Iconic showdown in Chi-town
Our fans remember Monday night, February 18, 2002, like it was yesterday. In fact, who could ever forget WWE.com's No. 3 Greatest Moment in Raw History -- and quite possibly the most electrifying encounter in sports-entertainment -- when nWo leader "Hollywood" Hogan was confronted in the ring by the "People's Champ," The Rock?
Those attending Chicago's sold-out Allstate Arena that night couldn't wait for Hogan to address his New World Order's deplorable actions less than 24 hours prior, when the faction made their poisonous presence in WWE known -- and felt -- at No Way Out. Sadly, he preferred to muse over his past glory days of Hulkamania, then verbally abused and accused our fans of turning against him.
The capacity crowd erupted as an irate "People's Champion" suddenly interrupted the self-professed "biggest icon in sports-entertainment." Stepping into the ring, The Rock revealed that both he and the fans had loved Hogan and believed in Hulkamania -- until it got to the point where they "took one big Hulka-crap every time you opened your mouth!" Though he acknowledged the nWo leader as a main-event mainstay for numerous unforgettable WrestleManias, the Great One wanted to know, "How do you feel about headlining one more WrestleMania with The Rock?"
The challenge instantly prompted dueling roars of "Rocky" and "Hogan" that deafened the Windy City arena. Even the two ring warriors momentarily took their attention off each other, looking around as if they were trying to absorb the unforeseen reception from our divided fans. Hollywood boasted that he had made a career out of conquering supposed in-vogue icons like the Brahma Bull, but Rock stayed on point. Knowing that an "Icon vs. Icon" contest at WrestleMania X8 would determine which of them would go down in WWE history as "the absolute best, ever," he wanted to hear only one thing from Hogan: "‘Yes' … or ‘no'?"
Whether you were witnessing Raw in person or on your living-room TV, to this day you can almost still hear Hogan answering "Yes" to the fantasy match-up, then wishing Rock good luck at WrestleMania, "'cause you're gonna need it." To this day, you can almost still feel the impact as Rock replied, "Not as much as you … brother," then planted the nWo leader with a canvas-denting Rock Bottom. And to this day, you still almost reel from the nWo's brutal ambush, one which left the Great One stretchered into an ambulance following a vicious hammer to the skull, then further victimized as Hogan mercilessly rammed a diesel truck into the emergency vehicle.
Fortunately, The Rock would recover in time for WrestleMania X8, and he and "Hollywood" Hogan would engage in an "Icon vs. Icon" Match that more than lived up to the hype. Yet their epic Raw encounter in February remains the moment that transcends not only their historic rivalry, but nearly every other instant in sports-entertainment lore.