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Ricky Steamboat Interview

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Here it is...

 

http://www.wrestlingobserver.com/wo/news/h...t.asp?aID=15068

 

 

Jay Youngblood passed away in September of 1985. There have been conflicting reports as to what happened to him; one story is that he died of a heart attack from an overdose, and another story is that he died after being injured in a match. Did you ever hear the truth as to what happened to him?

 

 

 

"Well, the story that was told to me by his brother Mark was, Jay had a tumor. And he tried to make it through the tour. He had been complaining about abdominal pain. After the show on the very last night they took him to the hospital. And they performed surgery trying to remove this tumor. Apparently it was about the size of a grapefruit, in his pancreas. And his body temperature rose up to where it stopped his heart. They put the juice to him, brought him back, he breathed for about 30 seconds, and then he never came back."

 

 

 

Towards the end of your NWA run, in December of 1983 you were one half of the tag team champions with Jay, and you announced your retirement, vacating the titles. You went away for a while, then ended up resurfacing in WWE. Was that a legitimate retirement; did you really intend to walk away from wrestling at the time?

 

 

 

"No, I'd opened up a small health club gym, and I wanted to focus on getting it off to the so-called right foot... right start. I had planned it a long time, and Crockett knew also at that time that I was going to take about a six month hiatus. I did come back to Crockett, and that's when Dusty was booking. When I came back, Tully Blanchard was the Television Champion, which was 1984. When you go to the live houses, the house shows, the TV belt, even though you're main event, the TV belt was up for the first twenty minutes. You could wrestle past that, and wrestle for the 60 minute allotted time limit for the match. I would go around, and Dusty had just come in or had been in for about six months. I was wrestling Tully. We went around the territory and I would beat him, but I would beat him like in about 24 minutes. Right after the 20-minute time limit had expired for the belt, but the match would continue. So I would win the match, but he would go home with the belt. And the following week on television through Crockett Promotions and so forth and so on, the time limit was extended for 30 minutes. So we went around the territory, North and South Carolina, Richmond, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia, and I would beat him in 35 minutes. I would win the match but he would go home with the belt. So we had one big show in which... a big show in Greensboro, and our time limit was 45 minutes. We did not go around the territory with that time limit, we went around the first two, but this was just one big show in Greensboro and we were one of the main events. The time limit was 45 minutes, well I beat him in 47. Well the following week on TV, Dusty goes out there and wrestles Tully Blanchard, beats him in 7 minutes and becomes the new TV Champ. So I saw the writing on the wall there. Tully was, he was a pretty good heel, I was one of the top babyfaces in the Mid-Atlantic. Dusty being the booker who was also a babyface. So here I would go around making Tully look real good even though I would win the match, but he would continually go home with the belt. But after watching on television while I was there at TV, when Dusty was wrestling Tully and won the championship in 7 minutes, which I could never beat Tully for. So I could understand my position and how I was going to be used. And then it was about a couple of weeks after that, Nikita (Koloff) came into the territory. I had a match on TV with just a jobber, local guy. And I went over, and as I'm walking back from the ring to the locker room, the planned thing was that Nikita would come out and give me a clothesline which at that time he called the Russian Sickle. And they carried me out on a stretcher. Well then I knew what was going to happen there, that I would go around and make Nikita look good and then he would end up wrestling Dusty. So it was right after that TV that I gave my notice and went to the WWF... that was the reason why I left. You're getting the good scoop now!"

 

 

 

That was always the one knock on Dusty too, when he was booker he always put himself over.

 

 

 

"Yeah, he's the man with the pencil."

 

 

 

Other guys have done it, Kevin Nash did it in WCW later, it's not a rarity.

 

 

 

"A lot of guys do not like the fact that if you have a booker that is booking but is also working, that is something to be aware of."

 

 

 

Especially back then when there were no guaranteed contracts so you got paid based on where you were on the card.

 

 

 

"Yeah."

 

 

 

You went to WWE, and it turned out to be a great decision for you. You were in the very first WrestleMania, going over Matt Borne. What did you think at the time of the WrestleMania concept?

 

 

 

"I don't know if I thought that it would take off. My biggest awe, in which I was in awe of, how big the production was. And even at that time, it was at a grand scale. Here you've got Liberace out there doing the dance with the Rockettes. Muhammad Ali was the special referee there with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Piper and Orndorff... and this was going coast to coast on PPV, the first WrestleMania and everything. But if you look at the way they do things now in production, and you look at the first one you think God, that was so archaic. Then you compare that to the way we did wrestling in the Carolinas or the way wrestling was produced in any territory whether it be Watts' territory or Verne's or even Vince McMahon Sr., the way they did TV production for wrestling, that was so archaic. It just sort of reminded me of black and white boxing back in the 60's. Coming back to the business now and being with them and seeing how they do production now, I still catch myself standing back looking at the guys putting everything together and saying to myself, "Boy, has this really grown," and "Boy, is this really different."

 

 

 

When you started in WWE you wrestled in trunks, you didn't wrestle in long tights as you did later on. How did you go transitioning from Rick Steamboat to "The Dragon" Ricky Steamboat? I remember a vignette where you were in a dojo and you beat up a bunch of ninjas.

 

 

 

"Yeah, that was in a Japanese garden in Philadelphia... there was a roundtable discussion between me and Vince and Pat Patterson, and... what's his name, he was the manager of the Four Horsemen..."

 

 

 

J.J. Dillon.

 

 

 

"J.J., yeah he worked in the office, he was there. They collectively... if there was some guy that... Randy Savage. Well, they liked to keep the name Randy Savage but they would like to add some of their own twist to it so that's how "Macho Man" ... and then I came in as Ricky Steamboat. Well, "We like that, and we know you campaign that name and everybody in the wrestling world knows you by that, but we need to add some flare to it. We need to add some pizzazz to it." So in this roundtable discussion we started talking about how I look like... we started talking about Bruce Lee. And some of the movies that he made, "Return of the Dragon". Then they started throwing it around, "The Dragon" Ricky Steamboat. Or Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Or Ricky Steamboat "The Dragon". It didn't matter wherever you put "The Dragon", in front, in the middle or at the end, it worked. So that's how that name came on. And then I was doing some martial arts and they said, "Wow, instead of just going out there in a standard ring jacket with short tights on, let's put you in long tights and karate boots, and let's put a karate gi on you, black belt, head band," and all of a sudden, there was "The Dragon". That "Dragon" was a different "Dragon" than the one in 1991."

 

 

 

No kerosene.

 

 

 

"No kerosene," Rick said laughing.

 

 

 

Early in your stint in WWE you teamed up with Jimmy Snuka, as well as with King Tonga. What was it like working with those guys?

 

 

 

"Great... Snuka... what did we call ourselves..."

 

 

 

I think it was The South Pacific Connection.

 

 

 

"Yes! The SPC," Rick laughed. "It was great, our styles, we gelled. And also with Tonga, who later went on to wrestle as Haku. No, Tonga was not Haku..."

 

 

 

Yeah he was.

 

 

 

"Was he? The Tonga Kid... no, I'm thinking of big Tonga, who went on to wrestle as Haku. Once again our styles were similar, they did the chops and all that kind of stuff."

 

 

 

Music today is a huge part of wrestling. A lot of wrestlers, their music is as big a part of their character as what they do in the ring. But in the mid-80's it was kind of rare. There were only two or three guys who were really known for music. Hogan had "Eye of the Tiger" and then "Real American". Savage had "Pomp and Circumstance". And Ricky Steamboat had "Sirius" by The Alan Parsons Project. Who came up for the idea for that music?

 

 

 

"I did."

 

 

 

That was your idea?

 

 

 

"Yeah, I had the tape, "Eye in the Sky", that was the name of the cassette. That was one of my favorite songs. It had such a longer intro before they actually went into the lyrics. And I thought, God that would make such a great ring entrance. So I brought that to the table and everybody liked it."

 

 

 

Your first major feud in WWE was with Don Muraco, who you actually worked with in Florida I think...

 

 

 

"No..."

 

 

 

It wasn't Florida?

 

 

 

"No..."

 

 

 

Or was it Georgia?

 

 

 

"Georgia."

 

 

 

The famous angle from that was the hanging angle when you did the TV thing and he hung you over the top rope.

 

 

 

"Right, he took my black belt and put it around me and over the top rope, I'm hanging there."

 

 

 

What was it like working with Don?

 

 

 

"Very good. Excellent. Excellent. Bigger guy, heel. Also billed from Hawaii. Had Mr. Fuji there on the floor who was getting his heat but not stealing the show. It was great. Big, and... Don was 280. When it was time for my comeback, the big guy was there. He would feed and bump and feed and bump. I don't care how blown up he was, I don't care how much foam and saliva he had coming from his mouth, for some reason he would be there. He was a great, great guy to work with. Great matches with him."

 

 

 

This leads me to a rumor you can confirm or deny. WWE was running two tours. One usually had Hogan headlining. The other usually had the IC Champion or whatever the top mid-card feud was. So in 85, Hogan was headlining, you were headlining the other with Don Muraco, and you guys were outdrawing Hogan. The rumor was that George Scott who was booker in Mid-Atlantic and went on to be booker in WWE, he pitched to have the WWE World Title put on you. Is that true?

 

 

 

"That was told to me by George. That was told to me, I would have to say 10 to 12 years after the fact. No, I would have to say 89ish. That is when I went to WCW and started the feud with Flair. George was booking at the time. Yeah, it was 1989 that he told me that."

 

 

 

What did you think of that? Hogan was Mr. Untouchable.

 

 

 

"Well, all things taken into consideration, The Iron Sheik was not known as being a real great worker. Maybe that was some of the reason why when Rock and I would go out there and work, we'd go out there and work 30 or 40 minutes and we had Mr. Fuji out there always as the back-up. We would have some great stuff. And our return matches, after the people came to see us one time, we'd go back to the big towns and big coliseums and the houses were always better. We put on a better show. We'd go in behind Hogan and Sheik and I know in Boston we did better, Detroit we did better, one time we went in behind them at the Garden and did better. Philadelphia, some of the big major markets. But also understand, I had two guys who could really go out there and work, and The Iron Sheik is The Iron Sheik."

 

 

 

Another rumor is that in the late 80s you approached Pat Patterson and you told him that you wanted to turn heel.

 

 

 

"1991."

 

 

 

91, you really did do that?

 

 

 

"Yes."

 

 

 

What was the reaction? Obviously it didn't happen.

 

 

 

"No. He said, "Ricky, you are the consummate babyface." He said, "We could take you out there with a chainsaw and cut off Hulk Hogan's arm and everybody in the place would stand up and say that he deserved it." I never, ever worked one match as a heel. Around that time I had been in the business something like around 16 or 17 years. And here, I want to work heel. Everybody else, I mean Hulk Hogan started off as a heel. Even Bruno Sammartino worked heel. You've got Ric Flair that's worked babyface and heel I don't know how many times. Almost everybody. Randy Savage. Everybody that you can think of. Bret Hart."

 

 

 

You and Tito Santana were the only two really.

 

 

 

"I don't know if he ever worked heel. He used my name as Dick Blood in Georgia. He had a short run with that name. I had just come to the Carolinas in '77, this was about a year later in '78. Jim Barnett flew into Greensboro, we had a big show there in Greensboro. Flew in just to ask me, he came up and goes, "My boy, I'm asking you this out of respect because I like you. I wanted to ask you. I've got this kid that's come into Atlanta, his name is Merced Solis. But I would like for him to use your real name, Dick Blood.""

 

 

 

I wonder how he ever saw a connection between Tito Santana and Dick Blood.

 

 

 

"He just loved the name. And Tito was a young babyface, good looking guy. He wanted to put the name on him. He just wanted to use it."

 

 

 

So he was heel under that name?

 

 

 

"I think he did work heel under that name."

 

 

 

I want to read you a quote from Ric Flair's book really quick. He was talking about you and putting you over. He said, "If (Steamboat) had any drawback, it's that he never played the bad guy. Unlike wrestlers who could get the crowd to either love them or hate them, he only knew how to be the hero." Would you agree with that?

 

 

 

"Very much."

 

 

 

Do you think if you'd had the chance to be heel you could have made a go of it?

 

 

 

"You know, I think I could have because what would determine a good guy going bad or a bad guy going good is... usually we would do some kind of angle on TV. If there was a good guy in the ring getting his butt kicked, and maybe getting kicked by two or three bad guys, all of a sudden you see a bad guy running into the ring and clearing house, instantly that bad guy became a good guy. Now the return match... most times he would be tagged up with the guy he'd saved going up against the guys that were kicking the babyface's butt. Now could you pull it off in your work? In other words, convince the people? Well, even though I never worked heel a day in my life, I do feel that I have worked with enough top heels such as Ric Flair and Don Muraco and Randy Savage and the list goes on and on and on, throughout my career I had enough guys that I worked with that I knew that I could probably accommodate, or I could pick it up very quickly. I felt very confident with it, and that's why I went to Pat Patterson in '91 and pitched it. And didn't get anywhere with it. I think that's one drawback in my career that's probably hindered me on a professional level, what Ric Flair stated in his book. Also coming from me on a personal level, that is something that I would have been able to hang my hat on that at one point in time in my career that I was able to work heel. Then on the other hand Jimmy, you look at it where... how many guys in the business worked 20 years and only worked one side? A lot of times if you would understand this, a lot of times promoters would switch a heel to a babyface or a babyface to a heel, a lot of times that happened when that guy's career in that territory... when he would not start to draw as well as he was. You know, draw the people. So all of a sudden they would switch that babyface heel, and they've got the people coming out in droves going, "I can't believe he did that. Now he's a no good son of a bitch.""

 

 

 

You didn't need that obviously...

 

 

 

"For that wrestler at that point in time in his career, all of a sudden he's got a boost. He's got a boost. I had a good career and did well. There were periods in time in my career where I could have needed a boost," he said laughing.

 

 

 

JV said that the one way he knows whether a wrestler really made it is if his mother knows the wrestler since she doesn't know wrestling, and his mother knows Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.

 

 

 

"Well that was only because of you," Rick joked. "Let the truth be known!"

 

 

 

After the Muraco feud came Jake Roberts. The first major spot - which 20 years later would still be a major spot today - he dropped you with a DDT on the concrete on Saturday Night's Main Event. Who came up with that spot?

 

 

 

"Jake's idea," Rick said. "He said, "Let's do something to the effect of, I pull the rubber mat... exposing the cement floor," ... unfortunately for me, I really hit it. I had a concussion. The side of my head blew up, twice the size... the left side blew up twice the size of my right. They took pictures of it, they had me on TV with it. The left size of my head looked like the size of a watermelon."

 

 

 

You were always one of the best when it came to selling. With Jake after the DDT spot you cut your hair, and you stopped smiling and shaking hands when you did your ring entrances, demonstrating your focus on getting back at Roberts. What were your influences when it came to selling and paying attention to the intricate details of an angle?

 

 

 

"Well to me, that was the favorite part of the match. A lot of times in the match, where the match would go is that, the babyface, the good guy would look good at the beginning of a match. And then the heel would get frustrated and do something dastardly to stop the babyface. That's how the word "heel" came because he would heel on the babyface. Undermining and stop the babyface. Then he would get his heat. And then of course after that... then the babyface would have his comeback, and they would have the finish of the match, whether the good guy went over, or the heel, the bad guy, went over. I learned early on that in a match, that if there isn't any heat, there is no match. The babyface can have all the shine that he wants in the beginning, but when it's time for the heel to get his heat, if there is no heat, there is no comeback, and there is no finish. There is nothing. So I learned early on that this is the part of the match that is probably the most important part of the match. That I've got to get across to the people convincingly. So I really worked hard at selling. I liked it so much that I would limit my shine in the front half of the match to something very very short, and then have the heel start getting his heat because I knew how to take care of myself. I knew how I could let the heel continue getting heat on me, and I could continue to sell, but always painting a picture to the fans that I was still in the fight, and I was still in the match. And he would get his heat, get his heat, and I would fight back. And I would fight from my knees, I would fight from my butt, I would fight and get cut down and sell and then come back and fight and then people would be sitting on the edge of their seats because they always knew that, "You can't count him out, he's not done yet. It's not over yet, you can't count him out," and I could let the heel get 30 minutes, hell you know with Flair, 30, 40, 50 minutes of heat on me because they always said, "Well he's still in the fight, he's still in the fight, he's still in the fight," and then I realized when I started my comeback, because of all the heat, it made my comeback so... oh man, we'd blow the roof off the place."

 

 

 

I think it was WrestleMania II when you wrestled Hercules, and when you went to the corner for the high crossbody you were practically crawling to the corner because you'd been selling for him for most of the match.

 

 

 

"Well, and getting that reputation over the years of me working as a babyface that loved to sell, the heel loved it because he thought, "This guy's getting me so much heat," that the heel would always be there for me in my comebacks. He'd be there, and would almost do anything for me in my comeback because of how I allowed him to get so much heat. And the heels loved it. And they loved working with me because of that reason. There were so many babyfaces that were so concerned about, "Well I've gotta make sure I get my shit in... I've gotta make sure I get my leapfrogs and my dropkicks and armdrags," and on and on and on and on... to me Jimmy, that was the least important part of the match. Coming from a babyface in which you're supposed to shine in the beginning, that's why as I followed and learned more in the works of our business, I could keep my front half of the shine just for a couple of minutes, and then sell for 30."

 

 

 

And you always got over at the end.

 

 

 

"And it didn't matter if I'd blow a big comeback, and it was because of 30 minutes of selling the people were there for me, and I'd go over. Or after selling for 30 minutes I'd blow a three or four minute comeback and the heel screwed me. And if you look at, let's say the match was a total of 40 minutes, total. And let's say I had a shine of 3 or 4 minutes in the front half, and then he got 30 minutes of heat, and then I got a 3 or 4 minute comeback on the back half. So actually I might have looked good for 6 to 8 minutes, but the other 30 to 32 minutes, the heel was kicking my butt. And even though on the finish, if the heel screwed me or cheated to win, everybody would have said in that match that I almost got him."

 

 

 

Yeah, he got lucky.

 

 

 

"Oh yeah. Even though he took 80%."

 

 

 

You used to study boxing tapes to see how the fighters looked when they got hurt.

 

 

 

"Yeah how they... how would they react in a shoot? If a guy got caught with an uppercut or a right cross, or even a simple jab, how does he sell that? How does the fighter sell a punch in the beginning of the first couple rounds as opposed to now we're in the 11th or 12th round? And myself would change at the beginning of the heat in the first couple minutes of it, as opposed to, now we're 30 minutes into the heat. There's a change. There's a difference in how you react. Because 30 minutes into it you're painting a picture that now you are beaten down pretty good. And I picked this all up from boxing." Rick said that when he did seminars and workshops with the independent promotions, he would tell everybody to get the movie "Raging Bull" with Robert DeNiro. He would tell them to separate themselves from the theme of the movie and focus on DeNiro's portrayal of a boxer getting his head beat in and how he did it convincingly.

 

 

 

You've done a lot of seminars with Les Thatcher. Did you not do some training as a heel?

 

 

 

"I do it in my seminar. I still give seminars with WWE during our TV days. The ring is setup and sometimes we'll get out there and they'll be 10 or 15 guys there around the ring. I'll give 5 minutes of this or 5 minutes of that or 10 minutes of this or 15 minutes of this. A lot or most of the time it's babyface. But then a lot of it, I know what to do or say as a heel even though we do have Arn Anderson there. We do have Dave Finlay, guys that are great heels. If I've got center stage for five minutes for the group of guys that are sitting there watching, all of us, me, Arn, Fit, even though I never worked it, we're all on the same page. I know the psychology of it. And how to speak it and teach it or show it because I've worked with probably the best heels in the business throughout my career. It's an ongoing thing and we do it every week, every TV shoot, we're out there showing guys this and that. Sometimes we're doing it collectively as a group, there might be 20 or 30 guys, even Batista and John Cena sit in and watch and listen. Or we may just do it with some of the new guys that they have... guys that come in from OVW, the developmentals, and the other camp in Deep South, there may be three or four guys, or five or six guys that come up from the camp and show up at TV in hopes that they'll get a spot to wrestle in a dark match. We are always trying to teach and trying to show, taking what we've learned and some of these guys have only been in the business for a couple of years. We've been in it for... I started in 1974. And just trying to teach and show and give them all the information so that when they get out there and work, it gives a product that people watching at home are looking at it and saying, "Wow, that was a hell of a match.""

 

 

 

 

 

Part two of my exclusive audio interview with former NWA World Champion and WWE Intercontinental Champion Ricky ?The Dragon? Steamboat is now online at JimmyVan.com in MP3 and Real Audio formats. You can also listen to a five-minute preview clip of the interview in Real Audio format at this link:

 

 

 

http://jimmyvan.win.lowfathost.com/steambo...20705-clip2.mp3

 

 

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Guest Crucifixio Jones

Great interview. I had no idea that he was working in any capacity with WWE today. It's amazing to me that the guys there have all these great resources, all of these awesome legends to work with and learn from and the product still sucks as badly as it does.

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Guest godthedog

I learned early on that in a match, that if there isn't any heat, there is no match. The babyface can have all the shine that he wants in the beginning, but when it's time for the heel to get his heat, if there is no heat, there is no comeback, and there is no finish. There is nothing. So I learned early on that this is the part of the match that is probably the most important part of the match. That I've got to get across to the people convincingly. So I really worked hard at selling. I liked it so much that I would limit my shine in the front half of the match to something very very short, and then have the heel start getting his heat because I knew how to take care of myself. I knew how I could let the heel continue getting heat on me, and I could continue to sell, but always painting a picture to the fans that I was still in the fight, and I was still in the match. And he would get his heat, get his heat, and I would fight back. And I would fight from my knees, I would fight from my butt, I would fight and get cut down and sell and then come back and fight and then people would be sitting on the edge of their seats because they always knew that, "You can't count him out, he's not done yet. It's not over yet, you can't count him out," and I could let the heel get 30 minutes, hell you know with Flair, 30, 40, 50 minutes of heat on me because they always said, "Well he's still in the fight, he's still in the fight, he's still in the fight," and then I realized when I started my comeback, because of all the heat, it made my comeback so... oh man, we'd blow the roof off the place."

every wrestler in america needs to put this on his wall and recite it every night before he goes to bed. it's so simple, it's EXACTLY what made steamboat so good at working a match, and nobody seems to understand it.

 

the stuff on long-term selling too. that's a lost art.

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