The year was 1988, less than a year removed from the event that broke the world indoor attendance record at the time (93,173 fans), WrestleMania III. It was WWE Executives’ attempt to capture the same magic they achieved on pay-per-view and closed circuit theaters, this time on network television. It was the night NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol and Chairman of WWE Vince McMahon brought the 2 biggest stars in then-World Wrestling Federation together to re-create a spectacular world title match in prime time that would go down as the single most watched wrestling match in network television history. It was Hogan/Andre II for the WWE Championship on ‘The Main Event’ February 5, 1988.
As 1987 came concluded, the Hulk Hogan – Andre The Giant feud was as heated as ever, especially after The Giant won the Survivor Series vs. the WWE champion’s team on Thanksgiving night. Andre was still focused on claiming what he and his manager Bobby The Brain Heenan claimed to be his uncrowned title (Andre and Heenan claimed Hogan was pinned in the opening seconds of their WrestleMania III match), but as 1988 started, so did another superstar’s quest to become WWE world champion. Enter the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.
On WWE’s weekly television programing, The Million Dollar Man previously attempted to buy the WWE title from Hulk Hogan, but was turned down, so he then enlisted the help of arguably the most imposing superstar in the history of wrestling to help him gain the championship. Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan would agree to terms for a WrestleMania III rematch on the Feb. 5th, 1988 edition of ‘The Main Event’ where the title would be on the line and Ted DiBiase along with bodyguard Virgil would be the Giant’s official managers for the contest. The match was signed at the inaugural Royal Rumble event on January 24, 1988 in Hamilton Ontario, Canada, and the stage was officially set for an epic rematch where the WWE World Heavyweight Championship would be on the line. The title bout was scheduled to take place on the Friday night prime time alternate to ‘Saturday Night’s Main Event’ entitled ‘The Main Event’ live from Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 5th.
The match itself was arguably WWE’s best creative work. It had everything from outside interference, to an impostor referee, culminating in a title change that shocked the wrestling world. After an assist from Virgil and DiBiase and a fraudulent count of three, Hulk Hogan’s 4 year reign as world champion was over as Andre the Giant became the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Though his reign would only last a few moments (as he would present his newly won title to the Million Dollar Man), it was an official world championship win and Andre’s most shining achievement.
The 8th Wonder of the World was the main event of one of the most historic events in history WrestleMania III with Hulk Hogan, and 11 months later was now in the history books as WWE Champion. It’s an honor that was well deserved, and when we all celebrate in the 31 years later Kofi Kingston winning his much deserved World Title after eleven great years, we can all look back to yester-year and know that one of the greatest superstars of all time Andre the Giant got what someone of his legendary status deserves… He got his chance to be the very best in the entire world at what he did and even if it was just for a moment… It’s truly a moment that will last forever.
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