Welcome back once again, everyone, to another WrestleMania review! With two ‘Manias in the book already, let’s now take a look at what is regarded to be one of the best wrestling show of the ’80s. This show will feature a marquee Intercontinental Title bout between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper’s “Retirement” match, a six-man tag involving an evil referee, and many more! In the main event, we will see a legendary showdown between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. Let’s head to the show!
Date: March 29th, 1987
Venue: Pontiac Silverdome
Location: Pontiac, MI
Attendance: 93.173 (disputed)
Your main hosts for the show are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, with several guest celebrities joining in on occasions.
Just like last year, Vince McMahon opened the show by welcoming us all to WRESTLEMANIA!! He then introduced the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin to sing ‘America The Beautiful’ for our opening performance.
The Can-Am Connection vs. Bob Orton & The Magnificent Muraco [w/ Mr. Fuji]
This was essentially a showcase for the exciting Can-Am, but Orton and Muraco sure brought their working boots with them. They bumped and stooged for the newly-formed team in entertaining fashion while making sure to cut them off like a classic heel unit. After a Martel hot tag was made, things quickly broke down, giving us a heel miscommunication that allowed Martel to hit a crossbody at 5:37 for his team’s victory. Considering how over they were here, one wonder how far The Can-Am Connection could go had Tom Zenk not stupidly backed out first. [**¾]
Hercules [w/ Bobby Heenan] vs. Billy Jack Haynes
It’s the Battle of the Full Nelson! This was a standard power affair, built around simple but effective psychology. Both men did a sound job fighting over and setting up their version of the full nelson, targeting the back of their opponents and teasing the crowd a bit before finally locking the move in. Billy Jack came out on top in the final exchange, but they both spilled to the floor shortly after. This led to Haynes locking in the hold on Hercules on the floor, giving us a lame double count-out at 7:54. Afterward, BJH stupidly chased Heenan to the ring, causing him to get jumped by Hercules, who busted him up with some chain shots. Needless to say, this was a much better match than what I was anticipating. [**½]
Midget Mixed Tag: King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid & Little Beaver
So, King Kong Bundy went from main eventing last year’s show to… this? Alright then. We got a couple of silly midget “comedy” spots before Bundy tagged in and finally destroyed Little Beaver to end this tomfoolery at 3:25. A complete waste of time, even if I enjoyed seeing Bundy killing one of the midgets. [DUD]
Loser Must Bow: King Harley Race [w/ Bobby Heenan & The Fabulous Moolah] vs. Junkyard Dog
The stipulation is simple: the loser of the match must bow to the winner. Race bumped like a madman for Dog here, including two 360s over the top rope (in and out of the ring) and a dangerously-looking missed apron headbutt that no doubt played a part in his body’s destruction years later. Bobby Heenan ended up distracting JYD, and that allowed Harley to hit a belly-to-belly suplex to score the win at 4:22. JYD rightfully bowed as per the match’s stip, but he picked up the throne afterward and unfairly smashed it into Race. What a sore loser that guy was! This was enjoyable enough thanks to Race’s god-like bumping ability. [*¾]
The Dream Team [w/ Johnny Valiant & Dino Bravo] vs. The Rougeau Brothers
The Rougeaus gained some shine to begin until a missed springboard crossbody from Jacques allowed the heels to take over. Bobby Heenan actually sneaked into the commentary booth here, and he automatically became the highlight of this by bragging about his clients’ success earlier in the night. Just as the Rougeau Brothers seemed like they had won this, Dino Bravo weaseled his way into the bout and nailed Raymond behind the ref’s back to give his team the win at 4:03. After the match, the heels walked away and left Beefcake all alone in the ring. Nothing much to this one, but the post-match will come to play later. [*½]
Hair v. Hair: Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis [w/ Jimmy Hart]
This might not be Piper’s “retirement” match, but it’s his last one as a full-timer, and the crowd was stoked to see him win nonetheless. Adonis is such an underrated bumping machine. He bumped around like a ragdoll for Piper and fed all his shine like crazy! Piper was no slouch here either, throwing wild punches and selling the possibility of him losing in the most believable way possible. Adrian put the Goodnight Irene on Piper, but he released the hold early, thinking he’d already won. This set up a run-in from Brutus Beefcake, who revived Piper, allowing the Hot Rod to put Adonis away with a sleeper at 6:54 for the happy ending. An entertainingly heated brawl for the hero to go out. The Beefcake face turn was also brilliantly done if you’ve been following the TV leading up to this (if not, the previous match could still shed some light on you). [***½]
The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana vs. The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis [w/ Jimmy Hart]
Dynamite Kid’s unfortunate injury put him as the face-in-peril of the match. He was worked over by the Harts, who used tag team wrestling 101 to isolate him. Danny Davis finally tagged in, and he soaked in all the boos like a true dickhead, only to then hit Kid with one wussy stomp before tagging out. This eventually blew up in his face when he tagged in again, as the Harts unknowingly slingshotted him onto Kid’s knees! Tito soon got the hot tag, and he was a literal house of fire! Davey Boy got his rightful revenge for his team by murdering Danny with the mother of all Tombstone. All kinds of pandemonium broke loose in the final minutes, and Davis clocked Smith with Jimmy’s megaphone at 8:52 to pick up the win for his team. An underrated WrestleMania gem that never gets enough love from the fandom. [***¼]
Butch Reed [w/ Slick] vs. Koko B. Ware
Well, you know a filler was needed for a show this huge. Koko is one guy I’ve come to later appreciate after watching some of his work in (and outside) the company, and Reed has always been a rock-solid powerhouse all throughout his career. They did well with what they were given here. The finish saw Reed rolling over Koko’s crossbody into a pin with a handful of tights at 3:39. He didn’t get any celebration, though, as Tito Santana came out and floored him and Slick, much to the crowd’s appreciation. Just a cooldown bout to set up the audience for what’s next. [*]
WWF Intercontinental Title: Randy Savage (c) [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Ricky Steamboat [w/ George Steele]
This still aged well like a fine wine. They worked at a lightning-quick pace here, popping the crowd with a series of spectacular false finishes and fast-paced sequences. Savage was an awesome prick through and through, going after the Dragon’s previously injured larynx like the true Macho Man he is. I particularly loved the spot where he dumped Steamer after the latter skinned the cat back in. Steamboat, in return, was fantastic in his selling and comeback, garnering immense sympathy and showing magnificent fire in his attacks, be it chops, arm-drags, dropkicks, you name it. It all came down to the ring bell in the end, but just when Savage was about to use it, George Steele pushed him off the top rope, allowing Steamboat to reverse a slam into a small package at 14:35 for the win and the title. I don’t mind the finish, as it made perfect sense according to the storyline, and really, seeing the Dragon with that belt justified everything. My rating on this has changed throughout the years between ***** and ****¾, but it will certainly be a certified MOTYC anytime I visit 1987. [****¾]
Jake Roberts [w/ Alice Cooper] vs. The Honky Tonk Man [w/ Jimmy Hart]
Jake kicked Honky’s ass immediately, which was a logical start given the build-up. After a bit of brawling, this turned into an ordinary TV affair. The Honk Man worked over Jake with his Memphis tricks. Jake made a comeback near the end, but Jimmy Hart’s distraction opened the door for Honky to schoolboy Jake with his feet on the rope at 7:04. Afterward, Alice Cooper arrived, and with the help of Roberts, scared the living sh-t out of Jimmy Hart with Damien until Honky finally ran back and pulled his manager out. This was perfectly acceptable wrestling, with a fun post-match segment. [**]
“Mean” Gene Okerlund came out and announced the record-breaking attendance record of 93.173 for the show, which is still a mystery to this very day.
The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff [w/ Slick] vs. The Killer Bees
It doesn’t get any more filler than this. The Russians did their usual national anthem schtick, but this time Jim Duggan stormed into the ring and rushed them out. Wow, the land of the free, huh? There wasn’t much to speak of here in the ring. The Bees got their shine on the Sheik (including a SWEET Brunzell dropkick!) before the heels predictably took over. Duggan kept walking around ringside, and while Sheik had Brunzell in the Camel Clutch, he started chasing Volkoff into the ring, then hit Sheik with a 2X4 at 5:44 to give the Russians the win by DQ. I’m honestly surprised the Killer Bees didn’t assault Duggan after that idiocrasy. You could skip straight to the main event without this and everything would stay the same. [*¾]
WWF World Heavyweight Title: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre The Giant [w/ Bobby Heenan]
I lost count of how many times I’ve watched this. The massive staredown at the start is still enough to give me goosebumps. Hogan failed to slam Andre early on, and that ultimately became the bout’s main story. Can the Hulkster slam the Giant? Andre smartly went to work on Hogan’s back off that, and Hogan sold all of it like a champ (no pun intended). They optimized everything to maximum efficiency, milking every single spot available to prevent Andre from running out of gas. Everyone talked about the famous slam heard ’round the world, but the moment where Hogan was able to knock Andre off his feet for the first time via a clothesline is equally breathtaking. Hogan finally slammed the Giant to a gargantuan reaction, then dropped the big leg on him at 12:01 for an epoch-making victory. It’ll be hard to judge this without acknowledging the gigantic atmosphere, the terrific build-up, and the monumental financial success. This is arguably wrestling’s most popular match ever, and that will never change. This might only get a *** judging by silly pro-wrestling stars, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it deserves a 100. [***]
This is, without a doubt, the best WrestleMania up to this point. Yes, the match quality wasn’t there all the way. Yes, it might’ve gone a bit too long overall. However, there’s no denying the fantastic production value, the brilliant commentary by Gorilla & Jess, and the epic atmosphere of the Pontiac Silverdome itself. Hogan/Andre, Savage/Steamboat, Piper/Adonis, there are LOADS of stuff to check out from this show! Simply put, a show that every wrestling fan must go out of their way to see at least once due to its enormous historical significance.
Welp, looks like this is it for today’s review. Thank you for reading! And, be sure to check out my next journey through the history of WrestleMania, where I’ll be looking at the only tournament-themed ‘Mania in existence. It’s the night of the Macho Man’s crowning!
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