Hulk Hogan and The Rock. Two all-time greats, anchors of their respective generations. Hogan, one of the biggest reasons for WWE's initial success and an entertainment icon, headlined eight of the first 10 WrestleManias.
The Rock, alongside Stone Cold Steve Austin, played a major role in carrying the company through the "Attitude Era" on his way to becoming one of (if not the) biggest entertainers of any kind in the world (and the world's highest-paid actor in 2016). Like Hogan, his presence in the WWE spotlight was a lengthy one, as he headlined five different WrestleMania main events himself.
Before WrestleMania X8, it didn't seem possible that these two kings of their generations could ever collide.
The entire concept seemed like one of those "what If" scenarios that people just think of wistfully. But in 2002, the reality came bursting through the door when Hogan and his original nWo disciples Kevin Nash and Scott Hall made their return to WWE television at No Way Out, the pay-per-view event before WrestleMania X8. It was Hogan's first time in a WWE ring since 1993, and Hall and Nash's first time back since 1996.
The reception he received that night was a bit of foreshadowing of the things to come; despite donning the colors of his "Hollywood Hogan" persona, and everything that had happened in the dying days of WCW, the fans were thrilled to have him back.
In a rare moment in 2002, both Austin and The Rock were babyfaces. Naturally, each became a top target for the nWo.
While Austin paired off with Hall, Hogan and The Rock took part in a memorable confrontation on Monday Night Raw. The Rock asked Hogan what he thought about "headlining one more WrestleMania with The Rock." Hogan's answer was simple and definitive: "Yes." The dream match was set.
The electricity in the air as the two stood face to face in the middle of the ring in Toronto's Skydome at WrestleMania remains unparalleled to this day. The two legends looked back and forth from the crowd to each other for several minutes, absorbing every last moment of the spectacular scene.
As the match unfolded, much like Hogan's return to the WWE a month earlier, it became clear that the crowd was firmly behind the immortal one. The two worked the match with that understanding and the result was a fine, exciting affair -- certainly one of Hogan's better WrestleMania efforts despite the fact he lost the match, and all the more impressive considering Hogan was nearing 50 at that point.
The match and Hogan's willingness to shake The Rock's hand afterward sparked Hogan's hasty nWo evacuation. Hall and Nash entered the ring shortly afterward to deliver a beatdown on their former leader. This prompted The Rock to make the save and the two icons gave fans an epilogue to the match as they simultaneously posed for the crowd in the same fashion Hogan had done throughout the first nine WrestleManias.