Friday, March 8, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: III

The one edition that's totally critic-proof....

Pontiac Silverdome - 3/29/87

Now we're talkin'.  WrestleMania III was, and possibly still is, the biggest wrestling supercard of all time.  Arguably no single wrestling match has carried the sheer magnitude or mainstream appeal of Hogan vs. Andre.  There's a consensus among wrestling fans who grew up with this show: When it comes to WrestleMania III, star ratings need not apply.

Let's be honest, Hogan vs. Andre is a terrible, terrible match from an in-ring standpoint.  Had that been Dan Spivey vs. Big John Studd performing the exact same match, it would've been booed like X-Pac and ranked high on the all-time DUD list.  But somehow the mediocre Hogan and the damn near immobile Andre captured the imagination of everyone on that night, and delivered the best and most memorable awful match in history which climaxed with The Bodyslam Heard 'Round the World.

On the other end of the workrate spectrum lay the #2 draw of the night, Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat.  What can I say that hasn't been said already?  It's an all-time classic; a near-perfect match that has stood the test of time and then some. 'Mania 3 is remembered just as much for this match as for Hogan-Andre, and it became the prototype for the WWF-style five-star match.  Sadly Steamboat's planned long-term Intercontinental Title run was derailed when he asked for a reduced schedule to focus on his newborn son, and this would be his last great WWF match.

Goddamn this match is 17 kinds of awesome.

The rest of the show featured the culminations of high-profile feuds: Jake Roberts vs. Honky Tonk Man was a pretty weak showing, Hercules vs. Billy Jack Haynes was an enjoyable brawl but the double countout finish didn't resolve anything, and the retiring Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis was an ugly little match that was really more of an entertaining angle.

Also heavily featured on this show was the company's robust tag team division.  Recently crowned Tag Team Champions The Hart Foundation teamed with crooked referee-turned-wrestler Danny Davis against The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana, in a pretty damn good six-man bout, The Dream Team made short work of The Rougeau Brothers before Brutus Beefcake turned babyface due to his team's cheap win, The Killer Bees were disqualified in their match with Sheik & Volkoff thanks to the interference of newcomer "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, and in the opener The Can-Am Connection got a fairly exciting win over Don Muraco and Bob Orton.

WrestleMania III was like a perfect sampling of everything the WWF was in 1987, displayed on the grandest stage imaginable.  The Pontiac Silverdome itself became one of the stars of the show.  No wrestling venue before or since has looked so spectacular or so enormous.  I was always struck by how the show began in daylight hours and gradually the stadium darkened as the show progressed.  The lighting shift always added an epic quality for me.

Somehow despite the WWF's actual wrestling in 1987 really not being very good overall, 'Mania 3 had so much going for it in terms of intangibles and splendor it managed to succeed spectacularly as a moment.  This is the only old WrestleMania show I sometimes feel the need to rewatch start to finish.

Probably the best bad match of all time

This was everything the WWF and we the fans hoped for, and was the first time the WWF truly nailed what WrestleMania was supposed to be about.

Best Match: Savage vs. Steamboat
Worst Match: King Kong Bundy/Lord Littlebrook/Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim/Little Beaver/Haiti Kid
What I'd Change: Very little, except cutting the mixed tag and maybe Butch Reed vs. Koko B. Ware
Most Disappointing Match: Beefcake/Valentine vs. Rougeau Brothers should've gotten more time
Most Pleasant Surprise: I guess JYD vs. Race
Overall Rating: 8/10

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