The first two WrestleManias had been runaway successes, and the now annual event had become the biggest date in the wrestling calendar. With the pressure of having to hit a home run for the third year running, as well as the added strain of having to fill the vast capacity of the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, the WWF had to provide a headline match that would sell out the arena as well as convince the by now blossoming Pay-Per-View audience and the still stable closed circuit patrons to part with their hard earned cash.
Hulk Hogan was by now one of the most recognisable faces in America, whose marquee name alone would draw substantial interest. However, for the WWF to really hit the jackpot they would need to do the unthinkable – they would need to turn Hulk Hogan’s good friend Andre the Giant into quite literally the biggest bad guy in wrestling.
Ever since Hogan’s arrival in the WWF, he and Andre were always referred to as the best of friends, with Andre being the first to celebrate with Hogan after ‘The Hulkster’s’ title win over The Iron Sheik. Andre would state on numerous occasions that he had no intentions of challenging for the WWF title while Hogan was champion, simply enjoying wrestling and watching his pal Hogan carry the WWF title.
This would all change at a ceremony which celebrated the achievements of the two men.
In a fantastic, subtle piece of storytelling, Hogan and Andre would be awarded a trophy each. Hogan’s trophy was in recognition of his three year reign as WWF Champion, Andre’s for his ‘fifteen year unbeaten reign’ (even by wrestling standards this was a ridiculous stretch). The only problem was that Hogan’s statue dwarfed Andre’s, and this didn’t sit well with the giant, who stormed off the set of ‘Piper’s Pit’ as Hogan came out to congratulate him. The seed had been sown.
On the next addition of ‘Piper’s Pit’, Hogan was confronted by Andre, who had Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, wrestling’s premier heel manager by his side. As Hogan tried to plead with Andre to see sense and leave Heenan behind, Andre challenged ‘The Immortal One’ to a match at WrestleMania III, with Hogan’s title on the line. The sight of Andre tearing not only Hogan’s shirt but the crucifix from his neck remains a powerful image to this day. Hogan would soon accept the challenge and the main event for the third instalment of WrestleMania was set – Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant for the WWF Heavyweight Championship.
The Slam Heard Around the World
To be perfectly honest, Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant was a truly awful contest (especially as it had to follow the Intercontinental title match between ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Ricky ‘The Dragon Steamboat, which is widely recognised as one of the best matches in WrestleMania history). Despite the lack of exciting ring action, the spectacle of the bout itself made this one of the most legendary matches of all time, with the climax going on to become the single most iconic moment in WWF/E history.
Following a stare down which brought the enormous crowd to their feet (more on them later), Hogan and Andre plodded through an uninspiring opening which was only sparked by Hogan’s failed attempt to slam the Giant, which led to a near fall as the weight of Andre collapsed on ‘The Hulkster’ like a bungalow. Hogan eventually ‘hulked up’, gaining his second wind after knocking Andre to the ground with a clothesline, which was the first time a lot of the fans had seen Andre leave his feet. With the crowd at fever pitch, Hulk Hogan picked up Andre the Giant and body slammed him to the canvas, following it up with his patented leg drop for the pin.
What happened next?
The footage of Hogan slamming Andre would become the defining image of the WWF, and remains its most iconic moment to this day.
Wrestlemania III would be another roaring success, with close circuit and pay-per-view records broken. The WWF still claim that over 93,000 were in attendance to witness the event, which is very much open for debate. But hey, this is wrestling.
Hulk Hogan still dines off the story of the slam, and has with every re-telling made Andre both taller and heavier. If Hogan is to tell this story in ten years time, statisticians have worked out that Andre will be thirty nine feet tall and weigh seven metric tonnes.