The World Wrestling Federation Proudly Presents…
WWF Wrestlemania III
Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the reviews that put the snap in snapmare, Cewsh Reviews! Here, not two weeks after a showdown between two larger than life stars, (and by that I obviously mean Teddy Long and John Laurenitus,) we’ll take a look back at the night that saw two of the biggest stars in wrestling history make history together in what is arguably the best known wrestling match ever to take place. But just like this year’s parade of undercard shenanigans, there are so many other stories to tell on the night when 93,000 *cough*morelike78000*cough* men, women and children crowded into the Pontiac Silverdome to see the show of the decade. Is the show a gigantic lump of crap in retrospect? Do Savage/Steamboat and Hogan/Andre hold up 25 years later? How the hell are there like 37 matches on this card? And as a special bonus to each match, where did their careers go after such a defining moment in wrestling history? As always, there’s only one way to find out.
So without any further ado, let’s do a motherfucking review!
The Law: This is the biggest and most successful show in the history of professional wrestling. It drew the largest paid crowd in wrestling history and the largest indoor crowd in the history of anything. Two years before this Wrestlemania was a supercard from Madison Square Garden. The year before this they went bigger by holding Wrestlemania in three separate locations, with part of the card emanating from New York, part from Chicago, and part from Los Angeles. To top that this year, McMahon wanted to sellout the Pontiac Silverdome in the suburbs of Detroit. This was the culmination of his attempt to take his company national, the crown jewel of his gamble. And so he needed a main event worthy of the biggest show ever. And he came up with it…
It all started on Piper’s Pit. Roddy Piper hosted his former enemy Hulk Hogan and presented him with a trophy for holding the WWF Championship for three years. Hogan’s friend Andre the Giant came out, seemingly to congratulate him. But Andre took an awkward tone. He simply said that three years “Was a long time to be champion” and walked away. Something seemed off. Perhaps Hogan had offended the Giant.
The next week Hogan tried to make it up to Andre by presenting him with a trophy commemorating his 15 year undefeated streak. Hogan ended up making the segment about himself with a self-aggrandizing speech, and Andre simply walked away while he was talking. Something was definitely up.
Hogan and Andre were set to appear together on Piper’s Pit to hash out their apparent differences. But Andre brought an unexpected guest: his new manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan was the most vile heel manager in the company and a sworn enemy of Hogan. Hogan was horrified at his friend having joined Heenan, and was shocked when Heenan revealed he had successfully lobbied for Andre to challenge Hogan for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania III. Then Andre ripped Hogan’s shirt and crucifix off, cutting his chest in the process. The match was set, and it was going to be the biggest ever. Strap in, folks…
Segment 1 – OPENING CEREMONY FEVER!
Cewsh: Now with this obviously being before the days of Opening Video Fever, Vince McMahon had to work quite a bit harder to get fans worked up for the show. He accomplished this by having himself be the first thing you saw on screen after turning on your television. Vince, (and Howard Finkel lurking in the background wondering if anyone has noticed that he’s losing his hair,) introduce us to Wrestlemania III.
Vince throws to Aretha Franklin, who quite frankly tears the house down with a rendition of America the Beautiful, and then sends us up to Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura, Bob Uecker and Mary Hart in the booth. Oddly enough, not only are these four people actually quite charming together, but the two celebrities seem genuinely interested and happy to be part of the show. Uecker especially seems like an actual employee of the WWF, which is weird since I thought for sure he was employed by the Cleveland Indians in spite of his heavy drinking. But, in fairness, I believe everything that 80s sports movies tell me.
Perhaps the biggest item of note here before we move on is what the fuck Jesse Ventura chose to wear on this incredibly prominent occasion. Theoretically the man walked into his closet, looked around at all of the various boas and fineries and said “Fuck it, we’re going snakeskin! FOREVER!” The effect is similar to being attacked by a duck. It’s cute, painful and you’ll never look at the food chain the same way again.
Now how about some of that wrestling stuff?
Segment 2 – The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel and Tom Zenk) vs. Don Muraco and Bob Orton w/ Mr. Fuji
Cewsh: TOM ZENK SIGHTING.
Now kids, once upon a time your Uncle Cewsh and Uncle Vice reviewed a show called WCW/NJPW Rumble in the Rising Sun 1991, (full review found here.) On that show we both, for the very first time, beheld the mulleted glory that is Tom Zenk. We were impressed by his athleticism and quintessential babyfaceness, and said a few passingly nice things about him. Within a week of us having posted those things on the Cewsh Reviews blog, a site devoted entirely to scouring the internet for nice things said about Tom Zenk snapped our review up and posted it proudly, saying that they were glad to see more people appreciating the Z-Man. The proprietor of that website CLAIMED to just be someone who met Tom Zenk once, but since the odds of that having actually been Zenk himself are really very high, and its still going today, I would like to take a moment to give a shout out to Tom Zenk. Hi Tom. We’re big fans of your mullet. Shame about the whole career thing. Hang in there, tiger.
Now then, back to the match at hand. This match doesn’t actually have a reason to be happening. Orton and Muraco had recently turned heel to help Adrian Adonis beat up Roddy Piper because Piper insulted his flowers, (more on this later,) and had nothing really else to do. The Can-Am Connection, on the other hand, were one of those completely vapid babyface tag teams that WWE produced in the 80s that would get a few matches with the Hart Foundation and then fuck off forever. So obviously this match has “electrifying opener” written all over it.
The Law: The “Can-Am Connection” is named that simply because Rick Martel is Canadian and Tom Zenk is American. Both are clean-cut, high-flying babyface wrestlers. Orton and Muraco are accompanied by Mr. Fuji. Muraco and Zenk start. Zenk runs through typical high-flying babyface offense: Dropkick, Monkey Flip, Arm Drag. Martel tags in and they execute a Double Monkey Flip. Orton tags in and gets Body Slammed. Unlike some dome shows, you can really hear the crowd here. They’re popping huge for every move.
Muraco accidentally socks Orton as the babyfaces continue to control. Martel slams Muraco, but then gets caught with a cheap shot by Orton. Muraco hits a Neckbreaker and Orton follows with a Fist Drop. Double down leads to the hot tag. Martel comes in hot and gets the pin with a High Cross Body on 5:37.
Rating: **½. Fun, fast-paced tag match. Perfect choice to open the show.
Cewsh: Oddly enough though, despite my masterful sarcasm, this match managed in just a few minutes to be almost exactly that. There wasn’t anything ground breaking or jaw dropping, but the crowd really seemed to respond to Zenk and Martel and Orton and Muraco kept things rolling smoothly all the way through. As a result, this match got the crowd energized and made them happy to start the show, and it really instilled in me an appreciation for all four of these guys. The Can-Am Connection really clicked together here, even if Tom Zenk did appear to blow a few spots purely out of excitement, (sorry Tom,) and looked like an ideal babyface team. Meanwhile, Orton and Muraco fed them and did their heel job like the pros they are. It’s funny to think how much has changed in wrestling in the past 25 years, but when it comes to making a successful opening match, the formula really hasn’t. Popular faces, hated heels, 8 minutes of fun and that’s all she wrote.
Works for me.
76 out of 100
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Rick Martel – Decline – Turned heel to solid success and continued working into the 90s, but never reached the same level of success that he saw in the 80s.
Tom Zenk – Steep Decline – Seemingly pissed off every major promoter in the wrestling business at some time or another, he left WWE soon after this and got a push in WCW before they too got rid of him.
Bob Orton – Decline – His career was already in its twilight by this point. Eventually would see a resurgence as his son’s manager.
Don Muraco – Decline – Was fired barely a year later and worked everywhere from AWA to UWF to ECW. Actually continued wrestling off and on all the way to 2003.
The Can-Am Connection Over Orton and Muraco Following A High Cross Body From Martel To Muraco.
Segment 3 – History, As Told By Hercules Hernandez.
Cewsh: We go backstage for our first formal interview of the night, and boy is it ever a doozy. Bobby Heenan starts the interview by hyping his client, Hernandez, but the big man bulls over him and starts shouting insane nonsense about how he single handedly pulled down Rome with the random chains he wears and how he made Samson and Atlas (why those two of all of the mythological figures to choose from?) bow down to him. Heenan then makes his great managerial contribution by calling his opponent Billy Jerk Haynes.
Welcome to Wrestlemania. Where the only thing higher than the production value is the talent.
Segment 4 – Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez w/ Bobby Heenan
Cewsh: The back story here is that both Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules Hernandez do the Full Nelson as their finisher.
…was that it? Oh it was? Well alright then, that was it.
Now obviously one of these two men has to be the hero, otherwise they’re just two dudes dry humping each other for no reason, and here that role is filled by a man who chooses to dress himself like a Rockette Leprechaun.
Apparently, That’s What They Grow In Oregon.
For the record, you may have noticed that thus far I have focused heavily on how these people are dressed. That’s not just me being mean or this being the 80s. The WWE in that era was stocked from top to bottom with people so cartoonish looking that Porky Pig would call bullshit on them being real. Hercules and Billy Jack here are a great example, because not only do they both look like they got dressed by the white boot fairy, but they’re also about 6’5 and so jacked that it’s like they’re wearing suits of armor under their skin. This isn’t just for looks either, as Billy Jack especially seems to effortlessly do things that should require a three man team and some ropes and pulleys. Like lifting the 280 pound Hernandez over his head WITHOUT BENDING OVER TO PICK HIM UP. Perhaps intelligently after seeing this display, Hercules just goes ahead and beats him down in a pace so glacially slow that Gorilla Monsoon actually starts talking shit about how slow the match is on commentary. This goes on for about 8 years before Billy Jack fires up for his comeback, locks on the Full Nelson and…gets counted out. Because he locked it in outside the ring. And forgot what numbers were for. Yeah.
Seemingly enraged by being a part of the first screwy finish of the night, Hernandez promptly punches Billy Jack in the face with his chain covered fist about 30 times. Billy Jack looks vaguely perplexed by this, like it’s one of those math questions with the LETTERS in it.
“62! 45! Purple! Who Put This Jam Where My Forehead Goes?”
This was, ah, not so good. I’m not sure you really needed me to tell you that, but it definitely deserves to be said.
51 out of 100
The Law: Bring on the hosses. Ventura makes a rack about Gorilla’s prime being in 1932. Hayes hits an incredible Press Slam on Hercules. He teases the Full Nelson, but Herc slips out. Hercules hits a massive Clothesline. He goes to work on the back, setting up for the Full Nelson. Hayes starts a comeback, but his back gives out when he goes for a Suplex. Nice Backbreaker by Hercules. Hercules has the match won, but he pulls Haynes up before the three. Always a bad idea. He signals for the Full Nelson but can’t quite get it hooked. Hayes breaks the hold and they do a double Clothesline. Inverted Atomic Drop by Billy Jack, then a Clothesline and a Leg Drop. Fist Drop from the second rope and he goes for the Full Nelson. They tumble through the ropes and to the floor where both guys are counted out at 7:53.
Rating: **. Not a bad match at all. Exciting, big moves, good psychology. Would have been nice to get a definitive finish. That’s what Wrestlemania should be for.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Billy Jack Haynes – Steep Decline – After being fired/quitting/getting screwjobbed (depending on how Billy Jack tells the story on a given day) for not wanting to do a job in Portland, he then did what we could generously call fuck all until he retired and became a professional drug mule. True story.
Hercules Hernandez – Decline – Became a jobber as the 90s began until being let go in 1991. Spent less than a full year in WCW before heading to the indies to quietly finish out his career.
Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules Hernandez Draw Following A Double Count Out.
Segment 5 – Professional Wrestling.
Cewsh: Look, I’m not sure there’s anything I can tell you about these segments that these pictures won’t say for me.
Segment 6 – King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo vs. Hilbilly Jim, Little Beaver and the Haiti Kid
Cewsh: I…I…I’m really at a bit of a loss here.
It’s worth mentioning off the top that when you heard that there were little people in this match, your mind probably went immediately to Hornswoggle and other dwarfism related awfulness that WWE has presented over the years, just like mine did. I rolled my eyes the second I saw them and got my fingers all ready to bang out a scathing review of a waste of time. And then they started chain wrestling. And not just chain wrestling, but chain wrestling FUCKING WELL. Little Tokyo and the Haiti Kid get in there and start putting everyone I’ve seen on this show completely to shame while I sit here scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The others are a great dealer slower and rely more on comedy, but they’re still clearly long time veterans and have the crowd in the palm of their hands right away. It gets to the point where when Bundy gets tagged in and Little Beaver stands his ground, the pop of the night ensues as he throws the most ineffectual dropkick of all time and runs away to tag in Hilbilly Jim. Jim wastes no time in showing that size has nothing to do with skill as he promptly delivers the single worst elbow drop in wrestling history.
They Don’t Teach How To Land In Hillbilly Wrestling School.
Luckily Little Beaver comes valiantly to Hillbilly Jim’s rescue again and again as Hillbilly Jim struggles to get in even a single offensive maneuver. Little Beaver stymies Bundy with his, ahem, size advantage and does a great job of being a nuisance for a little while. But unfortunately the whole “can’t actually harm Bundy” thing catches up to him.
This Is The Real Wrestlemania III Staredown.
Bundy slams the little guy like it ain’t no thing and goes to splash him just to be a dick. Now legend has it that Hillbilly Jim was supposed to cut him off at this point and totally forgot, so Bundy just kind of lamely does an elbow drop for no reason and then is promptly disqualified by the referee for having the gall to beat up a person with dwarfism. Bundy then gets all huffy and the dwarves join together in a rainbow coalition of unity and friendship to close things out.
I’m really not sure what to do with this match, from a ratings perspective. I would love to grade it based on how good it was at accomplishing what it was going for, but I can’t unbend my mind far enough to grasp what this match was meant to achieve. I guess it did a good job of getting a chuckle out of the crowd and making King Kong Bundy look like a dickcase, (the new stylish Dickcase, for the traveling business man of the 21st century.) Sure let’s go with that.
60 out of 100
The Law: Tough fall from the main event last year to a midget match this year for Bundy. I guess I sort of appreciate the variety midget matches add, but most of the ones I’ve seen have been pretty terrible. The rules here are that only midgets can fight other midgets. Bob Uecker is on commentary for this match and he’s actually pretty decent. Nothing of note happens here until Bundy’s had enough and Body Slams one of the midgets for the disqualification at 4:23.
Rating: *. Not great wrestling, but a fun and memorable match.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
King Kong Bundy – Steep Decline – In the toilet.
Hillbilly Jim – Decline – He never really made it in the first place, so it’s hard to say that his career took a nose dive or anything. He just steadily got fazed out over the years and replaced by other hillbillies who could do elbow drops without entering the Suck Dimension.
The Midget Wrestlers – Steep Decline – Unfortunately, the WWF in the 80s was sort of a utopian time in midget wrestling, where these long time performers finally got a chance to ply their trade on the big stage. This fad would quickly end and wouldn’t be seen again in American wrestling for some time.
Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver and the Haiti Kid Over King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo Following A Disqualification.
Segment 7 – Loser Must Bow To The Winner Match – Junkyard Dog vs. Harley Race w/ The Fabulous Moolah and Bobby Heenan
Cewsh: At some point in the mid 1980s, it was decided that Harley Race should ignore his working class, double hard bastard roots and become the self styled “King of Wrestling” complete with purple velvet cape and a fabulous crown. I’m not really sure how this decision was reached, but Harley ran with it and managed to get the deal over with Moolah as his queen, (whose entire job was to put the crown on his head after he won,) and Bobby Heenan as his shit talking manager. Meanwhile, in another gimmick universe, Junkyard Dog was getting hugely over by being the Junkyard Dog. He was a big, charming, lovable black man in an era where this seemed new to white people and as such he got hugely over even as he deteriorated physically. His matches got worse as the cheers got louder and honestly, nobody really seemed to mind very much.
Here, they’re clashing because Race decided that it was time for the Dog to bow down to him. The Dog, being a proud man, absolutely refused and many brawls ensued, leading us here. If this seems like a stupid storyline, its worth mentioning that apparently the fans in 1987 didn’t think so because this is the hottest match of the night so far BY FAR in terms of crowd reaction. JD comes down, does all of his signature stuff while the crowd eats it up, and then Race proceeds to take any number of outlandish bumps for him over the course of the match. Backflip over the ropes? Sure thing! Belly flop from the apron to the floor? Sounds good! Sell a chair shot by flailing about like I’m covered in bees? Way ahead of you.
NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES AHHH THEY’RE IN MY EYES!
As such, despite JD’s limitations and Race’s advancing age, they put on a crowd pleasing spectacle here that proves that the people in attendance do actually have voices and just didn’t care about the other stuff to this point. It was a ton of fun, and if there were ever a wrestler more completely charming than Junkyard Dog, I’ve never seen him.
74 out of 100
The Law: When the WWF brought Race in, they had kind of a problem: He was a hugely accomplished wrestler, but this was at a time where they didn’t acknowledge wrestling outside of the WWF. So to get him over they had him win the first King of the Ring tournament. Thus, he became “King” Harley Race. Heenan baits JYD to allow Race to get the advantage. Dog responds predictably with a big Headbutt. Race throws Dog to the floor and goes for a Diving Headbutt from the apron, but Dog gets out of the way. Dog slams Race back into the ring. Race misses another Headbutt attempt and gets thrown to the floor. Dog hits some headbutts, but then gets distracted by Heenan. That allows Race to hit a Belly to Belly Suplex and get the pin at 3:22.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Harley Race – Decline – He retired and remained well respected.
Junkyard Dog – Decline – He retired, and died tragically. He remained well respected.
Harley Race Over Junkyard Dog Following A Belly To Belly Suplex.
Segment 8 – Hulk Hogan Is Going To Blow A Blood Vessel.
Cewsh: Hulk Hogan is backstage with Vince McMahon and he’s upset. Like really upset. Like, “Set you and everyone you’ve ever bought groceries from on fire, and then put the fire out with vinegar,” upset. He feels betrayed by Andre the Giant’s actions of late, and he gets this point across by saying the phrase “You’ve got to face the truth, brother” about 75,000 times. The truth he’s speaking of is apparently that while Hogan only has to beat a 7’4, 550 pound giant, Andre has to defeat every single Hulkamaniac, I assume in some sort of gauntlet match situation. Hogan even includes all of the little Hulkamaniacs, meaning that if all of the adults fail, he’s not above sending kids to finish the job.
Wait, who’s the babyface here again?
Segment 9 – The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine) w/ Jimmy Valiant and Dino Bravo
Cewsh: Now I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of exactly what was going on on WWF television at this time. This is probably excusable since I was 2 years old. As such, I really have no idea why Dino Bravo has randomly shown up to hang out with the Dream Team here, and I have even less idea why anyone would consider calling the team of Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake a “Dream Team” even in jest.
Here they are facing perhaps the greatest tag team ever to be called the Rougeau Brothers, the Rougeau Brothers. This is one of those matches that is sort of like our opener, where they take a young, exciting tag tam and throw them in with some upper midcard heels because they have wayyyyyy more heels than faces and time to kill. As you might expect, this makes this match feel like an afterthought, and it’s wrestled like one. Beefcake, in particular, appears to be doing his best to take a nap whenever he’s not actively using rest holds. The Rougeaus try their best to spice things up, and they do a good job whenever Valentine is in there making them look good, but ultimately this is smack in the middle of about 70 matches on this card and they all know they aren’t stealing the show.
Of course then the end comes, and it goes down like this. Raymond Rougeau fires up for a firey Canadian comeback and starts beating Valentine all over the place. Brutus tries to come to the rescue with a double axe handle, but he hits Valentine by mistake, thus allowing Raymond to position Valentine for Jacques to come off the top with the most brutal dick to the face that I have ever seen.
Raymond goes for the pin, but then Dino Bravo reminds people that he’s actually still here and jumps off the top rope with some kind of karate chop thing that is, apparently, devastating because it incapacitates Raymond and allows Valentine to pin him for the win. Solely on the strength of his mighty karate skills, Valentine and Valiant decide that Bravo would make a better partner than Beefcake and kick Beefcake to the curb. Beefcake reacts like they just shot his puppy.
For having a fine match, I should rate this match as average. For making the entire match a vehicle for Brutus Beefcake’s face turn I should give it negative a million points. I’ll try to find some middle ground.
61 out of 100
The Law: Heenan jumps on commentary for this one. He was basically managing every heel on the roster at this point. Beefcake and Valentine keep one of the Rougeaus in their corner and tune him up. Valentine locks on the Figure Four. Whichever Rougeau is in there gets to the ropes. Rougeau #2 is in there with a Back Drop and a Sleeper. Beefcake accidentally hits Valentine. Rougeaus hit a really nice double team move (one holds Valentine in a Bear Hug while the other comes off the top with a high knee). The referee is distracted, which allows Dino Bravo to interfere and break the pin up. That allows Valentine to get the pin at 4:04.
Rating: ¾* Too short to be anything. Would have liked to see a longer match between these four.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Raymond Rougeau – Decline – He would continue tagging with Jacques for a bit, but after a short while he retired from the industry permanently.
Jacques Rougeau – Incline – After his brother retired, he found some solid success as a midcard star in the early 90s playing The Mountie. To this day he remains one of the biggest wrestling stars ever in Montreal and now runs shows there.
Brutus Beefcake – Push – Beefcake would go right on being an upper midcarder that embarrassed you if he ever showed up while you were watching with your family well into the 90s.
Greg Valentine – Decline – Valentine’s careers would slowly decline over the course of years from this point on. Unfortunately, I’m not sure anyone told him so, because he still wrestles today.
The Dream Team Over The Rougeau Brothers Following Shenanigans.
Segment 10 – Hair vs. Hair Match – Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis
Cewsh: There’s a lot to cover here. First and foremost, this is Roddy Piper’s retirement match. Since you’ve probably seen Roddy Piper have more retirement matches than you’ve had sandwiches, it helps to realize that this is the first one. The plan was that he’d put someone over here and then go off and do movies, and maybe come back to do some stuff later if he felt like it, much like the Rock did. Obviously, making Hell Comes To Frogtown didn’t exactly make him the biggest star in the world, but that’s a story for another time. So to close out his career, he began a feud with Adrian Adonis that was touched off when Roddy took issue with Adrian ripping off the concept of Piper’s Pit with the Adrian’s Flower Shop. Piper insulted Adrian’s flowers, and since you never insult a fat man’s foliage, shit was on. Adonis enlisted Bob Orton and Don Muraco to help him assault Piper at every turn, and finally got it into his head that he wanted to shave Piper’s head. From then on he started carrying around gardening shears and yelling a lot, while Jimmy Hart buzzed around yelling, “Yeah, baby!” also a lot.
I’ve talked at length about the crowd reactions so far, and the main reason for that is because it is incredibly hard to get a good reaction out of a crowd this large. Even if 20,000 people are cheering and chanting for you, 50,000 other people could be milling around, having conversations and creating ambient noise to take away from what’s going on. But when there IS a big pop for something, that means that you sold 78,000+ people on what you’re doing, and it isn’t just a pop, it’s a ROAR. Need an example?
When you own a crowd to that extent, you can either take things slow to milk the reaction out, or you can go balls to the wall and keep them hot all the way through. Guess which one of these Rowdy Roddy Piper prefers. Within the first 5 seconds of the match, the two men are already blistering each other with a belt as the crowd goes nuts. Then Piper gets his hands on Jimmy Hart and starts beating BOTH of them up, as the crowd goes even crazier. Finally, Hart and Adonis slow things down, by heeling it up. Most crowds would settle the fuck down at this point, but this crowd just switches from cheers to boos and keeps right on going. Piper gets beaten down and begs for more, until Jimmy Hart sprays perfume in his eyes and Adonis locks on a sleeper hold. Piper and Adonis sell this about as well as I’ve ever seen, as Piper flails desperately trying to get out and keep Adonis from cinching the hold, but ultimately Adonis puts him to sleep. The ref lifts Piper’s hand once with no reaction. Then he lifts his hand a second time: no reaction. But when the ref goes to lift Piper’s hand a third time, Adonis releases the hold, assuming Piper is already out, allowing Piper to keep his hand up as Adonis and Hart celebrate.
Then things get weird.
Brutus Beefcake runs in out of nowhere and immediately starts pounding on Roddy Piper. Since Beefcake kind of sort of turned face in the last segment after a lifetime of heeling, and since he’s punching Piper, everyone’s immediate reaction is to boo and hiss at the man. Apparently, though, he is trying to REVIVE a drowsy Piper, which I guess means that Beefcake thinks its okay to wake people up by punching them in the neck, (avoid sleepovers at his house.) Luckily it works anyway, and Piper fires up like crazy and punches Jimmy Hart right in the gob. Adonis tries to hit Piper with the garden shears, handle first, only to bounce them off the ropes and into his own face in the softest and most careful way possible, so as not to stab himself to death.
Piper locks in the sleeper and that’s all she wrote. When it’s time to shave Adonis’ head, Piper just goes ahead and lets Beefcake do it for no particular reason, which actually led to the whole weird Barber Beefcake gimmick. Beefcake proves himself to be as bad of a barber as he is a wrestler by chopping away at Adonis’ head for about 5 minutes with fuck all result before everyone packs up and goes home.
With A Few Souvenirs.
So the guy Piper chose to put over in his final match wasn’t Adrian Adonis, (though he surely benefited hugely from this feud,) but Brutus Beefcake? Really? Good lord. Well despite Beefcake giving me ample reason to dock another match by negative a million, this match was actually fantastic, as these two men completely took over this enormous crowd all the way throughout and really outdid themselves in Piper’s last match. Well, his last match for now, anyway.
81 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
The Law: This is billed as Piper’s retirement match, as he was going off to Hollywood after this. Piper’s retirement. In 1987. Piper uses his belt on Adonis until Adonis gets it away from him and does the same. Piper whips Adonis into the corner and he does a Flair Flip to the floor. Incredible bump for a 300 pounder. Jimmy Hart gets in the ring and gets beat up by Piper. Crowd is mad into this. Hart manages to trip Piper, which turns the tide. Adonis locks on a Sleeper Hold. Piper’s arm drops twice and Adonis breaks, thinking he’s won the match. Brutus Beefcake shows up and helps wake Piper up. Piper locks on the Sleeper and gets the win at 6:14.
Rating: *. Fun spots, but not much of a wrestling match.
Beefcake shaves Adonis’ head. Piper gets a big, emotional send-off. Spoiler alert: He came back.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Roddy Piper – Decline – He left at the very top of his game, and as probably the second biggest babyface in wrestling. After his comeback he was still hugely popular, but he’d never scale the card to those heights again until he main evented Starrcade in 1996 with Hulk Hogan, but the magic didn’t last long then either. There are few wrestlers better known or more beloved, though.
Adrian Adonis – Steep Decline – Despite the huge benefit of feuding with Piper here, and despite his gimmick being tremendously successful for what it was, the rug was quickly pulled out from under Adonis and he was never really given a chance after that. Like so many people on this card, this was his crowning moment as a singles performer.
Roddy Piper Over Adrian Adonis Following A Sleeper Hold.
Segment 11 – The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis w/ Jimmy Hart vs. The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana
Cewsh: Oddly enough, with all of the Hall of Fame talent included in this match, the entire storyline here revolves around the odd man out, named Danny Davis. See, back in these gloriously innocent days, people actually trusted the referees to do the right thing and make the right decision. They didn’t always do it, but the idea of a corrupt referee was still something new and unexpected, and was cause for complete loathing from the fans. So when referee Danny Davis started fixing matches so that the heels would win, costing Tito Santana and the Bulldogs their titles, fans were incensed. Since he was a referee, there was nothing the wrestlers could do to get revenge without getting fired. Finally, President Jack Tunney handed down a ruling that said that Danny Davis was not only fired as a referee, but was barred from doing any kind of refereeing for years and years. So if Davis wanted to keep his job, he was going to have to become a wrestler, giving Santana and the Bulldogs a shot at revenge.
So after Jesse Ventura insists upon being introduced to the crowd for no reason at all, (seriously, he only stayed long enough to kidnap the Bulldog’s dog Matilda,) we get started on an incredibly mediocre match. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs suck, because that is obviously not the case and everyone knows it. But this match really isn’t about them, so while they do the majority of the heavy lifting, it’s Danny Davis that gets all the heat for his smarminess. It’s Tito Santana that really lights the crowd up and gets them excited. Since Davis and Santana spend most of the match having a doughnut break, there really isn’t anything to get fired up about. Davis finally hits Davey Boy with a megaphone to end it, much to the fan’s displeasure. In fact, the reaction is so strong that it’s really odd that Davis never actually amounted to anything. But, in fairness to WWF, this roster has even more midcard heels on it than our current one does. How was anybody supposed to make it? Future or no future, this match was dreary and will be a disappointment to anyone who is a fan of anyone involved.
60 out of 100
The Law: I really wish this was just Hart Foundation vs. British Bulldogs for the tag titles. Davis is the former bad referee who has now become a wrestler. His bad decisions cost Tito the Intercontinental Title and the Bulldogs the tag titles. It’s back-and-forth here without either team holding the advantage for real long. The early highlight is Neidhart getting Back Dropped by Bulldog. It’s nice to hear Gorilla putting over Bret on commentary. He had good taste. Dynamite gets caught in the wrong corner and worked over by the bad guys. Huge Backbreaker/Diving Elbow combination by the Harts. Davis gets huge heat for coming in, putting the boots to Dynamite, and tagging back out.
Davis is winning me over with his douchebaggery. Dynamite gets his knees up on a Davis Splash attempt and makes the hot tag to Tito. Tito hits the Flying Forearm on Davis, but doesn’t pin because he wants to hurt him more. Figure Four attempt, but Neidhart breaks it up. Tito tags in Davey Boy, who hits a nasty-looking Tombstone. Suplex, then the Running Powerslam. That should be it, but the Harts break it up and we get a pier six brawl. Davis nails Bulldog with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone and gets the pin at 8:52. Best match of the night so far.
Rating: ***. Very solid stuff from these guys, as you would expect. Still wish we had a Bulldogs/Harts match here.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Bret Hart – Steep Incline – I hear he did okay for himself in the 90s.
Jim Neidhart – Decline – The Hart Foundation would continue on for awhile, but that’s all Neidhart ever really did. Now he’s doing time and proving that the best thing he’s ever actually given the wrestling world is his daughter, Nattie.
Danny Davis – Steep Decline – He never really went anywhere after this. In fact he just went right back to refereeing.
Davey Boy Smith – Steep Incline – While he never quite made it to World title level as a singles competitor, he still carved out an incredibly popular run as the British Bulldog, including his match against Bret Hart in Wembley Stadium, which would be one of the most memorable moments of the decade.
Dynamite Kid – Steep Decline – After the team split up, bitterness, drugs, and psychosis ruined what was left of his career and life. Now he’s paralyzed and has had an incredible number of vile stories come out about him. Bad times.
Tito Santana – Decline – Like many others in the WWF at the time he was on his way out as the new generation started to make their way up. His transition out was smoother than most and he was one of the very first people inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame.
Danny Davis and the Hart Foundation Over Tito Santana and the British Bulldogs Following Shenanigans.
Segment 12 – Bobby Heenan Cuts A Promo With A Cardboard Cut-Out Of Andre the Giant.
Cewsh: While Bobby Heenan cuts a promo about how Andre the Giant is a ball of fire waiting to kill Hulkamania, Andre stands to the side looking vacantly into the distance like he hasn’t actually woken up yet and they just propped him in the corner anyway. Heenan tries his best, but since Andre is looking about as intimidating as a lamp, he doesn’t really succeed.
Segment 13 – Koko B. Ware vs. Butch Reed w/ Slick
The Law: Koko is a step quicker in the beginning of the match, sending Reed to the floor with a Dropkick. Reed takes over and hits some punches. Koko comes back with a Hip Toss, some jabs, and a Dropkick. Koko connects with a Cross Body, but Reed rolls through and gets the win with a handful of trunks at 3:39.
Rating: ½*. Too short.
Cewsh: This match lasted about 4 minutes. The post match stripping of Slick lasted about 5. No thank you on both counts.
63 out of 100
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Koko B. Ware – Decline – As it turns out, it IS possible to be lower on the totem pole!
Butch Reed – Push – He never really caught on in the WWF, but he’d find new life as the tag team partner of Ron Simmons in WCW for a good long while in the 90s.
Butch Reed Over Koko B. Ware Following A Roll Up.
They recap the Randy Savage/Ricky Steamboat feud. The two faced-off on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event months before this. Savage viciously assaulted Steamboat, dropping his throat across the guardrail and then hitting an Ax Handle while Steamboat’s throat was on the railing. For good measure, he smashed his throat with the ring bell. Steamboat was out of action for several months. He returned fired up and ready for battle. Tonight, he’ll have Savage’s old nemesis George “The Animal” Steele in his corner.
Segment 14 – WWF Intercontinental Championship – Randy Savage © vs. Ricky Steamboat
Cewsh: Obviously Hogan vs. Andre casts a large shadow over this entire show. That’s a match that an entire of generation can conjure an image of, whether they’re wrestling fans or not. But among the more hardcore wrestling fan base, Steamboat vs. Savage has cast a shadow almost as large over every match that has followed since. This match isn’t regarded as merely “good”. You couldn’t dare to call this match “good” in front of a smark from 1987 to 1997 without losing some teeth. This was held up as perhaps the finest match ever contested for so long that people just gave up comparing matches to it. That’s a helluva lot of pressure to live up to and I even feel like I’m under pressure just reviewing it. But review it I shall.
The idea here is that Savage injured Steamboat’s throat err…savagely with a ring bell a good while previously and now Steamboat is back with a vengeance to beat Savage and take his beloved title from him. He has also brought George “The Animal” Steele for backup to ensure that there are no shenanigans. This sounds like a great set up for a huge brawl, and indeed would be, but go ahead and put that idea out of your mind right now. That isn’t what these guys ever do, and, even by their usual standards, they don’t bother attempting it here. They are in show stealing mood, and they fucking go for it.
For nearly 20 minutes, these two guys go back and forth in perhaps the smoothest display of professional wrestling that you will ever see. Every move hits perfectly, every transition is like silk, and there are so many near falls that the crowd genuinely thought the match had ended at least twice during the match. Things go swankily for awhile, until a triple reversed Irish Whip causes referee Earl Hebner to get hit, which he sells more than the Rock sells the Stunner.
Savage, not noticing this, goes up top and comes down on Steamboat’s throat with the most beautiful elbow drop imaginable.
Since Hebner is out and nobody is counting pinfalls, Savage says, “balls to this,” and goes to grab the ringbell, to reinjure Steamboat’s neck. He gets to the top rope with it, and is just about to send Steamboat back to the emergency room, when the Animal, (not Batista,) jumps onto the apron and flips Savage head over heels into the ring. Savage stumbles up and tries to slam Steamboat, only to be surprised with perhaps the most famous roll up in wrestling history, as Steamboat clutches him for the three count and wins the Intercontinental Championship.
Now comes the interesting part. This match has a reputation that you could block out the sun with. So is it as good as people say? No, it isn’t. But it IS a fantastic match between two incredibly gifted performers who had the crowd going wild. The problem is, when people starting to get into wrestling watch this match, the message that they’ll take away is, “Super smooth chain wrestling is the coolest, and the fans are cheering so that’s what I should do!” As such, every indy match ends in a roll up and features a series of near falls so masturbatory that they should be arrested for public indecency. The truth about this match is: Steamboat and Savage were hugely over coming into it due to their personas and previous great matches. The fans are actually only cheering when they think Steamboat is WINNING. The characters come first, the wrestling comes second, and if I have to be honest, the near falls here were more than a little excessive. Viewed a certain way, this could be seen as a series of pin attempts with occasional other moves in between, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that that’s a weird way to handle a blood feud like this one.
These are surface criticisms of what is one of the most aesthetically pleasing matches I’ve ever seen. When you’re talking about a match with a resume like this one, these things need to be said. The match is great. But I’ve seen greater. And so have you.
94 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
The Law: Savage has been champion for over a year at this point. Savage has Elizabeth in his corner, Steamboat has George Steele. Savage messes with Steamboat by stalling at the start of the match. Steamboat gets his signature beautiful Arm Drags and then his two-handed choke on Savage. That’s a very appropriate move, given what Savage did to him. Steamboat works over Savage’s arm, racking it on the top rope while jumping to the floor. Savage catches Steamboat with a big back elbow and then throws him over the top to the floor.
Savage scores with an elbow to the throat. He then stomps Steamboat off the apron and back to the floor. Back in the ring, Savage connects with a Knee Drop. Steamboat makes a comeback and ties Savage in the ropes, leaving him open for some free shots. They run the ropes and Steamboat hits a Cross Body. Arm Drags from Steamboat, then another Cross Body. Savage catches Steamboat with a knee to the back, then tosses him over the ropes, but Steamboat skins the cat back into the ring. Savage hits a big Clothesline that sends Steamboat back to the floor. Savage follows him to the floor and blasts him with a big knee, sending Steamboat into the front row.
Steele drags Steamboat back into the ring to beat the count out. Savage responds by tossing Steamboat to the floor again. He goes to the top and hits the Ax Handle. Savage throws Steamboat back into the ring and comes off the top with another Ax Handle. Elbow to the face by Savage only gets two. Savage grabs Steamboat and jumps out of the ring, propelling Steamboat’s throat into the top rope. Atomic Drop by Savage. Vertical Suplex by Savage. He can’t keep Steamboat down. Steamboat fights back, but Savage shuts it down with a Gutwrench Suplex. Steamboat escapes a Back Suplex, but telegraphs a Back Drop and gets kicked in the face. Savage charges and gets Back Dropped over the top rope!
Jesse says Steamboat should be disqualified. As far as I know, they never had that rule in the WWF. Savage gets back in and gets hit with a chop from the top rope. It would be three, but Savage gets his foot on the rope. Sunset Flip from Steamboat only gets two. School Boy gets two. Jackknife Cover gets two. Small Package gets two. Crowd thought that was the finish. Body Slam by Steamboat and then a Catapult. Another roll-up gets two for Steamboat. O’Connor Roll for Steamboat, but Savage rolls through and grabs the tights. Steamboat gets out. Good tease of the cheap finish there.
Savage throws Steamboat into the turnbuckle. Irish whip reversals end with Steamboat being thrown into the referee, who goes down. Clothesline from Savage and he goes to the top. Flying Elbow! That would get the win, but there’s no referee. Savage goes outside and tries to get the ring bell, but Steele takes it away. Savage knocks him down and goes to the top with the bell, but Steele shoves him off the top. Savage goes for the Body Slam, but Steamboat rolls him into a Small Package for the win at 14:36.
Rating: *****. Jesus, is that a great match. The key to watching this match is to have watched a lot of wrestling from the era beforehand. Having been exposed to nothing but the wrestling of the time recently puts this match in perspective. Most of the audience had never seen a match like this before. This intense, this fast-paced, this dramatic. It’s incredibly well-booked, as Steamboat gets his huge win, but Savage is protected by Steele’s interference. Just absolutely tremendous. There’s a reason this was considered the best match ever for a long time.
Steamboat’s run with the title would be regrettably brief, as he would ask for time off to be with his newborn son and be punished by having to drop the title to the Honky Tonk Man two months later. Savage would turn face and become one of the biggest stars in wrestling. Steamboat would leave the WWF and spend a few years on sabbatical before reemerging in WCW and becoming NWA Champion.
Gorilla gets in one of my favorite lines: “If you live to be a hundred, you’ll never see a better match than this.”
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Randy Savage – Steep Incline – Judging Randy Savage’s career is tough, because he spent a lot of time being a huge star without ever really being THE guy. But over the next 5 years following this event, he rose to the main event on the strength of the Mega Powers feud and had some absolutely tremendous matches throughout the 90s.
Ricky Steamboat – Push – He wouldn’t be long in the WWF following this event, but after leaving he did put on some true classics against Ric Flair and managed to finally win the World Heavyweight Championship in WCW. He career sloped downwards after that, but he still had enough great moments throughout the rest of his career to make me call it even, even if this is the match he’ll always be remembered for.
Ricky Steamboat Over Randy Savage Following A Small Package.
Segment 15 – Jake Roberts w/ Alice Cooper vs. The Honky Tonk Man w/ Colonel Jimmy Hart
Cewsh: Sometime during Savage/Steamboat, Jimmy Hart got promoted to Colonel. I’m not sure what kind of military would have Jimmy Hart as an officer, but I suspect it’s the same one that employed Pauly Shore in “In The Army Now.”
That’s the Honky Tonk Man hitting Jake Roberts in the head with a non gimmicked guitar on behalf of Jimmy Hart. Why did he do this? Because Jimmy Hart said it’d be a good idea. Why did Jimmy Hart want him to do this? Because Jimmy Hart is kind of a dick. What does rock legend Alice Cooper have to do with any of this? Absolutely nothing. But he does also like snakes, so there’s something right there.
The first minute or so of this match involve Jake punching Honky while he tries in vain to remove his clothes so that he can actually take a decent bump without ruining his fancy suit. The next dozen or so minutes revolve entirely around the Honky Tonk Man being an absolutely brilliant heel. If there’s a thing that can be done to piss off the crowd, Honky not only does it, but does it with such over the top gusto that it’s like he’s reading from a whole different bad guy rule book from everyone else. The crowd HATES him, and any time Roberts starts in with his offense, (which consists entirely of punches to the face or knees to the taint,) they are so grateful to him for actually punching the guy in the face. There are a lot of guys on this show who have disappointed me in some way, but I have to say that the Honky Tonk Man’s stock skyrocketed in my eyes. Eventually Jimmy Hart distracts Jake and Honky rolls him up while holding the ropes for the win, which does not make Jake very happy at all. He smashes Honky’s guitar into a million pieces and then he traps Jimmy in the ring with Alice Cooper as the fans FUCKING LOSE IT. They lose it all the more as Jake’s boa constrictor, Damian, comes out to play, with Alice introducing him to Jimmy Hart’s face. Unfortunately, Honky saves the newly-minted Colonel and fans pelt them with trash as they flee to the back.
Man, Nobody Ever Wants To Be Friends With The Giant Snake.
I really was pleasantly surprised by this match. I always knew that Jake was great in settings like this, but Honky was so brilliant at what he did, that it was almost like a night off for Jake. Add that to Jimmy Hart’s incredibly awesome antics as a manager that I’ve been enjoying all night and you have a match that somehow manages to distinguish itself despite being wedged between Steamboat/Savage and Hogan/Andre.
80 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
The Law: Jake has Alice Cooper in his corner, Honky has Jimmy Hart. I definitely don’t envy these guys having to go on after that last match. Jake jumps Honky before the bell. Honky bails to regroup. Jake follows him out and hits a Body Slam. Back in the ring, Jake hits the Short-Arm Clothesline, but Honky slips out of a DDT attempt. Honky goes to the floor and throws Jake into the guardrail. Honky works Jake over for the next few minutes. Jake blocks the Shake, Rattle, and Roll. Jake makes his comeback and goes for the DDT, but Hart distracts him and Honky gets a cheap roll-up for the win at 7:05.
Rating: *½. Wasn’t a ton they could do having to follow Savage and Steamboat.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Jake Roberts – Steep Decline – Injuries and drugs took their toll as the 80s closed out and despite chance after chance, Roberts never managed to stay sober long enough for things to work out anywhere. The story is familiar, but it’s no less sad for that.
The Honky Tonk Man – Incline – The next year would bring what is still considered to be the greatest Intercontinental Championship reign of all time. After that things wouldn’t really go Honky’s way, and unfortunately his great talents as a heel would go to waste, but that was still far off from here.
Segment 16 – The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff vs. The Killer Bees
Cewsh: If you ever wanted to stump a wrestling fan with a trivia question, try asking them what match happened immediately before Hogan/Andre. If they can properly answer that it was this match then they’re probably some kind of sorcerer and you should alert the authorities.
We get started by having Volkoff sing the Russian National Anthem for roughly 3 lines before Jim Duggan comes charging out and throws him and Sheik out of the ring. He wants to make sure that Volkoff knows that he won’t be allowed to sing his country’s national anthem ever again because, and I quote, “This is the home of the free!”
Skills Possessed By Jim Duggan:
Ability To Totally Rock The Bandana Look? Check.
Advanced Wooden Plank Combat Knowledge? Check.
Ability To Detect Irony? No Check.
Anyway, a match happens after this, and nobody gives a shit, because why on Earth would they? The ending comes when Sheik completely legally has the Camel Clutch on one of the Bees when Duggan chases Volkoff through the ring, stops, and promptly clobbers the shit out of Sheik with it, causing the Bees to be disqualified. Duggan then grabs a microphone and accuses Sheik and Volkoff of not playing by the rules.
Things Jim Duggan Understands:
How To Spell USA? Check.
That Adding A Tiny American Flag To Your Wooden Plank Makes It Looks Classier? Check.
Algebra? Cheeeeeee…we’ll get back to you on that one.
The Words That Come Out Of His Mouth? Sadly, No Check.
50 out of 100
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Iron Sheik – Steep Decline – Despite many protestations from people that they love the man’s current gimmick of saying terrible, unaware things about people to big laughs from smarks, the man is many years removed from any semblance of respectability.
Nikolai Volkoff – Steep Decline – He was pretty much done after this.
The Killer Bees – Push – AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA.
Jim Duggan – Push – He does the exact same thing now that he did then, just less frequently.
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff Over The Killer Bees Following Shenanigans.
Segment 17 – WWF Heavyweight Championship – Hulk Hogan © vs. Andre the Giant w/ Bobby Heenan
Cewsh: So here we are, Hogan vs. Andre. Perhaps the most well known and legendary wrestling match to ever take place. The match that built the prestige of Wrestlemania on its back. The clash between, perhaps, the two biggest stars in wrestling history, to determine which of them would be king of the 80s. Oh yes, the Irresistible Force meeting the Immovable Object. I don’t think I need to tell you that this match is special beyond any kind of normal reckoning, but let’s take a look back and see how things built to this point.
Now, there are a lot of fans who don’t have a great grasp on what exactly Andre the Giant’s career was. They remember him from WWF in the 80s, but the truth is that that was the twilight of one of the great wrestling careers of all time. Andre actually got started all the way back in 1962 as a freak show giant in a carny wrestling show in France, throwing dropkicks and running all over the place like a 7 foot, 400 pound cruiserweight. He tore up Japan and Canada, but things always went the same. He’d arrive in a territory, he would sell out initially and then people would lose interest. When Verne Gagne in the AWA got him, he actually went to Vince McMahon Sr. to ask his advice on what to do with Andre to keep interest from flagging, and Vince came up with an ingenious plan. Pimp him out.
Andre would arrive in a territory, spent a month or two there, and then move on to the next. Since he was there for such a short time, he became the ultimate special attraction and a must see event, (which made him effectively the first international wrestling star.) Since he never had time to get stale, he never lost matches. In the 15 years that followed, he lost less than 5 total matches and, in the WWF specifically, he was never beaten by pin or submission. Ever. For 15 years. Try to wrap your head around that idea. Comparatively, it would be like if Kane had arrived at Wrestlemania this year having not been pinned since the Clinton Administration.
Meanwhile, though, there was a young muscleman from Florida who got tired of trying to make it as a bass player in a punk band and decided to give this wrestling thing as a try. It was a pretty good decision, all things considered. Hulk Hogan went first to the AWA, where they wanted him to be a heel, only to have to turn him when the fans erupted for him everywhere he went. Then Vince McMahon Jr. scooped Hogan up to be the new face of his company, and boy did that ever work out for everyone not named Verne Gagne. For four years by this point, Hulk Hogan had been building and establishing himself as not only the biggest name in wrestling, but as one of the cultural icons of the decade.
The man was everywhere, a sensation that defies any comparison. The thing about Hogan, though, was that he was quickly running out of opponents that fans could reasonably consider to be a threat to him. So after besting King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania II, they decided that it was time to make the biggest match they possibly could. A man with an undefeated streak that could get its own learner’s permit against the biggest name in wrestling history. It was 15 years in the making and HOLY SHIT ARE YOU NOT GETTING CHILLS BY NOW?!
The actual feud leading to the match here was relatively simple, (they didn’t need much reason to make people want to see this match.) Andre became jealous of Hogan’s success and platitudes, and shockingly allied himself with Hogan’s greatest enemy, Bobby Heenan. In one of the best angles of the decade, Andre ripped Hogan’s shirt and crucifix off him with one tug and challenged him for his title, to show him he was nothing. I need to sell this again. Andre the Giant challenging you to a match in WWE in the 80s was a kayfabe death sentence. You weren’t going to beat him, he knew you weren’t going to beat him, and there wasn’t a fucking thing you were going to be able to do about it. This was the ultimate threat to Hogan, and in the lead up to the match, we saw a visibly emotional Hogan trying to come to terms with the betrayal of his good friend due to jealousy he hadn’t meant to inspire. And so, with the future of the WWF, and the theoretical life of Hulkamania on the line, they came to Detroit for the final confrontation.
Now this match has never been considered a classic by most people. The general consensus is that it was a waste of time until Hogan slams Andre, and as far as WWE acknowledges it, the match might as well have been a gif. But let’s cover what happens before the slam. First of all, if you were wondering which side the fans are taking on this one, I wouldn’t worry about it. Andre gets pelted with so much trash on the way to ringside that it seems like people are mistaking him for the world’s largest trash can. Hogan comes out and blows the roof off the place, naturally, and then they stand toe to toe. And while there aren’t too many images in wrestling that give me chills to look at, this one does every single time.
Hogan comes right out of the gate with some punches, and immediately tries to slams Andre, since Hogan’s offense is like 90% body slam. But try as he might, he doesn’t even come close, as Andre squashes him instead. Hogan barely manages to get out from under Andre to avoid losing his title inside the first minute, and Andre sets about beating Hogan down methodically. The story of this match right from the beginning is that Andre has no reason to think that he can be beaten, so he doesn’t even bother to play defense against Hogan. He just keeps hurting Hogan bit by bit, at his own pace. Hogan, for his part, knows full well how fucked he is, and just tries to stay alive as the fans get louder and louder and LOUDER in support of their hero.
Five minutes into the match, Hogan hasn’t even managed an offensive maneuver against the Giant, but finally Hulk ducks out of the way of a splash and stuns the Giant with some huge running elbows. Hogan seems to daze the big man, but even that is short lived as a simple lifted boot takes an overly excited Hogan out of the game. But now Andre knows he has to slow Hogan down, so he locks in a bearhug, Hogan says, “fuck that shit,” and gets Andre outside the ring and pulls up the mats to piledrive him on the concrete, (yeah, okay Hogan.) Andre drops him on his neck with maybe the worst back body drop ever delivered and they get back in the ring.
But Hogan is done fucking around and he comes flying at Andre with the hardest clothesline he can throw. And son of a bitch if he doesn’t knock Andre off of his feet.
Having just done what was believed to be impossible, and with the crowd losing their shit to unheard of proportions, Hogan decides to try that slam thing one more time. He grabs Andre and lifts him up into the cold Detroit night and slams him done with a crash that changed the world.
All it takes is one more leg drop and it’s done. The torch has been passed and Hulk Hogan is king for life.
So how was this match? Well let’s be honest, Andre was basically going to be able to take two bumps here with the condition he was in and Hulk Hogan isn’t going to be carrying any infirm giants to amazing matches. It just isn’t going to happen. So when taken as just a match, you’ve probably seen 10 better ones today. But as a spectacle? As a moment? As a show? There isn’t anything that will ever compare to the final minute of this match. Nothing will ever even come close. So while the match wasn’t great, (though it was better than I expected,) that was never the purpose. This is professional wrestling’s defining moment. And boy does it feel like it.
88 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
The Law: Celebrities for the main event: Bob Uecker is the guest ring announcer and Mary Hart as guest timekeeper. Andre and Heenan are out first together. Uecker does a pretty good introduction, but I wish this was Finkel. Hogan is out next to a massive reaction. 80,000+ on their feet screaming. Hogan and Andre go face-to-face in one of the most iconic images in wrestling history. Hogan wins the opening exchange and goes for a Body Slam right away. He can’t get Andre up and the giant end up coming down on top. Hogan just barely gets out of the pin. Hogan’s back is messed up and Andre goes to work right away. Body Slam by Andre, then another. Andre’s in total control.
You can hear the crowd getting desperate for Hogan. This is like a football game where one team jumps out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Hogan finally gets a few punches and staggers Andre. He’s trying to chop the Giant down. Hogan charges Andre and gets leveled with a Big Boot. End hope spot. Andre locks on a Bear Hug, literally squeezing the life out of Hogan. Hogan begs the Hulkamaniacs for support, drawing his energy from them. He comes back to life and fire off right hands. He broke it! Hogan comes off the ropes and goes body-to-body with Andre. He tries it again and gets leveled by Andre. Andre boots Hogan in the gut and he falls to the floor.
Andre didn’t come to Detroit to win by count out. He follows Hogan to the floor. He rears his massive head back, sensing the kill…but Hogan moves out of the way and Andre’s massive head hits the post. The giant is dazed and Hogan senses his moment. Hogan throws the mats up. He’s going to finish this right now. Hogan sets up for a Piledriver. Can you imagine that? A Piledriver on the 500 pound Giant on concrete? It would shake the earth. But we don’t get to see it, and Andre counters with a Back Drop. Hogan’s spine bounces off the concrete and he’s in real trouble now.
Back in the ring Andre is sensing victory. He whips Hogan to the ropes and throws his Big Boot in the air. This is the knockout shot, that massive foot right in Hogan’s face. But Hogan sees it coming and gets his head down. He comes out the other side and hits the ropes. Now he has double the momentum. He has to do it now. Time to swing for the fences: Hogan rears back with his massive arm and swings with all his might. And this time Mighty Casey doesn’t strike out, he strikes gold: Hogan levels Andre and knocks him to the mat. The crowd goes into a frenzy. Most of them have never seen Andre knocked from his feet before. Andre is dazed. This is not a situation he is familiar with. He gropes around the canvas, trying to get to his feet. Hogan is already up. He knows now is his time. Now is the time to cement his legacy and become the greatest ever. He feeds off the energy of the crowd. He’s going to do the unthinkable: He’s going to slam the giant. Andre’s up, he turns around. Hogan grasps him, lifts him and spins him. HOGAN SLAMS ANDRE! It’s like Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World. The Silverdome is shaking.
Now Hogan just has to finish. And he’s dancing with the horse that brought him, the move that won him the championship and so many other matches since: the Atomic Leg Drop. Hogan hits the ropes, jumps as high as he possibly can, and comes down with his log-like leg crashing across Andre’s windpipe. The air rushes out of Andre’s body and he struggles to breathe. Hogan jumps on top and hooks the leg, not wasting a moment. The referee’s hand goes down once….twice….and a third time. David has slayed Goliath. Hogan pins Andre.
Rating: ***½. I don’t care what anyone else says, that’s a good wrestling match. Wrestling doesn’t have to be about holds and fancy counters and high-flying moves. Those things are nice, but wrestling is about working a crowd and telling a story. And this match tells a story in spectacular fashion and gets more heat than just about any match in history.
Hogan celebrates as Andre and Heenan sadly leave the ring. It’s a long and lonely trip back to the locker room for them.
Where Did There Careers Go From Here?
Hulk Hogan – Push – This was certainly the peak of Hogan’s WWF career as things would trend downwards from here on. But then he only went to WCW and became a cultural icon all over again, and then went back to WWE and did it a third time. So even though this is about as high as it is possible to get, it has to be called a draw, because the man just keeps doing it over and over again.
Andre the Giant – Steep Decline – This is really the last time that Andre managed to be in good enough health to really do something important like this. The WWF took it easy on him after this and he sort of coasted to the end of his career before dying in 1993.
Hulk Hogan Over Andre the Giant Following The Leg Drop.
Cewsh: I’ve heard some incredibly derogatory things said about this show over the years, and indeed, about most of the early Wrestlemanias. Maybe it’s just that it’s an era that people have trouble understanding, or maybe it’s just memories from childhood that weren’t lived up to when we became adults. Whatever the trouble is, I didn’t find it here, as I actually enjoyed a lot of this show. The bad stuff is bad stuff and there are wayyyyyyyyyy too many matches on this card, considering that half of them have no meaning whatsoever, but this feels like a special event, like a spectacle that is once in a lifetime.
Been a good long while since a Wrestlemania felt like that.
Cewsh’s Final Score: 69.83 out of 100
The Law: It’s the biggest and most successful show in wrestling history. And it was a really good show. Steamboat and Savage had a genuine classic, Hogan and Andre had the most historic match ever, and there was some decent stuff on the undercard. The estimation is that over 1 million people watched this on closed-circuit broadcast, plus several hundred thousand ordered it on pay-per-view. Big business, good show…can’t ask for anything more than this. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where wrestling was more popular than it was on this day in 1987. The last 25 years have all been spent trying to get back to that level.