July 5, 2010
The Powerdriver Review
Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon – 3 Disc Set
Released: June 29, 2010
I’ve been pretty burnt out on wrestling lately and I figured the best way to come back to the site would be to review the new Ricky Steamboat DVD set because if I could only watch matches that involved three guys for the rest of my life, Ricky Steamboat would be one of those three. So let’s get to it.
Like with most three-disc releases from WWE, disc one is packed with a documentary and several special features.
Growing Up: Steamboat was born in West Point, New York which is about as far in America as you can be from Hawaii. While his dad was an Army man for 22 years of his life, his American father married a Japanese woman who would of course become his mother. Being a military brat, Steamboat spent time in various parts of the world. He spent a lot of time in Florida during his teenage years where he and his friends became very entertained by Championship Wrestling from Florida – particularly Jack Brisco who he takes his armdrag from.
Training: After high school, Steamboat was dating an airline stewardess who worked with Verne Gagne’s daughter who was also an airline stewardess. From there, Steamboat went to Verne’s grueling wrestling camp up in Minneapolis for ten weeks in 1974 where he trained to become a wrestler. Iron Sheik says he was incredibly impressed with Steamboat. Anyways, Ricky went from 242 pounds to 204 pounds in a short ten weeks. I always find it interesting the weight loss that the guys endure at Verne’s camp.
Traveling: After a few short months in the AWA, Steamboat was sent home to Florida to work for Eddie Graham. Everyone was impressed with Steamboat’s look, but the name ‘Richard Blood’ sounds like a villain’s name. Between Jack Brisco and Eddie Graham, they decided to make Ricky a nephew of CWF hero and of Hawaiian decent Sam Steamboat to quickly get him over. Four months went by, Steamboat heads to work for Jim Barnett at Georgia Championship Wrestling. He spent a good year with GCW until the new head of the company – Ole Anderson – decided to send Steamboat up to work Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in Charlotte.
Mid-Atlantic: Working for the Crocketts in the late 70s was amazing because everybody there could work well. Within a few months, Steamboat was caught up in a war with Ric Flair. It was the first angle that made everyone take notice of Steamboat because he was roughing up a guy who was already VERY over with the MACW crowds. They show the classic clip of Flair calling out Steamboat and grinding his face into the concrete. Next week, Flair shows everybody a bruised picture of Steamboat which ENRAGED him to the point that he beat up Flair and ripped off his clothes in front of Flair’s women. Flair’s reaction is just great. Harley Race recalls Flair going several hours with Steamboat and talks about how flawless they were. Tony Atlas believes Flair and Steamboat wrestled more broadways than anybody in history. Before he and Flair were competing against each other in world title matches, Piper remembers Steamboat having great matches with Harley Race over the NWA world title too. The crowds were standing when he walked in and they were standing when he walked out. They show lots of clips of Steamboat showing off how quick and fluid he was. We see a clip of Steamboat beating Tony Atlas and a few others in the 1978 Mr. North Carolina bodybuilding contest. All that went into the training to win that hindered his energy level because he had to do more weightlifting and less cardio. It was just a hobby that he wanted to see if he could excel at. Jim Crockett Jr says that once Ricky got the point where he owned his own gym and got married, the desire to be the best ever in wrestling subsided because he had other priorities for his life. Seemed like an odd place to stick that comment. Anyways, onto the Steamboat-Youngblood tag team. They were hanging out together 24-7 back in those days. While arguably their most famous angle included a feud with the NWA world tag champs Sgt. Slaughter and Pvt. Don Kernodle that culminated in a sellout cage match in Greensboro in March 1983. Slaughter says 30,000 people had to be turned away from what he feels is one of the greatest tag matches ever. After that match, the two teams met in a 30 DAY CAGE MATCH TOUR of all the cities in the Mid-Atlantic territory. Onto their feud with the Briscos. Jerry was convinced they would take Steamboat and Youngblood to the limit more so than Slaughter and Kernodle could ever do. That feud ended at Starrcade 1983 where Steamboat and Youngblood regained the NWA world tag titles. While successful together, Steamboat and Youngblood parted ways as Steamboat left Mid-Atlantic for the WWF.
The Dragon: Because of the martial arts aspect to his move set AND that he looks like a ripped Bruce Lee, it was around this time where Ricky Steamboat became the Dragon so that the WWF could make him marketable and sell merchandise with his name on it like everyone else in the company. Edge and Chris Jericho mention some of the Ricky Steamboat stuff that they bought. They show the awesome clip of Steamboat fighting off ninjas, which segues into his ability to make any move that he tries look good. His first feud in the WWF was against Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji. The montage makes it look awesome which is its purpose, but I was never a big fan of the matches. I’m guessing that their house show matches were much, much better than the stuff from SNME. Onto Jake Roberts and the head-swelling concrete DDT. Jake says it took two weeks before Ricky’s eyes would even blacken. That’s ROUGH. Steamboat’s promo after the injury is money, though.
WrestleMania III: Next up, Steamboat’s most famous angle of all-time – the larynx incident with Randy Savage. They show Bruno Sammartino defending Steamboat’s honor while he was away by attacking Randy Savage as he just finishes mentioning how proud he is of himself for what he had done. Of course, the doctor said Steamboat should never return to wrestling and all seems lost. They show Steamboat going to speech therapy and cuts a promo when he can “barely speak”. It’s quite comical. At WrestleMania 3, Steamboat admits that he and Savage planned to steal the show from the beginning. Hogan-Andre would bring the crowds, but they were going to put on the best match. Lots of clips shown from that classic encounter. After the show was over at the WrestleMania party, Steamboat says that everybody crowded around Savage and him to congratulate them while no one paid much attention to Hulk Hogan. Well, there weren’t too many Steamboat-Savage rematches. COINCIDENCE? Steamboat asked for time off because his wife Bonnie was pregnant with his only child and he didn’t want to miss out. The WWF office didn’t want to see the IC title dormant, so they had Steamboat drop the belt to the Honky Tonk Man of all people. A year later, Steamboat leaves the WWF to spend time with his family.
World Champion: In January 1989, Steamboat returns to the NWA to be Eddie Gilbert’s surprise tag partner to face Ricky’s old nemesis Ric Flair and Barry Windham. This led to an immediate revival of the Flair-Steamboat feud over the NWA world title and three of the greatest matches of all-time. Its great when you can just watch clips and listen to the commentary and still get excited over what you’re watching. When that’s achieved, you’re watching GOOD wrestling. When Flair regained the NWA world title belt at Wrestle War and there was a big angle between he and Funk right after the match, that decision didn’t sit well with Steamboat and he chose not to continue working for WCW when his six-month agreement was over in July.
Fire Breathing Dragon: Steamboat returned to the WWF in 1991 and started doing this fire-breathing gimmick. Naturally, he hated the taste of lighter fluid. After a lackluster ten months, Steamboat headed back to WCW.
Mentoring: He debuted at the Clash of the Champions in November 1991 to be once again a mystery partner, except this time he teamed with Dustin Rhodes. Arn remembers the HUGE pop well for the return of the legend and can’t recall a building that small getting that loud reacting to one person. Easily my favorite tag team match of all-time. During Steamboat’s final run with WCW, he became sort of a mentor specifically to future stars Dustin Rhodes, Shane Douglas, and most importantly Steve Austin. By August 1994, Steamboat took a bump wrong off the second turnbuckle during a match with Austin and landed on his tailbone that resulted in herniated discs in his back. Rather than have his ego get in the way and make a lame comeback, Steamboat wanted everyone to remember him for how good he was and decided to end his wrestling career after twenty years. A year after his retirement, his wife Bonnie wanted to separate and eventually they would divorce, but that wasn’t all that happened to him before becoming a WWE road agent in 2004. He helped his son get involved heavily in car racing, but their sponsors became too unpredictable with supplying the money that they needed which brought that project to an end. In April 2004, WWE EVP Talent Relations John Laurinaitis offered Steamboat a road agent job. Like with any wrestler from the ’80s, you would need to see how they would get along with the new talent, so Laurinaitis brought him in on a temporary basis. By January 2005, he was hired. While Edge and Kingston mark out over being taught by Ricky Steamboat, they show Ricky talking to the NXT guys which includes Bryan Danielson.
Hall of Fame: At WrestleMania 25, Steamboat was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ric Flair. Like everybody says who gets inducted, it was a wonderful moment in their lives to be shown respect from your fellow peers. Clips are shown of his speech and a few people talking about how great of a guy he is. No one has anything bad to say about Ricky Steamboat. The only person who would is probably Hulk Hogan. Now onto the WrestleMania 25 match where Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka, and Roddy Piper took on Chris Jericho. Arn brags that Steamboat is better at the age of 56 (which he was at the time of that match) than some could be at any age. Jericho likens Ricky Steamboat to Wayne Gretzky in that if Gretzky came back for one more hockey game, he would instantly be better than 90% of everybody else still playing. Steamboat’s performance at WrestleMania was much more inspiring than the Backlash match because it wasn’t necessarily expected. If you can make that happen, those are the moments I think are when a legend returns and it’s great. In 2008, his son Richie decided to give professional wrestling a try, so Ricky sent him to different places where he would get the full experience and learn all that he could. He’s currently signed to a deal with FCW.
Legacy: Steamboat says what he misses most is being in the ring. His return in 2009 only increased his desire to compete. From here to the end, a who’s who list of wrestling stars talk up how great of a wrestler and a man Ricky Steamboat is.
Ricky’s First Car: He buys a ’57 Chevy for $50 from a dishonest man because as it turns out, the car only runs in reverse. Turns out that also the wiring is screwed up as well. Some other guy passes by and sees Ricky working on the car. He wants to know if its for sell and after Ricky tells him what’s wrong with the car, Steamboat is still able to make the sell and gets $100 for it.
Mike Graham Remembers Richard Blood: They wrestled each other in high school when Mike Graham was a senior and Blood was a sophomore. Six years later, Graham sees the name ‘Richard Blood’ on the booking sheet and asks where this guy is from because his name sounds familiar. When Graham was told Blood had come down from Verne’s camp in Minnesota, Graham wondered why the heck did he go to Verne’s camp when he lives in St. Petersburg. He could have drove ten miles to Tampa and trained there.
Ricky Forgets His Name: During his first match in Florida as Ricky Steamboat and being incredibly nervous, he forgets that he’s being introduced by the ring announcer as a substitute for ‘Dick Blood’ (worst name EVER) and tries to clear the situation up. Once he’s announced as the nephew of Sam Steamboat, the crowd goes nuts and the announcer has to tell Steamboat to wave at the crowd.
Having a Positive Attitude – World Wide Wrestling, 2/16/82: David Crockett says that Ric Flair’s ego has gotten out of control. What do you think, Steamboat? Ricky doesn’t have an ego – he has a positive attitude. Ever since Ric Flair became the NWA world champ, Steamboat does seem to think that Flair’s gone off the deep end though. WOO!
Tuesday Night Titans, 4/5/85: Basically an advertisement for Steamboat’s Mid-Atlantic Gym he ran down in Charlotte. Apparently, it gets the Vince McMahon approval.
Steve Lombardi Remembers Ricky’s First Match in WWE: Ahh, a Steve Lombardi appearance! I knew someone was missing from this DVD. Lombardi wrestled in Steamboat’s first WWF TV match in Poughkeepsie. He basically marks out.
The Body Shop – All-Star Wrestling, 6/22/85: Jesse Ventura brings Ricky Steamboat onto his show to confront him about using Kung-Fu and how ‘illegal’ it is. Steamboat says he checked with the WWF and it’s fine because he doesn’t chop the throat. Flabbergasted, Jesse asks Steamboat if he would ever cheat. When Steamboat replies no because he’s not like Jesse, Jesse gets all mad and storms off. He can’t STAND to be in the presence of such liars.
Becoming the Dragon… The Three Moments of Truth: The famous segment where Ricky Steamboat fights off a bunch of ninjas and passes some sort of test.
Chris Jericho Meets Ricky Steamboat for the First Time: It’s a silly story, but Jericho asks Steamboat a stupid question after waiting in line for an autograph for an hour and a half.
Tuesday Night Titans, 9/10/86: Ricky Steamboat brings out a small crocodile and talks about it like he’s Jim Fowler on the Tonight Show. If only Mean Gene were Brian Fellows instead, this would have GOLD.
Update with Gene Okerlund – Superstars, 1/31/87: After overcoming his career threatening injury and being able to talk again, Steamboat goes to a children’s hospital to make some kids feel good about being able to communicate.
Dragon in the Oven – Superstars, 4/11/87: Ricky and Bonnie announce that they’re having a BABY! Oh yeah, and Ricky still takes time to remind Randy Savage that he hasn’t forgotten about him.
Return from Japan – World Championship Wrestling, 3/18/89: In the weeks leading up to the Clash VI rematch as the defending champion Ricky Steamboat returns from Japan, he’s hearing that Ric Flair has been saying that Steamboat took his NWA world belt to Japan and that’s not cool.
William Regal Remembers Watching Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & “Nature Boy” Ric Flair: When Regal received the 2/3 falls match in 1989, he decided to work out and do Hindu squats through the entire match. He ended up doing 12,000 squats and couldn’t walk for two weeks, but at the same time he was amazed because he had never seen a better match.
World Television Champion – WCW Saturday Night, 9/19/92: Steamboat isn’t bothered by any derogatory comments Steve Austin might say about his family. While Austin is the longest reigning TV champ, it means he knows how to get the belt back. However, he will not get it back from Steamboat.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat’s Induction into the WWE Hall of Fame – April 4, 2009: The highlight of this being Steamboat calling out Chris Jericho in the audience and Jericho standing up and staying in character the whole time instead of just giving a “yeah it’s all fake” half smile.
Final Thoughts: The documentary makes you feel good to know that there’s at least one guy in wrestling who really has no dirt on them. I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about Ricky Steamboat. However, that also makes it somewhat boring especially if you are already familiar with Steamboat’s career. If you’re not, this was a great summarization of his career for the most part. The doc is only a little over an hour long and it sticks to the points. If you’re disappointed in that the doc shorter than most, then I’m not really sure what it is you were expecting. The special features were decent, but I wasn’t expecting too much. The reason people love Ricky Steamboat anyway is because of his matches. Disc one is mildly recommended for Steamboat fans and HIGHLY recommended for fans who are unfamiliar with him.