In professional wrestling, there are wrestlers who thrill the audiences with their athleticism, skill, speed and agility. Ricky Steamboat (also referred to as “The Dragon”) is one of these exciting wrestlers. He has been a wrestler since the late 1970′s. But, his best, and most memorable matches were between the 1980′s and 1990′s, in World Wrestling Entertainment, and the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling.
One of his early matches occurred at the first Wrestlemania, where he defeated Matt Borne. In September of that year, Steamboat defeated Mr. Fuji, only to be attacked by “The Magnificent” Don Muraco, starting that rivalry. The feud concluded in a January, 1986 tag match, where Steamboat joined forced with the Junk Yard Dog to defeat Fuji and Muraco.
In 1986, he was given an opportunity at the Intercontinental Championship, held by Randy Savage. Steamboat lost the by countout, and was “out of action” for a few months because of a storyline injury. He returned on an episode of “Saturday Night’s Main Event” in January, 1987, when Savage was trying to “injure” George “The Animal” Steele. Ricky’s return surprised the crowd. For the next couple of months, the WWE built a rivalry between Steamboat and Savage for the Intercontinental Championship. The match was held at Wrestlemania 3, and, in many people’s opinion, Steamboat stole the show. Both athletes displayed fantastic, breath-taking moves. The match was fast-paced, and filled with drama. The fans were ecstatic and thrilled when Steamboat pinned Savage to capture the Intercontinental title.
Shortly after that win, Steamboat approached Vince McMahon, and requested some time off wrestling, to be with his wife, who was expecting their first child. The management team was not thrilled, because plans were in place for him to hold the Intercontinental title for a while. The disruption would interfere with their plans. It was unfair that management stripped Steamboat of his title as a form of punishment. This incident reflected a lack of compassion and human values from those at the helm of the organization.
Once he returned, he felt the chill from his superiors. He was not scheduled to fight any major battles, and in my mind, this was demeaning to someone who brought so much to the sport. I believe this poor treatment prompted Steamboat’s early “retirement” in 1988.
Ricky made his return to the ring in World Championship Wrestling in January, 1989, as a mystery partner of Eddie Gilbert. They defeated the team of Ric Flair and Barry Windham, in a match which saw Steamboat pin Flair, who at the time, was the NWA World Champion. This result set up many classic showdowns between these two future Hall of Famers. Audiences all around the globe witnessed many nights of breathtaking moves, and blinding speed from these two wrestlers. Many occasions, they wrestled for 15-60 non-stop minutes. Sometimes, the matches ended in a draw, and the fans applauded the efforts of both athletes, because they knew they witnessed something extraordinary.
After a brief return to the WWE, Steamboat returned to the NWA (now known as World Championship Wrestling) in November, 1991, at the “Clash of the Champions” where he teamed with Dustin Rhodes and emerged victorious over Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko to win the World Tag Team titles, but lost them to Anderson and Bobby Eaton a couple months later. After the loss, Steamboat engaged in a feud with Anderson, Eaton, and the “Dangerous Alliance.” During the feud, Sting, Nikita Koloff, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, joined Ricky, to help in the battle. It led to a five-on-five War Games match between the two sides, which Steamboat’s team won to the fans’ elation, in a bloody and dangerous match.
In 1994, two old rivals re-ignited their feud. Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair battled over the World title. At WCW Spring Stampede, no winner was declared, as both athletes shoulders were pinned. As a result, there was no decision, and the title was declared vacant. The next battle occurred on WCW Saturday Night, in April 1994, where Flair would defeat Steamboat to re-claim the championship, in a grueling match, which had fans on their feet throughout. In July of that year, the last singles match between the two took place on WCW Main Event. The bout ended in disqualification because of interference by Steve Austin.
His last significant rivalry in WCW was against Steve Austin for the United States Championship. They battled at “Bash at the Beach” in 1994, but Steamboat came out on the losing end. The rematch was held in August of that year. In that match, Ricky hurt his back, but somehow, still managed to pin Austin to capture the US title. Sadly, because of the injury, he had to forfeit the title. While recovering, he was fired by Eric Bischoff (who at the time was President of WCW) through Federal Express. Steamboat then decided to retire from pro wrestling for good.
He returned to the WWE in 2005 as an agent, and was a guest referee for a few main matches at live events. His name was mentioned on the Feb. 23, 2009 edition of Monday Night Raw, for induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. As Steamboat was interviewed, he was attacked by Chris Jericho. A month later, Ricky joined Ric Flair, Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper to attack Jericho, after he was making fun of the legends. It led to Chris challenging Snuka, Piper, and Steamboat to a match.
At Wrestlemania 25, Jericho won the 3 on 1 elimination match, eliminating Steamboat in the end. I feel that it should have been Steamboat vs. Jericho at the WWE’s biggest show of the year, it would have been a better contest, as those two are evenly matched, and Piper and Snuka didnâ€™t serve any purpose, as they were eliminated very quickly. The next night, a 10 man tag match occurred, featuring all the athletes involved in the main matches the night before. Steamboat participated, winning the hearts of fans, who chanted “you still got it!” after his magnificent performance. That adulation brought Ricky to tears.
Although Steamboat is retired, he continues to appear on Raw. He is one of the “greats” in the sport, a mentor who offers guidance and advice to many wrestlers today. I believe he can still participate as a wrestler in matches today. He may not be able to fight for 30-60 minutes like he did in the ’80′s and ’90′s, but he will constantly thrill audiences with his fast-paced moves. Ricky Steamboat will always be one of the best, and a prominent figure in the world of professional wrestling.