It was Friday, February 5th, 1988, and the wrestling world as well as a good portion of America was tuned to NBC at 8pm that night, taking in a World Wrestling Federation televised event called “The Main Event.”
The show debuted 33 years ago today, and while it was meant to be a one-off in terms of wrestling shows, no one could have predicted the incredible success or viewership that the show would have.
The one-hour live event, which took place at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, drew an incredible 15.2 Nielsen rating and 33 million viewers, both records for American televised wrestling.
So why was this event so popular? It featured the rematch that everyone had been waiting for since WrestleMania III: a world heavyweight championship bout between challenger Andre the Giant and champion Hulk Hogan.
Their first match at Mania the previous March drew an indoor attendance record at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, as 93,173 watched Hogan defeat Andre clean.
“The Main Event” was billed as the one-on-one rematch between the two, and this time, Andre got a measure of revenge. He pinned Hogan, despite the fact that Hogan’s shoulders weren’t down.
The end of the match was one of the best in all of wrestling history, as it was revealed after the bout that the referee was not the assigned referee, Dave Hebner, but rather his twin brother, Earl Hebner.
The storyline was that the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase switched the officials, and the ref basically ‘screwed’ Hogan out of the belt.
The show captivated the audience, and it was a return to prime time for wrestling, the first prime time wrestling show on network TV since 1955.
After the show, the company put forth a single elimination tournament at WrestleMania IV to crown a new champion, a tournament that was eventually won by the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage.