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#WF019 – Ricky The Dragon Steamboat

Arnold Furious: Gorilla Monsoon hosts in his ruffled salmon shirt and maroon smoking jacket. His uneven sunglasses put me off a bit although printing the titles over his face, WHILE HE’S TALKING, is even more distracting.


Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine
Steamboat is smart enough to know Hammer’s shortcomings and knows striking is a good way to go. The WWF went out of its way to put over Steamboat’s “karate” even though he was essentially using the same chops as everybody else. Jimmy Hart accuses Steamboat of using “Bruce Lee stuff” so Gorilla decides to say “Bruce Lee couldn’t carry this guys shoes”. Which is true… because he’s dead. Steamboat uses his patented karate to beat the piss out of Valentine and chinlocks to, erm, chinlock him. It breaks up the striking but given how awesome the striking is, I’d rather they didn’t break up the striking at all. Hammer holds his own with forearms and elbows, then goes after the legs to set up the Figure Four, only for Steamboat to counter out. They continue to bring countering to mix it up but the base of this match is striking. Like a tasty tomato sauce on a margarita pizza. The counters are the pepperoni. Most of my favourite matches contain sequences where both men thump each other for an extended period and that’s true of this bout. Hammer does unfortunately bring his delayed face bumps with frustrating frequency. If he’d eliminated that manner of selling from his repertoire I’d have liked him more. Steamboat’s only real flaw was being so far ahead of his time that there was no one to keep up with him. Bar Flair and Savage. So he developed ways to slow himself down and make the match realistic. Every truly great wrestler has to do the same thing. Not that Valentine is a scrub, but he’s not on Steamboat’s level. Jimmy Hart prevents the count out loss only for the time limit to expire. Stick a finish on this bad boy and it’d be a classic. As it stands it’s just a great match and a fine showcase of Steamboat’s incredible striking ability. Oh, and the referee finally manages to render a decision and claims Steamboat won on count out. The refereeing was a real shambles there.
Final Rating: ***½


Steamboat shows his shortcoming in interviews. He’s passable enough but he’s sorely lacking in charisma compared to the better talkers in the business. Like Jesse Ventura. On an episode of The Body Shop, Jesse gets fed up with Steamboat’s calmness, accuses him of cheating and walks off his own show.


The Three Moments of Truth
Yes! This is one of the stupidest segments the WWF has ever done, but it was so dumb that it went all the way back around to good. Steamboat deadpans the whole thing like he’s fighting for his life, as jobbers dressed as ninjas get beaten up on a bridge. A bridge… OF SERENITY… and punches. Next is the Garden of Tranquillity where the tranquillity is disturbed by a second ninja attack. You know they mean business because they brought sticks. Finally, in the third moment of truth, the Temple of Cheng-Lao. So… what happens in the Temple? If you guessed ninja attacks then award yourself ten points. It’s a shame the WWF wasn’t in the movie business at the time because a knock-off Bruce Lee movie starring Ricky Steamboat would have been tremendous. Especially if his opponents were all as terrible as the ninjas. The last one visibly falls over during his attack. It’s not like this was live. Was that really the best take?


Ricky Steamboat vs. Brutus Beefcake
This is no DQ and no count outs, but I don’t remember them ever having a feud to merit such a violent encounter. Beefcake gets a ridiculous amount of offence in, which is a bad idea. Steamboat busts his ass to try and get the match over, at one point doing the ‘falling over while attempting scoop slam’ spot without any cooperation from the bewildered Beefcake. As a work it’s overly complicated with Beefcake making hard work of simple stuff like ducking punches and missed clotheslines. The WWF was clearly unimpressed as, they clip chunks of the match out and considering how long Beefcake’s existing offence is, I’m thrilled they clipped more of it out. At least they incorporate the psychology of the no count out rule with Steamboat getting a break on the floor. Johnny Valentine, Brutus’ manager at the time, grabs Steamboat’s foot to give Brutus the 3 count, only for the ref to change his mind. While Beefcake is protesting Steamboat rolls him up for the win. Maple Leaf Garden goes crazy in the process. The proverbial broomstick match from Ricky. He would have gotten **½ wrestling by himself. That’s how good he was at the time.
Final Rating: **½


Over to TNT, and Vince McMahon has Mr. Fuji, as always, and Don Muraco on the show. That takes us to footage of the Hawaiians, Muraco and Steamboat, battling each other. The clips make it look like a hot little match with Muraco bleeding and Fuji interfering, which leads to Steamboat being hung over the top rope. I’ve seen the ‘hanging’ angle so many times I’m really not sure where it originated from. Considering it’s a Steamboat tape Muraco gets a long time to talk about the feud.


Ricky Steamboat vs. Mr. Fuji
A pissed off Steamboat gets this as a retribution match, although it was Muraco talking the trash. Steamboat bosses until Fuji punches him in the cock and applies a long, long nerve hold. Fuji gets rolled up for the loss but Muraco gets the last laugh by breaking a chair over the Dragon’s head while he’s celebrating. Only really there to advance the feud between Steamboat and Muraco. Fuji took the loss but Steamboat took the beating.
Final Rating:


Ricky Steamboat vs. Don Muraco
This is billed as the “Dragon’s Revenge” match and from the slightly unfamiliar Washington venue the “Cap Centre” that usually doesn’t get choice blow-off matches normally reserved for MSG or Boston at the very least. Muraco, laziness impending, stalls at length to stop Steamboat going nuts on him. When they settle into it, it doesn’t have the energy and anger you’d expect from a “revenge” match. Just enough abuse for Muraco to continue the stalling. You can tell Muraco is cerebral because he has a belief in doing as little as possible for his heat. That’s not working hard, that’s working smart. Steamboat tries to bump for Muraco habitually. Even when all Don has to do is slam Steamboat repeatedly, he is still lethargic. It’s not even that Muraco is a bad worker, he’s just languid. Steamboat whales away on Muraco’s head but the ref keeps dragging him off. He even waistlocks him when Steamboat goes after Fuji. Muraco and Fuji sneak in a foreign object for Don to smack Ricky in the face with. Muraco wins. Muraco wins? What “dragon” got his revenge in this match then? Muraco’s indolence during this match was insufferable. There are few wrestlers who have had as many paycheque matches as Don Muraco.
Final Rating:


On Piper’s Pit, Roddy Piper gives Steamboat the same abuse that Ventura did, only he drags it out for longer. Piper talks him into the ground and Steamboat calmly calls him “Rodney” to wind the interviewer up. Nice to see they learned from the Ventura interview and just had Steamboat give short punchy answers.


Ricky Steamboat vs. Davey Boy Smith
This is from The Wrestling Classic. Davey had followed Dynamite Kid around from Canada to Japan to the WWF but this is where he’d start to gain his own identity. Steamboat is game for bumping all his powerhouse moves, which is cool for Davey because a lot of his WWF singles matches were against bigger men. Steamboat walks Davey through anything complicated and it’s potentially a hell of a match. However it’s cut short when Davey misses into the ropes and “injures” his groin. The ref calls it immediately. If they’d given the tournament a reasonable amount of time this is one of the matches that could have benefitted.
Final Rating: **


Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage
Also from The Wrestling Classic: Naturally, given their similar styles but diametrically opposed approaches, this is fried gold. Their chemistry is sensational. Savage has fun selling against the worst of opponents but Steamboat gives him some fun stuff to bump off; mainly strikes. You can see the potential for an amazing match, which is exactly what happened down the line. Savage gets a sneaky finish here by nailing Steamboat with a foreign object to block a back suplex. Way short but you could see how wonderful their chemistry was. The Wrestling Classic didn’t lend itself to long matches, but if it had done, this would have been the number one choice to go 15-minutes or so.
Final Rating: **


Summary: This is one of those videos that came out too damn early. Had they waited, they could have finished the tape with the IC title match against Savage from WrestleMania III, as well as capturing more great Dragon matches in ’86 and ‘87. Basically they rushed this release. It came out over a year before it should have done and the lack of content is stupid. This should have been a ‘can’t miss’ tape but it missed. After the opening match, and the amazing Three Moments of Truth segment, you can walk away.
Verdict: 57


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