Wrestlemania Count-Up – #3: This Show Is Required Viewing For All Fans

Wrestlemania 3
Date: March 29, 1987
Location: Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac (Detroit), Michigan
Attendance: 93,173
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura
America The Beautiful: Aretha Franklin

Now we hit the big time. This is the first time when Wrestlemania was built up as the mega event and also it’s the first time we get a few Mania traditions. For one thing, it’s the first time we get the huge main event. While the tag match and Hogan/Bundy were big matches, to say they were nothing compared to Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant is the understatement of the century.

It was also the first time we had a Mania that featured a really big midcard match in the form of what might be the greatest wrestling match of all time. There was far more backstory to these matches this time which is always a good thing as it causes far less filler. It can easily be argued that this right here is the true birth of Wrestlemania as we know it.

Can-Am Connection vs. Bob Orton/Don Muraco

That being said, let’s get to the first contest! Shockingly enough, it’s kind of a filler, but at the same time it really doesn’t feel like one. We have the short lived tag team known as the Can-Am Connection (Tom “Z-Man” Zenk and Rick Martel) against Bob Orton and Don Muraco, managed by Mr. Fuji. Now the CAC was an interesting team. They were kind of the Rockers before the Rockers.

Both were young, in shape, handsome, and fast paced workers. They were in line to be the face challengers to the Hart Foundation but Zenk left after a strange argument that we’re still unclear on and Martel was paired up with Tito Santana to form one of my all time favorite tag teams in Strike Force, who went on to beat the Harts for the belts.

But anyway onto the match. Yet again, about as basic a tag match as you can get with speed against power and that’s a combination that rarely fails. This is tag team wrestling 101 and it’s done about as well as you could ask for in a situation like this.

CAC plays the role of the young kids that aren’t that experienced against two veterans getting their first shot on the big stage to perfection. Orton gets his arm worked on and completely no sells it less than a minute later which just made me shake my head. This match boarders on a squash as the CAC are really never in trouble at all and win with a cross body on Muraco.

Rating: B-. The lack of selling by Orton and the absolute dominance by the CAC keep this from being a great match but for a warm up match for Wrestlemania that was designed to get the crowd into the show, this was done perfectly. I think I voted for this as best Mania opener ever, which I still think isn’t a stretch.

Hercules vs. Billy Jack Haynes

Next up we have Hercules against Billy Jack Haynes in a battle of the full nelsons. Simple story here: two powerhouses that both use the full nelson. A few weeks prior to this, Haynes had offered to let Hercules put the hold on him to see if he could break it. Hercules, a heel, attacked him and knocked him out with the hold, leading to this match at Mania.

The match starts off pretty fast with some hard hitting shots. Hercules takes over and all this seems to be about is getting the full nelson on the other. It’s really just a brawl which is fine as they keep it relatively short here. It’s always fun to see two big strong guys hammering on each other. Hercules has the pin and pulls him up which leads to the comeback.

Hercules gets the hold on first but it’s not on full which lets Haynes get up. Haynes eventually gets his nelson on but Hercules launches both of them to the floor where Haynes gets the hold again but we get a double count out. Haynes chases Heenan and Hercules blasts Haynes with the chain and Haynes is busted open really deep sending blood everywhere.

Rating: C-. Decent match between two brawlers that was given the right amount of time. It wasn’t supposed to be a classic and it wasn’t. This match was all about a single hold and that’s what ended the match. Went as well as it could have so it gets a decent grade.

King Kong Bundy/Lord Littlebrook/Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim/Little Beaver/Haiti Kid

There’s little story to this if any and why midget wrestlers are involved is beyond me. Bob Uecker is on commentary which is good as he’s fairly funny for someone that has no wrestling experience. The rules are simple here: big vs. big and small vs. small.

This match if nothing else proves that Bundy against Hogan was thrown together because there was nothing left. He goes from main eventing Wrestlemania to this? WOW. This is pretty short with the midgets doing most of the work. I get the idea here is that they’re supposed to be professionals and interesting but how can you argue that they’re anything but a novelty?

They go back and forth with Uecker giving some funny commentary. I’m not a fan of these kind of matches at all. They fill time here which isn’t saying much until Bundy is tagged in. Hillbilly gets beaten down by him and then Bundy slams and elbows one of the midgets causing a DQ. Hillbilly carries him to the back in what is a far cry from Superman carrying Supergirl but I’ll take what I can get I guess.

Rating: F. Seriously, what were they thinking here? This match managed to get a few minutes on the biggest show of all time. I guess you could call this the final remnant of the old days when midget matches were popular, but I’m still not getting the point of this. Nothing match and a total filler if there ever was one. And again, how did Bundy fall so far in a year?

Elizabeth Promo. This doesn’t happen as Macho comes in and says he’ll answer any questions the interviewer has. The interview never happens as Macho sends Liz away.

Junkyard Dog vs. Harley Race

Limited story here. Race was the King of the WWF at the time and on a SNME he had faced the JYD. JYD had said he wouldn’t bow to anyone and after Race had knocked him down he tried to force JYD’s head down to bow. The loser here has to bow to the winner. Race stalls like the true old school master that he is. Heenan gets involved and there goes Dog after him.

Naturally this fails him completely but since Dog has a very hard head most of Race’s shots have little to no effect. Race goes for a headbutt on the floor and Dog moves so Race rams his face into the floor. That can’t be nice at all. Gorilla and Jesse argue about managers which is always entertaining. You could tell there was a lot of respect between them.

Abdominal stretch goes on and Gorilla of course complains about it. Did he ever not complain about that hold? Race goes for a headbutt and nearly knocks himself unconscious in the process. Nice job there champ. On all fours now, which Gorilla says is Dog’s favorite position. Heenan gets up on the apron and allows Race to recover and catch a belly to belly to win it.

Rating: D+. Nothing special at all here as it was another four minute match. The right guy won though as Race was far better as far as wrestling talent went but it was surprising to see a guy like Dog, who was very popular, losing like this mostly clean. This was fine I guess.

Post match Dog bows but then pops Race with the chair and steals the crown and robe like a true jerk.

We hear from Hulk Hogan in one of the best cocaine induced promos ever. Seriously, if anyone believes that these Hogan promos aren’t drug induced then they’re far beyond what I can help. Hulk apparently thinks today is a big deal.

Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team

Before we get a really weird promo from Johnny V and Dino Bravo on the Rougeaus. Johnny V is nuts but I like him. On with the match. The Dream Team is Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake if you were wondering. The key to this match is the Dream Team arguing for the entire match for no good reason.

Brutus tried to break up a sleeper but hit Valentine by mistake. Rougeaus hit their finisher but Bravo comes in, hits one of them and puts Valentine on Rougeau. The other three then leave Brutus in the ring, signaling the start of his face turn that lasted until 1994.

Rating: D+. Didn’t do much as it was more for the angle than the match obviously. Not a bad match at all, but nothing mind blowing. This was another way too quick match that I couldn’t get into due to simply being too short. Also the Dream Team is worthy of a major blowoff like this? Really? Pretty weak little match but technically pretty ok.

Adrian Adonis vs. Roddy Piper

Now we get to another of the famous matches here in Roddy Piper’s retirement match which has become a running joke in wrestling. The idea is that Piper went down with an injury and when he came back, Adonis had taken over Piper’s Pit and turned it into the Flower Shop.

They beat on each other for awhile until Piper thought he was an actor because of They Live so he decided to retire. Since then he’s wrestled on and off for over 20 years. A key to this match is both men use the sleeper hold as their finisher. The loser is going to get a haircut apparently.

Adrian is in his most famous gimmick here so Piper, being the MAN’S MAN that he is, hated him. There was a lot more homophobia in wrestling back then, at least in kayfabe. Well not really as any character like that is treated oddly. Those ring carts are still sweet stuff. Adonis says he’ll win. Piper busts out a belt and wipes out Adrian with it before taking a few shots of his own.

Hart gets involved a few times as this is little more than a comedy match for the most part. He finally gets something right though as he pulls Piper’s leg to give Adonis the advantage. Piper gets sent into the table and it’s all Adonis here. Back in the ring now with Piper saying bring it on.

Jimmy sprays perfume in Piper’s eyes and Adrian gets Good Night Irene, his sleeper finisher, and Piper goes down fast. He drops twice but Adrian lets go before the third drop, thinking he’s won. Brutus Beefcake runs down to wake Piper up (Adrian had accidentally cut Beefcake’s hair recently so it makes sense) and Piper gets his own sleeper to end this.

Rating: C+. It’s a standard Piper match which is always fun. This was just a comedy match but at the end of the day piper’s career was never about what he did in the ring so how can I really complain here? This was no classic or anything but it was fine and the fans cheered a lot because of it. PIper didn’t wrestle again for over two years so Piper lived up to his word for a good while at least.

Post match Beefcake cuts Adonis’ hair. A fan runs in as he leaves.

Hart Foundation/Danny Davis vs. Tito Santana/British Bulldogs

This match is pretty much all backstory. Danny Davis used to be a referee but he would cheat for the heels. He cheated Tito out of the IC Title and gave it to Macho Man and cheated the Bulldogs out of the tag titles and handed them to the Harts. He was banned “for life plus ten years”, which lasted about a year or so and he was back again as a referee. The idea here is that he’s completely inept at wrestling and all of his opponents want to kill him and Jimmy Hart, including the Bulldogs’ bulldog Matilda.

Davis will run in and kick someone maybe twice and then bail, more or less making this a 3 on 2 handicap. Hearing the commentators sing Bret’s praises is nothing but amazing as his singles push wasn’t coming for at least another year and a half and his real singles push was almost 3 years away. The kid really had talent and you can see it here.

Before the match Jesse went down to ringside to be introduced to the crowd so we have Gorilla, Bob Uecker and the host of Entertainment Tonight so the commentary is just bad right now. Uecker has some good one liners but the woman is just mindblowingly annoying. Davis misses a splash letting Tito get tagged in and he nearly kills Davis. The faces alternate with just beating the living tar out of him including a tombstone from Davey which was just odd to see for some reason.

The ending of the match was just awful though. Davis gets the sense beaten out of him taking all three of the faces’ finishers with the last being the powerslam. Bret breaks up the pin, and less than 10 seconds after getting powerslammed, Davis gets the megaphone tossed to him and drills Davey with it for the pin.

Rating: C-. The ending was just horrible to me as Davis, a referee, no sells a tombstone, the forearm and the powerslam? With guys like the Bulldogs, Santana and Hart in there, this should have been great. At best it was ok and the ending lost that for them.

Heenan and Andre do a promo here with Andre looking absolutely creepy by not moving an inch. Weirdest part of this interview: Heenan is at least 4 inches taller than Okerlund.

Butch Reed vs. Koko B. Ware

Remember how I said there was less filler on this show? This is some of that filler. There’s no reason at all here for this match other than to let Reed get a squash here and then the post match attack. The best part of the pre match stuff is a shot of Jesse and Gorilla in the broadcast booth which is at least a few hundred feet away from the ring with Jesse showing off his Wrestlemania 3 t-shirt.

As he shows it off he starts showing off his bicep and the way he talks about it is just funny. Anyway, on with this waste of time. If there has ever been a match of a weird combination this is it. Koko is the epitome of a jobber. What did he ever win in his whole career? Reed on the other hand is a great example of someone that had it all but never could put it together. He was even lined up to be a member of the Horsemen.

He had the look, the name, the power, everything you could want but he never could put it all together and I’ve never been sure why. Anyway, this is a pretty bland match as Reed reverses a bad cross body and uses the tights to win. After the match Slick beats up Koko with the cane until Tito runs out and beats up Slick for some reason and rips up his suit.

Rating: N/A. This match was a bad squash. It had no point and the match was just boring. Easily the worst match on the show.

Savage rants about how he’s going to end this tonight.

Steamboat says the Dragon is going to scorch Savage’s back.

Intercontinental Title: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat

I think I now know why the previous match was in the place it was. There’s nothing I can really say about this match that hasn’t already been said. In case you don’t know the backstory, here it is. About 3 months before Savage had been defending the title against Steamboat and during the match had put Steamboat’s throat over the guard rail, went up top and landed a double axe handle, driving him throat first into the rail.

Steamboat had a crushed larynx and allegedly his career was over. Savage had a match on Superstars and Steamboat’s music hit and the crowd went insane. Epic staredown ensues and the match was made for Mania. Between then and Mania, George Steele kidnaps Liz to continue their year long feud so Steele was in Steamboat’s corner.

Savage can’t keep up with him to start and Steamboat dominates with armdrags and then a big old choke. Steamboat works the arm and Savage is in trouble early. Savage throws him to the floor though and now it’s Ricky in trouble. Very nice back and forth stuff to start. Savage goes for the throat which is the part of Steamboat that he hurt earlier so there’s your reasoning.

They keep going back and forth with Steamboat hammering away to get Savage caught in the ropes. They’re moving rather fast out there and Dragon keeps throwing out that armdrag. Ton of near falls in a row for both guys. Dragon Skins the Cat but gets knocked back to the floor. Savage hits a knee to the back of Steamboat to send him over the table and into the crowd.

Jesse yells at Gorilla for saying Steele helping Steamboat back in is cheating and calls Gorilla out of being hypocritical when another heel manager helped his guy back in early. Double axe to the back of the head of Steamboat on the floor and the count is on. Gorilla wants Savage disqualified for some weird clothesline thing. That was odd.

Savage gets a gutwrench suplex for two. Here comes Steamboat again though and he sends Savage over the top with a beautiful bump to the floor. He jumps OVER the referee to hit a big chop on Savage for two. They crank it up again for more near falls all over the place. Savage eats post on a slingshot and that only gets two. He manages to grab Steamboat and send him into the post shoulder first.

And there goes the referee. Savage gets the elbow but there’s no referee for the count. Randy goes out to get his trust bell but Steele shoves him off the top and his head cracks into the bell. Both guys are down though. Savage picks him up and in the famous ending, Steamboat rolls through into a small package for the pin and the title to blow the roof off the place.

Rating: A+. As I said before, likely the greatest match of all time. Nothing but an A+ the whole way with these two beating each other up and never slowing down a bit. Apparently all of these spots were planned out months in advance in Savage’s house in Florida which worked very well as there are zero bad spots here that I can think of. Excellent match and something everyone should see at least once if not more than once.

Jake Roberts vs. The Honky Tonk Man

This all started on Jake’s interview segment the Snake Pit where Honky hit him with a real guitar. See today, the guitars Jeff Jarrett uses are fake. They’re made to explode the way they do. The one Honky used was a real one and didn’t break.

Some of the material legitimately got stuck in Jake’s neck and allegedly that’s what got him addicted to alcohol and drugs to alleviate the pain. Believe that if you want to. Anyway, that more or less started Jake’s face turn and for God knows what reason, rocker Alice Cooper is in Jake’s corner. Also factor in that Jimmy Hart is deathly afraid of snakes.

There’s really not much here. It’s about 7 minutes long so it gets some time but Honky really hadn’t established the character that made him legendary yet, so this isn’t what you’d expect. It’s a very slow paced match that was I think designed to give the people a breather after the IC Title match. They go back and forth for awhile but Jake goes for the DDT and Jimmy grabs his foot. Honky rolls him up and grabs the rope for the pin. After the match, Jake and Alice torment Jimmy with the snake to end things.

Rating: C. It’s nothing special and is little more than a breather for the fans between the two mega matches. This was allegedly a double turn according to some people but that is just stupid as both guys already were in their more famous roles. This was a pretty ok match but dude, they’re following Savage vs. Steamboat. Like anyone cares about what happened here.

We get Gene Okerlund to announce the world attendance record of 93,173. No matter what you think of the show, that’s freaking amazing. This also gets you the beginning of the long running joke with Jesse and Gorilla of Jesse wondering whether or not he and Gorilla are counted in that.

Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff vs. Killer Bees

More or less the same review of the previous match but in tag team version. This is another filler to bridge the gap between the two big matches. As Volkoff is singing, Jim Duggan runs out with the 2×4 and stops the song. This is a really dull match with the Bees using fast moves against both big guys but eventually getting caught.

Duggan is on the floor playing cheerleader throughout the whole thing. Duggan starts chasing Volkoff for some reason while Sheik has one of the Bees in the camel clutch. They go into the ring and Duggan looks at Sheik and for no reason at all, blasts him over the back with the board. Even the commentators are at a loss for why he hit him. It just made absolutely no sense at all.

Rating: D. This match was boring and the ending made less sense than an Iron Sheik promo. Again this was just filler and a way to get the crowd all fired up for that whole biggest match of all time thing coming after it. There was very little thought in this one as the buildup was weak on Superstars. All that being said though as I said in the previous rating, dude they’re right before Hogan vs. Andre.

WWF World Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant

This match has been called the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling and that very well may be true. It was the first true super main event in Wrestlemania history. Here’s the story: Hogan and Andre used to be friends and even tag partners. They celebrated together when Hogan won the belt over 3 years ago. Hogan ran in to save Andre a few times from being beaten up by Bundy and Studd.

Fast forward a year and Hogan is being given a trophy for being World Champion for three years. Andre is given a slightly smaller trophy for not losing a match in 15 years. He looks at the trophies and just walks away. A few weeks later, they have a face to face interview on Piper’s Pit. Andre tilts Hogan’s head up at him and says “Look at me when I’m talking to you. I’m here for one reason: to challenge you for a world championship match at Wrestlemania.”

Hogan is stunned and says he can’t do it. Andre grabs Hogan’s shirt and the cross he wears and rips them off, stunning Hogan. Piper asks him if he’ll fight him and Hogan screams YES!!! You really have to understand how big this was at the time. Andre was like Taker as far as mystique goes, but 10x moreso. This would be like Hulk Hogan coming back today and challenging John Cena to a match.

Hogan cuts one of the most famous promos of his career before the match, saying that the world is going to fall at his feet after the match. Hogan always had that little hint at implying he was God in his promos but never flat out said it.

Andre comes out and the booing is mindblowing. In something that I find funny, he waves to the fans on the way down to ringside. Jesse gives the tale of the tape, which is all of Andre and Hogan’s measurements, showing that as big as Hogan is, Andre is so much bigger. Bob Uecker is the guest announcer and after introducing Andre, says three simple words: and, his opponent. After that, the fans just lose it. Hogan’s music hits and nothing else matters at all.

Gorilla puts it best by saying “The roof of the Silverdome is about to explode here!” In a great camera shot, you get a wide angle shot of the arena with the spotlight on Hogan which really shows how this whole show has been building to this one moment. Hogan gets in the ring and it’s on. I won’t go into detail here either as I’m sure you’ve all seen this at one time or another. Every word of commentary is famous here as I can almost quote the whole match to you.

Within 15 seconds, Hogan goes for a slam and we nearly get a pin. That is a point that is used for over a year as Hogan might not have gotten his shoulder up in time. The way the camera is set up you really can’t tell if he did or not. That would be a point of contention from Heenan for nearly a year, leading up to their rematch in February of 1988.

The in ring work here is really pretty bad, but no one cared. This match was all about the meaning of what was going on and the truly epic nature of the match. No one really knew who was going to win here and it was a legitimate possibility that Hogan would lose. Andre more or less beats the living crap out of Hogan the whole match until the very end. Hogan gets some shots in here and there that do some damage and Andre is clearly worn out at the end of it.

The crowd is almost stunned that Hogan is being dominated. They brawl on the floor for a bit and then head back into the ring. Andre misses a boot and Hogan clotheslines him, knocking him down. The fans go insane at the sight of this. Hulk Hulks Up and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand at this point. In what might be the most most scene in the history of wrestling, Hogan slams Andre to enter immortality.

Even the commentators are in awe at this point as Hogan drops the leg and wins the match. Andre was so big at the time that Hogan ripped his ab muscles to pieces slamming him and was out for a few months. The music plays and Heenan and Andre get into the cart that takes them to the back as Heenan has his head in his hands, wondering what just happened. Hogan poses as we close the show with the fans absolutely going nuts.

Rating: A. The match itself is pretty bad but the historical significance is second to absolutely nothing. Now I’ve seen a lot of people (including his majesty Mr. Meltzer) say this was a horrible match and all that jazz. In short: SCREW YOU ALL. Get the sticks out of yourselves and have some fun for once. If you don’t get chills watching the staredown and the slam, then go watch something else.

You have Hogan and Andre who can barely move at all. What are they supposed to do out there? The entire idea here was to have a major showdown and that’s exactly what they did. THis match was epic, still is epic and will always be epic. Anyone that says this wasn’t a great match that did exactly what it was supposed to do is a fool, and i don’t care who I have to argue this with.

Overall Rating: B+. I went back and forth between B+ and A- here. This is the first truly historic Wrestlemania and the first to truly be the spectacle that is has become today. Easily the two biggest matches are the singles title matches that are still incredibly famous today. There’s far less filler than before and the matches have much more solid stories to them.

This show is more famous for its historical aspect than the in ring stuff and that’s just fine. It’s not the best Mania of all time, but it’s up there. Definite recommendation to see this if you never have, or if you just haven’t watched it in awhile, if nothing else just for the history lesson

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  1. Adam Doling says:

    Love this show! As I’ve mentioned, this was my first wrestling show ever. 25 years later, still a huge fan of this crazy sport!

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I know the feeling. 24 years and no sign of slowing down for me either.