WrestleMania III: 20 Years Later (Part Two)

Danny Davis desperately wanted to wrestle in the WWF.  But all the company would give him were refereeing jobs.  Fortunately, they made him a crooked ref.
 
On February 8, 1986, he “officiated” an Inter-Continental Title Match between champion Tito Santana and challenger, Randy “Macho Man” Savage.  Savage ultimately won the title by pulling a tiny foreign object out of his tights and using it on Tito’s head as the champion tried to back suplex him back into the inside part of the ring.  (It was the exact same finish used by Savage during his match with Ricky Steamboat at the one and only Wrestling Classic the previous year.  Davis wasn’t the official in that one, though.)
 
Nearly a year later, Davis was responsible for another “controversial” finish.  The British Bulldogs defended their championship belts against The Hart Foundation.  The Dynamite Kid didn’t really participate much in the match because he was still severly injured from that December 13 encounter with The Magnificent Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton in Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.  As a result, he spent most of the match outside the ring.  That left the late Davey Boy Smith at the mercy of Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.  (How amusing to find out all these years later that Neidhart, Smith and Kid were all Bret’s beloved brothers-in-law at the time.)
 
Smith took a pummeling and within a very short period of time, The Harts were the new champions.
 
Later on, Davis was suspended for life by “President” Jack Tunney (he was just a Canadian promoter).  Finally freed from the shackles of refereeing, “Dangerous” Danny Davis became Jimmy Hart’s newest protege.
 
In the seventh match of WrestleMania III, Davis and The Harts took on The Bulldogs and Santana in a six-man tag team match.  It was very entertaining.  Davis got piledrived, bodyslammed and backdropped all over the place.  But he would have the last laugh.  When the ref’s back was turned, he struck The Dynamite Kid with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone and got the 3-count.  It was the biggest victory of his brief stint wrestling for the WWF.
 
Very quietly, despite the high profile “suspension for life”, Davis eventually went back to refereeing again.  A few years later, during a Madison Square Garden show, which was broadcast on the MSG network, colour commentator Hillbilly Jim referenced that old storyline wondering if Davis could be trusted.  Gorilla Monsoon responded by saying that he believed in giving people “second chances”.  Right.
 
“The Natural” Butch Reed easily disposed of Koko B. Ware in the next battle.  A couple of side notes.  Koko made an embarrassing verbal gaffe during a Copps Coliseum show one time.  He got on the microphone and said, “It’s great to be here in Toronto!”  He was roundly booed.  Reed almost became the Inter-Continental Champion on June 2, 1987.  Ricky Steamboat was supposed to drop the title to him but he was a no-show.  Hulk Hogan suggested his good friend, The Honky Tonk Man, replace The Natural as Steamboat’s opponent.  Honky went on to become the longest reigning I-C champ in history.
 
Meanwhile, after the Reed/Koko confrontation, Reed’s manager, Slick (a preacher before he replaced Fred Blassie, believe it or not), was manhandled by Tito Santana.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember why the Mexican superstar wrecked The Doctor Of Style’s attire.  There was a good reason but it has escaped it.  (If anybody knows, email me at dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com.)
 
The best match of WrestleMania III, bar none, was the ferocious battle for the Inter-Continental Championship.  Randy Savage had gotten into a great feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  It all started during a TV title match in late 1986 where, at one point, Savage took the timekeeper’s bell, climbed the top turnbuckle (his speciality) and proceeded to drive it right into Steamboat’s throat.  (The referee was incapacitated at the time.  Naturally.)  He also took Steamboat down to the floor, had him hanging over the steel railing, climbed the top buckle again and double ax-handled his throat into the railing.  It was a masterful illusion.  Steamboat was never seriously hurt but the whole incident was sold beautifully.  Steamboat stayed out of action for a while (he probably appreciated the nice rest) and then came the classic WM III confrontation.
 
George “The Animal” Steele was Steamboat’s corner man.  He, too, had a terrific feud with Savage.  (That 1986 storyline was fueled by Steele’s infatuation with Savage’s manager, his then-wife Elizabeth.  She died of a drug overdose many years later while in an abusive relationship with Lex Lugar.)  He ended up playing an important role during the memorable encounter.
 
What made this match stand out more than any other during WM III, and the entire decade, for that matter, was the speed of the action and the number of suspense-filled false finishes.  There were so many 2-counts I lost track of the final tally.  It was absolutely gripping.  Here were two of the most talented wrestlers of all time at the height of their powers electrifying millions.
 
Once again, the referee was knocked out cold and Savage decided to do his timekeeper’s bell routine since it worked so well previously.  But The Animal was ready for him and he shoved Savage right off the top turnbuckle sending him crashing to the mat.  Just then, the ref started coming to.  Wincing to sell the idea that he hurt his back, Savage attempted to bodyslam Steamboat.  But The Dragon wrapped him up in a beautiful small package and ended The Macho Man’s 13-month title reign.  What a glorious ending to a superb match-up.  Too bad the plan to make Steamboat a longterm champion never happened.  His reign would last just a little over 2 months.
 
In the tenth match of the event, The Honky Tonk Man (just a few months away from beating The Dragon for that very same championship) went up against Jake “The Snake” Roberts.  Alice Cooper was recruited by the company to be in The Snake’s corner.  Jimmy Hart was in Honky’s.  This storyline was hatched during a TV segment called The Snake Pit.  Like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Roberts had his own interview segment.  In early 1987, The Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart were guests.  When he least expected it (as the storyline went), Roberts was slammed hard in the head by one of Honky’s breakable acoustic guitars.  Egged on by the always devious and hilarious Hart, Honky kept “playing a tune” on The Snake’s head.
 
While Honky would use the top rope to help him defeat The Snake, Jake and Alice got the last laugh by terrifying poor Jimmy Hart who was rescued by his man just in the nick of time.  (Alice was about to put Damian, Jake’s pet snake, all over him.)
 
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, former tag team champions, wrestled The Killer Bees in the second-to-last match of the evening.  At one point, Hacksaw Jim Duggan came down to ringside, much to the crowd’s delight.  (He would end up becoming one of the most popular stars of the late ’80s and early ’90s.)  The match was rather uneventful until Duggan found himself in the ring (after chasing either Slick or Nikolai Volkoff, I can’t remember now) and noticed that The Sheik had one of the Bees in his infamous Camel Clutch submission hold.  He took his trusty 2X4 and wacked the “unsuspecting” Iranian, thereby costing The Bees the match.
 
Although, Duggan and The Sheik were supposed to be “feuding”, in reality, there were good friends.  A few months after WM III, they were driving together to get to the next show when they were pulled over.  Both were caught harbouring narcotics.  At the time, it was a huge no-no for wrestlers to break character and for “good guys” to associate in public with “bad guys”.  (That wrong-headed policy has long since been rescinded.)  Because Duggan was a ‘face and The Iron Sheik was a heel, this was a huge public relations problem.  Vince McMahon decided to suspend both of them.
 
Fortunately for Duggan, his suspension was brief.  He was reinstated sooner than planned because a famous promoter requested his presence at his retirement show.  The embarrassing incident was never mentioned on TV and soon, Duggan got involved in major feuds with Andre The Giant, Harley Race and Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
 
The Iron Sheik, curiously, would not return to the WWF until sometime in 1990 when he became part of a storyline involving Sgt. Slaughter (who he once feuded with in the early ’80s) and Hulk Hogan (the man who beat him for the world title in 1984).  (He maintained his most famous gimmick during the rest of the ’80s in both the AWA and NWA.)  Even though he’s a proud Iranian (who has made some controversial public statements in recent years), he played an Iraqi named Col. Mustafa who teamed up with Slaughter, the Iraqi sympathizer.  (Remember, this all occurred during the first Gulf War.)  There wasn’t much use for The Sheik’s new gimmick once the Slaughter/Hogan storyline wrapped up (Slaughter eventually became a good guy again and renounced his anti-American stance) and inevitably, he left the company.
 
He would have one more great triumph.  At WrestleMania 17, The Iron Sheik won the Gimmick Battle Royal.
 
By that point, 11 matches had been contested at WrestleMania III.  Only one remained.  It would turn out to be a fitting finale.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 29, 2007
10:31 p.m.
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Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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