Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Non-Fan Review #1 - Hogan v Andre at WrestleMania III

Three blokes who've had little time for professional wrestling...watch professional wrestling...then write about professional wrestling. That's pretty much the premise that we're building this series around. Our three non-fans will be given iconic moments from the history of wrestling and we begin with Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from WrestleMania III, but before we get into their thoughts on the match, let's get to know them a little, in their own words.

Andrew Williams - Andrew suspects he may be an alien from another planet, frequently finding human rituals baffling. Wrestling is one of the many things that continues to baffle him, but no doubt his findings will be subjected to rigorous study back on his home planet (wherever that is).

Nicholas Peat - Nick is a 5'11" homo sapiens who never watched wrestling before in his life before embarking on the project.
Born at an early age, he is currently finishing off a PhD in linguistics and has never referred to himself in the third person. He doesn't intend to start now.

Sam Button - Sam is a giant in the world of non-WWF fans. His favourite wrestler is Stretch Armstrong.

We'll start with how Andrew found the match...


In 1987, two of the most famous wrestlers in history came together. They were so famous that even I'd heard of them.

In a black outfit that couldn't hope to contain him, we have Andre the Giant. He's well named - he's absolutely enormous in every dimension. Height, diameter... even weight. At well over 500 pounds, he'd put a speak your weight machine into therapy.

Andre doesn't say much. He doesn't show much emotion either, his face largely impassive. The speaking and, it seems, the thinking are left to his manager, Bobby the Brain, and while I can't speak for his intelligence with regards to wrestling it seems to be sorely lacking in regards to fashion sense. That suit is hideous.

With the theme tune for "Pinky and the Brain" now running through my head (but which one is the genius, and which is insane?) we meet the current champion, the yellow-clad Hulk Hogan. I recall some of his film appearances, including a bit part in one of the Gremlins films. He's certainly acting up here, almost dancing for the crowds. Andre just stands there, watching, waiting, silent.

Andre tops 500 pounds. Hulk is around 300. I feel as though I've seen this match before, in an episode of "Game of Thrones". But I don't recall Hulk's skull ever being crushed. Still, no time to wonder - the match is on!

...and nearly ends in the first few seconds. Hulk Hogan tries to pick up a mountain. This ends predictably, with back problems. I wouldn't be trying to lift 500 pounds without a forklift truck, myself. As Hulk writhes in dramatic agony on the floor, Andre circles. He gives the prone figure an occasional kick, as if to see whether it's dead yet. His face remains calm. He feels no pain or pleasure in his actions. For Andre, it's just another day at the office.

"Get up!" the giant yells, apparently keen to finish this match so he can get on with some paperwork instead. Hulk strikes a dramatic pose, on his hands and knees. Andre occasionally picks him up and throws him down again, a cat toying with a half dead mouse and growing bored.

Hulk falls to the floor. Andre steps onto and over him, maybe in a bid to straighten his back out again. He's been remarkably slow to act; I'm not convinced he's here to fight. "Andre has no fear," says the commentary. Perhaps the giant is feeling something else. And when he throws Hulk into a semi-standing position against the post, and then thrusts his buttocks into his opponent's groin, one does wonder whether this is something more akin to a mating ritual.

So far it's been a one-sided match. Hulk's thrown out his back, then been bashed around a fair bit. Finally, having been thrown, slammed, headbutted, butt-butted and more, Hulk slips out from underneath the giant and puts his speed to use. Suddenly that back injury seems to have vanished, which is amazing - my sciatica had me unable to stand up straight for a week, and here's Hogan running laps around the ring just minutes after writhing on the canvas. He throws several punches to Andre's head, which seems to startle the giant but does little obvious damage. Perhaps he needs to strike at the Brain instead, which would at least be a blow for fashion.

Alas, Hulk's technique is enthusiastic but lacks strategy. He attempts to render Andre unconscious by repeatedly slamming his head into the ropes, which doesn't seem to me like the most suitable of hard surfaces. The two break apart, and Hulk decides a run-up will help. It does not. Andre simply lifts one enormous leg and sends the smaller wrestler sprawling. He wipes his face as Hulk sprawls on the mat - I'm not sure whether this is to clear sweat from his eyes or simply a facepalm gesture.

Andre then decides they should be friends after all, taking Hulk in his arms and giving him a big, tight hug. This may, again, be an attempt to do something chiropractic. The two men dance like this for a while, Hulk visibly wilting but refusing to submit.

Just when it's about to all be over, Hulk's 93,000 fans in the audience send him the power of their love, or something like that. I can almost see their Carebear stares flooding the arena. Hulk slowly charges back up, his right arm flailing, landing several punches into Andre's hair. The giant holds on a while longer, but Hulk is pulling away. Andre lets him go. He can't risk too much damage to that perm.

Andre is staggering, possibly stunned, when Hulk throws away his winning strategy to attempt another charge. Has the man learned nothing? This time, Andre sticks out a tree trunk arm. As the joke goes, a man walks into a bar. Ouch. A few more slow but powerful blows knock Hulk Hogan clear out of the ring (why is it called a ring when it's square?). Andre goes after him.

Hulk is sprawling. Andre traps him against a post, and goes in for a headbutt. Just in time, Hulk moves to the side, and Andre's head hits the post. It seems the only person with a blow hard enough to hurt Andre the Giant is, in fact, Andre the Giant. This is a chance for Hulk to strike back, and he takes it with the single most stupid strategy he could attempt - he tries to pick up the mountain again. Andre seems to take pity on the man by simply reversing the lift and tossing Hulk over his shoulder. Painful, but much easier on the back.

Wearily, both clearly exhausted, the two men crawl back into the square ring. They spend a few moments bouncing off the ropes, Hulk attempting another charge and this time managing to avoid Andre's titanic foot. They collide, and both hit the floor. Finally, perhaps this time remembering to bend at the knees, Hulk manages to achieve the impossible and lifts the giant. One could almost feel the ground shake as he dropped back onto the canvas.

The match is over in no time after this. Hulk drops onto him with his legs over his opponent's neck (I'm sure this move has a name, but since I doubt it's any cooler than mine I shall call it the Throat Crusher) and pins him to the floor. Andre quickly submits, the mountain crumbling. The crowd roars. Hulk gets a new belt, which is probably just as well as I doubt Andre would ever be able to get it around his waist. But what Hulk Hogan really needs at this point is a towel. I have never seen a man so sweaty.

While Hulk parades for the audience, Andre and his manager slip silently away. Andre looks as impassive as ever; its Bobby the Brain that looks dejected for the both of them. What are they going to do now? "The same thing we do every year," says Bobby. "Try to take over the world!"


What about you, Mr. Peat? 


Do you remember where you were, that day in 1987? I certainly don’t, it was a year before I was born - but that day has since passed into legend. The single greatest wrestling match in history (probably): the French giant from Princess Bride challenged the blond moustache bloke from Suburban Commando.

(Anyone else remember that film? It’s work tracking down, Christopher Lloyd’s in it.)

Anyway, the buildup to the match is AMAZING: Andre the Giant - in a fetching black leotard - and his manager (Bobby the Brain) arrive at the ring in a platform that seems to be driving itself, like Herbie the Love Bug. No way this massive froggy can lose, he has voodoo on his side!

As if to provide contrast, Hulk Hogan skips gaily to the ring, playing to the crowd - clearly he’s a showman (as his canary yellow outfit will attest— no, wait, he’s torn his little shirt off. Huh. What a waste of a top). What a fun pair, this will be a blast, I can tell.

The bell goes off! And Hulk goes right into Andre’s face, shaking his head and arms and murmuring something… Casting a spell? Andre shoves him away. “Zere eez only ONE master of ze voodoo here, mon frere!” Andre probably thinks. He certainly isn’t saying much.

Not one to take this lying down, Hulk tries to lift Andre… then topples over due to the European’s 520 pound bulk. Whoops.

Andre is no man’s fool, he gives Hulky a good kicking while he’s down, then pulls him up by his little yellow knickers and throws him into the corner! This is an ONSLAUGHT: bouncing the blond patsy into the ropes just to rebound him into his French boot, shouldering his sternum… Mr Hogan is going to lose, calling it now.

But then it happens: Bulky decides to make up with Hulky and gives him a BIG HUG. An exceptionally big hug in fact - it lasts 2 minutes 49 seconds (I counted). Gasp, the friendliness of the hug was a RUSE - the crafty Brobdingnagian is crushing the blond chap into surrender! They’re cunning, these Alpine types. (I should know, I went out with an Austrian for three years.)

It looks like it’s all over for the inedible Hulk, one of the commentators informs us “if his hand drops three times, it’s over”. That’s a funny rule, wonder if they teach you that at St John’s Ambulance.

In either case, DRAMATIC TWIST! Hulky’s hand doesn’t drop the third time! With more dramatic head-vibrating (like he’s motor boating Carmen Electra), Hulk breaks free of the francophone colossus and lands a couple of blows… only to be kicked out of the ring by Andre. Well, at least he’s trying.

Gaining the advantage, Hulk pulls back the canvas from the floor to reveal concrete; the commentator informs us “this is horrible sportsmanship”… So shouldn’t he be disqualified? Nah, never mind - he’s just tried to piledriver Andre, only to end up sliding down him like an upside-down koala.  Oh, this must be the most humiliating night of Hulk Hogan’s life! Can it get any worse for him as Andre shoves him back onto the ring?

Hold that thought: Hulk just bounced off some ropes and hit Andre in the head. Weirdly, that seems to be enough to send the cheese-lover into convulsions, Bobby the brain is cradling his head and everything. Then Hulk does a Super Mario-style ground-pound on Andre’s head, hugs his thigh for three seconds and THAT’S IT?

That’s how you win one of these things? No wonder Andre looks annoyed, this is barking mad! Ah well, Hulk looks elated and, according to the commentator, he’s "thanking the guy upstairs”.

Though what the lighting technician has to do with this victory is anyone’s guess.

Needed more Dread Pirate Roberts.


What did Sam think about this classic? 


So, as a complete NON wrestling fan (with NO knowledge/interest about this 'sport'), I was asked to write a short review on a given famous wrestling match...

Wrestle Mania 3 (1987) : 
Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant 

In order to set the scene up for myself, I watched the opening minutes of Wrestlemania 3 - a ruddy massive event in the 'Pontiac Silverdrome', Michigan. So much bigger than I had envisaged, it was like the WWF version of Super Bowl! 

I had previously envisaged the event to have maybe 1000 spectators in mullets and baseball caps stood around some garish coloured boxing ring, but no, this is going to be massive?! 

Even Aretha Franklin kicked things off with a piano song!  (I had just been expecting some naff American rock music to be blasted through speakers)! Some wrestlers called Can-am Connection, Magnificent Muraco and Cowboy Bill Orton kick off the procedures with a tag team fight, but I'm not interested in them, so fast forward about two and a half hours to the final fight of the night...

Hulk Hogan is a big name I'm familiar with, having been an 80's child. I even watched 'Mr Nanny'. First impressions.  "The Hulkster" (as he is called many times during this match) appears browner than I remembered him being.  Sunbed brown, bleached hair, She-Ra boots, and a yellow vest that is half-Baywatch and half-Sugarpuffs monster.  In contrast, Andre The Giant is a big fat Russian-looking guy in a black leotard and black boots.  A moody 7' 5" Daffyd Thomas. 

94,000 fans are screaming with excitement.   It's time to get started. My money is on Hulk Hogan to win. 

The match starts with a brief stare-off before Andre The Giant slaps Hogan one. 
Oh dear. This is followed up by Andre with a few punches to the kidney and back, before he pulls The Hulkster's head into his groin and throws him away. 

I'm not sure about the official referees or linesmen or whatever in wrestling or how they work - but there's 'Manuel' (Basil Fawlty's waiter from Barcelona) skipping around INSIDE the ring, and then some Keith Chegwin dude (blonde hair and sparkly jacket) skipping around OUTSIDE the ring.  Both dressed for a big night out. 

Andre the Giant is not arsed. He is owning this match (or fight, whatever it's called) and crushed Hulk Hogan into a corner of the ring. The 'Heavyweight champion of the world' is looking weak... but then suddenly gets a new fire in his belly and escapes for a moment.   Whilst some of the head buts and punching looks a bit rehearsed and fake and acted, some of this stuff looks like it's real and it's hurting. Interesting. 

Oh dear.  Andre The (biggest gay) Giant (in the Village) has locked The Hulkster into a 'bear hug'! Hogan's strength is vanishing and is shown to have limp limbs and back now, completely drained. Glad I'm not a betting man, the reputation of this famous wrestler seems well overhyped... But just as I'm feeling let down by this sporting performance, The Hulkster once again summons some inner 'second wind' strength and fights back, repeatedly elbow-smacking the side of Andre's head until he is free of the bear hug!   

They tumble outside of the ring onto some padded flooring.  Hogan strips some of this padding away to reveal concrete. His plan is obvious and he goes to grab Andre and take him down onto this cold hard surface, however it backfires and he  himself is thrown down onto it. Andre pushes Hogan back into the ring, where the latter suddenly takes control of this event and smacks The Giant to the floor, jumps on his head, lifts Andre's leg up a bit... and is then declared the winner?!  Eh?! Not sure how this result came to be?! 
Andre The Giant had dominated the whole fight/match and was the stronger competitor... but with just 3 moves and 3 minutes at the end, The Hulkster is once again named The WWF Heavy Weight Chanpion?!  None of this "count of 5" stuff like boxing, just lift a leg and you're a winner?! Maybe I missed something?! 

Aah... and there is the crap American rock music on the speakers that I expected at the beginning!  No audience mullets though, just a load of excited spectators cheering and loving Hulk Hogan's "winning faces"!  He's loving it, a proper poser. 

So, that was my first wrestling match. Would I watch another one? Yep, quite entertaining and interesting, I can see why fans get hooked into it. Have I learned anything from it? 
Nope, not really (other than these events are a lot bigger than I had previously thought)!


Wowza, a tonne of interesting opinions to digest from fresh eyes on a match that I suspect many of our readers will have watched many times. Let us know what you think by getting in touch on Twitter @ATPWrestling. 

Next month - Our three musketeers look at Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart from WrestleMania 13.

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