The WrestleMania III attendance of 93,173 is a long debated subject.
It’s a number indelibly etched in the annals of WrestleMania folklore. Detroit, Michigan, March 23 1987. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. It’s a record that still stands today, although looks set to be broken on April 3 when WrestleMania 32 heads to Arlington, Texas. 100,000+ are expected to fill the AT&T Stadium to see Roman Reigns take on Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It’s expected WWE will announce a number of around 100,000 for “entertainment purposes”. It’s widely accepted that this is what they did for the WrestleMania III attendance in the Pontiac Silverdome.
Or did they?
Dave Meltzer claimed in an interview that until the mid-1990s, he always believed the number of 93,173 was the accurate figure for the WrestleMania III attendance. That was until Zane Bresloff called him during a True Hollywood Story on Hulk Hogan to say “Hogan still believes that number after all these years”. The acclaimed pro wrestling journalist said “When I was getting numbers from WWE, the numbers, even for the indoor WrestleManias, the numbers that they have on their computers and the numbers that they announce are always different.
“So, that was my first time, seven or eight years later, because Hogan was already on WCW by then, so it’s probably ‘95, I’m thinking — maybe ‘94, ‘95, ‘96. And he just goes, “No, no the real number is 78,000.” And I go, “Really?” And he goes, “Yeah, we made up 93,000,” because, whatever it was, the Rolling Stones had drawn like 87,000 or something like that. Maybe the Rolling Stones was after it, but they knew it was coming.
But there was The Pope and the Rolling Stones and them, so they’ve created a number that neither of those groups could have and nobody could have because you couldn’t get that many people in the building. So it was a number that was created before the show ever started and it was a number — I mean, they did sell out. The sellout was real. And the truth of the matter is, that if the building was big enough to where they could put 93,000 in, they really would have.”
However, my research tells me the building was big enough to hold over 80,000. In fact, not only do the record books say that it’s big enough, but it’s been proven that it is.
Unfortunately, Zane Bresloff is no longer with us to contact, or to prove the 78,000 number that Meltzer claims he told him.
So let’s take that very visit from The Pope that Dave Meltzer mentions. He says “neither The Pope nor The Rolling Stones could have that number because you couldn’t get that many people in the building”
Official records show that on September 19, 1987, The Pope held an audience in the Pontiac Silverdome in front of 93,682, beating the WrestleMania III record. That number is available not only on various websites, news outlets and the Silverdome’s own historical website, but through The Vatican’s public records and The Michigan Catholic.
These pictures below, from The Pope’s visit in 1987 show a crowd setup not too different from WWE’s for WrestleMania III. Granted, there seems to be more people bunched together on the field area for The Pope than there were at WrestleMania, but these images also show The Pope had quite a large staging area, clearly bigger than the one WWE had set up for the ring.
93,682. Allegedly at least.
The capacity for the Pontiac Silverdome is freely available for anyone to find. The Daily Mail in the UK, The Silverdome Architect, SuperBowl official attendance records, literally hundreds of outlets have the seating capacity (number of permanent seats) of the Stadium at around 81,000 for American Football games.
So let’s look at this closer. 81,000 for football. That would be with the stadium seating completely full. I managed to find the breakdown of the Silverdome seating capacity (source: The Silverdome Architect)
Lower Level: 42,082
Bench Seats: 3,634
Club Level: 7,342
Upper Level: 29,399
Private Suites: 1,246
Football, Soccer, Supercross, Tractor Pull, Rodeos: 81,325
Political Rallies, Religious Crusades: 90,000
Certainly lends credence to idea that 81,000+ fans could have fit in the stadium. Especially when you add in floor seating
In 1994, the USA hosted the World Cup of Soccer. The Pontiac Silverdome played host to four games in that tournament, and it’s from these photos that I’m able to draw my conclusion that Dave Meltzer and Zane Bresloff are wrong.
On June 18, 1994, USA played against Switzerland in a game that finished 1-1. Eric Wynalda scored for the USA whilst Georges Bregy scored for Switzerland. The official attendance for that game was 73,425. Just over 4,000 short of what Meltzer claims Bresloff told him the real WrestleMania III attendance was.
Here is a photo from that USA vs. Switzerland game:
As you can see, there are plenty of empty seats scattered all about the Silverdome, especially in the upper section in the corners.
A Group B game between Brazil and Sweden played on 28 June, 1994 had an official attendance of 77,217, just 1000 short of that “real” WrestleMania III attendance but nearly 4000 more than the USA vs. Switzerland game, proving there was still plenty of room left in the stadium stands.
Superbowl XVI, held in the Pontiac Silverdome drew an attendance of 81,270.
Take a look at this image below, from WrestleMania III.
The white outline shows where the field would be for football/soccer. We already know from the records above and from other freely available public records that, when full, the Silverdome holds 81,000 for football.
Bearing in mind we already know World Cup 94 games drew 73,425 and 77,217 respectively, for Meltzer and Bresloff’s number of 78,000 to be accurate, it means not only would the floor seating area in the Silverdome need to be nearly completely empty, but there would be around 2000 empty seats in the stadium itself.
As you can clearly see in these photos below, not only are the stadium seating stands completely full, but the floor area where the field would be is jam packed too. Almost identical in size to the audience with The Pope in the pictures above, which allegedly drew just slightly more than WWE’s attendance.
Given that Meltzer’s basis for 78,000 isn’t based on anything more than “I was told by someone” including claiming Zane Bresloff and Vince McMahon himself showed him a fax, coupled with these photos that clearly prove that number to be incredibly far out, I don’t see how anybody can side with him. Especially when you consider that Dave Meltzer has never produced any concrete proof.
Dave, over to you.