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Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon DVD Review

Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the DragonRicky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon is the latest DVD release from WWE Home Video. The 3-disc set spotlights one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, Ricky Steamboat. The WWE gets it right again and hits it out of the park with Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon.

The set features a documentary along with two jam packed DVDs of Ricky Steamboat matches. The first disc is a documentary on the career of Ricky Steamboat along with a ton of extras. Disc two features Ricky Steamboat in the ring during the 1980s time period. Disc three features the Dragon in the ring in the 1990s and his later return in 2009.

Rarely do I get excited to watch wrestling DVDs or videos anymore. This is one that I have been waiting to watch ever since the WWE announced the project. As a huge Ricky Steamboat fan growing up, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of matches they would dust off in addition to the documentary. Quite frankly not everything lived up to expectations but overall it was a nice tribute to one of the greatest wrestlers if all-time.

Disc one is a documentary on Ricky Steamboat. I love it when the WWE produces a true honest to goodness documentary of the wrestler they are profiling. Thank goodness they abandoned the idea of someone else hosting the DVD like Maria and Matt Stryker hosting the Randy Savage DVD compilation. This disc features Ricky Steamboat talking about his life and career with comments from other wrestlers sprinkled in.

There is a great nugget early on in the documentary about Steamboat’s legendary arm drag. Steamboat confesses that he stole the arm drag from Jack Brisco. The DVD includes footage of Brisco using the same arm drag  years earlier. I have watched and learned a lot of wrestling in my 30 years but I had no idea that Steamboat took the move from Jack Brisco. That blew me away and if you think Steamboat had a gorgeous arm drag, wait til you see Jack Brisco’s.

My one complaint about the documentary is that it went too fast. Unlike the Ric Flair documentaries where Flair will actually tell a story or reveal something new, Steamboat just zips through his career without addressing many controversies. To make up for this I went through some old Ricky Steamboat interviews he did on my Pro Wrestling Radio show and thought I’d pull out some quotes which you won’t find on the DVD.

One of the most interesting stories I got from Ricky Steamboat when he appeared on my radio show was why he left Jim Crockett Promotions the first time to go to the WWE. While his departure is acknowledged on the DVD, he doesn’t talk about the backstage politics which influenced his decision. I asked him on my radio show about it and he told a much more fascinating story. This comes from his appearance on Pro Wrestling Radio May 03, 2000.

“When Dusty came over to take over the book, he said that he was going to be the number one babyface. I didn’t care if I was the number one babyface, or number two or number three. It didn’t matter to me. Although I know with the other bookers involved and with Jim Crockett that I would be left somewhat in good standing even if I had finished a program up with a heel and he had won a big match. It was the end of the program match. But I could see the way Dusty was laying things out. For instance I had the last part of my run with Crockett promotions and Dusty was booking a series of matches with Tully Blanchard. Hard worker…Okay. Not the biggest of heels. But could get a lot of heat and he did it in his interviews and he did it in his work style. He’d get a lot of heat. Have great matches. He was the TV champion and at that time, they had put a 15 minute time limit on the TV belt, even at the house shows. OK? So, we could go 15 minutes and the announcer would say,”15 minutes has expired the TV belt is no longer up” and we’d maybe wrestle another 5 or 10 minutes and I’d beat Blanchard. So, we would come back on TV that weekend and we’d say, “the TV time limit has been extended from 15 minutes to 30”.We’d go back to the same houses, whether they’d be Columbia, or Greensboro or, Charlotte and we would wrestle past the 30 minute mark and I would never beat him. OK? Then, I think we had a big blow off match where we wrestled in Greensboro, had a one hour time limit on the TV Championship, and all the fans knew at that time, “God if I had an hour to wrestle this guy that I would come home as the TV Champion”. If memory serves me right we wrestled a Broadway, we wrestled the hour. Sort of ended the marriage between Blanchard and Steamboat that was the end of the program and then Dusty went out there and got with Blanchard and on the first go around beat him in 7 minutes. The next thing I knew is that Nikita was coming into the territory and that Dusty had put myself and Nikita together and I knew that the writing on the wall was that as soon as Dusty was finished with Blanchard that he was than going to be working with Nikita and using me as a steppingstone. I could see that this was the on-going thing for me in this area, having been there at that time for 6 or 7 years. Of course, the WWF opened up, George Scoot went up there, Vince McMahon went nationwide, said that this was a good opportunity, a number of factors. But there is truth into the way Dusty was laying things out. I could see the writing on the wall the way that things were going as he was just going to be fed heel after heel after heel and just kept beating them. Meanwhile I’m setting up all the heels and making them look good for Dusty. It was time for me to move on.”

The famous WrestleMania III Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage match is discussed. Unfortunately you really didn’t get a whole lot out of Steamboat about the inner workings of the matches or just what made the rivalry so great. Of course you had the comments from WWE superstars talking about how important the match was, but I wanted to hear a little more. Well I did but it wasn’t on the DVD. Steamboat said the following about wrestling Randy Savage on my radio show. This comes from an interview conducted in May 2000.

“One particular match we had in Washington, DC at the Capital Center. I think the headliner at that time was going to be Orndorff, Mr. Wonderful, against Hulk Hogan and they were booked on a double shot that day. They were flying in from Chicago and we were at Washington at the Cap Center. We had to go out there and put in time because they were waiting for those guys to arrive at the building and the cue was that the agent would walk out and stand by the announcers’ table and that would be our cue for time to go home. Well, we went fifty something minutes at a Savage and Steamboat pace, like we were going to go twenty or thirty, and by the end of that match and we got back to the locker room, our skin was blue. We were blue in the face and just laid on the floor trying to get air. We went hard through the whole fifty something minutes. We were glad to see the agents standing out there when it was time to go home. We were saying, “God, when’s he coming out,” because we were setting a hell of a pace, just like that Wrestlemania pace. What did we have, twenty something false finishes? We were doing the same thing and the crowd was going nuts, and couldn’t believe it here we are fifty something minutes into the match and going at that same pace.”

I love when the interviewee talks about some crazy rib or road story. Once again, it was a little disappointing that you didn’t get a whole lot of behind the scenes stuff on the disc. Frankly the best stuff came during a Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair match on Disc 2 when Steamboat and Matt Stryker did commentary. Steamboat told some great stories during the match that were far more interesting than a lot of what was covered on the DVD.

I went back into my archives and grabbed a quote from Ricky Steamboat from my radio show in August 2003. Here Steamboat tells a real fun road story which would have made for great material on the DVD.

“I know ribs that were played on other guys. Nobody played ribs on me. Mr. Fuji would put an M80 in the distributor of your car so it would blow up and you could not make it home. There have been guys that walk out of the show and the car is sitting on cinder blocks and their wheels are gone. There is a chain thrown all the way across the roof coming underneath the car, going through the door handles. Just to give you an idea on how old this rib is we are talking about door handles. With a padlock on the chain, so you could not get the door open. Someone would super glue the inside of the keyhole. Everybody today uses a keyless remote to open the doors, back in the day you had to stick a key in to open up the lock you know? Fill it up with super glue, so your key could not go in. They did not have those remotes back then you know? We played a game, Jay Youngblood and myself, and a couple of the other guys. Barry Windham was with us, Mike Rotundo, Jay and I. We would be coming back from a little spot show in the Carolinas driving on a two lane road and the driver would put on a pair of sunglasses driving at night, and these are two lane roads with no lights. So, you put on a pair of sunglasses, and then the other guy hands you another pair of sunglasses, and then another pair, and you wind up wearing four pairs of sunglasses in the middle of the night trying to drive this car on a two lane road that has no street lights, and that was always kind of funny. The co-pilot sitting in the seat next to the driver would always give directions, “Get ready, we are coming up to a turn. Turn, turn, turn, turn!” Then we would wind up in the middle of the field and get back on the road with four pairs of sunglasses on. It was crazy.”

Ricky Steamboat is always praised for his great wrestling matches. Watching the DVD was a great reminder of just how great of a promo guy he was. I think Steamboat is highly underrated for his interviews. There is one interview shown after Jake Roberts DDT’d him on the floor. I started getting excited to go pay $20 to watch them wrestle at the Spectrum like it was 1986. Steamboat is rarely mentioned in the class of great promos and I hope that this DVD makes people think differently.

Steamboat’s tag team run with Shane Douglas in WCW was barely mentioned. As someone that saw several of their matches against Brian Pillman and Steve Austin live, I would have loved to hear more about the team and the rivalry. Even more disappointing is that none of the Douglas and Steamboat vs. Austin and Pillman matches are on the DVD.

I happened to ask Steamboat about the rivalry during one of his appearances on my show. He tells a great story about some of the other guys in the WCW locker room being upset about having to follow their tag team matches on house shows. Check out what the Dragon had to say when I asked him this direct question about other wrestlers being angry about following them on my radio show.

“They would have two or three main events after the intermission. We may be the first one after the intermission. We call it The Popcorn Match. That’s because after intermission everyone’s coming back to their seats with their popcorn. And if there were other main events to follow it, they would be with long faces because they knew that we’d go out there and just bust our back and go out there and have a great match and then they’d have to follow it. Just like any act in show business, they’ve got a good comedian and he’s up and coming and he’s tearing the house down. The guy that’s headlining the show goes out there. Even though he’s good, he’s having a hard time following the act. We were in the same situation. It happened to me also in ’91. I think it was in ’91, when I went back to the WWF and I was going with that Dragon costume for the first time. Vince had me doing. I guess he was using me as an example here. But I was doing the opening match, either the first or second match. Usually they have a twenty minute time limit on the first couple of matches and we would go nineteen minutes and it didn’t matter who I was working with. It could have been a regular jobber for TV, Haku, or anybody. It sort of set the stage for the rest of the show. The agent, who was working that night loved the fact that I was either on first or second because it made everybody else work harder, because that’s the stage that I had set and end up having a great overall show. From the opening match to the main event, it made it hard for some of the other guys to follow. I said, “Sorry guys, that’s just my work ethic.” I go out there and just give these people their money’s worth, and give my body and end up having a great match. They said, “Damn Ricky, you’re doing it night after night, after night.” Well, you guys are in the main event, making big money. What can I tell you?”

Something I found fascinating in retrospect was Ricky Steamboat’s career from 1987-1991. It is amazing looking back at how easily Vince McMahon let the best worker in his company just walk away. After having arguably the greatest match in WWE history against Randy Savage, he is allowed to just walk into WCW. Even more incredible is that WCW did the same exact thing! Here is a guy that had arguably the greatest matches ever in wrestling in both companies in a two year time span and both companies just let him walk to the other one. Talk about a lack of respect and appreciation. I can’t even imagine something like that happening today. For four years Steamboat jumped back and forth almost annually between the WWE and WCW with no obstacles by his former employer. Amazing, yet if not for the ignorance of Vince McMahon we would never have had those classic Flair vs. Steamboat matches in 1989.

While the documentary was a little disappointing, the footage in between of old matches and promos more than made up for it. The match selection was also a bit of a letdown, yet that doesn’t mean that any of the matches were bad. The matches on the Steamboat DVD are all great. I just think they could have picked some better ones. The famous Steamboat and Jay Youngblood vs. Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernoodle Steel Cage Match is show in clips and not included as a full match? I also think that of all Savage vs. Steamboat matches, including the WrestleMania III match was weak. They had a ton of matches at house shows that were taped, some of which have been included on other DVD compilations and WWE Classics. It would have been nice to see something new from those guys. It was also a bit disappointing to see them stick the Flair vs. Steamboat match from New Orleans on the DVD to showcase their 89′ rivalry. Those guys had some great matches at house shows, one of which in Landover, Maryland was taped and would have been a nice addition to the set.

On the contrary, the Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat match from 1984 is far and away the gem of this entire set. The match goes to a one-hour draw and features these guys in their primes. As stated above, Steamboat does commentary and tells some great backstage stories during the match. The Lumberjack Match vs. Magnificent Muraco was super exciting and a great pick. The Bash 89 match vs. Lex Luger is also a highly underrated match which makes it a nice addition to the DVD. I can sit here and nitpick about this match being on or not being on, but at the end of the day there isn’t a bad match on the DVD.

Overall the compilation is really a must-buy for wrestling fans. For fans like me it was a great reminder of why I was such a big Ricky Steamboat fan growing up. For new fans, it is a reminder of how great this business could be with guys like Ricky Steamboat in the ring.

DISC ONE:

Documentary Chapters:
Growing Up
Training
Traveling
Mid-Atlantic
The Dragon
WrestleMania III
World Champion
Fire Breathing Dragon
Mentoring
Hall of Fame
Legacy

Special Features:
Ricky’s First Car

Mike Graham Remembers Richard Blood

Ricky Forgets His Name

Having a Positive Attitude
World Wide Wrestling – February 16, 1982

Tuesday Night Titans – April 5, 1985

Steve Lombardi Remembers Ricky’s First Match in the WWE

The Body Shop
All-Star Wrestling – June 22, 1985

Becoming the Dragon… The Three Moments of Truth

Chris Jericho Meets Ricky Steamboat For The First Time

Tuesday Night Titans – September 10, 1986

Update with Gene Okerlund
Superstars – January 31, 1987

Dragon in the Oven
Superstars – April 11, 1987

Return from Japan
World Championship Wrestling – March 18, 1989

William Regal Remembers Watching Ricky Steamboat & Ric Flair

World Television Champion
WCW Saturday Night – September 19, 1992

Ricky Steamboat’s Induction into the WWE Hall of Fame – April 4, 2009

DISC TWO:

NWA World Tag Team Championship Match
Jack & Gerry Brisco vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
Starrcade November 24, 1983

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
Boogie Jam March 17, 1984
(Commentary by: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Matt Striker)

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Cowboy Bob Orton
Capital Centre July 20, 1985

Lumberjack Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. The Magnificent Don Muraco
Maple Leaf Gardens September 22, 1985

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Boston Garden August 9, 1986

Intercontinental Championship Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage
WrestleMania III March 29, 1987
(Alternate Commentary by: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Matt Striker)

DISC THREE:

2 out of 3 Falls Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
Clash of the Champions VI April 2, 1989

United States Championship Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Lex Luger
The Great American Bash July 23, 1989

WCW World Tag Team Championship Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes vs. Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyzsko
Clash of the Champions XVII November 19, 1991

Iron Man Challenge Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Rick Rude
Beach Blast June 20, 1992

No Disqualification Match for the WCW World Television Championship
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Steve Austin
Clash of the Champions XX September 2, 1992
(Alternate Commentary by: Ricky Steamboat & Matt Striker)

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Chris Jericho
Backlash April 26, 2009

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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