An Evening With
RICKY "THE DRAGON" STEAMBOAT
I've seen a handful of non-wrestling "wrestling" shows in recent years, including a comedy roast of The Iron Sheik, a standup set from Mick Foley, Jim Ross' one-man show and a show that included Jake "The Snake" Roberts and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. All WWE Hall of Famers; all excellent and unique events. But I wasn't certain that fellow HOF'er Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat would be able to maintain that lofty standard.
While no one can deny Steamer's in-ring talents, having competed in four of the best wrestling matches ever (against Randy Savage at WrestleMania III and in a trilogy of bouts with Ric Flair in 1989). But The Dragon was never known as much of a talker... more of a "nice guy" than a "tough guy." So how was he going to fill an hour in front of more than 100 Toronto-area wrestling fans?
Steamboat went all over the place with his stories, not necessarily in chronological order, but you'd have to figure that most of the people in this crowd not only know Steamer's story inside out, they've probably watched his DVD a time or two. This was your very typical Toronto wrestling crowd, wearing not only Steamboat shirts, but merchandise adorned with Andre The Giant (okay, fine - that was me), Randy Savage and Bret Hart. Some even brought their championship belts with, which they brought to The Dragon to sign after the show.
The former NWA World Champion told colorful stories about many of the people he encountered over the years, including:
How Khosrow Vaziri (The Iron Sheik) used to put him and other AWA rookies through their paces by climbing 20 flights of stairs, sometimes while carrying other wrestlers the entire way and sometimes by using them as human wheelbarrows.
The time Tony Atlas disappeared into a forest in the Carolinas, going so far as to climb a tree because he was concerned a cop may pull him over and discover his driver's license had expired.
How Ric Flair rebelled against the booker and wrestled Steamboat for two seconds short of sixty minutes before going over.
How Chris Jericho pulled a similar stunt decades later, allowing The Dragon to pin him at South Carolina house show, even though the bookers had asked Y2J to win.
Steamboat was surprisingly funny, having a deadpan sense of humor while describing a lot of stories that would be considered insane in any other line of work. For example, one fan in the audience asked about his run in WCW during the early 1990s, to which he dryly replied: "Awww, shit."
The Dragon also "got into it" with former Manager Of The Year Stu Stone, who joined my table for the night. When Stone corrected Steamie on the size of Hulk Hogan's pythons, Steamboat replied: "It's my story!"
That's not to suggest that Stu and Steamer didn't kiss and make up (so to speak) after the show. Signing autographs and taking pictures for all the marks that had lined up to talk with him, The Dragon agreed to pose like his old "LJN action figure" - which I'm thinking has to be a rarity for the Hall of Famer.
I also had the opportunity to meet with 'Boat (as those in the know call him) after the event. While he wasn't that talkative -- totally understandable, given he'd just done an hour-long Broadway on the mic -- Steamboat seemed gracious enough and kind to anyone who wanted to shell out a few clams and pose with the all-time great. I'd mentioned how I saw him at Exhibition Stadium in '86 against Jake The Snake Roberts and while it didn't rock his world, The Dragon at least feigned interest in my story.
Was an evening with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat worthwhile? I would say so, absolutely.
In addition to the aforementioned stories, he talked about his own health these days (David Otunga did a number on him during the heyday of The Nexus), his life and some very funny stories about "kerosense farts," Andre The Giant refusing to button his shirt in a Chinese restaurant; Hulk Hogan refusing to sell; and the old "five on two" maneuver that none other than Mr. Fuji taught him back in the day.
These are all best explained by Steamboat himself. So in conclusion, I will just present his ultra-wussy WCW theme song "The Dragon," which is totally stuck in my head now.