Powell's WrestleMania 3 review: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Championship, Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental Championship, Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis
WrestleMania 3 took place on March 29, 1987. This review was written in March 2014. We will continue to post reviews of past WrestleMania as the week goes on (and again in the future).
Pontiac, Michigan at the Pontiac Silverdome
Aired on pay-per-view and closed circuit television
Vince McMahon stood in the ring and welcomed fans to "the magnificent Silverdome and welcome to WrestleMania 3." There were four large screens hanging on each side of the ring. Vince introduced Aretha Franklin, who performed "America the Beautiful" on a piano that was set up on a platform in the crowd. She had three backup singers...
Powell's POV: Franklin's performance was awesome. I can't say I remember every performance from the WrestleMania era, but her performance and Ray Charles at WrestleMania 2 still stand out all these years later.
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura checked in as the broadcast team. They were joined by Bob Uecker and Mary Hart.
Powell's POV: Fortunately, Uecker and Hart did not sit in on commentary throughout the entire show. Apparently, Vince learned from the mistake that was the WrestleMania 2 commentary situation. Uecker was a mediocre baseball player who went on to become a great play-by-play voice for the Milwaukee Brewers. He mocked his own baseball exploits and had a successful television career as a host, actor, and as commercial pitch man. Mary Hart was famous for being the host of Entertainment Tonight. She was famous for having great legs that the syndicated entertainment show featured prominently. She appeared on the show for 29 years.
1. "The Can-Am Connection" Rick Martel and Tom Zenk vs. Bob Orton and Don Muraco (w/Mr. Fuji). Muraco had his left thigh wrapped heavily. Late in the match, Martel and Zenk hit a double dropkick on Muraco, then Orton was dropkicked out of the ring. Martel hit a running cross body block on Muraco as Zenk went low on Muraco, leading to Martel the pin...
The Can-Am Connection defeated Bob Orton and Don Muraco in 5:37.
Powell's POV: A crowd-pleasing opener. The Can-Am Connection started teaming in November 1986 and were the hottest team in the company when Zenk made an abrupt departure in July 1987. Zenk cited pay/contract issues, and he had a lot of negative things to say about the company after his in-ring career was over. He worked for the AWA and WCW after leaving the WWF, but he was never as over as he was as part of this team. Once Zenk left, Martel was paired with Tito Santana as Strike Force. They were a popular duo, but I don't think they were as big as the Can-Am Connection would have been if Zenk had stuck around.
A video package recapped the feud between Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules... Backstage, Gene Okerlund interviewed Hercules and Bobby Heenan. Nothing special. Heenan called Haynes "Billy Jerk Haynes"...
Powell's POV: The wrestlers on this show rode carts made out to look like mini rings for their entrances. There were also ring girls called The Federettes who collected the ring gear.
2. Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan). Haynes press-slammed Hercules early and sent for the Full Nelson, but Hercules ran to the corner to avoid it. Late in the match, Haynes caught Hercules in the Full Nelson. Monsoon noted that it wasn't entirely locked in.
Hercules tumbled to the floor and brought Haynes with him. Haynes reapplied the hold on the floor and both men were counted out. Heenan took a shot at Haynes on the floor. With Haynes distracted, Hercules picked up the chain he wore to the ring, wrapped it around his fist, and struck Haynes with it repeatedly. Haynes bladed...
Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules fought to a double count out in 7:53.
Powell's POV: Hercules Hernandez was trimmed to simply Hercules by this point. Haynes vs. Hercules was positioned as a battle of two masters of the Full Nelson, which was a finisher back in those days. The "Billy Jack" name came from a semi-popular movie of the same name. Haynes initially worked as Billy Jack, but he added his real last name following legal threats. The feud was just getting started so the non-finish and putting the heat on Hercules was logical and effective.
In a pre-tape, Okerlund interviewed King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, and Little Tokyo. Bundy did all the talking and threatened to squash some of his midget opponents... Okerlund interviewed Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid, and Little Beaver...
Powell's POV: Yes, Little Beaver. He had a Native American gimmick. The WWE Network version did not use Jim's "Don't Go Messin' With a Country Boy" theme song. They went with some overdubbed banjo music instead.
3. King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, and Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid, and Little Beaver. Uecker sat in on commentary for this match. The midgets started the match and then Bundy tagged in. Beaver dodged him and threw a dropkick that Bundy no-sold, then Beaver quickly tagged in Jim, who got a nice pop. Late in the match, Beaver helped Jim and went after Bundy.
"I think there's a lot of Beaver all over this place," Monsoon said. Bundy caught Beaver and body slammed him. Bundy dropped an elbow. He set up for a splash, but all of the midgets pulled Beaver out of the way and chastised Bundy. Ring announcer Howard Finkel announced that Bundy had been disqualified...
Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid, and Little Beaver beat King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, and Little Tokyo by DQ in 4:23.
Powell's POV: Disqualified?!? Beaver wasn't the legal man! Anyway, Jim was even rougher in the ring than I remember, but in a weird way it worked for the character. Oh, and no PC emails, please. They were labeled midgets during the broadcast, so I'm just going with their lingo.
Backstage, Mary Hart tried to interview Elizabeth, but Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage interrupted her. Hart still wanted to interview Elizabeth, but Savage told her to go down the aisle... A video package recapped the "King" Harley Race and Junkyard Dog feud... Okerlund interviewed Race, Heenan, and Fabulous Moolah. Heenan presented Race's crown to Moolah, who held it on a pillow she carried... Uecker bailed on the commentary team while claiming he wanted to get closer to Moolah... Okerlund had another brief backstage pre-tape interview with JYD...
4. Junkyard Dog vs. "King" Harley Race (w/Bobby Heenan, Fabulous Moolah) in a loser must bow match. JYD headbutted Race, but Harley returned the favor to JYD's abdomen and then threw him out of the ring. Race went for a headbutt off the ring apron, but JYD moved and Race landed on the blue mats at ringside.
A short time later, Race also took a backwards tumble over the top rope an fell to the mat. JYD slammed Race back inside the ring and then applied the abdominal stretch, which Race countered out of with a hip lock. Race performed a headbutt, but sold it as if it hurt his head (because JYD was said to have a hard head).
Dog performed his kneeling JDB headbutts. Heenan stood on the ring apron and distracted JYD, who then walked into a belly-to-belly suplex from Race, who got the win. After the match, Race took a seat in the ring. JYD gave him a quick bow, then Race got up and played to the crowd. JYD picked up the chair and struck Race with it. JYD grabbed Race's cape and the crowd cheered as he sauntered to The King music and then wore it on his way backstage...
Harley Race beat Junkyard Dog in a loser must bow match in 3:22.
Powell's POV: Race became The King in the WWF by winning the second King of the Ring tournament in 1986. Jerry Lawler, who was the star of Memphis wrestling at the time, sued over the name and won. The match didn't last long and JYD didn't do much, but Race worked hard and bumped all over for him.
Vince McMahon interviewed Hulk Hogan, who said Andre the Giant has to beat him and every Hulkamaniac. Hogan said he can't wait to see Andre go down at the feet of Hulkamania in front of 90,000 fans... A brief Okerlund pre-tape interview with Johnny V, The Dream Team, and Dino Bravo aired...
Powell's POV: Johnny Valiant was shortened to Johnny V at some point between WrestleMania 2 and WrestleMania 3. By the way, the big screens that hung above the ring weren't even on at this point in the show. It was still light in the stadium and I assume the screens wouldn't be visible unless it was dark due to the technology at the time. Hell, maybe they were on and no one could tell. We've come a long way, folks.
5. "The Dream Team" Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake (w/Johnny V, Dino Bravo) vs. The Rougeau Brothers. Heenan joined Monsoon and Ventura on commentary and boasted that he was two for two in his matches as far as he was concerned. Valentine applied the Figure Four early, but it was broken up. Heenan said he wasn't in Bundy's corner because he doesn't like midgets and wanted nothing to do with them.
Late in the match, Beefcake tried to break up a sleeper that Raymond had on Valentine, but he jumped off the ropes and struck Valentine accidentally. Raymond put Valentine on his shoulders, and then Jacques jumped off the top rope and slammed his junk into Valentine's face. What a finisher. With the ref distracted, Bravo snuck in the ring and took a shot at Raymond and rolled Valentine on top for the win. After the match, the heels left without Beefcake...
Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake beat The Rougeau Brothers in 4:04.
Powell's POV: Did Jacques Rougeau, who went on to play The Mountie, have iron balls or something? I never really understood that move. The Dream Team had some heat, but the Rougeaus got a polite pop when they were introduced. Heenan was fun on commentary and gloating that it was his day made sense considering he was managing Andre in the main event...
A video package recapped Adrian Adonis taking out Roddy Piper's knee, then a wounded Piper hobbling and smashing The Flower Shop set with a bat. Footage also aired of Piper choking Jimmy Hart, only have Adonis show up and attack him on Piper's Pit. It ended with Adonis locking Hart in a sleeper hold he dubbed "Goodnight Irene". Then footage was shown of Adonis spraying "perfume" into the eyes of Piper... A Piper interview aired. He said he wouldn't be humiliated by someone who wears a dress... A pre-tape aired with Okerlund interviewing Adonis and Hart...
6. Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart) in a Hair vs. Hair match. The announcers reminded viewers that Piper was going to retire "win, lose, or draw." Piper walked to the ring instead of riding on one of the carts. After being a top heel at the first two WrestleMania events, Piper was over huge as a babyface and got the best reaction of anyone at this point in the show. Piper had a strap with him and used it as a weapon early on, then Adonis ended up with it and returned the favor.
Adonis and Hart took a bump over the top rope together, then Piper tossed Hart off the top rope and onto Adonis. Adrian went on the offensive and the crowd rallied behind Piper. Monsoon pointed out that Adonis was the former tag partner of Adonis. Ventura said he had a new tag team in "Braverman and Bloom."
Later, Adonis applied his sleeper on Piper and thought Roddy's arm dropped three times. However, Piper held it up the third time. Brutus Beefcake came out and woke up Piper as Adonis and Hart celebrated. Piper applied the sleeper on Adonis and got the win.
After the match, Beefcake picked up the garden sheers for the first time and handed them to Piper. Beefcake picked up the electric clippers and went to work on Adonis's head while Piper put his foot on Hart to keep him on the mat. Piper held up a mirror to show Adonis, who tried unsuccessfully to go after him. Piper left the ring with his head covered. A teenage fan entered the ring and Piper shook his hand, but security mobbed the fan and hauled him out...
Roddy Piper defeated Adrian Adonis in a Hair vs. Hair match in 6:14.
Powell's POV: Fun match. Adonis added a lot of weight since WrestleMania 2, yet he continued to take some great bumps for a guy his size. Ventura was referring to Michael Braverman and Barry Bloom, who served as his agents. The duo continues to represent pro wrestlers today. This was billed as Piper's retirement match because he was on his way out to become an actor. Beefcake had a hell of a time cutting Adonis's hair because it was wet. Adonis was actually barking at him, presumably because it felt unpleasant and should have been cut with scissors first. Yes, this was the birth of Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake.
Monsoon spoke briefly with Uecker and Hart... In the ring, Finkel introduced Jesse Ventura. Monsoon stated on commentary that Jesse insisted that he be introduced in front of the fans... A pre-taped Okerlund interview was shown with Hart, "The Hart Foundation" Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, and Danny Davis...
Powell's POV: Danny Davis was a heel referee who cost the British Bulldogs the tag titles, and also cost Tito Santana the Intercontinental Title. No, it's not the same Danny Davis who owns Ohio Valley Wrestling. This Davis actually wrestled as Mr. X in addition to working as a referee.
7. The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana vs. The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis (w/Jimmy Hart). The Bulldogs had their bulldog mascot Matilda chase the heels around the ring. Bob Uecker and Mary Hart sat in on commentary. Mary let the world know that she's not related to Jimmy, nor cheering for the Hart Foundation. The Bulldogs and The Harts handled most of the work.
Davis checked in after Dynamite Kid was down. Dynamite made the hot tag to Tito, who worked over Davis and the crowd popped huge. Tito went for the Figure Four, but it was broken up. Davey Boy Smith tagged in and hit what would become known as the Tombstone piledriver on Davis and could have pinned him, but chose to dish out more punishment. A short time later, everyone ended up fighting in the ring. Davis took the megaphone from hart and slammed it over the head of Davey Boy and got the win...
The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis defeated The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana in 8:52.
Powell's POV: Davis had a lot of heat as a heel referee and the fans definitely wanted to see him get his. It didn't seem like the fans were all that into Santana when he checked in early on, but they were going crazy when Tito worked over Davis later on. I remember being disappointed that the tag titles weren't being defended, yet also wanting to see Davis get roughed up. The heel ref gimmick worked, but this was the peak of Davis as a wrestler in terms of fan interest. Things went downhill quickly and he eventually apologized and was reinstated as a neutral referee.
Backstage, Okerlund interviewed Andre the Giant and Bobby Heenan. The Brain confidently said Hulkamania was dead, and that the oddsmakers were picking Andre to win. Heenan excitedly said he was going to be managing the new champion of the world...
Powell's POV: Heenan's confidence really clicked with me as a 14 year-old viewer. I was at that point where I knew pro wrestling was a work, yet I still wanted to believe. Heenan's confidence left me fearing Andre was going to win, and also made me want to see Hogan put Heenan in his place. Simple and effective.
During the ring introductions for the Koko B. Ware vs. Butch Reed match, Ventura said it was the match that his friend Barry Blaustein was looking forward to...
Powell's POV: Wow, Jesse had really gone Hollywood! Blaustein was a movie writer who was pumping out Police Academy movies back in those days. He went on to release the pro wrestling documentary "Beyond the Mat" in 1999.
8. Koko B. Ware vs. "The Natural" Butch Reed (w/Slick). Koko had Frankie the parrot with him. The bird sat on a perch at ringside. Jesse added a little realism to the match by saying Koko had to keep moving because he couldn't compete with Reed's strength. Jesse then pointed out that Koko was wearing a glove on one hand. He said he knows Michael Jackson did the same, "but Buckwheat don't." Different times, folks.
In the end, Reed rolled through a cross body block and held onto Ware's trunks while getting the pin. After the match, Tito Santana came out all fired up over the finish and ended up ripping Slicks shirt. Tito and Koko performed a double dropkick on Reed. Jesse said "Chico" is sneaky and would do anything...
Butch Reed defeated Koko B. Ware in 3:39.
Powell's POV: Yes, Jesse Ventura went on to become Governor of Minnesota. I don't recall anyone I knew thinking twice about Ventura's commentary back in those days. People would lose their minds if some of those things were said today. As I wrote, it was just a different time. Or maybe I was surrounded by horrible racists?!? Nah, different times. The match was fine for what it was. It wasn't a hot program and I don't recall Reed ever getting all that over in WWE, but Ware was a popular undercard act. This would have worked in the opening slot with a different finish. Oddly enough, they didn't overdub anything over Morris Day and The Time's "Bird" when it played after the match during Koko's celebration.
A video package recapped Randy Savage performing a double ax-handle on Ricky Steamboat, which drove his throat into the guardrail. Savage followed up by slamming the ring bell onto Steamboat's throat (well, it came close to his face anyway)... Footage aired of Okerlund interviewing a doctor, who rave about Steamboat's recovery. Then footage was shown of George Steele carrying Elizabeth backstage while Vince McMahon said "at least she's in the arms of someone who cares about her." Savage wanted to go after Liz, but Steamboat was there and he was pissed...
Randy Savage delivered a pre-taped promo in front of a WrestleMania backdrop... A pre-tape Okerlund interview with Ricky Steamboat aired...
Powell's POV: That Savage attack on Steamboat was red hot. I remember 14 year-old me convincing myself that Steamboat was inadvertently injured when Savage drove his throat into the ring post. I was a sheltered child. I will give myself some credit, though, as I remember laughing hysterically when Steamboat cut promos and struggled to say every few words. The kayfabe wall was crumbling as much as I tried to fight it.
9. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. Ricky Steamboat (w/George "The Animal" Steele) for the Intercontinental Title. Steamboat performed his deep arm drags early and then grabbed Savage by the throat with both hands and hoisted him into the air. Savage then went on the offensive and the pace never slowed. At one point, he hooked Steamboat into a pin and when Steamboat kicked out, Savage immediately dropped a knee on him.
Steamboat performed a running cross body block on Savage for a two count, then arm-dragged him. Savage regained control with a knee to Steamboat's back. Savage tried to toss Steamboat to the floor, but he skinned the cat, only to have Savage spot it and finish the job by throwing Steamboat to the floor.
Savage knocked Steamboat over the guardrail. Steele went over and helped Steamboat get over the guardrail and back on his feet. Ventura was upset because he felt Steamboat should have been counted out. Savage tossed Steamboat to the floor and then dropped a double ax-handle on him.
Back inside the ring, Savage performed a double ax-handle off the top rope. Moments later, he clotheslined Steamboat over the top rope while jumping over it and pulling Steamboat down in the same motion. Savage suplexed Steamboat and got a two count. Steamboat fired back with punches, but Savage cut him off. Savage performed a gut wrench suplex and got a two count. Ventura complained that the referee was out of position.
Steamboat came back only to have Savage cut him off with a kick. Savage charged at Steamboat, who backdropped Savage to the floor. Back inside the ring, Steamboat caught Savage with a top rope chop and covered him. The referee made the count, but then pointed out that Savage's foot was on the bottom rope. Steamboat went for a sunset flip over the top rope and had Savage down, but Savage kicked out. Steamboat went for rapid fire covers, but Savage continuously kicked out.
Steamboat slingshot Savage into the corner and Savage went over the turnbuckle and into the post. Steamboat still couldn't put him away when he hooked his arms with his legs and went for a cover. Steamboat rolled up Savage moments later, but Savage rolled through and held the tights, but Steambot kicked out. A seated Savage then pulled Steamboat over him, through the ropes, and into the post.
They jockeyed for position and Steamboat slammed into the referee. Savage clotheslined Steamboat and went up top and nailed the elbow drop. Savage got a visual pinfall, but the referee was down. Ventura protested that Savage clearly won the match. Savage went to the floor and took the timekeeper's bell.
Savage tried to go up top with the bell, but Steele stopped him. Savage got the bell and went to the top, but Steele shoved him off. Savage bodyslammed Steamboat, but Steamboat caught him coming down in a small package and pinned him. Liz looked emotional (as always) and Steele entered the ring and raised Steamboat's hand. Steele put Steamboat on his shoulders and carried him to the cart, then they celebrated there while Savage showed anguish in the ring...
Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to win the Intercontinental Title in 14:36.
Powell's POV: This is one of the most critically praised and influential matches in pro wrestling history. It seemed like every good worker who entered the business for the next 10-15 years cited this match as inspiration. It was a hell of a match that stood out as something special, particularly on the big stage for a promotion that wasn't about work rate. One thing that stood out about Ventura's call was that it would have telegraphed the finish to today's audience. He was all over the referee from the start about being out of position and it came off like he was giving Savage every out he could. He always sided with the heels, but he laid it on extra thick here, but it certainly worked at the time.
Okerlund interviewed Jake Roberts and his special guest Alice Cooper. Footage aired of Honky Tonk Man striking Roberts with a guitar on the set of The Snake Pit. Cooper noted that they were in his hometown (Detroit) and he said it was the hometown of heavy metal...
10. Jake Roberts (w/Alice Cooper) vs. The Honky Tonk Man (w/Jimmy Hart). Jake's snake Damien was in a bag in the corner, as usual. Roberts went right after Honky to star the match. Honky fled to ringside, where Roberts body slammed him. Honky took control thanks in part to a Hart distraction, and Roberts was run into the barricade. When he tried to get back into the ring, Honky hit him with a knee to the head.
Roberts came back with an inverted atomic drop. Honky begged off. Jake backdropped Honky, then knocked him onto the apron with a punch. Honky went to get back into the ring, but was caught between the ropes. Roberts threw punches at Honky, who teetered back and forth. With Honky back in the ring, Roberts was setting up for his DDT when Roberts grabbed his leg. Honky rolled up Roberts and held onto the top rope for leverage while pinning him.
After the match, Roberts swung for the fences with a guitar directed at Honky, but Honky moved and the guitar smashed when it hit the ring post. Honky fled, but Hart was caught in the ring. Cooper entered and took off his jacket. Roberts grabbed Hart in a Full Nelson, while Cooper took Damien out of the bag. Roberts threw Hart to the ground and then put the snake on him. Hart ended up fleeing the ring and then he and Honky ran to the back...
The Honky Tonk Man pinned Jake Roberts in 7:05.
Powell's POV: This was not one of Jake's better matches, but Honky was never known as a great worker. It worked for the WWF crowd at the time, but it was nothing to write home about. Cooper and Hart would have been a fair fight since they are about the same size, and Cooper's arms may actually be smaller than Hart's.
Howard Finkel introduced Gene Okerlund for a special announcement. Okerlund entered the ring and announced the WrestleMania attendance set a world record with 93,173 fans in attendance...
Powell's POV: WWE touts that number to this day, but it's been reported that the actual attendance number was roughly 78,000 fans.
11. "The Killer Bees" B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell (w/Jim Duggan) vs. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff (w/Slick). Before the match, Volkoff tried to sing the Russian national anthem, but Duggan ran out and chased him off with his two-by-four before he could finish. The ring was covered in debris from Volkoff singing throughout the entire match. Late in the match, the referee missed a Bees tag. Sheik put Brunzell in the Camel Clutch, but Duggan entered the ring and hit him with the two-by-four for the DQ...
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff defeated The Killer Bees by DQ in 5:44.
Powell's POV: This was hardly a semi main event. Sheik and Volkoff were late in their run and the Bees were just an undercard tag team with a corny gimmick. The Sheik and Duggan were driving together despite feuding with one another when they were pulled over. Duggan was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, and Sheik was high on cocaine. Both men were fired, though Duggan was brought back a short time later. Sheik also returned a year later, but he didn't last long. It was actually a fairly big mainstream story back in those days.
Backstage, Gene Okerlund interviewed Andre the Giant and Bobby Heenan. Andre said it wouldn't take him too long to become the world champion. A hyped up Heenan said he could feel it...
A video package recapped the Hogan and Andre saga. It started with Andre celebrating Hogan's first WWF Championship. Then Hogan was shown saving Andre from a Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy attack. Then Hogan and Andre appeared on Piper's Pit. Andre said three years being champion is a long time. Hogan was shown saying Andre is No. 1 in the WWF, and he thanked people for recognizing the man he considered the real champion of superstars all over the world. Andre walked out.
A clip aired of Jesse Ventura telling Roddy Piper he could produce Andre, and Piper saying he could produce Hogan. Then Andre challenged Hogan, who couldn't believe it. Heenan said that if Hogan didn't believe it, maybe he would believe "this." Andre ripped Hogan's shirt off. Then Piper was shown asking Hogan whether he would face Andre at WrestleMania 3. "Yeeeeeesssssssss!" Hogan said...
Backstage, Gene Okerlund interviewed Hulk Hogan in front of the WrestleMania backdrop. Hogan said Hulkamania and the whole world has been turned upside down. He questioned what the world would think when he slams the giant down...
The celebrities were introduced and Ventura said hello to his wife, son, and daughter by name, but he didn't acknowledge who they were...
Powell's POV: Another stupid 14 year-old me moment. When Ventura used to say hello to Terri, Tyrell, and Jade, I always thought he was saying hello to cool friends named Terry Tyrell and Jade.
Bob Uecker served as the guest ring announcer. Mary Hart was introduced as the guest timekeeper... Andre and Bobby Heenan were introduced. Monsoon said Heenan looked like he was wearing a white waiter's suit. I always though he looked like an eccentric boat captain in that getup, but I loved it. Hulk Hogan was introduced to a massive reaction. Hogan walked to the ring and didn't use the cart...
12. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (w/Bobby Heenan) for the WWF Championship. Andre wore the slimming black singlet, which was a big improvement over the trunks he was shown wearing in the video package. Joey Marella, son of Gorilla Monsoon, was the referee for the match. Hogan and Andre had a staredown.
Andre went for a chop, but Hogan blocked it and then connected with three punches. Hogan went for a bodyslam, but he collapsed under the weight. Andre fell onto Hogan, and the referee counted to two and Hogan kicked out. Andre held up three fingers and Heenan insisted it was a three count repeatedly from the ringside floor.
Powell's POV: That spot was played up by Heenan as a controversial moment. He claimed Hogan's shoulders were down for the three count to set up a rematch. Watching it back, it wasn't even close, but it made for a good story and really good drama early on. It was very cool to hear the crowd go from red hot for Hogan's offense to silent as they feared Hogan had lost.
Ventura gave a great sports-like feel to the match by talking about how Hogan may have "hyped himself out." He also said he'd never seen Hogan in this much trouble so early in a match. Andre slammed Hogan "with ease" per the call of Monsoon. Andre slammed Hogan again, then walked over Hogan's back. Ventura played up Hogan having a back injury from the failed body slam attempt and Andre's offense.
Andre whipped Hogan into the turnbuckle twice. "What do you think of your champion now?" Heenan from ringside. Andre continued to work over Hogan from the corner. Heenan called for Andre to headbutt Hogan, and the giant obliged. Hogan slipped away from Andre and got to his feet. Hogan threw two punches, then ran the ropes and threw a third. Hogan ran the ropes and threw an elbow. Hogan fired wild chops at Andre, then slammed his head into the turnbuckle repeatedly.
Hogan charged at Andre in the corner, but Andre lifted his boot and Hogan ran into it. Heenan asked Andre if his was okay, and Andre nodded yes. Andre put Hogan in a bear hug. Monsoon said he would be the most surprised person in the building if Hogan submitted. Ventura said Hogan may not have a choice because he's never had someone Andre's size put him in that position.
Powell's POV: Bad call by Monsoon, who continued to say he would be highly surprised if Hogan gave up. Why say that? I loved Gorilla on the syndicated squash match shows because he had great chemistry with Bobby Heenan, but he was not a great "big match" play-by-play voice.
Andre wore Hogan down with the bear hug and Hogan sold it like he was passing out. Marella checked Hogan's arm and it fell twice, but Hogan held it up the third time and then started to Hulk Up. Hogan threw several punches to the head of Andre and finally broke the bear hug. Hogan continued to fire punches and then sold it by shaking his own hand in pain before throwing another.
Hogan ran the ropes and performed a pair of shoulder blocks on Andre, who didn't budge. Hogan bounced off the ropes and ran at Andre again, but this time Andre hit him with a great chop that quieted the crowd. Andre threw Hogan into the ropes and then caught him with a kick to the gut, which Hogan sell by falling to the floor. Andre followed Hogan to the floor and went for a headbutt, but Hogan moved and Andre slammed his own head into the ring post.
Hogan pulled the blue padding aside and went for a piledriver, but Andre performed a clunky backdrop that resulted in Hogan's legs hitting the side of the ring and then falling gingerly to the floor. They rolled back inside the ring. Andre whipped Hogan into the ropes and went for a big boot, but Hogan dodged it, bounced off the ropes, and clotheslined Andre to the mat. Ventura said he believed it was the first time Andre had been knocked off his feet like that.
Hogan Hulked Up and when Andre got to his feet, Hogan body slammed him. Hogan bounced off the ropes and hit the big leg and pinned Andre clean. The fans went crazy and police officers rushed to surround the ringside area as Hogan took his title belt and thanked the heavens.
Uecker introduced Hogan as the winner and still champion. Ventura said he had to give credit where it's due, he never thought Hogan could beat Andre the Giant. Hogan's "Real American" played. Hogan jawed at Andre, who jawed back and pointed at Hogan. Hogan celebrated in the ring as Andre and Heenan climbed onto the cart that took them backstage.
Andre watched Hogan and jawed, while Heenan acted completely dejected. Fans threw debris at Andre and Heenan. In the ring, Hogan went through his posing routine. Ventura labeled it the greatest match he ever saw. Hogan finished his pose in the ring and then posed and made the body slam motion while riding the cart to the back. Monsoon and Ventura wrapped up the show and set up a collection of still shots from the event as Franklin's performance of "America the Beautiful" played...
Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant in 12:30 to retain the WWF Championship.
Powell's POV: I view this as the most iconic match in pro wrestling history. It may not have been a technical masterpiece like Savage vs. Steamboat, but it had amazing drama from bell to bell. It seemed like everyone in the Silver Dome and everyone I knew got caught up in this moment. Hogan and a barely mobile Andre took the fans on an amazing ride.
Hogan vs. Andre was greater than Savage vs. Steamboat in some ways due to the magnitude of the match, and the emotion they drew from everyone in that building. Obviously, it was not the technical masterpiece that Savage vs. Steamboat was, but it was very special in its own way. The build to this match was second to none. Going into the match, it felt like the ultimate showdown. At a time when the WWF was so cartoonish, Hogan vs. Andre made WWF fans not just suspend their disbelief, but hang on every twist and turn.
Watching this show again made me remember how good Jesse Ventura could be on color commentary. His work during the main event actually reminded me of Joe Rogan calling a great UFC fight. Ventura sounded so sincerely passionate about what he was calling that it was every bit as infectious as Rogan at his best.
Overall, WrestleMania 3 is still one of my all-time favorite pay-per-views. Most of that can be attributed to the Hogan vs. Andre, and Savage vs. Steamboat matches, as well as my age at the time the show took place. Pro wrestling and certainly Hulkamania never felt bigger than they were that day. This was the absolute peak of the Hulk Hogan era.
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