The Piledriver Report 01.17.13: The History Of Vince McMahon’s Wrestling Empire Pt. 2
***** Before we begin this week’s article, I just wanted to make everyone aware that March is fastly approaching. With March comes the Ultimate Wrestling Tournament that I run every year. In the past, we have held tournaments to determine the greatest match in WrestleMania history, the greatest WrestleMania wrestler, the greatest tag team, the greatest wrestler to never hold a World title, and several others. I need you to leave a comment asking for your suggestion on what topic we should use for this month’s tournament. Thanks- Ronny*****
While Hulk Hogan and the “Rock-n-Wrestling Connection” grabbed the attention of millions of new fans, a couple of upper mid-card feuds held kept their interest. In 1984, “The Hulkster” fought various different opponents. In his first year as champion, Hogan didn’t have any feuds that would define him as a champion. He participated in a bunch of mini-feuds against the likes of David Schultz, the Iron Sheik, and Big John Studd. While Hogan’s first twelve months as champion did not lead to any long term rivalries, the WWF was not lacking when it came to feuds that would turn out to be legendary. The two best feuds in 1984 were The Iron Sheik vs. Sgt. Slaughter and Roddy Piper vs. Jimmy Snuka.
When 1984 began, the United States was embroiled in the middle of the Iran Hostage Situation. Although the Americans were freed in January of that year, the Cold War was still going strong. The Iron Sheik represented the Aytollah and all that Iran stood for. Wrestling fans needed an American hero to defend the USA’s honor. The wrestler that stood up to the challenge was one of the least likely men. With the Sheik spewing his anti-American sentiment each week on television, a former United States Marine drill sergeant had enough. When last seen in a World Wrestling Federation ring, Slaughter was a heel facing Pat Patterson in brutal, bloody matches. In 1984, Slaughter put side rulebreaking ways to rest, and fought for the side of good. The Iron Sheik and Slaughter fought on house shows throughout the country. Their most famous match took place on June 16, 1984 in Madison Square Garden. The two combatants battled in one of the most violent and bloody Boot Camp matches in the history of the WWF.
While Piper and Snuka didn’t have that one legendary match as the aforementioned Slaughter/Sheik Boot Camp match, what made the Piper/Snuka feud memorable was the build-up. Jimmy Snuka appeared on Roddy Piper’s interview show called “Piper’s Pit.” During the segment, Piper started to make fun of Snuka’s island heritage. He pulled out a bunch of bananas, and dropped them on a table. He then took out a pineapple, and a coconut, and did the same. Piper exclaimed, “You want a coconut, here’s a coconut. Piper picked up a coconut, and whacked Snuka in the head with it. The force of the blow was so hard that the coconut exploded upon impact. While Snuka was on the ground, Piper grabbed the bushel of bananas. He shouted, “You want some bananas? Here’s some bananas!” Piper then smashed the bananas in the “Superfly’s” face. Piper then took his belt off, and proceeded to beat Snuka with the belt. While the matches didn’t live up to the hype, the build up was fantastic, and captured the imagination of the fans. The feud, along with “Piper’s Pit,” proved that “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was going to be a major player in the WWF’s national expansion.
Thanks to feuds like Piper/Snuka, Slaughter/Sheik, angles like the “Rock-n-Wrestling Connection, and top wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine, Andre the Giant, and Ricky Steamboat, the WWF was on the verge of entering an arena that wrestling hasn’t seen since the days of Gorgeous George. The WWF was about to land a television deal with a major TV network. On Saturday night, May 11, 1985, the World Wrestling Federation premiered the very first episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC TV. The series was originally aired as a special at 11:30pm, which was typically the timeslot given to the NBC weekend powerhouse “Saturday Night Live.” On that night, the WWF drew an 8.8 rating. This special, actually took place the night before at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY. The card was loaded with some of the WWF’s top wrestlers. Hulk Hogan successfully defended the WWF championship against “Cowboy” Bob Orton. The WWF Women’s champion Wendi Richter beat the Fabulous Moohla where Cyndi Lauper made an appearance. Junk Yard Dog beat Pete Dougherty. Mike Rotundo, Barry Windham, and Ricky Steamboat beat The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and George “The Animal” Steele after Sheik and Volkoff abandoned Steele, and then attacked him after the match. He left the ring a fan favorite that night as Captain Louis Albano came to Steele’s rescue. In the main angle on the show, Roddy Piper turned on his former WrestleMania tag team partner, Paul Orndorff. As Piper and Orton were beating up “Mr. Wonderful,” Mr. T ran into the ring to save Orndorff from the double team.
Despite the success of WrestleMania, and the “Saturday Night’s Main Event,” the WWF’s business was on a downward slide. The WWF pulled in $4.3 million for WrestleMania. However, house show business started to decline. Plus, Vince had to deal with higher salaries, as well as his television payouts. Vince convinced Bruno Sammartino to join David Sammartino as a father and son team. With Bruno on the first house show tours, business picked up. However, like most nostalgia acts today, during the “return” matches with Bruno, attendance started to shrink.
Due to huge ratings of the special, NBC picked up “Saturday Night’s Main Event” for the fall. Starting in October, the WWF aired “Saturday Night’s Main Event every four to eight weeks. The most surprising development about the success of the “Saturday Night’s Main Event” series was that it regularly beat out the long running “Saturday Night Live” in the same time slot. The series reached its peak on January 4, 1986. That show drew a 10.4 rating. This was the second highest rated show in that time slot in the history of US television ratings. The top match on the show was WWF Champion Hulk Hogan against Terry Funk. This show was actually taped three weeks prior on December 19, 1985 from the SunDome in Tampa, Florida. The show included the following matches: Roddy Piper, Bob Orton, and Jesse Ventura over Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer, and Cousin Luke. Nikolai Volkoff beat Corporal Kirschner in a Summit Peace Match. Junk Yard Dog and Ricky Steamboat beat Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji. Randy Savage beat George “The Animal” Steele by countout, when Steele was distracted by the beauty of Miss Elizabeth. An interesting trivia question regarding that bout. Who was the referee in the Savage/Steele match? The answer is Dean Malenko.
One of the most colorful and popular wrestlers made his World Wrestling Federation debut at a TV taping on June 17, 1985 in Poughkeepsie, NY’s Mid-Hudson Civic Center. From his very first day in the company, the fans knew he was a special talent. This wrestler is Randy “Macho Man” Savage. In his first TV match, which aired July 6, 1985, Savage beat Aldo Marino. During the match, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji, Freddie Blassie, and Johnny Valiant surrounded the ring to watch Vince McMahon’s latest find. The storyline during Savage’s first few weeks with the WWF was that he was so good that every manager in the company wanted the “Macho Man” in their stable. On June 24th, Randy Savage beat Rick McGraw in his Madison Square Garden debut. The match was on the undercard of a sold out show, which included a few thousand fans watching at the adjoining Felt Forum. The main event that night was Don Muraco vs. WWF Champion Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match. During the July 30th TV taping, which aired on August 24, 1985, Randy Savage pinned Jim Young. While the match was forgettable, the after match was a major moment in the career of Savage. Savage picked the person who would manage his career in the WWF. That person was Elizabeth Hulette, better known to world as Miss Elizabeth. As a Beauty and a Beast, Randy and his real life wife would become one of the most famous couples in wrestling history.
The team of Savage and Elizabeth weren’t the only ones to debut during the Summer of 1985. There was another debut that year, which had far less fan fare. On July 8, 1985, a future pay per view supercard made its debut. This event took place in Foxboro, Massachusetts in the outdoor football home of the New England Patriots. The card featured a 16-man elimination tournament called the King of the Ring. Unlike the later versions on pay per view, the 1985 edition was only seen by the fans at the stadium. Unless you lived in the area, you wouldn’t have even known the this tournament was taking place. As a matter of fact, most fans only learned about the card afterwards, when the results and pictures were displayed in the WWF Magazine. The early years of the annual tournament, the award for the winner was pride and knowing that at least for one night, you were the king of the squared circle. It would be a few years before the WWF gave the winner a crown, scepter, and king’s robe. The matches that filled the tournament brackets were: Don Muraco over the Junkyard Dog, Les Thornton beat Steve Lombardi, Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton Jr. battled to a draw, Pedro Morales defeated Johnny Valiant, Tito Santana beat Terry Funk, Jim Brunzell defeated the Spoiler, Ricky Steamboat over Greg Valentine, The Iron Sheik defeated B. Brian Blair. In the quarterfinals, Don Muraco defeated Les Thornton, Tito Santana fought Jim Brunzell to a draw. As proof that WWF storylines lacked continuity, just like today, one only has to look at the first King of the Ring tournament. In the first round, Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton Jr. fought to a draw. Both men were eliminated. However, in the quarterfinals, when Tito Santana and Jim Brunzell battled to a draw, Brunzell won a coin toss to advance to the next round. In the final match of the second round, The Iron Sheik defeated Ricky Steamboat. The semi-finals paired Don Muraco against former rival Pedro Morales and the Iron Sheik against Jim Brunzell. In a rare match at the time, the finals of the first King of the Ring featured Don Muraco vs. the Iron Sheik in a heel vs. heel contest. The winner, and the first King of the Ring was Don Muraco.
While the King of the Ring is the most famous supercard whose main booking purpose is to crown the winner of an elimination tournament, it was not the first tournament to be shown on pay per view. Since the first King of the Ring on pay per view was held in 1993, many people would guess that the first tournament on pay per view would have been in 1988 at WrestleMania IV. However, that would not be correct. The first elimination tournament on pay per view took place four months after the inaugural Ling of the Ring event. That show, called the Wrestling Classic, was the very first pay per view in WWF, and wrestling, history. The winner of this tournament received a Roles Royce. In conjunction with the event, the WWF ran a contest where a fan also won a Roles. Besides the tournament, there was a WWF Championship match featuring WWF titleholder Hulk Hogan against Roddy Piper, which Hogan won by DQ. Hogan’s win by DQ was brought on because Roddy Piper refused to job to “The Hulkster.” The event was held on November 7, 1985 in Chicago, IL’s Rosemont Horizon. The tournament matches consisted of the following: In round one, Adrian Adonis pinned Cpl. Kirschner, The Dynamite Kid pinned Nikolai Volkoff in 6 seconds, Randy Savage pinned Ivan Putski, Ricky Steamboat defeated Davey Boy Smith, The Junkyard Dog pinned the Iron Sheik, Moondog Spot defeated Terry Funk by countout when Funk rolled Spot into the ring after a brawl on the floor, Tito Santana pinned Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff defeated Bob Orton Jr. via disqualification. In the quarter finals, the Dynamite Kid pinned Adrian Adonis, Randy Savage pinned Ricky Steamboat after hitting Steamboat with a foreign object while in the middle of a suplex into the ring (which is the same finish the WWF would use for Randy Savage’s Intercontinental title victory over Tito Santana three months later). The Junkyard Dog pinned Moondog Spot. Tito Santana battled Paul Orndorff to a double count-out. In the lone semi-final match, Randy Savage pinned the Dynamite Kid in a short, but exciting match. In the finals, the Junkyard Dog defeated Randy Savage by count-out in a match with a very lackluster ending. The show was a financial disappointment for the WWF. They only drew a paid crowd of 12,000 people. The pay per view received only 50,000 buys, which was a disappointment as that was only a 2.5% buyrate. Before the show, the WWF figured that they would start airing pay per view telecasts every two or three months. After the disappointment known as “The Wrestling Classic,” those plans were put on hold.
Over the winter months of late 1985 and early 1986, Randy Savage would challenge Hulk Hogan in house shows across the country. In most of the bouts, he beat Hogan by either disqualification or countout. In the final month of the house show tour between the two, Hogan would finally pin the “Macho Man.” Despite never dethroning the “Hulkster” during this house show run, Randy Savage did get a taste of championship gold. On February 8, 1986, Randy Savage beat Tito Santana in the Boston Gardens to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
The March 1, 1986 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event was the first show in the series to be used as the set up to the main event of a WrestleMania. On the show, Hulk Hogan defended the WWF World title against his 1985 summertime rival, Don Muraco. As Hogan was about to get the win, Bobby Heenan interrupted the pin attempt. Hogan grabbed “The Brain” by the throat when King Kong Bundy hit the ring. Bundy attacked Hogan, and Don Muraco joined in to double team the champion. Bundy set Hogan up in the corner. With Muraco holding Hogan’s arm, so Hulk can’t move, Bundy delivered three avalanches, and two splashes. Hogan was put on the shelf with broken ribs. Earlier in the show, Mr. T fought Bob Orton, Jr. in a boxing match. Mr. T won by countout when he nailed Orton with an uppercut that sent him over the top rope. After the bout, Roddy Piper attacked Mr. T from behind, and whipped him with a leather belt.
The WWF’s second installment of WrestleMania had almost as many firsts as the original. WrestleMania 2 was the first, and only, WrestleMania NOT to air on a Sunday. WrestleMania 2 was held on Monday night, April 7, 1986. This was also the first WrestleMania that was broadcast on pay per view. The WWF also tried a new format with Mania 2. Since Jim Crockett was having success running their big Starrcade shows from TWO venues, the WWF decided to run WrestleMania from THREE different locales: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The New York part of the telecast was held at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. There were four matches. Paul Orndorff fought Don Muraco to a double countout. WWF Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage pinned George Steele. Jake “The Snake” Roberts beat George Wells. In the NY main event, Roddy Piper fought Mr. T in a boxing match.
The behind-the-scenes working of the Piper-T match is more interesting then the bout was to watch. According to the April 21, 2003 edition of “The Wrestling Observer,” Mr. T’s rep as the “baddest man on the planet” was more myth then fact. Mr. T was supposed to train for the boxing match with former World Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier to get in shape for the worked bout. However, like in the original Mania, Mr. T figured that his “image” would be proven as faзade. He feared that if the word leaked out that he had no boxing ability, and he may have been taken to town by his sparring partner, that his career would be over. Therefore, Mr. T didn’t train. Piper boxed as a teenager. In wrestling circles, Piper was considered a tough man, and had incredibly fast hand speed. Before WrestleMania 2, Piper and Mr. T held two secret training sessions with each other. It was quickly realized that the match up would be a failure. When Mr. T put on the boxing gloves, he had zero stamina. The match, as predicted was a bomb. During the match, the crowd turned on Mr. T. They started to heavily cheer the heel Piper. This sudden turn in popularity would eventually lead to a face turn in the summer of 1986. Since, he was supposed to be the rulebreaker in the match, Roddy Piper “broke the rules” to end the contest. In Round 4, Piper threw down the referee, and bodyslammed Mr. T in order to get himself disqualified.
The second part of WrestleMania 2 took place in Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon, the same arena which was the home to the WWF’s first pay per view “The Wrestling Classic.” The first contest found the WWF Ladies Champion the Fabulous Moohla pin Velvet McIntyre in under one minute. Sgt. Slaughter wannabe, Crpl. Kirschner beat Nikolai Volkoff in a flag match. Andre the Giant won a 20 man battle royal featuring WWF superstars, and NFL players. In a great tag team match up, the British Bulldogs beat Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the WWF Tag Team titles.
The final stage of WrestleMania 2 took place in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Ricky Steamboat pinned Hercules Hernandez. Adrian Adonis beat Uncle Elmer. Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr. beat the Junk Yard Dog and Tito Santana. In the main event of the evening, Hulk Hogan beat King Kong Bundy inside a 15 foot high steel cage. This match featured the debut of the “blue bars” steel cage.
This was a very weak WrestleMania. It probably ranks in the bottom five of all-time. This WrestleMania featured more celebrities then any WrestleMania in history. Names such as, Susan St. James, Mr. T, Ray Charles, Joe Frazier, Lou Duva, G. Gordon Lilly, Darryl Dawkins, Joan Rivers, Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, William Perry, Dick Butkus, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Clare Peller (Wendy’s “Who’s the beef?” pitch woman), Ozzy Osbourne, Cathy Lee Cosby, Elvira, Tommy Lasorda, Robert Conrad, and Ricky Schroder gave the WWF much needed publicity for their second installment of WrestleMania. The publicity didn’t help sales. While NY sold out the Coliseum and the LA Sports Arena was a near sell out, the Chicago portion only drew 9,000 fans (which is the lowest attendance figure for an arena in Mania history).
A FEUD BEFITTING A SUMMERSLAM MAIN EVENT
In the summer of 1986, the WWF’s main angle was played out over several weeks on television. Paul Orndorff was having problems with his former manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and his behemoth tag team of King Kong Bundy and “Big” John Studd. On Adrian Adonis’ “Flower Shop” interview segment, Heenan planted the seed in Orndorff’s mind that Hogan thinks “Mr. Wonderful” is beneath him. An irate Orndorff called Hogan to ask the Hulkster to team with him the next week against “The Brain’s” mammoth tag team. Hogan was not available to take his call. This made Paul even more irate. The next week, they finally had the tag team match, which Hogan and Orndorff won. Orndorff raised an exhausted Hulkster’s arm in victory, and then delivered a vicious clothesline across Hogan’s throat, followed by his patented piledriver. Throughout the summer, Orndorff taunted Hogan, and even came to the ring to Hogan’s “Real American” theme music. That angle set up a summer’s worth of house show business for the WWF. His feud with Mr. Wonderful produced Hogan’s most successful house show tour of his career. The two wrestlers set attendance and ticket sales records throughout the summer. They even sold out in towns where Hogan never drew any good business. The attendance figures led the WWF to change their booking strategy in regards to Hulk Hogan. In the past, they treated Hogan as a special attraction, where he would hit most markets only two or three times a year. However, in his high profile feud with Orndorff, he was programmed against “Mr. Wonderful” for three consecutive months in these same markets.
The program was so hot, that it affected Paul Orndorff for the rest of his career. In the middle of their feud, Orndorff was pulling in $20,000.00 A WEEK! Orndorff suffered a severe neck injury. Instead of losing out on the huge paycheck, Orndorff continued his program with the WWF Champion. The nerve damage, eventually led his arm to atrophy. By the time of the first Survivor Series in 1987, Paul Orndorff’s one arm was noticeably smaller then his health arm. Orndorff’s career would never come close to matching his summer of 1986 ever again.
1986 was two years before the first Summer Slam. If the WWF had a summer pay per view at that time, the two would have headlined it that year. Instead, they headlined a show in Canada called “The Big Event” on August 28, 1986. The event drew a sell-out crowd of 64,000 fan to the outdoor CNE Stadium. This show drew a North American gate record of $1.1 million. The show was later distributed on Coliseum Home Video featured Hulk Hogan beating Paul Orndorff via DQ.
The final match in the feud took place on January 3, 1987 on an episode of “Saturday Night’s Main Event.” Paul Orndorff fought Hogan inside of a steel cage. Their match was one of the greatest steel cage matches of the “blue bars” era. The match featured a tie as both men climbed over the top of the cage, and each man landed on the floor at the same time. One ref raised Hogan’s hand. A second referee raised Orndorff’s hand in victory. The match was restarted, and Hogan eventually won to end the feud.
TOM MAGEE: THE NEXT HULK HOGAN
Despite Hogan being the most recognizable wrestler in history, McMahon thought that Hogan would have a short shelf life before a new champion would be needed. Vince was concerned about Hogan’s drawing power fading, because of his receding hairline, among other things. McMahon told both Piper and heel announcer Jesse Ventura about certain Hogan weaknesses that they couldn’t bring up on TV, and to never mention Hogan being follicle challenged (in other words, balding).
Vince started searching for Hogan’s eventually replacement. In a story from the April 21, 2003 “Wrestling Observer,” McMahon thought he found his guy. Tom Magee, who was trained by Stu Hart, appeared to be the one. His tale of the tape and resume read like he was going to be the greatest star Vince McMahon would ever have. He stood in at 6 feet 5 inches tall. He weighed a lean 275 pounds. Magee was only 24 years old. He was young enough where he could be the WWF’s top dog until the year 2000, and still only be 38 years old. He won the World’s Strongest Man contest. He was a four-time Canadian national powerlifting champion in the superheavyweight division. He had a bench press of 573 pounds in competition, and an 860 pound squat. His muscular physique, combined with a small defined waist led him to win several bodybuilding competitions. He also had experience in gymnastics, boxing, and was a black belt in karate. He could perform backflips inside the square circle, and land on his feet following a back drop. He had strength. He had agility. He even had a main event match against Riki Choshu at a major Japan show in his very first match. There was only one thing that Tom Magee didn’t possess: wrestling ability.
The history of the WWF is full of wrestlers who had great physiques and no talent. However, they were pushed to the moon, and made a lot of money. Along with his poor work rate, he had no charisma. The more he trained, the worse he got. According to David Meltzer, he looked “almost effeminate in the ring.” His offense was so bad that the fans never got behind him. The question is how could Vince McMahon have been fooled into thinking he had the next big thing, instead of realizing he just had a big waste of a wrestler?
To understand why, you have to go back to the WWF’s TV tapings in Rochester, NY on October 6, 1986. Vince was there to personally witness Tom Magee’s try out dark match. When the fans saw this large, muscular wrestler perform a back flip during his ring entrance, the fans thought they were witnessing the beginnings of the WWF next superstar. His match was even more spectacular then his ring entrance. He was put over a mid-card heel in a match that was better then anything else on the whole show. Vince was so excited during the match that he screamed “That’s my next champion!” while watching on the TV monitor. Vince and Pat Patterson gushed all over Magee when he returned from the ring. Even local sports columnist, Bob Matthews, wrote in his article that Magee wan the “most impressive newcomer that he had ever seen.” Like McMahon, Matthews also called Magee “Hogan’s eventual replacement.”
Tom “Megaman” Magee was immediately booked on the “C” level house shows to help him gain experience before his huge push in about a year. That push never came as Magee proved to be a one-match wonder. It took the WWF over a year to realize that Magee wasn’t the mega-man that they envisioned. How were the WWF and the fans in Rochester so easily fooled? The answer lies in the opponent that Magee was facing. While the fans, Vince McMahon, and Pat Patterson had their eyes focused on the power house Magee, they failed to take notice of the other man in the ring. Vince McMahon was right. While watching the match on the monitor, Vince did find his next great champion. However, that man wasn’t Magee, but his opponent. The man he faced would turn out to be the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be- Bret Hart.
THE SHOW THAT MADE WRESTLEMANIA THE SUPER BOWL OF WRESTLING
With the Magee experiment starting to sink faster then the Titanic, the WWF focused its attention on the upcoming WrestleMania III event. The NFL vs. AFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets in 1969 turned the title game into the Super Bowl extravaganza that we know today. WrestleMania III was the event that would turn the WWF’s supercard into their Super Bowl. The 1987 version of WrestleMania was the first Mania which featured a dream match. The main event featured Hulk Hogan, who hadn’t jobbed since 1981, against his former rival and recent best friend Andre the Giant. Due to Andre’s lack of jobbing throughout his career, most fans believed that Andre was undefeated throughout his career.
The seeds of the feud between Hogan and Andre started out on the Piper’s Pit interview segment. With Andre the Giant by his side, WWF President Jack Tunney presented Hulk Hogan with a trophy for being the WWF Champion for three consecutive years. The next week, Andre the Giant was presented with a trophy for being the WWF’s only undefeated wrestler in the company’s history. After Hogan walked on to the Piper’s Pit set, Andre walked off. Jesse Ventura was Piper’s guest the next week. Ventura guaranteed Piper that he would deliver Andre the following week if Piper would produce Hogan. During the Hogan-Andre Piper’s Pit segment, the Giant talked about never being offered a shot at the belt. With heel manager Bobby Heenan by his side, Andre grabbed Hogan, and ripped off “The Hulkster’s” crucifix from around his neck. The next week, Hogan accepted his challenge. The match between the irresistible force and the immovable object was on.
Another top match on the card featured “Rowdy” Roddy Piper against “Adorable” Adrian Adonis. The two wrestlers started to feud in the summer of 1986. Shortly after WrestleMania 2, Roddy Piper went on a few months sabbatical. During his time away, Adrian Adonis debuted his own interview segment called “The Flower Shop.” Along with the show, Adonis hired “Cowboy” Bob Orton as his bodyguard. When Piper came back to the WWF, he noticed that his set was gone, as was his closest ally. In February, Piper announced that win, lose, or draw, his match at WrestleMania III would be his final match. Piper was going to Hollywood to pursue a career as an actor. Before he started his acting career, Piper was going to battle Adrian Adonis one final time in a hair vs. hair match.
The other big match on the card featured the WWF Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Their feud was started in the fall of 1986. During a match between the two, Randy Savage attacked Steamboat with the ring bell. He also draped Steamboat’s throat across the guard rail outside of the ring. Savage then climbed the top rope, and delivered a double axe hammer on to “The Dragon’s” neck. Steamboat suffered a “crushed larynx.” This injury put Steamboat out of action for several months.
The show was held in the Pontiac Silverdome on March 29, 1987. WrestleMania III became the biggest event in wrestling history. The show sold out more than 78,000 fans, despite the WWF’s claim of 93,173 in attendance. WrestleMania III received 441,000 buys on closed circuit TV, plus pay per view. The live gate took in $1,599,000.00 and they received $540,000.00 in merchandise. These numbers blew away the records they set during the previous summer’s Big Event show in Toronto, Canada.
The first match on the card had Tom Zenk and Rick Martel beat Don Muraco and Bob Orton. Hercules Hernandez fought Billy Jack Haynes to a double count out. In a mixed six-man tag team match, Hillbilly Jim and midget wrestlers The Haiti Kid and Little Beaver beat King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo, and Lord Littlebrook. Harley Race pinned the Junk Yard Dog where the loser had to bow to the winner. Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake beat the Rougeau Brothers. After the match, Valentine and Dino Bravo turned on Brutus Beefcake. Roddy Piper beat Adrian Adonis in a hair vs. hair match. Danny Davis, Bret Hart, and Jim Neidhart beat Tito Santana, Davey Boy Smith, and the Dynamite Kid. Butch Reed pinned Koko B. Ware. In one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history, Ricky Steamboat beat Randy Savage for the WWF Intercontinental title. The Honkytonk Man pinned Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik beat the Killer Bees by disqualification due to Jim Duggan’s interference. In the main event, Hulk Hogan pinned Andre the Giant to retain the WWF World title.
After WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan was firmly entrenched as the WWF Champion. Once he beat Andre, it appeared that there were no serious contenders left to fight. Part III of this series will take a look at a wrestler who believed that everybody has a price.
Sources that were used for this article included “The Wrestling Observer,” www.thehistoryofwwe.com, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wrestling_Entertainment.