The build to the upcoming WrestleMania 31 has been somewhat lacking in excitement (to say the least), so perhaps now would be a good time to take a nostalgic trip back to a year when WWE/F got everything right. If you were around during the build to Wrestlemania III, the anticipation was palpable. Hulk Hogan at the height of his powers against the undefeated André the Giant! The irresistible red and yellow force meets the immovable 7-foot object! Hogan vs. André wasn’t just the most important thing in wrestling, it was the most important thing in the whole damn world. WWE has made more money from other shows since, but WrestleMania III saw Vince McMahon reach the height of his promotional powers.
Well, it turns out that some of the background and facts surrounding the WrestleMania III main-event are almost as fascinating as the match itself. Here are a few things you might not know about the biggest main-event in wrestling history…
1. Vince McMahon talked André into the match while he was filming The Princess Bride. Vince McMahon hatched his plan for WrestleMania III in mid-1986, but unfortunately, André was pretty much done with wrestling at that point. His back was destroyed and the mere act of standing caused him excruciating pain. André’s plan was to wind down his wrestling career and transition to acting. As part of this new plan, André took a role in The Princess Bride, and Vince actually tracked André to the movie’s set to convince him to return for WrestleMania III. Here’s how it went down in Vince’s own words…
“Right after WrestleMania 2, I flew to England to visit Andre. He was filming The Princess Bride. He was suffering from excruciating back pain and needed surgery. Originally, he wasn’t going to have the surgery but I convinced him to have it and be a part of this one last thing. I told him, ‘You and Hogan will draw the biggest crowd ever for an event like this’, and he agreed.”
WrestleMania III without André? That would have been, well, you know…
So, in other words, André negotiated the terms of the wrestling match he’s best known for, while filming the movie he’s possibly even better known for. The only thing that would have made this better is if he was filming his Honeycomb commercial at the same time.
2. André recuperated for WrestleMania III at Vince McMahon’s house. McMahon may play the aloof, billionaire bastard on-screen, but that’s not necessarily what he’s like behind the scenes. Or at least it wasn’t when André the Giant was in need.
After getting the back surgery that would make the WrestleMania III main-event possible, André needed somewhere to recuperate, so Vince, out of the kindness of his heart (and an intense desire to protect his Mania main-event), let André stay at his house while he rested up.
I can see it now, Linda dutifully bringing André beer after beer, then covering up with a giant blanket when he finally falls asleep. André sitting on Steph’s bed and giving her advice about boys. Vince grumbling that André keeps getting into his “medicine” cabinet. This needs to be a WWE Network show, like, right now.
3. André wasn’t actually undefeated going into WrestleMania III. One of the big selling points of the WrestleMania III main-event was that André was, supposedly, undefeated. While it was true André almost never lost, particularly in the WWE, his record wasn’t spotless. André lost by DQ and count-out fairly regularly, but he also suffered more definitive losses. Here’s footage of André losing to the original Sheik after being unable to answer a 10-count.
Over the years, André also lost to guys like Antonio Inoki and luchador heavyweight El Canek. Basically, André was usually the most popular guy wherever he went, but he’d occasionally visit an area where there was a local legend even more popular than him. In those cases, he’d be willing to quietly take a loss to them, as long as they didn’t promote their victory outside of the territory. Even Jerry freakin’ Lawler had a quasi-victory over André, so the dude was far from unbeatable.