Earlier this week, during this COVID-19 sports-absent landscape, Fox Sports 1 opted to air the entire Wrestlemania III card.
Held March 29th, 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome before what was at the time a world indoor attendance record for a wrestling card of 93,173, Wrestlemania III is often viewed as the seminal moment of the 1980s boom that brought wrestling back into prominence as a major-league sporting spectacle.
Today, wrestling is as mainstream as any pro sport. There is online sports betting offered on the major wrestling events right alongside the other big-league sporting spectacles such as the World Series and the Super Bowl.
What Joe Namath’s guarantee did for the NFL in Super Bowl III, Wrestlemania III did for the credibility of wrestling as an epic sporting event.
Every legendary WWF wrestling luminary of the 1980s was ringside that night. Hulk Hogan faced the eighth wonder of the world, Andre The Giant, for the world title belt. In The Giant’s corner, serving as his manager, was Bobby (The Brain) Heenan.
Hogan, 33 at the time and in the prime of his popularity as the world’s most well-known wrestler, won the match, shocking the world by lifting the 525-pound Giant over his head and body slamming him into the canvas. Hogan followed with his patented finishing move, the leg drop, and pinned Andre The Giant to retain his title.
“I tried so hard to give people something they’d never forget,” Hogan recently told Sports Illustrated. “People still to this day talk about the match. Andre passed the torch to me, but he made me earn it. That’s what you call taking care of the business.”
Without a doubt, they delivered the goods. To this day, a strong case can be made that Wrestlemania III was the greatest of all the Wrestlemanias. However, since the Silverdome met its demise in 2018, another question is worthy of being posed.
Was Wrestlemania III the greatest sporting event in Silverdome history?
Let’s take a look at some of the other contenders for this honor.
January 5th, 1992: Detroit Lions 38 Dallas Cowboys 6
Detroit quarterback Erik Kramer completed 29 out of 38 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Lions to the victory.
Detroit superstar running back Barry Sanders punctuated the performance, rambling 47 yards for the final TD. It remains the only playoff triumph by the Lions since 1957, and their only postseason success at the Silverdome, the place they called home for 27 seasons beginning in 1975.
June 28th, 1994: Brazil 1 Sweden 1
The FIFA World Cup came to the USA for the first and so far only time. A temporary natural grass field was constructed to enable matches to be played indoors at the Silverdome.
The final game in Group B competition before 77,217 fans saw the eventual champions Brazil tangle with Sweden. Romario scored for the Brazilians two minutes into the second half to offset a first-half tally by Kennet Andersson.
It was the only one of Brazil’s seven matches that did not see them emerge victorious and just one of two in the tournament during which Brazil conceded a goal.
January 24th, 1982: San Francisco 49ers 26 Cincinnati Bengals 21
Super Bowl XVI was the first to be played indoors in a cold-climate city, and the first Super Bowl victory engineered by 49ers QB Joe Montana.
San Francisco took advantage of four Bengals turnovers to fashion a 20-0 first-half lead and then hung for the win. Bengals tight end Dan Ross caught a Super Bowl-record 11 passes.
June 16th, 1988: Detroit Pistons 104 Los Angeles Lakers 94
Before an NBA Finals-record crowd of 41,372, the Pistons took a 3-2 lead over the Lakers, led by Adrian Dantley’s 25 points.
It would be the final game the Pistons would ever play at the Silverdome. They lost the final two games of the series in LA. The following season, playing in their new home at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Pistons would defeat the Lakers in the Finals to win their first NBA title.
And The Winner is . . .
Really? You’ve got to ask?
Of course it’s Wrestlemania III, and in a landslide.
In 1992, the Lions didn’t win the Super Bowl. The 1988 Pistons didn’t win the NBA Finals. And Brazil didn’t even win the game. As for Super Bowl XVI, sure it was a big deal for the 49ers but it just happened to come at the Silverdome.
Wrestlemania III belongs on the Mount Rushmore of great sporting events of the 20th century. It was epic from start to finish.
“It was all about storylines that took months and months to build,” Hogan explained. “We were able to create drama, emotion, and excitement.”
King Kong Bundy delivering an elbow drop to the head of midget wrestler Little Beaver. Brutus (The Barber) Beefcake clipping the glorious blonde locks of Adrian Adonis. The Junkyard Dog bowing down before Harley Race before blindsiding him with a chair. Randy (Macho Man) Savage defeating Rickey (The Dragon) Steamboat for the Intercontinental title in what many still count among the greatest matches in pro wrestling history.
They were part of a living Hall of Fame of WWF luminaries who paraded into the ring that evening. George (The Animal) Steele. Miss Elizabeth. Nikolai Volkoff. The Iron Sheik. Jimmy (The Mouth Of The South) Hart. Rowdy Roddy Piper. Greg (The Hammer) Valentine. Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid. Tito Santana. The Rougeau Brothers. Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart. Bret (The Hitman) Hart. Jake (The Snake) Roberts. Mr. Fuji. Hillbilly Jim. The Honky Tonk Man.
They were all there.
It may have been the greatest night in pro wrestling history. Without a doubt, it was the greatest night that the Silverdome ever witnessed.