They called it the "biggest main event in sports entertainment" at the time. Thirty years after Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant met in the middle of the Pontiac Silverdome in front of 93,000 screaming fans, it's hard to argue that the label doesn't still fit.
The match, which remains one of the most significant in WWE history, was set up weeks prior after Andre, a longtime good guy, made his heel turn. The set-up was simple: Andre, who had never lost a match in the WWE, felt disrespected by all the attention lauded on his friend Hogan, who had been champ at that point for three years. The perceived insults piled up and led to a dramatic moment where Andre challenged Hogan to a match at Wrestlemania III, as the champ begged his friend not to do it.
Andre ripping Hogan's shirt at the end of this video is an all-time WWE moment.
The stage was set for a showdown between two of the most famous and most physically imposing wrestlers in the world.
The script called for Hogan to win the match and keep his title, but as "Hacksaw” Jim Duggan recalls in an incredible oral history published today in The Detroit News, no one knew if Andre would take the fall. "He could be an irritable giant. Everybody knew the script and the way the script was going to go, but Andre hadn’t said ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Nobody knew. There was a little tension backstage with that. Hogan didn’t know if Andre would go up in the slam," Duggan recalls.
But he did. And the stadium went nuts.
"When Hulk body-slammed Andre, I thought the roof was going to blow off the place. You never heard that stadium that loud for a Detroit Lions game," Lou Gamelin, a fan in the crowd that night, told The Detroit News.
It wasn't the first time Andre had been body slammed. It wasn't even the first time Hogan had done the slamming. But given the stage on which it happened and Andre's dwindling career, it has stuck with wrestling fans for decades.
It's also stuck with Hogan. The WWE legend has blamed injuries suffered doing that move and their improper healing to the constant pain he endures today.