34 Days of WrestleMania: How does WrestleMania III with the Slam heard 'round the world from the Pontiac Silverdome hold up?

WrestleMania III from March 29, 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan


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WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome in Metro Detroit is known for its star-studded one-move main event,  the greatest match in company history pre-1990s and the mind-boggling some-90,000 fans in attendance.

The main event between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant is a flaming, smoldering turd so much so that Dave Meltzer of the Observer Newsletter named it the “Worst Worked Match of the Year” and gave it a negative rating, whatever that’s worth to you. Even with this considered, the pop when Hulk picks Andre up and slams him is a moment that stands the test of time and will remain a replay that is played over and over again then, now and forever. 

This show is the pinnacle of the professional wrestling boom of the 1980s with an announced attendance of 93,173 (Meltzer claimed in early 90s it was closer to 78K) and nearly 1 million closed-circuit viewers around the United States. Hogan vs. Andre featured two near household names with the bonafide superstar and face of the industry in Hulk Hogan and the mammoth, polarizing figure that was the Eighth Wonder of the World in Andre The Giant. 

After seemingly bear-hugging each other for 10 minutes, Hogan does the unthinkable and body slams the 500-plus pound 7-foot-4 Andre, then hits the ropes and finishes him off with the big leg drop. The Silverdome went bananas, history was made and two legends of the industry were further etched into the history books. 

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Favorite moments and matches

While Hogan and Andre sold the tickets, it was Savage and Steamboat who stole the show as the hands-down highlight through and through. The match for the Intercontinental Championship feels out of place on a card that didn’t have much in the in-ring wrestling department. Let's get the damn cliches out of the way, it was beautiful poetry in motion with great selling, a simple story being told and two brilliant entertainers going at it in the prime of their careers on a mammoth stage. Two budding stars who excelled at making magic in the ring were at the absolute top of their games in this one. 

The promos leading into the match were so god damn 1980s that I almost cried watching it. Mean Gene talking backstage with a doctor about Steamboat’s recovery from a crushed larynx, and attributing his comeback to his tremendous “heart.” Then, we see Macho Man in an extravagant robe holding the IC belt like a newborn baby as he delivers his famous “history beckons the Macho Man” promo. It's over the top, it's perfect, it's the damn Macho Man being the Macho Man. 

As for the match itself, Macho Man, who would move onto the main event the next year at WrestleMania IV in Atlantic City, did a fantastic job per usual as the heel in this match by continuing the story of Steamboat’s crushed larynx by going back to the ring bell during the match. He picked on George “The Animal” Steele, treated Miss Elizabeth like nothing, bent the rules and looked damn good doing it.

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This is a one-match card, so I’m sorry, this is what you’re getting. If you haven’t seen Savage vs. Steamboat, please go out of your way and watch it. Steamboat gets the win and the Intercontinental Championship with a small package after some shenanigans and a Macho Man 1-2-3 sans referee. One thing to note is the fantastic job done by Gorilla Monsoon and Ventura, these two were on their A-game this entire show specifically in letting this match tell its own story while getting the fact that it was so damn good immediately over with those at home.

Gorilla's voice stands out in this match as you almost feel how impressed he is through his verbiage and tone. On the other side, Ventura deserves credit as being the classic shit-ass heel commentator who plays down Savage's shenanigans and mocks George "The Animal" Steele while labeling him as a creepy stalker. This is a match that hooked so many people on the in-ring aspect of what the WWF/E could accomplish in the future. It wasn't two bodybuilders bursting at the seams shoulder blocking and bear-hugging each other into boredom, it was two finely-tuned athletes pulling out all the stops and mastering the drama of professional wrestling. 

Outside of the match for the Intercontinental Championship, I'm in awe of what my native state and the region I now call home was able to accomplish and support that day. Nearly 100,000 people crammed into that massive building, which sadly (kinda) met its demise late last year in the Pontiac Silverdome.

(Related: Second attempt at Silverdome implosion takes down upper bowl)

While the Detroit Lions didn't do much in the way of hanging banners in the building, Hulk-Andre, Savage-Steamboat and Vince McMahon's historic opening introduction will keep the Silverdome alive through memories, highlights and, of course, the WWE Network. 

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Least favorite moments and matches

This was a hard show to watch from start to finish. Martel and Zenk were there to start a story and not wrestle, Hercules and Billy Jack put their match out of its misery with a double countout, watching Harley Race walk at this point made my hips hurt for him, and so on and so forth.

It was just a slow-moving card that was built around a main event that was overshadowed by the Intercontinental Championship match. None of this means it was a terrible show, it just means that it was held up by the highest of highs and weighed down by the lowest of lows. 

Ugh, like the six-man tag match featuring Hillbilly Jim and two little people wrestlers vs. King Kong Bundy and two little people wrestlers. I don't know why there was such a fascination in this, but at least the company gave these hard-working wrestlers a big spot and hopefully a solid paycheck. Also, Gorilla and Jesse Ventura's commentary over any wrestler of color in the 1980s does not hold up very well, at all. More "shuckin' and jivin'" comments and things of that nature that don't belong. 

Does it hold up?

Good lord almighty, two WrestleManias in and I’m shocked at some of the stuff that is said on commentary. Bobby Heenan “hates midgets,” and for some reason “shuckin’ and jivin’” was the way WWF described how black men walked around the ring. Weird stuff to hear.

The Savage-Steamboat match absolutely holds up and always will, but that’s about it when it comes to match rewatchability. For the main event, just skip ahead to the slam, pop and the end of the show.

The in-ring action is slow, boring and lacking just about any element that helps create an exciting wrestling match. Outside of Savage-Steamboat, Bret Hart’s Mania in-ring debut is the only other thing that kept my eyes glued to the screen.

Final thoughts:

I’m a lifelong Michigander so this show holds a special place in my heart. It’s amazing to see the now demolished Pontiac Silverdome with that many people in it as they watched two of the most talked about matches in company history.

Three shows in and WrestleMania already feels special, even when it bores you half to death. It’s all about the spectacle, and WrestleMania III was all spectacle.

This is the third in a Court of Nerds and Geekiverse collaboration that will present “34 Days of WrestleMania” as we look back on each Showcase of the Immortals as we lead you into WrestleMania 34. Keep an eye out for a couple of podcasts in the near future from Austin Brunner and Benjamin Raven as we break down each decade in podcast form.

See below for a roundup of those already up: 

34 days of WrestleMania: How does the first WrestleMania hold up?

34 Days of WrestleMania: How does WrestleMania 2 (the one with 3 cities) hold up?

 

Also, Savage delivered this promo on the same damn day because GOAT: