By Mike Mooneyham

Aug. 28, 2005

Shawn Michaels carried Hulk Hogan to one of his best matches in recent years last weekend at Summer Slam. But overselling to Hogan’s weak-looking offense and falling victim to the Hulkster’s lame legdrop certainly did nothing to bolster the Heartbreak Kid’s reputation as The Showstopper.

Michaels initially had visions of getting a rare win over Hogan, but the Hulkster and WWE head honcho Vince McMahon apparently had different plans. While Michaels put on his usual exemplary big-show performance, he probably could have fared just as well working with a broomstick. His exaggerated bumps and selling appeared to convey a wink and a nod to the fans that if he was going to have to do the job, he was going to do it in grandiose style.

Bill Simmons, in a column on ESPN’s Page 2, offered his own unique take on the match.

“We like seeing the Hulkster win matches with the old Hogan Formula for the same reason we like seeing those dopey reunion shows of ‘M.A.S.H.’ or the ‘Brady Bunch’ on TV, or those reunion concerts from the Stones or Bruce or the Eagles, or even those handheld video games where you can play Pong and Intellivision baseball and Donkey Kong. Maybe it’s the same stuff, and maybe they’re not as good as they were, but they still make you feel like a kid again. It’s nostalgia on demand.”

The surface absurdity of Michaels jobbing to the 52-year-old Hogan, however, wasn’t lost on the former wrestling fan, who kept a running diary of the show.

Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels

“Since poor Hogan can’t move, and since the skin around his chest is wound tighter than Nicole Kidman’s forehead, we’re headed for a steady diet of shoves, shoulder blocks, armlocks, headlocks, elbows, punches, chest slaps and kicks. In other words, it’s just like every Hulk Hogan match … By the way, Michaels is absolutely carrying this match. No surprise, but it had to be mentioned.”

Michaels attempted to get back some of his heat – and respect – the following night on Raw when he sarcastically praised Hogan and his dreaded legdrop, and basically told the audience that his loss didn’t matter because it was all part of the script.

“He was catlike, he was nimble, he had a catch-as-catch-can style that even Shawn Michaels couldn’t figure out. I mean, his ring prowess was in so many ways and on so many levels superior to mine that I simply could not compete. When it was over, even I, the evil Shawn Michaels found myself victim like so many before me to the vicious legdrop – 1, 2, 3.”

Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter reported last week that McMahon made the final call that Hogan would go over clean by leg-dropping and pinning Michaels. Amazingly enough, plans for the match were not finalized until a day before the bout, muddying the political waters even more for a mutually agreed upon finish. Hogan, exercising his creative control, reportedly nixed any scenario that resulted in anything less than him emerging as the victor with his signature move. Hogan’s demand was backed to the letter by McMahon.

Michaels earlier had nixed requests to involve Hogan’s family in build-up for the match. One scenario discussed was Michaels delivering his signature “Sweet Chin Music” superkick to Hogan’s 15-year-old son Nick.

Michaels, who earlier boasted that “the Heartbreak Kid lays down for no one,” is now regrouping for a much lower-in-the-card program with the extremely green Chris Masters.

Hogan reportedly is in line for bigger and better things, with likely showdowns against Triple H and Steve Austin in the offing. Those two names, however, may be nuts even the immortal one won’t be able to crack.

– The only bigger loser than Michaels coming out of Summer Slam was Matt Hardy. So far his decision to return to WWE looks like a regrettable one that he surely has to be second-guessing. Hardy was in line for a major push with TNA and probably could have earned as much, if not more, money working for TNA and major independents.

It appears that Hardy is being forced to serve penance for going public with the sordid details of Edge (Adam Copeland) and Lita’s (Amy Dumas) betrayal. Just weeks after firing him, officials were literally forced to bring him back due to a strong response from WWE audiences. His return, however, has been badly booked, and his four-minute burial at the hands of Edge at Summer Slam followed by a loss to mid-card performer Rob Conway the following night on Raw may have closed the Hardy case.

There was more than a grain of truth in Edge’s comment last week that “Matt Hardy may not die, but he’s on life support.”

Even his brother ripped on Matt last week on the Behind The Ropes radio show. Jeff Hardy criticized his brother for “wasting TNA’s time” and stringing them along while he knew he was going to return to WWE.

Jeff also took exception to a comment Matt made on a WWE show when he said he was closer to former girlfriend Lita than he was to Jeff. Hardy added that Matt had literally “forced the phone” into his face to leave nasty voicemails on Edge and Lita’s phone.

– A world title match with Batista defending against Eddie Guerrero will headline Monday night’s Smackdown show at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Other top bouts include: Orlando Jordan vs. Chris Benoit for the U.S. title; Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio; MNM vs. Road Warrior Animal and John Heidenreich for the WWE tag-team title; and Booker T vs. Christian. Action gets under way at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are $41, $31, $26 and $21 (plus applicable fees). Tickets are available at the Coliseum box office, www.ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster outlets (including select Publix grocery stores) or charge by phone at 554-6060.

– Sailor Ed White, who teamed with Randy Culley as the original Moondogs in the WWF during the early ’80s, passed away last week at the age of 56.

– Chris Jericho’s matches with John Cena this past week will be his last for the immediate future with WWE. Jericho had been granted some time off earlier this year after signing a short-term contract extension in order to fulfill his Summer Slam date with John Cena.

Rumors have been swirling in recent days over a possible signing with TNA where the Canadian-born grappler would be a centerpiece attraction. It’s unlikely, however, that Jericho could garner the same kind of contract or stability that he has in WWE, and he also would risk the prospect of burning bridges with Vince McMahon.

– Kevin Nash is returning to TNA and will be featured in the company’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view Oct. 23.

– Smackdown will undergo a name change to coincide with its new night beginning Sept. 9. The show will be called Friday Night Smackdown.

– Scott Steiner returns to wrestling for a UCW Invasion show today at the Asheville Civic Center that includes brother Rick Steiner, Lex Luger, Buff Bagwell, NWO Sting, Trinity, Chris Hamrick, Ricky Morton, Brad Anderson, Jason Cross, Erik Watts and Disco Inferno.