DATELINE: FEB 5, 1988 – MARKET SQUARE ARENA – INDIANAPOLIS, IN
The World Wrestling Federation produces a spin-off of Saturday Night’s Main Event, that would be slated to air on NBC in prime time on Friday night.
Simply called, The Main Event, the show featured a re-match of the WrestleMania III main event, which saw Hulk Hogan successfully defend the WWF World title against Andre the Giant in front of monumental backdrop: It had been the company’s largest event ever, drawing a reported 93,000 fans at Detroit’s Pontiac Silverdome.
The WWF and NBC looked to capitalize on that success, and their plan worked: The live broadcast drew a 15.2 Nielsen rating and 33 million viewers, both records for American televised wrestling that still stand to this day.
Andre would defeat The Hulkster, but not without MAJOR controversy.
It was revealed after the match that the referee was not the assigned referee for the title bout, Dave Hebner. As part of the storyline, Ted DiBiase had instead hired Earl Hebner, Dave’s real-life twin brother, as part of a plot to steal The Hulkster’s title. Per his instructions from The Million Dollar Man, the crooked official made a three-count when Hogan’s shoulder was clearly off the mat. After winning, André the Giant attempted to surrender the title to a waiting (and extremely pleased) DiBiase.
However, WWF President Jack Tunney would make an announcement that week on syndicated programming that the title could only change hands by pin or submission. Therefore, Tunney said that by attempting to surrender the title, André had actually just vacated it. Tunney then ordered a tournament at WrestleMania IV to crown a new champion.
The fallout? Andre and Hogan would eliminate each other in their tourney match at ‘Mania, and Randy Savage would go on to capture the WWF title.