by DQ, but Bundy has sent a clear message with his attack that he has Hogan’s number and the two may have to settle things at WM 2.
Final Grade: **1/2