On Feb. 23, 1987, rivals collided at WWE's former home base, Madison Square Garden, revving up the crowd with a now-classic six-man Elimination match.
Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog and Ricky Steamboat battled Adrian Adonis, Randy Savage and Harley Race. It was more than just a tag match, though; it was a meeting of enemies readying for clashes at WrestleMania III.
Adonis and Piper's feud began with confrontations centered around Adonis' "Flower Shop" segments replacing Piper's Pit. With Bob Orton and Don Muraco's help, Adonis attacked Piper's leg with a chair.
Savage and Steamboat's rivalry stretched back to Nov. 22, 1986. After a match on Superstars, "Macho Man" smashed Steamboat's throat on the steel barricade and further damaged it with the ring bell.
Race and JYD had their own issues. After their match on Jan. 3, 1987, Race and Bobby Heenan tried to force JYD to bow in the ring.
The hatred from those stories powered the six-man contest at Madison Square Garden. Before the bell rang, the fans roared at the wrestlers, hyped up to see heroes administer justice to cruel villains.
The Shield and Evolution can only hope for a reaction on that level when those squads square off at Payback. Their Elimination match is No Holds Barred, which will allow more steel chair usage and rule-breaking than fans saw with Piper and company.
One day we may look back at that bout and marvel at how many Hall of Famers were crammed into a single match. As for the match in 1987, legends stood on both sides of the ring.
With stars aplenty, a precursor to WrestleMania began.
The heels looked to dodge their rivals at the onset. Adonis avoided Piper and Savage avoided Steamboat, further charging up the crowd. WWE wasn't about to let the fan favorites get a full helping of revenge yet.
That's what WrestleMania was for.
JYD did eventually manage to get a hold of Race. He overpowered the former world champ and darted around him, peppering him with headbutts. That advantage didn't last, though.
That was true so often during the bout. Momentum only came in bursts.
Savage clobbered JYD for a few moments. Adonis punished Steamboat. The pace of the match remained frantic throughout, building toward a brawl where the referee watched helplessly as all six men scuffled in the ring.
The fight moved outside the ropes where each pair of rivals found each other and proceeded to attack. Piper took advantage of the bedlam, cracking a chair onto Adonis' skull.
The chaos went on long enough for the referee to count out both legal men—Adonis and JYD.
With the match now morphed into a traditional tag team match, the heels went to work on Piper as Steamboat stood antsy on the apron. Savage punched Piper in the ribs before Race took shots at his kidneys. Piper struggled to free himself from this torture.
When Steamboat finally made the save, he barreled over his foes, igniting the crowd with his martial-arts-heavy offense.
He had Race rolled up with an inside cradle, but Savage slipped behind the referee and rolled Race on top of him. It was enough for a three-count, the elimination leaving Piper alone against two men.
When he realized what he was up against, he looked thrilled, not afraid. The grin of the insane slipped onto his face. Fans roared in anticipation of the wild man going into battle.
Chopping and punching wildly, Piper made sure he was the aggressor. At one point, he hit Race so hard that the Missouri native flipped over the ropes and plopped into a chair at ringside.
Race recovered and soon double-teamed Piper with Savage, seemingly ending this improbable run by an outnumbered man.
Piper's heroics continued, though. He dodged a flying ax handle meant for him and Savage struck Race instead. That allowed Piper to get a three-count and morph the fight into a one-on-one affair.
The intensity picked up. Savage spit on Piper. Piper bit the Macho Man's outstretched hand.
The frenzied fighters collided, Savage rolling out of the ring and "Hot Rod" lying dazed in the ring. Piper then pretended to be out cold, enticing Savage to attempt his diving elbow drop. The ploy worked.
Piper dodged the elbow, rolled his foe up and earned the win for his team.
A fun, energized bout came to an end with the heroes prevailing. The Shield may end up with the same result as Piper, Steamboat and JYD, but the journey there promises to be far more violent and less about individual rivalries.
What it can aspire to borrow from this 1987 classic is its electricity. From the babyfaces' early hunting of their foes to Piper raising his hand in victory, this six-man clash was a live wire stretching out to the Madison Square Garden crowd.
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