It seems The Undertaker has a lot of Lockdown time to spare as he’s been on another fascinating Zoom call interviw, this time talking to ESPN about Hulk Hogan feigning injury during their first PPV encounter.
In November 1991, The Undertaker had been in the company exactly a year. His success had led to him being booked to face Hulk Hogan for his WWF Title at the event. In fact, he had been booked to defeat Hogan and take the title.
The title run was a short one, however, with a rematch set for the This Tuesday In Texas PPV the following week where the title was declared vacant after a shenanigans filled finish to the match.
‘Taker was apparently only informed he would be dropping the belt on the day of the PPV which came as something of a surprise. He clearly suspects Hogan had something to do with the decision due to a sequence of events that began on the day of Survivor Series. Taker took up the story with ESPN:
“The whole deal was it was a setup from the get go. So I remember getting there about noon and Hogan was already there. And I’m walking down the hall, so he goes, ‘Hey kid, can I talk to you?’ So he’s telling me, he goes, ‘Hey, I got this neck injury,’…he says, ‘I’m really nervous about taking your finish.’ I was like, ‘Hulk, believe me,’ I said, ‘I will protect you, I pride myself on not hurting people and I promise you, I will have you so tight that there is no way possible that you’re going to hurt your neck.’ So with that, we went about our business. Every point during the day, I’d pass him in the hall and whatnot, I’d get the, ya know, ‘remember about my neck’….so that was all I got all day, was my neck.”
During the match itself, the finish famously occurred when The Undertaker delivered his Tombstone piledriver finisher to Hogan on to a steel chair that had been slipped into the ring by Ric Flair. This was where ‘Taker says the issue truly began. He said:
“I pick him up…and when I tell you I had the brother secure, he was secure. Boom, I give him the Tombstone, as soon as my knees hit, I hear, ‘Uhhhh, you got me brother.’ I’m like, how.. I’m, what, I was 24, 25 years old and I just crushed Hulk Hogan, right? That’s what’s going through my head. Like they gave me this opportunity, they gave me this chance to run with the ball, and I hurt the golden goose. So I’m just devastated, mortified, right? I go backstage and I’m asking ‘Where’s Hulk at’? ‘Oh, he’s laying on Vince’s office…Vince’s office’s floor.’ Then I hear, ‘Somebody get my wife and kids on the phone.’”
‘Taker was himself, certain Hogan’s head hadn’t come close to touching the mat but ‘Taker was clearly of the belief that he had hurt Hogan and that his burgeoning career with Vince McMahon’s outfit could be over before it started. Soon though, ‘Taker realised many other wrestlers backed him and he began to believe Hogan wasn’t being completely straight and he would need to confront Hogan, the biggest star of all time. A daunting task for any superstar, much less one in their mid-20s with a fraction over a year’s tenure in the company under his belt. Undertaker continued:
“I got to San Antonio (The site of the Tuesday PPV) and I was like, ‘Terry, I watched it back…your head never hit.’ He’s like, ‘Well, brother, what it was was you had me so tight that when we came down, I had nowhere to move and that’s what jammed my neck.’ At that point, I was like, OK. I kinda realised, I know what you’re all about and that’s all I needed.
Following this incident, it was clear ‘Taker’s relationship with Hogan was damaged for good. He said:
“I didn’t have to carry a grudge. I treated him with the respect that I think, for what he did for the business, he deserved. So I treated him that way. I was not overly friendly but I didn’t…you know, if he was in the building, I always made sure to say hello. Then my radar was always up anytime I had to interact with him but I dealt in a professional manner with him.”
It sounds like this was an incident that burned into Taker’s memory and likely affected both how he interacted with veterans in the future and also, how he treated younger roster members going forward. Mark Calaway has a long reputation for being generous and helpful to up and coming superstars. It’s highly likely that an incident like this with Hulk Hogan would give him the perspective needed to understand how to deal with his peers working their way up the card. A reputation as the ultimate locker room leader didn’t simply materialise. It was dealing with incidents like this that would forge his approach to taking on that role that he still holds to this day.