March 30, 2009
Wrestlemania III, March 29, 1987, Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, MI
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
Boy that shot that opens the show, looking down at the entire stadium from the nosebleed section is still cool no matter how many times I’ve seen it. So here it is, the twenty-fourth and final Wrestlemania I have to cover in time for this year’s show. Being the biggest one of all time, I was intentionally saving it for last in the hopes of giving the review the same kind of epic feel that the show had at the time. So for at least the two people who’ve emailed me telling me they’re looking forward to it, and perhaps the two or three others who care in silence, here we go with Wrestlemania III!
Opening Match: The Can-Am Connection vs. Magnificent Muraco & Cowboy Bob Orton (w/Mr. Fuji)
The Can-Am’s were a hot new pretty boy babyface tag team who were actually being groomed for big things before Tom Zenk found out that Rick Martel was making more money then he was and split. Here they get to face a team of veteran heels in Muraco and Orton who were left with nothing much to do after the Roddy Piper issue came to an end. Muraco and Zenk start out with Zenk getting fired off and hitting a shoulderblock. Muraco powers him to the corner, but on a corner whip, Zenk goes over and gets a hiptoss, followed by a monkeyflip for 2. Blind tag to Martel as Muraco get fired off leads to a double monkey flip, and then Orton comes in and falls victim to a double hiptoss. The heels regroup and then Orton gets the tag while Zenk gets tagged back in as well. Orton gets fired off and Zenk gets a shoulderblock, followed by a slam, and then he goes to the armbar. Orton knees out and goes to a full nelson with Zenk reversing. Muraco is in, but the heel miscommunication leads to him knocking Orton down and Zenk gets 2. Tag to Martel who comes in with an elbow from the 2nd rope and holds a wristlock. Tag back to Zenk, but Orton also makes the tag. Zenk gets a slam and runs the ropes, but Orton knees him from the apron to take control. Tag to Orton with Muraco hitting a neckbreaker and Orton dropping an elbow from the 2nd rope for 2. They collide coming off the ropes and both make the tag with Martel playing house afire. All four end up in the ring soon after. Muraco and Orton get whipped into each other and then Orton is dropkicked to the floor. Martel then gets a bodypress on Muraco, tripping over Zenk in the process and that gets 3 at 5:37. Good way to open things up here with a quick pace and the babyface going over. *1/2
Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan)
Here’s one of your basic 80’s storylines: They use the same finisher, in this case the full nelson, so they feud over whose is better. Hercules cheap shots him on a break and connects with a kneelift. He whips Haynes to the corner, but misses a charge and takes a press slam. Haynes goes right for the full nelson, but Hercules quickly gets to the ropes. Haynes now whips him to the corner, but Herc comes out with a clothesline to take over. He gets a backdrop and a couple of corner whips to soften up the back. Suplex gets 2 as Herc pulls Haynes up with the story being that he wants to win with the full nelson. Haynes fires back, but can’t get a suplex due to the back hurting. Hercules retakes control with a backbreaker and a slam before hooking the full nelson, but he doesn’t have it fully locked in. It has an effect though as Haynes goes out. The arm drops twice and Haynes then starts a comeback but they end up clotheslining each other. Haynes does recover first though and gets an atomic drop followed by a couple of clotheslines. Next is a legdrop, followed by a 2nd rope fistdrop and now he gets his full nelson on. Herc makes the ropes though and they fall to the floor. For some reason Haynes reapplies the hold out there and they both get counted out at 7:53. Post match sees Heenan provided the distraction so that Hercules can bloody Haynes with the chain. This was actually pretty good stuff, and it’s just too bad we couldn’t have gotten a real ending. **
Mixed Tag Team Match: King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo, & Lord Littlebrook vs. Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, & The Haiti Kid
Not much exciting happens here. Beaver keeps harassing Bundy who finally has enough and gets him with a bodyslam, then drops the big elbow for the DQ at 4:23. -*
King Harley Race (w/ Bobby Heenan & Fabulous Moolah) vs. Junkyard Dog
The idea here was that The King was trying to humble the common man in the form of JYD, who declared that he would never bow to any King. So the stip then is that whoever loses will bow to the winner. JYD blocks the first shot and nails Race. Heenan grabs the leg, so JYD chases him, but gets caught by Race getting back in the ring. Race tosses him and looks to drop a headbutt from the apron to the floor, but misses. JYD clotheslines him back in, and then knocks him right back out again. He then bodyslams Race back over the ropes and hooks an abdominal stretch. Race hiptosses out of that and drops a headbutt, but hurts himself in the process because JYD is black. Corner whip by JYD sends Race over and out yet again Once Race is back in, JYD hits the all fours headbutts, but falls victim to distraction by Heenan which allows Race to hit a belly to belly suplex for 3 at 3:23. Dog bows slightly as stipulated, then attacks Race with a chair and steals the cape. This was pretty short for one of the more major grudge matches, but Race tried to pack as much action in there as he could considering who he was in there with. ½*
The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team (w/Johnny V & Dino Bravo)
They’ve been teasing dissention in The Dream Team leading up to this show, and Dino Bravo has recently joined up with them creating an odd man out situation. Beefcake and Raymond are in first with Beefcake going to a hammerlock, but Raymond flips out and hits an atomic drop, then tags Jacques for a double dropkick. Tag to Valentine and he and Jacques trade shots before the tag is made to Raymond who gets a bodypress for 2. Tag back to Jacques who’s in with an elbow off an Irish whip for 2. Corner whip is reversed with Jacques leaping up and coming back off, but he misses. Valentine drops some elbows and slams him. Tag Beefcake who stomps away and covers for 2. He tags back out and holds Jacques for a Valentine shot from the top, then drops him in a backbreaker. Valentine hooks the figure four, but Jacques makes the ropes. So he sets up a piledriver which Jacques backdrops out of and then he makes the tag to Raymond. Raymond is in with a crescent kick, followed by a backdrop and sleeper. Beefcake comes in to breakup the hold, but nails his own partner by accident. The Rougeaus hit Valentine with La Bombe Des Rougeaus, and Raymond covers, but while the ref is distracted with Beefcake and Jacques, Bravo comes in and nails Raymond. He then puts Valentine on top in time for the ref to turn around and count 3 at 4:05. Valentine, Bravo, and Valiant take off together and leave Beefcake behind. Match was just a backdrop for the angle, but was still alright. However it really doesn’t make much sense for the Dream Team to win and then break up. Beefcake’s mistake should have cost them the match instead. *
Hair vs. Hair Match: “Adorable” Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Besides the hair stip, this was also advertised as Piper’s retirement match. To his credit he actually gave a go of it, but ended up coming back about two years later after his Hollywood career didn’t quite take off like he had hoped it would. Adonis brings hedge clippers and a mirror with him, although they make a point of letting us know those won’t be getting used to cut anyone’s hair. Piper gets a huge reaction coming out. I wonder how different things might have been had he stayed around. They start out with a brawl, but Piper still has his leather belt with him and starts whipping Adonis. He goes after Jimmy Hart next, but that gives Adonis the opening to grab the belt himself and take some shots at Piper. Adonis’ corner whip is reversed and he takes his flip bump over and out. Piper drags him back in, with Jimmy Hart clinging on, so Piper gives them a double noggin knocker. He then whips Hart into Adonis and they go over to the floor again. Back in, Piper whips Adonis to the corner, and then Jimmy Hart climbs to the top rope for some reason, so Piper launches him on to Adonis. The heat for this match is incredible. Piper comes off the ropes, but Hart has recovered enough to trip him up and give Adonis the advantage. He works Piper over and sends him to the floor where he then rams Piper to the table. Hart even gets a shot in as revenge for the beating he’s taken so far. Back in the ring, Piper starts a comeback, but Hart gets involved yet again, spraying Piper in the eyes with the stuff in Adonis’ sprayer, and that allows Adonis to hook the sleeper. Piper fights it, but eventually goes down where Adonis lets it go just before the arm drops the third time, although he celebrates like he’s won. Brutus Beefcake, fresh from being abandoned by his now former running buddies, and upset over a haircut he inadvertently received from Adonis a few weeks back on Superstars, runs in and revives Piper. Piper nails Hart one more time, and hooks his own sleeper. Adonis goes out and Piper wins it at 6:54. Piper holds Hart at bay while Beefcake goes to work on shaving Adonis, but he doesn’t get too much of it off. Adonis sees himself in the mirror and tries to attack, but can’t catch anyone, so he takes off. Piper celebrates the win and says goodbye, while the new babyface Beefcake would adopt the Barber gimmick based on what happened here. It’s not really much of a match, but it’s a great moment so I’m going to call it **1/2.
The Hart Foundation & “Dangerous” Danny Davis (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana
Before we get to the match though, Jesse Ventura has made his way down to be introduced to the crowd. Now, the idea here is that Danny Davis as a crooked referee was responsible for both the Bulldogs and Santana losing Titles, so now that he’s been banned from refereeing, he’s become a wrestler and this is his in ring debut. Incidentally, he didn’t actually do anything to cost Santana the IC Title as that was a case of the usual incompetent refereeing job where they just happen to miss the heel cheating, but it’s far from the worst case of revisionist history in wrestling, so whatever. Jesse actually steals Matilda from ringside for some reason, which I don’t believe ever got brought up again. The face team clears the ring in a brawl to kick things off, then Bret and Santana start for real. Bret gets caught and dropped on a go over attempt and then the tags are made to Davey and Neidhart. Davey almost gets caught with a cheapshot from Bret, so he gives the Harts a double noggin knocker. Tag to Kid who headbutts Neidhart and then tags Santana. Neidhart backs him to the corner where Bret and Davis choke him from the apron. Santana then leapfrogs an Irish whip and tags Davey who comes in and gets Neidhart with a backdrop. Bret then distracts him and Neidhart gets a slam. Tag to Bret who misses an elbow and Santana makes the tag to Kid. Kid sends Bret to the corner chest first and then clotheslines him. He drops a headbutt, but now Neidhart gets involved and the Harts manage to trap Kid in their corner. They work him over, with Bret even getting the 2nd rope elbow while Neidhart has him on his knee. With Kid in trouble, Bret makes the tag to Davis, who gets huge heel heat just stepping into the ring, and then gets even more when he tags back out to Bret after taking just one shot. More working over Kid by the Harts, and then it’s another turn for Davis, who again only takes a single shot. The third time they bring Davis in however backfires. Bret and Anvil slingshot him in the ring, but Kid gets the knees up and makes the tag to Santana. Now Davis gets a beating and the crowd is nuts for it. Backdrop by Santana, followed by the Flying Jalapeno. He goes for the figure four, but Neidhart breaks that up. Tag to Davey, who nails Davis with a clothesline and then rams his head into Kid’s. He then gets a Tombstone piledriver, followed by a suplex and the running powerslam, but only gets 2 on the cover and Neidhart saves. Now it breaks down with all six in the ring and in the ensuing chaos, Davis gets the megaphone, nails Davey and covers for 3 at 8:52. Good stuff here from both the match and the angle leading up to it. **1/2
“The Natural” Butch Reed (w/Slick) vs. Koko B. Ware
After a few lockups, Reed finally nails him. Koko ducks an Irish whip, but can’t get a rollup, however he does dropkick Reed to the floor. Back in, Koko puts his head down on an Irish whip and gets nailed. Reed’s corner whip is reversed and Koko gets a hiptoss, followed by a dropkick for 2. Reed rakes the eyes, but Koko gets a small package for 2. Irish whip is reversed, Koko ducks and gets a bodypress, but Reed rolls through, hooks the tights, and gets 3 at 3:40. Slick attacks afterwards with the cane, but Tito Santana makes the save and strips Slick of some of his clothing. Not much of a match here. ½*
Intercontinental Championship Match: “Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (w/George “The Animal” Steele)
Back in November, Savage defended the belt against Steamboat on Superstars and ended up putting him out of action for a while after crushing his larynx on the guardrail. Steamboat returned seeking both revenge and the IC Title and this is to be his final opportunity. He brings George Steele with him, whose own feud with Savage/obsession with Elizabeth has been going on for over a year now, to watch his back here. Savage goes behind, but Steamboat escapes. Savage bails and leads Liz to the other side away from Steele. Back in, Savage sends Steamboat off, but gets armdragged twice, and then dropped from a choke. Savage runs, and Steamboat chases, but Savage nails him coming back in. Some choking on the ropes gets a 1 count. Charge misses though and Steamboat goes to a wristlock. He drops the arm on the ropes and then goes right back to it. Savage sends him off and hits an elbow, then tosses him to the floor. Steamboat gets to the apron, but Savage knees him off again. He finally snapmares Steamboat back in and then elbows him for 2. Kneedrop gets 2 as well. Steamboat blocks a shot to the buckle and rams Savage instead. Savage ends up tied in the ropes, and Steamboat is right on him with some shots. Savage finally gets free, and then Steamboat comes off the ropes with a bodypress for 2. Armdrag is next, followed by a shoulderblock for 2. Another shoulderblock also gets 2, but when he comes off the ropes again, Savage gets him with a knee. Savage tosses Steamboat, who skins the cat, but Savage is right there to clothesline him back out. Savage follows and knees Steamboat right over the barrier, but Steele helps him get back and beat the count. So Savage just tosses him out again, and this time follows him out with the double ax off the top rope. Back in the ring, another double ax from the top gets 2. Elbow gets 2, as does a dropping Steamboat throat first on the top rope. Atomic drop gets 2, and then so does a suplex. Savage goes to the eyes to stop a comeback, and then uses a gutwrench suplex for yet another 2. Steamboat flips out of an atomic drop and gets some chops. On an Irish whip he puts his head down and gets kicked, but when Savage charges, Steamboat backdrops him right over the top. After ramming Savage to the apron Steamboat gets him back in and goes to work. Top rope chop gets 2 with Savage just getting the foot on the ropes. Another chop gets another 2. After knocking Savage to the floor, he get him back in with a sunset flip for 2. Roll up gets 2, as does another one right after. Small package gets another 2. Steamboat slams him, and then slingshots him to the post. He rolls Savage up again for 2 and then a second time for one more 2. Savage reverses to a 2 count of his own and then pulls the tights to sling Steamboat to the corner. Corner whip is reversed and the ref gets bumped in the corner. Savage hits a clothesline, then goes up and drops the big elbow, but there’s no ref to make the count. So he goes for the bell in a callback to the original match, but Steele tries to stop him. Savage shoves him away, but Steele is persistent and shoves Savage off the top rope. Savage goes to slam Steamboat, but Steamboat rolls through to a small package, and the now revived referee counts 3 to make Steamboat the new IC Champion at 14:36. At the time, this was spectacular. I think it’s been topped over the years, but they were there doing it first. This is the match that a lot of the current generation looks to, since they grew up watching it, as their inspiration for letting it all hang out at the Wrestlemanias of today, so the influence it still has counters any minute flaws you could possibly pick out and earns the match *****.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts (w/Alice Cooper) vs. The Honky Tonk Man (w/Jimmy Hart)
Unfortunately someone had to follow that last match, and these guys get the honors, although the crowd seems to be not burnt out or anything. This was setup by a confrontation on the Snake Pit which turned Roberts face after Honky clobbered him with the guitar. Jake jumps Honky from behind and goes to work. Honky reverses an Irish whip, but puts his head down and gets kneed to the floor. Honky keeps trying to run away, but Jake won’t let up. Jake slams Honky on the floor and then gets him back in. On a corner whip, Honky gets the knees up to finally take over, but it doesn’t last long at all as Jake connects with a short clothesline. Honky avoids the DDT by going to the floor. Jake chases, but goes for Jimmy Hart and ends up getting whipped to the post. Back in the ring, Honky slams him and drops a fist from the 2nd rope. After an elbow, he goes for Shake Rattle & Roll, but Jake backdrops out. Honky still controls though and mounts him for punches in the corner, but Jake gets out with an atomic drop. Honky begs off, but Jake is having none of it, hitting a backdrop and sending him to the apron. Jake sets up the DDT, but Hart grabs his legs and the distraction lets Honky roll Jake up for 3 at 7:05. Honky grabbed the ropes on the finish, but did it in such a way that it would actually give him less leverage so I don’t get how that could be considered cheating, but we’re supposed to accept it as such. This was actually a pretty decent little match all things considered. **
The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff (w/Slick) vs. The Killer Bees
Volkoff sings the anthem as usual, but Jim Duggan runs in to put a stop to it as he’s vowed that Volkoff will never sing it again. He stays at ringside for the match too. Volkoff and Sheik attack the Bees, but end up getting whipped into each other and then nailed. After a brief double team on Sheik, Brunzell gets the tag and they hit a double elbow. Several quick tags now from the Bees as the maintain control on Sheik. Brunzell gets the dropkick, but only gets 2 as Volkoff saves. All four end up in which leads to a double team on Brunzell. Sheik gets a shot to the throat off an Irish whip and covers for 2. Tag to Volkoff who sends Brunzell off and gets him in a bearhug. Brunzell gets out, but the tag is made to Sheik who uses a gutwrench suplex for 2, followed by a regular suplex for another 2. . Brunzell comes back with a high knee and makes the tag, but the ref doesn’t see it and puts Blair back out. This leads to a double elbow by Sheik and Volkoff and then Sheik hooks the Camel Clutch. Duggan is chasing Volkoff, and they end up in the ring where Duggan then decided to break Sheik’s hold by nailing him with the 2X4 for the DQ at 5:44. Dumb finish to a match that wasn’t really going anywhere anyways. ½*
Main Event, WWF Championship Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (w/Bobby Heenan)
I really don’t need to recap the buildup for anyone here, do I? Needless to say though, it may just be the biggest match in the history of wrestling. Bob Uecker is the guest ring announcer, while Mary Hart is the time keeper. No need for any big names here, as this one is for the wrestling fans. The famous staredown that they seem to try and replicate for all big Wrestlemania matches now, starts us off and then they trade shoves. Hogan punches him and goes for a slam, but can’t hold him and Andre falls on top for a close 2 right off the bat. Andre goes to work on the back with a couple of bodyslams and then steps on him. He whips Hogan to the corner a couple of times and then shoulders him in the corner. He connects with a headbutt, but Hogan avoids a second one and starts firing back. Hogan knocks Andre to the corner and rams him to the buckle ten times, but then charges back at him and runs into a boot. Andre goes to a bearhug now, and this lasts quite awhile. The arm drops twice, and then Hogan comes back and breaks it. He gets Andre with a couple shoulderblock that won’t take him down, and then on the third he runs into a chop. Irish whip and big boot send Hogan to the floor. Andre follows, but misses a headbutt and hits the post. Hogan pulls the mats up and sets up a piledriver, but instead takes a slow motion backdrop on the floor. They get back in and Andre sends him off the ropes, but Hogan avoids the boot and comes back off with a clothesline that takes Andre down. Hogan then gets the big bodyslam, drops the leg and gets the 3 count to retain at 12:03. Viewing it strictly as a match, it’s pretty much terrible. Definitely a DUD, maybe even going into negative stars. But on the other hand, the buildup here was awesome, and when they say this is the biggest match in the history of wrestling, it may be the one time they’re not exaggerating. I’m going to balance everything out and call it *** for the whole package.
The historical importance and value of this show makes it an easy thumbs up. Quality wise there’s obviously only one blow away match, but in this era even that ratio is pretty good. The only thing I was outright annoyed by was the midget match, but at least that goes by pretty quick. The rest of the undercard is pretty decent, and although nothing stands out quality wise, there are several great storylines that culminate here and it really has a true supercard feel to it. But regardless of an nitpicks, this is a show you gotta see if you’re a wrestling fan, although I suspect that everyone reading this will have already done so anyways. Thumbs way up and a highest recommendation for Wrestlemania III.