by Frank Lucci
Welcome to Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania moments! Rather than just create another generic Top 10 list, I will be discussing the greatest moments from WWE’s biggest show of the year and explaining why I consider them the cream of the crop. This is based on in-ring quality, storyline quality, meta quality, as well as my own unique bias. Be prepared to read about triumph, heartbreak, and above all else, some truly unique moments in this unique form of entertainment.
The Moment: Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant, WrestleMania III
The Book of Exodus in WWE’s lore, WrestleMania III is an event that will forever be shrouded in mythmaking. Although 78,000 is closer to the actual number of Pontiac Silverdome attendees, WWE claims that 93,000 people got together to worship WWE and more specifically, Hulkamania. Sure, there were other matches (Macho Man/Steamboat) and a slew of celebrities to “ooh” and “ahh” at (Alice Cooper), but the main draw was the bout which set the template for “big match” events: The irresistible force that was Hulk Hogan meeting the immovable object that was Andre the Giant for the WWE (then WWF) Championship.
Finally, after mucking about tag teaming with Mr. T and facing the human pillow King Kong Bundy, we got the first true WrestleMania main event. The night ended with Hogan valiantly slamming the giant and retaining his belt as the lowly giant was carted away with his evil manager Bobby Heenan.
Only that’s not the way I see it. When I watch this match, I see a man crowing over his fallen prey. I see a petulant warrior bragging about shooting the last white rhino. I see the fall of the last dinosaur.
It’s impossible to watch this match from a modern context and not think of all the events that have happened since. Hulk Hogan’s reputation has been irrefutably damaged long before his well publicized sex tape was released. His status as somebody who politicized to keep his spot long after he was worthy is well known, and from that standpoint, it is impossible to not see many of his big moments from 1990 on as the actions of a spoiled child. A leathery, balding child, but a child nonetheless.
Then you have Andre the Giant. Perhaps one of the most legendary figures of modern America. I honestly believe that in 100 years, Andre will be talked about in the same way as Paul Bunyan. Hell, Hogan is one of the first people to make him into a mythological figure. Hogan couldn’t decide what Andre was, as he guessed at his height with a margin of error between 1-12 inches, his weight within several hundred pounds, and the time of his death within several years. Andre the Giant stories are legendary, and the massive man just seemed to collect tale tales as he went along. He could drink more than 100 beers in one sitting. He stole a horse carriage with Dusty Rhodes in Central Park and passed out in a hallway where hotel attendants had to drape him in a piano cover. He’d drink crates of wine and force people to watch The Princess Bride with him. He could flip a car from when he was a teenager in France catching rides with Samuel Beckett. Because he lived in a time without the Internet, we will simply never know how much of Andre’s life was actually true, which may be the key ingredient as to why he is so special. These myths and his untimely death in 1993 ensured that Andre would never see the fall from grace Hogan and many others in the professional wrestling business have suffered.
Which brings us back to WrestleMania III. Watching in a modern bubble, we get a video package explaining this match. We find out Andre is justifiably mad that his buddy Hogan gets all the accolades for being champ for three years while he gets a passing mention that he has been undefeated for 15 years. There are many ridiculous things about this. Jesse Ventura’s Buckwheat shirt, Rowdy Roddy Piper’s portrait standing in the background, Hogan refusal to face his friend due to the honest to God fear the man has of Andre. That fear suddenly receding once Hogan gave perhaps the hammiest “Yes” in television history.
None of that matters once the two square off. Admittedly, Hogan looks pretty damn heroic as one of the few men to walk to the ring at WrestleMania III as opposed to taking the cart. Meanwhile, Andre gets pelted with boos and garbage despite the fact that he had to undergo back surgery to even attempt this match. Ventura speaks for all modern fans wondering why Andre never received a title shot in 15 years while Gorilla Monsoon meekly counters with “Well, he never asked.” Although a plausible statement (would you tell him “No?”), Ventura responds brilliantly with “Does thunder boom or does it ask for permission first, Monsoon?”
At this point, when the match starts, is precisely when this becomes one of many favorite WrestleMania moments. The reason it’s not higher on this list is, quite frankly, the in-ring action is awful by today’s standards. It is a zero. That said, taking in all the outside factors, it is hard to not feel something during this match. Not for the hero Hulk Hogan, but the visibly in pain Andre. It only takes a few minutes before the Giant makes his camp by the ring posts and ropes so he can lean on them to support his planetary weight. Andre barely moves during the match, and when he steps around the ring it is with small ones. The only impressive thing I can say is that, despite knowing Andre is nowhere near 100-percent, he tosses Hogan around like he was nothing. No doubt the stories of him losing his cool and flipping cars are possible, but this is not the story of the aging veteran getting his chance to shine at The Show of Shows, this is the story of the overblown doofus slamming a massive human being and keeping his belt as the last dinosaur rides away in shame as a fresh wave of garbage hits him.
From here, Hogan would continue to reach amazing heights in professional wrestling while Andre’s health continued to deteriorate. While Hogan’s real-life antics eventually came to light and damaged his reputation beyond repair, Andre has since become canonized as the patron saint of wrestling. No one can, or ever will match how much Andre has done for the business in terms of being a pillar to make people believe that this is something worthy of speculation and adulation.
One final Andre myth sticks with me when I watch this match. Late in life, Andre bought a ranch with many animals on it. When asked by longtime friend and former WWE referee Tim White about it, Andre said he liked being around animals. You see, they were the only things that did not stare at him like a freak or a monster. That was the lasting legacy of one of the kindest, most mythical legends the WWE leaves behind in their cannon, while an orange bozo gets all the glory.
God bless you Andre the Giant. Although this is one of the biggest WrestleMania moments of all time, I just wish that after 15 years, you wound up squashing Hogan and got your chance to shine in that massive stadium.
For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!