What can you say about Wrestlemania III? It was the pinnacle of the Golden Age of Professional Wrestling, when everything was going right. The Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan filled with over 93,000 fans on March 29th, 1987. The size of the crowd is indescribable... it has to be seen to be believed. It was the greatest wrestling spectacle ever, the very definition of a supercard... When the announcers say that, it's not hyperbole. When they say that Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant is the most eagerly anticipated match in wrestling history, it's not hyperbole. It was the height of Hulkamania. Say what you want about him, but it popularized wrestling beyond all expectations and laid the groundwork for what you see today. And the fans kinda seemed to dig it.
Appropriately, this is the most jacked crowd you'll ever see. Every wrestler on the card---every single one--is OVER. Every face is cheered. Every heel is booed and gets trash thrown at them. I can't even tell if half the wrestlers even have theme music because they're being cheered or booed so loudly. Want to hear something even more amazing? Every single face on the card also goes over during their matches. They don't always win, but they always get their revenge either during the match or after it. And, aside from all the heat
jive, it has that somewhat memorable Steamboat/Savage match that you might have heard of. :)
Your hosts for this event are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura (my favorite announcing pair ever, incidentally).
Match 1: The Can-Am Connection (Tom Zenk and Rick Martel) vs. The Magnificent Muraco & Cowboy Bob Orton w/Mr. Fuji. Both teams get a jobber's entrance. That's one of my few complaints with the entire event... NO ONE at a Wrestlemania should get a jobber's entrance for any reason whatsoever. They've earned the right to be there, at least let them bask in the moment! Look up "stiff" in a dictionary. Then look up the exact opposite of "stiff." You
will there find the picture and life story of The Magnificent Muraco. It's WEIRD seeing Martel as a pure babyface here knowing what a primo heel he became in later years. Fun little opener, Martel hits a cross-body on Muraco --> pin.
Match 2: Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. The psychology leading up to this match is the eternal question of which one of these great superstars has the better full nelson. The answer, of course, is neither of them, as both wrestlers SUCK and about five other competitors do full nelsons which put theirs to shame at various points during the night. The psychology is a pretty neat touch to get the crowd involved in the match (not that they really NEED to with this crowd), as every full nelson attempt brings the crowd to a roar. It's neat to see Hebner (so it's Dave and not Earl, sue me) slumming it by reffing matches so low on the card. And he doesn't even ref the main event! No slow count for you. Haynes falls over --> Double Count-out. Haynes blades after the match as Hercules whacks him with his chain.
Match 3: King Kong Bundy/Little Tokyo/Lord Littlebrook vs. Hillbilly
Jim/Little Beaver/The Haiti Kid. MIDGETS! This is a mixed tag match, also known as a "stupid comedy match" in most languages. This match gets the worst heat on the card, but amazingly the WWF hasn't learned its lesson 12 years later and still insists on putting a comedy match on every couple of cards. Big Bad Evil Bundy (Hogan victim #3, as at Wrestlemania II he fought Hulk Hogan in a steel cage for the world title) drops an elbow on a midget --> DQ. Joy.
Match 4: King Harley Race w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan vs. The Junkyard Dog. The loser must bow to the winner. Wow, real high concept stuff. This actually entertained me, don't ask me why. JYD's head butts obviously miss by so much it's laughable. Race hits a belly-to-belly suplex (that's gotta earn a nomination for worst finisher ever) --> pin. In an AMAZING turn of events, JYD doesn't honor the match stipulations, instead electing to whack Race with a chair (a real one, too! Not the stupid metal ones they use now.) and steal
his purple robe.
Match 5: The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake
& Greg "The Hammer" Valentine) w/Dino Bravo and some other dude.
This is a throwaway match, basically there to institute Part 1 of Beefcake's face turn. The Rougeaus get a jobber's entrance just to annoy me. Raymond has Valentine in a sleeper, Beefcake climbs the top rope to break it up but hits Valentine instead. The Rougeaus hit Le Bomb De Les Rougeaus (I'll note that the proper French would be "Le Bomb Des Rougeaus," but whatever), but Bravo comes off the top rope and hits Raymond, allowing Valentine to cover --> pin. Valentine and Bravo and that other dude leave Beefcake in the ring, all mad at him and stuff for accidentally hitting Valentine. You know what's cool? Today you practically have to rape someone to do a heel turn and save the Queen of England to turn face. Back then, all it took was one simple miscommunication spot.
**************Here's where the good stuff really starts********************
Match 6: "Adorable" Adrian Adonis w/Jimmy Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper in a Haircut Match and Piper's Retirement Match. Notice that Piper is retiring regardless of the outcome, like a true man! Oh wait, he's STILL WRESTLING OVER TEN YEARS LATER, so fuck that. Professional haircutting tools are present at ringside, oh boy. Piper gets a standing ovation during his entrance. Kind of ironic that he was one of the top heels in the federation for so long, huh? As a direct quote from Scott Keith, "Piper beats the living daylights out
of Adonis, Jimmy Hart, and anything else that moves." I can't state it any better, so I won't. Adonis manages to get Piper in Goodnight Irene (known as a sleeper in some languages), but he releases it too soon, as the ref (Dave Hebner) hadn't tried to lift Piper's hand for a third time yet. Part 2 of Brutus "I'll be the Barber in a few seconds!" Beefcake's face turn commences, as he runs to the ring and revives Piper. Good ol' Hot Rod proceeds to get his own sleeper on Adonis, putting him soundly to sleep --> submission. Brutus then grabs the electric razor and goes to work on Adonis (in retaliation for Adonis accidentally cutting Beefcake's hair a few weeks earlier) as Piper holds down Jimmy Hart. This was absolutely perfect booking. Piper retires in a wonderful
moment of shining glory, Ed Leslie successfully leeches off his heat to get himself instantly over as a respectable face, and everyone gets their just revenge on Adonis.
Match 7: The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart)/Dangerous Danny Davis w/Jimmy Hart vs. The British Bulldogs
(Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid)/Tito Santana. Hart's team gets a jobber's entrance just to really piss me off. BRET HART SHOULD NOT BE GETTING JOBBER'S ENTRANCES AT WRESTLEFUCKINGMANIA. Okay, I'm better now. Anyway, the back story: Danny Davis, the EVIL REF FROM HELL, cost Santana the IC belt over a year earlier and the Bulldogs the Tag Team straps a few months previous. You can pretty much guess how much the crowd likes Davis. I giggle whenever Ventura calls Santana "Chico." Wow, what are the chances of 6 people in 1987 WWF being
in one match and 5 of them really not sucking all that much? I think the Bulldogs' tights were designed with the belts in mind, because the black front looks a little out of place without something covering it. Davis gets tagged in twice while Dynamite is playing Ricky Morton, and he (wisely) just takes a few cheap shots and tags out. On the third time, however, he gets caught in with Santana. Let the fun begin. Davis may still hold the record for having the most power moves landed on him in the shortest time span. Within the course of about sixty seconds, he gets hit with: The Flying Jalapeño (one of my favorite moves
EVER, and a thousand times better than Luger's stinky loaded forearm), a figure four, a tombstone piledriver, and Smith's powerslam. Rest in peace, Dangerous Danny Davis. He somehow manages to recover (which was a horrible booking decision in my opinion) and whack Smith with the MEGAPHONE OF DOOM and kind of falls on top of Davey Boy --> pin. Crowd is less than enthused to say the least. Aside from the ending, a really nifty match as the faces finally, FINALLY get their licks on Davis after months of being screwed over. Yes, this is the prelude to Austin/MacMahon. Kind of creepy, ain't it?
Match 8: "The Natural" Butch Reed w/Slick vs. Koko B. Ware. In my mark days, Koko was one of my favorite wrestlers. He just had that JIVE, man. I have no idea whether there was any buildup to this at all. Pretty much a squash, as Reed rolls up Koko coming off the ropes --> pin. But, every face goes over or your money back, so "Chico" Santana runs in and beats up Slick, ripping his suit off in a moment of true glory.
(I usually skip interviews, but the interview that Mean Gene Okerland cuts with some doctor (a bad actor playing a doctor, duh) is absolutely hilarious. The doctor stumbles over half his lines, and Okerland can barely keep from laughing out loud. You'd think they'd do another take or something...)
Match 9: "The Macho Man" Randy Savage w/Elizabeth vs. Ricky "The
Dragon" Steamboat w/George "The Animal" Steele for the WWF Intercontinental
Championship. If you've never heard of this match or the feud building up for it... well... there's no hope for ya. Until Steamboat topped himself in his classic match with Ric Flair at WrestleWar '89, this was considered the greatest match of all time. Mark, smart, smark, whatever, it doesn't matter. This match just rules. No stips, no 60 minute slobberknockers, just 15 minutes of the quickest, stiffest, all-around best wrestling you will ever see. And, just to top it all off, the heat is just as powerful here as the work is. The ovation when Steamboat FINALLY, after months of following Savage around the country in rage, becomes the NEEEEWWWWWWWW Intercontinental Champion is unlike
anything I've ever heard before. It's just about the only thing I actually remember about the damn card from when I first saw it way back in 1987. THAT was the advantage of having champs STAY champs for years on end... the blowoffs were absolutely monumental. I won't bother to do play-by-play (do I ever?), which is available tons of other places. Savage picks Steamboat up for a bodyslam, but Steamboat grabs the leg and cradles Savage --> pin to become the new WWF Intercontinental Champion.
Rating: 10/10. Simply perfect.
Match 9: Jake "The Snake" Roberts w/Alice Cooper vs. The Honky Tonk Man w/Jimmy Hart. Hart is now a Colonel. Ha. This was the beginning of HTM's big push, as he would go on to win the IC strap a few months later and begin the most infamous 18-month title reign ever. Pretty short match. Endgame comes as Jake's DDT attempt is blocked, with HTM cradling Roberts --> pin (while holding the top rope) in a victory that stunned every single person who was watching this match. This was the first of many, many cheap wins for the Honky Tonk Man, and the fans let him know how they feel by pelting him with everything not bolted down as he leaves the ring. Of course, since Every Face
Goes Over Or Your Money Back, Jake holds Jimmy Hart in a full nelson (a GOOD one, too... Hercules and Haynes take note) as Alice Cooper lets Damien out of his sack and lets him loose on Hart. This is the most drugged out snake I've ever seen in my entire life. It barely manages to twitch.
Match 10: The Iron Sheik/Nikolai Volkoff w/Slick vs. The Killer Bees. The Killer Bees in the second match from the top? What bizarro universe IS this? Now that I think about it, it's probably because they felt bad the Sheik (Hogan Victim #1, as three years ago Hogan won the WWF Championship from him) had fallen so low and wanted to give him a decent spot. Volkoff starts to sing the Russian National Anthem as the ring fills with the most trash I've ever seen. But here comes Our Lord And Savior, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan to break it up. He helpfully provides the quote of the year:
"You can't sing that (the Russian national anthem), because America is the land of the FREE!"
Excuse me while I roll off the chair in howls of laughter. Anyway, I have no idea if there's any buildup to this match. If there was, I can't imagine what the hell it would have been. Sheik and Volkoff get mad because bright colors aren't allowed in Iran and Russia? Anyway, it's actually a fun little match. Endgame comes as Sheik gets the Camel Clutch on Brunzell, but Duggan jumps back in and thwaps him with his 2x4 --> DQ. After all, they can't do a Camel Clutch... this is the land of the FREE! Final thought on this one: Bret Hart gets a jobber's entrance, and The Killer Bees do not.
(Another interview worth noting--Hulk Hogan is interviewed by "Mean Gene" Okerland and says that he's not concerned for the 93k fans inside the Pontiac Silverdome, he's concerned for the 93k fans outside the Pontiac Silverdome because when Hulkamania runs wild on Andre and the earth shatters and the ground shakes, what's going to happen to the 93k Hulkamaniacs cheering his name outside the dome? If that makes ANY SENSE TO YOU WHATSOEVER, please /msg me immediately and tell me what the fuck you're smoking so I can get some.)
Match 11: Hulk Hogan w/millions of screaming fans vs. Andre The Giant w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan for the WWF Championship. What can you say? This is the match that defined a decade of pro wrestling... Hulk Hogan vs. the Immovable Object. The back story as stolen from Scott Keith, for those of you who were living in a cave in 1987 (or weren't alive yet, a thought that scares me):
The very definition of a money match and a dream match, as wrestling fans debated this one for months previous and talked about it for years after. Andre, undefeated for 20 years and a hero for more, against Hogan, reigning world champion and unbeatable superman. The story: Hulk and Andre are friends for years, through everything. Jack Tunney presents Andre with a trophy for his accomplishments one week, and then presents Hogan with a bigger trophy the next week, which annoys Andre. So much so, in fact, that Andre comes out the next week and challenges Hogan to a match for his title, then rips off Hogan's shirt and cross. Andre takes on former rival Bobby Heenan as his manager, and the rest is history.
As late as 1996, if you had asked a non-wrestling fan to name two wrestlers,
their answer would probably have been Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (sadly, Barry Horowitz didn't *quite* have the name recognition they did yet). The match itself sucks, but so WHAT? The psychology and heat overpowers whatever (big) flaws in the actual wrestling there are. After getting beat up for 10 minutes following a botched bodyslam attempt, Hogan successfully bodyslams Andre, hits the Big Leg Drop (the bodyslam wasn't enough, but the LEG DROP OF DOOM finishes him off? Jeez.) --> pin, as Hogan retains the WWF Championship.
Rating: 6/10, just for the historical significance. The wrestling
...and that's not even the best part! As Monsoon and Ventura wrap things up, most of Hogan's post-match posturing gets clipped! Absolutely made my day the first time I watched this version of it.
This is an absolute must see for any wrestling fan. Sure, the work rate wasn't anything special back then (barring the incredible Steamboat/Savage 10/10 affair), but the noise levels in this place remain unmatched to this day. Plus, it just *happens* to be the most historically significant show ever.