On February 5, 1988 – 25 years ago today – I and tens of millions of others saw Hulk Hogan lose the WWF Heavyweight Title to Andre the Giant on NBC.
It was a huge moment, as Hogan had not been pinned since he returned the federation and won the belt in January 1984.
I was working at JCPenney outlet store in Billerica, MA, on a Friday night shift, and it killed me that I couldn’t see this big match on TV at home. But luckily, the store had a home electronics section, so I made my way over to the TVs when the match came on. About a dozen other people, mostly shoppers, also watched.
Andre, who had lost to Hogan the year before at WrestleMania III, got his revenge thanks to what at the time was a unique angle involving an imposter referee (real-life twin refs Dave and Earl Hebner pulled off the famous scene).
After pinning Hogan, Andre relinquished the heavyweight belt to “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, which included a funny WWF blooper (Andre said he was giving DiBiase the “world tag team championship”).
DiBiase only held the belt for a brief time until then-WWF President Jack Tunney stripped him of the title, saying Andre could give up the belt, but could not bequeath it to another wrestler. Tunney’s speech went down in hard-core history as one of the worst-delivered promos of the 1980s.
The championship became vacant, setting up the title tournament at WrestleMania IV, which Randy “Macho Man” Savage won by beating DiBiase.
I was among those who saw DiBiase walk to the ring as WWF Heavyweight Champion for the first time. The day after Hogan lost, DiBiase and Andre fought Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow in a matinee card at the old Boston Garden. DiBiase was introduced as the champion that afternoon.