|Hogan ruined this. Hogan ruins everything.|
Screengrab via Keeping Kayfabe on YouTube
*somewhere, Kevin Nash is agreeing with this verbiage, eating ravioli during a shoot interview and denying he ever sabatoged the career of any of his coworkers*
It's undeniable that in the 18-ish months leading up to Starrcade 1997, WCW did a phenomenal job of building up the storyline that led to Hulk Hogan defending his World Title against Sting. Each month, Sting got closer and closer to getting his match with Hogan, and in the process, chipped away at the nWo's stronghold over Nitro. Personally, I was always a loyal WWF viewer, but I remember many times when both RAW and Nitro were in their last five minutes and I found myself switching over to WCW, just to see if Sting was going to rappel from the rafters and start hitting people with baseball bats. Because every time that shit happened, the crowd went bonkers and I felt electricity in my heart.
But then the actual match between Hulk Hogan and Sting had to happen, and behind the scenes, Hogan had been booked to lose. It was the first time Eric Bischoff had asked Hogan to lose clean in his three years with the company. And if you know anything about Hulk Hogan, you'll know that this did not sit well with him and his personal brand of always winning, forever and ever, until we all die.
The finish as booked was that Hogan would drop the big leg on Sting, and when he went to pin him, crooked nWo-endorsed referee Nick Patrick would do a fast count and award Hogan the match. Newly-arrived Bret Hart would come to the ring to ensure that something like the Montreal Screwjob would never happen again. He would command the timekeeper to restart the match, and then Sting would make Hogan tap out to the Scorpion Deathlock and therefore win the title.
Kinda convoluted, but it makes enough sense, right? Not in the hands of the Hot Dog-Skinned Man, Hulk Hogan.
When Nick Patrick did his supposedly fast count, it was not fast at all. Not even close. It was just a regular count, a clean pin, and that was it. Rather than adjust on the fly due to this horrible screw-up, the rest of the finish just went ahead as planned. Hart had to pretend it was a fast count while the crowd sat there like, "Uh, we're not sure what you're talking about." Hart tossed Hogan back in the ring, much to the crowd's delight, and they tried to salvage the fast count angle that night as well as the next night on Nitro, but the damage was done. Hulk Hogan looked like the one who was screwed, not Sting. This completely ruined 18 months of storytelling, in which the villainous Hogan was finally going to get his comeuppance.
Why did this happen? Did Nick Patrick honestly mess up the fast count? On the biggest match of WCW's biggest show ever?
Of course not. Nick Patrick was told by Hulk Hogan to do this. Do I know that for sure? No. But Hogan frequently exercised the creative control clause in his contract, and there is a moment right before Sting makes his entrance where Hogan has a few words with Patrick. As Stewart from the New Gen Podcast guesses, it's entirely possible that Hogan just went against all of WCW's plans and told him, "Hey brother, they changed the finish. No fast count anymore, okay?"
Would you honestly put that past Hogan? Knowing everything you know now about how often he wielded power and manipulated people and fudged the truth in order to make himself look better? You probably wouldn't. You probably would accept the possibility that Hogan torpedoed a year and a half of storytelling because he didn't like the idea that his 42-year old terribly-wrestling ass would lose to one of the coolest characters in pro wrestling history. You would accept this because it's almost certainly the truth.
The prosecution rests, Your Honor. And Hulk Hogan still sucks.