WrestleMania III – Front Page Action

WrestleMania III (1987)Event: WrestleMania III
Date: March 29, 1987
Venue: Pontiac Silverdome (Pontiac, Michigan)
Attendance: 93,173

This is the first WrestleMania that I remember a hype for outside of the wrestling world.  In addition to the pre-event hype, I remember vividly seeing on front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer sports page the next day a huge photo of Hogan and Andre.  In my mind this is the first time that WrestleMania was really an “event”.  The opening shots of the crowd are very impressive and the venue is so big that the wrestlers need to be carted in from the dressing room.

The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel and Tom Zenk) defeated Bob Orton and The Magnificent Muraco (with Mr. Fuji)
I’ve gone on record with my distaste for tag team wrestling and this one really didn’t do a whole lot to change that.  First off… what’s with tag teams that LOOK the same?  Zenk and Martel are essentially the same dude with the exception that Zenk walks like he’s got a stick up his ass.  The good guys get the win when they hit a cross body block on Muraco in conjunction with a schoolboy.  Not a terrible match but nothing more than a crowd warm up in my opinion.

Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules (with Bobby Heenan) fought to a double countout
Very happy to say that the WWF is finally getting it and giving us some storyline recaps before the matches.  To make a long story short this is full nelson vs. full nelson.  Hercules is REALLY getting into character in his pre-match interview when he makes reference to “When I used these chains thousands of years ago”.  Um… OK.  Billy Jack looks like a cross between a gay leprechaun and Randy Savage.  How’s that for a mental image?  Hercules is the first to lock on the full nelson but alas his fingers aren’t locked.  For some reason I kept thinking of the Sly Stallone flick Over The Top here cause we all know, that in arm wrestling if you move your thumb over 2 inches you’re definitely going to win.  In any case we get both wrestlers out of the ring and Billy Jack chooses THIS time to lock on his full nelson.  After the fastest 10 count in the history of the WWF both wrestlers are counted out.  After the match, Hercules uses his 1,000 year old chain to bust open BJ to further the storyline.

Hillbilly Jim, The Haiti Kid and Little Beaver defeated King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook by disqualification
OK… one question.  Who did Bundy piss off to go from main eventing WrestleMania 2 to being part of a 6-man midget match at WrestleMania III?  And while we’re on the subject – a MIDGET match?  Come on WWF.  I know times have changed but who thought this was a good idea?  Believe it or not, this one is actually rather entertaining until Bundy drops an elbow on one of the little guys and gets DQ’d.  Then of course all the midgets ban together with Hillbilly Jim to protect their downed brethren.  Funny little (no pun intended) match but not much more than filler.

Loser Must Bow match
Harley Race (with Bobby Heenan and The Fabulous Moolah) defeated The Junkyard Dog

One of the things that I’m noticing while re-watching these events is just how far we’ve come from a politically correct standpoint.  During one of his pre-match interviews JYD says something to the effect of, “I’m as black as the day is long.”  This sort of thing doesn’t bother me in the slightest but there’s no way that a statement like this would make it on the air today.  OK, end social observation.  This is a decent little match for what it is.  Harley Race is way past his prime here and I’m not sure that JYD was ever all that great of an in ring performer.  Race gets the victory with an “out of no where” belly to belly suplex that really didn’t look all that devastating.  JYD give a little curtsy to fulfill his “loser bows” stipulation and then proceeds to hit Race with a chair and put on his cape to a huge pop from the crowd.

The Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake) (with Johnny Valiant and Dino Bravo) defeated The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond)
This match is here for a couple of reasons.  First, it was to showcase the Rougeaue brothers who were going to be getting a big push in future months.  Second it was the start of the Brutus Beefcake face turn (when he became “The Barber”).  To make a really long and boring story short, The Rougeaus hit their finisher (as I like to call it the Balls-to-the-Face) but don’t manage to win the match.  Dino bravo gets involved knocking one of the Rougeaus out allowing the Dream Team to get the pin.  Beefcake (for some reason) isn’t happy with this turn of events and doesn’t leave the ring with Valentine, Bravo and Valiant.  This becomes important in the next match…

Hair vs. Hair match
Roddy Piper defeated Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart)

I commented in my WrestleMania 2 review about how out of shape Adrian Adonis was.  A year later and the WM2 version of Adonis looks slim in comparison to his WM3 counterpart.  This is billed a Piper’s “retirment match” which in retrospect is fucking hilarious seeing as Piper is STILL active in wrestling to this day.  All of that said this is a great match.  It’s hair vs. hair with Piper “on his way out” so you pretty much have to assume that he’s going to win but they do a nice little swerve ending with Adonis putting Piper to sleep only to celebrate one second too soon and not allowing Piper’s hand to hit the mat the third time.  Brutus Beefcake runs to Piper’s aid helping him to wake up which allows Piper to slap on a sleeper of his own getting the victory.  Beefcake holds Jimmy Hart down as Piper shaves Adrian’s head.  Beefcake gets in on the action as well creating his “Barber” persona which he’d have for many years.  My most memorable moment of this match is when Adonis comes to and realizes he’s lost the match and has his head shaved.  Piper shows him a mirror which Adrian punches and clearly mouths “WHAT THE FUCK!!!”  Hilarious.

The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) and Danny Davis (with Jimmy Hart) defeated The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) and Tito Santana
Before this match Jesse “The Body” Ventura is announced to the crowd.  Not sure why as he doesn’t do or say anything.  I suspect it’s simply because Predator was opening shortly and they wanted to get his name/face out there some more.  On to the match.  There’s nothing worse on a big card (I.E. WrestleMania) than a filler match.  That is except for a 6-man tag team filler match.  There’s some semblance of story line here as Danny Davis is a corrupt referee that has essentially give the tag titles to the Hart Foundation and has caused Tito to lose the IC title.  That’s not enough to keep me interested in this snooze fest that ends with Davis hitting Davey with Hart’s megaphone for the win.  Yawn.

Butch Reed (with Slick) defeated Koko B. Ware
Butch Reed makes his debut against future WWE Hall Of Famer Koko B. Ware.  And please don’t even get me started on why in the HELL Koko is a Hall Of Famer.  Koko does what he does best – loses a match.  Afterward, Tito Santana continues his WrestleMania tradition of getting involved where it makes absolutely no sense and come to the ring and beats up poor Slick.

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Ricky Steamboat (with George Steele) defeated Randy Savage (c) (with Miss Elizabeth)

Part of the reason that I’ve really been looking forward to WrestleMania III is due to the fact that this match was on the card.  It’s one of my Top Ten WrestleMania Matches and it’s always a joy to watch it.  Part of what made this match amazing was the back story which the WWF does a great job recapping.  Essentially Macho Man crushed Steamboat’s larynx and put him out of commission for a couple of months.  This is Steamboat’s last chance to get revenge and the title.  The crowd is into this match from the start and literally gets to a frenzy through a series of close finishes.  This match is pure brilliance as Savage and Steamboat go back and forth with some really slick moves.  Macho hits his flying elbow but the referee has been knocked out so he doesn’t get the win.  Savage then goes to the outside and grabs the bell which he used to injure Steamboat’s larynx.  George Steele gets involved and takes the bell away from him.  Savage then turns his attention back to Steamboat and picks him up for a body slam.  Steamboat reverses the slam into a small package and pins Savage clean in the center of the ring for the victory.  If you’ve never seen this match you owe it to yourself to do so… it’s a classic.

The Honky Tonk Man (with Jimmy Hart) defeated Jake Roberts (with Alice Cooper)
I tell you… as time goes by I enjoy Honky Tonk Man more and more.  I don’t think I really appreciated him all that much back in the day but damn can he play a heel with the best of them.  Jake was never all that great in the ring but he’s one of the best ever when it comes to portraying a character.  This is tight little match with some good back and forth action before Honky uses the ropes to get the pin.  In retrospect this match is an obvious setup for the Intercontinental Title run that Honky went on as well as future programs with Jake.  After the match Alice Cooper gets involved and drapes Damien over Jimmy Hart.  The post match stuff was a complete waste of time but not surprising when you’ve got a “celebrity” like Alice Cooper in the ring.

The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff (with Slick) defeated The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell) by disqualification
I’m shocked that this match was as late in the card as it was.  It was a decent little tag match with outside interference by Hacksaw Jim Duggin causing the Bees to lose.  Hacksaw is on his anti-all-things-not-American kick and of course has vowed never to allow Volkoff to sing his Russian national anthem (which we all know he does all the time).  I honestly don’t remember where this feud went but this match is an obvious setup for that.  Unfortunately for Bees fans this is essentially the last of their heyday as they went onto get repeatedly squashed by Demolition.

WWF Championship
Hulk Hogan (c) defeated André the Giant (with Bobby Heenan)

This match made my honorable mentions on my Top WrestleMania Matches and after re-watching it I think I might have been wrong in making it just an honorable mention!  This match is outstanding!  Hogan is a huge dude and he’s absolutely dwarfed by Andre.  Typically “big men” matches are pretty boring but this one simply isn’t.  Hogan goes for a slam at the very beginning of the match and hurts his back.  Andre nearly gets a pin in the first 30 seconds of the match.  From there Andre essentially beats on Hogan for a good couple of minutes with Hogan playing it perfectly.  Hogan makes a brief comeback which Andre squashes.  There are a couple of complete “rest holds” in here (bear hug) but both men are really making it look great.  Andre whips Hogan into the ropes and goes for a big kick which Hogan ducks and follows up with a big forearm that knocks The Giant to the mat.  Hogan goes for a scoop slam which I don’t care what you say is damn impressive.  He finishes off Andre with a patented leg drop for the 1-2-3.  Real American and pose down follows “giving the crowd what they want”.

General Thoughts

  • THIS is finally what WrestleMania should be.  It feels like a big show.  The matches deliver.  I’m guessing this is the first time they were able to deliver what Vince McMahon had in mind when he dreamed up the concept.
  • Whatever happened to the concept of a “stable” of wrestlers?  The Heenan Family, The Four Hoursemen, Jimmy Hart’s crew?  These days the best we’ve got is DX and they’re simply a tag team.  I miss stables who had one another’s backs.
  • The intro packages are finally up to snuff here.  This is the first WrestleMania where you can sit down and watch it without knowing the history (as they give you enough of the storyline to be caught up).
  • There are a couple of references in here to the “Federettes” (ring side girls).  It’s the only time that I remember them every being referenced in WWF history.
  • Celebrity involvement blows.  I don’t mind so much when they’re announcers, timekeepers, etc. but when they are in the corner of the wrestlers you just KNOW that they’re going to get involved.  Leave the fighting to the wrestlers people.
  • There have been hundreds of matches in WrestleMania history.  Any show that produces two of my all time favorites is a show worth watching.

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