Today marks 25 years since the monumental professional wrestling event that was WWF WrestleMania III. The event that would purport to break the world’s indoor attendance record, the event headlined by three-year champion Hulk Hogan vs. former best friend and “undefeated” Andre the Giant, the event that encapsulates the incredible boom period of the 1980s somewhere between the petulant innocence of rock-n-wrestling and the glitz and glamour of global dominance.
With 25 years gone by, let’s take a look at 25 fun facts about this canonical event.
1) Sorry to start on a down note, but known deceased wrestlers, managers and wrestling personalities from that card include Gorilla Monsoon, Lord Alfred Hayes, Joey Marella, Hercules, Little Beaver, Little Tokyo, Fabulous Moolah, Junkyard Dog, Dino Bravo, Adrian Adonis, Davey Boy Smith, Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth and Andre the Giant.
2) Attendance for this show has been disputed for the whole of its 25-year history. Vince McMahon and WWE claim 93,173, which would have broken Pope John Paul’s attendance number at the time. Since then, Wikipedia cites 93,682 in attendance for the Pope’s visit. Dave Meltzer and the Wrestling Observer frequently cite a faxed report from a Silverdome worker stating 78,000. And Hulk Hogan constantly increases the figure to the point where he may have slammed a 900-pound Andre the Giant in front of 17 million screaming Hulkamaniacs.
3) The announced total combined weight of the two main-event participants – Hulk Hogan at an announced 302 pounds and Andre the Giant at 525 pounds – is the most of any singles WrestleMania main event.
4) WrestleMania III marks what some consider the furthest WrestleMania-to-WrestleMania dive down the card for one wrestler: King Kong Bundy, who headlined WM2 against Hulk Hogan in a steel cage for the WWF Title and then teamed with two midgets to wrestle Hillbilly Jim and two more midgets in the third match of 12. The match’s saving grace: Bob Uecker, who likened Little Beaver after a 450-pound Bundy elbow drop to “marinated mushrooms.”
5) The double countout ending to the Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules “full nelson challenge” would be the second of its kind in WrestleMania history – the first being Paul Orndorff vs. Magnificent Muraco at WM2 – and would not be the last – Brutus Beefcake vs. Ted DiBiase and Hacksaw Duggan vs. Bad News Brown at WM5, Roddy Piper vs. Bad News Brown at WM6, Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith vs. Vader & Mankind at WM13, and the first finish of Miz vs. John Cena at WM27.
6) The epic Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage match was, at that point, the longest match in WrestleMania history at 14:35, topping Hogan & Mr. T vs. Piper & Orndorff (13:13), David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake (an excruciating 12:43), Piper vs. Mr. T (a laborious 13:14) and the British Bulldogs vs. the Dream Team (13:03).
7) Accompanying Jake “The Snake” Roberts to the ring for his match against the Honky Tonk Man was shock-rock icon Alice Cooper. (No More) Mr. Nice Guy would be the fourth recording artist to accompany a wrestler at WrestleMania, the others being Cyndi Lauper (in the corner of Wendi Richter at WrestleMania 1), Ozzy Osbourne (seconding the British Bulldogs at WrestleMania 2) and of course Jimmy Hart (who performed with the Gentrys and managed many WWF superstars of the day).
8) Poor Howard Finkel had been an employ of the World Wrestling Federation since 1975 but still hadn’t done the ring announcing for any of the first three (which turned into four) WrestleMania main events, turning over the duties to Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda (Lee Marshall was actually the ring announcer at the Los Angeles location of WrestleMania 2) and Bob Uecker.
9) The live gate at WrestleMania III was reported to be $1.6 million. Divided by the claimed 93,173 in attendance in Pontiac, Michigan, the average ticket sold for $17.17. In contrast, tickets for WrestleMania 23, held at Ford Field in nearby Detroit, would have gone for an average of $67.16 ($5.38 million from 80,103 fans). Guess which one Dusty, Kevin, Jeremy and Eric went to?
10) Of the 12 matches at WrestleMania III, 11 of them featured managers at ringside. Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Fuji and Johnny Valiant each appeared once, Slick managed wrestlers in two matches, Jimmy Hart stood in the corner for three, and Bobby Heenan led three men to the ring (it could have been four with King Kong Bundy, but “The Brain” doesn’t deal with midgets).
11) For a guy with a 1-8 record at WrestleMania, Tito Santana sure can’t keep his nose out of other people’s business on the grandest stage of them all. WrestleMania III saw him come to the aid of Koko B. Ware during a post-match attack by Butch Reed and Slick; two years earlier, he would snitch on rival Greg Valentine, who pinned Junkyard Dog with his feet on the ropes. Musta been the Extra Hot Pace Picante.
12) Ladies were a featured act at WrestleManias 1 and 2, making WMIII the first of these events not to include a women’s wrestling match. At the time, Fabulous Moolah was the WWF Women’s Champion, and she would lose the belt three months after WMIII to Sherri Martel.
13) At least three matches on the card were a direct result of an action on an interview segment with the word “Pit” in the title. The majority of the Hulk vs. Andre build-up took place on Piper’s Pit, Roddy vs. Adonis traded blows on both the Flower Shop and Piper’s Pit, and Honky Tonk Man viciously attacked Jake Roberts with a guitar on Jake’s Snake Pit. Hey, why didn’t the Nasty Boys ever get a Pit segment?
14) Former eight-time NWA Champion Harley Race made his WrestleMania debut in Pontiac, Michigan (and would only wrestle at one more of these events, WrestleMania IV, in a battle royal). He would have come to the WWF earlier had he accepted a rumored $250,000 (maybe not a rumor since Race discusses this in his book, King of the Ring) to jump to the WWF with the NWA Title days before he was to lose the belt to Ric Flair at Starrcade 1983.
15) Also of note about Harley Race’s match: “The King’s” royal entrance music, “The Great Gates of Kiev” movement of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky, has also been used at WrestleMania by King Haku and Jerry “The King” Lawler.
16) Wrestlers whose only WrestleMania was No. 3 include Tom Zenk, Billy Jack Haynes, the Haiti Kid, Little Beaver, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook.
17) Babyfaces won five of the 12 matches on the card; it was 6 of 9 at WrestleMania 1, and 6 of 12 at WrestleMania 2.
18) Two of the 12 matches were six-man tags, including the mixed match with Hillbilly Jim and King Kong Bundy. Talk about getting everyone on the card!
19) For that matter, going by the WWF 1987 roster page at www.solie.org, wrestlers on the WWF’s payroll but not anywhere on this card were Paul Orndorff (ouch), Steve Lombardi, Haku, Toma, “Leaping” Lanny Poffo, Corp. Kirschner, Danny Spivey, Superstar Billy Graham, Paul Roma, Jim Powers, Demolition Ax and Smash, Blackjack Mulligan, Kamala, Sika and “Outlaw” Ron Bass. Had they been on the card, you could have renamed it “The David, Mike and Jackie Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions” and no one would have known the difference.
20) As the WWF was (and still is) wont to do, they debuted a few new faces immediately following WrestleMania III: the established Ken Patera and the doomed-to-fail Outback Jack.
21) Only two WrestleManias have offered WWF superstars a ride down the aisle in a little ring atop a golf cart: WrestleManias III and VI. And of those WrestleManias, only three people have refused entry with the cart: Roddy Piper (WMIII), Hulk Hogan (WMs III and VI) and the Ultimate Warrior (VI).
22) The tagline for WrestleMania III was “Bigger! Better! Badder!” This verbiage would be co-opted for this past year’s THQ video game release, WWE ’12 (“Bigger, Badder, Better.”
23) The only wrestler to appear at both WrestleMania III and the most recent WrestleMania, XXVII, was Hacksaw Jim Duggan, both times in a non-wrestling role (at III when attacking the Iron Sheik with a 2×4, and at XXVII as a Hall of Fame Class of 2011 inductee).
24) According to “Mean” Gene Okerlund in a Coliseum Home Video exclusive, WrestleMania III included a projected “92,926 fans,” “hundreds and hundreds on the staff of the Silverdome,” “11 television cameras” and “360 miles of just cable that has been laid through the Silverdome. I’m not gonna walk it off.”
25) The total running time of the bell-to-bell wrestling action was 1 hour, 24 minutes and 47 seconds (1:24:47) throughout 12 matches. This was during a time not particularly known for its “workrate,” and it compares to 1:42:51 of wrestling at last year’s WrestleMania XXVII throughout 8 televised matches.
How much wrestling will we see out of the eight matches at WrestleMania XXVIII? How many midgets will we see? (At least one.) How many rock and roll singers? (At least one, if you count Chris Jericho.) Will Miz turn out to be the biggest single-card plummet in WrestleMania history? Will Tito Santana keep his nose out of our business this year? All these questions and more will be answered this Sunday. Stay tuned.