Happy 27th anniversary to the biggest U.S. pro wrestling television broadcast of all-time. 27 years ago today, 33 million people tuned in to watch the evil Hebner twins collude with Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant to screw Hulk Hogan out of the WWE championship.
I don’t want to get too much into a review of the actual event. I covered that in a blog a few months back after re-watching it on the WWE Network. I want to focus more on the history and the circumstances surrounding the event. There is just as much legend to the backstage stories leading up to the show as there are to the memorable angle.
If we were to play a game of “what if”, we would all ask the question “what if” Randy Savage won the WWE intercontinental title as planned. The story here is that Savage was booked to win the title from the Honkytonk Man. Unfortunately for Savage, yet fortunately for pro wrestling history the Honkytonk Man refused to do the j-o-b. Honky refused to lose the match and for whatever reason, Vince McMahon buckled to Honky and booked Honky to retain the title. This controversy had a big ripple effect on the next several years of WWE wrestling.
Ted DiBiase was originally planned to win the WWE championship in a few months at the WrestleMania IV tournament with Savage chasing him through the summer on house shows. Honky’s refusal to do the favor caused the company to shuffle the deck and change plans. Whether it was to acquiesce to Savage or because Vince had an epiphany, Savage wound up winning the tournament and the title as a set up to one of the biggest feuds in WWE history. It is always conceivable that Savage would have wound up winning as the intercontinental champion won the WWE title two Manias later. Yet we will never know thanks to the Honkytonk Man.
Savage winning the tournament, kicked off the start of what may have been the best slow build angle in company history. Savage’s glare at Hogan as the Hulkster put Miss Elizabeth on his shoulders planted the seed that would sprout a year later at WrestleMania V. Savage and Hogan would go on to have a classic Mania main-event and arguably Hogan’s greatest feud during his 1980s run. Whether the angle would have happened or not we’ll never know. We do know that it would not have had that same slow burn with DiBiase winning the title and Savage getting it later down the line.
Unfortunately Honky’s luck would eventually run out in several months at SummerSlam. A new shining star in the Ultimate Warrior would defeat the Honkytonk Man in under a minute to win the intercontinental title. Ending Honky’s long reign in such convincing fashion immediately made the Warrior a superstar and set him up for an eventual Mania classic against Hulk Hogan.
It was also the crescendo on a legendary career for Andre the Giant. Booked as the greatest special attraction in pro wrestling history, Andre had never tasted gold during his WWE years (although he would in other territories). Andre’s title reign would last mere minutes before surrendering the title to Ted DiBiase. Regardless, this was the peak for Andre’s career as he was never booked as strong following the event.
So much history was made in one fast hour of WWE television. Imagine any hour of WWE television having that kind of impact today? Imagine 33 million people watching the WWE on live television today? Imagine the shock and surprise of the WWE title finish taking place in today’s predictable and processed WWE world. It was a different time, a different era, and a moment in history that should never be forgotten.
Watch the Main Event 88 on the WWE Network (with subscription)