Some under the hood discussion:
Shattering all attendance records and possibly the laws of physics, 145,000 people crammed into an unnamed venue located somewhere in the Great Lakes for the third installment of WrestleMania! (How did they find this generic place without GPS? Perhaps they clicked on it by accident.)
As fans hiked to their seats, they were treated to a 20-man Battle Royale featuring the likes of Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Butch Reed, Dino Bravo, Jim Duggan, Kamala, and Koko B Ware. The match came down to Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and King Kong Bundy, with Beefcake somehow managing to trick the monster over the top rope.
Brutus Beefcake won a 20-Man Battle Royale. Grade: C.
Opening the show, Roddy Piper rode to the ring on a replica of The Flower Shop set, which he destroyed while gliding down the aisle. (Grade: A+). Devastated by the destruction of his property, Adrian Adonis was never able to get his head in the match and eventually sunk deep into a Sleeper.
Roddy Piper d. Adrian Adonis via submission. Grade: B.
In the next match, Paul Orndorff dominated Tito Santana from the opening bell, even holding Santana so that manager Bobby Heenan could get a good slap in. Orndorff's overconfidence would eventually be his undoing as Tito caught him with a small package.
Tito Santana d. Paul Orndorff via small package. Grade: B-.
Accompanied to the ring by Bob Uecker in bondage gear, Demolition prevailed over the Can-Am Connection in a back-and-forth match. Afterward, they fired Uecker, the demons still seeking representation.
Demolition d. The Can-Am Connection via Decapitation on Tom Zenk. Grade: C.
The Junkyard Dog showed up to WrestleMania drunk and high, but Vince McMahon wasn't about to change his signature card the day of. He sent JYD out there to receive a stiff beating at the hands of Harley Race. Based on the response, Race could've carried a corpse to a decent match.
Harley Race d. The Junkyard Dog via pinfall. Grade: B.
In the post-match, Race beat down and humiliated JYD. Bowing wasn't a problem for JYD as he could barely stand up.
In a mediocre match, Jake Roberts bested The Honky Tonk man after dodging a guitar swing to the dome. Roberts then celebrated with Alice Cooper, who was allowed to play WrestleMania.
Jake Roberts d. The Honky Tonk Man via DDT. Grade: C+.
The tag-team titles were on the line in our next contest, with The Hart Foundation taking on The British Bulldogs. The health of the Dynamite Kid had been a subject for Bret and Jim going into this match and they focused on the recently returned Dynamite for most of the match. A hot tag to Davey Boy nearly turned the tide, but some well-time interference from Jimmy Hart allowed Bret Hart to pin Smith with a handful of tights.
The Hart Foundation d. The British Bulldogs via pinfall to retain the WWF World Tag Team Titles. Grade: B-.
Backstage, The Macho Man ranted about how no one respected his abilities as Intercontinental Champion. The fans were too busy eyeing Elizabeth to appreciate his greatness. Well, not tonight, Mean Gene. Tonight, he'd beat Steamboat alone.
The battle between Savage and Steamboat lived up to the hype. A thrilling back-and-forth that lasted more than 20 minutes, Savage seemed gifted an opportunity early when the ref took an errant kick to the head. Macho seemed prepared to hit a dazed Steamboat with the ring bell but... he stopped himself? Later, with Savage fading in a Boston crab, Elizabeth rushed from the back and motivated Macho to reach the ropes. A series of reversals followed, a slam, an elbow drop... and a clean victory for Macho Man.
Randy Savage d. Ricky Steamboat via pinfall. Grade: A* (100).
Coming after an obvious Match of the Year was perhaps WrestleMania's most memorable moment... for all the wrong reasons. As soon as the battle of the Full Nelsons between Hercules and Billy Jack Haynes began, it was clear something was off with Haynes. He no sold every maneuver by a frustrated Hercules, refused to cooperate with a Full Nelson, and mostly just stood around yelling at fans with Hogan gear. Eventually, the ref called for a stoppage due to submission when Hercules managed to get one of Haynes' arms halfway secured. Haynes immediately stormed to the back.
Hercules d. Billy Jack Haynes via "submission." GRADE: C.
Following Haynes' bizarre performance, Hulk Hogan entered to rally his little Hulkamaniacs. The champ was clearly pissed by what had come before, but the crowd loved him, as usual.
Finally, Hulk Hogan met Andre the Giant in the main event. Two big loads bouncing off each other, building up to a massive body slam by Hogan. Most would agree that the match was good -- but clearly overshadowed by the Steamboat/Savage classic and Billy Jack's kayfabe breakdown.
Hulk Hogan d. Andre the Giant to retain the WWF World Heavyweight title. GRADE: B+
SHOW GRADE: A (94).
I did book the Prime Time Wrestling and Superstars episodes leading up to this, but because I stuck so close to history they didn't seem interesting enough to write up. That was where Haynes got jumped by Hogan's clique and, after I gave Hogan a slap on the wrist, that's why Haynes was pissed enough to "display true unprofessionalism" and tank his match at WrestleMania. In the future, I'll be writing up the Prime Time Wrestling episodes as they'll give a good look at how the world has changed. Superstars I pretty much auto-book so I won't be recapping those.
WRESTLEMANIA III: THE AFTERMATH
- Billy Jack Haynes was, of course, immediately fired following WrestleMania. The heat from that incident apparently distracted McMahon enough that he forgot all about JYD showing up bombed.
- Firing Haynes only increased public curiosity in the incident. Why had Haynes acted out in front of wrestling's biggest audience? Were rumors about Hulk Hogan being a total dick true? Wait... was wrestling FAKE?? Haynes enjoyed the limelight, telling his story first to the dirt sheets and later to Entertainment Tonight. Hulk Hogan was a bully and a phony! He didn't even pray.
- Meanwhile, on the episode of Prime Time Wrestling after WrestleMania, Randy Savage received a standing ovation from the fans. He called out Ricky Steamboat and offered to shake The Dragon's hand. The show of good sportsmanship would turn Savage face.
- At the same time, heat on Hogan was growing. McMahon saw an opportunity to defuse the situation... by making it all part of the show. And so, at Saturday Night's Main Event in June, Hulk Hogan defended his World Title against newly beloved Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage. On the ropes against Savage, Hogan resorted to blasting Macho in the face with the World Title, bloodying him and then trying to take his head all the way off with multiple leg drops. The fans were shocked. In the weeks to come, Hogan would align himself with Jimmy Hart.
- Hulkamania's dead, brother.
: The rest of 1987!