Sunday, September 28, 2014

WWE Wrestlemania III: Championship Edition

Before the launch of the 'WWE Network' this past February, for a decade from 2004-2014 we got its predecessor,' WWE 24/7,' which later got rebranded as 'WWE Classics on Demand.' It featured a random assortment of 40 hours of rotating content each week available by picking through menus from your digital cable box. I subscribed to it for a few years, and back then it seemed like a bargain for $8/month, which is now outrageous compared to everything you get now for $10/month with WWE Network. 24/7 reposted a lot of old episodes of RAW, Nitro, WCCW, ECW and even Tuesday Night Titans and Prime Time Wrestling in chronological order every couple of weeks. 24/7 also had some exclusive mini documentaries each month highlighting a random hall of fame legend, and threw up several random classic matches, but my favorite exclusive programming were their 'Legends of Wrestling' roundtable discussions where several past stars talked shop on a variety of topics. If you have missed out on these classic features, then you are in luck because they are all archived on the WWE Network.

Another cool feature of 24/7 back then was it had recent and older full length PPVs. Usually they would have the most recent PPVs available on a three month delay, but they also had random classic PPVs. To make the classic PPVs a little more appealing for fans rewatching them, they would sporadically insert pop-up factoids and interview snippets with some of the wrestlers on the featured PPV reflecting on their memories of the event. In 2007, WWE decided to give this treatment to one of their most successful PPVs of all time, and also went on to release it on DVD which is the subject of today's blog entry for WWE Wrestlemania III: Championship Edition.

WWE did not go out of their way to give this a video remastering or anything, the only edits they did I picked up on were dubbing over entrance music they no longer have the rights for. The only time I noticed this was for Ricky Steamboat's entrance. Only dubbing over one entrance theme is way better because in more recent years WWE is notorious for dubbing over damn near everything in today's litigious world of music copyrights. As much as I would have liked a few more video snippets of wrestlers reflecting back on their memories of Wrestlemania III, WWE seemed to spread them out pretty evenly so they do not seem too much in your face as we average about two or three interview snippets and two or three factoids a match.

Sometimes the wrestlers have some interesting insight and backstage anecdotes, sometimes what they say has nothing relative with the match at hand, so it was interesting to see what the wrestlers were going to spout out whenever a pop up happened. The factoids are just that, facts and provide nice background on most of the wrestlers and celebrities throughout the show. Combined, they make it not a whole new earth-shattering experience of Wrestlemania III, but a nice alternative way to watch it again. It is worth mentioning this is a two disc set, with the first disc not having the pop ups so you can watch it in its original format, and the second disc having the pop ups.

Fans today are use to recent Wrestlemanias having some type of battle royal, or Money in the Bank ladder match to help get a lot of mid-card talent on the show. Some early Wrestlemanias had a battle royal, but most featured a lot of shorter, underwhelming matches with little or no backstory to get everyone a slot on the show. We get a lot of that here starting with the show opener The Can-Am Connection against Don Muraco & Bob Orton. Other blink-and-you-miss-it matches on here with barely a grudge at stake include The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team, British Bulldogs & Tito Santana against The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis, Koko B. Ware against Butch Reed and The Killer Bees vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff. The only highlight of these five throwaway matches are the Dream Team having the most confusing break up of a tag team I have ever seen after WINNING their match and Rick Martel being over-the-top excited about being on the card, and even doubly entertaining in his post match 'gee golly' celebrating. WWE still found ways besides matches to feature wrestlers on the show with several wrestlers making featured run-ins and interference with legends like The Fabulous Moolah, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and George "The Animal" Steele not competing, but finding memorable ways to make their mark on the show.

That covers five of the 12 matches on the show, but at least some mid card matches had a smidge of a grudge at stake for a little bit of fan investment like Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules feuding over who had a better Full Nelson hold, and Hillbilly Jim and King Kong Bundy both teaming with two little people each in a debacle of a match, Jake "The Snake" Roberts came out with Alice Cooper at his side to seek revenge in the ring against the Honky Tonk Man, and Junkyard Dog & Harley Race squared off to decide who the real king of wrestling was.

There were only two truly meaningful non-main event matches on Wrestlemania III. One was billed as the "Farewell Match" for "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Back then, Piper was predicted to have a huge Hollywood career ahead of him after his well regarded performance in the film They Live. After a couple Hollywood flops, the 'Hot Rod' was back to wrestling, but at this time everyone thought this was his last hurrah with many 'Farewell Piper' signs in the crowd as he faced off against Adrian Adonis. I forgot how invested the crowd was when watching this, because the audience popped huge for Roddy's entrance and victory, with even a fan rushing the ring and eagerly shaking Piper's hand before security dragged him away.

The other big mid-card match is the historically acclaimed bout of Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Title. Growing up I remember WWE Magazine touting this regularly as one of the best ever matches. I must have seen it at least a few times this past decade on other DVD collections, and the match is still good, but it does not hold up that well in my opinion. There are a lot of near falls, with the crowd getting more excited with each one, but today it looks like a random mix of moves with no smooth transitions that come off kind of ugly in some spots. It is still worth seeing now, especially on here with insight from Steamboat and other pop up facts touting this match's legacy, and it was a pivotal match for WWE history which was a landmark for putting more emphasis on the in-ring product than just the bombastic characters WWE was known for at the time.

Finally, we have the legendary main event of Hulk Hogan defending his then-WWF Title against Andre the Giant. This is the match that has the legendary build up of longtime friend Andre turning on Hulk to meet him at the Silverdome in front of what WWE touted as over 91,000 in attendance. Whenever I hear of this match, thanks to WWE repeating this clip on television at least several times a year, I instantly think of announcer Gorilla Monsoon's infamous line, "The Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object!" The match itself is not a mat classic, especially factoring in the limitations of a rapidly deteriorating Andre, but the crowd was electric for it beginning to end, and Andre and Hulk played off them and had them along for the ride well after the three count. Even watching it on this viewing I still had a few goosebumps reliving some of the key moments of the match like the legendary bodyslam on Andre. Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan and Hulkster megafan, Edge all provide fascinating insert interviews throughout this bout.

Each disc has a short smattering of DVD extras. There are several, short-but-sweet one minute backstage interviews with talent on the show hyping up their matches. Each disc also has an exclusive match, with disc one having a match between Randy Savage and George Steel from an early 1987 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event and disc two having a battle royal featuring an unlikely winner taking place shortly before Wrestlemania III.

It is hard to recommend this DVD if you can manage to track it down because WWE Network has Wrestlemania III, along with all their other PPVs available on demand. The few DVD extras are not really anything too special, and you really got to go into this wanting that alternative experience with the added pop up interviews and facts. With that said, if you see WWE Wrestlemania III: Championship Edition in a bargain bin for under $5, go for it, otherwise you can save yourself the money by watching it on the WWE Network.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
For All Mankind
Goldberg Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2 Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

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