Underrated Hulk Hogan Matches That Deserve More Respect

There isn't any doubt that Hulk Hogan is one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. He's one of the few people to ever compete in it that has broken out into larger pop culture and become a household name. Yet one of the crazy things about pro wrestling is you don't always need to be considered a great wrestler to be, well, a great wrestler. From journalists, to many of his fellow wrestlers, to tons of hardcore fans, there are a lot of people that will tell you that Hogan isn't particularly special in terms of the quality of his matches. They were formulaic, technically limited, and never exactly on the cutting edge.

Sometimes, though, those criticisms have gone too far. Hogan did have a solid base foundation of wrestling skills, and could sell. More importantly, he had something few wrestlers ever had: an all-time top-tier charisma that could get fans to live or die with every move he took or delivered. Hogan has had a lot of matches that appealed to the masses, but if you look closer, we think you'll find that he had some that would appeal even to many of his critics. We've combed through The Hulkster's career to find the matches in it that, for one reason or another, just haven't gotten enough respect from certain circles. Whether you're a Hogan lover or a Hogan cynic, hopefully this list will give you some things to chew on.

Honorable Mentions

Believe it or not, The Hulkster has enough gems that we couldn't even fit them all into our list. First, let's make clear, this is the most underrated Hogan matches, not the best. We think even a lot of Hogan's biggest critics would admit that his match with Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI is pretty good, for example. We've picked a couple of really famous Hogan matches in the list below, but we think we've laid out good reasons why some still underappreciate them. We also left out some matches simply to not be repetitive. For example, we limited ourselves to three matches in Japan, but you can dig deep and find more worthy inclusions from there. Likewise, there are rematches to some of the entries on this list that are also worth checking out.

On top of all that, though, there's even more. Hogan had surprising chemistry with David Schultz in '80s WWF. For that matter, check out Hulk's matches with Don Muraco. If you've only watched WWF history through PPVs, you know Hogan feuded with the likes of Paul Orndorff and Ted DiBiase, but do you know he had singles matches with both of them that never made it to one of those supercards? He did and you should track them down. Did you know that Hogan, pre-Hulkamania, wrestled former WWF ace Bob Backlund in 1980? It's out there. Finally, Hogan and The Junkyard Dog wrestling Terry and Hoss Funk is one of those fun hidden TV gems we almost squeezed onto the proper list.

Vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, New Japan Pro-Wrestling 1985

Before Hogan ever even arrived in the WWF, he was already a star not just stateside in the AWA, but overseas for New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Japan was so meaningful to Hogan in the early to mid-'80s that he actually retained the ability to continue to work for New Japan during the early days of his WWF run. This match took place during that timeframe, and in fact, despite happening in New Japan, was a sanctioned defense of Hogan's WWF World Title. The opponent, Tatsumi Fujinami, was one of the great wrestlers of his generation, a New Japan star whose work would go on to influence so many who came after him.

If you've never seen Hogan wrestle in Japan, you've only seen one Hogan. Japanese wrestling has different styles, their fans have different expectations, and Hogan would work hard to meet them. Watch this match and you'll see Hogan work the mat more and break out moves you'd rarely, if ever, see from him in the US, including an honest-to-God bow and arrow hold. He'd finish things off with the Axe Bomber, a lariat variation that Hogan used as his finisher in Japan, rather than his legdrop. Fujinami had many better matches than this over the years, but from Hogan's end, it was a chief example of the level he could rise to when he was challenged to be a little different.

Vs. The Big Boss Man, Saturday Night's Main Event

The fact is, as the years pass, PPV matches generally stick in fans' memories better than matches on TV or house shows. That's probably why Hogan's late '80s feud with The Big Boss Man, one of the best of his career, doesn't get quite the level of attention it deserves. These two were married to each other on the road for a while, working all sorts of house shows and at least one other televised match from Madison Square Garden. That bout in some ways might actually be a little better in some respects, but this one, a steel cage match on the prominent "Saturday Night's Main Event" show, is better known.

Hogan was often paired against big men to try to convince fans that he could be in any possible danger. At the same time, Hulk's also a wrestler able to use an opponent who can generate some agility and bump big for him. Boss Man was the rare Hogan opponent who could tick off all those boxes. The spot that defines this match, though, is Hogan superplexing Boss Man off the top of the cage — a move that would be big today, let alone in 1989 when it happened. It may be the most impressive move Hogan has ever done, and the match built around it still stands as one of the best he ever had.

& The Ultimate Warrior vs. Mr. Perfect and The Genius, Saturday Night's Main Event

This match is a representative pick. There are a lot of matches in Hogan's career that are similar to this one that also don't get the credit they deserve. Short, fast-paced TV matches, sometimes singles but often tags, where a super-talented heel bumps like a pinball for Hulk. Yes, wrestlers could do that for anyone, but there's something more fun when they do it for Hogan. His entire character, the way he works, his super strong push, his presence, were all built for him to be a conqueror, and matches like this showcased it. The tag rules and shorter TV match times allowed matches like this to be less bogged down with filler to boot.

Like we said, we could've picked a lot of matches like this for the list but this one makes it because of one man: Mr. Perfect. One of the greatest bumpers of all time, Curt Hennig was built to be Hulk Hogan's dance partner in a match like this. This match isn't long, it's not an epic, but it hits the spot. A lot of times when you watched Hogan, you didn't come for a back and forth WrestleMania saga, you came to see Hogan run over some bad guys. When it comes to matches like that, this night is one of the better examples.

Vs. Stan Hansen, WWF/AJPW/NJPW Wrestling Summit

Just two weeks after Hulk Hogan had one of his career highlights against The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI, Hogan had another huge match that is far less remembered. WWF worked together with Japan's two biggest promotions, All Japan and New Japan, to present a massive supershow at the Tokyo Dome. Main eventing the all-star card was Hogan vs. a huge star in Japan and the US, an all-time great, Stan, "The Lariat" Hansen. This was a show filled with top names from three promotions — one where Giant Baba teamed with Andre the Giant, where Ultimate Warrior defended his newly won WWF World Title — and Hansen and Hogan were given the honors of going on last.

Some matches are on this list because of great performances by Hogan's opponents. This match though? Hogan excels. This is a big-time brawl and the Hulkster shows a kind of aggression you would rarely see out of him otherwise. A wild blow-for-blow battle where both men bled and the action spilled to the floor, with Hogan even slamming Hansen on a table, this match is the type that, if Hogan had wrestled like this regularly, his reputation as a worker is probably pretty different today. Winning another big match in Japan with the Axe Bomber, at a time when Hogan's throne was being challenged in the US, he made a case that he was still king.

& Genichiro Tenryu vs. The Road Warriors, SWS Wrestlefest

One year later, we got something of an unofficial sequel to the previous match. Just like that entry, here Hogan is main eventing another Japanese/WWF supershow in the Tokyo Dome. This time, however, instead of Hogan wrestling two weeks after main eventing WrestleMania VI, he was wrestling just one week after main eventing WrestleMania VII. Instead of working with All Japan and New Japan, the SWS promotion was the Japanese partner here. Most importantly, the match-up was completely different, a tag encounter pitting Hogan and local superstar Genichiro Tenryu against The Road Warriors of Hawk and Animal. Hulk taking on one of the most beloved tag teams in history is a dream match many fans probably are unaware even took place.

Like in the Hansen match, Hogan had his Japanese working boots on and gave another spirited performance. Also like the Hansen match, there were multiple people bleeding here, with Hawk joining Hulk this time in letting the red flow. Another match that broke down at times into a chaotic brawl, Hogan and Hawk showed some real fire and made you wish these two had shared a ring more often. The one flaw may be the anticlimactic finish, with The Roadies winning by count-out. Even there, though, we got a dramatic post-match where chairs were swung and ring seconds were attacked. Hogan and The Road Warriors were both acts that were used to physically dominating their opponents, but in this match, everyone somehow managed to look strong without weakening the men across the ring from them.

Vs. Vader, SuperBrawl V

This match feels like it shouldn't work, but it does. When Hulk Hogan made the jump to WCW from the WWF, the two promotions felt like two different worlds. Hogan and the WWF were a far more colorful, over-the-top product. WCW was grittier, a little more violent, a little more brutal, and to get proof of that you just needed to watch Vader work. He was stiffer than the wrestlers Hogan was used to working, and in fact was known to have given some real bumps and bruises to more than a couple of his opponents. How could these two men with such different approaches co-exist in the same match?

Somehow at SuperBrawl V, they found a middle ground. Vader held back just enough to suit Hogan's preferences, but still retained his aura. Hogan, meanwhile, was on his A-game and deviated enough from his usual match formula to be different, but kept enough of it to send fans home happy. This is a match where Hogan takes it to the mat, and where his opponent survives the big boot and legdrop. One of Hogan's best matches not just in WCW, but anywhere, even a DQ finish can't tarnish it. Hogan and Vader would have multiple rematches but they'd never quite capture this magic again, a night where they hit that sweet spot between their two worlds.

Vs. The Rock, WrestleMania X8

You could argue this match already gets respect, and it does, but only from certain people. Famously, Dave Meltzer only gave it three stars, one of his most controversial ratings. In so many respects, this match was a dream match that lived up to the hype, so much so that it completely overshadowed the actual main event of HHH vs. Chris Jericho. Was it technically very good? No, there were some fairly glaring timing issues between the two men. If you watched this match with the sound off, just focusing on the ring, and had no attachment or prior knowledge of these two men, maybe you wouldn't think it was that good at all. But that's not how we watch wrestling.

In the world we actually live in, you saw it all and you heard it all. The biggest star of the '80s taking on one of the biggest stars of the '90s, and the crowd eating up every second of it. Just the two men looking to the fans, milking every moment to perfection, was as entertaining as the big moves in so many other matches. Before very long, Hogan, the heel, was getting cheered over Rock, the face. It's a match that reminds you that seeing stars be stars can be just as entertaining as stars doing great wrestling. On this night, Hogan stole the show from the generation that came after him one more time. In some ways, this is his finest hour.

Vs. Vince McMahon, WrestleMania XIX

The idea of a Vince McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan match being even watchable, let alone actually good like this was, seemed crazy before WrestleMania XIX. When it actually happened, though, everything worked. Smartly booked as a street fight rather than a regular match, Hogan and Vince took full advantage of every bell and whistle possible to make this match a pure spectacle. There were run-ins, including Roddy Piper, hitting one more perfect note of '80s Hulkamania nostalgia. There were weapons, there was blood, there was Sylvan Grenier. Somehow, these two men, one of them not even a trained wrestler, at a combined age of well over 100, managed to go over 20 minutes and produce a ton of fun throughout.

In a way, this match was a mixing of two worlds. Everything about the Vince/Hogan feud referenced their deep history in the '80s, a decade in wrestling that these two defined. Yet the match itself was the kind Hogan rarely ever had, something far more modern. It lived or died on its story, characters, and all the outside factors as much as what action the two people in the ring were actually capable of putting out. This doesn't feel like a classic Hogan WrestleMania match, it feels like a classic Vince McMahon WrestleMania match, like the ones he's had with Shane McMahon and Shawn Michaels. Hogan, surprisingly, fit into that template well.

Vs. Kurt Angle, King of the Ring 2002

Just in terms of match quality, this is a pretty solid outing for the Hulkster. Kurt Angle wrestled this during the time when he was ashamed of being newly bald, working this match in headgear and a wig, which lead to some incredibly ironic goofiness when Hogan took it off and exposed him for being follically challenged. Angle also generally just ran around and bounced off Hogan in this match, adding some dynamic movement to a legend slowing with age. That being said, Hogan himself showed a surprising willingness to take a belly to back suplex and an Angle Slam, especially considering that he was approaching the age of 50 here and was not ever really known for taking big bumps.

None of that is the reason this match is here, though. No, the reason this match is on the list is the finish. Hogan does the classic Hulk Up comeback, he goes for his legdrop finish, Angle turns it into the ankle lock and after a big struggle ... Hogan taps out. Cleanly. It was a shocking finish at the time and is shocking even today thinking back on it. Hogan is well known for rarely putting over other wrestlers under any circumstances, let alone cleanly, let alone via submission, let alone as a babyface. It was an uncharacteristically generous act from someone who rarely conceded one. The match may deserve more respect. The finish definitely does.

Vs. Shawn Michaels, SummerSlam 2005

Now, this match is going to be divisive. For some people reading this, it's going to be seen as the worst match on the list, for others, it's going to be the best. The reason why actually has nothing to do with Hulk Hogan and everything to do with his opponent, Shawn Michaels. In the build-up to this huge dream match, media like the Wrestling Observer had documented a lot of the speedbumps this match was hitting behind the scenes. Michaels didn't want to turn heel, but Hogan didn't want to wrestle another babyface. Michaels wanted to wrestle a multi-match series where they would each get wins, Hogan wanted to win every encounter. Michaels wanted to rehearse the match ahead of time while Hogan, knowing his body's condition this late in his career, wanted to save everything for SummerSlam itself.

In the end, Hogan got everything he wanted. Perhaps in response, their SummerSlam match saw one of the more over-the-top selling performances of its generation. Shawn did put over Hogan, but he did so taking every classic piece of '80s Hogan offense like it was an atomic bomb. Most notably, his selling of a big boot that saw him bump, then jump to his feet, stumble around, and bump again, is semi-legendary. Some fans thought it made for one of the most entertaining matches Hogan had ever been in, but others thought Michaels was basically throwing a tantrum, making a mockery of Hulk. Either way, it was unforgettable.