The SmarK Rant for WWF WrestleMania III
By Scott Keith on 15th October 2023
Live from the Pontiac Silverdome, drawing an amount of people greater than zero and less than 100,000, and a buyrate that doesn’t really matter because PPV wasn’t really a thing in a significant portion of homes yet. But it scored a significant percentage of homes that COULD get PPV, with some reports at the time listing up to 10% of the available homes ordering it. It really can’t be overstated how much of a big deal this was, as local news stations showed highlights and recapped the results at the time.
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
Vince McMahon is of course in his glory introducing the show in the middle of the ring and throwing it to Aretha Franklin, as wrestling hits the peak in the 80s.
The Can-Am Connection v. Magnificent Muraco & Bob Orton
These poor guys don’t even get an entrance while opening the biggest show in history, magically showing up in the ring while Gorilla and Jesse talk with Bob Uecker and Mary Hart. Interesting how Piper-Adonis were having their final blowoff later in the show, but Orton and Muraco, the primary instigators in the feud, have now been completely split off from it and are just doing their own thing. Martel grabs a headlock on Muraco, but Don beats on him with knees in the corner so Martel takes him down with a monkey flip for two. Looked like he was trying something else there and they got signals crossed. Can-Ams double-team both guys with double monkey-flips and the heels retreat for some advice from Fuji. That advice? “Hawaii and Japan are basically the same thing”. No wonder Muraco broke away soon after. Martel and Orton trade full nelson attempts, and Muraco comes in and accidentally hits Orton to give Martel a two count. Orton tries to escape a wristlock and lunges for the tag, but Zenk yanks him down and keeps control in a nice little spot. Over to Muraco, which allows Orton to get the Bret Hart knee on the apron and turn the tide. Orton comes in with a forearm off the middle rope for two and we get a double down to setup the hot tag to Martel. Double dropkicks abound and Martel gets a cross-body on Muraco while Zenk trips him up, and that gets the pin at 5:38. A perfectly cromulent opener. This was supposed to lead to the Can-Ams getting the tag titles from the Hart Foundation later in the year, but then stuff happened. Also I was going to make fun of Gorilla mixing up the Can-Ams at various points but then I went and did it too so I’ll just shut up.
Billy Jerk Haynes v. Hercules
Billy Jack is someone who I am constantly shocked remains alive while everyone else around him who did far less drugs dropped dead. Also Hercules does a promo where he literally believes himself to be a Greek god who did the labors of legend, so he was probably on some shit as well. They did a pretty admirable job of taking a complete nothing match between these two muscleheads and making it into an issue we could care about, I’ll give ‘em that. They fight for the lockup and Haynes won’t give a clean break in the corner, probably because he was waiting for the voices in his head to give the OK, but then he hits Herc with chops and a press slam. Herc escapes the full nelson and hides in the ropes, so Billy slugs away in the corner and Herc catches him with a clothesline to block a blind charge. Herc whips him into the corner to take over and works on the back for a bit as they seem to be out of ideas already, and Herc gets a suplex for two but picks him up. Billy tries a suplex and his back gives out, so Herc pounds him down again and follows with a backbreaker for two while Gorilla and Jesse have a funny conversation about how Gorilla NEVER EVER picked anyone up at two. “You know, lightning can strike even here in the Dome, Gorilla.” Hercules goes for the full nelson and Billy fights him off but still goes down for a bit before making the comeback. They clothesline each other for the double down and Haynes makes the comeback and goes crazy like Hercules is the government spying on his trailer, dropping the leg and going up with a fistdrop. This sets up the full nelson, but Hercules makes the ropes and they tumble to the floor for a double countout at 7:51. See, this was a weird booking decision because Haynes was never a stable guy to begin with and had one foot out the door, whereas Herc was about to be programmed with Hulk and was a featured player for years to come, so you’d think Herc would have gone over here in hindsight. Afterwards, Herc nails him with the chain and busts him open, which ends up as the only blood on the show, oddly enough.
Meanwhile, King Kong Bundy threatens to squash any midgets who get in his way. Well he did warn them.
King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook v. Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver & The Haiti Kid
We get a tiny criss-cross and the rowboat spot to start while Bob Uecker joins us on commentary and relates a story about dating a girl with Little Beaver’s haircut 25 years ago. Littlebrook comes in and works on Beaver for a bit while Jesse is hoping for “Bundy to put the big kibosh on one of the little guys”. So Bundy comes in and we get some Godzilla teases before Jim comes in as per the rules, and they slug it out to set up an elbow from Jim for two. Bundy puts Jim down with an elbow of his own and gets a facelock, but Little Beaver continues being a nuisance and smacks Bundy’s ass, at which point Bundy has had ENOUGH of this guy and drops an elbow on him for the DQ at 4:20. Hey, live by the sword, die by the sword. I feel no sympathy for him.
Meanwhile, Mary Hart chats with Elizabeth, at which point Macho Man storms in and takes over the interview because he’s fascinating. “The phone number is on the back of my license plate, YEAH!”
Meanwhile, Harley Race and his entourage are ready to be crowned King again at the end of the match.
Junkyard Dog v. King Harley Race
Loser has to bow and kneel here, which is another nice way to give some stakes to a match with none otherwise. Dog slugs it out but gets dumped by Race, who follows with a headbutt off the apron and misses. Why are you taking these bumps, Harley? Dog hauls him back in and Race bumps over the top rope to the floor again, trying desperately to get something decent out of the dog by himself. Dog slams him back in and gets an abdominal stretch and TAKE A DRINK for Gorilla bitching about how badly Dog applies it. Race escapes and gets a headbutt, but science says that Dog wins that battle and Race knocks himself silly and bails to the floor. Back in, Dog gets headbutts of his own, but Brain distracts him and Race finishes this dogshit match with a belly to belly at 3:22. Man, Race was trying SO hard here but Dog had no interest in doing anything. And so, after losing cleanly to the better man, Dog has to bow and kneel, so he does a half-assed curtsy and then attacks Race like a complete sore loser and steals the robe. That’s some Hulk Hogan level BS there.
Meanwhile, Vince McMahon interviews Hulk Hogan in the dressing room, and Hulk is pretty worked up about this Andre deal, calling Hulkamania “the purest form of the truth there is” which is pretty rich coming from him.
The Rougeau Brothers v. The Dream Team
Rougeaus double-team Hammer and TAKE A DRINK for Gorilla putting over Hammer’s inability to get going until late in the match. Jacques misses a bodypress out of the corner and Valentine drops elbows on him to take over. He gets the figure-four while Bobby joins us on commentary, claiming to be “2 for 2” because Hercules got the moral victory and Race beat Dog. And he doesn’t associate with midgets so that one doesn’t count. Hammer tries a piledriver on Jacques, but he backdrops out and makes the hot tag Raymond, who gets a sleeper. Beefcake breaks it up, but hits Hammer by mistake, and the Rougeaus hit the Rougeau Bomb on Hammer while the ref is tied up. This allows Dino Bravo to come in and hit Raymond, putting Hammer on top for the pin at 4:11. I’m shocked he didn’t miss. Match was nothing. And then Hammer and Bravo abandon Beefcake in the ring, kicking him out of the team. I bet that was Bravo’s idea, which shows why you don’t listen to Dino Bravo.
Haircut match: Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Adrian Adonis
So in one of those details I never really noticed before, Adonis is the one who introduced the hedge clippers that became Beefcake’s trademark. Also, interesting to note that in the Coliseum video version, they edit an interview with Piper in during his entrance, whereas there’s none here in the original PPV version. Piper charges in for the slugfest to start and Piper whips him with the belt right away and then chokes out Jimmy Hart to a giant pop, but Adonis gets the belt and lays into him. Piper whips him into the corner for a Flair Flip and hauls him back in, bringing Jimmy with him, and rams them together as the crowd is just going crazy for everything. Man I would have killed to be in the building for this one. Adonis bumps over the top and Piper hauls him back in and slugs away on him, and then throws Jimmy at him for good measure, but finally Jimmy trips him up to get some revenge. This allows Adonis to take over with back rakes and a clothesline, but Piper pokes him in the eye and they head to the floor. Jimmy gets a cheapshot with the clippers, but Piper is like COME AT ME back in the ring. So Jimmy Hart sprays him with the perfume and it’s GOOD NIGHT IRENE in the middle for Adonis. Piper tries to break free, but Adonis is too much…and then he lets go too soon and celebrates early. This allows Brutus Beefcake to come from under the ring, revive Piper, and Adonis gets an underrated great bump by swinging with the clippers and knocking himself out with them. And Piper finishes him off with the sleeper at 6:55 to finally win the war. And then a month after having his hair cut by Adonis by mistake, Beefcake also gets his revenge, shaving Adonis and kicking off the biggest push of his career as the Barber. This match put in the work, as they say and remains one of my all time sentimental favorites. And then Piper faded into retirement obscurity as promised and was never seen in wrestling again. Too bad, he probably could have been Intercontinental champion someday if he had stuck with it. In a bit that I’m sure was cut from Coliseum video, some kind runs into the ring and tries to celebrate with Piper before security jumps him and hauls him out. Man he was lucky Piper didn’t waffle him there.
Rating: ** for the action and ***** for entertainment value.
The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana v. The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis
Jesse Ventura gets introduced to the crowd for some posing here and there’s never any explanation why and no payoff to it. Danny Davis has NUCLEAR heat here, of course, as everyone is desperately waiting for the babyfaces to kick his ass. Tito immediately attacks the Harts on the floor before the bell and the Bulldogs toss Davis onto them, while Jesse takes the dog back to the dressing room. Tito blocks a headscissors from Bret in the corner and Davey comes in and rams the Harts together before the Bulldogs go to work on Anvil in the corner. Tito gets trapped in the heel corner and they choke him out, but he runs away from Anvil and Davey is back again with a backdrop. Neidhart begs off and then clobbers him from behind, and Bret comes in with an elbow that misses. Over to Dynamite for the hair pull drop on Bret and Bret takes the turnbuckle bump as well, but comes back with forearms in the corner to take over. Kid tries a suplex and Neidhart hits him in the bad back to block it and then comes in with a chinlock. Harts with a Demolition elbow on Kid and it’s DANNY DAVIS time, as he comes in, gets a stomp with a shit eating grin on his face, and then tags out again. Awesome. Anvil beats the Kid down with clubbing forearms and Davis comes in again, struts his stuff, hits a stomp, and then leaves again. So the Harts slingshot him in for a splash, but that misses and now he’s fucked. Hot tag Tito and he DESTROYS Davis and backdrops him to set up the flying forearm before just beating the shit out of him. And then tries the figure-four, but Anvil breaks it up, so it’s over to Davey, who ups the violence with a clothesline while Davis bumps like a ragdoll in hilarious manner. Tombstone and Davis is DEAD, but Davey picks him up for a delayed suplex for more punishment and follows with the powerslam on Danny’s lifeless body. That gets two, but the Harts break it up, Davis gets the megaphone, and he knocks out Davey for the pin at 8:48. This was tremendous and exactly what it should have been. As noted before, it was just too bad Danny Davis couldn’t carry his end in the ring in the long term after the initial gimmick’s heat fizzled.
Meanwhile, Mean Gene chats with Andre the Giant, and Bobby is now changed into his fancy waiter’s jacket for the main event.
Butch Reed v. Koko B. Ware
This is the very definition of a cooldown match after that six-man. Surprisingly Koko’s music is hardly muted and you can easily hear that it’s “The Bird” by Morris Day and The Time. That’s still a smoking tune and the Time were tragically underrated. Usually they mute it AND overdub terrible generic stuff on top of it. They fight for the lockup to start while Jesse and Gorilla debate Koko’s glove vs. Reed’s wrist tape in a weird discussion. Koko flips away from Reed and dropkicks him to the floor, then hits him in the gut with his suspicious glove. I guess Jesse was right! But then Reed gets a cheapshot to take over and stomps away on him, but Koko comes back with a hiptoss and slugs away. Dropkick gets two. Small package gets two. Crossbody is rolled through, however, and Reed grabs the tights for the pin at 3:40. This was a lot of nothing of note here: Referee John Binella later gained some fame by getting arrested for hiring a hitman to murder his wife. Unsuccessfully I might add. And then Tito pops out from under the ring and beats the shit out of Slick and tears his clothes up, continuing his feud with Reed, probably sore about losing to a referee in the last match.
Intercontinental title: Randy Savage v. Ricky Steamboat
And now for another defining moment of my childhood. Savage gets a surprising babyface pop for his entrance, which even the announcers comment on. Savage immediately goes to put Elizabeth in a corner far away from Steele outside, and Dragon catches him with armdrags and the double choke back in the ring. Savage bails to think about it and nails Dragon on the way back in before choking him out on the ropes and snapping the neck on the top rope for two. Dragon works the arm in response and snaps the arm on the top rope before working a wristlock, but Savage puts him down with an elbow and tosses
him over the top rope. Macho hauls him back in and goes after the throat in a wise bit of evil and then puts him down with an elbow for two. Kneedrop gets two. Steamboat fires back with chops in the corner and Savage gets tied in the ropes as a result, but escapes from it, so Steamboat gets an armdrag and then puts him down with shoulderblocks for a pair of near-falls. Savage finally hits a knee to the back and tosses him, but Dragon peels the dermis from the feline, and then Savage tosses him again and Steamboat bumps into the railing. Steele helps him back in, so Savage throws him out AGAIN, even harder this time, and then drops the axehandle on him while Jesse suggests draping Steamboat’s throat on the railing and breaking his larynx again. Or larnyx as Gorilla says. Back in, Savage with an elbow for two and he necks Steamboat on the top rope for two. Atomic drop gets two as Gorilla has a ridiculous rant about how Savage could be disqualified for the necksnap. “Why?” Jesse asks. “Deliberate” notes Gorilla. Sure. OK then. Savage with a gut wrench for two. Steamboat fights back again and flips out of an atomic drop, then hits Savage with chops until Savage catches him with his head down. Savage charges and Steamboat backdrops him over the top for a Shawn Michaels level bump from Savage, and Dragon goes up with the flying chop for two. Wahoo chop gets two. Steamboat keeps throwing chops and Savage bails to the apron, so Steamboat chops him to the floor and then brings him in with a sunset flip for two. Rollup gets two. Jackknife cradle gets two. Small package gets two. He catapults Macho into the post and rolls him up for two. Savage finally takes a swing at Hebner in frustration, so Steamboat rolls him up for two and Savage reverses for two. Again, Savage is desperate and yanks Steamboat into the post to slow him down, but Steamboat comes back and the ref is bumped as a result. Savage gets the short clothesline and goes up to drop the big elbow, but there’s no ref and Savage gets a taste of his own medicine for once. So he goes for the ringbell for one last gasp, but Animal steals it away from him and shoves him off the top rope as the ref revives. So Savage is really loopy and tries to slam Steamboat, who finally just reverses the flustered Savage to an inside cradle for the pin and the title at 14:30 to get his revenge. And then we get a tremendous bit of camerawork, as we watch Savage in despair on the cart, driving away into the dark after losing his precious title. Still a flawless classic and one of the greatest WM matches of all time. I especially love the story from Steamboat about how Savage planned out the entire match and would make him call out each numbered spot on the plane rides between towns, as they’d practice little pieces of it at house shows before putting it all together here.
Jake Roberts v. The Honky Tonk Man
Although WM3 is inarguably one of the best shows the WWF ever did, we are definitely at the point of the show where they didn’t need two more matches between the IC title and the main event, and probably should have purged one of them. Alice Cooper is in Jake’s corner here, which is kind of funny because he was something of a has been at this point and was actually about two years away from a surprising career revival as a hair metal artist with “Trash” and “Hey Stoopid”, which yes are two of my favorite albums ever, thanks for asking. Jake puts the beats on Honky outside as Honk desperately runs away as usual, and Jake slams him on the floor. Back in, Jake quickly gets the short clothesline and goes for the DDT, but Honky slips out, likely due to his hair being too greasy to grip. Jake chases him to the floor, but Honky runs him into the post and Jake bumps into the railing for a nice bump. Alice helps him to the apron, but Honky sends Jake back to the railing again and then back in for a fistdrop before slugging Roberts down. Honky gets a back elbow as this one continues meandering, but he goes for Shake Rattle N Roll and Jake escapes with a backdrop. Honky slugs away in the corner and Jake comes back with an atomic drop and backdrop as Honky bails to the apron. Jake goes for the DDT, but Jimmy Hart distracts him, and Honky gets a rollup and holds the ropes for the pin at 7:23.
Scheme Gene joins us in the ring to announce that there’s a non-zero number of total people in the building, which doesn’t exceed 100,000. Well that is good news!
Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff v. The Killer Bees
Yeah it was definitely time to wrap things up and get to the main event at this point. So of course, Jim Duggan interrupts Nikolai Volkoff’s singing of the Russian anthem because it’s the land of the free! Oh great, cancel culture was a thing even in 1987, I see. The heels attack to start while Duggan hangs around at ringside, probably waiting for Sheik to wrap it up so he can catch a ride and go smoke dope with him. The Bees double-team Sheiky Baby and work the arm, but Volkoff comes in to break it up and Brunzell gets double-teamed by the no-good foreigners. Sheik with a back elbow for two and Volkoff goes to the bearhug. Sheik with a gut wrench for two and another suplex for two. Brunzell comes back with a high knee and we get a false tag to Blair as this drags on. But then Brunzell gets bumped to the floor and Duggan sends him back in for Sheik to apply the camel clutch, and Duggan breaks it up with the 2×4 to get the Bees DQ’d at 5:50. This should be a dark match or just left on the cutting room floor.
WWF title: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant
Andre of course had a massive back brace here to keep himself mobile. Gorilla notes that “win lose of draw” it’s the last time for Hogan to be wearing that version of the WWF title, but in fact he was wearing it for another year after this. After the famous staredown Hulk goes for the slam, but Andre falls on top for two. Now, to be clear, listening on headphones you can distinctly hear idiot referee Joey Marella’s hand hitting the mat TWICE, but not the third time, so it was definitely a two count. Plus, of course, Marella could barely count to three as it was. Andre beats on Hogan’s back and easily slams him twice before casually stepping on the back. Andre whips him into the corner, barely able to walk or follow up, and he slowly goes to work and throws the headbutt while Hogan does his usual sell job. Hulk finally slips away and makes a brief comeback, slugging Andre into the corner for the 10 turnbuckle shots, but he charges like a moron and runs into Andre’s boot. And then it’s bearhug time for Andre as THAT goes on a while. But of course Hogan’s arm is up on the third drop, which is actually a trope that has gone away in the era of tapping out, and Hulk slugs out of the bearhug before walking into a chop. It’s interesting how smartly they structured the match, basically 10 minutes of Andre not having to do anything but stand there and chop. They fight to the floor and Andre headbutts the post. That poor post. Hulk pulls up the mats, apparently a fan of Bill Watts, but tries a piledriver and Andre backdrops him onto the “concrete”, which looks suspiciously like plywood. Man Andre just looks so pained and immobile. Back in, Andre misses a big boot and Hogan kind of clotheslines him down and then does his Hulking Up without Andre’s assistance. And then, the famous slam, and the legdrop to finish at 11:34. Man, it’s just so transparent how LITTLE Andre was able to do here, as the entire climax of the match was lacking involvement from Andre in any significant manner and this match was just NO GOOD. Like what even was the storyline of the match? There were no significant twists or turns in it and it just ended with Hogan slamming him.
The Bottom Line:
Well despite selfish jerk Hogan stealing the spotlight from his supposed friend Andre yet again, this remains one of the best PPVs they ever put on, and a top 5 WrestleMania without question, setting the standard for WrestleManias that followed for years afterwards.