And the entire sport summed up in a single shot.
Date: March 29, 1987
Location: Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan
Commentators: Jesse Ventura, Gorilla Monsoon
I’m not sure what else there is to say here. Wrestlemania III is one of those shows that you have probably seen before and if you haven’t then you probably know about it. Aside from the Hogan vs. Andre showdown, there’s the legendary and influential Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat match for the Intercontinental Title. Let’s get to it.
Vince introduces Aretha Franklin for America the Beautiful.
The announcers, including celebrities Bob Uecker (baseball announcer) and Mary Hart (Entertainment Tonight anchor), talk for a bit. Uecker and Hart will only be around for a match here and there.
Can-Am Connection vs. Bob Orton/Magnificent Muraco
The Connection is the latest pretty boy tag team comprised of Tom Zenk and Rick Martel. Rick shoulders Muraco down to start and monkey flips him for two. You can definitely see a different style in this stadium setting as opposed to an arena. Everything breaks down to start and the villains are quickly dispatched to the floor for a meeting with manager Mr. Fuji.
Back in and Zenk armdrags Orton down as the fans are way into this. You can hear the roars on just basic moves and there’s really nothing like it. Muraco hits Orton by mistake and Zenk gets two. It’s off to Muraco and Orton gets in a knee to Zenk’s back from the apron to FINALLY give the bad guys an opening. That’s about it for their control though as Zenk sneaks over for the tag to Martel as everything breaks down again. A dropkick puts Orton on the floor and Zenk trips Muraco up as Martel cross bodies him for the pin at 5:37.
Rating: C+. I’ve always really liked this match because it was a perfect choice for an opener. It’s a fast paced little tag match that doesn’t mean anything in the long run but gave the fans something fun to watch to get them warmed up. Today this would be a dark match or on the preshow but here it’s the perfect choice for the opener.
We recap Billy Jack Haynes (he’s strong and from Oregon, end of his character.) vs. Hercules, which is about who is better with the full nelson. There’s nothing more to it than that and it’s not the hottest feud in the world.
Hercules says we’ll find out who the real master of the hold is. Heenan corrects Okerlund and says it’s Billy Jerk Haynes.
Hercules vs. Billy Jack Haynes
Since the entrances weren’t shown in the first match, we get to see the motorized ring carts to help cut down some of the time spent walking down the huge aisle. Those are always really cool but they only appeared twice. They shove each other around to start until Hercules gets a knee in to the ribs, only to miss a charge. Again, every move is done so that fans far away can easily tell what’s going on. Everything involves big motion and simple moves but it works really well for what they’re going for.
Hercules nails a big clothesline and whips Haynes hard across the ring. He’s starting to work on the neck and back for the really basic (not a bad thing) psychology of the match. A suplex gets two for Hercules as he pulls Hayes up instead of trying for the pin. There’s a gorilla press to set up the full nelson but Hercules doesn’t have the hands locked.
It still has Haynes in trouble but he powers up after two arm drops. A double clothesline puts both of them down and it’s Hayes up first with even more clotheslines. I know they’re repetitive but at least it makes sense for setting up the full nelson. Haynes gets the full nelson but Hercules pulls the ropes to send them both outside. Billy gets it again but it’s a double countout at 7:52.
Rating: C. You can tell the card has been put together with a lot of care. The show started with a fast paced match and then they have a power match. It keeps the fans from getting bored with the same kind of match and this worked really well. This is another fun match that doesn’t mean much but is entertaining enough. We’re not even half an hour into the show so they have plenty of time to get to the big stuff and this was a nice addition to the card.
Hercules uses his chain to bust Haynes open and then slaps on the full nelson.
King Kong Bundy wants to get his hands on Hillbilly Jim and doesn’t care if he has to run over all four of the midgets to get there. Yes, this is Bundy’s followup to main eventing last year.
King Kong Bundy/Lord Littlebrook/Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim/Little Beaver/Haiti Kid
Most of the midgets are in their 40s or 50s with Little Beaver pushing 60. Jim is a country boy from Kentucky for another very simple character. Uecker is on commentary here for his comedy stylings. All four little guys come in with the good ones taking over with a row boat (all four are on the mat with the good guys pulling on the others’ legs) for the “funny” segment. Beaver sneaks over and punches Bundy in the stomach so here’s King Kong in off the tag.
It’s quickly off to Jim, much to Jesse’s dismay. Jim scores with a clothesline and a big elbow but Bundy kicks out, even with Jim’s partners piling on the cover. The Avalanche splash in the corner crushes Jim as Uecker uses the dirtiest puns he can. Bundy throws Beaver around and drops a big elbow on him for the DQ at 4:00. That would be the end of Beaver’s career, though again he was almost sixty years old at this point.
Rating: D. Yeah I’m not sure what else you can say here. This was the comedy match of the night and to be fair they kept it really short (pun not intended but I’ll take it). I’ve never gotten the appeal of these things and they’re still not very funny but maybe the kids in the audience found it funny. Jim was definitely a kid friendly character so in theory that’s what they were going for here.
Randy Savage interrupts an interview with Elizabeth because he thinks it should be about him. He’s not really mean here as much as totally self absorbed.
Recap of Junkyard Dog vs. King Harley Race. It’s another simple idea: Race wants Dog to bow to him but Dog says he bows to no man and thinks maybe he should be King instead. This was when the King of the Ring was a title that could be won, though it was rarely defended.
Heenan gives the crown jewels to Fabulous Moolah (the Queen) to present to Race after the match.
The Dog says he’ll be sitting on the throne with the crown upon his head.
Harley Race vs. Junkyard Dog
The loser must bow. I don’t think you need an explanation on Harley Race. Dog gets a huge ovation here and seems totally in his element in a huge stadium like this. Uecker freaks out that Moolah is here and goes down to find her. Heenan offers a quick distraction but Dog easily wins a slugout with Race.
The King sends him outside but misses a falling headbutt from the apron. Back in and Dog knocks Race right back over the top with the King’s face slamming into the apron. Race’s head trauma continues as he hurts himself on a falling headbutt, followed by Dog’s all fours headbutts. Heenan jumps on the apron for a distraction though, allowing Race to grab a belly to belly for the pin at 3:23. King barely had any offense in the whole match.
Rating: D. That was a really quick ending after Dog was squashing Race for the most part. It made Race’s finisher look great but it was a weird way to get to the ending. To be fair though, Race was just in the WWF for a check at this point so it’s not like losing most of the match was going to do him any harm.
Post match Race sits in his chair and Dog bows, only to beat Race up with the chair in a move that draws cheers.
Hogan says he rode here on his motorcycle and people were telling him it was his last ride. One day everyone has to face the truth and that’s what he does today. All he has to do today is beat a 7’4, 550lb giant. That’s the easy part though because Andre has to face the truth and beat every single Hulkamaniac in the world. Hulkamania is the purest form of the truth there is and the 24 inch pythons will be running wild on Andre. This was a heck of a speech and Hogan sold the heck out of the match while looking like the warrior he was supposed to be.
The Dream Team is ready for the Rougeau Brothers. Manager Luscious Johnny V: “Parlez-vous scrambled eggs?”
Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs. Dream Team
The Dream Team has been having some issues lately and now has Dino Bravo as a third man/enforcer. The Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond) are high fliers from Montreal. Raymond flips around Beefcake to start so it’s quickly off to Valentine vs. Jacques. Valentine sends him into the corner and avoids a middle rope cross body before it’s back to Beefcake for some stomping. A nice backbreaker gets two on Jacques as Heenan jumps in on commentary.
Valentine’s Figure Four has Jacques in trouble until a rope is grabbed. Raymond comes in to clean house but the announcers ignore the match to talk about how Heenan’s men have done today. Beefcake hits Valentine by mistake (that’s been happening a lot lately) and Le Bombe de Rougeau (Raymond holds Valentine up so Jacques can come off the top with a seated senton) has the pin, only to have Bravo jump on Raymond and turn it over to give Greg the pin at 4:03.
Rating: D+. This was much more about storytelling than the match itself which is fine. Beefcake was about to be turned huge and become a bigger star than the rest of the team so why not do it like this? The Rougeaus were a good, entertaining team and that’s all they needed to be here.
Beefcake gets left behind as Johnny, Bravo and Valentine leave in the cart.
We recap Adrian Adonis vs. Roddy Piper. Piper had returned from a hiatus and become one of the biggest stars in the company. As he returned he was attacked by Adonis, who hurt his knee and took over the Pit, turning it into the Flower Shop. The last thing you want to do is tick off Roddy Piper though and the war was on. This is Roddy’s retirement match as he’s off to Hollywood full time but there’s always one last hurrah.
Piper says no retreat and no surrender.
Adonis promises to give Piper a haircut with some hedge clippers.
Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis
Hair vs. hair and Adonis has Jimmy Hart with him. Adonis is a lot more serious and less effeminate than he was last year. Piper walks down the aisle with the biggest smile on his face. His hair is a bit longer as well to give him his better known look. They slug it out to start but Piper pulls out a belt to whip Adrian.
Adonis takes it away and whips Piper as Monsoon suddenly thinks this is unfair. Piper drags Jimmy in and whips the two of them together for a big crash. The crowd is losing it for this stuff as Piper is just crazy over. Hart trips Piper to take over though and Adonis knocks Piper to the floor. Back in and Piper says bring it on until Hart sprays cologne in his eyes.
Adonis hooks his sleeper (Goodnight Irene) and Piper goes out but Adrian lets go at two arm drops meaning the match isn’t over. Cue Brutus Beefcake (who accidentally had his hair cut by Adonis recently) to wake Piper up as Adonis and Hart celebrate. Adonis swings the clippers at Piper but hits the ropes by mistake, sending them back into his own face. Piper slaps on a sleeper and Adonis is out at 6:13.
Rating: C+. The match wasn’t anything to see and Piper would have far better matches, but this was one heck of an entertaining story, complete with Beefcake coming in to get his revenge on Adonis. This worked very well and was the perfect blowoff to a well done story from the last few weeks.
Beefcake shaves Adonis’ hair. Adrian wakes up and punches the mirror Piper holds up before bailing with Hart. Piper gets the big hero sendoff, complete with a fan trying to run in but being quickly dispatched by security.
Jesse Ventura is presented to the crowd, much to Gorilla’s annoyance. The lighting is starting to change as the sun is going down.
Jimmy Hart says the Bulldogs and Tito Santana can have the war they want.
Hart Foundation/Danny Davis vs. British Bulldogs/Tito Santana
This is another one with a long history. Davis is a former referee who went evil and cost the Bulldogs lost their Tag Team Titles to the Harts and Santana the Intercontinental Title to Savage (over a year ago) and tonight it’s about revenge. The Bulldogs’ mascot Matilda chases Jimmy around the ring to start. Mary Hart and Uecker are on commentary and Uecker is smart enough to ask Gorilla to recap the story in case the fans aren’t familiar with it. That’s something most commentators today couldn’t figure out and Bob does it on his first night.
Jesse takes Matilda to the back and Bret crawls over to Neidhart to get away from Smith. A double headbutt puts Neidhart down and a backdrop makes it even worse. Neidhart opts to just punch Smith in the face, only to have Bret miss a middle rope elbow. Dynamite takes over again as this has been one sided so far. Neidhart breaks up a pin attempt and the Harts finally take over as Uecker tries to figure out why Jimmy Hart is all over the show.
Dynamite gets beaten down by all three villains, including Davis getting in a few shots. Mary Hart: “Isn’t it time for him to get out of there? What does he have to do to get out?” A splash hits Dynamite’s knees though and the hot tag brings in Santana to clean house. The flying forearm drops Davis but Tito would rather punch him in the face than cover.
It’s back to Davey for a hard clothesline (Mary: “A clothesline? Is that what that was?”) and a tombstone. The delayed vertical suplex (a Davey trademark) sets up the running powerslam but Neidhart saves the cover on Danny’s dead body. Everything breaks down and Jimmy sends in the megaphone to knock Dynamite silly for the pin at 8:50.
Rating: D+. I wasn’t getting into this one, outstanding beating of Davis aside. The ending hurts it too as Davis just pops up after taking all that big offense and knocks Dynamite out for the pin. It wasn’t bad or anything but I could have gone for Davis taking a loss here. This really should have been the Harts defending against the Bulldogs again but at least we got a great beating.
During the replays, Uecker says that the turning point was after the tombstone when Davey didn’t go for the cover. Again: most modern announcers don’t have this level of basic insight.
Heenan, now in a white and gold tuxedo, says that Andre is winning the title and there’s nothing Hogan can do about it.
Butch Reed vs. Koko B. Ware
Power vs. speed here and Butch has Slick in his corner. Koko speeds things up to start and dropkicks Reed to the floor but Butch forearms him in the back to take over. Rights and lefts stagger Butch but he rolls through a cross body and pulls the tights to pin Koko at 3:38.
Rating: D. Nothing to see here but this is just a way to give the fans a breather before we get to the big stuff. Reed had a lot of potential with a great look and a bunch of power but he would spin his wheels for about another year before heading to the NWA in 1989 where he was half of an awesome power team called Doom. This was Koko’s bread and butter: wrestle fast, get in some good shots, then lose.
Reed and Slick beat on Koko until Tito runs in and beats Slick up. Tito rips off Slick’s “expensive” suit for fun.
We recap Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat. Savage damaged Steamboat’s throat by crushing it against the barricade. Eventually Steamboat came back and swore vengeance, setting up this match. It’s a simple story but the look on Steamboat’s face when he looked at Savage sold the whole thing.
Savage says the Dragon (Steamboat) can’t stop history.
Steamboat says they have reached their moment and the Dragon is going to scorch Savage’s back. Ricky has George Steele in his corner as a friend and a continuation of Steele’s feud with Savage.
Intercontinental Title: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat
Savage is defending and gets a big face pop as he’s earned the fans’ respect. Steamboat throws the champ down to start and Savage bails to the floor to keep Elizabeth away from Steele. Back in and Steamboat grabs some very deep armdrags and chokes Savage out to the floor again. Savage gets in a few shots to take over and the fans chant for Steamboat. The chants work as Steamboat starts working on the arm, only to be sent over the turnbuckle and out to the floor.
Ever the violent one, Savage elbows the damaged throat before dropping a knee to the chest for two. Some chops to the head get Steamboat out of trouble and Savage gets tied in the ropes. Things start getting fast as they run the ropes but Savage takes him down with a knee to the back. Savage makes the eternal mistake of trying to send Steamboat over the top and the Dragon skins the cat. Who came up with that term? It sounds horrible and really has nothing to do with pulling yourself back into a ring.
Savage is right back on top of Steamboat and knocks him over the top, followed by a whip into the crowd. There’s a top rope ax handle to the back of Steamboat’s head but Jesse wants him to crush the throat again. Instead Jesse has to settle for another ax handle and a guillotine over the top rope. A gutwrench suplex gets two for the champ but Savage clotheslines him out to the floor.
Back in and Steamboat DIVES off the top and over the referee to chop Savage in the head for two as Savage’s foot was on the ropes. We hit a pinfall reversal sequence with Dragon getting several near falls. Jesse calls this one of the best matches he’s ever seen. Savage reverses on O’Connor roll into one of his own but even a handful of tights can’t pin Steamboat.
Another pull of the tights sends Steamboat shoulder first into the post and the referee gets bumped. That’s not something you often saw back in the day so this is a big deal. Savage gets the big elbow but there’s no one to count. Instead Savage gets the bell but Steele shoves him off the top and “head first onto the bell.” More like next to the bell but it sounds good. Back up and Savage tries a slam but Steamboat small packages him for the pin and the title at 14:35.
Rating: A+. This match is legendary for a lot of reasons, including Savage and Steamboat practicing the match at Savage’s home (at Savage’s insistence) so they knew it step by step, which has caused Steamboat to not be incredibly fond of it. That being said, it still holds up perfectly with both guys looking amazing through. This was a cruiserweight style match on a heavyweight level years before that style was popular. The crowd bought every bit of it and that sequence in the middle where they sped up can hang with any exchange you’ll ever see.
Steamboat and Steele leave with the title, followed by Savage who is nearly in tears. The visual of people riding the carts up the long aisle is very effective.
Jake Roberts, now fully face and incredibly popular (possibly due to an amazing mustache, says that Honky Tonk Man (a wrestling Elvis impersonator) didn’t give him his best shot in the Snake Pit (Jake’s interview show) with a guitar because Jake is still walking. Rock legend Alice Cooper will be here to keep an eye on Jimmy Hart.
Honky Tonk Man promises to win and then sing. He promises that for years but almost never delivered on it.
Jake Roberts vs. Honky Tonk Man
Roberts starts fast and rips the white and gold (popular colors tonight) Elvis suit off. Honky Tonk tries to run as Gorilla and Jesse preview Alice Cooper vs. Jimmy Hart. Back in and Jake keeps punching away before the short clothesline looks to set up the DDT. The threat of a DDT sends Honky Tonk bailing to the floor. Thank goodness he changed the oil in his hair today or he might not have been able to escape. Roberts is sent into the post to give Honky Tonk control and a middle rope fist (ala Cousin Jerry) keeps Jake in trouble.
The Shake Rattle and Roll (swinging neckbreaker. A great name for a lame move.) is countered with a backdrop. Roberts grabs an atomic drop out of the corner but unfortunately we don’t get Honky Tonk’s hilarious selling. Some right hands look to set up the DDT but Jimmy offers a distraction, allowing Honky Tonk to grab a rollup and the top rope for the pin at 7:04.
Rating: C-. It’s a rare sight to see so many midcard heels winning matches but they’re keeping things moving well enough that it doesn’t have a big impact. Honky Tonk was on the rise so the win is a good thing for him but Jake is the kind of guy who can take a loss and then bounce right back with a single promo and DDT. Something else of note here is Alice Cooper, who was a quick celebrity cameo who fit perfectly, didn’t take away from anything else, and had some fun out there. Why is that so complicated to pull off today?
Post match Honky Tonk runs but Jimmy isn’t so lucky. Jake holds him in the corner while Alice throws Damien the snake on him.
Gene Okerlund announces the all time attendance record of 93,173. I know there’s a bunch of controversy about whether they had that many people there, but here’s the thing: WWE says it at 93,173 and that’s the official record. Other than that, it really doesn’t make any difference either way because WWE is going to claim whatever they want and that’s all that matters.
Killer Bees vs. Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Sheik
Volkoff/Sheik are now managed by Slick, who is still in the torn suit. The Bees (Jim Brunzell/B. Brian Blair) are another fast paced team who had a long running feud with the Hart Foundation. Volkoff starts singing the Russian anthem but the recently debuted Jim Duggan runs down with his 2×4 to break it up. Duggan is a huge American patriot who isn’t going to stand for this Communist nonsense in his country. He’s even going to stick around ringside just in case.
It’s a big brawl to start with the foreigners being whipped into each other, only to do-see-do out of trouble…and straight into some right hands. Everything settles down with the Sheik getting his arm cranked. Brunzell’s signature dropkick gets two but everything breaks down and Brunzell gets taken into the foreign corner.
An ax handle gets two for Sheik as the ring is filling up with trash. A gutwrench suplex is good for the same as Duggan is still patrolling ringside. Brunzell finally gets in a flying knee but a Volkoff distraction means the referee doesn’t see the tag. Nikolai puts Brunzell in the camel clutch but Duggan chases Volkoff into the ring for the DQ at 5:43.
Rating: D+. They might as well have had a countdown clock telling us how much more time they had to kill before Hogan vs. Andre. This was another watchable but unremarkable match in a series of them tonight. This was much more about Duggan than anything else, which is fine considering Duggan would wind up being a bigger name than anyone else in the match.
Andre says he’s ready. Heenan says Hogan better be ready.
We recap Andre vs. Hogan. They had been friends for years until the aforementioned trophy incident. Heenan has brainwashed Andre into believing he and Hogan were never friends as Hogan is scared of facing him. To be fair though, Hogan would have a long running history of his friends turning on him over the years so maybe Andre was on to something. I mean, after all those people having issues with Hogan over the years, maybe he’s just a jerk who can’t get along with anything.
Hogan hopes the world can handle the explosion coming in the main event.
The celebrity announcements are shorter this year with Uecker as ring announcer and Mary Hart as timekeeper.
WWF World Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Hogan is defending of course. After reading off the tale of the tape, Jesse sums up everything in one statement: “This is the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling.” Hogan’s entrance is one of the most famous of all time as he walks down the aisle with Monsoon shouting that “The roof of the Silver Dome about to explode here!” I know I’ve been saying this multiple times for this show, but we get one of the most famous shots ever in wrestling as they stare each other down in the middle of the ring.
Hogan fires off three right hands and tries a slam in the first thirty seconds, only to fall backwards to give Andre a very close two. Heenan would later claim that he didn’t get the shoulder up in time and that the referee couldn’t see the kickout, eventually leading to a rematch. Andre starts in on the back and a heavy slam plants the champion. Hogan is shoved into the corner and Andre slams his hips into the ribs, followed by a big headbutt.
Some right hands have Andre stunned and you can see the sweat flying off his chest as Hogan chops away. Hogan rams him head first into the buckle over and over but charges into a boot to the face and Andre slaps on a bearhug. After a minute and a half in the hold, Hogan holds his arm up on the third drop and breaks it up with even more right hands (about 90% of his offense here). Andre is right back on offense though as he kicks Hogan to the floor, only to headbutt the post by mistake.
Ever the nice guy, Hogan tries a piledriver on exposed concrete. Again, maybe it’s Hogan’s fault that all of these broken friendships. Andre backdrops out of it and we head inside. Hogan ducks a second big boot and drops Andre with a running clothesline. The idea of Andre being knocked off his feet was unthinkable at the time and the fans are stunned. It’s Hulk Up time and Andre stands up, allowing Hogan to slam the giant and become immortal. You can see the fans rise to their feet in shock. The big leg is academic and Hogan retains at 12:07.
Rating: D+. This is always a tricky one. I don’t think it’s any secret to say the match wasn’t all that good. Andre was really slow and banged up but it was a standard formula that had worked for years for Hogan so it makes sense that they wouldn’t mess with it. However, this match has been called one of the worst of all time and that’s just not the case. It might not even be the worst match on this card.
This match was about the big fight feel and it delivered as well as it could have. I don’t think people came into this match expecting something like Savage vs. Steamboat, but for some reason people expected a ridiculously fast pace for a match between two guys destined to work a slow power style. The match isn’t great, but the moment is amazing.
Hogan poses as Heenan and Andre leave with Heenan’s head in his hands, wondering where it all went wrong.
Jesse and Gorilla recap the show to wrap it up and Aretha Franklin sings us out. You don’t often end a show to America the Beautiful but this wasn’t your run of the mill show.
Overall Rating: C+. It’s Wrestlemania III. This one of the few shows that almost every fan has seen or at least heard of and it’s very rare to hear anyone have a bad opinion of it. The show may not be the greatest of all time, but it’s certainly one that holds up over the years. It set the standard for what Wrestlemania could be with a story to almost every match on the card and one major match to draw in the fans. Even the worst matches aren’t bad and nothing overstays its welcome.
Hogan vs. Andre is still the biggest match of all time nearly thirty years later and I can’t imagine it ever being passed. Couple that with a masterpiece in Savage vs. Steamboat and it’s almost impossible to not consider this at least a watchable show. Nothing is bad, the crowd is white hot throughout and it’s definitely a historic show. What more can you ask for? Check this out if you somehow haven’t seen it before.
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