1988 proved to be a huge year in professional wrestling. The World Wrestling Federation seemed unstoppable with Hulk Hogan main eventing the company to two extremely successful pay-per-views, house shows, syndicated television, and the popular late-night special Saturday Night’s Main Event.
The WWF had used the impressive match-up between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to headline its two PPV’s Wrestlemania and Survivor Series in 1987. Unlike matches today where a wrestler will face his or her opponent on multiple PPV’s, house shows, and TV programs, the WWF did not do so with Andre vs. Hulk. While they appeared occasionally on house shows, the WWF wisely limited their appearances against each other in 1987.
Although Hulk Hogan had thrown back the challenge of Andre at Wrestlemania III, Andre had scored a measure of revenge by winning the tag team elimination match between his team and Hulk Hogan’s team at the inaugural Survivor Series. Andre made it clear that he still had his eyes set on Hogan’s WWF Championship. It was only a matter of time before the two men had a rematch.
The rematch between Andre the Giant and WWF champion Hulk Hogan was made all the more interesting when wrestler Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase arrived in the WWF and offered to buy the belt from Hogan. When Hogan refused DiBiase’s offer, DiBiase bought Andre the Giant’s contract from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and made it clear that he was going to use Andre to get the belt from Hogan. Andre told DiBiase that he would defeat Hogan for the WWF championship and then sell the belt to “The Million Dollar Man”.
Andre and Hogan engaged in several skirmishes before their big match up in 1988. Both men interjected themselves into house shows with Andre interfering in matches on behalf of his fellow heels and Hogan coming out to stop Andre’s interference. An example of this was a December 5, 1987 house show at the Philadelphia Spectrum where Bam Bam Bigelow took on “King Kong” Bundy. Andre accompanied Bundy to the ring and interfered on Bundy’s behalf, prompting Hogan to come out.
As 1988 began, the WWF aired an angle on the January 2, 1988 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event where Andre once again accompanied King Kong Bundy to the ring, this time in a match between Bundy and Hogan. While the Hulkster defeated Bundy by pinfall, he did not fare so well after the match. Andre attacked the champion from behind, choking Hogan with his mammoth hands. Several wrestlers came out to help the Hulkster but they were unable to pry the Giant’s hands from Hogan’s throat. Finally, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan came out with his 2x4 and broke it over Andre’s back. This distracted Andre long enough for the wrestlers in the ring to carry Hogan to safety.
This violent encounter between Andre and Hogan reminded the fans of what a menace the Giant presented to Hogan and his WWF championship. Andre had embarrassed Hogan by choking him out and as Hogan was taken away, Andre posed with the title belt, a possible sign of things to come.
On the January 17, 1988 episode of Wrestling Challenge, WWF announcer Craig DeGeorge interviewed Andre and Ted DiBiase (accompanied by his bodyguard Virgil). Andre promised that he was going to deliver the WWF championship to DiBiase after he defeated Hogan.
The match was further hyped during the inaugural edition of The Royal Rumble. The Royal Rumble was a television special which aired on the USA Network. The special was designed to kill the buyrate for Jim Crockett Promotions’ (JCP) PPV The Bunkhouse Stampede.
Both shows revolved around a battle royal and the WWF figured that given the choice between a free show and a PPV, many people would opt for the free show. As expected, The Royal Rumble cut into the buyrate for The Bunkhouse Stampede, further damaging JCP’s already precarious financial situation.
Thanks again to Graham Cawthon for his awesome resource page http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com