“What are they gonna think when the Giant hits the ground, he feels the wrath of Hulkamania, and the whole world shakes at my feet?”
Wrestlemania III is mostly remembered for three things: The massive crowd of (allegedly) 90,000-plus, the classic match between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Macho Man Randy Savage, and the main event pitting the world heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.
Because Steamboat/Savage was so good, and for a long time was considered the greatest match in the history of Wrestlemania, many people over the years have said it overshadowed the main event. Hogan/Andre got people in the building and watching at home, but Steamboat/Savage was what they were talking about the next day.
Now, yes, Savage/Steamboat is legendary. ESPN recently did an oral history on it, and another recent oral history by The Detroit News on the overall event features this great quote from Steamboat:
“I get it when I’m sitting in a restaurant. I get it when I’m filling up gas. They’ll come up to me and say, ‘Aren’t you Ricky Steamboat? Man, I remember watching you as a kid. Man, that match with you and Savage, oh my God.’ It’s everywhere I go. And it’s never boring, it’s very enlightening, and we never knew it was going to be this way years later. We were just going for the night.”
But while I’d of course say Savage/Steamboat was the match of the night, Hogan/Andre also rules.
Savage/Steamboat was a match about payback. Savage had months earlier crushed Steamboat’s throat with a ring bell, and Steamboat returned for vengeance (and a chance to win the Intercontinental title). Hogan/Andre, however, had been friends, with Andre pouring champagne over Hogan’s head while celebrating after Hogan beat Iron Sheik for his first heavyweight title. Their friendship came to an end when Bobby “The Brain” Heenan — also known as “the weasel” — became Andre’s manager and convinced him that Hogan was avoiding giving him a title shot. This culminated in an appearance on “Piper’s Pit” where — after Hogan first denied him a match — Andre ripped the shirt (and crucifix) off Hogan’s chest. Piper then again asked Hogan if he’d take on the Giant, and Hogan screamed “Yessssssssssssss!” in a terrifying manner:
The match itself. I did this for my post on Piper-Hart from Wrestlemania VIII, so I’m going to do it again:
Andre entrance: Boos, flying trash. So much flying trash. Jesse the Body running off the tale of the tape on both wrestlers. “The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.”
Hogan immediately Hulks up. Andre stone faced. Hogan goes for the slam, falls backward, and Andre just misses a three-count. Andre slams Hogan, who was always great at immediately going from looking like the most powerful wrestler on the planet to being in utter agony. Andre taunting him to get up, slams him again, puts a foot on his lower back and walks over him. Taunts the crowd: “What do you think of your champion now?” Smothering Hogan in the corner. Heenan asks for a headbutt; Andre delivers.
Hogan avoids another headbutt, goes back on the attack with a few punches, elbows and chops. Starts slamming Andre into the turnbuckle. Momentum shift, until Hogan runs in for a clothesline and Andre boots him right in the face. Chop, bearhug. Bearhug continues. Bearhug … continues (although crowd is popping the entire time). Ref checks if Hogan has passed out. Arm goes down once … twice … three, NO! Hogan briefly takes charge before Andre boots him to the outside of the ring.
Outside of the ring, two of my favorite parts of this match happen. One, Andre goes for a headbutt, but Hogan ducks. Now, Andre apparently headbutts the ring post, but it used to be so obvious that he just headbutted his hands that they have since added a new angle that doesn’t make it so blatant. Two, after this, Hogan pulls up the ring mats, exposing the concrete, and goes for a … piledriver. Piledriving Andre the Giant would probably be harder than piledriving an SUV at this point:
After the failed piledriver, Andre throws Hogan back into the ring and goes for a big boot. Hogan ducks and knocks him down with a clothesline. Hogan hulks up again. Andre staggers to his feet. “We’re seeing what this guy is really made of, what he is: The greatest professional athlete in the world today.” Hogan slam. POP OF ALL POPS. Leg drop. 1, 2, 3.
If you have a match between an irresistible force and an immovable object that ends with the former body slamming/leg dropping the latter, you’ve had a classic encounter.
“I never thought it could be done, Gorilla!”
“Neither did these 93,000-plus! As the world’s heavyweight champion, Hulk Hogan, has proven to everyone what he’s made of.
“This has been a happening, Jess.”