Wrestler of the Day – February 28: Ricky Steamboat

Today is one of the most naturally talented wrestlers of all time: Ricky Steamboat.

Ricky Steamboat got his start in the territories back in the 70s. He was named after a popular wrestler named Sam Steamboat which was a common practice back in the day. Why it’s not done today I’m not sure as there are always real second generation guys brought in, so why not make it up? Steamboat’s first major exposure was in a feud with Ric Flair for the Mid-Atlantic TV Title, primarily due to this match from June 15, 1977 in Raleigh.

TV Title: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat

Flair is defending and takes him into the corner to start before hammering on the chest. Flair’s tag partner Greg Valentine is on commentary and bragging about how awesome Flair is. Ric backs up into the corner and goes up top, only to be slammed down in a tradition that goes all the way back to 1977. Steamboat is all fired up but walks into an atomic drop for two. The champion gets chopped across the ring and things slow down a lot. A sunset flip gets two for Steamboat but Flair starts going after the knee.

Ric hammers away with right hands but Steamboat kicks him in the ribs to escape. A dropkick gets two on Flair and we take a break. Back with Steamboat in control as Valentine admits that Steamboat is a lot better than he expected. Flair comes back with a suplex and a WOO but an elbow drop is only good for two. Valentine FREAKS as Steamboat chops away but they ram heads and Ricky falls outside. He comes back in with a top rope ax handle for the pin and the title in a BIG upset.

Rating: C+. Both guys were still young at this point and the match was more energetic than some of their others as a result. Steamboat got a good reaction from the crowd and the place went nuts when he got the pin. Of course they would have more famous matches down the line but it’s cool to see stuff like this.

We’ll jump ahead a bit to 1980 and a match from All Japan.

Ricky Steamboat vs. The Sheik

That’s the original Sheik, not the Iron version. Ricky hits three quick dropkicks to put Sheik down and the wild man bails into the crowd. Steamboat has a tiny mustache here which just doesn’t work for him. Back in and Sheik pounds away in the corner before taking it to the floor to keep up the brawling. Ricky slams him into the barricade and hits him with the mic a few times as a bunch of people surround them and block the view.

Sheik chokes a bit but gets punched in the face before a top rope chop to the head puts Sheik down. Ricky has already drawn blood as is the Sheik’s custom. They head into the crowd for more brawling until Sheik sets up a table at ringside. Steamboat slams him face first into the wood and they get inside for a change, only to have Sheik go after the referee. Ricky puts on a sleeper but the bell rings for the DQ.

Rating: C-. This was barely a match but it’s always cool to see Steamboat doing something completely different like this. Sheik was the original wild man and would train his nephew Sabu. There was no way this wasn’t going to be a DQ with all the insanity out there and there’s nothing wrong with that.

We’ll head back stateside now where Steamboat formed a tag team with Jay Youngblood. They would challenge the Brisco Brothers for the World Tag Team Titles at Starrcade 1983.

Tag Titles: Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood vs. Brisco Brothers

 

The Brothers would be Jerry, who you might remember as one of Vince’s Stooges in the Attitude Era and the legendary former world champion Jack. They’re defending here against the guys they took the belts from. Jack and Steamboat start things off in what sounds like a dream match. It’s a feeling out process to start with neither guy being able to get any kind of advantage to start. Steamboat does some fast leapfrogs but Brisco grabs the ropes to avoid a chop. Mosca, the big guy mentioned earlier, is referee here.

 

Jerry comes in to work on the arm for a bit before it’s back to Jack for an armbar. Jerry comes in again and pounds away in the corner but Ricky chops him down and tags in Jay. Youngblood counters a slam into an armdrag on Jerry before bringing Steamboat back in to pound on the arm as well. Jay jumps off the top onto the arm as well but it’s off to Jack again to drop Steamboat throat first onto the top rope.

 

A quick suplex gets two for Jerry and he hooks a short armscissors to keep Ricky in trouble. Ricky escapes in an impressive power display by lifting him off the mat and dropping him down on his back. Hot tag brings in Jay and things break down. The Briscos double team Youngblood to take over again but Jerry can only get two off a suplex. Jerry tries his abdominal stretch cradle but Jay kicks out again. He tries again but rolls Jay into the corner for another tag to Steamboat and the future dragon cleans house. A double chop puts Jerry down and Steamboat slams Jay down onto Jerry for the pin and the titles.

 

Rating: C+. Nice tag match here to give Steamboat and Youngblood their fifth tag titles. Yeah even back then there were teams who would get a bunch of titles in just a few years. Anyway, the Briscos would be retired soon after this while Youngblood would die in 1985 due to injuries suffered in the match. Good stuff here though.

Ricky would be one of three men that wrestled at both the first Starrcade and Wrestlemania (the others being Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine. Bob Orton Jr. appeared at both but didn’t wrestle at Wrestlemania), so here’s his match from the original Wrestlemania.

Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat

Borne is the Maniac so I have another name to use. Steamboat is looking chiseled here. I’ve never seen him so ripped up and it’s a strange look on him. Also he isn’t called the Dragon yet which is even odder to hear. Ricky speeds things up to start and chops Borne down before hitting a chinlock only about 40 seconds in.

Off to a headlock instead with Steamboat backflipping over Borne twice with the second time resulting in an atomic drop. Back to the headlock which is shifted into a front facelock but Borne comes back with a snap suplex for two. Ricky is like dude I’m Ricky Steamboat and suplexes Borne down, followed by a swinging neckbreaker. A shoulder block puts Borne down and the cross body ends this near squash clean.

Rating: D+. Eh it’s Steamboat in the 80s so how bad can this be? Ricky wasn’t a huge star yet but he was rapidly becoming known as something special. It would be another year or so before he started tearing the house down on a regular basis and started having his masterpieces. Borne would be a lot better when he had a gimmick to go with his skills.

One of Steamboat’s first major feuds in the WWF was against Jake Roberts, culminating in a Snake Pit match at the Big Event in August of 1986.

Jake Roberts vs. Ricky Steamboat

This is a Snakepit Match meaning anything goes. Roberts had DDTed Steamboat on the floor at a SNME and nearly killed him to ignite this feud which was the second biggest of the summer. Dragon had busted out a Komodo Dragon to counter Damien but neither are here tonight due to customs issues. The two commentators that talk say that the Canadian flag has an oak leaf on it.

Dragon dominates until we hit the floor where Jake takes over after a low blow. Steamboat gets a few chair shots in and that just was weird to type. Dragon just beats the tar out of him for awhile but gets reversed and goes over the top to the floor. Valiant thinks Roberts is a champion for some reason. Roberts is one of those guys that was supposed to be a heel but more or less became a face through just pure fan support.

Dragon starts bleeding after going into the post but fights out of the DDT. Jake is dominating now and getting face pops for it. And then he sits on Dragon’s chest and holds his arm up and you know the rest. They would have another match in a few weeks on SNME with the animals that I reviewed last night to close out the feud.

Rating: B. This was a very intense match. Street fights and the like simply didn’t happen in this era so this was insane at the time. Both guys were great workers so this worked out very well. Steamboat was about to have his throat messed up by Savage and you know the aftermath of that.

Soon after that, Randy Savage would crush Steamboat’s throat across the barricade and puts Ricky on the shelf for months. He would return on Saturday Night’s Main Event, setting up a showdown at Wrestlemania III in one of the most famous matches of all time.

Intercontinental Title: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat

The fans give an audible pop for Savage which even the announcers have to acknowledge. George Steele comes out to back up Steamboat and show off that green tongue. They shove each other around a few times before Randy takes an early breather. Savage misses a back elbow and Steamboat hits a pair of those perfect armdrags of his. Randy is lifted into the air via a choke and it’s back to the floor.

Back in and Savage gets in his first shot before sending Ricky into the buckle. Steamboat immediately comes back by grabbing the wrist and lifting Savage into the air. Savage comes back with an elbow to the face before sending Steamboat over the top and out to the floor. Randy starts going after the throat but has to stop to try to get his left arm working again. Steamboat sends him into the buckle and chops away, sending Savage into the ropes.

With the champion tied up, Steamboat fires away with a vengeance. Savage gets loose and Ricky hits a cross body for two, kicking off one of the fastest sets of near falls you’ll EVER see. Randy finally slows him down with a knee to the back and a toss over the ropes, only to have Ricky skin the cat. Savage throws him out again and knocks him into the crowd for good measure. The top rope ax handle keeps Steamboat down even longer and Savage is in full control.

Savage hits a clothesline for two which Gorilla doesn’t like. Gorilla: “That could be a disqualification.” Jesse: “For what?” Gorilla: “Intentional.” Jesse: “Well of course it was intentional!” Gorilla could find some weird stuff to complain about at times. After a pair of Savage suplexes for two, Ricky starts firing back and sends Savage out to the floor. A top rope chop gets two for the challenger and they speed things up all over again.

We get another chase on the floor followed by a sunset flip by the Dragon for two. They trade ANOTHER great pinfall reversal sequence as Jesse declares this one of the greatest matches he’s ever seen. A slingshot sends Savage face first into the post and there’s a sunset flip for two for the Dragon. Savage reverses an O’Connor Roll with a handful of tights for two. Randy uses the tights again and sends Dragon shoulder first into the post.

They reverse an Irish whip and the referee gets bumped. Randy hits another clothesline and drops the big elbow but there’s no referee. Savage goes to get the bell but Steele takes it away. That earns the Animal a kick in the head so he shoves Savage off the top. Steamboat is back up and famously counters a slam into a small package for the pin and the title.

Rating: A+. This is the greatest match of all time so what do you expect me to give it. I’m amazed at how well this holds up nearly 26 years later as there is nothing wrong with it at all. The story goes that these two practiced this match at Savage’s house for three months beforehand and it shows. Not a thing is even close to screwed up and they’re so fast out there it’s unbelievable. How anyone can say this is anything but perfect astounds me to this day. If you haven’t seen this before, watch it now and take notes.

Steamboat would drop the title only a few months later but he would still make it into the WWF Title tournament at Wrestlemania IV.

WWF World Title Tournament First Round: Greg Valentine vs. Ricky Steamboat

Should be good. Steamboat brings the future Richie Steamboat to the ring with him in matching outfits. Feeling out process to start with Steamboat taking him down via an armdrag. Gorilla says Ricky has excellence of execution to coin a phrase. A few shoulders get two on Valentine so he throws Steamboat over the top. That of course doesn’t work on the Dragon so he comes back with a dropkick and a crucifix for two.

Valentine comes back with his usual elbows and forearms to put Steamboat down. He pulls Steamboat off the ropes so Ricky drops onto the back of his head. This allows Gorilla to bust out the term “external occipital protuberance”, to which Jesse replies “THE WHAT?” The voice Ventura says that in is hilarious. Apparently it’s that little bump on the back of your head. Steamboat reverses a suplex into one of his own and hooks an armbar. Jimmy Hart goes a rant of instructions to the Hammer which is such a lost art in wrestling.

Steamboat gets dropped on the back of his head, allowing for another discussion of whatever that thing is called. Gorilla: “External occipital protuberance.” Jesse: “Oh ok. Back of the head for all you normal people back there.” Valentine pounds away with elbows as Gorilla says they’re “right in the kisser, right between the eyes.” His biology knowledge is all over the place. Donald Trump is in the front row. Steamboat comes back with some chops for two but Greg puts him right back down with a gutbuster.

Valentine goes after the leg but the Figure Four is broken up. They chop it out with Steamboat taking over, only to charge into a boot in the corner. Valentine hits a top rope forearm but still can’t put the Figure Four on. Steamboat hits an elbow to the face and a top rope chop for two. He rams Valentine into the corner ten times and shoves the referee away when he tries to break it up. Ricky goes up and hits the cross body but Valentine rolls through to eliminate Steamboat.

Rating: C+. Like I said, decent stuff here although Steamboat would be gone pretty much immediately over wanting to take some time off. Vince said no so Ricky left wrestling for about nine months. Anyway, good stuff here from two guys that know how to work whatever kind of a match you ask them to. Valentine was great in a role like this where he wasn’t going to win anything but he could fill in a spot and do just fine.

Soon after this, Ricky would leave the company and head back to the NWA in 1989 for a feud with Ric Flair. Steamboat would win the World Title at Chi-Town Rumble in February 1989. This set up a rematch at Clash of the Champions 6 in a 2/3 falls match for Steamboat’s title.

NWA World Title: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Stemboat

 

Ricky is defending and this is 2/3 falls with a sixty minute time limit. Ross tells us that this was supposed to be Luger vs. Jack Victory but the card has been changed so we can see the match people are interested in. Terry Funk replaces Hayes on commentary. The video screen behind the entrance says “Rick” Flair, which is probably the only time you’ll see that spelling. Ricky has his son in a dragon costume for a cute moment.

 

Feeling out process to start with Ric slapping him in the face and getting the blonde stared out of his hair. They take it to the mat with Steamboat getting a very brief advantage until Flair makes it to the ropes. Back up and Steamboat slaps him in the face for good measure. Flair grabs a top wristlock but Ricky overpowers him into the ropes again. The challenger gets inside again but gets taken down by a headlock at the five minute mark.

 

Ricky gets up and starts running the ropes, sending Flair down to the mat. Steamboat outsmarts him though and stops on a dime, dropping down into the headlock again. Flair fights up and takes him into the corner for some hard chops but Steamboat comes back with a flying headscissors and a dropkick. Back to the headlock to slow the match down before Steamboat drops some knees to the head.

 

Flair drives him into the corner but gets dropkicked down again. Ric seems to just be trying to hang with Steamboat here instead of beating him. Ten minutes in now with Flair begging off in the corner. An O’Connor roll gets two for the champion and a flying headlock takeover puts Flair down again. Ricky starts going after the arm to set up his double chickenwing submission later in the match. Flair gets chopped out of the corner and flops down onto his face for two.

 

We hit the headlock again but this time Flair scores with an atomic drop to escape. Steamboat will have none of that and chops Ric down to the floor. Ross tells us that the two remaining matches tonight will air over the weekend if there’s no time tonight. I love little things like that as they keep some sense of logic to the show instead of just acting like those matches never happened.

 

Fifteen minutes in now and Flair turns it up a notch with the chops. Steamboat chops him even harder though and drops Flair with a suplex, only for his splash to land on Ric’s knees. A double stomp to Steamboat’s stomach gives Flair a target and he does his best to hold Steamboat’s shoulders down for a pin. Back up again and they fight over a test of strength until Steamboat misses a dropkick. Flair tries the Figure Four but gets countered into a small package, only to counter Ricky into a small package for the quick pin and the first fall. The first fall alone would be nothing short of a classic.

 

They circle each other to start the second fall as the fans are WAY into this. A quick gorilla press from Ricky sets up a top rope chop to the head for two. Flair takes him right back down with a suplex and walks around for a bit before missing a knee drop. Steamboat drops about sixteen straight elbows on the knee before throwing on a Figure Four of his own. Flair finally makes the ropes but Steamboat immediately puts him in a Boston crab at the twenty five minute mark.

 

Flair gets under the ropes and screams for mercy as the hold is broken. Terry says go back to the leg but Steamboat chops instead and gets taken down by a headlock. He reverses into a headscissors and they bridge up into a backslide for two on Ric. They head outside with Steamboat going ribs first into the barricade twice in a row. Steamboat barely makes it back inside but Flair snaps his throat across the top rope to keep the advantage. Ric suplexes him back in for two as we hit the halfway point.

 

Flair puts on an abdominal stretch and rolls Steamboat back for a series of two counts. He even puts his feet on the floor for extra leverage but Ricky keeps getting up. Back up and Steamboat gets a quick rollup for two but the kickout sends him into the ropes. Flair heads to the top rope but gets slammed down, giving Steamboat another target. He slaps on the double chickenwing and makes Flair submit for the first time in his career to tie things up.

 

Ric pokes Steamboat in the eye to break up a quick abdominal stretch and we’re at the thirty five minute mark. Ricky pounds on the back but gets countered into a shin breaker. It slows Ricky down but Flair can’t follow up because of the earlier knee injury. Flair gets the Figure Four but Ricky is right next to the rope so there isn’t much damage done. Back up again and they chop the skin off their chests one more time before Flair is sent into the corner and chopped off the apron.

 

The challenger begs off in the corner and tries a quick rollup, only to get caught with his feet on the ropes for the break. Steamboat runs into a boot in the corner and misses another charge, getting his leg tied around the ropes. Forty minutes in now and Flair goes after the knee as only he can. The Figure Four goes on in the middle of the ring and Ricky is in agony but will not give up. He FINALLY rolls into the ropes after nearly two straight minutes in the hold.

 

Ric chops even more on the outside but Ricky does the same in the corner. Flair gets sent into the corner and actually comes off the top with a high cross body for two. Steamboat’s knee gives on a suplex attempt with fifteen minutes to go in the match. Ricky goes up top for the high cross body but the knee is too banged up, allowing Flair to get up at two. The champ gets two more off a swinging neckbreaker but Flair sends him outside.

 

Ricky comes back in with a sunset flip over the top but Flair puts on a sleeper. Steamboat’s arm drops twice but he fights to his feet and sends Ric face first into the buckle to escape. Flair kicks him in the knee to slow Ricky down but the champion kicks Ric in the head for a close two. Both guys are spent now with ten minutes left. Steamboat gets up top and misses a splash but gets to his feet again. The chops and kicks from Flair have almost no effect as Steamboat chops Flair down again.

 

Ricky pounds away in the corner again but he has almost nothing left. Flair gets his nineteenth wind and suplexes the champion down with about six minutes to go. Ric goes up top and gets slammed down one more time, setting up another double chickenwing. The champ’s knee gives out though and Flair falls on top, only to have Ricky get a shoulder up at the last second to retain the title two falls to one.

 

Rating: A+. There aren’t many matches that last nearly an hour but this was as good as it can get. The match runs about fifty five minutes and feels about half of that with no dead spots at all. Both guys looked exhausted at the end with good reason as they couldn’t leave anything else out there. The stories being told and the psychology are all second to none and the whole thing is just perfect. I like it better than the Chi-Town Rumble match and the final showdown at WrestleWar but there’s no going wrong anywhere. Outstanding match and maybe the best match WCW ever had.

We’ll jump ahead to late 1991 after Ricky had a pretty lame return to the WWF. In 1991, Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham were hunting for the World Tag Team Titles but the Enforcers (Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko, the champions) broke Windham’s arm before a title defense. Dustin had a replacement partner at Clash of the Champions 17.

Tag Titles: Enforcers vs. Dustin Rhodes/???

The champions don’t know who they’re fighting yet. Rhodes comes out with Windham who is in street clothes. We bring out Dustin’s partner but he’s in a black robe with a big dragon mask on. Oh you know where this is going. Dustin takes the dragon mask off and there’s a hood over his head.

If you didn’t get it, it’s RICKY FREAKING STEAMBOAT. Anderson loses his mind over this, clearly shouting NOT RICKY STEAMBOAT!!! The fans freaking erupt as Steamboat had been doing WWF house shows as recently as three weeks or so before this. HUGE shock and to say this is going to be a classic is an understatement.

Steamboat and Anderson start us off as the champions are trying to adjust on the fly. It’s a big brawl immediately on the floor for a bit. It’s ALL Rhodes and Steamboat here as they clean house. Larry’s arm gets worked over to start and it’s been one sided so far. Tony makes the stupid statement of you have to be a good singles wrestler to be a good tag wrestler. I’m not sure on that one. Now that I’m back from making a thread on it, let’s continue.

Anderson breaks tradition and comes off the top with a double axe that actually connects! That’s the extent of Anderson’s offense though as this continues to be one sided. Larry comes in and slows things down (shocking isn’t it?). Ricky uses martial arts and that’s using one of Larry’s moves some how. Well to an extent that’s true but it’s worded oddly.

The heels take over with good old fashioned double teaming. Can anyone sell a sunset flip like Arn Anderson? If they have I’d certainly like to see it. Why do wrestling companies always insist on showing us shots of the crowd in the middle of the match? We know they’re there and we can tell if they’re enjoying it or not. We don’t have to see them to prove it.

Arn and Larry use some great double team stuff and Arn busts out a bearhug. They work on Ricky’s back as this has been a very fun match. They switch out when the referee is busy and swear they tagged. Moments later Dustin and Ricky make a tag but the referee didn’t see it. The referee is of course Nick Patrick so did you expect anything less than nefarious means?

Dustin gets the hot tag and comes in to clean house, beating the heck out of both guys. He hits the bulldog on Arn and makes a blind tag. Arn doesn’t know it and walks into the cross body off the top and there’s no way you’re getting up from that. The roof is blown off again as the new champions celebrate.

Rating: A-. This was a great match including a great surprise for the partner. This was a televised title change which is something you never saw back in the day. They went old school here with the heels cheating and the faces working hard and everything worked. It’s a great match and considering this was on free TV, you can’t go wrong at all.

After losing the titles, Steamboat would head back into the singles division, including this match from Worldwide on May 9, 1992.

Ricky Steamboat vs. Cactus Jack

Steamboat has a broken nose coming in so Jack tries to ram him face first into the buckle. Ricky comes back with a DDT for two and a jackknife cover for the same. Cactus charges into an armbar and gets dropped with a horrible looking dropkick. Jack tries to throw him to the floor but Ricky skins the cat, only to get caught by a Cactus Clothesline to put both guys outside. A suplex back inside gets two for Jack and there’s a discus lariat to put the Dragon down. Cactus misses a charge into the post and Ricky hits the high cross body for the pin.

Rating: D+. There’s a 20 minute classic in there if they were given the time but this only lasted about five minutes. Jack was starting to round into form as the crazy man that absorbed pain and destroyed almost anyone in his path. Steamboat was oddly sloppy here and didn’t seem all that interested.

Later that year Steamboat had a match at Halloween Havoc 1992 against Brian Pillman. How can that not be awesome?

Ricky Steamboat vs. Brian Pillman

This should be awesome. Pillman is a heel here and would hook up with Steve Austin soon. The fans have no problem cheering for Steamboat so the crowd is back to normal. Steamboat chops him to start and hits a shoulder for two. Pillman throws him over the ropes but that doesn’t work on the Dragon. Steamboat plays possum and rams Pillman’s face into the mat to take over. Dragon busts out the armdrag/bar combination and takes over.

Pillman gets backdropped and slammed a few times, so he pokes Steamboat in the eyes to take over. See? Being evil does pay off. Steamboat is like screw this getting beaten up and chokes Pillman over his head. Brian blasts him in the back of the head when Steamboat has his back turned to take over. The headscissors gets two for Pillman and he chokes away a bit on the ropes. The Dragon blocks a superplex but jumps into a dropkick for two.

Pillman is getting frustrated because he can’t put Steamboat down so Ricky hits a Russian legsweep to put both guys down. There’s a sleeper and the Dragon is in trouble. Steamboat falls into the corner to ram Brian’s head into the buckle to escape. Pillman starts running but he catches Steamboat coming back in with a knee lift. A cross body off the middle rope gets two for Pillman. Steamboat goes up and hits a top rope sunset flip for two. Pillman counters but Steamboat counters the counter into a sunset flip for the pin.

Rating: B. This is what you call a fast paced wrestling match between a talented face and a talented heel. To put it short, the idea worked. They worked very well together as you would expect them too, with both guys looking crisp the whole way through and the crowd reacting well to it. Good stuff here indeed.

Speaking of matches that just have to be awesome, here’s Steamboat vs. Vader for Vader’s World Title from Worldwide on May 30, 1993.

WCW World Title: Ricky Steamboat vs. Vader

This is some nonsense about a computer selecting Steamboat but dude, it’s Ricky Steamboat. He should get a title shot a month just to make the champion look awesome. Vader has Harley Race with him here so odds are we’ll get some cheating. The champion knocks Steamboat around to start and lifts him up for a gorilla press before dropping him throat first across the top rope.

Race and Vader both choke for a bit before Ricky slides between Vader’s legs and trying a sunset flip, only to avoid Vader cannonballing down onto his chest. Vader charges at him but Ricky low bridges him to the floor and scores with a baseball slide. Race gets an atomic drop but the distraction lets Vader drop Steamboat face first onto the barricade. We take a break and come back with Race hitting a knee to Ricky’s ribs as the Dragon is in trouble.

Back in and Vader drops a big elbow which was very close to a low blow. A middle rope clothesline crushes Steamboat again and we hit an abdominal stretch on the mat. Steamboat escapes but is literally screaming in pain as Vader forearms him upside the head. A belly to back suplex gets two for the champion and Vader is shocked. Ricky scores with some chops but gets splashed in the corner, setting up the Vader Bomb.

Steamboat is able to avoid a second Bomb and get up top for two chops to the head and the high cross body for two. There’s a Figure Four but Race rakes the eyes for the save. Ricky cross bodies Vader to the floor but misses a charge into the barricade. Vader splashes him on the floor and beats the count for the win.

Rating: C+. Nice match here with Steamboat being as smooth as ever out there. He was just good enough to make the fans believe there was a chance of a new champion while not making Vader sweat all that much. The ending was a nice touch as well as Steamboat gets to stay strong and Vader gets the win.

Steamboat was getting up there in years but was still solid in the ring. The solution was to have him give younger guys the rub, with Steve Austin being one of the bigger young guys on the roster. From Clash of the Champions 28.

US Title: Ricky Steamboat vs. Steve Austin

Austin is champion and he already beat Steamboat via some circumstances (Austin got DQ’d, Steamboat insisted they keep going, Austin pinned him) at Bash at the Beach so this is the second match. We go split screen to see Hogan leave in the ambulance. Ricky takes him to the mat quickly and Austin complains of a hair pull. That brings a smile to my face due to the future.

Austin has Dragon Slayer on his tights. If Austin gets disqualified, he loses the title. We stop commentary on the match while a stage manager gives Heenan a live report of what happened to Hogan. We’ll ignore the fact that everyone could see it and point out that WE CAN’T HEAR HIM! He’s whispering in Bobby’s ear (and I know because the camera went off the match to look at him doing so), making this totally pointless.

They chop it out and Steamboat takes over. He grabs the arm as Heenan rants about how he wouldn’t care if Hogan can ever wrestle again. We get a SWEET pinfall reversal sequence and Ricky grabs the arm once again. We finally see this loudmouthed fan that the announcers have been complaining about all night. It’s Barry “Smash” Darsow as the new character the Blacktop Bully. He was a truck driver and a bully. And people wonder why this company was always struggling.

Tony says Austin has held the title since December of 1983, or about 11 years at this point. It’s more like 9 months and December of 93 but you can’t expect him to be able to tell time or complicated things like that. After a quick chase on the floor, Steamboat hooks a sleeper but Austin kind of drops down and drives Steamboat’s chin into his shoulder. I’d jot that down if I was him.

We hear that Sting who was in Chicago, has chartered a plane and is on his way here and will wrestle in Hogan’s place if need be. Ricky stays on the arm and hits a top rope chop. Back to the Bully shouting as Austin apparently counters with something. We didn’t get to see it but why would we need to do that? They fight from their knees and Austin grabs a chinlock.

They chop it out again and Steamboat hits a double to take over. They chop it out for the third or fourth time and Austin hits a suplex. A second is blocked and Steamboat puts him on the ropes. The cameras glitch so we get a random shot of the entrance. Austin knocks him back to the mat but gets crotched. Ricky loads up a superplex but Austin hits a release forward suplex.

He comes off the top but gets caught and Steamboat makes his comeback. I’m not sure how much of a comeback it can be after such a short time on defense but whatever. Top rope crossbody gets canvas and here’s more Blacktop Bully. Steamboat Hulks Up and hammers away. A spinebuster gets two. Austin goes up but gets caught in an electric chair drop for another two.

This is getting really good. A few pinning combinations get two for Steamboat. Austin dumps him over but Steamboat holds the rope. If he had hit the floor it would have been a title change. Austin goes to slam him BUT YOU CAN’T SLAM RICKY STEAMBOAT!!! Ricky gets his small package and the US Title.

Rating: B. Very good match here which is even more impressive when you consider Steamboat destroyed his back in this match and had to retire before he defended the title. Austin was supposed to get a rematch at Fall Brawl but since Steamboat was hurt, Austin was awarded the title and Jim freaking Duggan of all people took the title from him in about 45 seconds. But Hogan never did anything bad for WCW and it was just a coincidence that a washed up guy like Duggan got the US Title over someone young and talented like Austin and that Duggan just happened to be a friend of Duggan right?

Steamboat was scheduled to drop the title back to Austin but injured his back in the Clash match, forcing him into retirement as a result (WCW of course fired him via FedEx because that’s the kind of company they were). Steamboat would leave wrestling for several years before becoming a trainer for WWE. He would come out of retirement at Wrestlemania 25 at the age of 56 for a legends handicap match against Chris Jericho.

Chris Jericho vs. Roddy Piper/Jimmy Snuka/Ricky Steamboat

Flair is here to support his fellow old people. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s somewhere between smashed and alcohol poisoning. Jericho has to beat all three legends to win so he starts with Piper. Roddy looks bad but considering less than two years earlier he was diagnosed with lymphoma, this is pretty impressive.

Piper fires away to start and takes it to the mat before hooking a quick sunset flip for two. A kind of dropkick puts Chris down and Roddy pounds away in the corner. Jimmy comes in and the match turns into slow motion. To be fair he’s about 65 here. Ricky comes in and starts cranking on the arm as you would expect him to. Back to Jimmy for a double chop although only Ricky’s actually hits. Out of nowhere Jericho puts on the Walls for the elimination.

Piper comes back in and works over the ribs before throwing on the sleeper. It only lasts for a few seconds though before Jericho rams him into the top rope and gets the elimination via a running enziguri. This leaves Steamboat vs. Jericho with the Dragon coming in with the top rope cross body for a VERY close near fall. A snapmare puts Ricky down and Jericho kicks him in the back before putting on a chinlock. In the STUPID part of the show, Jericho throws Steamboat over the ropes for him to skin the cat, but LET’S LOOK AT FLAIR INSTEAD!

Jericho gets backdropped over the top to the floor and IT’S A FLYING OLD MAN to take Jericho down again. Back in and a top rope chop has Jericho reeling. Steamboat jumps over Chris out of the corner and gets a rollup for two. Jericho finally hits the bulldog but the Lionsault misses. Ricky grabs a powerslam out of nowhere for two but gets caught in the Walls. Steamboat reverses THAT into a small package for the hottest two count you’ll see in years. If that’s not enough, Steamboat backflips out of a belly to back suplex, only to walk into the Codebreaker to let Jericho survive.

Rating: B-. WOW Steamboat had me going here and I knew what the ending was. Steamboat was 56 years old here and hadn’t wrestled regularly in FIFTEEN YEARS and just had the crowd actually believing he could beat Jericho five months after he lost the world title. That’s ASTONISHING and would lead to a one on one match between these two at Backlash. Snuka and Piper were there for one last hurrah but Steamboat was trying to steal the show and came pretty freaking close. This is a great example of a match with NO reason to be good which wound up being pretty sweet.

The match was so good that Steamboat got a singles match against Jericho at Backlash 2009.

Chris Jericho vs. Ricky Steamboat

This should be a treat. The story here is that Jericho went on an anti-legend kick in the past few months until he beat three of them (Piper, Snuka and Steamboat) at Mania. The thing is Steamboat, who might have wrestled one match in 15 years, stole the show and looked like he could still go out there and wrestle for 45 minutes and beat half the guys on the roster. He was 56-57 at this point, so he wanted one last match, one on one with Jericho.

Steamboat takes him down to the mat and Jericho has to get to the rope to escape. Ricky goes to the floor and makes Jericho miss him a few times before hitting a dive over the top and out onto the Canadian. Back in and there’s the armdrag into the armbar. The fans tell Steamboat that he still has it. Jericho gets up but walks right back into the armdrag/bar again. They slug it out and Steamboat is knocked over the top but he skins the cat, because he’s that awesome.

Jericho clotheslines him to the floor and springboard dropkicks him right back down. Off to a chinlock but Steamboat fights out and hits another armdrag. Back to the chinlock as Jericho talks trash. That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about him: he keeps things from getting completely dull during a usually dull part of the match. Back up and Steamboat shoves off the bulldog and Jericho gets caught on the ropes.

Steamboat goes all the way to the back for a belly to back suplex but the delayed cover only gets two. Some chops get another two count as does a powerslam. Jericho comes back with a running enziguri for two and the bulldog puts Steamboat down. The Lionsault is broken up but Jericho reverses the reversal into the Walls. Steamboat slips out from under them but can’t remember how to put on the figure four. That’s where the match gets kind of sad.

Jericho escapes and charges into the post, allowing the top rope crossbody to get two. Ricky goes up again but dives into the Codebreaker….for two. We get the WM 3 ending with the small package out of the slam for two, but Jericho slaps on the Walls and cranks hard for the tap. That’s one of the only times (if not the only time) I can remember Steamboat submitting.

Rating: C+. This is a really hard one to grade. Steamboat tried as hard as he could, but at the end of the day he’s nearing 60 and had wrestled two matches in almost fifteen years. Now don’t get me wrong: Steamboat DID NOT look awful out there, but he looked old. It’s sad to see him when you know what he used to be capable of, but all things considered, this was a solid performance. It’s VERY good that it was the last time too, because it would have gotten bad if he had kept going. The match was fun but it didn’t blow me away like the Mania performance did.

Much like Ric Flair, what do you want me to say here? It’s RICKY STEAMBOAT. Go watch about 15 of his matches in a row and see what talent is.

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