In an interview with Fighting Spirit Magazine, Hulk Hogan sheds light on original plans for his match with The Rock at Wrestlemania X-8 in 2002.
“Out of respect, I go down there (to Miami), and there’s me and The Rock and his dad Rocky Johnson, and Pat Patterson,” said Hogan. “The Rock starts telling me that we’re gonna lock up, and do this and do that, then start getting some heat on me, and so on. So he talked through the whole match, and I was listening. I respect him, and it kinda made sense, but I’d never done that before. Then they go, ‘Okay, let’s have the match here.’ I said, ‘Whoa! You’re talking about me taking bumps in this ring, with no people? I’ll get hurt, and if I fall wrong one time, then my career is over.’ I’ve got to have the energy of the crowd, so that when I go down, I go down to the mat hard. So instead, we just walked through the match.”
Hogan was depicted as the heel going into the match due to his affiliation with the New World Order, and because of his acrimonious departure from WWE years prior. The audience, however, didn’t care that Hogan was portrayed as a villain by WWE, instead cheering the wrestling icon and reigning a chorus of boos toward The Rock. Hogan says he had the match changed on the fly due to the crowd reaction.
“The whole issue I had was what if we got to Toronto, and this doesn’t work? So sure enough, when we go to Toronto, I give The Rock one big push, and the place explodes. Then I pushed him again, as we planned, and the place explodes again. [WWE] thought I was gonna get booed. Then I start chopping meat on him, and with every hit the place is going crazy. Then I did what was planned, blocking a punch, and as soon as he started hitting me came the boos.”
“I went down, and looked up and said, ‘You want me to fix this?’ And The Rock says, ‘Yeah, let’s fix it.’ I went, ‘OK, then listen to me.’ But it took him no time to get it right, because he is just so good in the ring. It took us three minutes to get it right, but if we’d done what we had practised, they’d have booed us out of the [expletive] building. I’m not saying I could do it in every instance, but The Rock is so good, we could do that. The Rock doesn’t usually talk about planning his matches, so somebody must have made him worry that I was too old and too slow, and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work-rate. But once he got in the ring with me, he knew I had a feel for it, and we got it right. That’s what I wanted to do with ‘Stone Cold’, and Bret Hart, too.”