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Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat

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PPV

 

Vs Pillman 92

Vs Orndorff 93 (two matches one is a Clash)

Vs Regal 93

 

TV matches:

 

Vs Cactus 92

Vs Windham 93

Vs Dustin 93

Vs Pillman 93

Vs Vader 93 (two matches)

Vs Regal 93 (four matches, one on a Clash)

Vs Eaton 94

Vs Arn 94

 

I could be wrong but I don't think the 70s-style Regal bouts will be to your tastes.

 

There is also the final go round with Flair in 94.

 

Also, if you've not seen them, I'd seek out his matches with Funk (Clash 7) and Luger (GAB 89).

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I agree with the last point made above. Steamboat was Steamboat. Goofy OTT selling and karate chops and shit might not be for everyone, but it sure as hell works for me.

 

He's a great working babyface, theatrical as well as physical. He's not really physical in a rough sense, but more like an athlete. Great singles stuff with Flair, Savage, Rude, Bret off the top of my head, and great tag stuff with Final Conflict, vs Dream Team, vs Dangerous Alliance. Doesn't hurt that the Flair matches are some of the best matches of all time.

 

What are some more recs from the early 90s WCW period? Specifically singles. I've seen lots of tag matches, and the Rude and Austin matches.

 

There's plenty and JVK already hit on some of them but here's others (dates are to the best of my recollection):

vs. Eaton - WCWSN 12/14/91

vs. Arn - Pro 3/28/92

vs. Vader - Worldwide 5/15/93 (I didn't really like any of the other matches they had on WCWSN)

vs. Pillman - WCWSN 2/20/93 Lumberjack

 

Steamboat is obviously terrific but it should be noted that, in comparison to similar contemporaries like Martel, Tito, and Bret, he's had by far the best opponents at their absolute peak (i.e. 89 Flair, 89 Funk, 89 Luger, 92 Rude, 92 Arn, 93 Windham, 93 Vader, 93 Regal). Are there any matches where's he's had limited opponents and produced something memorable?

 

With Martel and Bret, I think they were more versatile with the opponents they had to work with. And when you compare Steamboat and Tito in the same setting and similar opponents in '84-'88 WWF, I think Tito looked much better. I have all of them ahead of Steamboat. Steamboat is still a top 50 guy though.

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As part of going through all of AJPW in 89, I watched his run there as NWA champ.

My casual write-ups:

3/3/89 NWA WORLD CHAMPION Ricky Steamboat vs Takano: Yeah, this was problematic. Steamboat in Japan can be a little underwhelming, but this was all over the place. Yes, it's very cool on paper to see traveling champ Steamboat, but he didn't know what he was supposed to be here. He worked technical. He let himself get outworked on the mat, but he didn't clown or stooge. He got clotheslined over the top right after skinning the cat but he wasn't really heeling enough to make that seem like stooging. He hit the arm drags instead. He heeled in the corner with the chops and let Takano bully him. Then he hit the huge superplex off the top (which dropped Takano on his head because it's not something Steamboat should be doing against a guy that big) and got the oohs for the Flying Body Press. Despite Takano's size, Steamboat gave him way too much, as much as he should have given Tenryu or Jumbo. So lots of little things that were neat but it absolutely didn't come together. I'd call this one a real strike against Ricky, honestly. 

3/4/89: Ricky Steamboat vs Shinichi Nakano: This was terrible. Maybe the worst Steamboat match I've ever seen? He gave Nakano something like 95% of the match, which is made all the more terrible because it was ten minutes tops. I'm sure he was trying to be gracious and put him over but Nakano didn't look better for it. Steamboat and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship both looked like jokes. He had some cheapshots and really lame hairpulling to try to escape a hold, but his heart wasn't into it. It was completely unbelievable. I don't know if he was trying to mimic Flair but if so, he only dipped his toes in the water the tiniest bit. No stooging, no engaging with the crowd, no emotion in anything he did, no stakes, no fire, no pride, no grandeur. This was basically a jobber match where Nakano slipped on a banana peel and the jobber somehow won. 

3/8/89: Ricky Steamboat vs Tiger Mask:  I feel for Ricky here, I really do, because it's obvious what he was trying to do, but it doesn't work if you don't commit fully. You can't stooge for your opponent early and let him take most of the NWA title headlock exchange, and then stooge for him in the middle of the match and let him dropkick you out of the ring after you skin the cat, and then stooge for him at the end and let him piledrive you on the floor but be completely unable to piledrive him and have it work. Flair stooging throughout the match worked because when he was on offense he was dangerous and effective and in control. You never, ever get the sense Steamboat is in control. His offense consists of one inverted atomic drop cutoff and then a bunch of chops (standing and diving). He has a cool entrance into the ring from the apron by standing on the ropes and jumping in, but never, never, never is there any sense that Tiger Mask is in trouble. He's always one irish whip reversal of getting back in control. If Steamboat wasn't going to outright cheat, what he had to do was focus on the double chicken wing and work a body part to set it up. That would have at least focused his offense and give some form to all of this. As it was, he comes off like a loser, again, and makes the title look meaningless. This had a bit more atmosphere than the other matches but it was another terrible match. Poor Ricky.

I came in having no idea what to expect and came out severely disappointed.

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Ricky is going to be an interesting case. At his best, he's one of the best babyface I've ever seen. But he has only like 10-12 matches I really like and the rest is just sort of there. Like Matt said his AJPW run doesn't have much of anything. I can't fathom him missing my ballot but apart from Flair matches that pop up he doesn't seem to have much in the way of hidden gems.

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I had a similar experience to Matt when we were going through footage for the '80s All-Japan set. I was looking for a reason to put an '89 Steamboat match on, because I thought it would be interesting, but man, did his act not play in that setting. The opponents weren't very good (I'm not a fan of Misawa under the mask) but still. 

That said, Steamboat's case is deeper than a few handfuls of frontline matches. I don't think he was less than really good in any of his major U.S. runs from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. In fact, we might have more good matches from his '91-'93 WCW run than any other period of his career. You just have to accept that his approach was not adaptable to every setting and every opponent and that he couldn't really transform himself. That keeps him out of my top tier, but I'll still find a place for him in the middle. 

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There's some really great Steamboat stuff in AJ in the early 80s. I'm still very, very slowly working through the AJ Archive, into April 1986 after being at this shit for years at this point, and I have a lot of Steamboat matches in early 80s that I have marked down as recommended or highly recommended on my spreadsheet I've been keeping.

6/29/80 Jimmy Snuka-Ray Stevens (c.) vs. Ricky Steamboat-Jay Youngblood NWA World Tag Team   Poor image quality, Maple Leaf Wrestling Event Highly Recommended

11/28/80 Abdullah The Butcher-Tor Kamata vs. Ricky Steamboat-Dick Slater Real World Tag League   Bloody Recommended

12/9/80 Ricky Steamboat vs. The Sheik     Bloody Recommended

5/29/81 Jumbo Tsuruta-Ricky Steamboat vs. Jimmy Snuka-The Destroyer       Highly Recommended

6/3/81 Ricky Steamboat vs. Jimmy Snuka     Bloody Highly Recommended

8/28/81 Mil Mascaras-Dos Caras vs. Ricky Steamboat-Chavo Guerrero   PWF Cup   Recommended

 

6/4/82 Ric Flair (c.) vs. Ricky Steamboat NWA World Heavyweight     Recommended

 

11/26/82 Bruiser Brody-Stan Hansen vs. Jay Youngblood-Ricky Steamboat   Real World Tag League   Highly Recommended

12/2/82 Terry Funk-Dory Funk Jr. vs. Ricky Steamboat-Jay Youngblood   Real World Tag League Clipped, Special Guest Referee: Lou Thesz Recommended

12/7/82 Ricky Steamboat vs. Harley Race     Special Guest Referee: Lou Thesz Recommended

12/13/82 Ricky Steamboat vs. Atsushi Onita       Recommended

2/23/84 Genichiro Tenryu vs. Ricky Steamboat UN Heavyweight   Clipped, title vacated after death of David Von Erich Recommended


 

The scale I have is Skippable (which could be boring or just bad or used for super clipped/cut up stuff not worth wasting your time on), Skippable But Interesting (which usually means some cool stuff or interesting combination of talent but otherwise isn't particularly memorable), Recommended (which means good and you should watch), Highly Recommended (Great and you should go out of your way to watch). 

When it comes to Misawa especially in the Tiger Mask period, I see all these big American names against him and I'm thinking this is probably going to be a disaster whereas in my younger days I'd expect well of course this is going to be a classic.

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I am quite high on the Stevens/Snuka vs Steamboat/Youngblood glimpses we get from 80. It's the only time I've ever seen anything at all special in Stevens and Snuka is really impressive.

As for my point above, it's three matches where he had a chance to wrestle as a traveling NWA champ in Japan, which is a metric we can compare him with other people on, and it was a pretty big failure. I think versatility is important to a lot of people, especially as we enter a top tier, and this is a real chance for him to show it off and he floundered. It's the sort of thing which could impact him a few spots on my list. Nothing monumental, but if he had succeeded, it could have helped him in the same way.

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That doesn't seem like a role Steamboat would have excelled in, yeah. I'm not sure top champion even in the US was really a role he was built for. Obviously not a slight on him or his abilities, but he was just built to be the chaser and if he did win the title, to lose it very shortly after. 

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10 minutes ago, strobogo said:

That doesn't seem like a role Steamboat would have excelled in, yeah. I'm not sure top champion even in the US was really a role he was built for. Obviously not a slight on him or his abilities, but he was just built to be the chaser and if he did win the title, to lose it very shortly after. 

Remember, Ricky ended up as 15 on the overall list last time. 15. That's super high. I am more or less a proponent of the idea that we shouldn't penalize someone for something that they didn't do, as in, I don't hold the fact that we don't have footage of Steamboat as a heel against him (except for maybe if we're talking top 5 candidate), but if we do have him in a specific role and it didn't go well, that's another story.

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I personally wouldn't hold that against him because he has so much other stuff I enjoy greatly that it's pretty easy to overlook what was essentially a like....2 month section of his career, with one single tour of Japan as champ with one actual defense and it sounds like he was trying to do it in a style that was years out of date already in 1989 and that he had never had to work before. It's also not like Tiger Misawa was putting out classic after classic at that time, either. But that's just me. It's pretty easy to overlook because he has so much stuff before and after that I greatly enjoy.

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Well, gee. If Steamboat couldn't have great matches with legendary workers like Shunji Takano and Shinichi Nakano, that changes everything.

I agree that Steamboat's style didn't naturally lend itself to touring NWA champion style, but I don't think you can grade him that harshly off a sample size of three matches where he was set up for failure. Takano and Nakano speak for themselves, and Misawa ruptured his ACL during their match. It ended up putting him on the shelf for nearly a year. Keep in mind that taking significant time off for injury is basically unheard of in Japan, so that tells you how severe it was. I don't know when exactly the injury took place, but I have to imagine it played a major role in dragging the match down.

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1. I've seen people get good stuff out of Takano and Nakano in 89.

2. Getting shit out of subpar workers is one of the things a NWA champ is supposed to be able to do. It's also, I'd argue, something that someone in the top 20 should probably be able to do, even in unfamiliar settings.

3. I'm not saying it changes everything. Steamboat came in 15 last time around. He was 13 in 2006. We know him. His case is very much built on being one thing well. Some of the reason for that is that we just don't have examples of him being something else. Here's an example! It didn't go well. How is that not an aspect to his case worth talking about a little bit?

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I agree with Matt on this one. I don't see it as a big knock on Steamboat but it is a potential tie breaker when comparing with other top tier, elite guys when it comes to ranking him. I guess the question is how much could he fall for such a small sample, I also agree that it can't be much...but it is something.

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Steamboat's Japan work would only matter to me if he had worked Japan more often or I was looking for some other feather in his cap. I don't have a problem viewing him as a Stateside only candidate. If you wanna argue that others had more versatility, that's fine. I don't think Ricky is hurting when it comes to his body of work. 

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As I read through this talk about Steamboat’s ‘89 Japan stuff, my prevailing thought was how much better suited he probably would be for extensive Mexico work than tours of Japan based off what I think his biggest strengths are. I don’t think there’s any worker in Japan from Steamboat’s great years I’d want to see face Steamboat face as much as I’d LOVE to see him vs Perro Aguayo.

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Having read through Matt's 1989 thread on DVDVR on the way home from Disney, the Steamboat discussion was the most striking to me. I really disliked the Snuka match that made the AJPW DVDVR set and had it in the bottom ten and this doesn't sound like anything more promising even though I have not viewed the matches myself. This was striking to me because in watching the JCP/WCW stuff for PTBN last year, Steamboat was my 3rd favorite overall worker behind Flair and Tully. 

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There is a long list of foreign wrestlers who aren't that great in Japan. Why does it matter? Are we going to penalize Japanese wrestlers because they aren't that great on excursions? 

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It won't penalize him per say but Id o think it is an interesting case for what Matt is saying that Steamboat is likely to be a top 20 finisher for most and when it gets to that high on the list, any glaring flaws would have to be weighted against the other strong upper quarter contenders. 

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10 minutes ago, ohtani's jacket said:

There is a long list of foreign wrestlers who aren't that great in Japan. Why does it matter? Are we going to penalize Japanese wrestlers because they aren't that great on excursions? 

Of course. And you reward the ones who managed it well despite limitations. And more than that, you look at specifically how they dealt with it and try to see what that can teach you about them as wrestlers. Maybe they aren't that great but you can tell they did everything they could given the limitations they obviously had. That might even help their case even if the matches weren't great.

To me, literally everything a wrestler's ever done helps us understand them and helps to figure out their greatness, and that includes working under certain limitations.

If you only care about peak, that's another story. And I agree that this is tiebreaker stuff, but it's still interesting, especially in a top candidate. Why would you not want to talk about matches someone had? Their "case" may be the thing they did best but wouldn't the case against then partially be about things they didn't do well when given a chance? Was he suddenly not a wrestler anymore when he in Japan (during a year he's touted heavily for while holding the freaking NWA belt!) even though it's not part of his "case"?

It also matters less for a guy at 95 on your list than a guy at 15. It's tiebreaker stuff, generally, at such a high level.

Most of all, it's not that Steamboat didn't have good matches in 89 Japan when he was in NWA champ; it was my experience in watching the matches and seeing the specific things he did or didn't do that was so striking to me. It's HOW the matches weren't good, which is always going to matter to me, personally, more than whether or not the matches were good or not. But the latter should probably matter to some of you.

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I'm all for glaring flaws. I love pointing out glaring flaws. But is Steamboat being weak in Japan really a glaring flaw? Do I need Steamboat to be good in Japan? I'm pretty sure I can live without Steamboat being good in Japan. Now, Steamboat having weak programs Stateside, that's a disappointment. I really think the Japan thing is only useful in splitting hairs between US workers who were better in a multitude of territories. 

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17 minutes ago, Matt D said:

Of course. And you reward the ones who managed it well despite limitations. And more than that, you look at specifically how they dealt with it and try to see what that can teach you about them as wrestlers. Maybe they aren't that great but you can tell they did everything they could given the limitations they obviously had. That might even help their case even if the matches weren't great.

To me, literally everything a wrestler's ever done helps us understand them and helps to figure out their greatness, and that includes working under certain limitations.

If you only care about peak, that's another story. And I agree that this is tiebreaker stuff, but it's still interesting, especially in a top candidate. Why would you not want to talk about matches someone had? Their "case" may be the thing they did best but wouldn't the case against then partially be about things they didn't do well when given a chance? Was he suddenly not a wrestler anymore when he in Japan (during a year he's touted heavily for while holding the freaking NWA belt!) even though it's not part of his "case"?

It also matters less for a guy at 95 on your list than a guy at 15. It's tiebreaker stuff, generally, at such a high level.

Most of all, it's not that Steamboat didn't have good matches in 89 Japan when he was in NWA champ; it was my experience in watching the matches and seeing the specific things he did or didn't do that was so striking to me. It's HOW the matches weren't good, which is always going to matter to me, personally, more than whether or not the matches were good or not. But the latter should probably matter to some of you.

I get where you're coming from, but if I'm a fan of Akira Maeda, the first thing I'm going to care about is how good he was in New Japan, UWF and RINGS. I'm not going to worry too much about his work in the US or as Kwik-Kik Lee on World of Sport. If it helps his case then great, but if he's not the Akira Maeda I know and love then I am happy to ignore it. If I have a favorite band and I think they released some good records, I'm not going to care if they released a few singles or EPs that I didn't think were as good. 

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1 minute ago, ohtani's jacket said:

I get where you're coming from, but if I'm a fan of Akira Maeda, the first thing I'm going to care about is how good he was in New Japan, UWF and RINGS. I'm not going to worry too much about his work in the US or as Kwik-Kik Lee on World of Sport. If it helps his case then great, but if he's not the Akira Maeda I know and love then I am happy to ignore it. If I have a favorite band and I think they released some good records, I'm not going to care if they released a few singles or EPs they I didn't think were as good. 

And that's a great way to make a list of your favorite bands or favorite wrestlers.

It's also a very solid way to judge peak vs peak, which is totally valid, and is an approach a lot of people will be going with. Who was the absolute greatest when they were as great as they could possibly be?

That's not what I'm going with.

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Steamboat's matches in Japan as NWA Champion were both 3rd from the top beneath tags and/or six-man tags.  One went just under 16 minutes and the other went over 10.  Neither show look to have been major stops on a tour based on the building and lineups.  How likely is it the crew is trying to put on a killer show in those circumstances?  

I'm not exactly a huge Steamboat fan but I'd like to understand why we should expect more from him or anyone in that setting.

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The criticisms of Steamboat in Japan speak to something larger about the types of wrestlers who get over there. I think Japanese audiences value aggression. Big selling performances might get over, but only if they come from people who are already over in part for their level of aggression. Steamboat is a defensive wrestler and I don't just mean that his matches are mostly built around selling. They are also built mostly around counters. I don't think you need to have a ton of great moves to get over in Japan necessarily, and Abdullah getting over is a great example of that. But I do think demonstrating a mean streak is important.

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First and foremost, this is not the sort of thing which should cover a whole page in a thread. It's errata. It's a marginal discussion. It's a versatility concern. It probably doesn't matter to some of you, but we've got five years and maybe this will be a twenty page thread and this being one page of it won't be so bad. Also, sorry guys, but this is what you'll be dealing with me over the next five years. Especially on candidates where we know everything there is to know. I'm going to go back and break down that one heel Tito performance we have or the few heel Pedro ones. I'm going to look at Casas' Super Astros performances. I'm going to look at 71 year old Lawler. I'll look at those Buddy Rose WWF TV jobber matches to see if he really did fail to do what he should have done to get over in New York. Probably not just the top guys either. I'm going to look at Ray Steele in UWF or Black Bart in Germany. Well, I don't think anyone's going to nominate Black Bart, so I probably don't have to do that.

In this specific case, go back to my reviews, or more than that, go back and watch the matches. What he chose to do. The fact he looked almost lost or hesitant or unsure or unwilling to commit or that he seemed to be trying to do something but only went halfway and it was a failure because of his choices as much as anything else. That's what is interesting to me. 

 

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