Today marks the 26th anniversary of one of the biggest pro wrestling matches in history. The most watched WWE championship match took place on this day in 1988. Happy anniversary Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant WrestleMania 3 rematch.
[adinserter block=”1″]This match remains to this day the most watched pro wrestling match in American television history. The match aired in prime time on NBC on a Friday night special called the “Main Event”. 33 million viewers tuned in and watched one of the most memorable double crosses of all-time and the end of an era.
Andre the Giant pinned Hulk Hogan to win the WWE championship on this night thanks to some evil shenanigans by the Hebner brothers. Earl Hebner was signed away from Jim Crockett Promotions and hired by Ted DiBiase (in storyline) to screw Hogan and count the 1-2-3 ending the WWE championship title reign of Hulkamania. 33 million viewers registering a 15.2 rating watched this match. Keep in mind that the WWE did a 3.1 this past Monday for RAW.
There is certainly a history lesson here. I realize times have changed and the business of pro wrestling is much different today than it was 26 years ago. However, it amazes me that the WWE can’t learn from this history, especially when it happened under their belt. Imagine how this feud would play out today. This match would have been on RAW a handful of times as well as pay per view and house shows. In 1988 you didn’t get matches like this on free television and it paid off in a big way here.
I say that this match ended an era because it truly did. Yes I know that Hogan remained in the WWE for a few more years and held the WWE championship on a few other occasions. But this truly was the end of the cartoonish, 1980s Hulkamania era. In a few short months Randy Savage would wear the WWE crown and the style of the WWE would slowly shift to a more athletic, faster pace with guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels headlining shows as opposed to the slow, monster matches of Hogan’s first title reign. I can only imagine how things would have went if Ric Flair came in later that year for SummerSlam.
The match itself was pretty terrible. It was slow yet still had a ton of intensity. Andre was well past his prime and declining at this point. The booking here was pretty intricate and quite brilliant if you think about what it accomplished. This match helped open the door for Randy Savage, turned Ted DiBiase into an iconic heel, and got the title off of Hogan without beating Hogan clean. Kudos to Pat Patterson and whoever else had a hand in this finish.
[adinserter block=”2″]The match also put the nail in the coffin of long title reigns. I know people complain about the booking of the title today but there hasn’t been a title reign to reach two years since Hogan’s ended on this night. John Cena had 380 days as champion and of course CM Punk had 434 days but nobody has touched Hogan’s 1,474 days as WWE champion since his reign ended in 1988.
So today let’s all take a moment to celebrate one of the most iconic matches in the history of professional wrestling. The night twin referees screwed the Hulkster and allowed the Million Dollar Man to temporarily purchase the WWE championship from Andre the Giant.
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