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WWE WrestleMania 3: Exactly How It Should Be

-Once again, it’s Justin’s couch and Justin’s Olevia, as well as Justin’s half gallon of Turkey Hill iced tea and Justin’s brother Josh (the cheapskate from the 2010 Rumble rant) joining me for the first four matches. He has “things to do” and can’t watch the whole show. I dunno, Josh, organizing your sweatpants coulda waited till the weekend….

-So it’s WWE WrestleMania 3. March 29, 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, MI. This event surely did wonders for the local economy. I mean, it only took em twenty years or so to squander it all. Thanks, reliable American cars!

-And there it is: the monstrous crowd that has been a fixture in every WrestleMania video package to date. 93,173 fans crammed into the venue, or so Vince McMahon would have you believe. Regardless, can we agree that the crowd looks impressive? Common ground, people. Common ground.

-Howard Finkel appearance #3. You go, Howie!

-Vince McMahon introduces a shockingly svelte Aretha Franklin, who performs one of the better renditions of ‘America the Beautiful’ yet seen at WrestleMania. Vince said years later that he could ‘feel his father’ with him as he addressed the 93,000 fans. If that’s true, his dad probably said “What the hell are you doing outside of New York, Vinnie?!? You’re crossing boundaries! This isn’t our territory!”. Show of hands? Anyone else think that Vince pulled the plug on his old man the first chance he got?

-Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura helm the commentary desk, and are flanked by Bob Uecker (the best WrestleMania celebrity ever) and Mary Hart. If you take away Monsoon, it’s either the Raw guest host list, or the cast for the next season of Dancing with the Stars.

-Kicking things off, we have the Can-Am Connection of Rick Martel and Tom Zenk, taking on Cowboy Bob Orton and Don Muraco, who have no team name (Cynic suggests: Midcard Mix n Match). It’s funny to note that after Zenk left WWF months later, the commentary teams would slag him for being a coward, even the babyface sympathizers like McMahon and Monsoon. Seriously, what was up with that? I know Zenk did a serious of crazed shoot interviews a decade ago, and I’m sure the answer lies within, but, well, that would involve reading them. I’ll stick to ignorance.

-“Man, is Muraco looking big” says Jesse Ventura. Shush, Jesse! You’re going to get George Zahorian in trouble!

-Standard formula tag team stuff to get the crowd going. The more I watch the Can-Ams, the more I figure that Pat Patterson said to himself: “You know…I like the Rock n Roll Express, but I also like muscular men in little shorts and Baio-esque hairstyles. If only I could combine the two….”

-Watching Bob Orton sell for the Can-Ams makes me believe that he EASILY could have pulled off the Honky Tonk Man “Fifteen Month IC Title Reign Where the Champ Barely Survives” and made millions. He’s the master salesman. No wonder being a giving heel agrees with his son.

-Can-Ams win it with a cross body and trip move on Muraco, and Ventura slags referee Joey Marella for shoddy officiating. It’s funny because Marella’s the son of Gorilla Monsoon, and Jesse would needle Marella extra hard with Gino sitting right next him, just to see if he could tweak Monsoon. Add that to the list of wrestling things I miss, next to the Ice Cream Bars and Red Rooster’s hair.

-Next up, Hercules takes on Billy Jack Haynes, in a rivalry that began over who had the better full nelson. WWE needs to do this for WrestleMania 26. They can have Ted Dibiase face Chris Masters to determine who has the more vanilla offense.

-According to Hercules’ pre-match ranting, he’s over ‘several thousand years old”. No wonder the guy died in 2004. Marc Mero can pretend that Hercules was under fifty all he wants the next time that he wants to exploit dead wrestlers on Nancy Grace. STOP LYING TO MAKE YOUR CASE, WILDMAN!

-For you young kids reading who have no idea who either man is, think of it as a poor man’s Bruiser Brody taking on Adam Morrison if Morrison was a coke mule. Well, maybe Morrison DOES smuggle drugs in uncomfortable places. Dude cries a lot.

-Also of note, are the “Federettes”, the semi-scantily clad ring girls. You know, to take the ring jackets and such from the wrestlers. Don’t laugh, it’s more than what the Bella Twins do.

-Hercules kicks out of the leg drop (because it’s not Hogan’s) and both men wind up getting counted out. The rematch at Backlash ’87 was far better. What? There was no Backlash in 1987? I mean, besides the backlash that occurred when someone on NWA’s board of directors said “Sure, let’s make Ronnie Garvin champion!”. Man, I miss the Garvin Stomp. Huh? Review the show? Sorry, my bad.

-You know Vince is giddy, because there’s four midgets up next. Yes, it’s King Kong Bundy, the British Midget, and the Japanese Midget (later known as Yoshi Tatsu) facing Hillbilly Jim, the Haitian midget, and the Indian midget. Bundy threatens to squash any midget who gets in his way. Vince is torn: cheer the fat hoss, or boo him because he threatened to hurt a midget? You just know that if Vince went back in time to book this show, we’d have to deal with the Mega Powers and Little Beaver squashing 10 heels at once.

-Little Beaver? Wasn’t that a Vince Russo creation? Also, Bob Uecker joins the announce team, and actually takes away from the crappiness of the match. Vince should deploy Uecker on Raw anytime that the action insults the intelligence of anyone over age ten. Bad news: Michael Cole would never have a chance to speak. Good news: Michael Cole would never have a chance to speak.

-And the midget is squashed. As Shawn Michaels would say, Vince just lost his smile.

-SAVAGE PROMO! And he’s got Elizabeth! AND Mary Hart! It’s a step up over George Steele from last year. Wouldn’t you watch Three’s Company if this was the cast?

-Next up, we have King Harley Race and Junkyard Dog in a match where the loser must bow to the winner. Race’s Queen? Fabulous Moolah. Man, you overcome childhood polio and you get stuck with Moolah as your Queen. Almost makes the vaccine injections totally not worth it.

-Reffing this match is my favorite obscure referee, Jack Kruger, who looks like someone that would never be allowed within 150 feet of a school playground. Nobody’s angrier when a heel cheats than Jack Kruger. He’s like a disheveled version of the shop teacher from South Park. “QUIT SCREWIN’ AROUND!”.

-Always classic when someone tries to headbutt JYD and they hurt their own skull. Come to think of it, a lot of blacks and Samoans in WWE were “un-headbutt-able”. Someone should bring this up to Linda at a Senate debate and see if there’s any allegory for why that was. We know WWE isn’t racist, because they say they’re not. Right?

-Race wins with a belly to belly and JYD cheap shots Race afterward with the worst chair shot of all time. Until Lance Storm outdid him at ECW Barely Legal ten years later. A man named Lance with a ponytail who can’t swing a chair? That’s a lot to have to live down. No wonder his mailbag responses seem so curt and bitter.

-JYD takes Race’s purple robe and Monsoon exclaims “Put it on, Dog!”. You just know that before Monsoon died, that he was the frontrunner to star in “Finding Forrester”. Eat your heart out, Sean Connery.

-Hulk Hogan cuts a rather unintelligible promo while being interviewed by Vince McMahon, who sells Hogan’s answers with an intense look of lust. I’m just basing it on what it looked like.

-Speaking of unintelligible, The Dream Team and manager Johnny Valiant cut their promo. Valiant’s was in (alleged) English. Dino Bravo’s was in French. I understood more of Bravo’s, despite knowing three words of French. Why’s Valiant a Hall of Famer again?

-Josh just left. I’d forgotten he was here. Truly, my brother is the Stevie Richards of houseguests.

-The Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine face the Fabulous Rougeaus of Jacques and Raymond. Bravo’s with the Dreams, and Jesse declares Bravo “an advisor”. Worst advice ever: “You can cross the Montreal Mafia and TOTALLY get away with it. I’m still alive, aren’t I?”.

-Valentine takes the brunt of a Rougeau double team as BOBBY HEENAN joins the booth! Heenan and Ventura together?! FREAK OUUUUUUT!

-Okay, I’m good.

-Anyone else miss Jacques Rougeau’s “Mountie” gimmick? If I could go back in time, I’d have him feud with Hogan. Hogan could tell Mountie: “Don’t tase me, BROTHER!”. See? You’re marking just like I am.

-Dreams win after some Bravo interference and, in the weirdest heel turn ever, Bravo, Valentine, and Valiant leave Beefcake behind, due to a poorly done miscue spot during the match. This is like the Russo era of WCW, when they’d try some complex enhancement for a storyline, and the fans in the arena would be silent and confused, while the announcers had to sell shock and explain just what was supposed to be happening. Shame WCW’s dead now. Oh well, we still have TNA.

-Now for the first truly epic match of the night, as Rowdy Roddy Piper takes on Adrian Adonis in a “hair vs. hair” match, with Piper retiring at the end of the match. Shame Piper had to go. So many things he never got to do, like win the Intercontinental Title, spend a week in Alcatraz, and get videotaped toking from a bong and have it air on TMZ. What could have been.

-Piper makes his way toward the ring and a fan drenches him with a beverage. That was so worth getting kicked out for, and worth missing half of one the greatest cards ever for. I’m sure that guy still brags to his friends about it. Piper’s the first wrestler to eschew the motorized ring carts and just walk to the ring. If they sold one of those carts on E-Bay, I’d sell my truck to outbid everyone, and then drive it to my friends’ houses. You know, pick em up, take em to Applebees, etc. You know you’d do it, too.

-The crowd heat for this is INSANE, as Piper and Adonis give a spirited, yet farcical, performance. The amount of bumps that Jimmy Hart took is astounding. Seriously, you couldn’t put this guy under a mask and make him into a high flyer? Just watch this match and tell me that he couldn’t hang with most opponents, at the very least selling their power moves. He was a natural!

-I think as a tribute to Adonis, Piper eventually let his body end up just like his. Tragic.

-Beefcake revives an ailing Piper, and Roddy ends up winning it with the Sleeper to an epic pop. Beefcake earns his “Barber” gimmick by shaving Adonis’ head. And by “shaving his head”, I mean “doing a lousy job”. Can anyone in wrestling cut hair right? You can blade your scalp, but you can’t cut hair? No wonder nobody ever “retires”, they’re not good at doing anything else!

-A fan just ran in to hug Piper, and he gets the snot beat out of him by security. Well, at least he has the moment. Goodbye, Roddy. See you in two years.

-You know, I never understood the need for Jesse Ventura to be acknowledged openly at WrestleMania by Howard Finkel. He’s just an announcer here. Does Michael Cole ever get introduced to the crowd like that? The fans might throw trash. Actually, that’s an idea….

-Ahh, an underrated match: The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis vs. The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana. Was any team equally as awesome as faces as they were heels like the Harts? I’ll grant you Demolition, but no one else. Story here is that Davis, as a referee, cost all three opponents their titles due to some screwy chicanery. Not that there’s any other kind.

-Mary Hart and Bob Uecker join Monsoon for this match, as Ventura’s the designated “Matilda Fetcher” for this one. Seriously, go back and watch this match. For 2 people who don’t watch wrestling every day, Hart and Uecker come off as so informed and interested. You can almost bet that Kevin Dunn didn’t approve of their hiring.

-Watching Bret and Dynamite go at it, do you think Julie and Michelle (their respective wives, who are sisters) argued over who was better? “Dynamite has bigger arms!”. “Bret has nicer hair!” “Dynamite cheats on me less!” “Bret’s never going to need a leg amputated!” “Dynamite….uh….has bigger arms!” “You SAID that already!” “….did not.”

-I just noticed that Jimmy Hart got changed from the previous match. Total pro!

-Let the record show that Danny Davis was the most underrated heel of his time. It’s simple: mop up on an already injured opponent, and then tag back out. These fans in Michigan are so pissed off. Davis was like the Ron Artest of his time.

-Underrated moment: Davey Boy Smith SPIKING Davis with a tombstone! BIGGER underrated moment: Mary Hart calling the move a piledriver, which is technically correct! No wonder Vince never used her again: she knew more moves than him.

-The Harts and Davis get the last laugh, as Davis wallops Smith with Jimmy’s megaphone, and scores the cheap pin. That was fun. Let’s do it again sometime.

-Mean Gene interviews Andre and Amadeus. Wait, sorry, that was Bobby Heenan. White tux threw me off.

-Koko B Ware vs. Butch Reed is next, which has a four minute time limit. Well not really, but let’s just hurry this up so that we can get to Savage-Steamboat. No offense to either man. Slick’s out here and I STILL wanna get to the next match. And Slick’s my idol!

-There’s nothing of note here, except that both men are black and had blonde hair at some point in their careers. Savage-Steamboat influenced many current wrestlers. This match influenced Shelton Benjamin.

-Reed wins with a handful of tights, and Tito Santana runs out to beat up Slick for no reason. I think it’s because I hardly mentioned him in the previous match. Yes, Tito, I see you. Put Slick down. I’ll mention you, I promise.

-Now, for the good stuff….

-This is the match that single handedly changed the main event format. Forget lumbering hosses. Forget slow restholds. Forget 60 minute draws. THIS changed everything. It’s a story of Ricky Steamboat being injured by Randy Savage, who drove a ring bell into his larynx. Steamboat made a miraculous comeback and challenged the Intercontinental Champion in what could be his last shot at the gold, as well as last chance for revenge. It’s so awesome that I’m going to get off one joke about each man before the match, and then spend the match summary giving each guy a verbal massage.

-Savage says “History beckons the Macho Man!” in his pre-match promo, which would hold true until some alleged stuff happened and, well, we don’t talk about Mach anymore. As for Steamboat, well, let’s say that with the headband and eyes, I’m fairly certain that Apolo Anton Ohno is his illegitimate son.

-Joke mode over.

-Pomp and Circumstance vs. Sirius. Even the theme songs are evenly matched.

-Off we go. Such a wonderful story of Steamboat as the aggressor, and Savage not knowing how to respond early on, until realizing that he has to go for the throat (that he injured) as a psych out move. Then Savage gets hyper-aggressive himself and takes control. As far as psychology goes, that’s so basic and so complex at the same time.

-Steamboat gets off the armdrags, playing one step ahead of Savage, until Macho uses every combo of elbow, clothesline, and throat shot imaginable to try and get a fast pin. When that doesn’t work, he throws Steamboat to the floor at every which way. It’s like a real sporting event, which sounds clichéd, unless you’ve actually seen this match.

-With the throat reinjured, Savage goes for about five pins in a row, unable to hold Steamboat down. The crowd is rallying behind the Dragon, feeling like that if they will him enough, he can start fighting back. That’s something seriously missing these days: fan sympathy. Savage then dumps Steamboat into the front row, which was unheard of at the time. Steamboat is selling death as Savage looks to have outclassed the hungry challenger.

-Two flying axe handles later, Steamboat manages to kick out, as Savage seems miffed and disbelieving. Steamboat turns the tide with the greatest backdrop to the floor of all time as the fans EXPLODE. All that sympathy heat that was building has just boiled over and the champion is in trouble!

-Steamboat lands a flying chop (jumping over Dave Hebner) and gets 2 with Savage’s foot on the ropes. Crowd was BUYING THAT. Unreal.

-Another 5-6 pin attempts in a row from both men, all for a count of 2. I first saw this match on a rented tape in 1989 and have seen it about 50-75 times. Guess what? I’m STILL breathless.

-Hebner gets bumped, and Savage lands the big elbow, but, of course, no ref. So he fetches the bell, ready to re-enact the scene of the injury. George Steele knocks Savage through a loop to save the day. Savage does try a slam, but Steamboat cradles him out of it and gets three as Hebner is revived, and the Dragon wins the IC Title.

-Is seven stars too much?

-Unquestionably, WWF’s greatest match of the 1980s from a technical standpoint, from one of the best heroes and one of the best villains ever. If you can’t make a non-fan into a fan with this match, then I don’t know what to tell you.

-Crap, I’m gonna need a new pillow now.

-Now we have Jake Roberts and Honky Tonk Man, in the battle of “Does Either Man Stand a Chance of Following the Last Match?”. My guess is no. At least Jake has Alice Cooper with him, which is the 80’s equivalent of Adam Lambert managing Goldust. Not that I’m implying anything.

-Monsoon notes that he’d rather hear Alice Cooper sing than Honky. Just take a moment and imagine Monsoon in mascara and leather. Scared? Delighted? Both? I have no idea where I stand. Jesse calls Honky’s costume an “Elvis Suit”. Honky claimed Elvis never existed. WHO DO I BELIEVE?

-Twice during the match, Alice Cooper had to help Roberts up off the concrete. Now he knows how the maids at the Marriott feel.

-Honky gets the tainted pin and Jimmy Hart gets abused by Damian afterwards. I’ll say it again, he’s just a total pro. Nobody took greater pleasure in being the bullied nerdy villain than the Mouth of the South.

-Mean Gene Okerlund announces the attendance at 93,173, and of course the fans go berserk. They’re happy as long as one of their teams doesn’t go 0-16.

-The final bit of fodder before the main event, as Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff team up to face the Killer Bees. Speaking of total pros, Slick’s still wearing the torn suit from earlier in the night. See, Santana, you made your mark on my rant! Now THAT’S dedication.

-Volkoff tries to sing the Soviet National Anthem, and gets jumped by Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Duggan declares that this is “THE LAND OF THE FREEEEEEEE” and won’t let Sheik and Volkoff sing a foreign anthem. Reread that last sentence. You feel that? If your nose is bleeding, then your comprehension skills are up to snuff. Maybe Duggan’s getting early revenge for the Turnpike Incident?

-Wait….Sheik vs. B Brian Blair….HUMBLING TIME!

-I’m not saying much, as I’m like the crowd, just waiting for Hogan-Andre.

-CAMEL CLUTCH ON BLAIR! MEG HEEM HUM-BELL! Camel Clutches not only make great finishers, but great blogs as well. Yeah, I shilled for us. So what? Duggan causes the DQ with the 2X4, because, like us, he just wants to see Hogan-Andre. I don’t blame em.

-And here we go.

-Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. Simply the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling. I don’t even care about the lack of “workrate”. If you do, then you’ve missed the point. The unbeatable champion vs. the unbeatable giant. One man can win and one man only. It doesn’t need any more of a story than that. So with Bob Uecker and Mary Hart in place as guest ring announcer and guest timekeeper, let’s get it started.

-Man, the crowd just BOOS Andre, and they throw trash at him. And to think, he was a heroic babyface for 20 years. See what happens when you turn on Hogan? If Lance Armstrong woke up tomorrow and and ripped a litter of kittens in half with his bare hands, we’d still have a bit of a problem fully turning on him, wouldn’t we? Not the case here.

-Hogan gets the big pop, of course, and he also eschews the motorized cart. There was a rumor that Andre was going to shoot on Hulk and turn the cart over with Hulk on it. And really, wouldn’t you want to see that?

-Flashbubs for the staredown. You never see flashbulbs anymore, do you? Another way that Blackberrys and Droids have changed everything. Andre lands on Hogan after the botched slam attempt, and already we have the drama point: Hogan may be injured. Ba-sic-psy-chol-o-gy. Say it with me!

-Keeping it simple, with Andre landing simple strikes and slams. Hey, if that’s all you need to build the drama and tell the story of the match, and 90,000 fans buy it, then why bust your balls by doing more? This is still tense 23 years later. To hell with what anyone says, Andre could WORK. Period.

-Andre walks all over Hogan’s back. Hulk’s wife did the same thing 20 years later. Except Andre didn’t get a few houses and some Porsches out of this.

-This is one of the rare times that Bobby Heenan’s at ringside and I’m hardly paying any attention to him. Seriously, how often does that happen?

-Hogan gets some hope strikes and elbows and chops, bringing the crowd to life. You get the sense that nobody had any idea who was going to win this match. Especially after Hogan charges right into an Andre boot.

-Andre bear hug. Never before has a boring rest hold had so much tension and intrigue to it.

-Hogan fights his way out of it, and gives the crowd another sense of optimism, until an Andre chop lays out the champ. Seriously, this isn’t a bad match in the least. It’s exactly what it needs to be.

-Andre knocks Hogan to the floor and we get the first blown spot of the match: Andre trying to headbutt the post and clearly pulling his shot, coming up short. Hogan pulls back the protective mat and tries for a piledriver, which would have topped ANYTHING that ever happened in this business, but Andre backdrops him. Damn.

-And now, the big finish, as Hogan takes Andre down with a clothesline, and then follows with the most famous moment in wrestling history: Hogan bodyslamming Andre, and then landing the Leg Drop to retain the title. Such an incredible moment, an incredible spectacle. Even Ventura’s putting Hogan over. Only because Jesse didn’t hear Vince’s grand jury testimony yet. Alas.

-Hogan celebrates to end the show, as should everyone involved. What a card.

-CYNIC SAYS: There’s a reason that this show stands the test of time: the biggest match ever (Hogan/Andre) and one of the best matches ever (Savage/Steamboat). If you don’t think I’m recommending this show, you’re out of your mind.

Is it the greatest WrestleMania of all time? Hey, still 22 more to go, plus the 2010 version. But for now, III sits atop the throne.

May be a while before it gets knocked off.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Justin Henry

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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