Saturday, February 2, 2013

Andre the Giant turns on Hulk Hogan on Piper's Pit, 1987

The build-up to WrestleMania III was genius in hindsight. Most of the work was done in a simple few minutes.

Andre the Giant was hardly around after winning the 20-man Battle Royal at WrestleMania 2. He wrestled in Japan and then as one of Captain Lou Albano's Machines, Giant Machine, while supposedly suspended.

Really, Andre was off shooting a role in The Princess Bride. He was also in horrible physical condition. The acromegaly that make him keep growing and built the imposing size that made him an international attraction was disabling him with pain. The thing that made him a spectacle was slowly killing him.



Andre was welcomed back to WWF TV with a big trophy recognizing his fifteen-year undefeated streak. (The streak was a lie, but what did we know?) He began a speech to say thank you, but Hulk Hogan appeared, wild-eyed and manic. Like a bulging, tanned Kanye West, Hulkster interrupted to say he always admired Andre. Hogan went on about how Andre was the inspiration for Hulkamania.



Then Hogan got his own trophy. A bigger trophy. His speech was obnoxious.

Jesse "The Body" Ventura appeared on Rowdy Roddy Piper's talk segment, Piper's Pit, to suggest there was dissent between the two supposed long-time pals, Andre and Hogan. It built to a climactic Pit with Hogan eager to hear what Andre had to say.

Piper and Andre were there. An eager and anxious Hogan wanted Andre to come out so they could straighten out what must surely have been a misunderstanding.

Andre emerged with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Something was wrong. Why was pure babyface Andre The Giant with pure evil, Heenan? Hogan was crestfallen and confused.
Flip side of a WWF program lineup, advertising WrestleMania III on closed circuit television.
Color was added by me with a pink highlighter in 1987.

"Andre, what are you doing with Heenan?" asked Hulk in disbelief.

Andre's never been much good with English at the best of times, let along at this most crucial of moments, so professional talker Heenan stepped in.

Hogan, he explained, was an egomaniac. Heenan said Hulk always kept Andre in his shadow, always thought less of him, always kept him down, and most importantly, in all their years of friendship, never once offered Andre a title shot.

A heartbroken Hulk looked up at a sweat-stained and stone-faced Andre. The Giant sported a blank expression. Was he brainwashed? Was he hypnotized? Or had Heenan simply told him a version of the truth that turned his heart to ice?

The balding, desperate steroid freak reached out to touch the big man who was crushing his spirit with an icy stare.

"Take your hands off my psshhoulders," breaking his silence with a menacing growl of a voice. Okay, so he botched the sixth word he spoke. Shoulders, psshhhoulders, whatever.

Hulk's head fell and he began muttering "No, no. No."

"Look at me when I'm talking to you," said Andre, turning scary. "I'm here for one reason - to challenge you for the world championship match at the Wrestlemania."

Hogan couldn't believe it. His world was falling apart. Where was his friend?

Andre reached out with one giant paw and grabbed at Hulk's chest, tearing the trademark yellow Hulkamania shirt and yanking the crucifix chain right off the champion's neck.

Whether by grace or divine intervention, Hulk's chest was nicked, and a trickle of blood flowed down the champ's mighty pecs like Jesus lanced on the cross.

Roddy Piper seized the moment, kneeling with the devastated and now rambling hero.

"You're bleeding," he said quietly, before leading Hulk off the Piper's Pit set.

In just a few simple moments, one of the most enduring babyfaces of all time was turned into a cold heel. Would Hulk Hogan accept the challenge of his best friend, a man he could probably not beat?

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