In late 1986, the main event was already being set up for Wrestlemania III. I remember watching Superstars of Wrestling and they held an awards ceremony on the Piper’s Pit. I had never seen this before so it looked like a big angle. And it was one of the biggest. Throughout Hogan’s career on top in the WWF, which started in late 1983, he was the guy, but Andre was always treated as just as special of an attraction. Hogan was the champ, but Andre was just as unbeatable. I honestly don’t remember him losing by pin fall from the time I started watching. Even Hogan would constantly point to Andre as the big man. During the awards ceremony, Hogan received a big trophy for being the champ and Andre came out to congratulate him. Then Andre received his trophy for being undefeated and Hogan came out to congratulate him. Andre seemed perturbed as if Hogan was coming out to steal his glory. Later, Andre famously ripped the cross off Hogan’s chest that made viewers understand that Andre wasn’t going to be so lovable anymore. The turn happened and Andre was now an unstoppable bad guy.
The turn was helped even more by Bobby Heenan who became Andre’s manager. Heenen was always such a great foil for Hogan. He managed King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorff, and Andre who were three of Hogan’s biggest money opponents. Heenan was masterful here, painting the picture as to why Andre would want to wrestle Hogan. Heenan would go on to say that Hogan never offered Andre a shot at the title, Hogan never respected Andre, and Andre was sick of it. At the same time, Andre would just sit there with this careless look on his face as Hogan tried to convince Andre that Heenan was evil. Much of what Heenan said made sense though, and that made the angle for me. I could see why Andre wanted a shot at the title.
The other angle that had a huge affect on me as an 10 year old was Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage. Savage was tremendous in his portrayal as a win at all costs heel. They had a match where Savage draped Steamboat’s throat over the outside railing and jumped off the top rope and hit the back of his neck, thrusting Steamboat’s throat into the railing. He then used the ring bell to do the same thing, targeting Steamboat’s throat. Steamboat sold it like a champ as they carried him to the back while he was grasping for air. Vince McMahon was screaming and saying that Steamboat had swallowed his tongue. I hated Savage with a passion at the time.
Those were the two big matches for Mania III, but what also made this event was the fact that most of the rest of the matches were booked with some nice build. The Honky Tonk Man and Jake Roberts and JYD vs. Harley Race feuds ended with bad matches, but you remember the build. You remember Honky blasting Roberts with the guitar and JYD bowing and curtsying to Race before sucker punching him.
The card started fairly strongly as the Can-Am Connection defeated Don Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton. It was funny watching Rick Martel and Tom Zenk because they were totally playing it up for the women in the crowd. They were two guys who were pushed as a beefy team of young guys, but Zenk would soon leave and Martel would start to team with Tito Santana to make up Strike Force. Then Billy Jack Haynes (remember him?) took on Hercules in an angle that would be repeated the next year with the Ultimate Warrior over the finisher known as the full nelson. Who could break Hercules’ full nelson? The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake before he was “The Barber” and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine) broke up after losing a match against the Rougeau Brothers and the Hammer and Dino Bravo left Beefcake in the ring by himself after the loss. Beefcake would come back later to redeem himself.
The tag champs, the Hart Foundation teamed up with the evil referee, Danny Davis to take on the British Bulldogs and Tito Santana. Unbelievably, Davis got the pin. At this point, Dynamite Kid was hurting badly which was probably why it was a six man and not a tag title match. After stealing the show at Wrestlemania 2, the Bulldogs and the tag champs were relegated to a gimmick match.
Rowdy Roddy Piper had been haggling with Adorable Adrian Adonis and they had a match that was supposed to be Piper’s retirement match. On the Saturday Night’s Main Event before the big show, they even played a package with Frank Sinatra’s version of My Way. Piper had a haircut match with Adonis on the big show and it is probably more noteworthy for being the beginning of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake as he came out and helped Piper cut Adonis’ hair. It was one of the worst haircuts ever.
The show stealer was Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage. To call this match the favorite match of my youth, wouldn’t be inaccurate. It was back and forth and and never seemed to stop. They played the revenge card perfectly as Steamboat wanted to take the thing that Savage held closely to him, which was his Intercontinental title. Savage even teased injuring Steamboat’s throat again, and when Steamboat pulled out the win, the crowd went wild. It was the perfect end to the angle. Both guys were elevated as Savage would be the real champ by the next year, though Steamboat would lose the belt to the Honky Tonk Man in two months and be gone from the company a year later.
And finally, the main event. Hogan vs. Andre was not a pretty sight. In actuality, it was technically one of the worst matches on the card. But Hogan and Andre both played it up big time and it had a big time main event like atmosphere. They started off talking trash to each other. Hogan even probably threw a couple of F bombs in there. It almost ended before it started. Hogan went for an early body slam and didn’t get it and Andre fell on top of him. Hogan barely got out before the three count. During this match, my dad said that he read that someone bet their house on Hogan, so Hogan had to win. Thanks for spoiling it dad. But still, I wasn’t so sure. Throughout the match, whenever Hogan got the upper hand, Andre would get it back. Then Hogan would do something dumb like try a pile driver on the outside which was maybe the dumbest thing of all time. Of course it didn’t work. The sad part of this match was watching Andre. He couldn’t move around very well and there were parts of the match where it looked like he was hurting really badly. At the end, Hogan finally got the big man up for the body slam and hit the leg drop for the pin. It was over.
Rick Martel and Tom Zenk defeated Bob Orton & Don Muraco
Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules wrestled to a double-countout
Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid & Little Beaver defeated King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook via DQ
Harley Race defeated Junk Yard Dog via pinfall
Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake defeated the Rougeau Brothers via pinfall
Roddy Piper defeated Adrian Adonis
The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis defeated the British Bulldogs and Tito Santana via pinfall
Butch Reed defeated Koko B. Ware via pinfall
Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to capture the Intercontinental Championship
Honky Tonk Man defeated Jake the Snake” Roberts via pinfall
Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff defeated the Killer Bees via DQ
WWE Champion Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant via pinfall