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Wrestlemania Countdown: 3

(2012 Scott sez:  Honestly, I had almost nothing to add to the original rant and was even boring myself, so we’ll skip it and move to the redone version, which has much more stuff for me to comment on.) 

The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania III: Championship Edition

- This is another one that needed a redo, and with the "digitally remastered" version playing on 24/7 right now, this is as good a time as any. This version has pop-up video facts and cut-in interviews with the people involved, which is pretty neat and is something lacking on their DVD releases, especially historical ones. (This is still the only time they ever did this, and I don’t know why.  It was a brilliant idea.)  And hey, I work cheap and would gladly do text commentaries for all their catalogue releases in my spare time. At any rate, this is the complete PPV version, rather than the more briskly-edited Coliseum version most of us old farts are more familiar with.

- Live from Detroit, MI.

- Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura (both inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame according to the trivia track).

Bob Orton & Don Muraco v. The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel & Tom Zenk)

Man, there's a position you don't necessarily want -- opening the biggest show of all time in front of the biggest crowd of all time. Martel grabs a headlock on Muraco to start, but gets pounded in the corner. Martel comes back with a monkey flip that looked like a headscissor attempt, but either way did the job. Over to Zenk for a double-team monkey-flip and the heels regroup outside. The Can-Ams likely would have won the tag titles from the Hart Foundation and held them for like 10 years had they not self-destructed. They were that over. (They could have bought a “I’m So Over” shirt from and worn it without a SHRED of irony.)  Zenk controls Orton via the arm and they trade full nelsons, which sets up a heel miscommunication spot with Muraco hitting his partner by mistake to break it up. Back to Martel, who stays on the arm of Orton, and then Zenk goes after Muraco's arm before a cheapshot from Orton switches things up. Orton drops an elbow for two off a Muraco neckbreaker, but Martel quickly gets the hot tag to keep things moving. It's BONZO GONZO and the heels get whipped into each other, which leads to Martel finishing Muraco in the melee.

(The Can-Am Connection d. Muraco & Orton, Martel bodyblock -- pin Muraco, 5:35, **) (Oh man, not another “new format” rant.  Why did I ever go through that phase?) This was fine for what it was -- a shortened tag match to get the crowd going. A note on the pop-up notes for this, however: It said that Martel held the WWE tag team titles with Tony Garea, which shows the danger of changing history. Going by the current naming conventions of the tag titles, Martel & Garea held the WORLD tag titles, whereas the WWE tag titles only have a lineage dating back to Angle & Benoit winning the tournament in 2003.  (Now it doesn’t matter, both are the same thing.) 

Billy Jack Haynes v. Hercules Hernandez

Lockup battle to start, which make sense given the buildup, and Herc gets a cheapshot in the corner and clotheslines him. Herc misses a charge, however, and Haynes presses him and goes for the full-nelson, which sends Herc into the ropes early. Haynes slugs away in the corner, but walks into a lariat and Herc pounds on him. For some reason we get comments from Ron Simmons, who was barely even active as a wrestler when this show happened. (They should have Ron pop up on a little video screen now and go “Damn” at opportune times, just to complete the self-parody.)  Suplex from Hercules, but he picks up Haynes at two, which is generally a bad move. Remember that, kids: Don't pick a guy up at two, unless it makes you look REALLY cool. Then it's OK. Herc gets his own press slam after working the back, and that means full-nelson time. The pop-up lets us know that the move is named for Admiral Nelson. Really? That sounds like something you'd read on Wikipedia. A quick check reveals that they probably did get it from there. Billy Jack breaks loose and makes the comeback with clotheslines and a legdrop, and the psychology is actually sound on both parts here -- they're setting each other up for the full-nelson. And indeed, Haynes gets it and locks it in, but he's no Chris Masters and Herc makes the ropes, which puts both of them on the floor for the double countout.

(Hercules draw Billy Jack Haynes, double countout, 7:52, **1/4) Another very likable match, although it could have used a finish and the feud never really had a payoff on TV or anything. Hercules won most of the house show matches, though, if it helps you sleep at night. Hercules lays him out with the chain and we get color from Haynes as a result.

King Kong Bundy & Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo v. Hillbilly Jim & The Haiti Kid & Little Beaver.

Into every life a little midget match must fall. Bundy had a pretty dramatic dropoff from main-eventing Wrestlemania 2 to this. His pop-up continues the fallacy that he beat SD Jones in 9 seconds, which I still don't know how they can continue to say when anyone with a stopwatch can tell the real name is more like 30 seconds. They've apparently lost the rights to "Don't Go Messin' With a Country Boy" too, for those like James Fabiano, who keep track at Midget sequence to start with the rowboat spot before things start proper with Beaver smacking Tokyo around. Littlebrook comes in and brings Beaver into the corner, but he fights out with a shot to Bundy added in. Bundy tags in, which means that Jim has to come in too. He clotheslines Bundy and drops an elbow for two, but even a pile of midgets can't hold him down. Bundy elbows him down, but Beaver comes in and continues egging Bundy on. Jesse votes for the big midget squash. Avalanche for Jim, and Bundy has finally had enough Beaver and drops the big elbow on him.

(Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver & Haiti Kid d. King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook, DQ, 4:00, 1/2*) Normally I don't rate midget matches, but Bundy counts for like 17 of them.

King Harley Race v. Junkyard Dog

My confusion escalates as "Grab Them Cakes" is left intact, unlike on an MSG show from last month, and in fact mentioned by name in a pop-up during the song. This stuff is so hideously confusing. They slug it out to start and JYD runs out after the Brain, which allows Race to slug away. He makes the mistake of hitting JYD in the head, however, and Dog fires back with a headbutt. Race recovers and dumps JYD, but misses a headbutt on the floor and gets dragged back into the ring before bumping out again. Dog slams him back into the ring, but tries an abdominal stretch and Race hiptosses out of it. Dog sends him over the top AGAIN, as Race is just bumping like crazy tonight, but JYD goes after Brain again and Race suplexes him for the pin.

(Harley Race d. Junkyard Dog, belly to belly suplex -- pin, 3:22, *1/2) Well, Race was trying, but it was just too little time and too much JYD to get anything out of it. The Dog shows some pretty poor, Hogan-level sportsmanship, attacking Race with a chair afterwards after doing a perfectly fair and clean job. These days, that would have turned him heel. (EMBRACE THE HATE, JYD!)

The Rougeau Brothers v. The Dream Team

Greg Valentine's pop-up interview looks it was from 1987. Does this guy AGE? The Rougeaus quickly double-team Beefcake, and Jacques slugs it out with Hammer, and Raymond gets a bodypress for two. Jacques gets an elbow for two, but whiffs on another bodypress attempt and Valentine drops an elbow and brings Beefcake back in. Beefcake backbreaker sets up the figure-four, but Jacques makes the ropes. Hammer tries a piledriver, but Jacques reverses and makes the hot tag to Raymond. Backdrop for Valentine sets up a sleeper, and Beefcake accidentally hits his own partner trying to break it up. The Rougeaus hit Hammer with the Rougeau Bomb, but Dino Bravo nails Raymond off the top and puts Hammer on top to finish.

(The Dream Team d. The Rougeau Brothers, Valentine pins Raymond, 4:01, *1/2) Another victim of time. And what was with the Dream Team going over during their breakup angle? Common sense says that they lose to set up the change of partners. Bravo and Valentine leave Beefcake alone in the ring, setting up his official face turn in the next match.  (As a rule I’m never a fan of passive face turns.  Brutus worked out OK in the long run, but generally turning babyface because someone beat you up just makes you look like a pussy.) 

Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Adrian Adonis

This was Piper's first retirement match, of many. Loser gets their head shaved. This was one of the defining feuds of my youth and remains one of my favorite all-time matches. Slugfest to start and Piper just uses his belt to whip Adonis, but that comes back to bite him pretty quickly. He recovers and whips Adrian out of the ring, then drags him back in and we get the old double noggin knocker before Hart and Adonis end up on the floor again. Back in, Piper slugs away in the corner and slams Jimmy onto Adonis, but Hart gets revenge by tripping Piper up. Adonis uses the FINGERNAILS OF DEATH and elbows Piper down, but Piper goes to the eyes in the Three Stooges spot. To the floor we go, which allows Hart to give Piper a cheapshot. Back in, Piper wants more, so Adonis pounds on him, and Jimmy adds perfume in the eyes to blind him. This sets up Adonis' sleeper, but Piper keeps fighting him. Finally he goes down, but Adonis releases prematurely, admittedly a problem for guys hi age, and that allows Brutus Beefcake to run in and revive Piper. Adonis hits himself with his clippers and Piper gets his own sleeper, and the crushing force of irony proves to be too much for Adonis to survive.  (This was interesting too because it immediately elevated Beefcake and gave him a more active role in his own babyface turn by avenging himself against Adonis.  The story had a beginning, middle and end.) 

(Roddy Piper d. Adrian Adonis, sleeper -- submission, 6:48, **) As I've noted before, the match is like ** for the wrestling, but for a cathartic blowoff to a great feud, it was ***** for entertainment value. Plus it tied into the Beefcake storyline, as Adonis had accidentally cut his hair in a six-man match shortly before this, thus annoying the vain Beefcake and setting up his revenge when he became the Barber. Seriously, do yourself a favor and look up the stuff with Piper destroying the Flower Shop on YouTube, because it's the kind of super-intense character stuff you don't get much of outside of Mick Foley these days. Piper could ACT, man. (He’s no Rock, of course.) 

The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis v. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana

This really should have been that 2 out of 3 falls match on SNME for the tag titles, in retrospect. And in fact the pop-up before the match notes that this is one of only two Wrestlemanias without a tag title match, the other being 21. The arena has started to darken at this point. Tito is pretty pissed and attacks the Harts on the floor before the bell, then starts beating on Bret Hart in the ring. Bret tags out to Anvil, but Davey Boy Smith overpowers him and the Harts work him over in the corner. Tito gets some ineffectual offense, and Smith comes in for a backdrop. Bret tries an elbow off the middle and misses, which allows Dynamite to come in with the hairtoss and the corner whip. Headbutt gets two. Bret comes back with a cheapshot and slugs away in the corner, and blocks a snap suplex attempt. Neidhart comes in with a rear chinlock, and the Harts drop a Demolition elbow on Kid, and that's finally enough to lure Danny Davis into the ring for a stomp before he gets out again. The Harts continue pounding on the Kid, with Davis adding his two kicks. The Harts slingshot Davis in with a splash, but that proves to be a big error as it hits knee and Tito gets the hot tag. The crowd is popping like it's the rapture, as Tito gets the flying forearm and beats the hell out of Davis, but Neidhart breaks up the figure-four with a wicked clothesline. Back to Davey Boy, who also gets to beat up Davis with a clothesline, and then gives him the most awesome tombstone piledriver ever. I mean, Davis took that one like it broke his neck. Vertical suplex and powerslam kill Danny dead, but the Harts break it up and it's breaking loose in Tulsa. Danny gets a hold of the megaphone, however, and it's all over.

(The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis d. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana, Danny Davis megaphone -- pin Davey Boy Smith, 8:54, ***) Kind of an abbreviated version of the usual Bulldogs-Harts match, but Davey Boy sadistically torturing Danny Davis was tremendous fun.  (They got a shocking amount of mileage out of Danny Davis as a worker before it ran out of steam for good.) 

Butch Reed v. Koko B. Ware

Entrance music update: "Piledriver" is used here for Koko, whereas it's generally edited out these days in other releases. Furthermore, I'm pretty darn sure that it wasn't on the original show, because the record didn't even come out until after this show. So does that mean they edited out Koko's previous "Birdman" entrance music and subbed in "Piledriver," a song they normally dub OUT? Holy crap, you need to be a lawyer just to figure out the entrance music for these shows. Reed gets a cheapshot off a lockup, and here at least it's appropriate for Ron Simmons to comment on the match, although he doesn't actually mention Doom and neither do the pop-ups. Koko comes back with a shot to the gut, but gets pounded down and Reed rams him into the turnbuckle. Jesse makes a joke about Gorilla wrestling Jack Dempsey, and the pop-ups helpfully clarify the timeline. Koko comes back with a small package for two, but a bodypress is reversed by Reed to finish.

(Butch Reed d. Koko B Ware, pinfall reversal -- pin, 3:40, *) This was just a setup for Tito Santana running out and beating up Slick to further his feud with Reed. Reed, it should be noted, was scheduled to win the Intercontinental title from Ricky Steamboat (whoops, spoiler alert) a couple of months following this, but no-showed the TV taping and Honky Tonk Man ended up with the belt instead.  (I keep repeating that one and it’s still wrong.  It’s more like Reed was the guy Vince wanted, but Honky talked him into changing his mind.) 

Intercontinental title: Randy Savage v. Ricky Steamboat

No shock here as "Sirius" is edited out of Steamboat's entrance, since it's a commercial piece from the Alan Parsons Project and thus would cost a TON of money. You know the story here by now, but if you don't, Savage was defending against Steamboat on TV and decided to crush his throat with the ringbell,and Steamboat was "injured" for a few months and returned PISSED. They decided to have the greatest match ever and spent three months planning out every spot to the smallest detail. Steamer uses his speed and armdrags Savage, then chokes him out and Savage bails. Back in, Savage suckers him in and chokes him out on the ropes, dropping an elbow for two. Blind charge misses and Steamboat goes to work with a wristlock and works the arm. Ricky Steamboat pops up on a video clip as well, listed as being "Ricky Steamboat," so I guess they must have settled with Bonnie. Also of note: He says "buyrate" for the first time I can remember on a WWE release. Savage backdrops him out of the ring to take over while George Steele pops up and comments in a totally normal voice, which is just totally weird to hear. Steamboat goes to the apron and Savage stomps the crap out of him, then snapmares him in over the top. Elbow to the head gets two. Kneedrop gets two. Steamboat comes back with a chop and Savage gets tied up in the ropes, but escapes, only to walk into a bodypress from Steamboat that gets two. He shoulderblocks Savage down for a pair of two-counts, but Savage lays into him with a high knee to the back and tosses him. Steamboat skins the cat back in, however, so Savage (right on the same level with Steamboat in a nice touch) clotheslines him right back out again. Savage knees him in the back again while he's regrouping, sending him crashing into the front row, and the Animal rescues him and brings him back in. And Savage tosses him right back out again, and follows with the double axehandle. Back in, another axehandle and he elbows him down for two. Necksnap gets two. Atomic drop gets two. Suplex gets two. They slug it out as Steamboat starts with the chops, but Savage pulls out at gut wrench suplex for two. Backdrop suplex is reversed by Steamboat and he keeps chopping, but puts his head down. Savage charges and Steamboat dumps him, showing that he's also thinking a few steps ahead, and the flying chop from the top gets two. Running chop gets two. Chops to the head and Savage bails to the apron, so Steamboat hammers him to the floor and chases him. Savage tries to sucker him in again, but Steamboat sunset flips in for two to counter. Rollup gets two. Jackknife pin gets two. Small package gets two. Catapult into the post gets two. Rollup gets two, and Savage reverses for two. It's so great to see guys just trying to PIN each other and trying a whole variation of moves to do so. Steamboat charges again and hits the post, and the ref gets bumped when Savage sends him into the corner again. Clothesline sets up the big elbow, but there's no ref. Savage grabs the ringbell in a nod to continuity, but Steele steals it from him in another nod to continuity, then shoves him off the top rope. Savage is dazed and tries to slam Steamboat, but he reverses for the historic pin and the title.

(Ricky Steamboat d. Randy Savage, small package -- pin, 14:34, *****) Many have dubbed this the greatest match in history, and although you can pick nits and offer alternatives, I wouldn't argue terribly much against any strong case made for it being so. It was pretty much the perfect match in every facet, from the storyline buildup to the execution (with nothing even resembling a missed or blown spot) to the crowd reaction to the historic nature and long-term influence it had on the sport in general. Every fan should see this match at least once in their lives.  (You just need to buy a couple of WWE DVD releases and the laws of probability say that you’ll get either this or the Shawn-Razor ladder match fairly soon.) 

Jake Roberts v. Honky Tonk Man

Alice Cooper as Jake's second is the kind of perfect celebrity usage that they're not very good at anymore. (To be fair, they’re not good at a lot of things anymore.)  Honky's original theme song is left intact here, rather than dubbing in the more familiar song from "Piledriver". This was a pretty hot feud back in the day. Jake attacks and drags him into the ring to start, then kneelifts him out of the ring and sends him back in again. Honky runs away, so Jake slams him on the floor and they head back in again, where Jake charges and hits knee. Honky pounds on the arm, but gets hit with a short clothesline as a result and bails again. Jake follows him for the brawl on the floor, but gets rammed into the post and Honky won't let him back into the ring. Back in, Honky slams him to set up the fistdrop, and he slugs away instead of going for the finish. Elbow and he continues pounding away and wasting time, and finally it's Shake Rattle N Roll, but by then Jake is easily able to reverse out of it. Jake comes back with an inverted atomic drop and slugs away on Honky, which puts Honky into the ropes for the rocking chair spot. DDT time, but Jake gets distracted by Jimmy Hart and Honky rolls him up and grabs the ropes to finish.

(Honky Tonk Man d. Jake Roberts, rollup -- pin, 7:11, **1/2) Quite a decent little match, especially for having to follow the greatest match in history up until that point.

The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff v. The Killer Bees

Jim Duggan prevents Volkoff from singing his country's anthem, because America is the land of the free! The heels attack to start, probably upset at Duggan's treatment of them, but the Bees whip them into each other and clear the ring. Sheik gets back in and the Bees double-team him with an elbow and work on the arm, adding a double hiptoss. Brunzell gets a dropkick for two. Over to the heel corner, where Brunzell gets caught by Volkoff and worked over. Sheik elbows him down for two. Volkoff with the bearhug and Sheik with a gut wrench for two. Gorilla notes that you don't get to be tag champions by accident, but in fact Men on a Mission won the belts by accident in 1994 from the Quebecers due to a blown spot. Just saying. False tag to Blair and the heels go for the finish, with Sheik putting Brunzell into the camel clutch, but Duggan runs in for the DQ.

(Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff d. The Killer Bees, outside interference -- DQ, 5:48, **) Going along fine, if unremarkably, before the bad finish.

WWF World title: Hulk Hogan v. Andre The Giant

Hogan pops up to claim that Andre was introduced at 500 pounds, but was actually "closer to 700 pounds" that night. SAY WHAT? He's not an SUV, he's a person, brother. I'm kinda surprised he didn't also add that he was scared about Andre shooting on him. Staredown to start and Hogan goes for the slam, but Andre falls on top for two. Hogan immediately starts selling the back like death and Andre pounds on him and slams him. Andre whips him into the corner, barely mobile at this point in his career, and slowly headbutts the back before missing a headbutt. Hogan slugs away, but can't knock him down, and makes the mistake of charging, which allows Andre to get a boot up and then go to the BEARHUG OF DOOM. That goes on for a while until Hogan slugs out of it, but still can't knock Andre down. Andre puts him down with a boot and another one puts Hogan on the floor and they slowly brawl. Andre headbutts the post and sportsman Hulk pulls up the mats and tries to piledrive his longtime friend on the concrete (Just because he asked for a title shot after 3 years!) but Andre reverses out of it. Back in, Hogan finally knocks him down and hulks up, and it's slam bam thank you ma'am.

(Hulk Hogan d. Andre the Giant, legdrop -- pin, 11:58, 1/4*) History-wise, it was huge, but as a match it was slow and dull and just generally awful. The bearhug spot in particular sucked all the life out of the match. Andre would of course get the last laugh in 1988, winning the belt at the first Main Event.

The Pulse:

This is definitely one of those shows that you owe it to yourself as a fan to see even once, just to say you've seen it. The quality of wrestling doesn't necessarily match up with today's (although in some cases, it exceeds it by quite a lot) but the sheer history and new comments from the participants make this one well worth checking out on DVD or 24/7, whatever the case may be for you.

Highest recommendation.