Mike Reviews – WWF WrestleMania III (29/03/1987)
By Michael Fitzgerald on 20th March 2021
I have a Stinker Review scheduled for next week, so I decided I would review something good and historical this week to take the edge off my impending doom, thus we’re going to watch WrestleMania III!
For those of you that aren’t familiar, this was one of the biggest events in WWF history, built around the unfathomable heel turn of long-time babyface Andre The Giant, as manager Bobby Heenan got in his ear and convinced him to challenge WWF Champ Hulk Hogan for the belt. This was of course a gigantic bout (pardon the pun) and the WWF ended up coaxing thousands of fans to part with their hard earned cash to attend the show at the enormous Pontiac Silverdome.
The actual attendance for the show is disputed, with the WWF claiming 93,000 whereas promotor of the event Zane Bresloff claimed it was closer to 78,000. Regardless of which version is correct (My personal view is that the answer likely falls somewhere in the middle) A LOT of people showed up to watch dudes pretend to fight one another, so ultimately I don’t think it really matters.
I’m watching the “Championship Edition” DVD version of the event as opposed to the one on the WWE Network, so if there are any key differences between what I’m watching and what’s on there than that’s why. The DVD comes with a host of extras and the complete run-time of the entire two disc collection is bordering on 7 hours. This version also comes with pop-up factoids and comes in a neat special black DVD case, so if you haven’t completely shunned physical media and fancy having something to stick on your shelf then this could be the way to go.
Anyway, I don’t think we need too much preamble being that this is Mania III and all, so let’s just watch some chuffing wrestling eh?
The event is emanating from the Pontiac Silverdome on the 29th of March 1987
Calling the action are Gorilla Monsoon and Jess Ventura, with a smorgasbord of additional celebrities
Aretha Franklin sings “America The Beautiful”
Don Muraco and The Bodyguard Ace Cowboy Bob Orton Jr w/ Mr. Fuji Vs Tom Zenk and Rick Martel
Zenk and Martel are the most sickening fresh faced smiling babyfaces whoever babyfaced, and honestly I’m shocked they didn’t give out autographs for frail old grannies on the way down to the ring. However, it’s the 80’s and being nice young men who smiled and wrestled fairly was a perfectly acceptable wrestling gimmick before the cynical 90’s ruined everything, so the crowd gives them a nice reception. Muraco would end up going face later in the year, but at this stage he’s still a scowling heel and does an excellent job at it.
This is your prototypical opening tag match, as the faces get a nice shine with basic stuff and the crowd loves it. It’s amazing watching this crowd pop for hip tosses here when you consider how crap and belligerent the crowd from Uncensored 97 (The show I watched last week) were. Eventually Muraco and Orton get the cut off and work some brief heat on Zenk, courtesy of an Orton cheap shot, and that’s fine. Zenk and Orton bang heads and that leads to Martel getting the hot tag. Things break down and a cross body block ends Muraco not soon after.
WINNERS: ZENK & MARTEL
This was good fun and a solid opener
Zenk and Martel wouldn’t stick together as a team due to Zenk leaving the WWF, which led to Tito Santana stepping up as Martel’s new partner, forming the duo known as “Strike Force”.
We get a video package to hype up the next match. Hercules beat up Billy Jack Haynes thanks to a distraction from Bobby Heenan, starting off a feud between them.
Bobby Heenan and Hercules are backstage with Mean Gene Okerlund. Hercules says Billy Jack will cower before him tonight.
Hercules w/ Bobby Heenan Vs Billy Jack Haynes
Hercules had cut his teeth in Mid-South, whilst Haynes was well-known in the Portland territory, so this match stands as a good example of how Vince McMahon spared no expense collecting wrestlers from all over the place to build a super-roster. Both of these guys are big strong lads, something Haynes shows off early by giving Hercules a press slam like it’s nothing. The main story of the match is that both men like to use the Full Nelson as their submission hold of choice, so they both go for it during the match, only for the other to find a way to fend the other off.
It’s not a classic or anything, but it’s a solidly worked match and both guys look good. Hercules was ludicrously muscular during this stage of his career, and lugging all that muscle around causes him to suck wind as the match rolls on. This slows the pace down a bit after a quick start, but Haynes sells well whilst Hercules works him over and the match remains interesting as a result. Hercules gets very close to locking in the Full Nelson, but he can’t get his fingers hooked and that limits the power of the hold, thus allowing Haynes to power out in a clever spot.
Both men go for a clothesline at the same time, which leads to a double down, and that leads to Haynes making the big comeback, showing some impressive fire in the process. He makes sure to keep selling his back and neck during the comeback though, which I appreciate. Haynes actually drops a leg, which surprises me seeing as it was Hulk Hogan’s finisher and he uses it basically as a transition move here, before locking in the Full Nelson nice and tight. Both men tumble out of the ring though and Haynes leaves the hold applied for a double count out.
DOUBLE COUNT OUT
Lame finish, but they were going to rematch on the house show circuit following this so the WWF didn’t want to give the feud a decisive end just yet. The match itself was decent, but Hercules was REALLY struggling at the end there and almost deprived the first couple of rows of their oxygen as a result
Hercules attacks Haynes with his chain following the bout, with Haynes bleeding to really heat things up for further matches between the two.
King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook are with Mean Gene. Bundy says he’s there for Hillbilly Jim, but he’ll flatten his little partners as well if he needs to.
Meanwhile, Hillbilly Jim is going to do his absolute best to make sure his partners don’t get squished.
King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook Vs Hillbilly Him, Little Beaver and The Haiti Kid
“Don’t Go Messin’ Wit A Country Boy” is sadly dubbed out here, which is a real shame as it’s one of the 80’s WWF themes that I like the most. I’m not sure on the exact backstory to this one, but it’s a bit of a comedown for Bundy when you consider he was wrestling Hogan at Mania 2 and now he’s fighting little people just a year later. The rule is that little people wrestle little people and non-little people wrestle non-little people, which means it’ll be a DQ if one of the bigger guys goes after one of the little ones.
Bob Uecker joins the commentary desk for this one, and he’s a big Lord Littlebrook fan. Mini-wrestling has never been something I’ve been that into, although it can be good in Mexico sometimes when some of the really talented smaller wrestlers go at it. Sadly the four lads in this one aren’t of the same calibre of a Mascarita Sagrada, and ironically the best bits of the match are actually when Bundy and Jim go at it, especially as Jim has never really been known for being an exciting wrestler.
Strangely they let Jim bump Bundy pretty early on with a clothesline, which seems like a waste as they could have built up to that. The crowd does go nuts for it though, and it genuinely gets one of the bigger pops of the show. Bundy starts winning the fight with Jim, which brings in Jim’s partners to his defence. That of course doesn’t end well for them and Bundy attacks Beaver for the DQ. I should be appalled, but all I can think about is the Beaver Song from How I Met Your Mother.
WINNERS BY DISQUALIFICATION: JIM, BEAVER & KID
Not much of a match, but it wasn’t terrible or anything and the spot of Bundy trying to kill Beaver is long remembered in the annals of WWF history
Bundy tries to do even more damage to Beaver after the bell, but the other three little people stand up to him and eventually he gets fended off by Jim.
Mary Hart is with Miss Elizabeth in the interview area. Hart tries to interview her, but WWF Intercontinental Champ Randy Savage ain’t having any of that and barges into the interview.
We get a hype package for the next match. Harley Race was doing the King gimmick, but Junkyard Dog wasn’t having any of that, so Race and Heenan beat him up.
Harley Race, Bobby Heenan and The Fabulous Moolah are with Mean Gene. Heenan asks Moolah to take care of the crown jewels.
Meanwhile, Junkyard Dog says he thinks Race has been sitting on the throne for too long.
Loser Must Bow To The Winner
The King Harley Race w/ Bobby Heenan and The Fabulous Moolah Vs The Junkyard Dog
Race had come over from the NWA and Vince had given him the King gimmick, which apparently got up Jerry Lawler’s nose and actually led to some legal trouble. Race was showing his age a bit by this stage but he could still go and probably could have milked this gimmick for quite a while, but he ended up injuring himself in a match with Hulk Hogan and that led to Haku getting the gimmick for a bit instead. Dog was of course a huge star in Mid-South and was rumoured to be one of the backup options for the WWF as the top babyface if they hadn’t managed to get Hogan.
JYD is my Sid in a lot of ways, in that I can appreciate he’s not a great wrestler but his charisma and star ability helps me overlook it and enjoy his act. They don’t get a lot of time for this one, which means the match itself is basically all action, with Race doing the big stooge selling to get JYD over. Race even comes off the apron with a head butt at one stage, but JYD moves and Race ends up going face first onto the mats at ringside. Some of Race’s bumping is fantastic here, as he’s almost a one man show at points, taking spills out to the floor and all sorts. However, a distraction by Heenan allows Race to catch JYD with a suplex and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: HARLEY RACE
This was mostly just kicking and punching, but JYD was over with the crowd and Race was supremely entertaining as the clumsy bumping heel, so I enjoyed it
JYD essentially reneges on the pre-match stipulation by giving Race a lacklustre bow before beating him up. It’s one of those “observe the letter, but not the spirit” kinds of things, and I could honestly see JYD getting booed if he did something like that today.
Vince McMahon is with WWF Champ Hulk Hogan. He talks about heading into the mountains on his bike or something. It’s a good promo actually.
Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine w/ Johnny V and Dino Bravo Vs Jacques and Raymond Rougeau
Beefcake and Valentine were known as “The Dream Team” and had previously held the WWF Tag Team Titles, losing the belts to The British Bulldogs in a great match at WrestleMania 2. They weren’t long for the world as a tandem though, which is why Dino Bravo is at ringside here as he will be replacing Brutus going forward. The Rougeau’s were still a babyface act here, but they would eventually turn heel and become a very entertaining heel act with their “All-American Boys” gimmick, where they pretended to be pro-American when it was clear they really weren’t.
The Rougeau’s start out doing generic babyface tag team offence, but eventually Jacques misses a big move and starts getting worked over by Beefer and Valentine. There isn’t a lot of heat to this one as the crowd isn’t really into The Rougeau’s as much as they have been for the other babyfaces on the show. The action itself is fine though, with The Rougeau’s doing some nice tandem offence in the closing stages. Bravo hits Jacques with a cheap shot though to establish his credentials as Valentine’s partner going forward, and that allows Valentine to steal the pin.
WINNERS: BEEFCAKE & VALENTINE
Valentine, Bravo and Johnny leave Beefcake on his own in the ring following that.
We get a video package to hype the upcoming match. Roddy Piper and Adrian Adonis got into a battle of warring chat shows, which led to Piper going face and smashing up Adonis’ chat show set. Piper had announced that WrestleMania III would be his farewell match so that he could go to Hollywood, but that didn’t last and he was back wrestling by 1989.
Adonis and Jimmy Hart are with Mean Gene in the interview area, where he asks Piper what haircut he’d like later and shows off some hedge clippers.
Adrian Adonis w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Rowdy Roddy Piper
Adonis had accidentally cut some of Beefcake’s hair on a previous event, which will become important later. Adonis had formerly had a tough guy biker gimmick, but Vince didn’t like the fact he’d put on weight so he made him start doing an effeminate heel gimmick instead. Adonis was very entertaining in the role though and ended up making it work. This one is a fight from the off and the crowd is very much into the idea of Piper giving Adonis a kicking. Adonis takes some pretty darn impressive bumps for a guy his size actually, as he had to be approaching 300 pounds here and he takes Flair Flips onto the apron amongst other big pratfalls.
The crowd is molten for this and Piper is clearly super jazzed for it, battering both Adonis and Hart whilst the crowd cheers along. It’s a really fun babyface shine, but Hart is eventually able to trip Piper up and that allows Adonis to cut Piper off for the heel heat segment. Piper sells the heat really well and the crowd is desperate for him to fight back. Adonis locks in a sleeper hold and that looks to be the finish, but Adonis is a stupid overconfident heel and releases the hold before he can be declared the winner. This leads to Beefcake officially turning face by running down to revive Piper, which allows Piper to make the big comeback and pick up the victory as the crowd explodes.
WINNER: RODDY PIPER
This was enjoyable stuff, as Piper was fantastic as a gutsy fired up babyface gunning for revenge and the two heels did an excellent job bumping around for him
Beefcake shaves Adonis whilst Piper holds back Hart, thus giving himself the “Barber” gimmick in the process. Piper then does the big exit to cheers from the crowd. If this had been how Piper had decided to go out then it wouldn’t have been the worst way to end a career, as he won the big match, got revenge and also helped make a new star in Beefcake along the way. He kisses Howard Finkel on the forehead following the match in a great moment and then shakes a hand of an excitable fan that runs into the ring.
Jesse Ventura comes down to the ring to pose for a bit ahead of the next match and shake the hands of all the heels. When then get some promo’s from the heel trio from earlier with Mean Gene.
Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart and Dangerous Danny Davis w/ Jimmy Hart Vs The Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith and Tito Santana w/ Matilda
The story here is that Danny Davis was the Mark Clattenberg of the WWF and cheated the babyface’s out of their respective Titles, so now he’s an evil referee who wrestles, thus fulfilling the innate desire of sports fans to see officials get clobbered for both real and perceived slights. Matilda goes right after Jimmy Hart before the match even starts, which leads to things breaking down into a brawl and The British Bulldogs flinging Davis out over the top rope onto The Hart Foundation. They threw him with absolute reckless abandon there, but thankfully no one was seriously hurt.
Things do eventually settle down into a good six man tag match, with Davis in particular drawing mega heat as a cowardly heel and being supremely entertaining as a result. He has this particularly hilarious heel swagger that is absolutely perfect for the role he’s playing and just makes you want to see him get whomped by the babyfaces, especially The Bulldogs. The heels work some heat on Dynamite for a bit and he sells that well, whilst The Hart Foundation do some good tandem offence and keep Davis’ involvement to quick little bits.
Eventually Dynamite gets his knees up on a Davis splash and that leads to Tito getting the tag and giving Davis a battering, which the crowd loves. Davis sells it all fantastically too, and the crowd is absolutely losing their minds over it! There are Main Eventers wrestling today that couldn’t draw the kind of heel heat that lower mid-card Davis was getting here. The Bulldogs destroy him as well, but the faces make the cardinal mistake of not pinning him, which eventually bites them in the backside as Davis catches Davey Boy with a shot from Jimmy Hart’s megaphone and that’s enough for three.
WINNERS: HART, NEIDHART & DAVIS
I was really surprised when I watched this for the first time as I felt for sure the finish would be the faces getting their hands on Davis and killing him to win, but instead they gave us the killing but then allowed Davis to steal the win for good measure. This would be the biggest win of Davis’ run, as he’d soon basically just become enhancement talent and would never win a big match like this again. He’d eventually end up refereeing again
The heels bail quickly following that so as to preserve Davis’ life. The fans are genuinely infuriated by the result as well. It’s incredible just how over an act this was, and it’s kind of weird that he couldn’t translate that heat into a strong mid-card heel character.
Mean Gene is with Bobby Heenan and Andre The Giant in the interview area. Bobby does the talking whilst Andre stands there stoically. Heenan puts Andre over big time in a good promo.
Butch Reed w/ Slick Vs Koko B. Ware
Reed sadly passed away in 2021 of course. Genuine question, if Koko can get into the WWE Hall of Fame then does Scotty 2 Hotty have a genuine shout as well? I’m all for including really popular lower card guys if they’re memorable, but what do you guys all think? This is your standard undercard match, where Koko gets a bit of a shine until Reed cuts him off and works him over. It’s not exactly a thrilling bout, but there’s nothing especially wrong with it. They’re a bit too high up the card maybe, but the WWF has always had a penchant for “cool down” matches and this would certainly meet that criteria. Koko gets a near fall with a roll up but Reed rolls through on a cross body and grabs the tights for the three count.
WINNER: BUTCH REED
Nothing wrong with it, but there wasn’t much good about it either. Plus, what is with all the heels winning on this show? I’ve never really noticed all the heel wins until going back to watch this show for review purposes actually, but it’s Starrcade 97 levels of heels going over
Tito Santana runs down following the bout and aids Koko in sending the heels packing to at least give the crowd something to cheer.
We get a video package to hype the upcoming match. Randy Savage attacked Ricky Steamboat with the ring bell, injuring his throat in the process. Steamboat is back though and looking for revenge. Savage has also been treating the lovely Elizabeth like dirt, which has caused Steele to feud with Savage as well, thus leading to Steele wanting to be at ringside for this one.
Savage and Steamboat follow the package with some promo’s, with Savage saying history beckons the Macho Man whilst Steamboat declares that they will clash like two titans tonight. Savage’s promo was pretty brief but Steamboat’s was really memorable and probably one of his best.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Randy Savage w/ Miss Elizabeth Vs Ricky Steamboat w/ George Steele
This match is widely regarded as being one of the best of all-time, and it certainly has some excellent wrestling within it, especially when both men are working counters and pin attempts. One thing I will say about it is that it doesn’t always feel like a heated blow off to a big feud, with it feeling more like two guys just going in there to have a hot match rather than two hated rivals trying to settle a long-running score. The wrestling is superb at points though, and there’s lots of occasions where you can watch it and think a match like this wouldn’t look out of place on a modern show, which isn’t something you can always think when you watch classic matches from the past.
Steamboat gets to shine on Savage to start, but Savage does eventually cut him off, although he doesn’t really go after the throat like you would expect. Based on the build-up you could be mistaken for thinking that Savage would spend at least 5-10 minutes clocking Steamboat in the throat whilst Steamboat refused to give up and kept fighting back, but we never really get any particular strong heel heat spots, with both men instead focusing on having a really fast paced exciting match where they counter one another. Again, it’s excellent stuff for the most part, but it doesn’t always feel like it fits the build-up.
Savage really looks great for large periods of the match, with his offence having a nice snap to it and his bumping/selling being on point when it needs to be. The match is chock-full of near falls, with both men going for a pin almost every-time they knock an opponent down, which makes sense because even if your opponent kicks out they still have to expand energy in the process, so you might as well pin them if they’re down on the mat if you’re serious about winning. It makes it look like both men are eager to win throughout, which helps with making the match feel like an actual contest where the result matters.
As a near-fall-fest it’s fantastic, and the crowd thinks more than once that Steamboat has won and pops big, as they are hanging on every pin attempt. Again, it doesn’t really work as a blow-off to a heated blood feud, but in a bubble it’s fantastic. Eventually the referee ends up taking a bump and that leads to Savage getting a visual pin before heading out to use the ring bell once again. Steele, who hasn’t interfered whilst the match has been a fair fight, now decides to get involved by stopping Savage from using the bell. Savage stomps on him, so Steele gets physically involved by shoving Savage off the top. Savage is still in control after that but he sells his back, which means that when he goes for a body slam his back goes out and Steamboat is able to counter the move into a cradle for the three count as the crowd goes nuts.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: RICKY STEAMBOAT
What I love about the finish is that Steele didn’t physically get involved with Savage until physically provoked first. All he wanted to do was take away the bell so it would be a fair fight, but Savage stomped on him and that led to Steele shoving him off the top as payback. Thus Savage was the instigator of his own demise, proving once again that wrestling is the ultimate morality play.
The match itself is an excellent technical exhibition, with great near falls and fantastic work from both men. It’s never been the Full Monty for me because it always felt like they kind of forgot the backstory so they could just go out there and have a hot match, instead of incorporating the backstory into a hot match in a way that made sense like Bret and Owen Hart did at WrestleMania X. It’s still a cracking match and one I would happily recommend to anyone, but I personally always felt the match should have been a hate filled fight rather than a silky wrestling contest
Steamboat and Steele do the big celebration as their motorised cart drives them down the aisle, in an image that made its way onto many a WrestleMania hype video over the years.
Jake Roberts and Alice Cooper have promo time with Mean Gene. Honky Tonk Man brutalised Jake Roberts with a guitar, but Jake is here for revenge and Alice Cooper is there to stop Jimmy Hart from getting involved.
Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart give their retort with Gene, where Honky says the fans are there to see him dance and here him sing. Alice Cooper isn’t going to get a chance to get his hands on Hart.
The Honky Tonk Man w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Jake The Snake Roberts w/ Alice Cooper
Jake wastes no time taking it to Honky early on, peppering him with punches and stripping him of his entrance gear, whilst Honky just tries to keep running away. Honky manages to fight back and works some heat, with Jake selling that well, as this was a good choice to follow the last match in some ways as it’s mostly just punching, selling and working of the crowd, which gives the crowd a chance to cool down whilst still being invested in the action because they aren’t trying to follow one hot wrestling match with another.
Honky is such a good heel that they never lose the crowd, even though the action is pretty basic, and Jake is excellent at selling like he’s in jeopardy whilst still making you think that he could fight back. Honky preps for his swinging neck breaker finisher, but he takes too long and that allows Jake to start making a comeback, as the crowd is very into the idea of Jake splonking poor Honky with the DDT. Hart grabs Jakes leg to stop the DDT though and that allows Honky to get a rope assisted school boy for the big upset.
WINNER: HONKY TONK MAN
Solid enough and a decent follow up to the great match that preceded it
Alice Cooper puts Damien the snake on Jimmy Hart following the match to at least give the crowd something to cheer after yet another heel victory. Jake then points at the camera in a shot that was memorably used in Beyond The Mat.
Mean Gene does the big announcement of the attendance of 93,173 to pop the crowd.
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff w/ Slick Vs Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair
Brunzell and Blair were known as “The Killer Bees” and would occasionally wear masks down to the ring so that they could switch out with one another in matches without the referee or opposition knowing. Sheik and Volkoff had actually won the WWF Tag Titles at the first WrestleMania event, but they’d consistently dropped down the card since then and never came close to winning them as a unit ever again. Volkoff tries to do his usual gimmick of singing the Soviet National Anthem at the start of the match, but Jim Duggan runs down to stop him as America is the land of the free and someone being freely allowed to do something in the land of the free is simply not allowed!
I believe Sheiky Baby’s hatred of Brian Blair stems from this match, and it has led to Iron Sheik doing numerous shoot interviews over the years where he has threatened to break Blair’s back and then shove things up his rectum in an effort to humble him. I’ve always though The Bees were a solid mid-card act, and the depth of talent in the WWF’s tag division from this era always blows my mind. AEW is I think the closest equivalent these days when it comes to having so many talented and diverse tag teams on the roster.
The Bees to get shine on the heels for a bit until Brunzell gets cut off and worked over for a bit in the heel corner. The fans aren’t really that into The Bees but they don’t like the heels whatsoever, so they spend more time booing them than they do actually cheering for The Bees. Duggan stays at ringside to support The Bees though, and he helps with keeping the crowd invested. It’s not a great match or anything, but the action is fine and Sheik does do some nice suplexes during the heat. Eventually Sheik preps for the camel clutch, but Duggan runs in and attacks him for the DQ.
WINNERS BY DISQUALIFICATION: SHEIK & VOLKOFF
You could have easily cut this one out of the show, but it wasn’t actively bad or anything
The Bees are surprisingly good sports over Duggan blatantly costing them a match like that, something that Ventura rightfully points out on commentary.
Andre and Heenan are with Mean Gene again. Andre actually talks this time and says it won’t take long for him to win the Title.
We get a video package to hype up the Main Event.
Hogan does another promo with Mean Gene, where he says Andre will feel the wrath of Hulkamania tonight.
Champ: Hulk Hogan Vs Andre The Giant w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
This show was hyped as “The Irresistible Force Vs The Unmovable Object”, due to both Hogan and Andre being supremely well protected in the years prior to the bout finally happening. Andre’s heel turn on Hogan is the stuff of legend, as he turned heel by joining up with Hogan enemy #1 in Heenan and then ripped the crucifix chain from his chest.
Hogan stupidly goes for the body slam right out of the gate and Andre promptly falls on top of him for a near fall that would come back to haunt The Hulkster down the road. That leaves Hogan on the defensive for the rest of the match, at which point Andre slowly and deliberately works him over. Andre was far beyond his physical prime at this stage, so his offence isn’t especially crisp, but it serves its purpose of telling the story of how Hogan is outgunned and facing his toughest challenge ever.
Hogan sells Andre’s attacks like they are draining him of his very life force, putting over how dangerous Andre is as a challenger. Hogan gets a bit of a flurry in at one stage and manages to ram Andre’s face into the turnbuckles, but a big boot from Andre puts him right back down to the mat and the people are pissed. It’s amazing how they’ve done basically so little but have the crowd in the palm of their hands. It really is masterful.
Andre tries crunching Hogan’s mid-section with a bear hug, which Hogan again sells impressively. It perhaps goes on a tad too long, but Andre was struggling to even move at this stage in his life, so they needed shortcuts like this to stretch the match out a bit. Hogan eventually manages to fight his way out of the hold with some punches, which was a technique I believe Buster Boughlie used in his classic 5 out of 7 falls match with Grizzled George in the Swiss Alps back in 1927.
Hogan still can’t knock Andre down however and Andre floors him with a big chop. Andre is clearly really struggling now, as he’s breathing heavy and needs to hold the ropes just to stay upright. Andre kicks Hogan to the outside but head butts the post by accident, which leads to Hogan going for a ludicrous piledriver attempt on the cement. Andre of course easily blocks that, as Jesse Venture rightly gets on Hogan for poor sportsmanship.
Hogan finally manages to knock Andre down with a clothesline back inside, felling him like a tree. What follows is one of the most famous images in wrestling history, as Hogan heaves Andre up with a body slam and then drops the leg to pick up the three count as the crowd goes radio rental! Even Jesse has to give Hogan credit following that one.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: HULK HOGAN
The biggest criticism laid at the feet of this match is that the work, especially from Andre, is pretty bad. It’s a valid complaint to make, as Andre was already beyond the point of being physically knackered at this stage and it was incredibly sad to see the WWF continue to keep shoving him out there for three more years.
However, what I think saves this match is the story and the crowd. The latter are up for everything and are engrossed by the action in the ring. They are strongly behind Hogan and lose their minds whenever he gets the slightest opportunity to lay a whupping on Andre. Even if some of the in ring action isn’t tightly executed, the general atmosphere is top notch and you can almost feel the stadium buzzing throughout the contest.
The story and match structure is exceptional in this one. There’s no other way to describe it in my mind. Knowing that Andre isn’t physically capable of doing a back and forth styled match, they don’t even bother and have Hogan on the defensive almost immediately due to not being able to get the slam. Thus the whole match becomes Hogan trying to ascend the mountain whilst fighting from underneath, even getting to the point where he desperately tries a piledriver on the concrete because he’s out of ideas. Eventually though he keeps persevering and is rewarded by being able to knock Andre down, at which point they take it home immediately at the absolute peak of the crowd heat with the slam and leg drop.
Honestly there are few matches put together as well as this one. I don’t really know who you can give the credit to. I know in Hogan’s book he says that he came up with it all, but he also said a lot of stuff in that book that was absolute bull-shine, so you might need to take that with a pinch of salt. Knowing how great a mind he has for the business and storytelling, I’m sure Pat Patterson probably put his two cents in as well. Regardless, whoever came up with the structure for this match deserves a medal, as they did everything they could to get around Andre’s limitations without outright getting someone else to wrestle the match for him, and that should be commended.
Hogan does the big celebration following that and we’re out.
WrestleMania III is an easy recommendation in my mind. It’s not like it has a tonne of classic matches or anything, but it has a generous selection of good ones and an excellent Intercontinental bout that has stood the test of time.
The big stadium setting, the hot crowd and the general 80’s WWF “feel” of the whole thing pushes it over the line into being greater than the sum of its parts and it’s easily the best WrestleMania of the 80’s. If you’ve never seen it then I strongly suggest that you do. It’s one of those shows you kind of need to have seen if you want to have any right of calling yourself a wrestling fan.