Ricky Steamboat: Overlooked in the WWF

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.


  1. Joe Lowry

    I agree wholeheartedly Chuck. It is mentioned in his interviews via WWE on demand that with the birth of his son he wanted to take time off and be with his family. Hence his title run as well as his “push” was eliminated. I personally liked Steamboat in the ring. He was an all around performer and if not for his personal reasons he would have been a great WWE Champion. It would have been a great buffer for him to be a champion. This would have given Hogan some much needed time off from his crazy ring and appearance schedule. It would have also taken some of the pressure off Macho Man and his run. Lets not forget folks, back then these wrestlers blanketed the country like they were going to Aunt Millies for the weekend. If you have ever read Bobby Heenans book it goes into great detail about Hogan and Orndorffs wars. One one Saturday night, they would wrestle in NYC before intermission, hop a flight to Chicago and make it in time for there main event match and then stay in their ring attire and hop a flight to Los Angeles to wrestle one more time (these flights were taken via Vince’s private jet) All of this in one night! I bet you anything if The Dragon was champion he would have pro longed the title runs of all former WWE Champions thus changing history of “The Attitude Era.” Who knows, food for thought….

    • bostongardenbalcony

      No doubt the travel schedule of the 1980s WWF crew was insane — I’ve written a bit about it here: http://tinyurl.com/7nge8e6 . That said, if Heenan really wrote that, it sounds like a wrestling tall tale. Just think about the time. Sure, you could make it from an MSG matinee to Chicago for a night show, but it’s sounds impossible (even if you wrestled before intermission) to get to Chicago out to L.A. for a show the same night. I do recall reading results for three WWF shows in one day, however, back in 80s.

      • Chuck Mullen

        Actually I am thinking about the logistics of this. Lets say the MSG was a 1PM start, I do recall it on days the Rangers played or the Knicks, then if it was the FIRST MATCH, say 1:30PM finish, hit Chicago at say, 3:30… (remember its -1 hour as well) then you have a 4PM show, on first, then head to LA to arrive about 9:30, you could go on at 10:30PM, remember its -3 hours from NEW YORK, and -2 from CHICAGO) so in THEORY it is possible… but didn’t Vince buy the PLANE later, in particular after the mid 90’s?

  2. Chuck Mullen

    The reason for the lack of a title run was simply, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, was offended when Ricky Steamboat requested the time off (as you mentioned) due to the birth of the man now known as Richie Steamboat in NXT. He was born slightly after Steamboat dropped the IC Title to the Honky Tonk Man, and when he come back, was simply seen as “not someone that the company could get behind” and “that he was NOT a company guy!”

    As far as size being an issue, I don’t think so, cause during his WWF run, he was massive. Maybe not 6’9″ but he was ripped to shreds. Also another factor was Steamboat had a REP, of being someone that liked his time off, he did it a few times in Mid Atlantic, and the Crockett version of the NWA. This also worked against his odds being selected, because you was either “with me or against me” meaning against my train of thought, that WWF was your life, 24/7/365. Steamboat was not willing to commit, and in turn his run was cut short. But mostly by his OWN doing.


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