8. RICKY STEAMBOAT
Real Name: Richard Blood
Aliases: The Dragon, Sam Steamboat, Jr.
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Debut: April 23, 1976
Titles Held: NWA Mid-Atlantic United States Heavyweight; NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team (4x – 3 with Paul Jones, 1 with Jay Youngblood); NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight (2x); NWA Television; NWA United States Heavyweight; NWA World Heavyweight; NWA Mid-Atlantic World Tag Team (6x – 1 with Paul Jones, 5 with Jay Youngblood); WCW United States Heavyweight; WCW World Tag Team (2x – 1 with Dustin Rhodes, 1 with Shane Douglas); WCW World Television (2x); WWF Intercontinental
Other Accomplishments: Winner of PWI Rookie of the Year award in 1977; Winner of PWI Tag Team of the Year award in 1978 (with Paul Jones); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Tag Team of the Year award for 1983 (with Jay Youngblood); Winner of PWI Match of the Year award for 1987(vs. Randy Savage – March 29, 1987); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year award for 1987 (vs. Randy Savage – March 29, 1987); Winner of PWI Match of the Year award for 1989 (vs. Ric Flair – May 7, 1989); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year award for 1989 (vs. Ric Flair – May 7, 1989); Had three matches in 1989 awarded five stars by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (vs. Ric Flair – February 20, 1989; vs. Ric Flair – April 2, 1989; vs. Ric Flair – May 7, 1989); Ranked #7 on the PWI 500 in 1991; Wrestling Observer Newsletter Five Star Match in 1992 (with Sting, Nikita Koloff, Barry Windham, and Dustin Rhodes vs. Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby Eaton – May 17, 1992); Recipient of PWI Stanley Weston award in 1995; Member of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996); Member of Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 2002)
Richard Blood was a gifted wrestler who worked his way through the AWA training camp to be one of the most solid in ring competitors of his day, and perhaps in history. You’ve probably only ever heard of his wrestling moniker though, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
The debate of who is the best ever is often a very volatile and passionate discussion. However, I have yet to have one of these discussions that didn’t have anything but a fully positive account of Ricky Steamboat. He’s a man who simply ticked every box in what a wrestler should be.
Steamboat excelled in all of these areas. Very few can sell as well as Steamboat. Sometimes copied but never duplicated, Steamboat could honestly make you believe his very soul was being ripped from his body. I can honestly say I’ve never seen Ricky Steamboat sell and not think he was in excruciating agony. His masterful selling and instinctive nature to wrestling psychology made Steamboat a natural at rallying the crowd behind him. His sell after Randy Savage rammed a ring bell into his throat leading to their Wrestlemania III classic is prime example of this.
When it came to athleticism, Steamboat was far and away one of the best. He turned a top rope cross body into a work of art and his distinctive way of giving an arm drag has put him firmly in history. I can’t remember the last time in training that we’ve done Arm Drags and the Steamboat method hasn’t come up, and no I can’t do it. On top of his athletic ability, Steamboat was also a cardio machine who seemingly never stopped moving at 100 miles an hour. I often wonder how he didn’t collapse dead sometimes from a heart attack he moved so fast. To steal a line from our favorite Oklahoman barbecue sauce eating commentator, Ricky Steamboat was indeed “quicker than a hiccup”
As far as likability goes, let’s put it like this. The major complaint about Ricky Steamboat was that he was so bloody nice that he could never get heel heat. Think about that for a second. Ricky Steamboat was so likable and such a natural born babyface that he could never get a crowd to boo him. Now that’s being good in your role.
To be honest, a prolonged heel run is the only thing that is missing from Steamboat’s career. Pretty much every wrestler in this list has had a run as both a heel and a face but Steamboat is one of the few wrestlers who never turned. For every major run in the U.S. that he ever had, Ricky Steamboat was a face and the fans never turned on him. That is a testament to just how good and to just how beloved Steamboat really was. He was the definition of a “career babyface”, and I don’t think a company could have turned him if they wanted too.
Steamboat had many famous feuds and matches with the peak of his career probably coming in 1989 with stupendous series of matches with Ric Flair. His matches at “Chi Town Rumble”, “Rajun Cajun” and “Music City Showdown” might go down in history as probably the best three match series ever, the matches were that good. All of them were excellent and everyone has a favorite, “Rajun Cajun” for me, but I don’t think it’s hard to call each one ****+ and the last two are definite ***** matches. They’re just so good and everyone should see them because they are an excellent example of what wrestling should be. I’m not talking about style or presentation, I’m talking about a crowd going bat-shit crazy because what they’re seeing in the ring is so bloody good. Flair and Steamboat are two clearly defined and charismatic characters butting heads and tearing the house down. THAT’S wrestling.
There’s no doubt that Ricky Steamboat is one of the best wrestlers of any era, let alone the modern one, and I feel privileged to write his induction. He’s simply fantastic and whenever WWE decide to make a DVD of his career I won’t just buy it but I’ll camp outside my nearest HMV just to make sure I get my hands on one. If you’re reading this WWE do it! I command you!
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.
Tags: ricky steamboat, WCW, WWE, WWF