On Sunday night (March 28), over 72,000 people gathered at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona to witness WrestleMania XXVI. That’s a tremendous audience, but still short of the WrestleMania record. On this day in 1987, WrestleMania III came to the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, where Andre the Giant challenged Hulk Hogan for the heavyweight championship. Total attendance on that day? A reported 93,173, a figure that has been disputed over time but still stands as the record for largest indoor attendance for a live sporting event in North America.
WrestleMania III represented the pinnacle of the wrestling boom in the 1980s. Hogan was one of the most recognizable stars in the world, but a number of members of the World Wrestling Federation roster had claims to mainstream fame, including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and the Iron Sheik. Though the show in 1987 featured appearances by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Alice Cooper, the real stars were in the main event. The match between Hogan and Andre was storytelling at its most pure. It centered around one question: Could the Hulkster pick up and slam his 525 pound opponent? Hogan went for the slam early in the match but fell backwards under Andre’s weight. The Giant kept the advantage for most of the rest of the match, until Hogan managed to stage a comeback and get Andre off his feet. It’s a remarkable moment — watch as everybody in the background jump up to their feet when Andre gets up. It’ll give you goosebumps. You know what will also give you goosebumps? Mastodon’s “Sleeping Giant,” this morning’s ode to the late Andre.