I’ve seen every WrestleMania, and for me, none of them ever matched the hype and accomplishment of WrestleMania III on March 29, 1987, which was headlined by Hulk Hogan taking on Andre the Giant for the WWF Title.
WrestleMania III was simply the greatest event ever put on by the WWE, and here’s why:
- Whether you choose to believe the WWE’s public statement of 93,173 fans in attendance at the Pontiac Silverdome outside of Detroit, or other more inside estimates (the Wrestling Observer has long reported 78,000), it was an immense crowd that showed how popular wrestling was. In many ways, it culminated Vince McMahon’s national expansion of the WWF that he started in 1983.
- Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage was the first great Mania match ever, and it still holds up today as one of the best.
- Aretha Franklin was hands-down the biggest celebrity the WWE ever snagged to sing the national anthem at Mania (a duty she repeated at WrestleMania 23, also in Detroit at Ford Field).
- Hogan vs. Andre was a colossal main event that captured fans’ attention. No, it wasn’t a great match, as Andre could barely move and Hogan was never good at carrying opponents. But this match had that extra something special that cements it in history, like Hogan vs. Rock at WrestleMania X8 — matches that people never forget seeing. The fans played a huge role in the Hogan vs. Andre bout, as they connected with the wrestlers throughout the match. I still get chills watching Hogan bodyslam Andre, not only because it was an awesome visual at the time, but also because the entire crowd rose to its feet anticipating the end of the match.
I judge all Manias against WrestleMania III. Some of these other supershows have great ring action, others have memorable moments, but none of them have the atmosphere of WrestleMania III. Maybe it’s nostalgia on my part, or perhaps it was a more innocent time in pro wrestling before the ugly side of the sport started to creep out, but WrestleMania III represents the best of the WWE as a promotion.