WM Top 25: #3 – Steamboat-Savage, WrestleMania III

Thanks for reading this countdown and I urge you to check out the original version of this entry on Examiner.com as it features the entire Steamboat-Savage match from WrestleMania and a slideshow highlighting the nuts & bolts of the first eight WrestleManias.

Sometimes a professional wrestling match reaches almost mythical standards. Every once in a while a wrestling match comes along that transcends any storyline or event and just becomes a standalone feature. It becomes a match that every person who calls themselves a wrestling fan needs to see at least once, if not a dozen times. It becomes a match that you can show other people, non-wrestling fans who criticize this form of entertainment, so they can see what professional wrestling is in its purest form.

Ricky Steamboat versus Randy Savage in front of 93,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome at WrestleMania III is one of those matches.

WrestleMania III on March 29, 1987, was built on the backs of the Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant main event. They may have sold the show, but Steamboat and Savage outright stole the show.

In late 1986 “Macho Man” Randy Savage defended his Intercontinental Championship against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat on a WWF television broadcast. The match turned into a disaster as Savage attacked Steamboat before the bell and injured his larynx, dropping him throat-first across the security railing and then dropping the ring bell on his throat as well. Savage became a bigger villain because of the attack while Steamboat was out of commission for months.

Eventually Steamboat returned to action and vowed revenge on Savage for his heinous actions. He wanted to inflict pain on Savage but more so he wanted to hurt him by taking his Intercontinental Title, a Championship Savage had held for nearly fourteen months at that point. Steamboat chased Savage all across the country until the stage was set for their final encounter at WrestleMania III.

WrestleMania III was a twelve-match card filled with inconsequential undercard matches and Hogan and Andre as the far and away clear main event. It’s been said that Steamboat and Savage made a pact to go out and put together the best possible in-ring exhibition that they could. The Macho Man was a stickler for mapping out his big matches down to the last detail while The Dragon was and is considered one of the top five or ten in-ring technicians in history. Needless to say it had all the makings of being a great match. But no one could have expected just how good it would end up being.

For fifteen minutes tore into each other, trading near falls and just essentially putting on a wrestling clinic for everyone watching. In today’s wrestling world a blood feud like this one would have been settled in a hardcore or an extreme environment with blood and weapons and excess violence. But here Steamboat chose to beat Savage by simply outwrestling him; taking his Title and hurting his pride by beating him clean in the middle of the ring.

And he did just that. After fifteen minutes of non-stop pure technical excellence, Steamboat caught Savage in perfect cradle in the center of the ring to win the very prestigious Intercontinental Championship. He enlisted George “The Animal” Steele to act as his “second” for the match; a long-time rival of Savage’s who also had an infatuation with Miss Elizabeth, Macho Man’s valet. Steele proved to be a worthy comrade as he stopped Savage from using the ring bell as a weapon like he had done months previous. He helped even the playing field and allowed the match to be decided inside the ring, as it should have been.

Ricky Steamboat got his revenge and the Title and put a perfect fairy tale ending on a story that saw the villain come ahead on every turn during the story. The consummate hero showed that good prevails out in the end, and he did it in style. In my humble it was one of the best pure wrestling matches in wrestling history.

Sadly in the long run the match didn’t mean all that much. Within three months Steamboat lost his Title to a mid-card comedy act named The Honky Tonk Man. Steamboat asked for some time off to be with his wife and newborn son, which angered WWF boss Vince McMahon, who took the Title off of him. A year later The Macho Man was the company’s new hero and was the WWF Champion while Steamboat finally got his time off to spend with his young family. By 1989 he was in the WWF’s competition of the National Wrestling Alliance, revolutionizing wrestling once again with his matches against “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

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