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.
4. André the Giant isn’t the only one to have an “undefeated” streak ended at WrestleMania. Infamous “undefeated” streaks coming to an end is kind of a tradition at WrestleMania. Rowdy Roddy Piper suffered his first televised loss at WrestleMania VIII, Bob Backlund’s lengthy undefeated run came to a crashing end at WrestleMania IX, and of course, we all know what happened to The Undertaker last year. That was just a WrestleMania undefeated streak, but still, streaks being shattered has been a staple of WWE’s biggest show ever since Hogan/André.
Don’t look so sad. You’re part of a proud tradition.
5. Hulk Hogan had already feuded with André in 1980, with the face/heel alignment reversed. Another big selling point of WrestleMania III was that this would be the first meeting of these two monster personalities. That was even more fudged than the undefeated steak. Hulk and André actually had a full-on feud with each other only seven years earlier.
Aw, look at baby Hogan and his starter comb-over.
Before the 1983 advent of Hulkamania, Hogan had an earlier run with the WWF in ’79 and ’80. This run has largely been swept under the rug, probably because Vince McMahon, Sr. was still in control of the company at the time, and Vince, Jr. doesn’t like to admit that not-so-dear old dad also saw something in Hogan. During this early run, Hogan was a flashy heel, similar to his “Thunderlips” character in Rocky III, and guess who heel Hogan’s first big feud was with? Yup, Hogan actually wrestled André a few times in 1980, and by all accounts, the feud didn’t exactly set the world on fire, so into the dustbin of history it went.
6. The finish of the match wasn’t decided until the last second. Over the past few years, Vince McMahon has become infamous for his tendency to leave decisions to the last moment, or pull total 180s at the 11th hour. Most of us snarky internet-types cite this as evidence that Old Man Vince is losing his McMarbles, but it turns out that the dude was just as noncommittal 28 years ago.
Yes, even the biggest match in WWE/F history was booked at the last moment. According to most people involved, Vince McMahon didn’t decide on the finish to the match until the early morning before Mania. Here’s Hogan describing the situation…
“I didn’t expect Vince to make up his mind until the eleventh hour. Finally, at almost twelve o’clock the night before Wrestlemania, Vince came to me and said, ‘I want you to win the match.’ The only problem was, he hadn’t discussed it yet with André. If [André] had said, ‘I won’t let Hogan win,’ I wouldn’t have won. That’s all there was to it.”
“So, uh, what are we doing again?”
There was probably more to Vince’s lollygagging than just indecision. For starters, it was pretty touch and go whether André would even be able to take the planned body slam finish given the state he was in. Also, as Hogan noted, if André didn’t want to lose, André wasn’t going to lose, so it was probably best not to give the giant too much time to mull the impending loss over. Also, making Hogan crap his pants was probably kinda fun.
7. WrestleMania III’s 93,173 attendance record is probably legit. The “fact” that WWE seriously fudged their eye-popping WrestleMania III attendance numbers has been circulating online for so long, it’s practically treated as gospel in some corners, but could WWE actually have been telling the truth? Were more than 93,000 fans really there in person for WrestleMania III? Sounds crazy, but hear me out.
The “WrestleMania attendance records are fake” rumors were sparked by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, who claims to have received information from Michigan-area promoter Zane Bresloff that only about 78,000 fans were at the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III. This is literally the only source for these rumors. Meanwhile, WWE’s numbers were backed up by the company itself, numerous news outlets and officials from the Silverdome.
When you break down the numbers, WWE’s figure doesn’t seem so fantastical. The Silverdome regularly held more than 80,000 for football, and for WrestleMania III the field was also filled with seats. Unlike today’s shows, WrestleMania III had a very minimal set, so adding another 13,000 on the field should have been no problem. Those ringside seats on the field were definitely packed, so for the 78,000 figure to to be right, large sections of the upper decks would have to be empty, which isn’t the case in any pictures I’ve seen.
Try to find the 15,000 empty seats.
To top it all off, the Pope visited the Silverdome only months later and also managed to pack in around 93,000 souls. Are you calling the Pope a liar?
8. The average price for a WrestleMania III ticket was around $17. Here’s another reason why that 93,000 number is likely true: You could attend WrestleMania III for cheap. The live gate for the show was 1.6 million dollars, so if you divide that by 93,000, each fan paid around 17 bucks to see friggin’ Hogan vs. André. You’ll pay around 10-times that much for even the worst seats to watch Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns.
9. This match was the last time Hulk Hogan successfully defended the title at WrestleMania. Slamming and pinning André was the highlight of Hulk Hogan’s career, but in some ways, it was also the beginning of his decline. Granted, it was a decline from a very high peak, and there were plenty of memorable moments to come, but Hogan never achieved anything like WrestleMania III again. In fact, it was the last time he ever successfully defended the WWF Championship at the show.
“Any other giants looking to get slammed?”
Bonus Fact! – André was 9-feet tall, weighed 5,000 pounds, and when Hogan slammed him, Heaven and Earth were torn asunder. Thankfully, the Apocalypse was averted because God and the Devil only wanted the Hulkster’s autograph. I haven’t been able to confirm this one, but Hogan totally vouches for it.
There you are, a few factoids about the biggest match of two of the biggest names in wrestling history. Know any interesting stories I missed? What are some of your memories of WrestleMania III? For those who weren’t watching when the battle first went down, what are your thoughts on the hype? Hit the comments and slam down your thoughts, brother.