It’s hard to believe that Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat held a championship in the WWF for only about three months.
He won the Intercontinental Title in the famous match with Randy “Macho Man” Savage at WrestleMania III in March 1987, but then lost it almost immediately to the Honky Tonk Man in June 1987.
I seem to recall that Steamboat took some time off for personal reasons at the time he lost the belt, so that likely explains the short reign. But how is it that a guy who held the NWA World Title and had classics with Ric Flair would get overlooked for other title runs in the WWF?
He was certainly capable of holding the WWF Heavyweight Championship, but we know how that story goes. Vince McMahon has always liked big, jacked up guys to lead his babyface troupe because Vince himself is a big dude into bodybuilding.
One look at Ryback’s ascension these days proves that 25 years after Steamboat’s WWE pinnacle, McMahon’s basic philosophy has wavered little.
Sure CM Punk has held the big belt for quite a while by modern standards, but he’s not portrayed as a super tough guy.
Steamboat was in the same boat in mid-1980s. He was clearly among the most talented babyface workers ever in the U.S., which is why he got the nod in the NWA. At the time, the NWA (which later morphed into WCW) was known as a wrestlers’ territory that focused on in-ring ability.
It just seems a shame all these years later that the WWF went through the trouble to bring Steamboat in, only to not move him higher up the ladder.