WM Top 25: #1 – Hogan versus Andre

This is it. The final moment of my self-imposed countdown. Thanks for all the comments and the reading and please click over to Examiner.com to check out the original posting and the third part of the slideshow highlighting WrestleMania's "nuts and bolts." I think I might have been a masochist for deciding to do this list but my numbers have been great over at Examiner so I thank you all for helping me out in that regard.

When color commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura called Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III the biggest match in wrestling history for once it wasn’t hyperbole.

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant were the most widely recognized wrestlers in 1987 when they met that historic night. Hogan had been WWF Champion since 1984 and was a dominating force and the face of the World Wrestling Federation brand. Andre had been a hero in the WWF for nearly fifteen years at that point. He was used more as an “attraction” than a featured player who won spectacle matches against multiple men, fought off rival “giants” and dominated battle royals.

The seeds of dissension between the two heroes began in early 1987 when Hogan was presented a trophy for being WWF Champion for three years straight. The next week Andre was presented a smaller trophy for being “undefeated” for fifteen years. Hogan came out congratulate Andre and ended up hogging the interview spotlight, causing Andre to storm off. Then shortly thereafter on Rowdy Roddy Piper’s “Piper’s Pit” interview segment Jesse Ventura promised to bring Andre next week if Piper could produce Hogan. The two met face to face the next week on The Pit where it was revealed that Andre had hired evil manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to be his new manager, and he was challenging Hogan to a World Title match at WrestleMania III on March 29, 1987.

The stage was set for the biggest main event any pro wrestling company could logistically put together. The event drew mainstream attention, featured a variety of celebrities and is considered the height of the ‘80s wrestling boom. The show was inside the massive Pontiac SilverDome in suburban Detroit, Michigan. The pay per view was announced as having a record-breaking crowd of 93,173 fans in attendance, which stands as the largest recorded attendance for a live indoor sporting event in North America. That number is often disputed as being inflated but there was no denying the massive capacity crowd that filled the SilverDome.

The night’s card featured twelve matches but it was no secret that Hogan andAndre were the two men that drew that large of a crowd. Fans were divided on the outcome as even though Hogan had been an unstoppable force for three years, Andre had been a domineering force for over a decade. To say the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by the time the match started would be an understatement. The match itself was pretty atrocious as Andre enlarged body was in constant pain and there wasn’t much Hogan could do with a 7’2, 500 pound giant. But after only about ten minutes of the match, Hogan body slammed Andre and dropped a leg drop onto the Giant to pick up the win.

That night Andre successfully passed the torch to Hogan as the new face of the industry. Andre was so big and powerful and commanded so much respect that if Andre didn’t want to lose that match he wouldn’t have. He felt it was right for the business to lose to Hogan and allow him to truly be The Man in the WWF. The actual match performance was pretty terrible but it is still considered a classic match just because of the history and the drama and “changing of the guard” aura that surrounded it.

Hogan, who was already a mega-star at that point, was made to look even more superhuman by body slamming the big man and ending the supposed undefeated streak. Hogan would use momentum from this match to carry him through the rest of his career. Hogan himself admits that he owes a lot to Andre for “doing the honors” for him that night.

The Giant would continue to wrestle on a part-time basis up until 1991 but his body was in such constant pain that it was increasingly hard for him to get around. He did beat Hogan a year later to briefly win the WWF Championship, and got a WWF Tag Title reign in 1990 as a thank you for his years of service but he was essentially on the downward slope of his career after WrestleMania III.

In that era no two other wrestlers could have drawn 90,000 people into one spot to watch a wrestling event. It’s a testament to the charisma and drawing power of these two men that they could draw a crowd such as the one they did. I dare say this event was instrumental in creating the WrestleMania legacy that we still see today. WrestleMania was still an infant concept at that point and the success of Hogan and Andre proved that a yearly supercard like that could be successful as long as you had a main event concept that fans would buy into.

Over the course of this countdown I have talked a lot about two wrestling superheroes meeting in the WrestleMania main event, but without Hogan and Andre there would be no “clash of the titans” or talk of “Icon v. Icon” each year. Later WrestleMania events have been called the “Showcase of the Immortals” but Hogan versus Andre at WrestleMania III was the true “Showcase of Immortals.”

Tags: , , , , ,