Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 03 - WWF Wrestlemania III (1987)

March 29, 1987
Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, MI
Attendance: 93,730 (78,000 actual paid attendance)

(Note: The following post was written prior to the McMahon lawsuit from January 2024.)

If there was any single show that was truly worth of the moniker "showcase of the immortals", it would be Wrestlemania III.

Some would regard this as the most important PPV in professional wrestling simply because it's responsible for putting the sports-entertainment genre on the map. Despite being the third, it is considered the pinnacle of the industry and the most successful show that made the WWF the hottest thing going. With a heavily-hyped and anticipated main event in the WWF Championship match between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant that delivered in drama along with a solid undercard, Wrestlemania III is the gold-standard for what a big-time PPV should be and what all big supercards strive to be. It is perhaps the purest highlight of the sports-entertainment form that McMahon was pushing, with a healthy balance of grandeur, celebrity, and wrestling that makes the whole thing work.

The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel and Tom Zenk) defeated Bob Orton and The Magnificent Muraco (w/Mr. Fuji) in a perfectly acceptable tag team opening contest

Billy Jack Haynes fought Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan) to a double countout outside the ring... why couldn't Hercules win this one since he could easily have been another monster heel for Hogan to topple eventually.

In a mixed tag match in which one wrestler is paired with two little people, Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver & The Haiti Kid defeated King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook via DQ when Little Beaver made the unfortunate choice of slapping Bundy's ass, which resulted Bundy dropping the elbow on this little fucker - thus making King Kong Bundy the babyface in this contest. Good on you, Bundy. No reason to take that shit from anyone.

King Harley Race (w/Bobby Heenan and The Fabulous Moolah) defeated The Junkyard Dog in a "Loser Must Bow" match... and so Dog does a half-assed bow before headbutting Race and stealing his robe. What a sore loser. And the match sucked too. Poor Harley was wishin' he was back in the NWA win World titles instead of this shit... but then I'm sure he made lots of money, so what do I know?

The Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake) (w/Johnny Valiant and Dino Bravo) defeated The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond) when Bravo cobblered Raymond and slipped the Hammer on top... this was a thing that happened, let's be honest.

In what was allegedly billed as Roddy's final match, Rowdy Roddy Piper defeated Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart) in a Hair vs. Hair Match that eventually gave birth to Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, who'd steal the clipper from Adonis. The match was fun, especially towards the end, which I will not recap because this is not a recap show, for fuck's sake. Go watch it yourself.

The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) and Danny Davis (the rogue ref, not the OVW owner) (w/Jimmy Hart) defeated The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) and Tito Santana in a fine match between five great workers and Danny Davis.

Butch Reed (w/Slick) defeated Koko B. Ware in a nothing match... and then Tito shows up to beat up Slick and steal his clothes. What a dick.

Ricky Steamboat (w/George Steele) defeated Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth) to win the title. One of the legendary Wrestlemania matches that everyone keeps talking about. You've probably already seen it a million times and think it's the greatest thing ever. And you'd be right. Yeah, Steamboat might've complained about the overly scripted nature of the match, but the end result speaks for itself as far as I'm concerned. A tremendous match.

The Honky Tonk Man (w/Jimmy Hart) defeated Jake Roberts (w/Alice Cooper) via roll-up with feet in the ropes. The match was alright... not necessarily a technical masterpiece or anything like that, but I ended up enjoying Honky's schtick a lot more than I was expecting and Jake held up his end well enough.

The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff (w/Slick) defeated The Killer Bees (Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell) via DQ when Jim Duggan came along and whacked the foreigners with his 2x4. Yeah, good job, Hacksaw. Way to make the good guys LOSE! And the match wasn't all that great, either. Sheik and Volkoff clearly have seen better days... and sadly they'd eventually see worse days a decade or so later, but we're jumping ahead here.

WWF Champion Hulk Hogan defeated André the Giant (w/Bobby Heenan) to retain the title and... look, the match was about the build to one moment. The one moment heard round the world. And once you got to that moment, the place erupted and another notch was added to the legend of Hulkamania. The historical significance of this match cannot be understated and is the main driving force of WWE's entire mission statement. It's less about the match and more about the moment. And the reaction to that moment. And make no mistake; the slam heard round the world is THE Wrestlemania moment in the eyes of many. I am not about to deny that claim.

But everything before the moment - the match, itself - man, was that painful to watch. A huge part of that was Andre being in relatively poor health, not being able to much in terms of action, each passing moment chipping away at his aura as the immovable object. This was Hogan trying to work around Andre's overwhelming limitations and man, did that poor bastard try. But when you got to the moment and you heard the pop, you almost forget everything that came before and really, that's the key thing. The rest of the show can suck ass, but if your big main event delivers, it more than makes up for it. That's Hogan/Andre in a nutshell.

Wrestlemania III was the template for all Wrestlemanias to follow and build upon. It took place in a big spacious stadium setting, the pomp and circumstance was miles above the previous shows, the whole event came across as a much bigger deal, and perhaps most importantly of all, you had a main event in Hogan/Andre that could very well have been the first true main event worthy of Wrestlemania. While the show had its slow moments, there were also some great moments and some good matches. At no point did I find the show boring - even if some of the booking was baffling, but on a whole, this was a fine PPV that still holds up almost four decades later.

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