Inducted by JCool
If Ricky Steamboat were an employee of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Manager Michael Scott would definitely have given him a Dundie for being the nicest guy in the office. Many of the people who worked with Steamboat, from referees to fellow wrestlers, all say the same. He was a genuine good guy, not just a good character. That likely made him easy to work with and easy to promote and trust in the ring. That assuredly helped Steamboat to win over audiences around the world.
My memories of Steamboat come from his WWF run, the 1991 one, which was not very notable in his career highlights. As a little kid who only watched WWF Superstars on Saturday afternoons, I loved the bright colours, smiling face, and consistent winning of “The Dragon”. It wasn’t until years later that I learned more about just how good Steamboat was.
Like many of the wrestlers of his time, he started out as a tag wrestler in the NWA, specifically Jim Crockett Promotions. From 1977-1985, he won 10 Tag Team Championships, 2 TV Championships and 1 Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship while he was there. His legendary feud with Ric Flair started in Mid-Atlantic, too. It was a feud that would become his most revisited and most famous.
The WWF Run
Fun fact: He had a match at the inaugural Wrestlemania, defeating Matt Borne, who would later be known as Doink the clown. Of course, that ‘Mania match is not as memorable as the Wrestlemania III one. Fans of a younger vintage likely know him best for his WWF Intercontinental Championship win over Randy Savage, which was awarded 1987 match of the year by Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer. The match holds up today as one of the greatest Wrestlemania matches of all-time. It’s a match that wrestlers like Seth Rollins look up to as an influence in their pursuit of becoming a wrestler. If, for some reason, you haven’t gotten around to watching it. Go. Go now. Or at least read this oral history of the match.
The NWA Steamboat/Flair Trilogy
Type 1989 in your search engine. You’ll see a reference to Taylor Swift’s best album amongst the first hits. Add Steamboat to that and you’ll see the history of one of the best feuds in NWA/WCW history, and it all took place within 3 months. Steamboat and Ric Flair, his great rival from NWA, picked up where they left off and wrestled 3 five-star matches in a row over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. These weren’t your main event matches of today, which feature near fall after near fall after near fall. These were the knock-down, drag-out, wear your opponent down to nothing type matches, with peaks and valleys retaining every iota of the audience’s attention.
In an interview with the Sporting News, last May, Jim Ross said, “The professionalism was A-plus. I knew when we did them; they were special.”, in reference to the trilogy. Steamboat had power, finesse and endurance, which all were on display, but I have to say my favourite is Clash of the Champions VI, the Two out of Three Falls match against Flair. Likely, you have your own favourites, too, if you watched them at the time, or later on like I did.
Post-Retirement: You Stll Got It
After this, Steamboat wrestled a few runs here and there but nothing would quite match up to this special time in his career. The surprise return, in 2009, was a real treat for a generation of fans who never saw Steamboat live. His work in the handicap match against Chris Jericho, at Wrestlemania 25, was fantastic. At 57 years old, Steamboat looked like he had never retired, and it actually led to a run of a few months where he’d wrestle a new generation of stars in Sheamus and Drew McIntyre at house shows.
Although his wrestling career may not have been as long or as injury-free as he would have liked, Steamboat’s involvement behind the scenes allowed him to continue to influence the business as a road agent and trainer. During the 2000’s, he even worked in Ring of Honor for a time, giving back to a group of the best, young wrestlers in the USA, including a guy named CM Punk.
Ricky Steamboat is a pro-wrestling legend, folks. His accomplishments, his reputation, his influence some 30 years after his wrestling peak all support the accolades he has received, including the one bestowed on him today. From a community of wrestling fans of all ages, I am happy to induct “The Dragon” into the LOP/WH Hall of Fame!
- 6-time NWA Tag Team Champion (1 w. Paul Jones, 5 w. Jay Youngblood)
- 1-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion
- 3-time NWA US Heavyweight Champion
- 1-time WWE Intercontinental Champion
- 4-time NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champion (3 w. Paul Jones, 1 w. Youngblood)
- 2009 WWE Hall of Fame Inductee
- 1977 PWI Rookie of the Year
- 1987 and 1989 Wrestling Observer Match of the Year: vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, IC Title Match @ Wrestlemania III, and vs. Ric Flair, NWA Championship Match @ Clash of the Champions VI
Lords of Pain.net/Wrestling Headlines.com welcomes Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat into the Hall of Fame class of 2020.
Related Links: Ricky Steamboat On His Wrestlemania 3 Match Against Randy Savage, His Rivalry With Ric Flair & More
LOP Hall of Fame Class of 2019 – Flair vs. Steamboat, Chi-Town Rumble 1989
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Voting for the 2020 LOP/WH Hall of Fame Induction Class Now Open!