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Turn Heel Retro: WrestleMania 3 (1987) Recap - Ricky Steamboat
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Turn Heel Retro

Turn Heel Retro: WrestleMania 3 (1987) Recap

Hogan faces his biggest challenge in Andre the Giant, but Savage and Steamboat steal the show.

After the Big Event, the next major show is one of the biggest shows of all time, WrestleMania 3. The main feud running into this show was Andre the Giant’s association with Bobby Heenan and massive heel turn on Hulk Hogan. Of course another match will steal the show and WrestleMania 3 has the distinction of being rumored to have a record setting attendance of 93,000+. As for me, I saw WrestleMania 3 on closed circuit TV. I remember my Dad had to take me to an arena about 2 1/2 hours away from home because that was the closest place to watch the show and we didn’t have cable access where I lived. So, I haven’t watched this show since I wore out the VHS copy I had watching the Savage / Steamboat match tons of times as a kid. Let’s see how WrestleMania 3 holds up, shall we?

You can watch WrestleMania 3 on the WWE Network here.

Turn Heel Retro: WrestleMania 3 (1987) Recap

We open with some late 80s computer graphics showing the WrestleMania logo and then we’re live to Pontiac, Michigan at the Silverdome. Vince McMahon is in the ring and welcomes us to the Silverdome. We then pan around the stadium, and it is pretty packed. I know the attendance has long been disputed, but this is at least as many people as were at the Big Event, likely more. Vince then introduces Aretha Franklin, who will be playing America the Beautiful on piano and singing. Another big get for WWE this year for this spot.

We’re then sent to the announce team which consists of Gorilla Monsoon and a snake skin outfit wearing Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Monsoon introduces two celebrity guests, former baseball player Bob Uecker and TV host Mary Hart.

Monsoon sends us back to the ring where Howard Finkel and the competitors in the first match are already in the ring.

Match #1: The Can-Am Connection vs. The Magnificent Muraco & Cowboy Bob Orton (w/ Mr. Fuji)

A decent little tag match. Everything that Martel or Zenk do gets a huge pop. They’re pretty much in control for most of the match, but Muraco and Orton get some stuff in. Eventually, the Can-Ams set up some double team spots that causes Muraco to back drop Orton and then receive a double dropkick. Muraco then tries to whip Martel, who counters with a cross body and gets the pin. Huge pop from the crowd for the faces.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – A good tag match with some veteran heels working against some over babyfaces. Not a bad start to this show at all.

I see we learned something with the super long entrance distance at the Big Event. At WrestleMania 3, they have little motorized carts that look like tiny WWF wrestling rings that take the wrestlers to and from the ring.

Monsoon then sends us to a video package that explains the history behind the Hercules and Billy Jack Haynes feud. I think this is the first time we’re getting what is a staple on every WWE PPV now. We see footage of Heenan calling out Haynes saying he can’t escape Hercules’s full nelson. This brings out Haynes in jeans, a hat, and no shirt. Haynes goes to let Hercules put the hold on, but Heenan says something and gets shoved. Hercules uses this as a chance to drop Haynes with a clothesline. He then stomps Haynes a few times and puts him in the full nelson.

We’re then sent to the WrestleMania Interview Center and Mean Gene Okerlund. Mean Gene is standing by with Bobby Heenan. Gene says “Billy Jack Haynes” and Heenan corrects him by saying it is “Billy Jerk”. Heenan is great. Hercules enters looking ripped and with chains dangling over his shoulders. Hercules then cuts a promo implying he’s been alive for thousands of years. Apparently his character is literally “Hercules” and not a guy who is “strong like Hercules”. Hercules then cuts a promo on Haynes saying we’re going to find out who the true master of the full nelson is. Heenan takes a moment to remind Okerlund that it is “Billy Jerk Haynes”. Gene says that it’s “Billy Jack Haynes” for the record and Heenan looks annoyed.

Back to the ring for Billy Jack Haynes’s entrance. He comes out in a shiny gold jacket and his trademark hat. You can tell when Heenan and Hercules’s cart starts rolling towards the ring because a massive “boo” erupts throughout the crowd.

Match #2: Hercules (w/ Bobby Heenan) vs. Billy Jack Haynes

Another better than average match. I liked this a lot better than the match they had at the Big Event. The big story here is who will make who submit to the full nelson. Surprisingly, we don’t get that decisive of an outcome. Hercules manages to get the hold on Haynes first, but doesn’t get it fully locked in and Haynes eventually powers out of it. Haynes gets the hold completely locked in, but Hercules makes it to the ropes and both guys fall out of the ring. Haynes gets the hold on again, on the floor, but the ref counts both guys out.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – I would have liked this a lot more if we had a decisive winner as to who the master of the Full Nelson was. I mean, it’s WrestleMania, what event are you saving that outcome for?

Post-match, Heenan knees Haynes in the back to get him to release the hold on Hercules. Haynes then chases Heenan around the outside of the ring. Haynes gets back into the ring, but the ref holds him back from going after Heenan. This allows Hercules to slide into the ring with his chains wrapped around his hand. Hercules hits Haynes with the chain a few times and Haynes blades for effect. After dropping Haynes one more time, Hercules puts the bloody Haynes in the full nelson and then drops him. Hercules and Heenan then leave in their little cart.

We’re then sent to Gene Okerlund who is with King Kong Bundy. Wow, how the mighty have fallen. Bundy main evented WrestleMania 2 against Hogan for the title, and here he is in a six-man mixed tag comedy match. Ouch. Bundy cuts a promo saying he’s going to “squash some midgets”. Bob Uecker is joining us for the comedy match on commentary. Bundy’s team makes their entrance and we’re then sent to an “earlier today” interview with Team Hillbilly. Jim says he’s going to protect his partners from Bundy.

Match #3: King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo, Lord Littlebrook vs. Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid, Little Beaver

So, here’s your garbage match for this show. Little Beaver keeps antagonizing Bundy, so Bundy eventually body slams him, and then drops an elbow. The ref sees the elbow and throws the match out.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Not a good match. I wonder what Bundy did to go from the main event match at WrestleMania 2, to a garbage match like this at WrestleMania 3?

Post-match, Bundy goes to splash Beaver, but Tokyo, Haiti, and Littlebrook pull him out of the way. Hillbilly Jim recovers and knocks Bundy out of the ring.

We’re then sent to Mary Hart who is with Elizabeth. Hart asks Elizabeth if she is trepidatious about WrestleMania 3, when Randy Savage appears and takes over the promo. Hart wants to talk to Elizabeth but Savage cuts her off. Savage tells Hart that Elizabeth’s phone number is on the back of his license plate. Whatever that means.

Next, it’s time for a video package highlighting the Junkyard Dog / Harley Race feud. I’m glad WWF started doing these because Superstars isn’t on the Network and I’m not recapping Saturday Night’s Main Event so a lot of times I have no idea if this is a grudge match or something thrown together to fill time on a card. This video shows some clips of promos by Race and Dog from SNME, with Race saying he’s the “king of wrestling” and will make people bow to him and Dog responding that this country “ain’t never had no King”. Then we see footage of JYD putting on Race’s ridiculous King robe and crown and making Heenan bow, only to be hit from behind by Race. Heenan and Race then try to make JYD bow, which leads us to the stipulation here – loser must bow to the winner.

We’re then sent to Okerlund who is with Race, Heenan, and for whatever reason, the Fabulous Moolah. Race says this is going to be a “re-coronation”. Moolah is there as the “Queen of wrestling” and she is holding Race’s crowd on a velvet pillow. Heenan instructs her to put the crown on Race’s head after he wins the match.

Race, Moolah, and Heenan roll to the ring and Bob Uecker freaks out that Moolah is here and says he’s “got to get with Moolah” and bails from commentary.

“Earlier today”, Okerlund spoke with the Junkyard Dog. Okerlund asks if the Dog will be wearing the crowd after today and JYD says, “Just as sure as he’s black and the day is sunny”. JYD then rolls out to the ring to a huge pop.

Match #4: Harley Race (w/ Bobby Heenan & The Fabulous Moolah) vs. The Junkyard Dog (Loser Must Bow match)

This is a really quick match. I’m still not really getting why JYD was so popular in WWF. I’m assuming it has to be based on his reputation in other territories or he just ripped it up at house shows or something. I don’t remember much about him from when I was younger, and again, he doesn’t really do anything that spectacular in his match. We get a distraction finish here. Heenan gets up on the apron, this distracts the Dog, who then walks right into a belly to belly suplex. The finish looks super awkward because the JYD “kicks out” at 2 1/2 but his shoulders don’t leave the ground. It almost looks like Race and the ref went into business for themselves, but I doubt that happened.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Too short to be of any real consequence, but not a terrible match either. It just kind of exists.

Post-match, Heenan sets up a chair in the ring to serve as Race’s “throne”. JYD gives a weak bow, which gets Race out of the chair to pose. JYD grabs the chair and nails Race in the head with it. JYD then puts on Race’s robe to a huge pop. JYD then leaves in the motorized cart with the robe, while Race freaks out in the ring.

Next, we’re sent to Vince in the locker room with Hulk Hogan. Hogan cuts a typical Hogan promo on Andre. He says some stuff, that in hindsight is pretty rich about “playing it straight” and “not taking any shortcuts, brother”. He then claims that Hulkamania is the “real truth”. Whatcha gonna do, Andre, when the Real Truth, the 24 inch pythons, and Hulkamania run wild on you?

We’re sent back to the ring where the Rougeau Brothers are already in the ring. They are not as over as they were at the Big Event. We then see an “earlier today” interview with the Dream Team, who has now added Dino Bravo to their ranks. Valiant and Bravo cut a promo in French and Beefcake and Valentine say nothing. Monsoon notices Valentine’s new robe, which Bravo then hands to a woman called a ‘Federette’, which are women that help the wrestlers get out of their motorized carts. Ventura says the Federettes kept chasing him all night. So, what would the Federettes be called now? Entertainettes?

Match #5: The Dream Team (w/ Johnny Valiant & Dino Bravo) vs. The Rougeau Brothers

This one is somewhat distracting because a few minutes in Heenan shows up on commentary. Heenan starts putting himself over since he’s “on a roll tonight”. Monsoon points out that the Bundy match ended in a loss, but Heenan said that doesn’t count because he wasn’t out there and he “doesn’t deal with midgets”. Anyway, there is a match happening. It’s a pretty standard tag match until Beefcake comes off the ropes in a double team and hits Valentine by mistake. This allows the Rougeaus to hit a team finisher off the ropes. Bravo enters and comes off the ropes to break up the pin and Valentine covers Jacque to get the cheap win.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – The Heenan commentary is so over the top it completely distracts from this match. I imagine this only partly matters since the real meat is the finish and the post-match stuff.

Post-match, Valentine, Valiant, and Bravo leave without Beefcake. I imagine it’s because Brutus has a brown mullet and they all have blonde hair. Bravo keeps stopping just short of flipping Beefcake off and they all leave him in the ring with the Rougeaus. If this was modern day WWE, the Rougeaus would drop Beefcake with a bunch of their signatures moves to a huge pop.

Next, we see a video package promoting the Adrian Adonis / Roddy Piper match. We see footage of a Flower Shop interview segment where Adonis attacks Piper with a chair with the assistance of Orton and Muraco. Then we see footage of Piper destroying the set of the Flower Shop with a baseball bat. Then we see a Piper’s Pit where Piper assaults Jimmy Hart, but Adonis appears and attacks Piper with a crutch. We then see Piper get sprayed in the eyes with Adonis’s perfume, and the feed cuts out to a WrestleMania 3 logo for a few seconds. Piper then cuts a short promo on his match with Adonis. “No retreat and no surrender!”

Back in the ring, Finkel announces that the loser of this match will have his head shaved clean. Adonis and Hart come out with a mirror and hedge clippers. We then see an “earlier today” interview with Jimmy Hart, Adonis, and Mean Gene. Adonis cuts a promo asking how Piper wants his hair cut. Back in the arena, Piper enters without the motorized cart. Piper is hugely over with the crowd and the announcers mention that he’s retiring after this match.

Match #6: Adorable Adrian Adonis (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper (Hair vs. Hair match)

Okay, this was a pretty fun match. The first good chunk of it involve Piper’s belt and Jimmy Hart being used as weapons, almost exclusively. Adonis then starts to take control and eventually gets Piper in the sleeper hold. The ref does the “three arm drops and call for the bell” spot but Adonis breaks the hold right before the third drop and Piper wasn’t out. Brutus Beefcake then randomly appears and revives Piper to a massive pop. Adonis tries to hit Piper with the shears, misses, hits the ropes, and they bounce back and hit him. Piper then slaps on the sleeper and Adonis’s arm flops down three times.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – Not much in the way of technical wrestling, but the crowd pops so huge for everything Piper does it really makes this match a fun watch.

Post-match, Beefcake picks up the shears and one of many gimmicks of his is born. He hands them over to Piper and then begins shaving Adonis’s head with clippers. Beefcake gives Adonis a terrible haircut and Piper grabs the giant mirror to show Adonis. Adrian punches the mirror and then tries to attack Piper but keeps missing. Adonis and Hart leave and Piper is announced the winner to a huge pop. Piper kisses Finkel on the head and then some random fan gets into the ring and Piper shakes his hand, before security dog piles him.

Next, we have a spot with Monsoon, Hart, and Uecker discussing Ventura’s absence. This is because Ventura is about to be announced by Finkel in the ring. We’re then sent down to ringside where the Hart Foundation are already in the ring. Ventura then poses in the ring with the Hart Foundation. We then see “earlier today” when Okerlund spoke with the Hart Foundation. Jimmy Hart cuts a promo on the British Bulldogs and Tito Santana and introduces former corrupt referee and now wrestler, Dangerous Danny Davis. Back live, the Bulldogs and Santana head to the ring with Matilda the bulldog. Matilda immediately tries to attack Jimmy Hart.

Match #7: The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana

The big story here is the crowd wanting to see Danny Davis take some bumps. That happens. Not much else really goes on here. It seems like a weird way to use the tag champs and it always sort of bothers me when they don’t have the tag titles defended at WrestleMania, like is apparently happening again this year. So, after everyone gets shots in on Davis, Davey Boy goes to put him away with a powerslam. Neidhart comes in to break up the pin and Santana drops him with a flying elbow. Bret then gets rid of Santana and engages Dynamite. While this is going on, Davis hits Smith with the megaphone behind the ref’s back. The ref then counts three and the heels get the cheap win.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – I’m never a huge fan of six or eight man tags so this didn’t do much for me. I remember as a kid hating Danny Davis, so I probably marked out for this one way harder back then.

We’re then sent to Mean Gene who is with Andre the Giant and a white suit wearing Bobby Heenan. The Brain then cuts a promo on Hogan while Andre just stands there looking angry. Good stuff.

Back in the ring, Howard Finkel introduces Slick and Butch Reed. Koko B Ware then comes out and I’m surprised his entrance theme by Morris Day and the Time is included here.

Match #8: The Natural Butch Reed (w/ Slick) vs. Koko B Ware

A relatively short match, but I think the point here was more a of cool down for what comes next. At least that is how this one feels to me. Koko goes for a small package, but Reed rolls through and cheats by grabbing some tights. Not much to this match than that. This felt like it was something you’d see on a modern Raw around hour two.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – These guys do their job as this seems like a cool down before the IC title match. Not much happens in the match, but it’s not terrible.

Post-match, Koko hits Reed from behind, but then Slick attacks Koko with his cane. Tito Santana appears out of nowhere and attacks Slick. Santana then rips the clothes off of Slick. Santana and Koko hit Reed with a double drop kick.

Next, we get a video package hyping up the Ricky Steamboat / Randy Savage match. We Savage crushing Steamboat’s larynx, a “doctor” talking about Steamboat’s recovery, and George Steele running off with Elizabeth. We then see an “earlier today” promo that Savage cut on Steamboat. We’re then back live in the stadium for Savage’s entrance, then get sent backstage to Gene who is with Steamboat. The Dragon cuts a fierce promo on Savage. We’re then back live where Steamboat and Steele come out to a huge pop.

Match #9: Randy “Macho Man” Savage (c) (w/ Elizabeth) vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (w/ George “the Animal” Steele) (WWF Intercontinental Championship match)

It was great in 1987. It is still great now. Seriously, this is one of the best matches in WWE history. Nothing I can say will do this one justice. Just go watch it if you haven’t seen it before.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – One of the greatest matches of all time.

Next, we’re sent to Gene Okerlund who is with Jake Roberts and Alice Cooper. Mean Gene brings up Honky Tonk Man hitting Roberts with the guitar and Roberts then cuts a promo on Honky Tonk. Alice Cooper is here to keep Jimmy Hart in check. Back live, Roberts and Cooper are out to a huge pop. Earlier today, Okerlund caught up with the Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart. Honky Tonk Man cuts a promo on Alice Cooper and Jake.

Match #10: Jake “The Snake” Roberts (w/ Alice Cooper) vs. The Honky Tonk Man (w/ Jimmy Hart)

A decent match helped by the fact that Honky Tonk Man had nuclear heat with this crowd. Jake almost gets the DDT at two different points in the match, but Honky Tonk Man eventually prevails with a roll up where he uses the ropes for leverage. I recall Jake being legit injured by the guitar shot a few months prior to this, so I’m not all that surprised that Jake didn’t mount a ton of offense here, especially since he knew he wasn’t going over.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – A decent match for this spot in the show. Nothing is going to look great going after Savage / Steamboat, but these guys at least didn’t just phone it in.

Post-match, Roberts tries to hit Honky Tonk with his guitar and it explodes on the ring post. Honky Tonk bails down the aisle leaving Jimmy Hart in the ring with Alice Cooper and Jake Roberts. The crowd pops huge for this. Roberts puts Hart in a full nelson while Cooper goes and gets Roberts’s snake, Damien. Cooper then taunts Hart with the snake and chases the ref around the ring. Jake then drops Damien on Hart, but Hart escapes the ring side area with Honky Tonk.

Next, Mean Gene is out to the ring to make a special announcement. Mean Gene announces that WrestleMania 3 has set an indoor attendance record.

After the announcement, boos start up because Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik make their way to the ring. Volkoff sings the Soviet National Anthem until a random Hacksaw Jim Duggan appears and runs Sheik and Volkoff out of the ring with his 2×4. Hacksaw gets on the mic and says that Volkoff won’t be singing the Russian anthem because this is America and gets a mammoth pop.

Match #11: Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Slick) vs. The Killer Bees

Well, here’s your cool down match before Hogan / Andre. It’s not a bad tag match, but I’m not wild about the finish. Volkoff and Sheik look more dominant in this match than the previous ones I’ve seen doing these retro recaps. Everything comes to a head when Duggan starts chasing Slick and Volkoff around ring side. In the ring, Sheik has one of the Bees in the Camel Clutch. Duggan chases Volkoff into the ring, sees Sheik with the Clutch on, and hits Sheik with his 2×4 to get the DQ loss for the Bees.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Okay for a cool down match, with some super heel heat for the Sheik and Volkoff like usual too. Not a big fan of the DQ finish, but they’re trying to get Duggan over as a new face, so it seems to work for those purposes.

Post-match, Duggan cuts a promo on Sheik and Volkoff again. He also gets a huge “USA” chant going.

Earlier today, Okerlund talked to Andre who cuts a brief promo. Heenan then takes over and starts ranting about how he’s going to be managing the champion. We then see a promo package detailing the Hogan / Andre feud.

We then go to Mean Gene who is in the locker room with Hogan. Hulk cuts an intense promo about how the ground will shake when the Giant goes down.

Next, Finkel announces the guest ring announcer, Bob Uecker and Uecker then introduces the guest timekeeper, Mary Hart. Next, Andre and Heenan are out to huge boos and people throwing things at them. Hogan is out to a massive pop.

Match #12: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant (w/ Bobby Heenan) (WWF World Heavyweight Championship match)

So taking into account Hogan’s limited offense and the fact that Andre had a bad back, this is a really good match. Hogan actually sells in this match, which is rare in general, and even more so during this part of his career. When Andre slaps a bear hug on Hulk, Hogan “hulks up” but it doesn’t really last all that long. Typically the “hulk up” is right before the “go home” segment with the leg drop, but here he just gets out of the bear hug and then Andre takes control again. Hogan finally knocks Andre off of his feet, body slams him to one of the largest pops ever, hits the Leg Drop, and retains the title.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – One of Hogan’s better matches during this period because, despite him retaining, he’s not booked like he is Superman.

Post-match, Hogan celebrates in the ring with the belt. Heenan and Andre leave on the motorized cart, while Hogan poses in the ring. Hogan then leaves on an elevated platform as “Real American” continues to play. Monsoon and Ventura then recap the event a bit and Aretha Franklin’s “America the Beautiful” plays over stills to end the show.

Well, WrestleMania 3 was definitely a step up from the past two WrestleMania events. I could have done without a few of the “filler” matches, but overall this was an entertaining watch.

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