WrestleMania III review

By Linden Walker

To this day, this is the WrestleMania that all future events are compared to. It featured a main event that did more to draw in the casual fan than any in modern history. Hulk Hogan was at that point the centerpiece of the promotion however, make no mistake about it, this was Andre’s show. Audiences in the US had never seen the Giant as a heel, in fact he was so entrenched in his role as the monster baby face who other good guys would bring in to right the wrongs in the their company that most fans never even imagined the possibility of his going heel. In fact, most believed that the “undefeated, un-slammed” Giant was the one constant in the business.

Truth of course was different than the WWF sponsored fiction. Andre had worked heel, almost exclusively in Japan and in Mexico. He also had been beaten before by El Canek, the Sheik, Antonio Inoki and others. He had even been slammed many times by many people including Harley Race, Tatsumi Fujinami and even previously by Hulk Hogan himself while in the WWF. None of that mattered because the WWF on the mid 80’s lived through a strict time frame of reference. If it didn’t happen in the WWF, it didn’t count. If it happened prior to 1984, then it didn’t count. If the people didn’t see it on TV, it didn’t count. So with all that hype behind it, it was set. 78,000 people packed the Pontiac Silverdome to see the biggest star in the company take on the unbeaten legend. The casual fans ate it up, because they were the two biggest mainstream names at the time. So with all that out of the way, it’s WrestleMania III.

Vince McMahon welcomes the crowd.

Aretha Franklin is out to sing America the Beautiful, before she became a Viscera impersonator.

Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura, Bob Uecker and Mary Hart open the show

Can-Am Connection vs. Bob Orton & Don Muraco w/Mr. Fuji – This is pretty much the end of the run for the Can-Am as Zenk would split soon after. Zenk claimed it was because he found out that Martel was making twice as much money. Martel claimed it was because Zenk was immature, showing up late, violating the dress code and then just walking out. Others have said there was a relationship there that just went sour. The Muraco/Orton team was born out of the angle to turn Piper baby face. Later, Orton revealed that he didn’t like it and wanted to go face with Piper to go around the horn against Muraco & Adonis. This was Orton’s first Mania match despite being in the company for all 3. Short but solid with Martel finishing Muraco with a cross body.

Video package recapping the epic Billy Jack Haynes/Hercules Hernandez feud.

Mean Gene interviews Bobby Heenan & Hercules Hernandez

Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez w/Bobby Heenan – It’s two jacked up guys with no talent feuding over who has the best Full Nelson. The modern day version of this would be if they cloned Chris Masters and had him feud with himself. This was actually Haynes’ 2nd WWF run. In 1984 they aired a series of vignettes to build for his arrival and mega-push. He lasted a week before flaking out. Both guys end up tumbling through the ropes where Haynes gets the Nelson on the floor for the double count out. This was done to build to rematches on house shows and because they were planning a house show run for Hercules with Hogan.

Mean Gene interviews King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo

Mean Gene interviews Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver & Haiti Kid

King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook vs. Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver & Haiti Kid – My how the mighty have fallen. For some reason “Don’t go messin’ with a Country Boy” has banjo music dubbed over it but you can still hear it in the background. This was kind of the revenge match for Hillbilly Jim off of an angle where he and Studd crushed Jim’s sternum following the Manager of the Year contest like a year or so earlier. In reality it was booked because Vince thought Bundy working with midgets would be funny plus sometimes you just need a Little Beaver. Bob Uecker is on commentary to do some comedy. At this time he was the broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers, and starring in Miller Light ads and the sitcom Mr. Belvedere. The heel midgets turn on Bundy when he squashes Beaver. Littlebrook was the Moolah of midgets and later ended up in WCW as the manager of the Royal Family (Rip Morgan & Jack Victory).

Mary Hart interviews Elizabeth and Savage interrupts – Mary, the host of Entertainment Tonight, once had her legs insured for a million dollars.

Mean Gene interviews Bobby Heenan, Harley Race & Fabulous Moolah

Mean Gene interviews JYD

Harley Race w/Moolah & Heenan vs. Junk Yard Dog in a match where the loser must bow to the winner – Moolah was there because at this point she was the only woman wrestler in the company and it was a way to squeeze her on the show. Race was yet another strong worker brought in to bump for the Dog. The whole match is a bunch of JYD head butts followed by Race getting a belly to belly suplex for the win. The Dog, in a horrible example of sportsmanship for America’s children, fakes bowing and instead nails Race with a chair shot, puts on the royal robe and bails.

Vince McMahon interviews Hulk Hogan – In the middle of the promo he starts rambling about politicians, what was that?

Mean Gene interviews Johnny Valiant, Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake

The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs. Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake w/Bravo & Valiant – Trouble was brewing inside the Dream Team, after an incident on TV when they were teaming with Adonis in a six man tag against the Can-Am Connection and Lanny Poffo. Adonis had been carrying scissors to the ring and cutting the hair of jobbers as a way to hype his hair match with Piper. Well, he tried the same deal, but cut Beefcake’s hair instead. This all becomes important later on. Heenan comes into the booth to plug the fact that his guys are undefeated on the night. Monsoon points out that Bundy lost and Heenan says it doesn’t count since midgets were involved. Rougeaus nail their finish on Valenitne but Bravo comes off the top to hit Ramond for the win. The heels then ditch Beefcake turning on him. In case you are wondering if there was some deep thought behind turning Beefcake baby face, there wasn’t. It was done strictly so Hogan could travel with him.

Adonis/Piper video package.

Mean Gene interviews Adrian Adonis & Jimmy Hart – Adonis has hedge clippers.

Adrian Adonis vs. Roddy Piper in a Hair match – This was Piper’s retirement match as he was headed to Hollywood to make “They Live” and “Hell comes to Frog Town”. Since the show, this match has been overshadowed by the Savage/Steamboat match but at the time it was the 2nd biggest match on the show. Piper as a baby face reached Hogan levels of popularity as he was just massively over. Piper walks to the ring when the ring shaped golf cart wouldn’t work. In case you are wondering, the reason they rode to the rings on carts was because the building was so big, it was feared that Andre would blow up just walking to the ring. So as a result everybody got a ride. Crowd is just insane. Adonis does the worlds largest Flair-flip in the corner. These two guys actually have a long history having worked together in Portland and L.A. in the 70’s. Piper is put in a sleeper by Adonis but Adrian lets it go before it drops a 3rd time. Beefcake runs in and wakes up Piper who rams Adonis & Hart together and gets his own sleeper for the win. Beefcake then takes the clippers and gets his revenge by shaving Adonis’ head while Hart is held down by Piper and a new gimmick is born. Not the best match on the show, but certainly the most fun. ***

Monsoon chills with Uecker & Hart so Jesse can get introduced to the crowd.

Mean Gene interviews Jimmy Hart, the Hart Foundation & Danny Davis

Hart Foundation & Danny Davis w/Jimmy Hart vs. British Bulldogs & Tito Santana – the deal here was that Davis was the referee when the Bulldogs lost the belts to the Harts and when Tito lost the IC title to Savage. Of course, the Bulldogs one was part of the angle from the start but the Tito one was added in retrospect. Davis was the only choice to do the heel ref role because he had been pulling double duty for years, wrestling under a mask as Mr. X. The gimmick had no legs at all and died out about the second this match ended. Davis spent most of the next year working an opening match house show program with Sam Houston. This is a good little match as Davis finally tags in and then bumps his ass off for all the faces. Davey Boy tombstones him for a big pop, then picks him up for a suplex and then a power slam. This is brutal. Anvil saves Davis and it’s a pier six brawl. During the mess, Jimmy Hart throws the megaphone to Davis who uses it to get the pin. ***

Mean Gene interviews Bobby Heenan & Andre the Giant – Just to show the difference between then and now, this was the end of March and the main angle for Mania started the previous October.

Butch Reed w/Slick vs. Koko B. Ware – Koko comes out to “Pile Driver” which taught the world that “Sometimes love sounds like a fight, it sounds like an ar-gu-ment, it sounds just like a Pile Driver”. Jesse informs us that Koko’s middle initial stands for “Buckwheat” and he has a brother named Stimey, “he wears a derby”. Jesse’s delivery makes it funny. In case you are wondering how he got away with t he constant Buckwheat jokes, keep in mind that a little while later his boss named one of his “superstars” after an Amos & Andy character. Reed wins the match but the deal is the post match where Tito Santana runs in and strips the clothes off of the Doctor of Style. Everybody sing “Sometimes love is like a slow dance…”

Ricky Steamboat w/George Steele vs. Randy Savage w/Elizabeth for the IC Title – Maybe you’ve heard of this one. Now here’s the thing, this match is actually kind of overrated. If you grade it on a curve, and base it against what else was going on at the time it looks fantastic which is why it stood out as the first Mania classic. However, in all due respect, there are many matches from both guys that are better. Most of the Steamboat/Flair matches are better than this as are a lot of the Savage/DiBiase and even a couple of Savage/Hogan matches. However in an era where nothing was better than ***, a ****+ match looked tremendous. It is, but on its own, and outside of that time and place it isn’t as good. It was set up by a classic angle where Savage came from the top rope with the ring bell onto Steamboat’s throat, thus teaching millions of kids what a larynx is. They totally should have re-did that angle with the Rock in his prime as what ever heel would have stopped him from cutting promos would have gotten mega-heat. The other negative on this match is that Savage insisted they write out the entire thing move for move in the weeks prior to the match which kind of takes it down a little in comparison to a great match called in the ring. Steamboat wins the IC Title in a ****+ match with help from Steele thus ending both feuds.

Mean Gene interviews Jake Roberts & Alice Cooper – Cooper seemed bored

Mean Gene interviews Jimmy Hart & Honky Tonk Man

Jake Roberts w/Alice Cooper vs. Honky Tonk Man with Jimmy Hart – This stemmed from an episode of the Snake Pit where HTM hit Jake with a non-gimmicked guitar thus injuring his neck and taking his drug issues to a whole new level. Honky has some different music which doesn’t work. Honky rolls up Jake and grabs the ropes for leverage, a finish that would become even more useful for him 2 months later when he used it to win the IC title. After the match Jake & Cooper dump the snake on Jimmy Hart. Hart’s skinny tie is just so awesomely 80’s.

Mean Gene is out to announce the worked number. Always lie, even if the truth is impressive enough, kids.

Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff w/Slick vs. the Killer Bees – Let the humbling begin. Nikolai Volkoff tries to sing the Russian national anthem but is interrupted by that crusader of free speech, Hacksaw Duggan. He says Volkoff can’t sing it because “this is America, the land of the free…” Did anything Duggan ever did in the WWF actually make sense? You have to love the way Blair flaps his wings when coming off the second rope. Brunzell was actually trained by the Sheik. So after all the constant humbling of Blair rants, Sheiky actually had the camel clutch on that great high jumper Jim Brunzell. Amazing and now it’s all even funnier. Duggan runs in with the 2x4 for the DQ. Shortly after this, Sheik & Duggan would be pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike and be caught with marijuana & cocaine. It would be a major breaking of kayfabe scandal and both would be fired. Duggan would be brought back for the Paul Bosch retirement show that August but Sheik would spend the next few years working in World Class, Puerto Rico, WCW and the AWA.

Mean Gene interviews Andre & Heenan

Mean Gene interviews Hulk Hogan

Special guest ring announcer Bob Uecker is introduced who then introduces the guest time keeper Mary Hart.

Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Title – So it’s the epic battle of the immortals before 930,173,012 people. Hogan goes to slam Andre and rips every muscle in his back giving Andre a 2 count even though the ref counted 3. Andre is here to pass the Torch to the Hulkster which is good since later Hogan would burn the Observer on live WCW TV. Andre picks Hogan up and slams him, driving him through the mat and to the floor. Another big slam and Hogan is now half way to China. However, he is immortal, and therefore summons the power of the Hulk-a-Maniacs to drive him. Andre Irish Whips Hogan in the corner and the ring moves 12 feet to the left. Andre head butts Hogan and the Hulkster’s head lands in the 3rd row. Hogan, “Hulks up” and makes his comeback with a series of punches that would make Mike Tyson’s look weak. Hogan runs into a big boot and Andre’s size 37 foot gives Hogan the worst case of whiplash in the history of the Human Race. A bear hug by Andre proceeds to rupture Hogan’s spleen and force his liver to come out of the open area at the top of his headless neck. Hogan however fights back using the combined powers of Hulk-a-Mania, the Force, the Auto-bot Matrix of Leadership and the Energizer Bunny to fight off the Giant. Andre powers back, and kicks Hogan to the floor. Hogan uses his super speed to evade a Giant head butt and Andre’s head meets the solid steel post causing it to crack. Hogan tries to pile drive Andre on the concrete floor but they execute the worlds worst back drop as Hogan’s leg hits the ring apron on the way over. Back in the ring and a clothesline takes Andre down. Hogan has a seizure. He then picks up Andre and presses the 9000 pound Giant over his head, and into the Silverdome roof knocking the Giant unconscious. At this point Hogan’s back explodes and his vertebrae shoot into the crowd. Leg drop finishes. Andre then crawls to the corner and dies, his body spontaneously combusting into a massive pile of ashes that Hogan then consumes. Many historians consider this to be the greatest moment in the history of the human race.

Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura close the show.

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