Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Reflections with Ricky Steamboat

“The Dragon” takes us on a journey through his career highpoints in this 2018 shoot interview~!

Presented by RF Video

Steamboat is currently under a “legends” contract with the WWE. He had served as an agent and producer for several years, and he eventually volunteered to go work for NXT as a trainer.

Ricky took part in an angle on TV where the Nextus heel faction beat him down. A chokeslam bump caused him to suffer from bleeding in his skull as his brain actually tried to split, only being held together by blood vessels. Do to the location of the injury, surgery was not an option. He was told his brain would either cure itself, or he would die. This caused him to become strictly a public relations ambassador.

Due to several months of rehab, Steamboat did not see the NXT guys for a long time after the injury. It was first then that the crew was able to formally express their apologies.

When Steamboat came back to the WWF in 1991 he asked Pat Patterson to turn him heel. Patterson told the Dragon that he was a pure babyface and a heel turn would ruin his career. Steamboat felt that working with Ric Flair, Jake Roberts, Sgt. Slaughter and other top heels gave him the psychology necessary to be a good heel. Looking back now, Ricky is glad he never made a turn towards evil.

Steamboat tiptoes around the issue of the modern guys being scripted in their promos. He talks about how the business has evolved. Having more people (the writers) coming up with ideas should make for a better product.

In the past, talent was often booked to go for much longer matches than the current talent. This doesn’t mean that the modern roster couldn’t perform these matches as well, just that they haven’t had the opportunity.

Having a large roster means that the WWE has to book shorter matches in order to get the talent on the show.

Ricky praises the Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon “Hell in a Cell” match from Wrestlemania for it’s slower pace and drama building throughout. (A true political reply, as the match was widely panned.)

The modern talent has more wiggle room than people think to work out their own gimmicks. Steamboat cites Bray Wyatt as a guy who went through several progressions before becoming a star.

Ritchie, Steamboat’s son, went to school with Rusty Wallace’s son. This led Ritchie to become interested in cars and racing before switching gears and eventually taking up wrestling. Ricky couldn’t afford to keep pouring money into his son’s race cars, which helped force the issue of Ritchie switching careers.

Ritchie was a football standout in high school, setting defensive records and attracting attention from scouts.

Steamboat prepared to send his son to a local wrestling school so he could learn about bumping and see how his body felt after a few weeks. Ricky then planned on sending him to Harley Race for fine tuning, then onwards to Japan to tour, followed by a run in Puerto Rico, then possibly he’d finally be ready for NXT.

Ritchie ended up following the plan, which including living in the New Japan dojo where he was expected to scrub floors and other such activities to humble him and “pay dues”.

The WWE doesn’t want second generation wrestlers to use their family name in order to relieve some pressure from off of their shoulders.

Some problems arose when Ritchie struggled eternally with his desire to break away from the Steamboat legacy. Ritchie even began to cut heel promos to break out on his own.

While doing a moonsault, Ritchie blew out four of his back vertebra. Ritchie had to retire or face a potentially dire physical future.

The WWE is a massive company, and there are plus and minuses to the structure. The guys are on the road for a lot of time compared to a ROH or TNA star, but the money is also much larger in the WWE, so guys have to decide what is important to them.

Jay Youngblood was a fantastic traveling partner. He and Ricky would break down their matches and make themselves better performers.

Babyfaces just need to learn to sell and sell until it’s time for their comeback. If the fans are invested in your struggle, they’ll be with you for your comeback.

Verne Gagne broke Steamboat into the business in the mid-70s. Ricky used the name “Dick Blood” as a jobber for the AWA for about a year. The travel in the AWA was rough at times. Some towns were upwards of 500 miles apart.

Eddie Graham saw some potential in Steamboat and had him come down to Florida. Graham gave him the name “Steamboat” after Sam Steamboat. Sam had been Eddie’s partner and the fans loved him.

Ricky had lived in Florida as a high schooler, and Graham remembered him from the wrestling meets. Eddie’s son Mike was wrestling at the same time and ended up facing Ricky in the finals of one tournament. Mike won on points.

Graham eventually decided to rekindle the old magic and placed Mike in a team with Steamboat to play off the old Sam Steamboat/ Eddie Graham team.

After a year in Florida, he went to Georgia for 13 months. Gagne was still serving as Steamboat’s booking “agent” so to speak and tried to send Ricky to Stampede. Dean Ho had befriended Steamboat in Atlanta and made some calls on Ricky’s behalf. Ho was informed that Stampede was flopping at the gates and the payoffs were next to nothing. Ricky turned down the gig. Verne got pissed off that Steamboat would go against his suggestion. Ole Anderson got him a run in JCP instead, which saw Steamboat feud with Ric Flair within only a few short months. A star was born.

JCP ran an angle where Don Kernodle went from a jobber to a star under the training of Sgt. Slaughter over the course of several months. This led to Kernodle and Slaughter beating Steamboat and Youngblood for the tag titles, and set off a record breaking run of rematches.

“12,000” fans were turned away from the blow off cage match between the teams. Steamboat and Youngblood had to break more than a few traffic laws just to navigate through all the traffic deadlock in order to make it to the arena for the match. After that, the men had 30 or so rematches, all held in cages. That meant Steamboat had to gig night after night, which eventually gave him some major head pain.

Steamboat and Youngblood moved on to feud with the Brisco Brothers, and they did similar big business.

George Scott went from booking JCP to eventually making it to the WWF. Dusty Rhodes came in to book JCP. He booked Steamboat to beat Tully Blanchard night after night – but Ricky never won the TV title due to the wins coming after the title’s time limit had expired. Rhodes then booked himself to beat Blanchard instead. Steamboat was annoyed by that. Soon after, Ricky was booked to be laid out by Nikita Koloff on TV. Koloff was green and jacked to the gills and he basically concussed Steamboat with a clothesline. Those two incidents were weighing in his head when George Scott called Steamboat with an offer to come to the WWF.

Jim Crockett sold Steamboat posters for several years straight. Steamboat never got a dime from the posters, although Crockett once told him “I sell so many of these posters that they pay off your salary for me!” That didn’t sit well with Steamboat either.

The WWF paid their guys merchandising revenue. Steamboat made around $65,000 from just merchandise money in 1986.

Steamboat next covers the Wrestlemania 3 match with Randy Savage. Ricky explains how this match was scripted out move for move by Savage, which wasn’t how Steamboat or most wrestlers operated. A match is generally laid out after you find out the finish, with the story preparing the fans for the next chapter in your tale.

The psychology of a match is explained a little further as Steamboat speaks about Barry Windham accidentally splitting Ricky’s head open on TV with a chair. This led to a rematch where Steamboat tried to come out and go after Windham’s arm “viciously”. The fans didn’t buy into it and the wrestlers changed their match on the fly and went into Windham getting the heat on Steamboat.

Hogan and Steamboat were never “friends”. At the Wrestlemania 3 after party, everyone was going up to Steamboat and congratulating him on having such a great match. He doesn’t think this got him any heat with Hogan though.

Steamboat went to Andre before Mania 3 and made sure there weren’t any spots Andre wanted saved for the main event. Andre told Ricky that his back and hips were hurting, so he and Hulk were going to build their match around a bear hug and a body slam.

The Dragon goes into why the Honky Tonk Man beat Steamboat only a few months after his big IC title win. Ricky mentions Honky was brought into the WWF by Hogan and had a gimmick Vince was invested in. Oddly, the fact that Steamboat asked for time off to be with his newborn baby only a few months after asking off to start his family lead to Vince McMahon taking the title away is not brought up.

Steamboat did not mind his 1991 reboot where he dressed up in a Dragon costume. He felt other guys had done well with new gimmicks, so he was open to it. His only issue with it was the weight of the suit, as it took another bag to carry around and it weighed around 50 pounds.

After being on the road for 10 months and not seeing any progress in his career, Steamboat called up Pat Patterson and announced he was quitting. Vince wanted him to come to TV and do a stretcher job for IRS and then later lose to Undertaker and being placed in a body bag. Ricky argued with Vince that doing two angles like that in front of one audience would be business exposing. McMahon got upset that Ricky wasn’t following his wishes and fired him.

We skip the WCW years and beyond due to time constraints. Steamboat shows his fans some love and we’re out.

Final thoughts: Ricky was open for the most part with his thoughts, although he clearly avoided any modern WWE bashing. The interview proved interesting overall thanks to Steamboat’s verbose nature in detailing his memories. RF Video continues to step up it’s production in order to look professional when compared to other shoot interview providers.

 

 

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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