Hogan/Andre ain’t Savage/Steamboat, but it ain’t half-bad

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“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:

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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.

Sad Hogan

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:

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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.

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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.”

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Brian Cougar

Hogan/Andre ain’t Savage/Steamboat, but it ain’t half-bad

The WWE Hall of Fame beckons the Macho Man! (finally)

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(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

“East of the Pacific Ocean, west of London, England, south of Mars and north of hell!” — location of the Danger Zone, according to Macho Man Randy Savage.

Macho Man Randy Savage is, in the opinion of myself and many others, the greatest professional wrestler of all time. He was tremendous in the ring, had amazing charisma, performed god-like promos and was part of several classic matches.

His match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Wrestlemania III is arguably the best match in the history of the “Showcase of the Immortals” (Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker at Mania 25 and Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 are two of the others in the conversation). He’s one of a group of wrestlers (with Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Austin, the Rock, Undertaker, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Hart, John Cena, maybe a few others) who’s well-known by people who don’t follow pro wrestling. And, on Monday, it was finally announced that he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Now, unlike the Hall of Fame of other pro sports (yes, damnit, for the purposes of this post I’m referring to pro wrestling as a sport) where you have to be voted in, you’re only getting into the WWE Hall of Fame if A) Vince McMahon wants you in it and B) You yourself want to be in it. It made no sense that Savage didn’t gain entry until this year, after his death in 2011, and there are four possible reasons it took this long.

1) McMahon was still angry about Savage jumping ship to WCW in the mid-1990s, a time when WWE was struggling.

2) Savage, according to his brother, Lanny “The Genius” Poffo, refused to be inducted unless his brother and father were also inducted.

3) A scandalous rumor involving Savage that I’m not going to include here, but can easily be found out via Google (or BING).

4) Jack Tunney.

Now, from Wrestlemania III-VIII, Savage has in my opinion the greatest run in Wrestlemania history.

III) Bad-guy Savage brutally attacks Steamboat leading up to the event. The two go on to steal the show (one headlined by Andre/Hogan) with their legendary match for the Intercontinental Title, which Steamboat wins.

IV) Because he’s so awesome, Savage becomes a fan-favorite. He goes on to beat Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase (with an assist/chair shot from Hogan) for his first world title.

V) After forming the greatest tag team ever (The Mega Powers), Savage/Hogan split up because Hogan gets a bit too friendly with Savage’s manager, Miss Elizabeth (aka, has LUST IN HIS EYES)/Savage is an insane, jealous human being. Hogan defeats Savage for the world title.

VI) The American Dream Dusty Rhodes/Sweet Sapphire (with Elizabeth) defeat heel Savage/Sensational Queen Sherri. OK, this wasn’t exactly a classic.

VII) Savage, despite hitting approximately one million flying elbows, loses to the Ultimate Warrior in a career match. However, after the match, Sherri attacks Savage and Elizabeth comes to his rescue. Savage/Elizabeth reunite, and people in the crowd legit cry tears of happiness. Later in the year, Savage/Elizabeth get married at Summerslam.

VIII) Savage wears a gold suit to battle Flair for the world title after Flair says Elizabeth was “mine before she was yours!” Flair/his executive consultant, Mr. Perfect, cheat the entire match before Savage wins his second — and last — WWE championship. The writer of this post watches this match at least once a year since 1992 (including RIGHT NOW). (Additional Wrestlemania VIII coverage courtesy of @SportsAngle).

Summary of that run: Best match at Manias 3-5, 7 & 8 … plus two world titles. Oooooh yeah! FREAK OUT, FREAK OUT.

The other great thing about Savage — he never lost his mystique. Now, that’s not to say his pro wrestling career ended on a high note: His final Mania match was against friggin’ Crush at Wrestlemania X, and the last thing I remember from his WCW tenure — which had some great moments — was Team Madness, which no one but hardcore wrestling fans who read this will know about. Savage basically vanished from the public eye around 2000 (outside of his appearance in the first Spider-Man movie … and his rap album). He didn’t have one last Wrestlemania moment. He didn’t host RAW. He wasn’t a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble. The final thing Savage did for WWE was an announcement for an action figure in 2010.

But if you ask most people what they remember about Randy Savage, they’ll remember a man SNAPPING IT TO A SLIM JIM. They’ll remember a man with his fingers pointed to the sky before delivering a devastating elbow drop. They’ll remember the CREAM OF THE CROP. They’ll remember the Macho Man. Dig it?

“Nobody does it better.”

Brian Cougar

The WWE Hall of Fame beckons the Macho Man! (finally)