The Netcop Retro Rant For Wrestlemania III

– Live from Pontiac, Michigan. Original airdate: March 27, 1987.

– Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, with Bobby Heenan popping in now and then.

– This would be the second most requested rant from my fans, next to Wrestlemania X. And a fine choice it is, too, because it’s quite possibly the most historically significant show ever. The 93,000 people in the Silverdome is a record that went unmatched until the Pope broke it earlier this year. This show is a supercard in every sense of the term, and for those of us who were rabid WWF fans in elementary school and junior high at the time, it was like waiting for Christmas morning from the moment that Andre v. Hogan was signed months before the show.

– Opening match: The Can-Am Connection v. Don Muraco & Bob Orton. Orton and Muraco were basically used as hired goons by Adrian Adonis to beat up Roddy Piper and they decided to stay a team. The Can-Ams are the recently retired Rick Martel, and Tom Zenk, who left shortly after this due to money issues with the WWF. The crowd is super-jacked, booing the heels and cheering the faces like nuts. The size of this crowd absolutely has to be seen to be believed. Can-Ams use some nice double-team stuff on Muraco to start. Zenk takes a knee in the back to become face in peril, however. Martel gets the hot tag quickly, and the Can-Ams clean house on the heels, leading to a Martel cross-body on Muraco for the pin. Good opener. **1/2

– Hercules v. Billy Jack Haynes. This would be your standard grudge match, as these two beat on each other over the “Who has the better full-nelson” question for weeks leading up to this. Hercules was a pretty interesting heel at this point, and I actually thought he was going over when back when. Of course, I was still a mark in 1987 so what did I know? Haynes delivers the “pissed off babyface” beating to Herc early, but Herc escapes the full-nelson and does his one good move: The blind clothesline. He proceeds to do his slow, plodding offense, but won’t cover because he wants the full-nelson. He finally gets it, but doesn’t have it hooked good and Haynes escapes. He hits a beautiful inverted atomic drop to take control. Both these guys are pretty limited in their offense, that’s for sure. Haynes gets *his* full-nelson, but Hercules makes the ropes and they tumble out for a double countout. Nothing match, although the psychology of building to the full-nelson is worth a bit. * Herc destroys Haynes with his chain and Billy Jack blades for good measure.

– Mixed tag match: Hillbilly Jim, The Haiti Kid and Little Beaver v. King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook. Yes, it’s my favorite wrestling standard: The midget match. Kind of sad to see Bundy fallen from main eventer to comic relief. But then Bundy sucks, so it’s not too sad. The midgets keep going after Bundy and then running away, which finally leads to Bundy dropping the big elbow on Little Beaver to draw the DQ. At least it was quick. And seeing the midget get squashed was pretty funny. DUD

– Crown match: “King” Harley Race v. Junkfood Dog. Winner gets the crown, loser bows and kneels. Kick and punch fest. Nice bump by Race as he puts JYD on the floor and then tries a headbutt from the apron, but misses. JYD with the HEADBUTTS OF DOOM, but Heenan distracts JYD long enough for a belly-to-belly for the pin. Lasted like two minutes. DUD The Dog of course refuses to honor the stipulations and beats up Race instead.

– The Rougeau Brothers v. The Dream Team (w/ Dino Bravo). Jacques Rougeau went on to become the Mountie, of course, and is one of the few people to hold a clean win over Hulk Hogan. These teams had some great matches in the past, but this just a quickie intro to the Rougeaus and the last hurrah for Valentine and Beefcake. The Rougeaus double-team for a minute and then Jacques gets caught in the corner and double-teamed by the heels. Valentine gets the figure-four but Jacques makes the ropes. Hot tag to Raymond, who cleans house and puts Valentine in a sleeper. Beefcake comes in but misses, nailing Valentine, and the Rougeaus hit Le Bomb De Les Rougeaus, which would normally be the win, but the ref is distracted with Beefcake and Bravo comes off the top and nails Raymond, allowing Valentine to get the pin. Booking makes no sense, but whatever. Valentine and Bravo leave Beefcake in the ring and take off. Nothing match. *1/2

– Haircut match: Adrian Adonis v. Rowdy Roddy Piper. This would be Piper’s first retirement match. 12 years ago. He’s doing pretty good for a guy that’s been retired for 12 years, all things considered. The buildup here came after Adonis attacked Piper, broke his leg, and decimated Piper’s Pit, then put a dress on him and painted his face. Roddy didn’t take it too well, and proceeded to return the next week with a baseball bat to destroy the Flower Shop in a great moment. Then, a week before this, Adonis accidentally cut partner Brutus Beefcake’s hair in a six-man match, a point which becomes important later. Piper whips Adonis with his belt, and Adonis grabs it and follows suit. Piper is just insanely over. Piper beats the living daylights out of Adonis, Jimmy Hart, and anything else that moves. Jimmy Hart hooks his leg, however, and Adonis takes over. Piper works in the eye-poke, of course. Adonis keeps laying into him but Piper won’t go down. Hart sprays something from his aerosol can into Piper’s eyes and Adonis hooks the sleeper, putting Piper out. Adonis releases the hold too soon, however, letting go at two. They start to celebrate, but Brutus Beefcake runs in and revives Piper, who then beats up Hart and puts Adonis in his own sleeper, and the crowd nearly has a collective heart attack in the excitement. Adonis is out. Then, in a moment of glorious irony and revenge, Beefcake proceeds to get his revenge by shaving Adonis himself. It occurs to me that they should have brought in Jimmy Valient or Paul Jones to do the haircutting job, because Beefcake is pretty sloppy at it. This would launch Beefcake’s singles career as “The Barber”. Not much as a match, but worth ***** for sheer markout value and booking. Match was **, if that.

– The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana v. The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis. This would be the “Evil referee v. the guys he screwed over” match, as Davis’ crappy officiating cost Santana the I-C title to Randy Savage in 1986 and the Bulldogs tag team titles to the Harts a couple of months previous to this. Tito starts out with Bret, and Tito quickly gets caught in the corner and double-teamed by the heels. Dynamite’s back is messed up beyond words, but he gets to play face in peril for some reason. After sufficient punishment, Danny Davis tags in, gives the Kid one shot, and tags out. Crowd just hates Davis. The Harts slingshot Davis in, but Dynamite lifts his knees and Santana comes in and KILLS Davis. I mean, it’s nearly homocide. Flying Jalapeno and figure-four isn’t enough, so he tags in Davey Boy, who gives Davis a heartfelt tombstone piledriver that literally bounces Davis a foot off the mat. Danny Davis may be legally dead. Smith finishes it with the powerslam, but a pier-six brawl erupts, during which Davis recovers long enough to whack Smith with the megaphone and get the pin. Ooooo, crowd didn’t like that one. Fun match. ***

– Koko B. Ware v. Butch Reed. See, the idea here was that both guys were black, so they didn’t like each other, or something. Quick squash for Reed (see, he was called the Natural, but he dyed his hair blond. Har har). Punch, punch, stomp, stomp. Koko gets some token offense in, but Reed catches Koko coming off the ropes and rolls through for the pin, while holding the tights. 1/2* Reed enemy Tito Santana runs in and beats the hell out of Slick, ripping his suit off. Next.

– WWF Intercontinental title: Randy Savage v. Ricky Steamboat. If you don’t like this match, you’re not a wrestling fan. Here’s the story: Steamboat challenged Savage on national TV for the I-C title, but Savage threw a tantrum mid-match and decided to smash the ring-bell into Steamboat’s throat, giving Steamboat his most dramatic oversell opportunity ever. Steamboat made a recovery after a couple of months off, then started chasing Savage all over the country, getting disqualified for excessive violence in the process. In the process, Bruno Sammartino was so disgusted by Savage that he came out of retirement to personally kick Savage’s ass. Steamboat made his dramatic return to TV on Saturday Night’s Main Event during a match between Savage and George Steele, and Steamboat invited Steele to be in his corner for this. This was, until 1989, considered the greatest match of all time by insiders and casual fans alike. Savage stalls to start, but once in Steamboat hits two armdrags and chokes out Savage to a big pop. Savage bails and regroups. Savage sneaks in and decks Steamboat, then chokes him on the ropes. Steamboat grabs an arm and goes to work on it, snapping it off the top rope and chopping it. Elbow from Savage breaks the wristlock. Savage sends Steamboat over the top. He drapes him over the top and rams an elbow into Steamboat’s throat, drawing gasps of horror from the crowd because of Steamboat’s well-known throat injury. Snapmare back into the ring and an elbow to the forehead gets two for Savage. Kneedrop for two. Steamboat gets Savage in the corner and chops at him, then ties Savage in the ropes and chops him some more. Savage kicks him in the gut to break, and they reverse some irish whips and Steamboat gets a cross-body for two. Shoulderblock for two, and another for two. Savage comes off with a high knee to the back and tosses Steamboat, but he skins the cat and comes back in. Savage clotheslines him right back out again. Savage knees him in the back, sending Steamboat crashing over the timekeeper’s table and into the crowd, where he’s rescued by Steele, who brings him in again. Savage tosses him right back out and follows with the double-axehandle on the floor. Back in and Savage with the double-axehandle off the top, then a running elbow for two. Savage snaps Steamboat’s neck off the top for two. Atomic drop for two. Suplex for two. Steamboat back with chops, but Savage pokes him in the eye and gut-wrench suplexes him for two. Steamobat flips out of a atomic drop and whips Savage, but puts his head down and kicks booted. Savage charges and Steamboat backdrops him over the top rope. Steamboat tosses Savage in and delivers the chop off the top for two (which the crowd thinks is three) but Savage with his foot on the ropes. Running chop for two, and more chops send Savage running to the outside. Savage back in, and Steamboat with a sunset flip for two. Cradle for two. Double-leg rollover for two. Small package for two. Slam and slingshot to the steel post, and Steamboat rolls him up for two. Rollup for two. Savage reverses for two. Savage grabs Steamboat by the tights and whips him into the corner, then they do a whip-reversal spot and Hebner gets bumped. Macho clotheslines the Dragon and drops the big elbow, but the ref is out. Savage grabs the bell and goes to the top, but Steele steals the bell. Savage grabs it back, and Steele pushes him off. Savage, frustrated, picks up Steamboat and slams him, but Steamboat holds onto the leg and cradles him for the pin! A very famous ending to a fabulous match. ***** This match won just about every “Match of the Year” honor that was out there, and it provided perhaps the all time biggest markout moment for me personally. Steamboat, however, would not stay happy for long, losing his hard-earned title to the least likely suspect a couple of weeks later: The Honky Tonk Man.

– The Honky Tonk Man v. Jake Roberts (w/ Alice Cooper). Speaking of HTM, this was the first attempt to put him over as a legitimate threat. Quick match as Roberts destroys Honky in retaliation for a guitar shot (which essentially turned Roberts face, btw) a few weeks previous. Honky gets some token offense, but Jake blocks Shake Rattle N Roll, and Roberts works him over before going for the DDT. Honky grabs the top rope to block and cradles Roberts for the mega, huge, colossal upset. 1/4*

– The Killer Bees v. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff. Total throwaway match. Jim Duggan breaks up the singing of the Russian national anthem and the announces that he can’t sing it because America is the land of the free. Can’t argue with that logic, folks. Bees gets attacked by the heels but take over with their usual on the Sheik. Some nifty double-teaming from the Bees, but Sheik gets the Camel Clutch on Brunzell in short order, but Jim Duggan runs in with the 2×4 for the DQ. Surprisingly good while it lasted, however. **3/4

– Main event, WWF title: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant. The very definition of a money match and a dream match, as wrestling fans debated this one for months previous and talked about it for years after. You’ve heard pretty much everything about this one on all the documentaries that have sprung up recently, there’s not really much more I can add to the hype for it. Andre, undefeated for 20 years and a hero for more, against Hogan, reigning world champion and unbeatable superman. The story: Hulk and Andre are friends for years, through everything. Jack Tunney presents Andre with a trophy for his accomplishments one week, and then presents Hogan with a bigger trophy the next week, which annoys Andre. So much so, in fact, that Andre comes out the next week and challenges Hogan to a match for his title, then rips off Hogan’s shirt and cross. Andre takes on former rival Bobby Heenan as his manager, and the rest is history. Bob Uecker is guest ring announcer and Mary Hart is guest timekeeper. Andre nearly gets booed out of the damn building. Now THAT’S heel heat. When Jesse says that it’s the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling, it’s NOT hyperbole. They do the big staredown and then Hulk tries a bodyslam, but Andre falls on him for two. The crowd is pelting Andre with garbage at various times. Andre destroys Hogan with knees and two bodyslams. He does everything slow and deliberate, mainly because he was having trouble moving by this time in his life. Comeback #1 for Hogan goes nowhere, as Andre won’t go down. Bearhug from Andre which lasts about five minutes, literally. Comeback #2 from Hogan goes nowhere again, as Andre boots him out of the ring. They fight outside, and Andre headbutts the post by accident. Hulk pulls up the mats and tries to piledrive Andre on the floor, but he gets backdropped. Wow, a bump. Sort of. Back in the ring, and Hogan finally knocks Andre down with a clothesline. He hulks up as Andre gets to his feet, and then in the most famous moment in wrestling history, he slams Andre and pins him with the legdrop. Match was atrociously bad, but for sheer history there’s none greater. 1/4*

The Bottom Line: It’s Wrestlemania III! Geez, what do you need my approval to see it or something? If you’ve never seen it, DO SO! Now! It was the height of professional wrestling in North America, as the sport was in a “Golden Age” that would come to a screeching halt three years later at Wrestlemania VI, as the Hulk Hogan era finally ended and people found something else to watch.