The tag line for WrestleMania III was: “Bigger! Badder! Better!” It was definitely bigger than the previous two WrestleManias, the badder line is a marketing ploy and it was a much better show than the first two WrestleManias as well. To a lot of people, this was the first WrestleMania that made it feel like a Super Bowl-like event. Due to a reported 93,173 fans in attendance, it’s the biggest event in WWE history.
It was held in the Pontiac Silverdome, just outside of Detroit in the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. The 93,173 people number has been argued over the years. The Silverdome had a capacity crowd of about 80,000 for NFL games and if you look at photos of the event you can see that it was absolutely full. Throw in the people sitting on the floor. Does it look like there are 13,000 of them there? Honestly, I’d question that there were that many people on the floor, but there’s no way to accurately count the total either. I’m not here to argue the number.
There are a lot of events in the course of WWE’s history that you can point to as a game changing moment. In my opinion, this is the most important show in the history of the company. You can make that argument for WrestleMania 1 too as I already wrote, but WrestleMania 3 took Vince McMahon’s company and made it bigger than ever. It was a huge hit on closed circuit television as well as on pay-per-view, which was still a fairly new concept in 1987.
The big selling point of the event was the main event of Hulk Hogan defending the WWF Heavyweight Title versus Andre the Giant, who had just turned heel by aligning himself with the evil mastermind manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Andre was a babyface previously, so the heel turn was a huge deal. Hogan had been the WWF Champion for about three years while Andre had been undefeated for 15 years (or so they said). The jealousy led to Andre turning heel during an episode of Piper’s Pit where he ripped off Hogan’s shirts and cross, causing blood to stream down his chest. The blood part wasn’t part of the plan, but it sure looked good. It was the “irresistible force meeting the immovable object” as Gorilla Monsoon so accurately described it. You can make a case that no match before or since was as big of a draw as Hogan vs. Andre at WrestleMania 3.
On a personal note, I didn’t see this one live. I turned seven later this year. The first one I saw live came a year later (I’ll get into that story when we get there), but I remember watching this on VHS tape a few months after it happened. The biggest thing to take away from the event is how loud it was. The crowd was popping for everything, even undercard matches. There’s no question that the Michigan crowd helped the quality of the show.
WWE WrestleMania III
March 29, 1987
Pontiac (Detroit), Michigan
The show began with some generic music. They showed a wide shot of the arena. It’s an amazing visual. In the ring, Vince McMahon welcomed us to the show with the famous line: “Welcome to WrestleMania Three!” On the True Story of WrestleMania DVD, a teary-eyed Vince talks about how at that moment he was very emotional because he was thinking about his late father.
The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin sang America the Beautiful. Very well done, I have to say.
They threw it to the announce booth with Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura plus celebrity guests Mary Hart (from Entertainment Tonight) and Bob Uecker, who was a baseball player, an announcer and he did a lot of television work. He was also inducted in WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2010. Thankfully they weren’t guest announcers for the whole show like the ones at WrestleMania 2. They only did it for two matches.
Can-Am Connection vs. Magnificent Muraco & “Cowboy” Bob Orton w/Mr. Fuji
The Can-Am Connection was the babyface team here, comprised of Rick Martel (Canadian) and Tom Zenk (American). Muraco started off with power, but Martel used his quickness to get a nearfall. He tagged in Zenk and they hit a double monkey flip on Muraco. Orton tried to attack them, but they knocked him out of the ring too. Orton was the legal man now, hitting a shoulderblock on Zenk. Zenk came back with a bodyslam and slowed it down with an armbar. The heels tried to cheat, but it failed as Muraco hit his own partner with a forearm. That led to a two count for the CAC. Martel gets the tag and then drops a leg onto the arm of Orton. Zenk gets the tag in, so does Muraco, who is the recipient of a slam by Zenk. With Zenk running the ropes, Orton hit a knee to the back and the heels took control. Orton, who was without his infamous cast at this point, tagged in with an elbow drop for two. They collided for a double KO spot. Muraco tagged in, so did Martel. He whips Muraco in and he takes an upside-down Flair bump in the turnbuckle while Orton goes after Martel. All four guys brawl in the ring as it’s breaking down. Muraco accidentally backdrops Orton and then the CAC hit a double dropkick on Muraco. A dropkick on Orton puts him on the floor. The attack on Muraco continues with Zenk lying on the mat (planking before it was cool!) while Martel hits a crossbody, Muraco trips over Zenk and that’s good enough for the finish at 5:37.
Winners by pinfall: Can-Am Connection
Post match, the crowd went wild for the CAC win.
Analysis: ** That was a fun opener. The heels didn’t work over one of the faces for a long stretch because it was such a short match. The crowd loved everything that the Can-Am Connection did, so they made the right call in terms of an opening match. It’s always wise to start off with a fast-paced match in the opener, especially if the babyfaces are going over.
They air a video package showing us how the Hercules/Billy Jack Haynes match got set up. Basically, they both used the Full Nelson (or Masterlock for you kids out there) as a finishing move, so this match would determine who was the master of the hold.
Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund interviewed Bobby Heenan, who was the manager of Hercules. Hercules says that Haynes will find out his power and why he’s the master of the Full Nelson. All Heenan said was that it’s Billy Jerk Haynes, not Jack. So there you go.
The intros for this matchup came on the small rings that guided the wrestlers down the aisle. I always loved those things. Since they didn’t use a ramp, it was a way to elevate them and make them more visible to the fans. Plus, it just looked cool.
Hercules w/Bobby Heenan vs. Billy Jack Haynes
These guys are huge with big muscles, which was not an uncommon thing in the late 80s WWF. Hercules is the heel of course while Haynes was the babyface. Hercules misses a big charge in the corner. Haynes drops him with a press slam. He goes for the Full Nelson, but Hercules goes to the corner. Haynes whipped him into the turnbuckle. Hercules came back with a huge clothesline to put Haynes down. Hercules gets a backdrop followed by a hard whip into the turnbuckle. Hercules gets a suplex for two because he picked up Haynes head off the mat. He wanted to make him submit. Haynes comes back with punches, but his suplex attempt doesn’t work because his back is hurting. Hercules hits a sloppy backbreaker while Monsoon & Ventura argue about things. I loved the Monsoon & Ventura team so much. Big body slam by Hercules. The pace of this match is pretty slow. Hercules goes for the Full Nelson, but the fingers aren’t locked because Haynes is trying to fight it off. The ref lifts the arm twice although Haynes stops it from dropping a third time. He does the power up much to the delight of the crowd, which is ridiculously loud. An Irish whip leads into a double clothesline spot, putting them both down in a KO spot. Haynes hits an inverted atomic drop followed by a sloppy clothesline. Haynes hits a clothesline followed by a legdrop and a fist drop off the middle rope. Haynes goes for the Full Nelson. He’s got it locked in, but Hercules makes the ropes. They roll out to the floor where Haynes slaps on the Full Nelson outside the ring. The ref counts them out for the double countout at 7:44.
Match Result: Double Countout
Post match, Heenan kicks Haynes in the back. Brain takes off to avoid an attack. Hercules goes back in the ring and hits Haynes in the head with his steel chain. He hits him with the chain one more time. He punches him in the head with the chain one more time as Haynes starts bleeding. A blade job in match two? Awesome. To add to the punishment, Hercules puts him in the Full Nelson.
Analysis: *3/4 It was a decent power match that never really got into the next gear. The post match attack was the big story. Hercules didn’t win the match, but he won the war. He would be around the company for many years later while Haynes was gone soon after.
Backstage, Mean Gene interviewed King Kong Bundy along with his two midget partners Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook. He said he’d squash his opponents. Gene also interviewed Hillbilly Jim and his partners The Haiti Kid & Little Beaver. Jim says he’s worried about his buddies and would make sure to take care of them.
King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim, The Haiti Kid & Little Beaver
Joining the announcers for this match is Bob Uecker. Bundy went from main eventing WrestleMania 2 to working with midgets here. Three of the four midgets have “little” in their name in case you can’t tell that they are short. The rules are that Bundy and Jim had to go against eachother while the shorter guys had to go against eachother. Tokyo & Haiti start off. Then all four midgets get in there to do some rowboat action. Don’t ask if you’re unaware. Little Beaver smacks Little Tokyo in the face. Littleton and Beaver face off. Bundy gets the tag. He faces off with Beaver, who hits a dropkick, then he bails and Hillbilly Jim gets the tag. The crowd loves Hillbilly Jim. He gets a clothesline on Bundy followed by an elbow drop. The midgets jumped on Jim’s back for the pin. Bundy powered out and hit a back elbow to Jim. Bundy tries to wear down Jim, but Beaver interferes. Bundy hits a splash on Jim in the corner. Bundy’s had enough of Beaver, so he slams him and drops a big elbow. Ref disqualifies Bundy for that at the 4:12 mark.
Winners via DQ: Hillbilly Jim, The Haiti Kid & Little Beaver
Post match, Bundy wants to splash Little Beaver. Everybody protects Little Beaver including Bundy’s partners, so Bundy bails to the floor. Post match, Jim consoled his Little Beaver. Yep, I just wrote that sentence. Deal with it.
Analysis: DUD This was awful. I’m glad it was so short. Pun intended. I really think the best part of the match was that three midgets had “Little” in their name. That is so creative. Like my buddy Brandon pointed out, I think the highlight of the match was when Bundy attacked the midget. That saved it from being negative stars, really.
Backstage, Mary Hart interviewed Miss Elizabeth. Before she could really speak, Randy Savage walked in with the Intercontinental Title. He didn’t add much here. The story was that he didn’t want Elizabeth talking, so he prevented that from happening.
They showed clips about the Junkyard Dog vs. King Harley Race match that we’d be having next. Before the match started, Bob Uecker ran from the announce table to go talk to Moolah. It was supposed to be funny, but it wasn’t.
Backstage, Gene talked to Harley Race, Fabulous Moolah and Bobby Heenan. Moolah was aligned with Race because he was the “King of Wrestling” and she was the Queen. It was a match where the loser had to bow down to the winner. JYD says by the end of the match he’d be wearing the crown.
King Harley Race w/Fabulous Moolah & Bobby Heenan vs. Junkyard Dog
The loser of the match has to bow down to the winner. Race’s music is the same song that they use for Jerry Lawler. JYD gets a monstrous pop from the crowd. Right off the bat, Dog chased after Heenan, who ran inside the ring and Race booted JYD down. Dog came back with elbows to the head and a headbutt that knocked Race down. Race threw him to the floor and missed a headbutt off the apron onto the floor. Dog brought him back in the ring with a clothesline and a double knee to the head sent Race all the way to the floor. JYD slammed him back in the ring. Like a typical JYD match, the pace is very slow. Race got an armdrag, then he went for a headbutt and it didn’t work because JYD has a hard head. JYD threw him into the corner and Race bumped over the top to the floor. In the ring, JYD hit him with repeating headbutts. Heenan jumped on the apron, so Race recovered, hit a belly to belly to suplex, covered and won at 3:21. That’s it? Guess so.
Winner by pinfall: Harley Race
Post match, JYD had to bow down to Race. Race sat on a folded chair in the ring as JYD did it. Then Race got up to celebrate, so JYD grabbed the chair and hit him in the head with the edge of the chair. After the match, JYD put the cape on much to the delight of the crowd.
Analysis: 1/2* Race took some wild bumps considering he was in his mid-40s in this point in his great career, but there wasn’t too much to the match. The finish was poorly done. It didn’t look like a move that would put away a guy like JYD and he didn’t do a very good job of selling it either. The post match altercation got the heat back for JYD.
Backstage, Vince interviewed Hulk Hogan in the locker room. Hogan did one of his very loud, over the top type of promos where he ripped his shirt off and spoke about the doubters. Even though Hogan was the champion for three years, the idea was that Andre was the favorite in their match. He ended it in classic Hogan fashion: “What are you gonna do Andre the Giant when the real truth, the 24 inch pythons and Hulkamania runs wild on you!” It was an intense promo, brother.
Jacques & Raymond Rougeau vs. The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg Valentine) w/Luscious Johnny V & Dino Bravo
The Rougeau Brothers are babyfaces here. Jacques would later be known as The Mountie. Brutus and Ray start it off with Ray hitting an atomic drop. Tag to Jacques leads to a double dropkick, so Valentine tags in. After a tag, Ray gets a crossbody and then Jacques tags in with a forearm to the head. He misses a springboard crossbody due to Valentine ducking out of the way. Valentine hits a bodyslam and brings in Beefcake, whose offense consists of kicks. Beefcake was an awful worker, no other way to say it really. Valentine tags in and puts the Figure Four Leglock on Jacques. Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan goes up to the broadcast booth to brag about how his clients are 2-0 even though that’s not really true. He lies. Anyway, Jacques gets to the ropes, tags in his brother Raymond and he gets a backdrop on Valentine followed by a sleeper hold. Beefcake hits a double axehandle, Ray moves and it hits Valentine. Ray picks up Valentine, Jacques goes to the top and he hits the Rougeau Bomb, which means Jacques jumping off the top and hitting Valentine in the face with his groin. Best way I can describe it. Beefcake goes to break up the pin, so Jacques goes after him and the ref tries to control that. While that’s going on, Bravo goes to the middle rope, jumps off and hits Ray in the gut while he’s covering Valentine. He rolls Valentine on top and The Hammer wins it at 4:03.
Winners by pinfall: The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg Valentine)
Post match, Valentine, Bravo & Luscious Johnny celebrate outside the ring while they yell at Beefcake in the ring. This would lead to Beefcake turning babyface.
Analysis: *1/4 They sure loved to book those finishes where the ref is distracted and the heels cheat to win, don’t they? The match featured decent tag team wrestling, but was too short to really be considered anything special.
They showed video clips highlighting the Adrian Adonis/Roddy Piper feud. It’s the feud that would turn Piper babyface. Basically, Adonis and manager Jimmy Hart got the advantage on Piper in a number of different situations. It all led to this Hair vs. Hair match.
Before the match, Gene talked to Adonis & Hart. Jimmy had a mirror with him. They didn’t say much. Piper got a thunderous ovation for his entrance. He didn’t use one of the mobile rings to get to the ring. He walked down the aisle. I should also point out that Piper had announced his retirement prior to the match, so this was the last hurrah. Of course it wasn’t his last match, but this is wrestling and they like to lie about retirements.
Hair vs. Hair match: Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis
Piper gets a standing ovation on his entrance. Roddy starts off the match whipping him with his belt from the kilt. He goes after Jimmy Hart with it, but Adonis saves him and he beats on Piper with the belt. The crowd is at a fever pitch for all of this. Piper whips him into the corner and Adonis takes an upside down bump all the way over the top to the floor. Piper pulls Adonis back in, Hart holds onto him and Piper gives them the dreaded DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER~! Then Piper whips Hart into Adonis and they both go flying over the top to the floor. Great bumping by Adonis. For a fat guy he could really bump his rather large ass off. Back in the ring, Piper whipped Adonis across the ring and on the other side Hart climbed the top so Piper threw Hart into Adonis. Moments later, Adonis got control thanks to Hart tripping up Piper. Adonis hits a clothesline. Piper hits an eye poke, but that doesn’t slow Adonis as he dumps Piper to the floor. Adonis rams him head first into the announce table followed up by Jimmy Hart hitting Piper in the gut. Piper rolls back in the ring, telling Adonis to keep bringing it to him and they get into a slugfest. I’ve always liked Piper as a heel more than face, but the fire he’s showing is outstanding. The ref admonishes Adonis, so Hart sprays Adrian’s perfume into Piper’s face. Adrian puts him in the sleeper. Roddy tries to fight out of it. Piper’s arm drops twice and Adrian lets go before the third one because he thinks it’s over. He celebrates with Jimmy while the ref tells them no and then Brutus Beefcake runs in to revive Piper. Slapping him in the face works. He should have thrown water on him or something. Piper decks Hart with punches, avoids an Adonis attack and Piper puts Adonis into the sleeper. The ref raises the hand of Adonis three times. That’s it. Piper wins via the sleeper at 6:54.
Winner via submission: Roddy Piper
Post match, Beefcake uses the clippers to shave the head of Adonis. Now you know why he would eventually be known as The Barber. To celebrate, Piper was throwing some of Adrian’s hair into the crowd. After they cut most of his hair, Piper held Adrian’s mirror up to show him and Adrian was furious about it. The crowd loved all of this. Piper’s energy was amazing. After Howard Finkel announced it was his final match, a fan ran into the ring to hug him. Piper patted him on the head and then security guys tackled him in the ring. It was pretty funny seeing this guy run into the ring as Piper is trying to sell the moment of it being his last match. Gorilla was putting over the retirement angle big saying it would be the last time we see Piper in the squared circle. Not exactly.
Analysis: **1/4 As a match it was solid. If you’re looking at it purely from an entertainment standpoint it was fantastic. Listen to the crowd. They were hot for every second of it. Adonis was a solid heel, Hart was interfering at every turn and Piper showed the kind of heart that we all love to see out of a babyface. Piper’s strengths were his verbal skills as well as his charisma. He’s one of the best ever in both departments. The matches weren’t always classics, but few people have ever gotten the reactions that Piper did. They billed it as Piper’s retirement because he would move on to try acting full time. He was only 33 years old at this time, though, so I doubt many people actually believed this would be the end of his career. He’d return two years later at WrestleMania 5.
They had an intermission. When they returned, Mary Hart & Bob Uecker were in the booth with Gorilla Monsoon. Where was Jesse? In the ring getting introduced by Finkel as “the man that allegedly tells it like it is.” Jesse shook hands with the Hart Foundation.
The next match was a six-man tag between the tag champs Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart along with Danny Davis, who was a ref that turned heel to help the Hart Foundation win the titles. They cut backstage to a pre-match promo with Jimmy Hart threatening the British Bulldogs & Tito Santana. The Bulldogs & Santana got big pops on their intro. They were accompanied by their bulldog Matilda, who immediately went after Jimmy Hart.
The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis vs. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana
Santana started with Bret as Jesse took Matilda to the back. I guess that’s why he was out there. Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith tagged in, then Smith stopped Bret from interfering and rammed the Hart Foundation together for the DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER~! Davey Boy tagged in Dynamite Kid for a headbutt and then Tito got his turn. Neidhart drove him back to his corner so his team could isolate him. Santana got out of there and tagged in Smith, who hit a backdrop on Neidhart. Uecker was pretty good on commentary. Tag to Bret, who missed an elbow off the middle ropes. Kid whipped Bret into the corner where he did his customary sternum bump into the turnbuckle. Headbutt for Kid, pin attempt gets two as Anvil breaks it up. Bret works over Dynamite in the corner as Gorilla calls Bret the “excellence of execution.” Think that name would stick? The answer is yes. Anvil tags in for brief offense and then Bret hits an elbow off the middle ropes. Danny Davis tags in, kicks Kid twice and tags out to Bret. The crowd is loud for this one although not as loud as they were during the Piper match. Mary suggests we’ll have to rename Dynamite as “Firecracker” if he doesn’t shape up here. What a terrible joke. It’s giving me flashbacks of the awful commentators from WrestleMania 2. More quick tags for the Hart Foundation as Bret brings Davis in one more time. He hits some weak kicks again and tags Bret back in. They tag Danny in, do the slingshot to bring him in and Dynamite gets his knees up. Tag to Santana, who goes nuts on Davis with fists of fury plus a backdrop. The story was that Davis was the ref when Tito lost the Intercontinental Title to Randy Savage about a year earlier, so he was getting his revenge here. Tito hits the flying forearm as the crowd goes absolutely nuts. Tito goes for the Figure Four, but Anvil breaks it up. Tito tags in Davey Boy, who hits a big clothesline on Davis. He whips him into Kid’s knee and then he hits a Tombstone Piledriver. He picks him right up and nails a delayed suplex. The crowd loves this beating on Davis. Smith hits the running powerslam, but Anvil saves again. Tito hits him with the flying forearm, Kid goes after Bret, Jimmy Hart gives Davis the megaphone and he nails Smith in the head with it. The ref counts the pin at 8:52 as Davis wins for his team.
Winners by pinfall: The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis
Analysis: *** That was a lot of fun. A fast-paced tag team match like all Hart Foundation/British Bulldog matches. It’s another finish on this show with the manager making the difference. As for Dynamite Kid, his back injury really limited him and he was never the same kind of performer again. Meanwhile, for Bret Hart, this is the first of what would be many good matches at WrestleMania with some amazing ones to come down the road.
After the match, Gorilla thanked Mary Hart at the announce booth, so her expertise won’t be a part of matches for the rest of the show. I cheered.
Backstage, Mean Gene talked to Andre The Giant and his manager Bobby Heenan. Heenan said that Andre is going to win because he hasn’t lost in 15 years and nobody has a burning will inside more than Andre. “Hulkamania is over. Hulkamania is dead.” He said everybody was picking Andre because nobody can defeat Andre. He says he’s getting ready because he’s going to manage the new Heavyweight Champion of the World. Heenan was incredible here, which is why he was the perfect manager for Andre. The Giant said nothing the entire time while the camera focused on his intense face. That’s how you make good use of two minutes to do a backstage promo to hype up a match.
We go back to the ring where “The Natural” Butch Reed, with his manager Slick, is awaiting their opponent Koko B. Ware. You may know Koko as one of the least deserving Hall of Famers in WWE history. It’s not that Koko was awful. He just isn’t really Hall of Fame worthy. Koko enters via the rolling ring along with his bird, Frankie.
Butch Reed w/Slick vs. Koko B Ware
Reed was the heel here while Ware generated some good pops as the midcard babyface. They lock up to start, but nothing really happens until Reed dominates with punches. Koko uses his speed and hits a dropkick that sends Reed out to the floor. Whip into the ropes, Koko hits him in the gut with a punch followed by a shot to the head. Reed decks him with a punch to the throat, but Koko comes back with an arm drag followed by a series of punches and a dropkick for two. Rake to the eyes by Reed, but Koko comes back with a quick small package for two. Koko runs off the ropes, he hits a crossbody, Reed rolls through, covers him with a handful of tights and that’s enough for the victory at 3:39.
Winner: Butch Reed
Post match, Koko was mad so he punched Reed in the head. Slick attacked Koko from behind. Out of nowhere, Tito Santana ran in to save Koko. Tito ripped the clothes off of Slick, who ran away. In the ring, Tito & Koko gave a double dropkick to Reed to send him out of the ring.
Analysis: 1/2* Bad match. No flow to it. It was a near four-minute match that had as few moves as you could possibly have. The post match attack was done to make the crowd happy, which again is a common theme on this show.
Next up is a match I’m sure that 95% of you have heard of: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat. They showed a video of how the match got set up. During a match between the two in October of 1986, Steamboat was up against the railing and Macho Man jumped off the top with a double axehandle, causing Ricky to grab his throat. Later on, when they were back in the ring, Savage jumped off the top rope with the ring bell and he drove it across the throat of Steamboat. Moments later, Steamboat got taken out on a stretcher with Vince McMahon yelling on commentary: “He can’t breathe, look at that! He can’t breathe!” There’s a video of the whole thing here. Vince put over the angles well. A few months after the injury, which was in October 1986, Steamboat returned to action following the “crushed larynx” injury. The other wrinkle in the match was that George “The Animal” Steele had feelings for Macho Man’s manager Elizabeth, so he’d be involved in this match too.
They went to a pre-tape from earlier in the night with Macho Man cutting an awesome promo. He says: “I am the Lord and Master of the Ring and you’re going to find that out one athlete to another right now!” I loved that one athlete to another part because they were the best athletes in the company. Then he ended it with this famous line: “History beckons the Macho Man…yeah!” Following the promo, Macho Man makes his way down to the ring with Elizabeth by his side. He had a lot of cheers for his entrance because I think people were starting to realize just how good Macho Man was. Savage had the title for 14 months at this point, which again makes this match really important because of how prestigious the IC Title was at this time.
In the interview room, Mean Gene talked to Ricky Steamboat, who gave one of the better interviews of his career. I loved it when he said “Randy Savage…we have reached our moment.” Steamboat made his way to the ring along with George “The Animal” Steele, who would be in his corner for the match. Ricky got a huge ovation during his entrance.
On a personal note, I’ve watched this match many times in my life. Too many times to count. This will be my first time writing about it. Let’s do this.
Intercontinental Title: “Macho Man” Randy Savage w/Elizabeth vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat w/George “The Animal” Steele
Steamboat gets the advantage early as there’s a feeling out process. Savage jumps to the floor, then walked Elizabeth to the other side of the ring. Steamboat gets two arm drags and a two handed choke on Savage before he tosses him to the mat. Savage bails to the floor, Steamboat chases and then when they go back in the ring, Randy got the advantage. Macho chokes him across the top rope for a nearfall, the first of many of those. Savage charges in the corner, Steamboat moves and then Ricky works on the left arm of Savage, draping it over the top rope. Back in the ring, Ricky continues to work over the left arm. Savage grabs hair to get out of it and hits a sharp back elbow. Savage throws Steamboat over the top to the floor. Savage drapes him over the top rope and hits him with an elbow to the throat, which of course is a great move because that’s the injury Steamboat had prior to the match. Randy brings him back in and hits an elbow for two. Knee drop for two. Steamboat comes back with punches to the head and a chop locks up Savage in the ropes. That’s a spot they loved doing in the 80s where a guy would be tied in the ropes. Macho fought out with kicks. They run into the ropes and Steamboat gets a crossbody for two. Ricky gets an armdrag followed by two successive shoulder blocks for two each time. This time, as Steamboat runs the ropes, Savage avoids it and hits a knee to the back. I love that counter. Savage throws Steamboat over the top rope, but this time Ricky holds on and pulls himself back in the ring doing the skin the cat move. The crowd loved it. Seconds later, Savage hit a clothesline to send Steamboat all the way to the floor again. The pace of this match has been ridiculously fast, unlike anything on the card to this point.
Macho Man follows the Dragon out to the floor and he hits a running knee to the back that sends Steamboat over the railing. Steele helps Ricky to his feet while Ventura wonders why the ref isn’t counting him out. He was admonishing Savage in the ring. Steamboat gets back in the ring, so Savage throws him out on the other side. This time Randy goes to the top and people in the crowd are screaming because they remember this is how Steamboat got hurt in the first place. Savage hits the double axehandle on the floor although this time Steamboat wasn’t near the railing. The pop for that move was huge. In today’s wrestling, nobody would react to it. Back in the ring, Savage gets another double axe handle and an elbow shot to the head for two. Macho drapes him throat first over the ropes again, this time for two. Atomic drop by Savage gets two. Suplex by Savage gets two again. That’s the tenth two count of the match. Yes I’m counting. Back to their feet, Steamboat fights back with chops, but Savage stops it with a rake of the eyes and he follows that up with a beautiful gutwrench suplex for two. Back up, Steamboat escapes a back suplex, then he puts his head down, Savage boots him in the head, charges in and Steamboat gives him a back body drop over the top to the floor. Huge pop from the crowd for that one.
Steamboat rolls Savage back in the ring and he hits a chop off the top rope for a count of two because Randy’s foot is on the ropes. Back up, Steamboat whips him in and hits a chop for two. With Savage on the mat, Steamboat chops him three times and then punches him out to the floor. Savage rolls back in, Steamboat chases him, goes on the apron and Steamboat leaps in with a sunset flip for a count of two. The crowd thought that was it. They are really doing a good job of making it seem like the match can end at any moment. Back up, Savage throws a punch, Steamboat ducks and rolls him up for a count of two for the 15th nearfall of the match. Savage gets back up, Steamboat trips him with his hand and covers in a reverse double leg hookup, as Gorilla called it, for two. Back to their feet, Steamboat with a small package gets another two count. That one was very believable too. The best way to describe the crowd noise is to say that they are extremely loud the entire time. It’s not like they are building to high spots. The whole thing is a high spot because they are working so well together. Steamboat comes back with a bodyslam and then slingshots Savage into the corner with Randy taking the bump into the post. He falls back into Steamboat for two. Macho is so frustrated he throws a punch at ref Dave Hebner, who avoids the punch. That’s one of those little moments you don’t realize the first time you see it, but over time you appreciate it because it’s a heel trying to do a cheap thing to avoid the current situation. Steamboat rolls up Savage for two again and this time Randy counters by grabbing the tights to sit on top for…you guessed it…two. That’s the 20th two count of the match. The announcers argue over the nearfalls with Jesse thinking that referee Dave Hebner was counting slowly during Savage’s pinfall attempt while Gorilla defends the ref.
They get back up to a vertical base with Steamboat throwing punches, so Savage grabs the tights and whips Steamboat into the turnbuckle to get the advantage once again. Savage whipped Steamboat in, it got reversed, then reversed again and Steamboat went crashing into referee Dave Hebner. Savage hits a clothesline. He goes to the top rope and hits the big elbow off the top, which was his finishing move of course. The ref is out. Jesse is freaking out about it, saying the match should be over. Savage tries to revive the ref, but he’s not moving. Is he knocked out or tired after counting 20 nearfalls? Anyway, Savage goes to the floor, grabs the ring bell and the crowd is screaming now. He wants to go to the top rope with it, but Steele grabs the bell from him much to the delight of the crowd. Savage boots him in the head and picks up the bell once again. Savage goes up, but Steele is back up and shoves Savage off the top rope. The ref got back to his feet, Savage picked up Steamboat, went for a bodyslam, Steamboat rolled through, small package and it’s the one…two…three! Steamboat wins it at 14:35. Huge ovation for that! Wow.
Winner by pinfall and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Ricky Steamboat
The ovation for Steamboat as he’s being handed in the IC Title was ridiculously loud. The announcers were arguing about it with Jesse saying that Savage would have won if Hebner wasn’t knocked down. Even after the match, the arena was still buzzing. Both guys left in their rolling rings to big reactions.
Analysis: ***** Five stars out of five. You know the “steal the show” phrase they use in wrestling all the time? This match stole the show. It’s the one that holds up over time more than any match from the 1980s and should be remembered as one of the best matches ever from any era. Both guys did an incredible job here, especially with the nearfalls. Like I said, there were 20 different two counts in this match. It was their way of putting over how much they wanted to win. They weren’t lazy pin covers. They were done in a smart way. The athleticism shown by each guy was unlike anything you’d see during this time period. Like Savage said in the pre-match promo, they were athletes going at it. I know that each guy had a number of matches go longer than this during their illustrious careers, but very few of them were as emotional as this. The build to the match was excellent and the execution of the match was even better. While it wasn’t perfect wrestling, it was damn near close to being that. I’m sure some will rate question me rating it a five star match and that’s fine. I thought about it. The wrestling was flawless with what appeared to be no missed spots and the ref bump and interference by Steele were fine because it helped the story of Savage being a cheating bastard. There’s a reason that so many current wrestlers hold this match in such high regard. It’s because nothing before Savage/Steamboat captured the imagination of the fans in such a way and few matches after it have been able to do it as well. The bottom line is that Savage/Steamboat at WrestleMania 3 is one of the best matches ever. No question about it. Five stars.
From here, Savage went on to turn babyface soon after because he was getting a lot of cheers even though he was acting like one of the biggest jerks in wrestling. A year later Savage had a much bigger role in the company, which we’ll get to in the WrestleMania IV recap next time. Steamboat’s reign as IC Champ was a short one. He dropped the title to the Honky Tonk Man shortly after this because he asked for some time off to be with his wife as she gave birth to their son, who by the way is a top talent in FCW now and will soon be on the main roster. After dropping the title, Steamboat was given the time off he had asked for and when he came back he didn’t get pushed to the top. He parted ways with WWE in early 1988 and ended up in the NWA where he had three memorable matches over the NWA Title with Ric Flair in 1989 that are among the best matches ever. This match did a lot for the careers of both guys although it is a shame that there would be no major rematches on the grandest stage one more time.
Backstage, Mean Gene talked to Jake Roberts along with singer Alice Cooper, who was the man that would be in Jake’s corner. They showed a clip of when Honky Tonk Man attacked Roberts in the “Snake Pit” with his guitar, which is why this match is happening. Roberts said that Honky Tonk Man may have attacked him, but he didn’t finish the job. Cooper said that he’d keep an eye on Jimmy Hart and that it meant a lot to him to be there because he was from Detroit.
The crowd responded very nicely to Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Alice Cooper. He’s got his snake Damien in the bag as well. Backstage, Gene talked to Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart, who said the fans wanted to hear him sing. That’s a lie, of course. Honky Tonk Man entered with “Colonel” Jimmy Hart and his guitar, Peggy Sue.
Jake Roberts vs. The Honky Tonk Man
With HTM (that’s what I’ll use as a short form) on the apron, Roberts attacked right away. Roberts opens with punches followed by a knee lift as HTM tries to escape. He throws HTM in the ring, then HTM escapes again and Jake follows him out, hitting a bodyslam on the floor before rolling him back in the ring again. Roberts charges him in the corner, but HTM gets the knees up to block it. The crowd isn’t as loud as they were before probably because the Savage/Steamboat was so amazing. Jake hits his patented short clothesline. He went for the DDT, but HTM slipped out and rolled to the floor. This was in the days when only Roberts did the DDT and it was a deadly finisher. These days, lots of people use DDT variations. Out on the floor, Hart distracted Roberts and HTM capitalized by throwing him into the railing. HTM hits a knee to the face to keep Roberts outside the ring while Alice tries to help Roberts. Back in the ring, HTM hits a bodyslam and a fist drop off the middle ropes. Honky follows that up with boots to the gut and then some punches to knock him down to the mat. HTM gets a back elbow to knock Roberts and then another one when he’s on the ground. He goes for the Shake, Rattle & Roll neckbreaker, but Roberts counters with a back drop. Roberts comes back with an inverted atomic drop. He decks HTM with a series of punches and hits another backdrop. Roberts hits some more punches, then he signals for the DDT, but Hart trips up Jake. HTM trips him up, covers him, puts his hand on the ropes and that’s good enough for the pinfall victory at 7:04.
Winner by pinfall: Honky Tonk Man
After the match, Roberts went after him with the guitar, but HTM left and Jimmy Hart was alone in the ring. Alice & Jake trapped him, leading to Alice grabbing the snake out of the bag. Roberts held him as Cooper put the Snake near Hart and then Roberts threw the snake on Hart. It was another way for a babyface to get their heat back after they lost the match.
Analysis: *1/2 It was a slow-paced match without much of a flow to it. Honky Tonk Man wasn’t really known for being great on offense or for having great matches. Roberts was more of a psychological worker, but they didn’t have enough time to tell that kind of story. The finish was a little sloppy too. Post match, Roberts got his revenge on Hart so that was satisfying enough for the fans in attendance.
Ring announcer Howard Finkel brought Mean Gene Okerlund to the ring. They had matching mustaches and bald spots. Adorable. Gene announced that they had set an indoor attendance record: 93,173 people. The crowd goes nuts for it.
Next up is a tag team match featuring The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff along with their manager, Slick. Apparently Slick didn’t get a new shirt after Tito ripped it up earlier. Volkoff sang the Russian national anthem. The crowd booed. Out of nowhere, Hacksaw Jim Duggan ran out with his 2×4 because as he pointed out this was the home of the brave and the land of the free. He wasn’t going to let Volkoff sing the anthem. The opponents for Sheik & Volkoff entered next, the Killer Bees.
The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff vs. The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair & Jumping Jim Brunzell
Sheik & Volkoff attacked them early. The Bees countered them in the corner and then they knocked Volkoff out of the ring while they double teamed Sheik in the middle. The Bees hit a double back elbow and tagged quickly as they worked on Sheik. Double hip toss on Sheik followed by the double knees to the face by Brunzell. Blair hits an elbow to the arm. The Bees tagged out about 8 times in the first two minutes. Brunzell tagged in and hit a beautiful dropkick for a count of two as Volkoff saved his partner. The heels double teamed Brunzell in their corner with Volkoff stomping away. Sheik got the tag and hit a double axe for two. He tagged out, Volkoff put Brunzell in the bearhug and then tagged Sheik back in, who got a gutwrench suplex. Vertical suplex by Sheik gets two. Whip into the ropes, Brunzell comes back with a running high knee. Volkoff distracted the ref, so he didn’t see the tag to Blair. Sheik & Volkoff hit a double back elbow on Brunzell. Back in the ring, Sheik put Brunzell in the Camel Clutch. Meanwhile, on the floor, Duggan was chasing Volkoff around the ring, then Nikolai went into the ring, Duggan followed and decided to hit Sheik in the back with the 2×4 to the back. The ref DQ’s the Killer Bees at 5:44.
Winners by Disqualification: Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
Post match, Duggan leads another “USA” chant. That’s nice of him.
Analysis: *1/2 The match was just okay. I thought the finish could have been better, but I understand why they did what they did. They probably should have found a partner for Sheik & Volkoff to make this a six-man tag because Duggan was way more popular than the Killer Bees were.
Backstage, Gene talked to Bobby Heenan and Andre the Giant prior to the main event. Andre says it won’t take him long to win the World Heavyweight Title. Heenan says they’re ready and says that Hogan better be ready.
They showed clips of the moments that led up to this match. It started with clips of Hogan and Andre working together in happier times. Then they showed when Andre turned on him on Piper’s Pit. He challenged Hulk for the title, Hulk said no because they’re friends, so Andre ripped the t-shirt and chain around his neck. Piper asked Hogan if he would accept the challenge. His response: Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss! It was this overly dramatic yell that was typical cheesy 1980s.
Backstage, Hogan cut another promo about how the intensity of Hulkamania is going to cause the whole world to shake. Let’s just say he had a lot of energy here. His “vitamins” were working.
The guest announcer for the match is Bob Uecker. He announces the guest timekeeper Mary Hart. Now it’s time for the intros. Andre The Giant is out first along with Bobby Heenan. The crowd is booing him loudly. Jesse says that it’s dumb that Andre didn’t have a title match in 15 years of being undefeated. That does make sense while Gorilla says he never asked for a title shot before now. Apparently, you have to ask for title shots to get them. Now you know. It’s “Real American” time as Hulk Hogan walks to the ring. He doesn’t need a small ring to guide him down to the ring. The crowd is going absolutely crazy for Hogan. It’s a ridiculously loud pop that would get even louder later on.
WWE World Heavyweight Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant
The biggest staredown of all time starts the match off. On the True Story of WrestleMania DVD, they talked about how nervous Hogan was for this match. You could see it in his face. They shove eachother, then Hulk goes for a slam and he can’t get him up all the way. Andre falls on top of him for a count of two. Keep in mind that it was rare for anybody to ever take Andre off his feet, so just to attempt to do that was a big deal. I like that move to start the match. Andre punches him in the back a few times and hits a knee lift to the face. Andre delivers a bodyslam. The crowd is loud in their support of Hogan, trying to help him back up. Andre gets another bodyslam and then he walks right on the back of Hogan. Andre throws him into the corner and then he throws him into the other corner followed by a couple of shoulderblocks. Headbutt by Andre. Another headbutt misses as Hogan gets out of the corner and Hulk hits a couple of punches to the head. An elbow sends Andre in the corner. He rams Andre’s head into the turnbuckle ten times. The crowd is coming alive. Hogan bounces off the ropes, charges in and Andre stops him with the big boot to the face. Nice counter there. Andre gives him the bearhug right in the middle of the ring. He’s in the hold for well over two minutes. That’s way too long. It’s hurting the credibility of the move and it’s also slowing down an already slow match. The ref checks on Hogan’s arm, it drops down twice but the third time he shows he still has the strength as the crowd goes wild. He breaks out of the hold with a series of punches to the head.
Hogan charges in with a shoulderblock, but Andre is still standing. Hogan does it again and it moves Andre a few steps this time. He charges in again, but this time Andre chops him in the throat to knock him down. He whips Andre into the ropes and boots him in the gut, sending Hogan out to the floor. Andre chokes him on the floor, goes for a headbutt and ends up hitting his head on the ring post because Hulk moved. It’s painful watching Andre sell. He was near the end of his career and his mobility was very bad. I’m not trying to disrespect him. I’m just pointing it out because it’s a testament to the guy for putting on the match in the first place. Hogan removed the mat outside the ring and went for a piledriver for some reason. Andre dumped him backward, sending Hogan into the exposed concrete although that was not a good bump. Back in the ring, Andre whipped him into the ropes, missed a kick and Hogan came back with a running clothesline that sends Andre to the mat. The crowd is louder than they’ve ever been. Nobody ever knocked Andre down, as Jesse pointed out. Hulk was feeling the power of Hulkamania. Here’s the big moment. Andre stumbles into Hulk and Hogan gives him the bodyslam heard round the world. That’s one of the biggest moments in wrestling history. The crowd popped for that move more than any move you will ever see. That’s the best way to describe it. It’s just a ridiculously loud noise the likes of which would be hard to duplicate. Hogan hits the leg drop and he covers for the pinfall victory at 12:00.
Winner by pinfall: Hulk Hogan
The reaction to Hogan’s win was one of the loudest ovations you will ever hear. I’d rank it up there as the biggest pop in the history of wrestling, to be perfectly honest. You can probably argue for other things, but in my opinion, this is one of the loudest crowd reactions of all time. Even though Hogan won the match, the feud wasn’t over here. We’ll look at it more in the review of WrestleMania 4.
Analysis: *1/2 This is one of those matches where even I will admit the match quality doesn’t really matter. It’s not like there were a whole lot of great nearfalls or counter wrestling here. It was about the moments. In terms of memorable matches, this is in the top five all time and is arguably at the top of that list. The bodyslam by Hogan on Andre was such a huge deal. I don’t know if I can put it into words, but if you’ve seen the clip and heard the ovation you know how much it mattered.
Post match, Hogan did his usual celebrating in the ring much to the delight of the record-setting crowd.
To end the show, Gorilla & Jesse recapped the key moments on the card and they played a video package showing pictures of what happened on the show.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– It was a great move by Vince McMahon and company to put this show in the Silverdome. It made every match seem important in a way that a smaller venue could not. Sure, the crowd would have been loud for the big moments no matter where the event was, but this crowd was unlike any I’ve ever seen. Even the WrestleManias in the last decade, which have been mostly held in football stadiums, haven’t had crowds as loud as this. It’s probably because fans are more jaded today. You can hear the passion of the fans even in midcard matches. This would have been a very good show in any venue, but the Silverdome crowd made it great.
– The Hogan/Andre match might be the most famous wrestling match of all time. What more is there to say? It’s not always about being a technical classic. This is one of my favorite Hogan matches just because of how they set it up. I also was a huge Andre fan for as long as I could remember, so it was nice to see he was able to make it through the match considering his physical limitations.
– What more can be said about the Steamboat/Savage match? I’m not sure how many five star matches I’ll be giving out at all of the WrestleManias combined, but it’s the first and only one for about seven years or so. I bet you can guess what another possible one can be. If you haven’t watched this match yet, do yourself a favor and seek it out. It’s worth it.
– Notice how many matches had a manager involved? 11 out of 12. The only match that didn’t was the one featuring the midgets. These days they barely use any managers in WWE or TNA, but 25 years ago they were a key part of every match. I’m not sure why Vince McMahon has changed his theory on managers so much. I’ve always believed they were useful and guys like Bobby Heenan & Jimmy Hart were exceptionally good here.
– I thought Monsoon & Ventura were fantastic on commentary here, probably the best performance they ever had as a team. The job they did for the Steamboat/Savage and Hogan/Andre matches were exceptionally great. They argued about things, but not in a way that took away from the action like you might hear Cole & Lawler today.
Best Match: Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage – Easily the best match of the night. No question about it.
Worst Match: King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim, The Haiti Kid & Little Beaver – Absolutely brutal.
Most Memorable Moment: Hulk Hogan’s bodyslam on Andre – The Steamboat/Savage match was incredible, but if you’re looking for just one moment then it’s all about Hogan on Andre.
I’ve decided to upgrade the star count to five for every show because it’s hard to pick just three.
1. Randy Savage – Arguably the best performance of his legendary career.
2. Ricky Steamboat – Definitely the best moment of his career in WWE.
3. Andre The Giant – He put over Hogan in a huge way. Andre deserves a lot of praise for gutting it out despite his obvious physical limitations.
4. Hulk Hogan – The pressure was on. He did a great job.
5. Roddy Piper – The energy Piper showed was off charts. The crowd loved him for it, as they should.
Show rating (out of 10): 7
When I think of WrestleMania 3, the two things I will always remember are the two memorable matches. Of course, I’m talking about Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant. I’ve seen both matches so many times over the last 25 years that I could remember some of the spots off the top of my head. They are that iconic. They are that special. Both of those matches mean so much to the history of not only WWE, but the entire wrestling business.
Like I said in the beginning, this is arguably the most important show in history. The good thing is it’s also one of the better ones too. Twenty-five years later, WrestleMania III is still a tremendous success.