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Thunder Report

A Conversation with Rick Steamboat: Part 3

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver


Volume 4, Issue 459 - May 7, 1999

A Conversation with Rick Steamboat

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver

Part 3

Jeremy Hartley: One of the things you just mentioned was the difference between the babyfaces and the heels. You were pretty much a babyface throughout your career - nowadays they seem to change back and forth every week. I always got the feeling that they put that on you because they trusted you could make it believable.

Ricky Steamboat: Uh hm, that is true, and you've also noticed a difference in the fans. The fans are "hurrahing" the heels sometimes more then some of the babyfaces...

Jeremy Hartley: Would you say that part of that is due to the art of interviews being lost...I mean in your era was the fact that you could talk a good match, that your opponent could talk a good match - and that was a big majority of the battle before you even got into the ring. Right..?

Ricky Steamboat: Right. I've known guys that looked terrible, maybe would wrestle five to seven minutes, but had the gift of gab on the mic. They'd keep their main event status and keep their heat...you know that. today, is lost...Television has changed things a lot. You know we used to use TV as a venue for the live show - of course we'd still have the same kind of television matches - they'd go three - five - seven minutes then when you'd get to the house shows you'd have your 20 - 30 - 45 - one hour "broadways" (an old carny term for a one-hour show) and that is something else that is lost. And I think another reason why was because...you look at the promotions on both sides whether it be WWF or WCW - on a pay-per-view they'll load the card up, almost everybody on the show is considered a main eventer, maybe they'd have a couple of feature matches - but the promoter's got so many guys - and you've got a certain length of time that you're on the satellite so matches are customarily going shorter. As opposed to when we used to do the live shows - so what if the matches got out at 11:30 at night? Many times I worked with Flair and the promoter would say "...look, we only need twenty minutes tonight guys..." but the match was going so well, that sometimes we'd put in 59 minutes and 30 seconds just to really throw a monkey wrench into the fans...

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs)

Ricky Steamboat:...you know, their all thinking we're going "broadway" then all of a sudden we'd "do" the finish. But instead of twenty minutes - the match was going along so good we'd do the finish and actually it worked out better because everybody that's sitting there watching it is thinking that we're going to go to a one hour draw - then with 27 seconds left to the end of the match they hear "one-two-three..."

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) You know it's funny that you mention that because I remember a match - I believe it was in Louisianna that you guys pulled that off and it was on National Television and the amount of reaction from the fans was amazing...(here an audio excerpt from a Flair/Steamboat in 1989 is played...)

Ricky Steamboat: Right!

Jeremy Hartley: That was in '89 and you were holding the Title at the time...

Ricky Steamboat: Even something like that, Jeremy, has been lost... I'm sure that Bret Hart could still do a one hour "broadway" you know but I don't know about the newer guys into the business - I don't know if they have enough ring psychology to carry a match for an hour. I mean, 20 or 30 minutes into the match they would probably start panicing - that's an art form which is slowly being lost in our business too. I was always the one that if the agent or the promoter said, "look Ricky we only need twenty minutes tonight..." and if I was first main event the other guys would always dread it because they'd say "Steamboat's going to be out there for 45 minutes..." If the promoter gave me the green light, and it was okay with the heel - shit we're going 50 minutes tonight..!

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) And did it become almost a one-upsmanship on yourself everytime you'd go out there and work a specific program, it was, "Okay, what can we do now - you know, we worked for forty minutes - can we bump it up to sixty?" And still make it a sort of personal best thing...

Ricky Steamboat: You know that no matter how long you're in a match. Whether it is twenty minutes or thirty minutes or an hour - it is those last ten minutes where you really want to make it shine. Some times it was difficult, you were at the fifty minute mark and you know you're going to go "broadway" - and you say, "Okay, we gotta cook it..." and you know you gotta smoke it now - it's when we'd really start picking the pace up - knowing that you've been involved foir fifty minutes and your tongue is hanging out, you're wheezing like a son-of-a-gun and thinking, "...how am I gonna pull this thing out of my ass for the last ten minutes?" 

Jeremy Hartley: I'm sure that the quality of the contest depended largely on who you were working with, on the night and that kind of thing - but you always seemed to really bring out the best in the folks you were working with which we talked about earlier too.

Ricky Steamboat It seems as though they wrote it a few times that..uh...if you look at the people that had great matches, the other side of the coin was Ricky Steamboat. It always seemed that I was the common deniminator. They could list Don Murracco, but then they would say, "Oh yeah, that match he was in with Rick Steamboat." Jake Roberts, "Oh yeah, that was with Rick Steamboat." Ric Flair, "Oh yeah, that was with Rick Steamboat." Randy Savage...a lot of great matches and great scientific matches - in the WWF with Bret Hart, you know, the Hitman. And fans would come up and say, "You had that match with Hart - what a match!" or "I was at the Boston Gardens - Oh yeah, that was with Rick Steamboat." I learned early in my career that I should try to adapt to the guy I was wrestling. You always found out thast it was easier to do that, rather then go out there and try to pull teeth and say, "We're going to do it my way." I would interject a few things into the match, to do things my way, but adapted to the other wrestler - that's how I have always worked throughout the years and guys would always go to the promoters - heels would go and say, "Well, can you hook me up with Steamboat? Work a program with him." I had a great match with Lex Luger, who everybody though it was like pulling teeth to have a good match with him.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah! That was in the Summer of 1989...

Ricky Steamboat The Great American Bash in Baltimore.

Jeremy Hartley: Right, Flair and Funk were on the card...

Ricky Steamboat Yeah. I've got a lot of respect for Lex. The company wanted me to do a job right in the middle and Luger spoke up and said, "No, he doesn't deserve that." You might remember that as that match went on I actually chased him out of the ring with a chair - he took off running up towards the stage, the platform.

Jeremy Hartley: So this is interesting, he really seemed to respect the wrestling history then...is what you're saying. Or are you saying...

Ricky Steamboat You know what it was Jeremy? He was having such a hard time being a legitimate heel in his matches because he was so mechanical in the way that he did things in the ring that I was coaching him along in all his matches. Helping him out, and maybe his "lightbulb was starting to come on", a little bit of ring psychology. You know, he'd body slam me and as he bent over to pick me up I'd say, "No no no, run over a yell at that fat lady who's sitting in the second row." (laughs...)

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs...)

Ricky Steamboat So I could sell the body slam and then he would go over and get some heat with somebody in the front row. Then he'd come back over to me and do something else to me and I'd say, "Okay, now go over to that other lady over there."

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs...) So he seemed to take what you were doing really seriously and wanted to learn.

Ricky Steamboat Yeah. I told him, you know, "You look great, interviews are not too bad, but as soon as you step in the ring it's all over." I said, Lex, there are only so many times that you can flex and pose." Sometimes I would talk to him in the locker room and ask him to think about, "Whay are you doing this..?" The reason. And he would start to see it and say, "You know, nobody will take the time out to tell me this stuff. Nobody will take the time out to help me." and I said, "Well look, this is the way the business is carrying along for so many years because the old timers took the time to teach me when I was young."

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Ricky Steamboat So a lot of the guys thought...even though if they went to the promoters and said, "I'd like to work with Steamboat." Well, I'll tell you what. They all knew in the back of their minds that they would have to get in shape. Some guys that you would never see in a gym, or on a treadmill, or on a stair-stepper - when they started working a program with me...you'd go to Columbus, Ohio and you'd go to the local gym there and the next thing you'd know - the heel's in there...the guy that your working with. You never saw him there before. It would always put a grin on my face. Maybe that was out of respect, or maybe they knew that they had better get in shape because every night their working with Steamboat and they would be putting in 30 plus minutes...

Jeremy Hartley: I was thinking back to the time you were in the World Wrestling Federation and there were guys like the Iron Sheik, who were also there - Don Murracco was there - Harley Race was there - JYD (Junk Yard Dog) was there, all these guys - the Funks...yet they were still rtying to push the super-heroes and so forth. Did you guys ever kind of sit back and say, "Wow! Here we all are, we could be doing these great matches..." but you found that you were forced into doing these five-minute matches and so forth? And imagine how it would have been, had all you guys been given a chance to really shine.

Ricky Steamboat Well, Jeremy, to answer your question - I was never really forced...I got along so well with the agents - you know, Strongbow and those guys - they knew that one of my fortes, part of my style was, you know, thirty minutes, forty minutes. Even though that sometimes, in a locker room, in front of the guys - Strongbow would say, "Steamboat, we only need twenty tonight..." - he'd say that in front of the guys! Then I'd go out into the hallway and bump into him and he'd say, "Hey, you know I was just kidding...I know you can gop out there and do forty minutes and give these people a hell of a show..." and when he said that it meant, "You're doing the company justice." You know, "These are the guys who can go out there and bullshit them for seven minutes - we need somebody who can go out there and give them a legitimate match, and tell a storyline, and the psychology behind it - so that when the WWF comes back into town there was at least one match out of the eight that would give them a reason to come back for more."

Jeremy Hartley is a longtime friend of Solie's and a regular contributer to the newsletter. His "EYE on Wrestling" columns can be found in the "Articles" section of the web site. His previous interviews with Bob Blackburn, Lou Thesz, Bob Ryder and Buddy Landel are currently to be found in the "Interviews" section. You can also hear any of these interviews in RealAudio by visiting Jeremy's web site, Up Close Wrestling


Thunder Report

A video run-down of recent goings-on opens the program followed by a promo for the main event at Slamboree (Nash vs. Page for the World Title). Cut to commercial.

I just noticed something else that was hinky about that court order used to put Flair away in Florida. The petitioner was identified in the papers as "Roderick Piper" and the family member who signed the order was "David Flair" - two non-existent people...

Mike Enos/Scott (don't call me Narcissus) Riggs vs. Saturn/Raven - Saturn has his left shoulder plastered over for this one - a testament to the extent of his injury I suppose. Raven makes a laconic speech before the match - "oh - we have to beat you guys on the way to Slamboree...quote the Raven...yatta, yatta..." Raven and his partner show us some good tag team coordination, something we see almost none of on the other side despite the tag team credentials of both members. Saturn keeps hurting his shoulder then going back and hurting it again. Riggs takes advantage of Saturn's discomfort and Raven's distraction to turn the tables. Raven is dumped to the floor and beaten on before he rolls back in. Saturn is knocked to the floor and Raven is on the receiving end of a jaw breaker as we cut to commercial.

Raven lies in the ring as we continue. Riggs stands him up and whips him into the corner then follows in with a high knee. Saturn is looking much the worse for wear, barely clinging to the corner on the apron. Enos tags in and drags Raven over to the latters own corner - Saturn has fallen to the floor and is not available for a tag. Raven is dumped out again and run into the stairs by Riggs. Enos brings in a chair (one assumes this is a "Raven's rules" match"). He hands it to Riggs who turns and bashes his partner by mistake. Three bodies are down in the ring. Saturn is still indisposed so Raven gets a suplex on Riggs then drop-toe-holds him onto the chair. Enos save his partner from the pin. Raven is knocked to the floor again - both of his opponents are looking the wrong way as Saturn sneaks in and gets a one-armed DVD on Riggs to take the pin. Cut to commercial.

More video review as we return. How Sting won and lst the World Title in one evening.

Scott Steiner vs. Eric Watts - poor Eric - he just can't get a break - not like when his dad was in charge... He is clearly the heel in this contest, complaining of non-existent hair pulls and the like. The referee (Charles Robinson) seems inclined to side with Watts. The latter stops to crow every time he does something right - a real stupid tactic with a competitor the calibar of Steiner. The Dogface Gremlin decides to stop toying with his opponent and tosses him to the floor then follows him out for some mayhem. Back in the ring, Watts uses a cheap shot to turn the tables for about...3/4 of a second. Steiner comes back with a suplex and reassumes command. That is the end of Watts' offensive. Steiner runs him into the ground for the rest of the match. Cut toc commercial.

Horace/Brian Adams vs. Disorderly Conduct - (yawn) - I went to the bathroom during this silly match. With the rest of the B-Team hovering about ringside, DC were at a distinct disadvantage from the get-go even if they hadn't been facing two of the larger nWo members. Even the announcers pretty much ignored this match to talk about other subjects of interest. I didn't see who won but I can imagine...

Kanyon vs. Rey Misterio, Jr. - Kanyon is back from making a movie about Jesse Ventura (our old friend L'Artiste was featured in the film as well). His story is that he starred in the film but I seriously doubt the veracity of that statement. Neither of Rey's belts are at stake in this one. Kanyon starts by using his size advantage to dominate but soon Rey is all over him and Kanyon is shaking it off on the floor. He mimes leaving the ring area but changes his mind. Back in the ring, he gets a knee to the solarplexus to retake the initiative. This time he takes no chances, leveling Rey repeatedly with solid blows then slapping on a reverse chinlock as we cut to commercial.

Kanyon is still in charge as we return but can't seem to put the little guy away. In frustration he tosses Rey to the floor then follows him out and posts him. He goes for another whip but is himself reversed into the railing. Reu waits for his to get up then gets him with a flying Frankensteiner from the apron. Back in the ring, Kanyon kicks to the gut to regain the avantage. He climbs to the top and throws a splash...and misses. Rey gets the bronco buster on his opponent then a springboard leg drop as Kanyon struggles to get back in off the apron. The next moment sees Kanyon pancake Rey and gets a two count. He misses the pin and climbs again for a moonsault...which his also misses. Rey gets a Thesz press as the Horsemen run in. He fends them both off and rolls Kanyon up for the pin before Malenko and Benoit swarm onto him. Rey is punked. A trainer and the referee have to help him leave the ring area. That was an excellent match. Cut to commercial.

The Horsemen vs. The Texas Hangmen - I thought the latter was a football team... but seriously, actually I have been hearing some good things about this team. They dominate the first exchange by dint of superior size - after that it is all downhill for the Texas boys. The Horsemen drag them to the floor and take them apart then continue the assault in the ring. As usual, Benoit and Malenko exhibit excellent teamwork as well as brilliant single efforts. Charles Robinson is the referee again and the Horsemen clearly expect him to call things in their favor. He obliges by allowing himself to be distracted while the Horsemen do their dirty work. They are concentrating on the knee of one of their masked opponents - classic Horsemen tactics. The Hangmen get a sudden flurry towards the end but it is in vain. Malenko slaps on the Texas Cloverleaf (rather apt, actually) to take the submission victory. Cut to commercial.

We come back to more video recap. This time the shenanegans leading up to the Page/Flair main event on Nitro and then extensive scenes from the match itself. This segment takes the program into overtime. A Slamboree promo ends the program.

I'll be back on Sunday with the Interactive Slamboree Report. Until then...

At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter



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