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[1987-03-29-WWF-Wrestlemania III] Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat

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WWF Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat - Wrestlemania III

 

History beckons the Macho Man! One of the all-time great promos and singular lines in pro wrestling. I had forgotten that during the Steamboat promo that they do mention this is the Dragon's last shot, which is only further proof why the match was worked the way it was and the correct way to go about it. I always loved how they weaved in the George Steel story into this match. I love how Savage moves Liz away from Steele because of what happened at the last SNME where he kidnapped her. Well-played spot. The finish is just awesome with Steel saving Steamboat from the bell. It is too bad that Savage could not get himself to be hit with the bell a little bit more convincingly.

Much like Hogan vs Andre, this match has been talked to death and I don't have a completely revolutionary fresh take, but I did enjoy this match more than I ever have in the past. The first time I watched this was probably about ten years ago and I hate to admit I was pretty underwhelmed. It just seemed like guys moving really fast, but without much substance to it. This match for me at least has gotten better with each subsequent watch and I really enjoyed it this time around. The Toronto match really helps put things into perspective. I highly recommend watching the Toronto match before this one to get the full experience. In fact, I would imagine if you go back and watch 2 or 3 of their 86 matches it would help even more. It is actually surprising how many spots are similar to Toronto but they work them in different fashions, but it is still organic. They even played off the Toronto finish with Savage reversing a O'Connor Roll, but this time Steamboat kicked out.

I think there are times when Steamboat does show aggression that have been brushed over like the choke on Savage at the beginning and the aggression of his chops. Savage is a particularly nasty heel in this and in general that is his style. He takes shortcuts and uses nasty short strikes to keep his opponents at bay. The eye rake when Steamboat was unleashing all that karate popped me. I really loved his use of the high knee in this match. It was a well-delivered attack and it was always to the back. Great dick move. Around this time, he decks Steamboat in the midst of the skin the cat and Jesse delivers my all time favorite line "You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get one up on the Macho Man."

 

This is a type of feud that I think could benefit wrestling more and that is the one-sided hate feud. Steamboat hates Savage and that's clearly evident. Savage does not actually hate Steamboat. He is lashing out in fear of losing the title. It makes sense for Savage to cheat like a muthafucka and go for a ton of pinfalls. Steamboat does actually work aggressive at times, but this is tempered by the fact that this maybe his last shot for the IC title.

 

Do they move too fast in this match? Yes and no. I think this match is very influential on the current style used today. Pack in a ton of action and lots of nearfalls at the end = This Is Awesome chants. I think they move way too fast at the beginning. There are way too many momentum shifts and there is very little rhythm. it does not feel like a struggle. I would say around the high knees that match settles into a nice structure with Steamboat fighting underneath due to Savage's cheating. I actually dig the urgency of Steamboat's nearfalls. It is a really heightened sense of drama. I think during the finish the speed at which they were going was warranted and was a boon to the match.

Overall, I thought they moved a bit too quickly early on, last half was wicked hot. It was downright revolutionary for the WWF at the time. Those nearfalls were wicked hot. You always think of the one after the karate chop near the ropes that gets a monster pop because everyone thought Steamboat had won. I also did not think there was one consistent thread through the entire match like a real cool overarching story. I am sticking the Toronto match ahead, but this is a badass match and very, very important in the history of wrestling for how it influenced the fans, wrestlers and the promotion. ****3/4

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Even though I've seen this many times before, I sometimes think that I'm only rating this highly because I should do, so I decided to give this another watch last night.

 

It's still incredible. Savage works a great segment over Steamboat's throat. The crowd are right behind Steamboat, even the ones that were cheering Macho when he made his entrance. These guys work at such a fast pace, even the referee looks worn out. This really is a masterclass in pro-wrestling and it's one of the most highly influential matches of all time and I can't see it ever aging.

 

★★★★★

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Savage does an amazing job selling that left arm early on, and I love the all the callback to the neck damage. I too still think I like the Toronto match more than this one, but what a great moment this is. The foot on the ropes at three, after the chop, is probably my favorite part. I also love Ventura calling this match. He says it may be the greatest wrestling match he's ever seen. A lot of people agree. It's definitely a match that continues to grow on me more and more throughout the years, which is probably different than some. The more I watch it, the more I appreciate the little things and thought that was put in to making this match a classic.

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I'd gone back and forth on this for years. I always wanted more hate, I wanted blood, I wanted Steamboat to throttle Savage. It had always left me underwhelmed until about a decade ago when I watched the entire feud. Context helped it and so did that interview that was an extra on the Wrestlemania 3 DVD or whatever, with Steamboat talking about this being his last chance at the belt, how he'd come back from injury and let his temper get out of control and how it never got him anywhere. It might've been a convenient way to get out of someone bleeding in the blowoff to the big blood feud, but if nothing else it worked and added the layer that made it all click. I'm not sure I'd still call it a top 10 match in WWE history, but it's a great match. The main takeaway I had this time was that they built the hell out of this thing. It wasn't like it started out with no heat. People were into it from the start, as you'd expect. But by the end, even with the phantom heel pinfall and the fact they never COMPLETELY pulled the trigger on that clean win, the place was molten hot. Hebnar was gassed out of his mind towards the end and people were just losing it for every roll up and nearfall. It had lots of cool little throwbacks to the major points of the feud. Some of them I wish they maybe did a bit more with, like Savage working the throat and Steamboat playing up those moments where he'd turn loose, but I thought things like the nearfall off the finish to the Toronto match and Savage going for the bell came off great. Even Savage coming out and moving Elizabeth as far away as possible from Steele touched on the history. I suppose they could've done more with that brief bit of arm work. I'd maybe have liked for them to do away with a bit of the back and forth so Savage could have a longer stretch on top. I'll never love that phantom pinfall. It didn't really matter, though. What they gave us was an exceptional bit of pro-wrestling and one of the more iconic matches the company's ever had.

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Of course, for me, Savage vs Steamboat is my masterpiece as a wrestling fan; probably the greatest match I've ever seen in my life. So many layers in the storytelling throughout the entire match (and the feud in general) with everyone playing their part to perfection. I always thought that the addition of George Steele in the match being Steamboat's second was a nice way to tie-in Savage's match from the year before (he defended the IC title against George Steele at Wrestlemania 2 in the New York part of the show) so everything that he does during the whole feud - most notably, kidnapping Liz on SNME) makes sense. We can look at many matches that are considered epic and pieces of anthology and find over the years that they didn't necessarily age as well as we originally thought but Savage vs Steamboat will forever be the measuring stick for any wrestler trying to emulate that level of performance. This is the match that defined the Intercontinental Championship as the "workrate title", if I could use the expression. And we only have to look over the years at the list of guys to hold this championship: Curt Hennig, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels. The current champ Seth Rollins also fits that category. To me, this match changed everything for the Intercontinental Championship.

 

A definite ***** match in my book.

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