The WrestleMania III main event between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant is not only the greatest match ever promoted by Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment; it is also a match that transcended the sport of professional wrestling and made the show destination programming for fans all over the world.
Over 90,000 fans filled the Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit while others packed arenas to watch the match on closed-circuit television.
The first truly epic match in WrestleMania's long and illustrious history, the Hogan-Andre match was the epitome of perfect booking and involved two Superstars perfectly suited for a match of that magnitude.
With Hogan's three-year title reign on the line against Andre's legendary 15-year undefeated streak, fans knew that something had to give.
Would Hulkamania continue to run wild, having defeated the man many considered to be unbeatable, or would Andre the Giant further add to his legacy by toppling Hogan in the biggest match ever?
"The unstoppable force versus the immovable object" was the way Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon put it on commentary, and never has a quote been more appropriate.
On January 23, 1984, Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik to capture the WWE Championship and kick off a new era in professional wrestling. The first of his peers to congratulate him was his friend, the man known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," Andre the Giant.
Over the course of the next three years, the two superstars would star for McMahon's promotion as the most popular and recognizable stars in the business. Despite their friendship, there was always one nagging question surrounding the WWE title, the Hulkster and Andre: When would the giant finally opt to challenge for the one prize he had never held?
In early 1987, Hogan was awarded with a trophy for his three-year reign atop WWE as its heavyweight champion. Andre was also presented with a trophy, this one for his unimaginable 15-year unbeaten streak. When he saw that his trophy paled in comparison to Hogan's, Andre became noticeably disappointed.
Shortly thereafter, Hogan was a guest on Piper's Pit, hosted by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. To the shock and awe of every fan watching, Andre the Giant confronted Hogan and revealed that he had aligned himself with Bobby "the Brain" Heenan. He challenged Hogan to a match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania III.
A stunned Hogan could barely respond, only managing to repeat "please Andre" before having his shirt and crucifix ripped off of his chest by his former friend.
The official contract signing for the match featured a wildly intense Hogan staring across the table at Andre, his body either shaking with anger or trembling with fear. They exchanged words, signed the contract and the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling was made for March 29 inside the historic Pontiac Silverdome.
The WrestleMania III main event is the perfect example of a match that lacks workrate but makes up for it with iconic moments that are as memorable today as they were 27 years ago.
The staredown at the start of the match.
The attempted bodyslam from Hogan very early on that almost resulted in a pinfall.
The bear hug from Andre as the fight sapped out of Hogan, nearly rendering the Hulkster defeated and his title reign over.
The successful bodyslam and legdrop that won Hogan the match and solidified him as the unquestionable face of professional wrestling.
These are moments from one match that any fan ever privileged enough to have seen the bout remembers vividly.
The match was every bit the epic encounter that the wrestlers themselves, the promoters and the fans hoped it would be. Hogan and Andre realized the gravity of the bout and delivered the best match they could, given Andre's physical limitations, and fans ate it all up.
Gorilla Monsoon, who was an underrated craftsman of soundbites, described WrestleMania III as "a happening," and a large reason for that was the titanic clash between the top two stars in the sport.
With the weight of an entire company on their shoulders, they delivered in spades, even if the match was not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the Ricky Steamboat-Randy Savage classic that preceded it earlier in the evening.
Despite his status as the face of WWE and its most popular star for the three years leading into WrestleMania III, there was still the elephant in the room in the form of Andre the Giant, who was a beloved figure in the sport.
Hogan's victory over Andre firmly cemented his status as the top star in professional wrestling. As much as it was the Hulkster's crowning achievement, though, it was also Andre's.
After nearly two decades of competing around the globe, Andre stood on the biggest stage he had ever competed in and delivered one of the finest performances of his Hall of Fame career. Despite a near-crippling back injury, he rode to the ring, passed the torch to Hogan and left the Silverdome feeling a great sense of accomplishment regarding the match.
Hogan would go on to main-event every WrestleMania through the ninth event, making McMahon, WWE and himself a large sum of money at the same time.
He became the most immediately recognizable star ever to grace a professional wrestling ring. As a result, he brought a great deal of awareness and attention to the sport, becoming a great ambassador for professional wrestling and the "Babe Ruth" of the WWE.
He would leave WWE in 1994 and join Ted Turner's WCW for more money and creative control. He would remain with the company until its demise in 2001.
Hogan would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
Andre would remain with WWE until 1991, competing on a part-time schedule.
That did not prevent him from remaining a major part of WWE during that period.
In February 1988, Andre met Hogan in a televised rematch of their epic encounter, defeating the Hulkster amid tremendous controversy. He would sell the WWE title to "Million Dollar Man," a deal that would be deemed illegal. The famous WrestleMania IV title tournament resulted, during which Hogan and Andre competed against one another again.
Those matches never quite reached the level that the WrestleMania III battle did.
Feuds with Jake Roberts, John Studd, Ultimate Warrior and Demolition, as well as a tag team title reign with Haku, kept Andre relevant throughout his final years in the industry.
On January 27, 1993, the wrestling world lost one of its true pioneers when Andre Roussimoff passed away at the age of 46 in Paris.
The WWE created its Hall of Fame almost immediately afterward, with Andre being the first, and only, member of the 1993 class.
In a recent interview for WWE Network's WrestleMania Rewind, Hogan spoke candidly about Andre and about what he meant to both Hogan and the wrestling world as a whole.
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