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WWE Chronicles the Life of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

By Gary “Digital” Williams

For 35 years, he was one of the most revered and popular professional wrestlers in the business; one of only a handful of wrestlers that never worked as a “heel” or bad guy during his career.

Now, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has released a video collection devoted to one of the greats from the wrestling boom of the 70’s and 80’s – Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat — entitled “Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of The Dragon.”

Unfortunately, the recent release of the three-disc set comes amid terrible timing. The 58-year-old Steamboat recently suffered what doctors called a burst capillary that caused bleeding in the brain. At this writing, Steamboat’s health is improving and some reports say he may be released from the hospital sometime next week.

As in the majority of WWE videos, the first disc is a documentary of his life. What is special about this too-short documentary is how Steamboat is revered by his contemporaries as well as those who followed in his footsteps. Quotes from fellow WWE hall of famers like Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and Tony Atlas are intertwined with recollections from current WWE superstars like Chris Jericho, Kofi Kingston, Edge and Christian who credit Steamboat as their inspiration into getting into the business.

The disc chronicles Steamboat, who was born Richard Blood, near West Point, NY (not in Hawaii as he was billed throughout his career), from his training at Verne Gagne’s camp in Minnesota, through his time in the NWA Mid-Atlantic territory, where he would not only emerge as a talented tag-team wrestler with the late Jay Youngblood, but also start his first highly successful program with Flair.

The collection then talks about Steamboat’s move to the WWE, where he became “The Dragon” and participated in the first three Wrestlemanias, capped off by his classic match for the Intercontinental Title against Randy Savage at Wrestlemania III in March of 1987. The documentary ends with Steamboat’s Hall of Fame induction in April 2009 and talks about his three comeback bouts against Chris Jericho later that year.

The Wrestlemania III match is one of 12 Steamboat bouts included on discs two and three of the collection. Most long-time wrestling fans have seen that match numerous times, but for the first time in alternate commentary, Steamboat talks about the bout with WWE announcer Matt Striker. Other bouts include contest against Flair, Bob Orton, Jr. “Magnificent” Don Muraco and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

Rick Steamboat has always been a personal favorite of mine. I place him in my top five along the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan. Steamboat never seemed to have a bad match and his rivalries with Flair, Savage, Roberts, Muraco and Greg Valentine, to name just a few, will stand the test of time. Although the documentary left out some angles that I thought were important (his student-teacher pairing with Paul Jones in 1978 was a strange omission because when they broke up, Jones turned on the young Steamboat in a very violent way), the documentary and the entire collection did a great job in showing why Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was one of the greatest good guys, and indeed, one of the greatest wrestlers in the modern era of the business.

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