Ricky Steamboat talks Jake Robert’s DDT, working with Flair, Ziggler, and more
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The following is a press release from the Shining Wizards Podcast. Feel free to reproduce this in whole or part, but please credit the Shining Wizards (www.shiningwizards.com) if you do.
Recently the Shining Wizards Podcast spoke with WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Here are some highlights:
On becoming Ricky Steamboat: The late Eddie Graham gave me the Steamboat name. In 1976 I walked into the Tampa office and there sat Eddie Graham, and Verne Gagne had sent him pictures of me wrestling as “Rick Blood,” and Eddie said what a great wrestling name- but for a heel. He then said we had a guy here in Florida named Sammy Steamboat and he was from Hawaii. What I would like to do is call you Ricky Steamboat, but I will not bill you as his son. How about you be his nephew? I told Eddie, “you can call me anything you like. I’m just happy to have a job.” The very next night in West Palm Beach- and this is a story that not too many people know… I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story live like this, I told it to a couple friends and some wrestlers- but the story goes that the next night in West Palm Beach, I’m the first match. I’m standing in the ring and the ring announcer goes “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a substitute this evening. Rick Blood is unable to make it.” And I’m standing there and I completely freak out and forget that I’m Ricky Steamboat. So I make my way up to the announcer in the middle of the ring and I’m saying, “I’m here! Hey, hey, look, I’m right here!” And the announcer puts the microphone behind his back and off the side of his mouth says, “Stand in the corner, kid. Get over there and stand in the corner.” So I go back to the corner, and he says “Give it up, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the nephew of Sam Steamboat, Ricky Steamboat!” And the crowd jumped out of their seats, and I’m looking around with my mouth open. The first thought that comes to my mind is, “Oh, this is what they do when they know you or when you get over.”
On never working heel & wanting to: I never had a match where I worked as a heel. When I started in 1974, I was always a face, and the reason for that was that the heel would always lead the match. Now for me to graduate to be a heel, most times you started out as a face, and then when you got good, you would transfer over to a heel and you were the guy in charge. So I never had an opportunity to work as a heel, although in and around 1991, I expressed my desire to work as a heel and the response that I got back was it would never work. Pat Patterson said that I was the consummate babyface and it would probably hurt my career. I tried to push it to them hard and said, “Let me go under a mask and let me go under a full suit and cover up my body. I won’t throw any chops and I’ll just kick and punch and I’ll be a heel. Then the big surprise, if we can carry this thing through, after about a year or so, have somebody finally takes the mask off, hopefully the response we get from the fans will be ‘Oh my God, all this time it’s been Ricky Steamboat,’” but they wouldn’t buy it.
On being legit knocked out by a Jake Robert’s DDT: Well you know, I’ve talked about this on other radio stations and in public. They always bring that up, and I want to make this clear that I wasn’t knocked out. I know people watching that, you could hear the splat of my head hitting the cement floor. I know how to take a DDT, and he knows how to give it. You know he was the best in the business, but I just got caught off guard and my forehead hit the cement. I had all my faculties. I was working. My body language was dictating what would happen to a guy if that happened. Jake Roberts was trying to pick up a dead body and I was limp and everybody was thinking that I was knocked out, but I wasn’t. I mean, it sounded like a hand grenade went off in my brain and it wasn’t too long afterwards I had such a lump appear on my head. I mean I looked like Elephant Man. It was huge and there was water and fluids built up underneath. It was huge, but I wasn’t knocked out.
His last run as a performer in WWE: A lot of the guys say that, but during the match there were moments where I knew I was a step off, and that’s just Mother Nature. I like to go 100 miles per hour when I hit the ropes, and I knew I was a step off. I wasn’t as flexible as I once was. One of my biggest things before the match was having a lot of the guys ask me what I do before a match. Some guys like to run in place, some would do push-ups, some do warm-ups. I really focused on stretching. I really think that helped me throughout my career. Getting back to the match: God, it was such a great feeling. I had a lot of déjà vu coming back over me in that match with (Chris) Jericho. I was so happy he took care of me.
On the superstar he’s most proud of: I was not coaching at the time, but a guy that I’m really, really proud of when I was a producer/agent, with Arn Anderson & Dean Malenko, is Dolph Ziggler. You could talk to him and see it in his eyes that he would get it. He knew what you were talking about. It wasn’t like you just go out there and do something for the sake of doing it. I always told him to have a rhyme and reason. I give this example: You’re having a match and you’ve been working on this guy’s arm and the guy’s gotten away from you a few times but somehow you’ve been able to get back to that arm. The story that you’re telling is that you’re trying to wear the guy’s arm down. Then you have a moment to which he gets away and you end up in the turnbuckle and he charges with a high knee, and you move. He hits the top turnbuckle with his knee and goes down and grabs his knee. I look at Zig and I said, “Dolph, what do you do?” And he said, “Well, I grab the arm.” I said, “You got it, kid.” Most times, the answer I get is “I grab his leg.”
His favorite match with his favorite opponent, Ric Flair: This was a match where George Scott was the booker. And I’m going back, say 1979-80. Back then they had time limits and most of the main events had 60 minutes. And we wrestled to a draw. Back then we called them Broadways… George (Scott) said I don’t’ want to beat Ricky & I don’t want to beat Flair, so we wrestled 60 minutes to a draw. I’ve never wrestled anybody as many times as Ric Flair to one hour draws. So we are in Charlotte and this night Flair is going to go over and he was going to cheat, and George said you don’t have to go out there and go 40 or 50 minutes. Just give me a good solid 20. So we’re out there and the flow is going so good after 20-25 minutes that we go 45-50 minutes. The crowd has seen us wrestle so many times to the draw that they’re already calling it. Fifty-five minutes in and the announcer announces: 5 minutes left… 4 minutes left… 3 minutes left… 2 minutes left… 1 minute left in this contest. Then 30 seconds, 15 seconds, and as he starts the countdown 10… Flair hooks my legs and I go down on my back and he puts his feet up on the corner and the ref counts 1-2-3 with 3 seconds left on the clock… I laid there and Flair was laying there, because normally in a Broadway the last couple of minutes you’re really kicking into fifth gear. And I’m painting a picture that I’m trying to pin him all over the place. It’s false finish after false finish because the people understand time’s gonna run out for Ricky. And all of a sudden, he yanks my feet out as he’s begging off in the corner, and throws his feet up on the second rope, and the ref jumps down and counts 1-2-3. There was a hush over the Coliseum, and then all of a sudden it erupted… and they were throwing so much crap at Flair as he was trying to make his way back to the locker room. Coke cans, popcorn, cups… and I just stood there watching him cover up his head and try to make his way to the back… and then I looked up at the people and said, “We got ya.”
For much more with Ricky Steamboat, including his health issues, his 1991 run in WWE, working with Randy Savage, teaming with Jay Youngblood and working with Don Kernoodle, Sgt. Slaughter, and the Brisco Brothers, and his run in WCW working with Arn Anderson and Larry Zybszko, go to www.shiningwizards.com and listen to Episode 168: Granite Man. The Shining Wizards Podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, AudioBoo, Geek Life Radio, CWE Radio, Marks 4 Life, and the Shining Wizards Network (www.shiningwizardsnetwork.com).