While it may be hard to believe (especially if you watched the show live), WrestleMania III is 34 years old. Yes, March 29, 1987 marks one of the biggest dates in professional wrestling history as WrestleMania III took place at Michigan’s Pontiac Silverdome. The epic card that featured WWF Champion Hulk Hogan defending the title against Andre the Giant as well as the show-stealing match between Intercontinental Champion Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. is still highly-regarded and deservedly so as it remains one of the greatest wrestling shows of all time.
If WrestleMania was the event that positioned the WWF as a national promotion, WrestleMania III removed all doubts and established it as the biggest game in town (and in the minds of many, the only game in town). After an awful average WrestleMania II, Vince McMahon made sure that the third edition of WrestleMania lived up to its tagline of “bigger, better, badder” by booking the biggest main event to date- Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. I won’t waste your time with a dissertation on how both men battled many times before. Whatever both men’s history was, the WWE created a masterful narrative of the Hulkster facing his biggest challenge to date, a former friend turned bitter foe who was determined to win the WWF Championship by any means, even if it meant turning his back on the fans and aligning himself with his longtime enemy, manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
WrestleMania III represented everything that made the WWF so successful at the time. Vince McMahon built things up with a must-see main event then filled the undercard with a number of entertaining matches featuring a showcase of the best talent in the United States and Canada. Matches didn’t last long with most running between five and eight minutes. Somehow, the WWF managed to get twelve minutes for the main event despite Andre the Giant being close to immobile (Gorilla Monsoon’s call “the immovable force meets the irresistible object” takes on new meaning when you realize just how beat up Andre was going into the match. As any fan who watched the pay-per-view will tell you, they didn’t watch Hogan vs. Andre because it was going to be an unforgettable display of athleticism, they watched it because the storyline was so captivating that they HAD to watch the match and see if Hogan could throw back Andre’s challenge. It was the undercard where fans got to see exciting matches (although I’m not going to lie and say there weren’t some dogs).
The third WrestleMania and the build-up to the show produced a number of unforgettable moments besides Andre vs. Hogan ranging from Roddy Piper’s babyface turn, Randy Savage’s career-ending injury on Ricky Steamboat, Brutus Beefcake’s babyface turn, and even the off-the-wall appearance by Alice Cooper as Jake Roberts’ cornerman in Jake’s battle with the Honky Tonk Man. When I researched my book Wrestling’s Greatest Moments, I was overwhelmed by the number of entries I had to include from ‘Mania III. While some wrestling traditionalists’ heads may have exploded at the WWF’s production, the show drew a sell-out crowd, setting an attendance record for an outdoor show at the time (although “Dinosaur” Dave Meltzer will likely dispute the exact numbers until the day he croaks).
Although contemporary fans may not appreciate how big WrestleMania III was (not only the day of the event but in terms of its impact on the WWF’s status as the number one promotion on the planet), its importance cannot be overstated. For example, the show allowed Vince McMahon to convince pay-per-view outlets to give the WWF’s arch-rival Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) the bum’s rush when Vince persuaded them not to carry JCP’s annual pay-per-view Starrcade, and instead air the WWF’s new event, the Survivor Series (Vince encouraged the pay-per-view companies by telling them they couldn’t have WrestleMania IV if they didn’t air Survivor Series and while they were at it, don’t carry Starrcade).
If you haven’t seen WrestleMania III, you owe it to yourself to check it out, even if you skip through some of the undercard (although I’d argue you can’t truly appreciate it unless you watch it from start to finish). The show may induce seizures in spot monkeys, but it’s a prime example of what made the WWF so hot in the mid-80s. Like most entertainment mediums, the WWE product has evolved over the years. All you have to do is watch a card from the 1970s and compare it to the 1980s or here, compare 1987 to 2021. While some things don’t age well, WrestleMania III has, living up to its status as a classic.