Retro Wrestling Re-Run: WrestleMania III
The one that Hulk Hogan never shuts up about. The history of WrestleMania III and the men who took part in it. David is back with another Retro Wrestling Re-run
WrestleMania III was a record setting show at the time. WWE/F claimed 93,000 fans attended the show, and that number has been disputed ever since. Dave Meltzer claimed that only 78,000 paid and the rest were allowed in free of charge. An ESPN research project about a decade ago using a computer, scan counted faces and came up with around 92K. The managers of the Pontiac Silverdome claimed that 93K was the legitimate number, and that’s worth noting as usually when the numbers are disputed the arena often publishes the real numbers some time well after the event.
Whether or not WWF had 93,000 will never be resolved in debate. It’s a matter of what you believe as both present compelling claims, but neither justifiably say for certain which is the truth. I personally believe that at least 93,000 attended the show, even if they didn’t all pay. If the number was true, then that set a world record an indoor sporting event.
But what isn’t disputed is that in 1987, WrestleMania III was the highest grossing wrestling show ever put on, then. WWF made over 10 million, with over 1 million in closed circuit viewing, and an unknown but very high number of people watching on Pay-Per-View.
At the time of the PPV, the Pontiac Silverdome was the home of the Detroit Lions, and the Detroit Pistons. Both organizations have since went to other arenas. The Pontiac Silverdome languished falling into a state of disrepair as it became a venue for fewer and fewer spectacles. Eventually, the Pontiac Silverdome was demolished in 2018, with the site getting purchased by Amazon afterward. The site of WrestleMania III has been turned into a distribution centre… The fan in me is saddened by this fact.
Vince’s idea of having celebrities at WrestleMania was very toned down compared to the previous two years. I believe that Vince felt that WWF had achieved enough status in popular culture that it didn’t need to hire a few dozen celebs for spots. That said, the show did feature Bob Uecker, who was Mr. Baseball, a famous broadcaster in both real-life baseball, and on the Major League movies.
WWF had Mary Hart, who hosted Entertainment Tonight but she wasn’t all that memorable. She did commentary on the six-man tag match. Aretha Franklin did a beautiful rendition of America the Beautiful, continuing the tradition of America the Beautiful over the National Anthem, as started by Ray Charles. Lastly there was Alice Cooper, who was at ringside with Jake Roberts.
The commentary team for most of the show is Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. They were an iconic duo that did WrestleMania I but didn’t do the last few shows together. From this point out, they would do almost every show until Ventura left the WWF in 1990.
It would be another year before WWF would run SummerSlam but the WWF PPV era was starting to kick off. The next PPV after this one was the first Survivor Series, and a couple months after that, the first SummerSlam. The Era of the Big 4 was starting to take shape.
I had almost forgot that Bob Orton was still in WWF at this point in his career. He went from being ringside in the main event of WrestleMania I, to barely even on WrestleMania II. Here, he is in the opening match with Don Muraco. Bob Orton sort of shuffled around WWF for a while. He worked as a bodyguard for Adrian Adonis for a bit and wrestled various people in House Shows and some TV matches. He got a little more stable in his career when he formed a tag team with Don Muraco.
Though losing at WrestleMania III, Muraco and Orton remained as a team for most of 1987. As it turned out, WrestleMania III was Bob Orton’s last WWF PPV appearance until 2005 when he acted as a manager for his son Randy Orton in his feud with Undertaker. Orton would wrestle in New Japan and NWA in the coming years.
Don Muraco did not appear on WrestleMania I, but he was a main feature as a top heel for years in WWF on house shows and TV events including several title matches. WrestleMania III finds Muraco on the downward slide for a while. Don Muraco’s leg is legitimately injured. The exact details are unknown, but I can tell his leg is swollen and there is a bit of bruising around the tape. If it was an angle, it would have been talked up.
After losing, Muraco and Orton would continue to team. They fought against several top teams, including the Killer Bees. However, their team broke up and Muraco and Orton had a feud for the rest of 1987 until Bob Orton left. Muraco won that feud decisively. He may have started 87 on the downward slide but things were looking up for Muraco going into Survivor Series, as he was now a face and ally of Hulk Hogan.
The Can-Am Connection is a short run team. Tom Zenk and Rick Martel joined WWF after working in AWA and Montreal International Wrestling Association. Tom Zenk had a lot of ring skill, but seemed to lack character and charisma in my opinion. The team were rising stars from their debut on November 15th 1986 until Tom Zenk’s departure. Tom Zenk had a pay dispute with WWF and left the promotion after July 9th, 1987.
The exact nature of the pay dispute isn’t known, however… Tom Zenk walked out of his contract with WWF without being formally released and as a result, Vince used legal action to attempt to prevent Tom Zenk from wrestling in Japan for a while. The heat between Vince McMahon and Tom Zenk resurfaced during the steroid trial when Tom Zenk testified against Vince McMahon, though his testimony didn’t help much because Tom Zenk admitted to using steroids provided by a private doctor and not a WWF employed doctor.
He is not even mentioned by name in WWF, even when talking about the Can-Am connection… I’m sure you can read in between the lines for that one. Tom Zenk had been really close with Rick Martel, but the issues around the 1987 were never resolved and Tom Zenk died without the pair reconciling.
After Hulk Hogan left AWA, Verne Gagne made a point to avoid his mistakes with Hogan and started pushing younger stars to become World Champion. Rick Martel is one of those champions. 595 days, the longest run of AWA champion in the 1980s, not counting the last few months of Nick Bockwinkel’s epic title run in the 1970s that finished in 1980. It might be considered the highlight of Martel’s career if you don’t allow yourself to be overly WWF centric.
Nevertheless, Rick Martel left AWA anyway. WWF was a growing company and AWA was going the other direction, so it made sense. It’s true that he goes from World Champion to opening match at WrestleMania, but this is the first PPV of a long and successful career in WWF. While Tom Zenk burned a bridge like it was never burned before, Rick Martel soon teamed with Tito Santana to form one of the most popular teams in WWF history, Strike Force. This is to say, the future of Rick Martel at this point in his career, couldn’t look brighter.
This one is a rematch from the Big Event, and the last big thing of note either of them did before this show was that match, except that Hercules got Bobby Heenan as a manager. With Heenan as a manager, Hercules’ position in the company drastically improved as he became one of their top mid card heels.
Listening to the promo before the match, it seems that Hercules thinks he is the very same Hercules from Greek mythology. I think that stretches the suspension of disbelief a little far. Just before this match, in the build… Haynes was going through what would one day be the Masterlock challenge, where a wrestler would allow Chris Masters to put on a full nelson so that he can try to break free from it. But Haynes refused Hercules and kicked Bobby Heenan instead. Hercules forced Haynes into the Full Nelson setting up this match.
The match itself is a power match where the main story is Hercules and Haynes trying to get full nelson on the other. It ends in a double count out, which is a fine finish… for wrestling on TV. Shouldn’t be on the biggest show of the year. At least they didn’t open the show with a double count out. WWF learned something from WrestleMania 2, I guess.
Billy Jack Haynes did not have another PPV in his WWF career. Haynes wrestled Hercules again in a series of house shows, a few of those were chain matches. Why couldn’t we have that match instead of the full nelson challenge? One of them was taped and has been on YouTube in the past. If you can find it, that’s the best match to watch of their entire feud, or even Haynes career.
Billy Jack Haynes won most of his matches that were televised, despite this, his WWF career was short as he was fired in early 1988. According to Greg Valentine, Billy Jack Haynes was using a fat burner called THP that causes you to pass out as a sort of drug. He apparently couldn’t be woken up, and was kicked off the plane… This combined with further statements about Billy Jack Haynes being difficult to deal with and beating up Iron Mike Sharpe in the back due to Mike giving him a stiff punch in the ring. Vince McMahon ultimately fired him and Haynes went to back to Oregon where he mostly wrestled for small promotions except for a stint in WCW.
Billy Jack Haynes himself tells multiple contradictory stories about why he is fired from WWF, none of which include the account by Greg Valentine. Haynes claims that he refused to lose a match in his hometown in New Orleans in one version of events. Haynes sometimes says he quit, and sometimes says he got fired. I would take Greg Valentine’s version of events over Haynes. It’s also worth noting that in his own words, he assaulted Crockett before going to WWF, and he was fired by WCW. Suffice to say claims that he was difficult to work with, may have some substance.
Hercules may not have won the match because of a double count out, but he got the best out of it. Hercules did wrestle Haynes again and the feud was finally ended when Hercules won the chain match at a house show in Chicago. Hercules was a major heel for the rest of 1987 feuding with various stars like Ricky Steamboat and Bam Bam Bigelow, also being in a short-lived tag team with King Harley Race. His next major show was Survivor Series 87.
King Kong Bundy went from the main event of WrestleMania 2 to the midget tag match on WrestleMania III. Ever seen a wrestler drop down a card that fast? This may be crap, but this is crap that could have been done better. King Kong Bundy dropping an elbow on Little Beaver got him disqualified. When in fact if Bundy had pinned him, I believe there would have been a lot more heat.
Despite how clearly the company seemed to have lost interest in Bundy as a main event star, Bundy continued to have major card positions for the rest of 1987. King Kong Bundy wrestled Randy Savage in the King of the Ring Finals but lost. The King of the Ring in this era was a house show tournament, but it was a popular feature which is why it became a PPV eventually. Bundy even got a title shot at Hogan on Saturday Night’s Main Event on November 11th of that year. Bundy’s next major show would be the first Survivor Series.
Hillbilly Jim used to be paired with Uncle Elmer as part of a family of Hillbillies, but Uncle Elmer left WWF. This left Jim as the main Hillbilly on the promotion. Vince McMahon had a strange obsession with Hillbillies, they were a feature of WWF programming even into the 2000s era. Hillbilly Jim was the most over of these type of guys by far…. Though the Godwins do have their own fans. Hillbilly Jim would be a part of various tag team bouts for the rest of 1987 and wouldn’t appear on a major show again until Royal Rumble 1988.
The midget wrestlers as they are called were part of a short-lived obsession Vince got with little people. Who knows why… Little Beaver wrestled for at least 20 years but match results outside of WWF are hard to find as with the other 3. He was done with wrestling for the most part after 1987. He died in 1995 of emphysema.
Haiti Kid is the only member of the match aside from Hillbilly Jim that is still alive. What little is known of him, he travelled around the wrestling world in North America. AWA, Florida, Portland, and even Puerto Rico. He retired in the 1990s, the exact date is unknown. Little Tokyo actually won a Midget World title in NWA, yea that was a championship that existed. In fact, so did Little Tokyo, Lord Littlebrook, and Little Beaver. He died in 2011.
Lord Littlebrook, who trained many other midget wrestlers is probably the most famous and well-travelled of the group. He wrestled in Australia, Japan, Thailand, and other countries. He wrestled from around 1950 to 1997 and was one of the biggest stars among midget wrestlers. He is a member of multiple Hall of Fames. He died in 2016.
This match features one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Harley Race. His opponent JYD is a well-respected legend too. The finish feels a bit strange. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was a botch. Harley Race wins and I’m so glad that Harley Race had a win at WrestleMania. A man of his stature deserved to go into the record books with a victory on the greatest wrestling show of them all.
Even though Harley won, everything that transpired made it feel like JYD won instead. He takes Harley’s robe, would have taken the crown if he could and celebrates in the ring. He gets on his cart and leaves the arena while still wearing the kingly robe, with a furious Harley Race yelling from the ring.
Information on JYD in WWF after this point in his career is particularly difficult come across. Harley Race’s victory over him as final, as they didn’t wrestle again. Instead, he feuded with Nikolai Volkoff, Butch Reed, Honkytonk Man, and Greg Valentine among others. His place on the card plummeted after this show. He didn’t feature on Survivor Series, he only made a less than memorable appearance on the Royal Rumble and appeared in a battle royal at WrestleMania IV. His glory days were mostly over in WWF. His final major show appearance was Summerslam 88, but that one is for another day.
Harley Race won the King of the Ring Tournament the year before, which was a house show tournament at the time. Harley Race was the king of wrestling. This was done to celebrate Harley Race without acknowledging his title runs in NWA. He would win matches and make his foes bow to him after beating them. After beating JYD, Harley Race continued his gimmick of making people bow to him.
Harley Race feuded with Hulk Hogan and Jim Duggan. In Harley’s own words, Race winning the King of the Ring was meant to build him up as a challenge to Hogan, but Hogan was meant to be an unstopped force and crush him. Harley never had an issue with any of that because business is business. He fought Hogan several times in 1987, and again in 1988. Harley’s next major show was Survivor Series 87.
The Rougeau Brothers are Raymond and Jacques Rougeau, who are actual brothers, get a rematch with the Dream Team from The Big Event. Between Big Event and Mania III, neither team really did much of note other than feud with each other. The reason I think is because Vince wanted to keep the teams in relative place on their card so that they could rematch without changing to many plans.
This is Dino Bravo’s first PPV appearance on WWF programming. This isn’t Dino Bravo’s first WWF run. In the 1970s he was a Tag Team Champion with Dominic DeNucci, the man who trained Mick Foley. He left WWF to wrestle all around, for New Japan, for AWA, for NWA and in Canada.
Before he returned to WWF, he was featured heavily in the Montreal Wrestling scene. He was a major draw in Canada, a 6-time Canadian International Heavyweight Champion, and a two-time NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion. When he joined WWF, Canada lost a major star and that helped contribute to the decline of the Canadian Wrestling scene.
Brutus Beefcake was out of the team after WrestleMania III, and Dino Bravo was in, thus becoming the New Dream Team. He had a minor feud with Brutus Beefcake that WWF moved quickly from and tagged with Greg Valentine for the rest of year. His next major show was Survivor Series 87.
Brutus Beefcake didn’t wrestle much of the match, he tried to help Greg Valentine but accidentally hit Greg Valentine. While Brutus almost cost them the match, but Dino Bravo helped Greg win the match. That was the end of the road for that version of the Dream Team. They left him behind in the ring. Brutus stood there looking confused and honestly kind of heart broken. He might be a heel but he acted the scene well enough that I can’t help but feel sad for him. It’s worth noting that Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake remained tight backstage. Even in old age, they are often seen together including a photo of them both in recliners watching TV.
Brutus cemented his face turn by showing up in the very next match where he helped Piper cut Adrian’s hair. Brutus Beefcake fully embraced “The Barber Gimmick.” He made scissor motions with his fingers. It sounds silly to read but it was over with the crowd at the time. He was now a face wrestler. He kicked off his feud with Honkytonk Man just before we see him next at Survivor Series.
This is a hair vs hair match; the winner cuts off the loser’s hair. This is not a No-DQ match, but it might as well be. They assault each other with a strap and Jimmy Hart fights too, all in front of Dave Hebner, Earl’s actual twin brother. Roddy Piper is retiring (for now) but he still gets the win. It’s much more common for a guy leaving wrestling to go out as a winner these days but in the 1980s that was almost unheard of. Standard practice was retiring wrestlers to put people over on their way out the door, a practice that Piper himself would engage in during a different retirement.
There has been a lot of changes for Roddy Piper since WrestleMania 2. If you recall, he was the bad guy in a feud with Mr. T. A loose thread from the WrestleMania I storyline. After Mania 2, he had taken a leave of absence but when he returned, he saw that Adrian Adonis had replaced the Piper’s Pit segment with the Flower Shop. Do you wonder why the Flower Shop didn’t get over? Of course, you don’t. The name gives it away.
Roddy Piper was now a good guy for a chance and got to see what it’s like being on the other side as he started getting beat up left and right. But in a clear sign of where wrestling was heading, Piper was still Piper and he was ready for war. A lot of heels turned good guys have a complete personality change especially in those days. But with Piper was essentially the same man. This is a much more realistic character development then we typically see in wrestling at the time.
The WrestleMania match was billed as Roddy’s Retirement, and frankly this appears to be a legitimate retirement. True that he returned to wrestling later, but Roddy Piper didn’t wrestle another recorded match for any company for over two years. He was leaving WWF because he was going into acting. Most of his movies are B movie stuff that you can laugh at, but in 1988 he made “They Live.” One of the greatest cult classics in film history. After a few movies, he went back to wrestling and his next major show was Survivor Series 1989.
The story for Adrian Adonis after WrestleMania III, is a sad affair. He was out of the company by May, fired by Vince for reasons that aren’t completely certain. If you’ve been watching the shows as you read these, you may have noticed that Adrian Adonis gained a lot of weight. Adonis by some accounts was not happy with the direction that the company had for him and he might have been showing that with excessive weight gain. By this match, he is very overweight and doesn’t look good at all. He was always a big man and his style played into that, but at WrestleMania III, he was in extremely bad shape.
Adonis didn’t give up on his career after being fired. He started working in AWA, and New Japan and was trying to get himself back in shape. His goal according to friends was to get back into the WWF. However, tragedy struck instead. On July 4th, in 1988, he was in a Minivan accident, he and two other wrestlers were killed. We’ll never know what could have been. His trainer said he lost 120 pounds in his attempt to come back to WWF, no small feat. He could have had an amazing run.
For whatever reason, the tag titles aren’t defended at this WrestleMania. Instead, we have this 6-man match. I guess that’s the first in a long line of times when the tag titles are ignored on the biggest show of them all, eh?
This is the Hart Foundation’s first proper WrestleMania. None of that battle royal nonsense from WM2. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart worked for Stampede for years, the promotion that belonged to his father, Stu Hart. There, they racked up credibility as some of the best wrestlers in Canada. Bret in particular was widely praised for his in-ring ability. When Stampede was sold to WWF, part of the deal was WWF acquiring Bret and Jim’s wrestling contracts. Initially they wrestled singles matches but were quickly put together to form The Hart Foundation. As a team they were a fantastic melding. A technical wrestler who could brawl, and a brawler who could get technical when necessary. Jim Neidhart was more power focused while Bret Hart could and would take you apart with his vast array of technical moves.
The Hart Foundation really took off in a feud with the Killer Bees. The Killer Bees won the key match on a Saturday Night’s Main Event episode, but it was the Hart Foundation and their brilliant look that took off instead. After beating various teams in WWF, they were quickly shot into title contention against the champions, the British Bulldogs. If you can find any battles between the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs on any video service, you should watch it. It’s some of the best tag wrestling of the era.
They won their first tag team championship thanks to the help of Referee Danny Davis. The character of Danny Davis, an evil referee might be one of the stranger gimmicks that WWE has ever run, outside of all the wizards and evil possessed woman hypnotizing other women wrestlers in the ring.
It’s a strange notion to think of a referee becoming a wrestler instead but it’s not so weird if you read some of the background of the business. Many referees are in fact trained wrestlers, some even with matches under their belt. Several of today’s current WWE wrestlers have actually wrestled a little in NXT and other developmental programs. Danny Davis was a trained wrestler before his WWF time as well. In fact, his first wrestling match was in CWA in 1978.
Information is somewhat slim on Danny Davis, so I don’t know if they always intended on Danny Davis to be a referee turned bad guy wrestling or if Vince didn’t just get inspired one day. He refereed for over a year before he adopted the Evil Ref gimmick. He was the referee of the match where Randy Savage beat Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Championship over a year before WrestleMania III. A fact that WWF retroactively promoted as a Danny deliberately screwing Tito.
Danny Davis was part of the Hart Foundation technically but was quickly spun off into his own thing. He wrestled a lot of different house shows, even wrestled against Macho Man Randy Savage. He wasn’t jobbed out like you might have expected either. While the big guys like Macho Man would get the wins, lower tier guys like Koko B. Ware would lose to him. His next major event was Survivor Series 87.
The rest of the Hart Foundation would continue their feud with the British Bulldogs after WrestleMania. I would credit them as victors of that feud because they won most of their matches against the Bulldogs. The Hart Foundation lost their tag titles to Strike Force on October 27th 1987, ending their first title run. Their next major show would be Survivor Series 87.
The British Bulldogs were now former champions, having lost their titles to the Hart Foundation. Regardless, they remained popular with fans. They eventually moved past the Hart Foundation with the Harts coming out on top, but their next major angle didn’t strike until the Survivor Series. Most of 1987 up until that point saw them going over various low-level teams. The team would never again be WWF Tag Team Champions despite their popularity.
Tito Santana after losing the intercontinental championship was in the shuffle with various opponents. Despite there being a clear feud in place, Danny Davis and Tito Santana rarely met. They wrestled at the King of the Ring house show tournament, which Tito lost, and they wrestled again in 1989. That’s about it.
But Tito does have a stellar 1987 overall, he forms a team with Rick Martel known as Strike Force. As mentioned earlier, with Tom Zenk out of the company… WWF needed someone else for Strike Force and Tito fit the bill. Together they won the tag team championship from the Hart Foundation. They would feature as a team on Survivor Series.
Koko B Ware doesn’t really deserve to be called a jobber though fans often do. He wasn’t a true jobber, but rather he was a what is called a “Jobber to the stars.” Even then not so much in his early WWF years. He beats guys, but when the main features hit, he puts people over. Contrary to some people’s thoughts, Koko B Ware’s birdman gimmick was not a WWF invention. Koko B Ware was already the Birdman when Vince signed him. The addition of Frankie the bird was a WWF addition at Koko B Ware’s own request.
Frankie the Bird was Koko B Ware’s pet once his WWF run started. He had that bird until 2001, when he died in a house fire. Koko talks of the bird like he was a member of the family. The death of the bird hit him hard. In WWF he was always happy when he could travel with Frankie, and he struggled when he couldn’t. Koko said in an interview, “The spirit of Frankie is with me where ever I go.”
For a guy who was famous for losing to people, Koko B Ware in 1986 and 1987 won most of his matches. He only lost a handful, against people like Harley Race (whom he also had a win over). This period of just before WrestleMania III to afterward, is probably his peak in his wrestling career with high place on the card at WrestleMania and recording in my view the best song on the Piledriver Album… the song Piledriver. Despite his winning ways, he didn’t feature on Royal Rumble or Survivor Series, and his next major show was WrestleMania IV
Butch Reed and Slick were in Mid-South and Butch Reed had a solid run in Mid-South, he was their North American Heavyweight Champion 3 times. They were signed as a package deal and brought into the WWF in 1986. Now Slick goes on to have a memorable run as a manager in WWF for years after this… Butch Reed however, not so much.
To be frank, Butch Reed did well in most wrestling promotions except WWF. His WCW run as part of Doom with Ron Simmons is iconic. His next major show is Survivor Series where he’ll be the least memorable member of the entire Andre the Giant/Hogan survivor series match, more on that down the road.
This is one of the most talked about matches of that era. This match even helped inspire the WON 5 Star system, according to what Meltzer said on the Steve Austin podcast a few years back. This match helped make Randy Savage and added to the already strong legacy of Ricky Steamboat.
Randy Savage was on a tear after WrestleMania 2. Gorilla Monsoon said on commentary, he was a fighting champion despite being a heel. He met all comers, like Jake Roberts, Ricky Steamboat (before this match), George Steele, Pedro Morales, among others. Randy Savage had become one of the hottest wrestlers in the company after Hogan. Frankly, it was the first time since the Hogan era begun that I felt like someone was actually catching up to Hogan.
For some people, losing the title on Mania is the beginning of the end for being relevant in WWF/E. Not the case with Randy Savage. Randy Savage grew increasingly popular and was organically turned face. He won the King of the Ring House Show tournament, and feuded with Honkytonk Man. He became as hot as a face as he was as a heel, he was on the road to WWF World Championship Gold. His next major PPV was Survivor Series.
Ricky Steamboat had the best match on the last major show we covered, the Big Event, and here we are again. Steamboat has the best match on this show too. Steamboat kicked off his feud with Randy Savage in the fall of 1986, and it saw a famous segment where Randy Savage crushed Ricky Steamboat’s larynx. The match at WrestleMania was in part, revenge.
Things looked like they were going great for Ricky Steamboat but then suddenly… not. There are many rumours regarding this. Some say that he asked for time off to be with his wife Bonnie for the birth of their first son. Others such as Bruce Prichard dispute this idea. I don’t know if it is true or not but I’m mentioning it so that you can jump to your own conclusions.
Other statements suggest that Steamboat got the old golden shovel because the match at WrestleMania stole the show from Hogan & Andre. This one just doesn’t make sense because they would bury Randy Savage too, but Randy Savage continued to be pushed very hard.
Whatever the case or reason, Steamboat’s IC title run was ended on June 2nd 1987, losing the title to Honkytonk Man, who claimed himself to be the greatest Intercontinental Champion. Ricky Steamboat still had more to give the company after that as his next major event was Survivor Series.
Regardless of what happened to the two wrestlers, this match is considered very influential on wrestling history. It’s the first major match in a style of wrestling that will take over a large part of WWF/E wrestling style in many years to come. It showed what wrestling could be and stood in contrast to what wrestling was currently. It’s regarded as one of the greatest matches of the decade and for good reason.
Jake Roberts was very busy after his match at The Big Event. With Adonis’ Flower Shop segment coming to an end, Jake Roberts debuted a show of his own called The Snake Pit. It worked a lot like Piper’s Pit in that it depended on the character of Jake Roberts and was used to push various storylines with other wrestlers.
Jake Roberts was booked as a heel but is another guy who was organically turned face. Regardless of how much WWF tried to play up Jake Roberts as a villain the fans continued to cheer him. The breaking point was when they set up a feud between Hulk Hogan and Jake Roberts, and Hogan got booed in favour of Jake Roberts. The Hogan program was cancelled, and Jake Roberts was turned face.
Jake Roberts was booked into a feud with Honkytonk Man as a result. Honkytonk Man was a guest on Roberts’ Snake Pit, and smashed Jake Roberts over the head. The guitar wasn’t prepared to break apart so as a result, Jake Roberts was legitimately injured in the head shot. Some have said that Honkytonk deliberately injured Jake Roberts, but Honky denies this. Regardless, this was the backdrop of their match at mania. I personally doubt that Honky would hurt Jake on purpose.
Honkytonk Man got the windfall off of Ricky Steamboat falling out with the office and became the Intercontinental Champion on June 2nd 1987 on a match that was aired on Superstars of Wrestling a few days later. He is the longest running IC title holder for a single reign in the title’s history and the 4th all time. Honkytonk Man would feud with Randy Savage, which would feature as part of the Survivor Series PPV that fall.
Sheik and Volkoff have been a featured Tag Team in all three WrestleManias at this point. They’re the only such team to be featured on the first three shows. However, this is Sheik’s last WWF PPV for a long time. By the end of the year, he’d be working at World Class Championship Wrestling, and his next major PPV appearance anywhere would be getting beaten easily by Sting at Wrestle War 89 in WCW.
Volkoff though would go on to form a new team with Boris Zhukov, after which point the copying of the NWA team “The Koloffs” couldn’t be more obvious, especially since they made Boris look like Ivan Koloff. They would be featured at Survivor Series.
As for the Killer Bees, they are hugely popular in WWF, yet never won the titles. They probably would have, were it not the Golden Age of tag team wrestling in WWF. Never before, or since would so many talented tag teams exist inside WWF/E. Had they come in a few years later, I think they would have won them.
Gorilla Monsoon said that Jim Brunzell, one of the Killer Bees had a beautiful Dropkick, and he’s right. You will know when you see it, he gets great elevation. He might have one of the best-looking dropkicks in wrestling history. After WrestleMania III, they would feud with Demolition. Demolition would get some of their first important wins in the company.
WrestleMania III was Jim Duggan’s first appearance on PPV, but he didn’t wrestle. Instead, he came out and smashed Volkoff with the 2X4, and later during the match, he’ll nail Iron Sheik while Sheik is putting the Camel Clutch on the Killer Bees. The match itself, is kind of weak and a bit unnecessary other than getting these guys a payday. The finish is a DQ, but it looks like the heels have the Killer Bees beat, indicating that their spot on the card was in a downturn.
It's Main Event Time… it’s…
Andre the Giant’s story is one of the best told in WWF and it could be seen even at WrestleMania I, where they put over the idea that Andre had never been beaten or slammed. Andre had in fact been beaten, but not in WWF. He’d been slammed… in WWF in 1980 by Hulk Hogan himself, but facts aren’t always helpful in a good story.
While Hogan wasn’t the only person to slam him, or even the first… Hogan deserves credit as the one who slammed Andre at his heaviest. How heavy was Andre? According to commentary, 525lbs. That might have been accurate as Andre was big and getting bigger.
They built this thing so far back that some interviews suggest that Hogan vs Andre was already planned for Mania 3, before Mania 2 had even happened. Hogan and Andre had been friends in the ring, but as Paul Orndorff showed, friends becoming enemies is a real money way to feud with Hulk Hogan.
Even with all the planning, there was some question as to whether not this match would actually happen. Andre’s health was bad and getting worse. Andre did everything he could, even working out in Vince McMahon’s private gym at home, to be able to even make it to WrestleMania. Without Andre’s effort to keep his body mobile, Andre would have collapsed well before this event. Even a year later, his health sharply declined to such a point where a potential main event rematch was dropped down the card. Andre deserves respect for making it to the ring at this point in his life.
This is Hulk Hogan’s third Mania in a row in his run as WWF Champion, though he didn’t defend it on the first one. However, while he won here, Andre would eventually be the man to end the last great long run with the WWF/E Championship. About 10 months later at a show called “Main Event III.”
Vince McMahon views this match as the greatest match of all time. It’s crazy to say that when you consider what could be done in the ring by them, compared to even Steamboat vs Savage, but McMahon sees match quality based on drawing power. That’s the way all the old bookers used to see things before the Dave Meltzer's’ of the world started focusing on various types of moves.
Whether or not WrestleMania III actually drew the number they said, is irrelevant. The show is the most successful wrestling show of its era. Its total profits would not be beaten until WrestleMania 23, and later WrestleMania 28. That’s why Vince McMahon would hold it so high. WrestleMania I put the company on the map, WrestleMania III made the company the biggest wrestling company in the history of the sport, and it’s because of this match.
The match is… not the greatest, but good for what was possible. Hogan’s working with a very big and immobile guy who fortunately is considered an all-time legend, which is why it works. Andre almost accidentally wins the WWF Championship in this match by simply falling on him. Hogan had to slide out to avoid the pin. Some unverified legends suggest that Andre did this to remind Hogan who the boss is, in the ring. That’s believable, considering how Andre could be sometimes.
Hogan fights from under, like never before and never again, and takes some serious punishment. Andre’s 500-pound frame standing with one foot on Hogan’s back had to hurt for year. I’m willing to bet that single moment took enough time off his back, that it might by why Hogan never became TNA World Champion. Andre the Giant, Deadly Chiropractor.
Hogan gets Andre up in a slam and you can see everyone else standing up in amazement. No one expected that. See, that’s good psychology right there. Hogan even tried a slam and almost lost the match for it. Hogan had fans in the palm of his hands. After the slam, Hogan gets the quick pin and perhaps the most important match in WWF/E history is over.
Hogan must pose, and this goes on and on even for him. Jesse Ventura calls out his egomania, all while still giving Hogan credit for winning the match. I kind of agree with Jesse as the booking of the show always had a rule of “Hogan Must Pose” and a time was always set aside from that, even when Hogan lost a lot of the times.
Everyone goes home, remembering no doubt that they were at one of the absolute greatest wrestling shows of all time. Next time, we go to one of my all-time favourite PPVs ever, Survivor Series 1987, which also feature Hogan and Andre facing off, this time in a Five v Five tag match.
All told, WrestleMania III was a great success. Until WrestleMania 23, it was WWF/E's most profitable show. If WrestleMania 1 got the ball rolling for WWF, then WrestleMania 3 was the game winning slam dunk. The success they had from this show was enough for the company to build on and ride wrestling as a whole to great heights, and even survive the bleak periods of the 90s. WrestleMania III was truly where everything just came together.
Next time we look at Survivor Series 1987,so join us then, and thanks for reading.