The SmarK DVD Rant for Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon

Now this is a DVD set that treats the subject with RESPECT. Almost too much at times, but if you can find one bad thing to say about Ricky, you’re a better person than me. This is of course a set that I’ve been waiting for a long time now, as it’s not secret that Steamboat is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers.

In fact, Randy Savage crushing his throat with the ringbell is the angle that hooked me on wrestling for life, because Steamboat SOLD that shit, man. That’s always the one thing that could be said about him no matter what stupid situation he was put into by WWE. Fighting ninjas? Babysitting a komodo dragon? Breathing fire? No problem, done with total earnest without a complaint. He was a guy who always took his character deadly serious, and yet was financially well-off enough that he didn’t have to put up with any bullshit that he didn’t want to. That’s why it’s such a great story for a documentary set, because Steamboat is the rare guy in the business who got out with no regrets, on his own terms, and had no need or desire to keep wrestling past his expiration date. The first disc of this set features an hour-long review of Steamboat’s life and career, hitting all the major points without getting into anything that might have been considered controversial. It’s really just a fabulous tribute to the man and a great little introduction for anyone wondering who he was and what the big deal was.

The matchlist is equally respectful, if a tad predictable, but hits all the highspots you’d expect from this set. You get:

– The Briscos v. Steamboat & Younblood from Starrcade 83. Reviewed this one a few times, it’s still a great little tag match, which sees the babyfaces regaining the NWA World tag titles. ***½

– Ric Flair v. Steamboat in a rare hour-long draw from the “Boogie Jam” in 1984. This was a treat in that I’ve never seen the match before, but it’s definitely the lesser of the one-hour Flair-Steamboat matches included on the set. ****

– Steamboat v. Orton from the Cap Centre in 1985, a hidden gem that’s been featured on WWE Classics before and which sums up Steamboat’s appeal as a babyface in 15 minutes or less. It also makes a case for how underrated Orton was as a worker at that time, as they went out and worked their asses off with Orton getting cheap heat galore for the cast. DQ finish kind of drags it down, but this well worth watching. ***¾

– Steamboat v. Muraco in a lumberjack match from Maple Leaf Gardens in 1985 at the height of their feud. Another one I reviewed on WWE Classics, and these guys couldn’t work a bad match together if they tried. ***½

– Steamboat v. Jake Roberts from the Boston Garden in 1986, another one that I hadn’t seen before, which made for a nice treat. Some great psychology here, as you’d expect, as Steamboat gets a hard fought win and then gets attacked by Roberts. I’m very glad they went with this instead of the Big Event match.

– Savage v. Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, with alternate commentary from Steamboat and Matt Striker. Hey, at least that makes it different from all the other DVD releases of it.

– Steamboat v. Flair, this time the famous 2/3 falls Clash of Champions match. Not much you can say here. Still *****.

– Steamboat v. Luger from Bash 89, a wholly underrated and forgotten classic match that kind of got lost underneath an equally great Flair-Funk main event. Probably one of the best Luger matches you’ll ever see in your life, ending with Steamboat getting himself DQ’d in a rare finish.

– Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes challenging Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko for the WCW World tag titles in 1991, yet another favorite match of mine. Arn’s “He’s just a man!” reaction to Steamboat’s entrance is why he rules as a promo guy. A ***** tag match, to be sure.

– Steamboat v. Rick Rude from WCW’s Beach Blast 92, a show forgotten by most people, myself included. This was a 30 minute Iron Man match and it’s a hell of a deal, as Steamboat wins it 4 falls to 3 in a **** match. Great work from both guys.

– Steamboat wins the TV title from Steve Austin at Clash XX, which is a pleasant change from the usual Steamboat-Austin US title matches they pick for DVD releases. However, this is not as good as their later matches would be, so there’s your tradeoff. This runs about ***.

– Finally, the Steamboat-Jericho match from Backlash 2009, which was fine for a 60 year old retired guy, but kind of sad to watch.

Finally, a word on the video presentation. WWE has thankfully moved into the HD era, so the documentary is presented in anamorphic widescreen, as is the 2009 Backlash match. However, the older matches are window-boxed with a dragon graphic on the sides of the screen to make the 4×3 picture fill the 16×9 screen. This is pretty distracting and I wish they had just gone with black bars or left it natively 4×3 so that the TV could reformat it if needed. A small point, but I’d really rather not have their goofy design burned into the sides of my nice new screen.

So overall, a tremendous package for both casual and hardcore Steamboat fans, with a match selection that gives newbies a good overview of his best work, and throws in some gems for jaded old-timers like me. More like this one, please! Highest recommendation.

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