Ricky Steamboat Interview 2000 Transcript

Ricky Steamboat Shoot InterviewThe following extensive interview features WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, former NWA world champion, and former WWE intercontinental champion Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Steamboat talks about his career, wrestling Ric Flair, his WrestleMania III match against Randy Savage, wrestling again, and more. The interview was taped May 03, 2000 and was broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

Eric:What are you doing these days?

Steamboat: Well I retired about five years ago. For the last four years I have had a health club in an area north of Charlotte, Lake Norman. It’s in a town called Cornelius and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. I figured when I got out of the business it’s one of the things I knew more of. Figuring out what to do after twenty years of wrestling? Is their life after wrestling? So that’s what I have been doing here at the club.

Eric:What caused you to retire five years ago?

<strong>Steamboat: I had my last match with Stone Cold and at the time he was wrestling as Steve Austin, just as Steve Austin in Roanoke, VA August of ’94. We were both standing on the top rope. He does a thing where he gives me a push off the top rope and is customary in our business, and which I have done a thousand times, like a lot of guys. You just fall straight back and land flat on your back. But this time, I don’t know, maybe there was some oil on the top rope or the turnbuckle. I’m guilty of it. I do put some baby oil just to enhance the body. My foot slips. As I’m falling back, instead of landing flat on my back I land in a sit up position. In other words, I land on my tail bone and I did a spinal compression on two discs. On one of the discs, going to four doctors and having MRI’s and CAT scans done, a piece of what they call disc matter came of the disc, leaving that side of the disc very very thin. Your discs are like cushions in between your vertebras. They told me that I could probably wrestle, but they didn’t know if it would be the first bad bump or a bodyslam that would cause that disc to rupture and when a disc ruptures it’s a whole different program. A doctor up at Duke University showed me some x-rays of a lady that he had just finished operating on and removing a disc in the same area and putting in these two long screws. They looked they were about 4″ long, they looked like big wood screws and had to fuse vertebras together and they said my lower back area for the rest of my life would be totally different. I do exercises for my back to keep it strengthened. Very light stuff and a lot of stretching that I do for that area. It was getting to the point to where I was having the floppy foot syndrome, being that area and those discs very weak. My vertebras would be pushing on the typical sciatic nerve and it would cause my whole leg to go dead. And that’s where you get the floppy foot cause its just like you’re walking around with a dead weight and if I continue to do my exercises, my stretches, it helps elevate that problem. I sort of looked at it like I was four months shy of twenty years and over 6000 matches and I had a real good time, had a lot of fun and a good career. Nothing to knock about what I was able to do for the business. Plus at that time my son was seven. So I can still go out there and throw the ball and participate with my boy, although if I had the surgery my lower back would be totally different. I didn’t want to cut that short with my son. As you probably know in the latter years, I got my family involved. My son was involved. I just didn’t want to be hampered by it, although I am a little bit by it now. Also, I didn’t think that I could go back in the ring with that injury playing the psychological mind games that it would play, that in the course of a match I would say that I can’t take this kind of a bump or that kind of a bump. I wouldn’t be able to perform the way fans see Ricky Steamboat perform and than they’d say “Oh man he should have retired,” you know what I mean? Like you see these boxers after they’re making a comeback and then they get knocked out in the first or second round everybody says, “God, he was a great boxer but he should have stayed out.” You know what I mean? So just like you in reviewing the old films or looking at my old matches, that’s the way I left things so people remember me as the way I could work in the ring or perform and I didn’t feel that if I could go 100% what’s the sense of it? And there’s a lot of top talent now. Probably with that playing that psychological mind games on me I’d slowly be put off by the wayside and put off to pasture.

Eric:How would Rick Steamboat fit into today’s wrestling?

Steamboat: Well, you see guys like Bret Hart still doing it and Savage and them. I don’t know? The business has changed and everybody has seen it. They are gearing most of the matches towards television and pay per views and understanding that. The matches aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. I had some pay per views with Flair to where, like in Louisiana one time or down in New Orleans, we had a match that went almost the hour. That was the two out of three falls match with Flair. People ask me the question, which my greatest match was, and I would consider that to be one of them because we held the audience for almost an hour, two out of three falls. If you look at it today, for what it costs to run a pay per view for the promoters and for the owners, here they are saying we’re gonna have a match that’s gonna eat up an hour’s worth of time, where if we could have three or four other big main event matches to accumulate that hour (it is more sellable). So that in the sense is the way that the business has changed, gearing it more pay per view and television because they’re looking at the time slot allotted for the pay per view show. I don’t know if I would fit in. Guys go out and have five, six, seven minute matches now. I was always the one, even at house shows, guys and promoters would say, “I’m gonna hook this guy up with Ricky Steamboat” that guy knew that I loved to go thirty and forty minutes in just a regular match at the house shows. A lot of the attitude of some of the other guys, and I could see it changing towards the latter years of my life, was that if the road agent would say, “you guys only need to go ten minutes,” they’d go eight, nine, ten minutes. They’d come up to me and say, “Ricky we only need fifteen or twenty minutes out of you,” because they knew I always liked to go longer. In essence I would always go thirty or forty minutes just because I loved the time in the ring and the fans and hopefully giving them their money’s worth. It would be hard for me to adjust. Maybe, as I got older physically, I would find it harder to do those forty minute matches, and fifty minute matches you know? I was in my forties and even though as hard as I trained, weight wise and cardio wise, I found at times during the match that the old legs aren’t what they used to be. Like a boxer, the first thing that goes is his legs. Maybe the heart was there, but Mother Nature would take the major role in preventing me from doing what I was doing so there was a lot of factors to take in consideration in bowing out. But to figure in, in today’s wrestling? I don’t know, it would be kind of hard.

Eric:If you could come back for one match today and work thirty or forty minutes with one of today’s stars, who would it be?

Steamboat: Well the question that was asked to me was, “If I had the opportunity to come back who would I pick”? The three names that come to my mind was the great match I had with Savage at Wrestlemania III. All the matches I had with Flair, even when we were just Crockett Promotions in the small territory in the Carolinas. Great matches with Steve Austin. Why? Because whenever I worked with Steve Austin, whether it be a single match or at the times when we were … let me see I’m going back a little but with WCW and he was teamed with the late Brian Pillman, I was with Shane Douglas we had some great matches. Bottom line is Austin would work his butt off. I mean just he would go till he blew up and if he blew up he would keep going. I always admired a guy like, that with putting out like that. It didn’t matter if there were 50 people in the crowd or 20,000. I liked his work ethic so those are the three names. Talk about new talent, I don’t know because I don’t know if they could adjust to the style. They’re doing a lot of stuff in the match now. Power bombs and stuff like that, that when I was wrestling would almost be the finish. The guy would be counted down one, two, three and they’re doing it as false finish spots. After a big power bomb the guy kicks out and next thing you know he’s up running the ropes. You know? It doesn’t say much for the devastation of the move. That’s another aspect that would make it hard for me to adjust. Those three names, if I had to pick to come back to make a one last big pay per view event, Savage, Austin, or Flair because they all worked hard. They all worked. That match after Savage and I we had in … 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. Another question, these guys are great performers in the ring, and you see them on TV and they go five, six, seven minutes. My question is would they have the ability? I don’t know about conditioning. But would they have the ring knowledge, the psychological ring knowledge to keep the fans interested for a one hour match? You know? They do high spot after high spot now. It’s getting to the point now where you see what the guys are doing. They are doing the high risk moves. I don’t know what the next generation of wrestlers that are coming a long in the next few years gonna be able to top what these guys are doing.

Eric:The buzz coming out of last year’s Pillman Memorial Show was this year could feature a Flair-Steamboat match. Were there ever any plans to do that match?

Steamboat: No. Last year we just … we took the moment. That’s exactly what happened. We just took the moment with announcing. I think it was at the beginning of the show. Flair got in the ring, I got in the ring. The next thing you know the fans were looking down and here we got Steamboat and Flair in the ring. As I was exiting the ring and walking back to the locker room, they started chanting. Flair grabbed, he seized the moment. He saw it. He grabbed the mic and said, “Hey Steamboat, how about you and me go one more time” and the fans just popped, they just popped. So I started walking back to the ring and every step that I was taking getting back to the ring closer and closer, the crowd was getting more frenzied. We did a thing like, we just milked it. Next thing you know, you know how one thing leads to another with a rumor? I’m sure the fans would have loved to see something happen right there to set something up for the return of the next Pillman Memorial Show. No, we just seized the moment and just milked it along. I think we did it because our egos were out there and it was just a good feeling with all the young wrestlers that were there that night contributing. When I got back to the locker room, Flair got back to the locker room, all the younger guys were saying, “God, what a response you guys. It’s still there,” and all that. It was just one of those moments to where, hey I’m gonna grab this and just run with it for a while. It sure does feel good, because the fans do remember.

Eric:During your series with Shane Douglas vs. Steve Austin and Brian Pillman, Shane Douglas once said that there was animosity from the guys on the top of the card. The upper card feared following your pace. Is their any truth to that?

Steamboat: Shane is speaking the truth. Yeah, 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 was 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 than 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?

Eric:Comparisons to Shawn Michaels in work ethic?

Steamboat: Well, Shawn also came along at around the time the guys that I had mentioned came along. We all came from the same school. We were on the road a lot. Doing little shows. It didn’t matter if you were wrestling in front of fifty people or twenty-thousand. It’s a craft you know? Shawn is another top notch worker when it comes to putting in time. He knows how to keep the people interested, whether he’s out there for seventeen minutes or fifty and that’s an art form that I don’t know if this newer generation of kids or guys are able to do. If the promoter looks at two guys and says, “You guys are going fifty minutes tonight,” I wonder what the response would be. I am not knocking them or anything. But it is a quality that, it takes a lot of time and experience to be able to acquire it. But that just takes ring time you know? Like today’s generation, if you’re geared to house shows night after night to go ten, twelve, fifteen minutes you set your match style for that. But, if you’re brought up to where you are gonna have one hour broadways with a guy and you’re going all around the territory with it, and you’re married to him for months, well you know how to work a one hour match. I don’t know when’s the last time they’ve even had a one hour broadway, even in a live show.

Eric:Were there ever any plans for you to come into ECW to work an angle with Shane Douglas?

Steamboat: Shane called me and we had discussions on a couple of occasions to where he had wanted me to come in and sort of expertise and help some of the up and coming baby faces because one of the few things that I had done in my career was stay as the face throughout my whole career. I never once worked as the heel. They had some good talent, but he wanted me just to come in and maybe help them with timing and doing things that a baby face would do. Not look like you’re dying through the whole match, but you’re always fighting back and giving the fans out there hope that this baby face still has some strength left in him to finish this bad guy off. That’s what he wanted me to do. In turn, for me to do that I’d have to get in there and work with these guys. I just can’t get in there and work. Then he wanted me to call it by the sidelines, and I know my ego and I’d want to lace the boots up and get in there and show the guys how do this. On that rumor, that is the truth on the discussion between Shane and myself.

Eric:Was there any truth to the rumor that Hulk Hogan tried to push you out of the WWF?

Steamboat: You know, Hulk and I never had discussion of it. Vince McMahon and any of the upper office people never had discussion of it. Although in what we talked about earlier, if I was on the same card with Hulk of course he would be the headliner. His match would follow mine. I don’t even know this. I’m just assuming that maybe he said, “God, I got to follow Steamboat.” I never heard it. We never had talks about it. It’s just something that you could assume because throughout my career on and off I did get a lot of that. When the agent would put the lineup on the wall. “Why don’t you put Steamboat last.” “No, you’re headlining the show tonight, you’re on last.” There might be truth to it that, I don’t know. You know Hogan’s style and my style had to be two different styles. Maybe after a while he needed to do something different with his style. I was always one who was able to adjust my style to whoever I was working with because one night it might be with a Savage and the next night it might be with Don Muraco and Fuji. If you’re a heel or a baby face, me as Ricky Steamboat I would go to Don Muraco and say “Ok, you have to work my style” and that’s the kind of style we would have with Savage. Well, you know damn well that wouldn’t click in the ring. So I would always try to accommodate. I had one hour broadways with Blackjack Mulligan in the Carolinas after coming off and having one hour broadways with Ric Flair. There’s two different styles there. Mulligan is 6’7,” 330 lb. Big man, and I had to go at his pace. I’d have to think he couldn’t make it through the hour if we kept that kind of pace up. So we had to do a psychology thing and work it in a way. We did it in a way where it was really good. We did a David and Goliath type thing to where he was so much bigger than me and outweighed me by a hundred pounds and was taller than me by seven or eight inches and it worked. The promoter saw that it worked. It was George Scott at the time. He said “Ok, you guys are going to be married to each other, and I’m gonna have you do one hour broadways.” Mulligan was going, “Oh s***.” At the end of the program, we both really enjoyed it and he said, “it was a pleasure.” Because then, he could also prove to some of the other old timers that were digging at him saying, “Oh you got another hour with Steamboat.” His ego thing would swell up and say, “I did it, and can do it.”

Eric:Are you surprised that your Wrestlemania III match still stands up, and is regarded as the greatest Wrestlemania match ever?

Steamboat: Yes, yes I am. I don’t know what kind of comment I would be getting with this generation of fans that are used to watching what they’re watching now. Maybe the ones that were voting, the majority were fans like you, that were able to see wrestling as it was and wrestling as it is today. That’s why we got the nod. It is surprising, because at times I do watch the programs on TV and watching these guys working their butts off and taking these high risk moves and these humongous bumps and then it does surprise me. You know, a lot of this has to do with the way we built that match, Savage and I, up. Starting with the hurting me in the throat, the soap opera thing that lead into it week after week, after week. Then finally being able to wrestle at the Silverdome in front of 93,000, although I’m the first one to admit it was Andre and Hogan that drew that house. It was Andre and Hogan that drew the big numbers for that Wrestlemania. People were just curious, with Hogan as big as he was. Andre being almost twice that size, what was going to be the outcome of that match. Nobody ever saw Andre get beat. Savage and I knew this. We knew what was going to draw this particular pay per view, but let’s go out there and steal the show. I guess that there are guys in this business today that know what’s drawing the show and just going out there and cruise. We were so hungry and said, “Let’s take advantage of this opportunity, this moment. There’s going to be millions of people watching, we got almost a 100,000 people at this one sitting.” I guess we went out there and stole it.

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Eric:What made Ric Flair such a great opponent for you?

Steamboat: I have a lot of respect for Ric Flair, what he’s been able to do for the business, the longevity that he’s had. I think he was one of the main reasons that when I first came in to the Carolinas in late ’76 and early ’77. He went to George Scott and said, “I want to work with this kid.” Actually, I had a few main events under my belt prior to coming here but nothing with a serious angle involved and a prolonged programs. Flair was the first one to see, as green as I was, that he could take this baby face and we could do some money with it. With the respect with his working ability for the last twenty-five years, and also what he did for me to jump start my career, that’s one of the reasons that whenever we talk about Ric Flair, that I have the utmost respect for him.

Eric:Was there any added pressure in your last series of matches with Flair in the early nineties?

Steamboat: We never had that kind of discussion between Flair and I. I knew his work ethic, he knew mine. That’s all it was. People ask me my favorite match. Like I was saying earlier, one of them was the one in New Orleans with the two out of three falls, and than the match I had with Savage. Then people ask to compare them and pick a favorite. I say, “You’re talking apples and oranges.” Savage and I, with that match we had in the Silverdome, a lot of it was what we kept going over and over in the locker room, you know building up to that big day on what we wanted to do. Flair and I, we would just go out there and wing it. So, I think if you’re looking at two professionals and you were to ask the boys, knowing those two different types of matches, some would probably say, “If you line it up from start to finish, the hard part was to remember everything, especially if you have 22 false finishes. It makes you a true professional just to be able to remember all of that”. Then the other side of the coin is, just go out there and wing it and listen to the crowd, and go on the psychology of that. That would make you the more of a true professional. It depends, but you’re talking apples and oranges. So it’s hard for me to decide because with Savage, it was hard to remember everything to make that match flow and then with Flair you’re going out there with nothing mind except for the finish and the match would still flow.

Eric:Dusty Rhodes recently stated that you deserted him when he took the book with Crockett Promotions. Is this true?

Steamboat: Umm, there is a lot of truth to it. 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. 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, OK? 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.

Eric:Why was the WWF Intercontinental Title pulled off of you so quick?

Steamboat: Ugh. (momentary pause) I get asked that a lot to. Along with all of your other questions. Well, let me see. Six months prior to that match that Savage and I has at the Silverdome. Vince came to me and said, ” Ricky, you’ve proved yourself to the company. We’re going to give you the Intercontinental belt at Wrestlemania from Savage”. Then I told him,”being very honest with you Vince and appreciating that,” for the WWF at that time that was the second belt in line. That one and then you had the World belt. I said,”Well my wife Bonnie is pregnant and she is due in July and I’m just letting you know that if you drop the belt to me at Wrestlemania. That I’d like to have a couple weeks off at the time of her delivery”. So he said, “No problem “. So, Wrestlemania came around, I got the belt. During that time Honkytonk came in. I guess Vince took a liking to him and it wasn’t that maybe 6 weeks or so. He told me that he wanted me to drop the belt to Honkytonk on TV. I sort of brought up the discussion that we had and I said, “I told you what was going to happen, you said you wanted me to have the belt for a year and here it is 6 weeks later and you already want me to drop the belt “. He said, “We had a meeting on it. It seems as though that two weeks you want off in July, is too long to have the belt lay dormant”. I said, “Vince, sometimes we don’t return back to these venues for a month or two”. Like Chicago, or in Madison Square Garden. You know? I may be on a Garden show, but I may not be on the next one for a month or so. He said,” We still feel that we don’t want to leave the belt dormant”. I knew what he wanted. He was real high on Wayne Ferris. So, I said, “no problem “. After I dropped the belt, I said, “you know those two weeks I want off in July”? He said, “yeah” I said, “well I’m taking the rest of the year off”. That’s where I had that five or six month hiatus. I just dropped the belt to him and took six months off instead of two weeks. A lot of people at that time were saying, “Steamboat, how in the world could you lose to the Honkytonk Man, gee whiz, what’s going on here “.

I comment:Not knowing what was going on behind closed doors, when you watch the match today, it looks like a rib.

Steamboat: A rib, (laughs very hard ). I haven’t heard that word in a long time. (laughs again harder) I could see how that would come out. Oh yeah, what a rib. Especially when they saw the great match I had with Savage. Then they’re trying to say, “how could a Honkytonk Man compare to a Savage”. It was a joke, you know?

Eric:How he feels about how open the wrestling business is today.

Steamboat: Well you know the business for decades was always run with that type of wrestler honor. That even though the out come is called in the locker room and stuff like that, and the matches the way they are set up. But you’ve always had wrestlers honor. That’s what kept the business going for so many years. People would say, “Some of this stuff looks questionable, but that one time he dropped the knee on his head. Man, I know that had to hurt “. You’d always leave them with that doubt. You’d have wrestling fans that would uphold the integrity of the business by fighting each other. One guy would say “wrestling is fake,” the other guy would say, “wrestling is real ,” and they’d get into a fight about it. Today, I guess they promote it with Vince going public that it’s a Sports Entertainment business. Even I found myself, just like the way we’re having discussion on the phone here with you. that years back, I would still try to uphold wrestlers honor and everybody on the other end is saying, “come on Steamboat we know what’s going on”. So even I have had to change. Because the way the world has been smartened up to the business. It’s strictly entertainment. How do I feel? I always, in my earlier years, upholding wrestlers honor on our business, felt real proud about the fact that we are going so far that as we are being able to be good enough workers to convince the people that when they go home they still have that question in their mind. Is it real or is it not? Today, obviously everybody knows about the business. Wow. I don’t know. It’s getting to that point now on the entertainment aspect. That’s why guys are doing what they’re doing in the ring with these high risk moves. People are just seeing it as a form of athletic ability and being able to do what they’re doing. God, they’re just killing their bodies out there. They are admiring that. That’s also got to be a reflection on the numbers that they are doing, The pay per view numbers and the people that are viewing it on their TV shows. They are doing big, big business. So, who’s to say that today’s way of doing things is wrong? They’ve had to make adjustments to the other generation. Then again, I think they have more access and more people behind the scenes, being able to line up better soap opera scenarios to keep the people interested.

Eric:What is your reaction to WCW putting the belt on David Arquette and do you agree with several WCW employees when they say ,”World Titles don’t mean anything today”?

Steamboat: Well, you know when I was wrestling, starting off with when Hulk Hogan had the World belt, it had meant a lot. Going back to the seventies you’d be, I’d be in the Carolina area wrestling. We’d talk about in a couple of months that Harley Race, the World Champion is coming into the area. Maybe, they’d have a tournament for the babyfaces and the winner of the tournament is going to wrestle the World Champion. Then you’d go around the territory and wrestle the World Champion. I’d wrestle Harley Race and so on and so forth. To answer your question with what they’re doing with the World belt today it would lead you to believe it wasn’t worth as much as it used to. You know, by giving it to an actor like that. Guys have been busting their back for years to prove themselves to the public, that whenever a World Champion would come into the area and he would be matched up with that World Champion and they would draw a big house. The way that they did that solidified the fact that their was value to that belt. But in doing what you just told me, that just makes the belt a piece of metal and it doesn’t have the value like it used to. I couldn’t believe it though. I heard that too, that they gave this guy a belt. He doesn’t even look like a wrestler you know? It seems as though, that everything that the WCW is putting out lately in trying to out perform Vince’s numbers, is just backfiring one after another. The fans I know are voicing this. It’s like a farce.

Eric:What would you do differently if you had the book in WCW to turn things around?

Steamboat: It could be very hard to do with as much damage that has been done, you know? It may take another whole generation of fans to start it. You know, it may take years. You’ve got people that have been watching it now that have watched it week after week and have followed everything and then getting the idea now that they are trying to put value back on the belt and then you are going to have people that are just starting to watch it and seeing the value that they have on this belt. Not knowing what has happened in the past. The crossover may take years. On how to do it? Shoot. I don’t know. That’s a long term thing. When we had programs with a guy or I would have a program with a guy, I’d know I’d be married to him for three months, six months, you got to look at what you have to do.

I thank him for the interview and tell him how often I get emails asking about his current status.

Steamboat: Well, I do appreciate them everyday. I do have them still come in the gym. They come in to inquire about a membership. I come walking up and ask to help them. I give them tours. They say, “I can’t believe you are here.” I say, “Well I got my name out front”, you know? A lot of times even today, I walk into a 7-11 and they say “what are you doing here?” I say “Well, I’m buying a Coke”, or “I just bought some gas “. It’s still a good feeling. I never hesitate to stop. I always carry, believe it or not, I carry autographed pictures.

My son is into car racing. He’s carrying the Steamboat name in that fashion. We’re doing fairly well at it. I got this big dooly crew cap truck, we got a big twenty-eight foot trailer. We go racing in Concord on Friday nights. We’re getting ready to start. A very popular thing here in this area, is that during the summer they have what they call a ten week summer shoot out. It’s on national television, it’s on the Fox Sports Network. It’s on every Tuesday night. Richie does really well in racing. Right now, we’re running second place in points. We’re racing against other families. To give you some names like Rusty Wallace. His son Stephen races. Jimmy Spencer, Jr., his son races. Paul Andrew, who’s a crew chief on a cup team. Both his boys race. You’re right in the mecca of it here in the Carolinas. They got all these fathers who are owners and participate in these big Winston Cup racing teams and they got their sons racing. Here’s this broken down wrestler and we come out there and it feels good at times when we come home and we beat them at their own game. Just a little thing. We are as always in racing like with other teams. Anybody that wants to can sponsor the car. We do have some sponsors now. We put the name on the car and some sponsorship. What they’ll get out of it is when we start in June with this ten weeks in the summertime. It’s the national exposure. So we do have a lot of wrestling fans. As you know, wrestling fans and race car people are the same people. The same guy that watches the races is the same guy that goes to the wrestling matches. Last year when we did this ten week Summer Shootout, because of the Steamboat name out there, Boy, Richie sure has gotten a big fan following. Oh man, the people are just rooting for him when he races. He’s twelve now. This is something that we’re going to pursue. He wants to get up to the big leagues and we’re probably talking ten years from now. We’re starting early in age. A lot of the guys I talked to, the race car drivers, they started racing go carts and stuff at 6, 7, 8 years old. We’re heading in the right direction. We’re doing well at it. I enjoy it. I’m an old hot rod nut anyway. From the 60’s and 70’s. I’m pretty mechanically inclined, so I pick up things fast. I do all the set up on the car, and we scale the car out and this and that. We do things like, racing terminology “checking the stagger” and all the kind of stuff.

I ask that the only time we will see Richie Steamboat vs. David Flair will be in the cars?

Well, he’s still doing amateur wrestling. He’s been doing it now for 6 or 7 years. He’s been four times North Carolina State Champion. He’s won the Nationals once. So, he’s a pretty good darn good amateur wrestler. He does both. He loves racing and he does wrestling.

Ricky Steamboat: The Life of the Dragon

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