[PPV Recap] ‘WWF WrestleMania III’ – The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object

Date: March 29, 1987
Venue: Pontiac Silverdome (Pontiac, MI)
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura

Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Champion Roll-Call

  • WWF Champion: Hulk Hogan
  • WWF Intercontinental Champion: ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage
  • WWF Women’s Champion: The Fabulous Moolah
  • WWF World Tag Team Champions: The Hart Foundation (Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart & Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart)

The Lineup

  • The Can-Am Connection vs. ‘Magnificent’ Don Muraco & Bob Orton Jr. (**1/2)
  • Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules (***)
  • Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, & The Haiti Kid vs. King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo, & Lord Littlebrook (3/4*)
  • Loser Must Bow: The Junkyard Dog vs. Harley Race (*1/2)
  • The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team (*3/4)
  • Hair vs. Hair: Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis (**3/4)
  • Tito Santana & The British Bulldogs vs. Danny Davis & The Hart Foundation (**1/2)
  • Koko B. Ware vs. Butch Reed (*1/2)
  • Randy Savage [c] vs. Ricky Steamboat for the WWF INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP (****3/4)
  • Jake Roberts vs. The Honky Tonk Man (*3/4)
  • The Killer Bees vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff (*1/2)
  • Hulk Hogan [c] vs. Andre The Giant for the WWF CHAMPIONSHIP (****)

*****

-A sexy saxophone intro leads us into the Pontiac Silverdome, where Vince McMahon welcomes everyone to WRESTLEMANIA THREEEEE. He then hands it over to Aretha Franklin for a rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’. She appears to be playing a piano to a platform connected to a pick-up truck, it’s truly majestic. It’s a great performance, which shouldn’t be surprising because it’s ARETHA F’N FRANKLIN we’re talking about. Show a little respect (just a little bit). This is the first WrestleMania that truly has that ‘big event’ feel Vince was chasing with the first two, inside a huge stadium with a huge crowd (either 90,000 or 78,000, depending on who you ask and who’s writing history) and I am FEELING THIS.

-After Aretha finishes wowing the crowd we cut to the announce booth high atop the Silverdome, where Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura welcome the home audience alongside baseball great Bob Uecker and Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart (no relation to Bret or Jimmy). Let’s get down to the action!

The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel & Tom Zenk) vs. ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton & ‘The Magnificent’ Don Muraco [w/ Mr. Fuji]

Martel had a run as a Tag Team Champion back in the early-80s before venturing off to the AWA to win his only World Championship, but now he’s back in the company alongside newcomer Tom Zenk. The Can-Am Connection formed the year before in a Montreal territory and seem to already be very popular with the WWF audience. Unfortunately Zenk isn’t long for the WWF world so this is their only PPV appearance together, Martel moving on to form Strike Force alongside Tito Santana.

Muraco uses his strength to taunt Martel at the outset. Martel slaps on a side headlock, Muraco whips him off but gets felled with a shoulderblock. Muraco may be full of muscles but his balance is apparently terrible. Muraco roughs up Martel in the corner, Martel floats over and connects with a monkey flip/Thesz press hybrid for a two-count. Zenk gets the tag and the Can-Am Connection hit a double monkey flip on Muraco and a double hip toss on Orton. Orton tags in, and eats a scoop slam from Zenk followed by an armdrag into an armbar. Orton escapes with a knee and applies a full nelson but Zenk reverses it. Orton reverses back but Muraco accidentally drops his own partner with a right hand. Martel back in, Orton tries to escape a wristlock by pulling the hair but Martel hangs on. Quick tag back to Zenk, who keeps a wristlock applied. Muraco manages to tag in, Zenk greets him with a bodyslam into a wristlock. Muraco with an Irish whip and Orton hits him from behind, turning the tide in favor of the heels. Muraco with a gutbuster, Orton drops a forearm from the middle buckle for a two-count. Zenk whips Orton into the ropes and they crack shoulders (or heads, according to Monsoon and Ventura). Martel gets the hot tag and is a house of fire. Zenk gets back into it and brings Muraco into the ring with a slingshot. Can-Am reverses Irish whips and force Muraco to accidentally backdrop Orton. Orton gets sent to the floor, Martel catches Muraco with a crossbody as Zenk trips him for the 1…2…3!

The Can-Am Connection defeated Bob Orton & Don Muraco when Rick Martel pinned Muraco following a crossbody (5:36)

  • Energetic opening match that went much faster than I originally remembered. The Can-Ams shined throughout this contest with quick tags and double team offense, it’s easy to see why the WWF brought them into the company. Too bad Zenk left when he did, I think they could have been one of the top teams in the WWF for the rest of the 80s, maybe even longer. But if that had happened we wouldn’t have gotten Zenk’s legendary ‘YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAAAAAH’ WCW theme so I’m glad they didn’t. (**1/2)

-A video plays recapping the feud between Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules, who are fighting over who has the better Full Nelson. We then go backstage to the interview with ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund who’s with Hercules and his manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. Hercules says Haynes will feel the fear tonight when everyone finds out who the true master of the Full Nelson is. Heenan tries to make ‘Billy JERK Haynes’ a thing but fails.

Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules [w/ Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan]

Both men entered the WWF the year before and already had a high-profile match at the Big Event before Hercules cut his hair and joined up with Bobby Heenan. According to my super quick Google search these two feuded even before they were in the WWF, so they’ve got a lot of history. I am unabashedly a Hercules mark so I’m pumped for this one, even though Herc had to drop his much cooler Torture Rack finisher to slum it in a Full Nelson feud.

Haynes back Hercules in the corner, the ref forces separation allowing Hercules to get a cheap shot in. Hercules belts Haynes with a series of forearms but misses a corner splash and Haynes takes advantage with a series of chops and a military press slam. He goes for the Full Nelson but Hercules quickly escapes his grasp and dives to the ropes. Haynes catches a kick and whips Hercules in the corner, but Hercules comes storming out with a hard-ass clothesline that the folks in the nosebleeds could hear. I’m surprised that didn’t stop Haynes’ heart, goddamn. Hercules continues the assault with a backdrop and a hammer throw into the corner. Hercules with a vertical suplex and lateral press but he stops his own attempt in a foolish display of arrogance. Haynes tries to take advantage of his new lease on life but his back is too hurt to connect with a suplex so Hercules goes right back to work, this time hitting a backbreaker. Hercules throws Haynes around like he’s nothing and signals for the Full Nelson. Hercules applies the hold but doesn’t lock his fingers so he doesn’t get all of it. It’s still painful enough that Haynes drops to one knee. Haynes starts to break out, Hercules clubs him in the back of the head and they take one another down with a double clothesline. Haynes catches Herc with an inverted atomic drop and mounts a string of offense. Ventura mocks the high amount of clotheslines in this match and it’s pretty funny. Haynes applies the Full Nelson but it isn’t fully locked in and Hercules forces them both to tumble out to the floor. Haynes slaps on the Full Nelson once again but is too dumb to do it in the ring and the ref counts them both out.

Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules fought to a double-countout (7:53)

  • I’ll come right out and say it: I think this match is underrated. Sure it doesn’t do anything crazy spectacular but it’s a damn fine contest between two guys people don’t really give a lot of credit to when it comes to 80s wrestling (to be fair Haynes didn’t stick around very long to get any credit but you know what I mean). One of my favorite matches on the show without a doubt and also unintentionally funny because they barely did anything with the Full Nelson. (***)

Heenan hits Haynes from behind, Haynes pursues him but gets dropped with a handful of chain by Hercules, busting him open. Hercules continues clubbing Haynes with his chain, the ref trying to stop things but he’s too tiny to make a difference. Hercules slaps on a quick Full Nelson to Haynes as an insult to injury. The use of the chain leads to a series of Chain matches between the two over the next few months, none of which I’ll ever get to see but I’m sure they were fun.

-‘Mean’ Gene is backstage with King Kong Bundy and his two midget tag team partners Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook. He wants to beat up Hillbilly Jim and squash some tiny folk. He headlined WrestleMania 2 last year and now he’s doing this. That’s great. What a difference a year makes, no wonder he bolted out of the company shortly after this.

-After Bundy makes his entrance we go to ‘Mean’ Gene’s interview earlier in the day with Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, and The Haiti Kid. Jim and company make their way out on the mobile ring, Jim’s theme dubbed by the WWE Network. Well sort-of dubbed, I can still hear Jim singing ‘Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy’ behind it so it’s two songs at once and my nose is starting to bleed.

Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, & The Haiti Kid vs. King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, & Little Tokyo

The midgets can only fight the midgets in this one, so Bundy can’t go squashing like he wants to. This is midget wrestling in the 80s so I expect things to get goofy right away. Bob Uecker joins Monsoon and Ventura on commentary, wanting to see this one for himself.

Tokyo with a headlock on Haiti to start, all four midgets criss cross around the ring, then Beaver and Haiti wish bone Tokyo and Littlebrook. Haiti with an atomic drop, Beaver tags in and Tokyo hits him with a hidden closed fist. Beaver slaps Tokyo, Littlebrook tags in and Uecker is all about him. Littlebrook brings Beaver to the heel corner, Beaver fights out and even throws a shot at Bundy. Bundy tags in, Beaver isn’t scared of him despite of the size difference. Beaver dropkicks Bundy, Bundy feels nothing so Jim tags in as the crowd goes wild. Jim ducks a clothesline and knocks Bundy to the mat with one of his own, following up with an elbowdrop. He covers, Beaver and Haiti jumping on top for extra weight, but Bundy shoves them all off. Bundy catches Jim with a back elbow to the sternum and applies a standing front facelock, giving us a nice shot of the Marlboro cigarette ads. Beaver comes in to break it and runs away to avoid the attack. Bundy squashes Jim in the corner, Beaver attacks Bundy again so Bundy slams him and drops an elbow, breaking the rules and forcing the ref to call for the bell.

Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, & The Haiti Kid defeated King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, & Little Tokyo via DQ (4:22)

  • Not as much midget comedy as I was expecting but in all due honesty there wasn’t much of a match here. What was here was pretty basic and dull, but I liked Beaver trying to fight Bundy and getting decimated for his troubles. The ref calling for a DQ was lame, considering Beaver was the one provoking him but officials never favor the heels, even when they’re right. (3/4*)

Bundy wants to splash Beaver but he’s pulled out of the way by not only Haiti Kid but Littlebrook and Tokyo as well, not wanting to see one of their own turn into a grease spot on the canvas. Jim checks on Beaver as Bundy leaves on his own, regretting having to agreed to this match in the first place.

-We go backstage where Mary Hart is standing by with Miss Elizabeth. The interview is quickly interrupted by Elizabeth’s charge, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. Hart wants to talk to Elizabeth instead but Savage sends her away. Hart calls Savage ‘a real charm’. I would have also accepted cad as an insult.

-A video plays highlighting the feud between The Junkyard Dog and Harley Race. We then go to comments from earlier day from Race, Bobby Heenan, and The Fabulous Moolah. Moolah will be proud to crown Harley the king of wrestling once again while JYD is forced to bow. Heenan gives Moolah the crown to hold onto for the coronation. Uecker gets all horny for Moolah and bails from commentary to get closer. We get some pre-recorded comments from JYD, who is confident that he’ll be crowned the new King at the end of this one. GRAB THEM CAKES, JYD.

Loser Must Bow
The Junkyard Dog vs. ‘King’ Harley Race [w/ Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan & The Fabulous Moolah]

Harley Race came to the WWF in 1986 after a long and successful stint atop the cards in the National Wrestling Alliance, having won the World Title a then-record six times. But being a World Champion just isn’t enough for the WWF who wanted to put a spin on him, giving him a goofy and literal ‘King of Wrestling’ gimmick complete with crown, scepter, and cape. Super insulting but Race I guess needed the money at the time so he went with it. Interestingly enough his entrance music is the same song that another ‘King’, Jerry Lawler, would adopt when he joined the WWF in 1993, and he still uses it to this day.

JYD blocks a couple of jabs and connects with a right. Heenan grabs the leg, JYD chases him around and back into the ring, allowing Race to take advantage of the distraction. JYD quickly fights back with more right hands and a headbutt that sends Race crashing to the canvas. HE’S GOT A HARD HEAD BECAUSE HE’S NOT A WHITE DUDE, GET IT? Race sends JYD to the floor and tries to hit a headbutt from the apron but misses and hits nothing but thin padding. Yikes, dude. JYD clotheslines Race back into the ring. Race ends up on the apron again, JYD slams him back in and locks in an abdominal stretch. Race counters with a hip toss and tries a headbutt but JYD feels nothing and throws Race back out to the floor. Race is taking some high-ass bumps for a guy at this stage of his career. JYD with the crawling headbutts, Heenan climbs the apron and distracts him once again, Race hitting a belly-to-belly suplex for the 1…2…3!

Harley Race defeated The Junkyard Dog via pinfall with a belly-to-belly suplex (3:21)

  • Wait that’s it? Fair enough, a long JYD match is not something I or anyone sane would want to sit through anyway. To Race’s credit though he tried to keep it lively with some crazy ass bumping and a MISSED headbutt onto the floor but this was too short to really be anything. (*1/2)

After the match Howard Finkel informs the crowd that JYD must now bow and kneel before the King. JYD gives Race a curtsey followed by a bow, then he crowns Race…WITH A CHAIR. Ventura has never seen a cheap shot like that in his life. Race’s music hits and JYD celebrates with the cape, walking around mockingly like royalty, leaving with it on the mobile ring.

-Cut to the locker room where Vince McMahon is standing by with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. Hogan talks about how everyone thought his motorcycle trip to the mountains was his last ride or some nonsense. Hogan says all he has to do is beat a 7’4” 550-pound giant. Easy peasy. Unfortunately for Andre to beat him, he’s going to have to not only beat Hogan but all his Hulkamaniacs as well. WHACHA GONNA DO ANDRE THE GIANT?

-After the Rougeau Brothers get introduced we cut to pre-recorded comments from The Dream Team. Dino Bravo pleads his case for being in The Dream Team’s corner, but only in French so he could be saying anything. This one is also a rematch from last year’s The Big Event. Weird.

The Rougeau Brothers (Jacques & Raymond Rougeau) vs. The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine) [w/ ‘Luscious’ Johnny Valiant & Dino Bravo]

Ray and his Tom Selleck mustache starts the match against Beefcake, nailing him with an atomic drop. Jacques tags in and the Rougeaus connect with a double dropkick. Valentine tags in, The Rougeaus with a double leapfrog and a crossbody by Ray for two. Quick tags continue, Jacques hitting Valentine with a back elbow for two. Jacques attempts a crossbody but Valentine ducks it and he goes crashing to the canvas. Beefcake tags in and puts the boots to Jacques, keeping him in the Dream Team corner to make sure he can’t make the tag. Bobby Heenan joins commentary as Valentine traps Jacques in a Figure Four leglock. Jacques gets to the ropes to force a break while Heenan recaps the nonsense his Family has been up to so far. Jacques counters a piledriver with a backdrop and escapes a sunset flip attempt to make the hot tag to Ray. Ray with a backdrop into a sleeperhold as Heenan says he’s making history here tonight. Beefcake tries to break the sleeper but Ray moves and he hits his own partner. The Rougeaus nail Valentine with a double team move but the ref gets distracted and Dino Bravo attacks Ray from behind, Valentine covering for the 1…2…3.

The Dream Team defeated The Rougeau Brothers when Greg Valentine pinned Ray Rougeau after Dino Bravo interfered (4:04)

  • Another short match that didn’t really get going but the Rougeaus showed some good teamwork and were fun enough to watch. This is the end of the Dream Team though, and if they were going to do that, you’d think they’d give the Rougeaus the win instead of having them lose anyway. That’s a shame. Also Heenan bragging about his own successes instead of letting the commentators pay attention to the match was a little on the annoying side. (*3/4)

Bravo and Valiant celebrate with Valentine and leave without Beefcake. THE DREAM IS OVER.

Cut to video of Roddy Piper destroying the set of The Flower Shop, the talk show hosted by ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis. Piper then attacks Jimmy Hart during an episode of Piper’s Pit but gets attacked from behind by Adonis. The upcoming match is a ‘Hair vs. Hair’ contest that is also doubling as Piper’s retirement. Well his first retirement.

Hair vs. Hair/Piper’s “Retirement”
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper vs. ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis [w/ ‘The Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart]

Adonis brings giant hedgeclippers to the ring with him, Hart carrying a mirror. They seem pretty confident that they’re going to win. Piper makes his entrance next and gets a hero’s welcome from the crowd for his “FINAL” match. I would add extra quotations to “Final” to match my sarcasm but it’d fill up an entire page.

Piper whips Adonis with his belt, then chokes Hart with it until Adonis attacks from behind. Adonis takes the belt and goes a whippin’. Piper reverses an Irish whip, sending Adonis upside down and out to the floor Piper drags Adonis back in, who in turn drags Hart into the ring. DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER TIME. Piper throws Hart into Adonis and they both tumble out to the floor, the crowd the loudest it has been this entire show. Piper keeps using Hart, launching him from the top into Adonis, Hart gets revenge and trips up Piper. That’s the least he owes Piper for all the abuse this match. Piper tries to fight back but Adonis drops him with an elbow, pushing him out to the floor so he can send him head-first into the timekeeper’s table. Piper stumbles around and Hart lays in another cheap shot behind the ref’s back. Again Hart has every right to given he was used as a PROJECTILE earlier in the contest. Adonis with lefts, THE DEVIL’S HAND, and Piper wants more. Piper and Adonis exchange jabs, Hart sprays something from an atomizer into Piper’s eyes and Adonis locks in Goodnight Irene (sleeperhold). Piper tries to escape by bringing Adonis to the mat but Adonis keeps the hold applied. Piper rams Adonis repeatedly in the corner but Adonis won’t let go and Piper crashes to the mat, falling asleep. The ref checks Piper’s arm and Adonis starts celebrating, thinking he has it won but Piper is still awake. Brutus Beefcake runs in and wakes up Piper for some reason. Adonis tries to hit Piper with the shears but misses and hits the ropes, bouncing the steel back into his face. Piper traps Adonis in the Sleeperhold and Adonis passes out.

Roddy Piper defeated Adrian Adonis via KO with the Sleeperhold (6:55)

  • A fun match but not exactly one to end a career on; luckily for us (at least for the first few years) Piper returns to wrestling after his movie career doesn’t take off the way he would like it to so there’s more Hot Rod to come. Adonis was such an underrated wrestler, stuck with a stupid gimmick because he had the NERVE to gain weight. Cheeseburgers are delicious Vince, GAWD. This is Adonis’ final PPV appearance in the WWF as well as he would leave the company soon after a feud with Beefcake, finding his way back to the AWA and other territories until his tragic death in 1989 after a car crash. The amount of death on this show is heartbreaking. ANYWAY this is definitely a fun match worth checking out. It’s the first chance you get to hear just how loud this crowd can get. (**3/4)

Beefcake uses an electric razor to shave Adonis’ head while Piper holds Hart down with his boot. Beefcake is pretty good at this, he should become a Barber or something HEY WAIT A MINUTE. Piper holds up a mirror and Adonis punches it and tries to attack Piper but he can’t get his hands on him. Hart covers Adonis’ head as they walk to the back and Piper celebrates with the crowd after winning HIS TOTALLY LEGIT FAREWELL MATCH HE’LL NEVER COME BACK NO SIR. A random fan comes in to celebrate with Piper and Piper humors him until being ushered to the mobile ring, while the fan gets cuffed and escorted out by security. That might be my new favorite part of the show, I never noticed that before.

-Cut back to the announce booth where Ventura has gone, replaced by Mary Hart and Bob Uecker. Ventura shows up in the ring after an introduction by Finkel, The Hart Foundation & ‘Dangerous’ Danny Davis already in the ring. Monsoon throws a plug for Ventura’s movie Predator, opening soon and starring the no-name Arnold Schwarzenegger, whoever that is. Ventura doesn’t do anything after getting introduced, he just sorta stands around. Davis used to be a referee but got suspended ‘for life plus ten years’ for favoring the heels. He becomes a ref again in like three years, so ‘life plus ten years’ must be a lot shorter in wrestling time.

Tito Santana & The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & The Dynamite Kid) [w/ Matilda the Bulldog] vs. ‘Dangerous’ Danny Davis & The Hart Foundation (Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart & Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart) [w/ ‘The Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart]

Davis cost Santana & The Bulldogs their championship gold so they’ve got a bone to pick with the former manager. My girlfriend, who’s stuck watching this with me because we only have one TV, just called The Hart Foundation “The Pink Pants Men” which you got to admit is a superior team name. Matilda immediately goes after Hart, chasing him out of the ring. Serves Jimmy Hart right for making his suits out of meat. HUMAN MEAT.

Bell rings and The Bulldogs throw Davis on The Hart Foundation. Jesse Ventura bails on the mobile ring, stealing Matilda in the process. What a jerk. Smith slaps a side headlock on Neidhart and Hart tries to interfere so the Foundation get a double noggin knocker for their troubles. Dynamite tags in and knocks Neidhart into another dimension with a headbutt, Santana tags in for an armbar. Neidhart forces Santana into the heel corner and distracts the ref so Hart and Davis can choke him. Santana counters a backdrop with a leapfrog and tags in Smith who sends Neidhart for a ride with a backdrop. Smith gets distracted with Hart for some reason and gets pearl harbored. Hart tags in proper but misses a second-rope elbowdrop. Dynamite tags in, sends Hart chest-first into the corner, following up with a falling headbutt but Neidhart breaks up the pinfall attempt. Hart with a European uppercut and rights to Dynamite in the corner, Dynamite goes for a suplex but Neidhart clubs him in the back and puts a stop to that nonsense. Hart Foundation double-team Dynamite, then Davis tags in for the first time. He looks like a goddamn zebra with those striped tights. All he does is get in a couple kicks then immediately tags back out to Hart, pissing off the crowd. Danny Davis is easy to hate. Hart Foundation with quick tags as they work to beat Dynamite down, Davis tags in again and struts around before connecting with some pump kicks and immediately tagging back out to Hart. Hart Foundation tag in Davis and slingshot him at Dynamite, who gets the knees up. Santana gets the hot tag and lays into all three heels. Flying Forearm to Davis but he wants to beat on him some more for revenge. Santana goes for the Figure Four, Neidhart clobbers him to stop it. Smith gets the tag, belting Davis with a clothesline and connecting with a jumping Tombstone Piledriver that Davis was in NO WAY ready to take. Dude landed on his head and it was ooooogly. Smith hits the Running Powerslam and covers for the 1…2…Neidhart once again saves the match for his team. All six men start brawling, Smith gets hit with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone and Davis covers for the 1…2…3!

Danny Davis & The Hart Foundation defeated Tito Santana & The British Bulldogs when Davis pinned Davey Boy Smith (8:51)

  • Given the talent involved in this one it’s crazy to say this but Danny Davis was totally the star of the match. His arrogant quick tags early in the contest built heat on him beautifully so when Santana finally got his hands on him the crowd absolutely EXPLODED. Good stuff and a simple story of the smarmy heel getting his comeuppance was told well, as was his cheating to win the match for his team. Danny Davis didn’t get a long run as a wrestler but he didn’t suck, at least at the heeling it out part. Too bad he got stuck with that horrifyingly lame wrestling gear the whole time. (**1/2)

-Cut to the interview area where ‘Mean’ Gene is standing by with Bobby Heenan and Andre The Giant. Heenan is wearing an all-white suit, classing it up for the upcoming main event. Heenan hypes Andre as being undefeated for the past fifteen years (FALSE) and a man who’s size is one Hulk Hogan has ever faced before (ALSO FALSE). Heenan says it’ll be all over tonight and he’s excited as all hell to manage the new World Champion.

‘The Birdman’ Koko B. Ware vs. ‘The Natural’ Butch Reed [w/ ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick]

Ware and Reed are both new WWF recruits, with both men having spent time in Bill Watts’ territory Mid-South Wrestling among other places (Ware even used to team with Bobby Eaton before The Midnight Express became a thing). Reed comes into this one with more of a pedigree thanks to his main event feuds in Mid-South against The Junkyard Dog and Ted DiBiase, among others. He left in 1986 and hooked up with Slick in Kansas City, resulting in both getting signed to the WWF. Reed’s gimmick here is ‘The Natural’, sporting dyed blonde hair as a contradiction. Ware is already doing his ‘Birdman’ thing alongside Frankie the Parrot. For some reason I thought that came after this show, but hey I’ve been wrong before and will be wrong again, probably in this very recap.

Reed with some clubbing blows, Ware escapes a slam attempt and connects with a dropkick, sending The Natural out to the floor. Ware with a right hand to the bread basket and Reed bails into the ropes, trying to get some space. It seems to work as he counters a backdrop attempt with a clubbing forearm to gain control. Reed connects with a thumb right to the throat, shielding it from the ref so he can get away with it. Ware reverses an Irish whip and connects with a hip toss, following up with a series of left jabs and a dropkick for a two-count. Reed rakes the eyes, Ware with a small package for another two-count. Ware catches Reed with a crossbody, Reed rolls through into a lateral press and grabs the tights for the pinfall.

Butch Reed defeated Koko B. Ware via pinfall (3:38)

  • And that’s that. Competitive for what it was but not necessarily memorable. The crossbody reversal is one of my favorite finishes in pro wrestling though so I popped for that a little bit. Reed seemed destined for more in the WWF but unfortunately never rose high enough in the ranks and left the WWF for good after WrestleMania IV the next year sans Slick. All’s well that ends well though since that led into the formation of Doom, one of my favorite tag teams of all-time. As for Ware you’ll see him pop up a lot in these recaps but not on the winning side much, if at all which is a shame because the crowd loved him, myself included. He helped me realize just how much love is like a piledriver, and I can never repay him for that. (*1/2)

Ware attacks Reed for cheating, Slick attacks him with a cane until Tito Santana emerges and tries to rip his clothes off. He gets the coat and most of the shirt until he runs for it. Reed tries to get revenge for his manager and the attack but falls to a double dropkick. I guess there’s a Tito/Reed feud coming? I’m not sure.

-Next up we get a video package highlighting the feud between ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat. Savage crushed Steamboat’s larynx in an attack, leading to an ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS series of vignettes of Steamboat re-learning how to speak which they don’t go into in this package for good reason. We also get a video of George ‘The Animal’ Steele kidnapping Miss Elizabeth. He’s supposed to be a face so it’s presented like Steele is doing it because he cares. Yikes.

WWF Intercontinental Championship
‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage [c] [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat [w/ George ‘The Animal Steele]

For those of you well-versed in pro wrestling history the upcoming recap of this match will be pointless because you’ve undoubtedly seen this one at least once if not more, but we’re doing it anyway. I think Steamboat’s theme is dubbed by the WWE Network which is a shame. To be fair his theme was adopted by the Chicago Bulls, so they probably own it now.

Savage with a waistlock, Steamboat whips him off and the Macho Man heads to the floor to move Miss Elizabeth further away from Steele. Can’t blame him. Steamboat with two deep armdrags followed by a choke throw, forcing the champ to once again bail to the floor. Steamboat chases him back in and Savage smartly attacks him on the way in. Steamboat dodges a corner splash and lifts Savage up and to the mat with a wristlock, trying to dislocate the shoulder. Steamboat focuses his attack on Savage’s left arm, Savage escapes an armbar with an Irish whip and catches him with a back elbow. Savage tosses Steamboat to the floor, kicking him when he tries to get back in. Savage brings Steamboat to the apron and drives the point of his elbow right to the throat, attempting to reinjure his larynx. Savage pulls Steamboat in by hair and connects with an elbow for a two-count. Savage connects with a knee drop and covers again with the same result. Steamboat blocks a buckle shot and connects with a series of karate chops, tying Savage in the ropes to see he can get a few shots in. Savage catches him with a kick to the gut, Steamboat catches him with a crossbody for the 1…2…Savage kicks out and Steamboat connects with an armdrag. Steamboat takes Savage to the mat a few more times and tries to get a quick pinfall but Savage kicks out each time then catches The Dragon with a knee to the back. Steamboat skins the cat back into the ring, Savage clotheslines him back out. Nice try, man. Steele checks on his buddy until the ref yells at him to stay away, scaring the poor Animal. Savage hits another knee to the back, sending Steamboat sliding over the timekeeper’s table and into the crowd. Steele picks Steamboat up and helps him get back in the ring as Ventura protests the interference. Justified. Steamboat gets sent back out to the floor on the opposite side, following up with a double axhandle from the top turnbuckle.

Savage rolls Steamboat back in and heads to the top, hitting a second double axhandle. Savage covers after a running elbow but Steamboat manages to kick out. Savage drops Steamboat throat-first on the top rope and covers again for the 1…2…kickout. Savage with an atomic drop and a vertical suplex, trying for the pin twice but Steamboat still finds a way out. Steamboat with chops, Savage rakes the eyes and hits a gutwrench suplex for the 1…2…Steamboat kicks out once more. Steamboat flips out of a back suplex attempt and lays into Savage with chops but his backdrop is countered with a kick. Savage charges, Steamboat with a backdrop that sends The Macho Man out to the floor. Steamboat brings Savage back into the ring and leaps over the ref with a flying chop for the 1…2…SAVAGE GETS HIS FOOT ON THE ROPE, the crowd cheering thinking The Dragon won. Steamboat with a double chop off an Irish whip for the the 1…2…kickout. Steamboat connects with a series of chops, Savage rolls to the apron and gets dropped to the floor. Steamboat chases Savage back in, hitting a sunset flip from the apron for the 1…2…NOPE. Steamboat ducks a right hand and rolls Savage up for the 1…2…NOPE. Steamboat with a reverse double leghook for the 1…2…STILL NOPE, Steamboat with a small package for the 1…2…ONCE AGAIN NOPE. Steamboat slingshots Savage over the buckles and into the post, Steamboat rolling him up in a sunset flip attempt for the 1…2…NOPE. Steamboat with an O’Connor Roll for the 1…2…Savage reverses it and holds the tights for the 1…2…STEAMBOAT KICKS OUT. Hot damn.

Savage grabs the tights and throws Steamboat shoulder-first into the post. Savage sends Steamboat into the ref and hits a clothesline. Savage connects with the Flying Elbowdrop and gets the visual pin but the ref is still out. Savage shakes the ref to wake him up a bit, then gives up and grabs the timekeeper bell, looking to put Steamboat back on the shelf. Steele takes the bell, Savage kicks him and retrieves it and heads to the top. Steele pushes him off. Savage goes for a bodyslam, Steamboat with another inside cradle for the 1…2…3!

Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage [c] via pinfall with an inside cradle to win the WWF INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP (14:35)

  • Everything that can be said already has by folks over the years, but I’ll tell you this: this one holds up and then some. An exciting back and forth contest, utilizing multiple pinfall attempts to build the drama between two evenly-matched foes. This template became part of the DNA of pro wrestling, influencing the layouts of thousands of matches after this one and they should be commended for it. Steamboat admitted in interviews over the years that he and Savage laid this contest out move for move in the weeks leading to this show, but you wouldn’t be able to tell as everything flowed and made sense as opposed to coming off overly theatrical. Hogan/Andre may have filled the stands but Steamboat and Savage without a doubt stole the show and it’s one of the greatest matches I have ever seen, and undoubtedly one of the greatest matches of all-time. If for some reason you’ve never seen this one, CHANGE THAT IMMEDIATELY. (****3/4)

-Cut backstage to ‘Mean’ Gene who’s standing by with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, his snake Damien, and Roberts’ special guest rock star Alice Cooper. We see footage of his opponent tonight, The Honky Tonk Man, belting him with an ungimmicked acoustic guitar. This attack injured Roberts legitimately and is the moment he credits (that’s the wrong word but I’m going with it) for his descent into drug addiction. Yikes. Cooper doesn’t have anything really to say, neither does Roberts. After their entrance to the arena we get some words from HTM and Jimmy Hart, HTM throwing shade at Cooper’s music because his is better. I have to agree; although I like Alice Cooper a lot, none of his songs match the greatness of ‘Cool, Cocky, Bad’. That song doesn’t exist at this point though so HTM comes out to some other rockabilly ditty.

Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts [w/ Alice Cooper] vs. The Honky Tonk Man [w/ ‘The Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart]

Roberts attacks Honky right away, belting him with rights and a kneelift. Honky bails to the floor, Roberts tears his jumpsuit off while continuing to lay into his hated rival. Honky tries to create space but doesn’t work and Roberts slams him on the floor, Cooper just awkwardly hanging out and taking in the show. Roberts charges at Honky in the corner, Honky gets his knees up. Roberts ducks a right hand and connects with a short-arm clothesline. Roberts goes for the DDT, Honky slips out and bails to the floor. Roberts follows and belts him with a right hand. Hart distracts Roberts just long enough for Honky to reverse an Irish whip, sending the Snake into the ring post. Roberts gets to the apron, Honky connects with a knee and he falls into the guardrail. Cooper helps Roberts to his feet, Honky pulls him back into the ring and hits a scoop slam followed by a forearm drop from the middle buckle. Honky with some knees and right hands, followed by a falling double axhandle when The Snake crashes to the canvas. Roberts counters Shake, Rattle, & Roll with a backdrop but Honky immediately goes back to the attack in the corner. Roberts catches Honky with an inverted atomic drop and mounts a comeback. Honky gets caught between the ropes and Roberts treats him like a rocking chair. Roberts goes for the DDT but Hart grabs his leg to distract him and Honky rolls him up, grabbing the top rope, for the 1…2…3.

The Honky Tonk Man defeated Jake Roberts via pinfall with a roll-up (7:02)

  • Match started off well but once it slowed down it got reeeeeal slow and it turned from a brawl between two hated rivals to just another wrestling match. Eh. I liked the finish though, more people should use the top rope when trying dirty pins it’s the ultimate leverage. (*3/4)

Roberts tries to hit Honky with the latter’s guitar but Honky dodges and it smashes into pieces against the ring post. Honky takes off, leaving Hart in the ring. Cooper takes off his jacket and teases attacking him but Roberts belts The Mouth from the South instead. Roberts holds Hart and Cooper scares him half to death with Damien, dropping him on the poor frail manager. Honky finally returns and saves his manager and they run to the back. Jimmy Hart is just getting WRECKED on this show, my god.

-Howard Finkel introduces ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund to the ring. Okerlund says everybody at the Silverdome is a part of history as the WWF has established a brand-new indoor attendance record: 93,173. That’s a lot of human.

-We follow up that world-record announcement with the introduction of The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff. They are joined by their manager Slick, who’s still wearing the shirt Tito ripped up earlier in the show. Volkoff launches into the Russian National Anthem as folks throw garbage at him but it’s broken up by ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan and his 2×4. Duggan gets on the mic and does his patriotic schtick for the cheap pop.

The Killer Bees (‘Jumping’ Jim Brunzell & B. Brian Blair) [w/ ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan] vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff [w/ ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick]

The Killer Bees had a goofy gimmick but I can’t deny that they were one of the better tag teams during a very crowded and competitive era. I’m surprised the WWF never created a secondary Tag Team Championship to accommodate all the tag teams on their roster; hell they gave the women’s division a Tag Team Championship and that division had like ten women max. Oh well.

Sheik and Volkoff attack the Bees from behind but the Bees fight back, clearing Volkoff from the ring and hitting Sheik with a double back elbow. Quick tags and double team moves from the Bees as they continue working over Sheik, focusing on his left arm and shoulder. People are still throwing trash in the ring. Brunzell hits his beautiful dropkick which Monsoon POPS HARD for but Volkoff breaks the pinfall attempt. The heels take over while the crowd tries to take them off their game with a ‘USA’ chant. Sheik connects with a double axhandle off an Irish whip and covers for two. Volkoff tags in, Brunzell ducks a clothesline but gets caught in a bearhug. Brunzell escapes by boxing the ears but Sheik quickly tags in to stop the momentum, hitting two gutwrench suplexes for a pair of two-counts. Brunzell cracks Sheik with a high knee and tags in Blair but the ref didn’t see it so he doesn’t allow it. Sheik and Volkoff with a double back elbow. Sheik slaps on the Camel Clutch as Duggan chases Volkoff into the ring. Instead of continuing the chase Duggan makes an executive decision and wallops Sheik with the 2×4, forcing the ref to call for the bell. WHAT A DICK.

The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff defeated The Killer Bees via DQ when Jim Duggan interfered (5:41)

  • I hope Jim Duggan paid The Killer Bees for the money they lost thanks to his interference! Match was your basic tag team stuff, the focus being more on Duggan as the pro-USA guy just couldn’t help but beat down on some foreigners. But hey no one did the patriot thing better than Duggan, not even The Patriot. (*1/2)

Duggan gets back on the mic and leads a ‘USA’ chant with The Killer Bees. Sheik and Volkoff didn’t even cheat, they had the match won fair and square. SHENANIGANS. SHENANIGANS I SAY.

-Cut to the interview area where ‘Mean’ Gene is once again with Andre The Giant and Bobby Heenan. Andre talks this time, proclaiming victory. Heenan is pumped full of adrenaline (naturally, I hope), ready to become the manager of a World Champion.

-Cut to a video package highlighting the feud between Hogan and Andre. They began as friends, with Andre celebrating with Hogan after his WWF Championship win in 1984 and Hogan saving Andre from an attack by King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Andre, sick of being in Hogan’s shadow despite being undefeated and a bigger star, turns heel and challenges Hogan for the championship on an episode of Piper’s Pit, ripping his shirt off and everything like a bully.

-Cut to the interview area where ‘Mean’ Gene is with Hulk Hogan. Hogan launches into one of his crazy promos, saying the whole earth is going to shake when he gets his hands on Andre, BROTHER.

-Cut to inside the arena where Howard Finkel introduces Bob Uecker to the ring to be the guest ring announcer. Uecker is tremendous, I’m sad he didn’t stick around in a more full-time capacity he could have had a good career in pro wrestling. Uecker takes over and introduces Mary Hart to the ring who is the Guest Timekeeper for this one. Remember when Entertainment Tonight was one of the most popular shows in America? The pre-internet days were something.

WWF Championship
Hulk Hogan [c] vs. Andre The Giant [w/ Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan]

The immovable force meeting the immovable object. This is not only the biggest match of 80s-era WWF, but still the biggest match in WrestleMania history. Fight me if you think otherwise. Actually please don’t I’m a coward.

Hogan jaws at Andre, who just stares at him stone-faced. Andre shoves him, Hogan shoves back and connects with a series of rights. Hogan tries to slam him but he’s too big and Andre lands on top of him for a two-count, surprising both Andre and Heenan. Andre goes a clobbering, connecting with a kneelift and easily slamming him to the mat, Hogan screaming in pain. Andre yells at Hogan to get up, which he does only to go down again thanks to another slam. Andre then steps on Hogan’s back, further injuring the champ. Andre whips Hogan into the corner and squashes him against the turnbuckles with a hip splash. Heenan wants to see a headbutt, Andre obliges. Andre goes for another headbutt but Hogan slides out of the way and he hits nothing but buckle. Hogan with three right hands, staggering the big man but not knocking him off his feet. Hogan goes for a corner clothesline but runs right into Andre’s HUGE boot. Andre slaps on a standing bearhug, focused right on Hogan’s injured lower back. Hogan almost wakes up thanks to the cheers of the crowd but Andre keeps it synched in and the champ fades out. The ref checks the arm, Hogan keeps his arm up on the third check and the crowd goes wild. Hogan breaks out after a flurry of right hands and tries to take him down with a couple of shoulderblocks. It only staggers Andre, who catches a still-charging Hogan with a chop.

Andre sends Hogan to the floor with a big boot and immediately goes after him but misses a headbutt and hits nothing but post. Hogan removes the protective padding on the floor to reveal the wood. He tries for a piledriver like a crazy person and Andre counters with a backdrop, which loses its impact when Hogan’s legs mostly land on the apron first to break the fall. Back in the ring, Hogan dodges a big boot and finally drops Andre with a clothesline (AX BOOM-BAH). Hogan HULKS UP and SLAMS Andre, following up with the Big Legdrop for the 1…2…3!

Hulk Hogan [c] defeated Andre The Giant via pinfall with the Big Legdrop to retain the WWF CHAMPIONSHIP (12:00)

  • As of this writing we’re on the eve of the 34th annual WrestleMania and it’s hard to think of any other main event that has come close to feeling as big and important as this one (Hogan/Warrior from VI and Cena/Rock from 28, MAYBE). There have been better matches sure, but when it comes down to spectacle this may still take the cake. Hell I got goosebumps during the entrances like I was transported back to 1987 and watching this live for the first time. From a quality perspective the match itself is pretty bad, a lot of punching and kicking and an extended bearhug spot which along with nerveholds is something I truly hate in a match, but I still hung on every move like I didn’t know who was winning. Even Andre, who I laid into unfairly in my review of the first WrestleMania, was great here playing up the heel persona in a way that up until that time no one had ever seen before. A true passing of the torch match, goddamn. I haven’t felt like that about a wrestling match in forever, let alone a match over thirty years old. What an experience. This will likely not be a match that ages well for newer fans but it’s one of the biggest matches in pro wrestling history and required viewing. I’m going to catch a lot of flack for the star rating since the match quality itself is lacking but I can’t ignore how it made me felt and just how BIG this match came off. (****)

A victorious Hulkster poses and celebrates with the 93,000 Hulkamaniacs before leaving on the mobile cart. We then cut to Monsoon and Ventura who recap the bigger moments of the show and we close with stills from the event, with Aretha’s ‘America the Brave’ playing us out.

*****

Overall Thoughts: You don’t get much bigger than WrestleMania III when it comes to important pro wrestling events and I’m glad to say that it mostly holds up to this day. There’s a ton of filler in the undercard resulting in shorter matches than I would have liked, but the big two of Savage/Steamboat and Hogan/Andre deliver in spades. I’m especially surprised by the latter as I remember hating this match as a kid because of how boring it was. But it felt different this time as I lost myself in the moment and I loved every second of it, even the jank. There have been bigger WrestleMania events with better undercards but WrestleMania III remains the biggest of them all even to this day. Highest recommendation possible even with its lower points.

  • Match of the Night: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (DUH)
  • Moment of the Night: Hogan slams Andre

 

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