Brock’s career in his own words.
Previous chapters can be found here: https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/brockumentary/
I’ve put it off as long as I possibly could.
Folks, it’s time to talk about Hardcore Holly.
Bob Holly made his WWF debut on January 30, 1994, as Thurman “Sparky” Plugg, a man who split his time between wrestling and stock car racing. After changing his name to Bob “Spark Plug” Holly, he would spend the majority of his career as a lower card babyface, losing King of the Ring qualifiers and making up the numbers in battle royals. After brief stints as a part of the New Midnight Express and the JOB Squad, Holly would find his niche in the hardcore division.
Six reigns as Hardcore Champion saw the once-bombastic Bob Holly become “The Big Shot” Hardcore Holly, a weapons aficionado who thought he was a super-heavyweight. The Hardcore division came and went, and by the time 2002 came around, Holly was essentially back where he started in 1994.
Well, minus the race car driver deal.
That brings us to September 12, 2002.
Fresh off of a win against Matt Hardy the week prior, Hardcore Holly would step into the ring with the new WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar.
September 12, 2002
Brock Lesnar def. Hardcore Holly
Brock had won the WWE Title three weeks earlier from The Rock at SummerSlam. Fun fact: this was the 2002 “season premiere” of SmackDown, featuring the union of Billy and Chuck. Holly had claimed that Brock Lesnar had never been in a real fight in the WWE. Does anyone wanna break the news to him? These two started by throwing fists before Lesnar launched Holly with a belly-to-belly. Holly came back by tackling Lesnar out of the ring, but Lesnar sent him into the post and suplexed him on the floor. The Minnesota crowd chanted for Lesnar as he took Holly down with an STO. Lesnar hit a delayed vertical suplex as Cole and Tazz hyped up Lesnar’s match with the Undertaker at Unforgiven. You can read about that here. Holly got his feet up on a Lesnar charge, but Lesnar swatted away an attempt at a flying dropkick. Holly slipped out of a powerslam, but Lesnar booted him in the gut and picked him up for a powerbomb.
— Suit Williams 👔 (@SuitWilliams) September 28, 2022
Lesnar went for another powerbomb, but Holly fought and hit a dropkick. He does the thing where he hangs the guy on the ropes and kicks him in the gut. Is there a cleaner way to say that? Did he ever give that move a name? Anyway, Lesnar kicks out of a rollup attempt and hits an F-5 to win. A good TV match, but there was no reason to believe that this would lead to anything of significance. ***
Brock broke Hardcore Holly’s neck. The longtime legend was that Holly sandbagged Lesnar, and Lesnar just dumped him on his head as a receipt. While Brock never brought it up in his book, Holly maintained in his book The Hardcore Truth that the incident was an accident.
“I went into the locker room and lay down on the trainers’ table. Johnny Laurinaitis came in and asked if I was all right before he went in search of Brock. The trainer brought me some ice and was looking at my neck when Brock walked in. He apologized again; I could tell he felt horrible. I told him that it was an accident. Wrestling ain’t ballet! Brock said that Johnny had just chewed his ass out, telling him that he’d only been there for six months and he couldn’t be hurting guys like that. I told him I’d speak to Johnny and make sure he knew Brock wasn’t to blame for the accident.
I’ve heard a lot of people claim Brock dropped me on my head on purpose because I wasn’t cooperating with him on the powerbomb — that I wanted to make him look bad, so I didn’t bother jumping properly and that I got what I deserved when he dropped me. Where these people got this idea, I don’t know. I think these people were happy to have seen me get hurt. It boggles my mind that there are people like that, and I guarantee that these people who started rumors from their computers wouldn’t say a damn word to my face. Nobody ever asked me about what happened or tried to get to know me before passing judgment, they just went ahead and made assumptions. Anybody who has ever learned to wrestle can look back at that footage and see that our timing was off and the whole thing was just an accident. Nothing more, nothing less.” – Bob Holly, The Hardcore Truth
According to Jim Ross’ Ross Report, Holly had ruptured a disk in his neck and was projected to be out for more than six months. That prognosis would be accurate, as he would be out of action for over a year with the injury. Videos would begin airing on the October 23 episode of SmackDown of Holly announcing his return and clearly stating his intentions. He wanted to break Brock Lesnar’s neck. He would get his chance at revenge and the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.
January 25, 2004
Brock Lesnar (c) def. Hardcore Holly
This is the fifth defense of Brock’s third reign as WWE Champion. His fourth defense was a squash of Shannon Moore on SmackDown.
Holly came out to what can best be described as a tepid reaction. He jumped Lesnar during his entrance and beat Lesnar up on the floor before the bell rang. Holly sent Lesnar into the ring but missed a shoulder block off the top, allowing Lesnar to take control. Michael Cole talked about the hardships Holly dealt with during his recovery, including getting a hip infection that weighed him down to 175 pounds and separating from his wife. You hate to see it. Anyway, Lesnar laid on Holly for a while, hitting a standing Muscle Buster for a nearfall. Lesnar locked on the Hogan Killer Bearhug, and while Holly fought out, Lesnar hit a massive belly-to-belly and put on another grapevine-type submission. The Philly crowd is getting restless as these two lie on the mat, but Holly eventually gets out and fires up. He hit his big dropkick and the Alabama Slam, but doesn’t go for a cover. Instead, he locked on a Full Nelson to try and break Lesnar’s neck. Holly held on as Lesnar fell to the floor, but broke the hold to stop the countout. As Holly tried to get the Full Nelson back on, Lesnar snapped his neck over the ropes. He rolled out of another Full Nelson attempt and caught Holly with an F-5 to win. Six glorious minutes in the spotlight.
Hope you had fun, Bob. **
I’m sure this was some type of make-good for Holly. The biggest push of his life and a main event payday, all while working with the top guy on the show. But all this Holly stuff was very tedious to watch as a viewer. No one, not even the most dedicated Hardcore Holly fan, truly believed that Hardcore Holly was going to beat Brock Lesnar. The title match itself wasn’t even a big showcase of Holly either, it was a Smackdown match on PPV. This match lives in infamy as one of the most out-of-place title matches in WWE PPV history, and I can’t say it outperformed anyone’s expectations.
With Hardcore Holly out of the picture, and with Royal Rumble winner Chris Benoit challenging for Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship, SmackDown needed a challenger for the WWE Championship. Paul Heyman would solve this problem by having a Royal Rumble on Smackdown, the first time a Royal Rumble would be on SmackDown (barring anything Vince Russo may have booked in the haze of 1999).
Eddie Guerrero earned the right to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. But that’s definitely a story for another chapter of the Brockumentary. What were your memories of this time? Do you know anyone who lost money betting on Hardcore Holly winning the title?
Let me know on Twitter @SuitWilliams. Talk to you next time.