Richard Henry Blood (February 28, 1953), better known by his ring name Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, is a former American professional wrestler who became one of the most well-known professional wrestlers of the late 1980s and early '90s. He is currently signed to World Wrestling Entertainment working as a road agent. He was well-known among wrestling fans as being one of the few wrestlers who stayed a babyface throughout his lengthy career. He is best known for his work with American Wrestling Association (AWA), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
In the WWF, Steamboat was a 1 time Intercontinental Champion. In NWA/WCW, he was a 1 time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, 4 time United States Heavyweight Champion, 4 time Television Champion, 8 time WCW World Tag Team Champion, 1 time (unofficial) NWA World Tag Team Champion, 2 time Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, and a 3 time Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champion.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1976–1977)
Ricky debuted in 1976 as a babyface in the American Wrestling Association (AWA). He took the name Sam Steamboat Jr. from older Hawaiian wrestler Sam Steamboat, to whom he is not actually related, and he also wrestled for a time under his real given name before settling on the name Ricky Steamboat (or, alternately, Rick Steamboat), by which he would be known for the remainder of his career. He went from the AWA to Championship Wrestling from Florida, then to Georgia Championship Wrestling.
National Wresting Alliance / Jim Crockett Promotions (1977–1985)
In 1977, he entered the National Wrestling Alliance-sanctioned Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) (which ran under the concurrent brand names Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and Wide World Wrestling (later World Wide Wrestling), as well as airing syndicated TV programs under those respective names), where he would remain for the next eight years of his career. Steamboat, who had been brought in as part of a talent exchange (a trade that sent Steamboat to Mid-Atlantic and One Man Gang to Georgia) by JCP booker George Scott on the recommendation of Wahoo McDaniel, was initially billed as a babyface protege of Wahoo, and barely spoke above whispers in interviews. Matching him with his brash young counterpart, Ric Flair, was a natural fit. Steamboat stepped up to the plate during an interview on the syndicated Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling when Flair, the then-Mid-Atlantic Television Champion, began goading the youngster. Steamboat knocked Flair out with a backhand chop to set up a match between the two. Steamboat's star making performance came when he pinned Flair after a double thrust off the top rope to win the NWA Mid-Atlantic Television Championship at WRAL studios in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Over the next eight years in JCP, Steamboat captured the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship three times and the NWA World Tag Team Championship six times (once with Paul Jones and five times with Jay Youngblood). He also held the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship singles crown twice and wore the NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship straps four times (three times with Paul Jones, once with Jay Youngblood). He also won the NWA World Television Championship title a second time (which by that point had changed to the NWA World Television title).
Fans in the Mid-Atlantic territory to this day talk about classic Steamboat moments: The day Flair dragged his face around the television studio, causing facial scarring, and Steamboat retaliating the following week by ripping Flair's expensive suit to shreds; when longtime tag team partner Paul Jones turned heel on Steamboat at the end of a two-ring battle royal; Steamboat and Youngblood painting yellow streaks down the backs of Paul Jones and Baron Von Raschke in order to embarrass them into defending the World Tag Team titles against the two; Steamboat and Youngblood's top drawing feud with Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle; Steamboat and Youngblood being turned on by their friends Jack and Jerry Brisco; Steamboat in a shocking (and surprisingly emotional) feud against former mentor Wahoo McDaniel; and his last great series in the territory, feuding with Tully Blanchard over the NWA TV title. After having creative differences with JCP booker Dusty Rhodes, Steamboat, who had been the top face of the Crockett-owned promotion along with Flair, left JCP.
World Wrestling Federation (1985–1988)
Birth of "The Dragon" (1985–1986)
In 1985, Steamboat was offered a contract by Vince McMahon and he joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Shortly after his debut, Steamboat was given the gimmick of a babyface nicknamed "The Dragon"; Steamboat's jacket-and-trunks attire was replaced by a keikogi and long tights. His father was white, and Steamboat's mother is Japanese American, hence his Asian features which were crucial for his "Dragon" gimmick. Steamboat kept the nickname and gimmick for the remainder of his career.
He made his pay-per-view debut at the inaugural WrestleMania where he defeated Matt Borne. On the September 14, 1985 edition of Championship Wrestling, Steamboat defeated Mr. Fuji but after his victory, he was attacked by Don "The Magnificient" Muraco pitting Steamboat in a feud against fellow Hawaiians Muraco and Fuji. On the November 2 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, he defeated Fuji in a Kung Fu Challenge. On the January 4, 1986 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, his intense feud with Muraco ended after he and Junkyard Dog beat Muraco and Fuji in a tag team match.
After a victory over Hercules at WrestleMania 2, Steamboat began his next feud with Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Their feud began when Roberts attacked him before their match on the May 3 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, which did not occur due to Roberts assaulting Steamboat. They battled each other in a Snake Pit match at The Big Event, which Steamboat won. Their feud finally ended on the October 4 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, when Steamboat defeated Roberts in their Snake Pit rematch. Following the match, Roberts continued to attack Steamboat and was about to place his snake Damien on him, but Steamboat took his komodo dragon out of his bag and scared Roberts from the ring.
Intercontinental Champion (1987–1988)
On the November 22, 1986 edition of Superstars of Wrestling, Steamboat got a shot at the Intercontinental Championship against Randy Savage. Steamboat lost the match by count-out but after the match, Savage continued to assault him and injured Steamboat's larynx with the ring bell, beginning an angle between the two. On the January 3, 1987 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, Steamboat returned from his injury and prevented Savage from attacking George Steele like he had done to Steamboat two months prior. At WrestleMania III, Steamboat was booked to defeat Savage for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. The highly influential match was considered an instant classic by both fans and critics and was named 1987's Match of the Year by both Pro Wrestling Illustrated and the Wrestling Observer.
Several weeks after winning the Intercontinental Championship, Steamboat asked WWF owner Vince McMahon for some time off to be with his wife Bonnie, who was expecting the birth of their first son, Richard, Jr. This did not sit well with WWF management as he had been molded to become a long-term Intercontinental Champion. The decision was made by WWF management to punish Steamboat by stripping him of the title. After a successful title defense against Hercules on the May 2 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, he dropped the belt to The Honky Tonk Man on the June 13 edition of Superstars of Wrestling; his son was born later that month. Ricky came back in time for the first-ever Survivor Series in November 1987. WWF Management was still bitter over his impromptu sabbatical from his first WWF run, however, and he was not pushed or given any meaningful feuds (Steamboat himself has implied in interviews that he was being punished for "one-upping" the Hogan-Andre main event at WrestleMania III). After defeating Rick Rude by disqualification at the first-ever Royal Rumble, Steamboat lost to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in the first round of a tournament for the vacant WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV in March 1988. Shortly thereafter, he announced his retirement.
Return to the NWA / World Championship Wrestling (1989)
Ricky Steamboat made his comeback in January 1989 and returned to the NWA (specifically, NWA affiliate World Championship Wrestling, the former Jim Crockett Promotions) on the January 21, 1989 edition of World Championship Wrestling (it would later also become the name of the promotion) as a surprise tag team partner of "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert against Ric Flair and Barry Windham in a match, in which Steamboat pinned NWA World Champion Flair. This earned him a shot at the title at Chi-Town Rumble where Steamboat was booked to defeat Flair in the main event for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He was also the last NWA World Champion to defend the belt in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in a match against Tiger Mask II. After Steamboat retained the NWA title against Flair in a controversial ending on the April 2 edition of Clash of the Champions, Flair and Steamboat would then face each other in their final rematch, until 1994, at the first-ever WrestleWar in May, where Steamboat dropped the title back to Flair. All three of Steamboat's matches with Flair were given 5-star ratings from Wrestling Observer Newsletter member Dave Meltzer.
After losing the title and with Flair now turned into a babyface after being attacked by Terry Funk, Steamboat would remain the #1 contender to the NWA World Title, a fact that irked fellow babyface U.S. Champion Lex Luger. This dispute culminated in Luger attacking Steamboat on the June 14 edition of Clash of the Champions, thus turning heel. Luger stood over the fallen Steamboat and arrogantly said, "There's your #1 contender!" Steamboat them demanded a no disqualification match against Luger at The Great American Bash for the title, but just before the bell Luger demanded the clause be dropped or there would not be a match. Steamboat lost the match by disqualification after hitting Luger with a chair. However, due to a contract dispute, this would be Steamboat's last match of note in WCW in 1989. After losing the NWA title, he again ventured into semi-retirement in late 1989.
North American Wrestling Association/South Atlantic Pro Wrestling (1990)
Steamboat later returned to action in 1990 with the North Carolina-based North American Wrestling Association (later renamed South Atlantic Pro Wrestling). In one of his first appearances there, he defeated Tommy Landell on February 9, 1990 at a TV taping in Greenwood, South Carolina (aired on the syndicated NAWA Wrestling on May 19), followed by a pinfall win over Ivan Koloff at a house show on February 24 in Gaffney, South Carolina. In a dark match at an NAWA TV taping on March 23 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Steamboat defeated Bob Orton, Jr. by pinfall. On April 21 at a TV taping in Raleigh, North Carolina, Steamboat teamed with "War Eagle" Chris Chavis (who later went on to fame in the WWF as Tatanka) to defeat Allen Kensey and Sammy Martin in a tag team match (aired on NAWA Wrestling on June 16) and later pinned Chuck Coates in a singles match (aired on NAWA Wrestling on June 30).
On June 30 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Steamboat reached the final of the NAWA Heavyweight title tournament, but Robert Fuller took advantage of a knee injury Steamboat suffered in a semi-final match against Matt Borne and scored a quick pinfall over Steamboat to become the first NAWA Champion. Steamboat subsequently feuded with Fuller over the NAWA/SAPW title but did not succeed in wresting the title from the "Tennessee Stud". On September 4 in Spartanburg, Steamboat reformed his old team with Paul Jones in a loss to Fuller and Borne. Following another match against Fuller for the SAPW title on October 6 in Burlington, North Carolina, Steamboat left SAPW.
Return to the WWF (1991)
The return of Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, now billed only as "The Dragon", to the WWF was promoted with a series of vignettes on WWF Superstars (2/16/91, 2/23/91, 3/2/91, 3/16/91, and 3/24/91) in which The Dragon was shown breathing fire. Steamboat was treated as a brand-new wrestler, despite his past success with Ric Flair, who would join the WWF shortly after, and Randy Savage, then a color commentator.
Steamboat made his in-ring WWF return on the 3/30/91 episodes of Superstars, defeating The Brooklyn Brawler with his flying body press. Steamboat would win "squash" matches on WWF Superstars on 4/7/91, 4/20/91, 5/11/91, 6/8/91, 6/29/91, 7/20/91, 8/3/91, 8/24/91, 9/14/91, 10/5/91, and 10/26/91. Steamboat would win "squash" matches on WWF Wrestling Challenge on 4/28/91, 5/26/91, 6/16/91, 7/7/91, 7/28/91, 8/18/91, 9/8/91, 9/29/91, and 10/20/91. Steamboat would be victorious on televised Madison Square Garden events, defeating Haku (4/22/91), Demolition Smash (6/3/91), and Paul Roma (7/1/91). The Dragon had several wins on WWF Prime Time Wrestling, defeating Demolition Smash (the MSG match), Paul Roma (the MSG match), Col. Mustafa (9/9/91), Tanaka (9/23/91), and The Warlord (by DQ, on 10/14/91).
The Dragon was undefeated on television during his 1991 run, in fact, he lost only one match at all, a house show bout against Skinner a day before he quit. Steamboat's "house show" (non-televised event) matches were with The Brooklyn Brawler, Haku, Paul Roma, The Barbarian, Tanaka, Big Bully Busick, Hercules, Skinner, Irwin R. Schyster, and one time-limit draw with Ted DiBiase.
On July 14, 1991, The Dragon was advertised to face Bret "The Hitman" Hart in front of 19,000 fans at the "WWF WrestleFest '91" live event in St. Louis, but the card was switched around due to numerous wrestlers unable to make the show.
At the SummerSlam Spectacular television special on 8/18/91, The Dragon teamed with "Texas Tornado" Kerry Von Erich & "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith to defeat The Orient Express team of Tanaka, Kato, & Sato. This led into the WWF SummerSlam '91 pay-per-view, at which The Dragon teamed with The British Bulldog & The Texas Tornado to defeat Power & Glory and The Warlord in the opening six-man tag team match.
The Dragon suffered his only loss in his 1991 WWF run at a house show on 10/20/91, falling victim to Skinner's "Gator Breaker" inverted DDT.
On 10/21/91, The Dragon gave his notice at a big television taping, and reportedly refused participation on the taping when he was told he would be losing to The Undertaker and Irwin R. Schyster.
On the 11/2/91 edition of WWF Superstars, The Dragon was advertised to team with Jim Duggan, Jim Neidhart, and The Texas Tornado at Survivor Series to face Skinner, The Berzerker, Big Bully Busick, and Col. Mustafa, despite no longer working for the company. The Dragon would be replaced by "El Matador" Tito Santana.
Return to WCW (1991–1994)
Tag Team Champion (1991)
On the November 19 edition of Clash of the Champions, Steamboat returned to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as the surprise tag team partner of Dustin Rhodes, substituting for an injured Barry Windham. Steamboat and Rhodes defeated the Enforcers (Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko) to win his first WCW World Tag Team Championship under the WCW banner. They lost the titles to Arn Anderson and his new partner Bobby Eaton at a live event in January 1992. Steamboat began feuding with the Dangerous Alliance at this point, facing them in a WarGames match at WrestleWar. The match received a 5-star rating from Dave Meltzer. He unsuccessfully challenged Dangerous Alliance member and United States Heavyweight Champion Rick Rude for the title at SuperBrawl II. Their rivalry culminated in an Iron Man Challenge at Beach Blast, which Steamboat won.
Television Champion (1992–1993)
On the September 2, 1992 edition of Clash of the Champions, Steamboat defeated "Stunning" Steve Austin to win his first WCW World Television Championship under the WCW banner. He lost the title to Scott Steiner at a television taping on September 29. He however, won both his first NWA World Tag Team Championship (unrecognized by NWA) and his second WCW World Tag Team Championship with Shane Douglas (NWA and WCW titles were unified) on the November 18 edition of Clash of the Champions by defeating Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes. On the March 27, 1993 edition of Power Hour, they lost the NWA and WCW titles to the Hollywood Blonds (Brian Pillman and Steve Austin). On the August 18 edition of Clash of the Champions, he defeated Paul Orndorff to win his second and final WCW World Television Championship. A month later, at Fall Brawl, Steamboat's TV title reign was ended when he lost to Lord Steven Regal. At Starrcade, the two faced in a rematch for the title which resulted in a time-limit draw.
United States Champion (1994)
He also had one last feud over the WCW World Heavyweight Championship with longtime rival Ric Flair, which culminated in a match at Spring Stampede where the title was briefly held up due to both men's shoulders being pinned at the same time. On the April 24 edition of Saturday Night, Flair defeated Steamboat to reclaim possession of the title. Their final singles match was on Main Event in July which ended on a disqualification when Steve Austin interfered. Steamboat and Flair's last encounter was in a tag team match on the July 31 edition of Saturday Night where Steamboat teamed with Sting against Ric Flair and Steve Austin.
He feuded with US Champion "Stunning" Steve Austin at the moment and earned a US title shot at Bash at the Beach but lost. On the August 28 edition of Clash of the Champions, he got a rematch against Austin where Steamboat hurt his back, but managed to pin Austin for the United States Heavyweight Championship. However, he had to give up the belt due to the injury at Fall Brawl. Steamboat was fired by WCW President Eric Bischoff via Federal Express package (while injured), thus ending a nearly two decade relationship with the Crockett/Turner wrestling organization. He retired for good in September 1994.
Steamboat played an important role in the genesis of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), where he was the referee of the first Gauntlet for the Gold for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He was also the referee for the four-way double-elimination match to crown the first holder of the TNA X Division Championship. He has also made appearances for Ring of Honor where he refereed the first defense of the ROH Pure Wrestling Championship. In 2004, he engaged in a series of confrontations with CM Punk over Punk's arrogance in matches Steamboat refereed and then became CM Punk's inspiration to become the better person Steamboat knew he could be. The latter part of 2004 saw Steamboat feud with Mick Foley over which style of wrestling was superior, pure wrestling or hardcore wrestling. The two of them had many confrontations and managed teams to face one another, but never had a match against each other. Steamboat's last ROH appearance was at Final Battle 2004 where he and Foley finally made peace.
In early 2005, Steamboat returned to World Wrestling Entertainment as a road agent and was introduced as a WWE Legend at WWE Homecoming in October 2005. In early 2006, Ricky Steamboat told WWE management that he would like to come out of retirement at WrestleMania 22 and work a match with Ric Flair, but the idea was nixed. Ricky Steamboat has been the special referee in main event matches between John Cena, Triple H, and/or Edge at WWE house shows. In 2006 at the Raw SummerSlam Tour in Australia, he was a referee for a match between Cena and Edge for the WWE Championship. He also refereed another title match in July 2007 between John Cena and Randy Orton in Anaheim, California. On April 1, 2007, he made an appearance at WrestleMania 23 while various other legends were having a small dance party in the background. He also briefly appeared at the Vengeance: Night of Champions pay-per-view, being recognized as a former Intercontinental Champion. He had another appearance on WWE television at Ric Flair's farewell on the March 31, 2008 edition of Raw.
On February 23, 2009 it was announced that Steamboat would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ric Flair. He made an appearance on RAW that night, being confronted and then attacked by Chris Jericho. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat has been inducted by his old WCW Rival and old time friend Ric Flair into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2009.
Championships and accomplishments
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (7 times) - with Paul Jones (1), Jay Youngblood (5), and Shane Douglas (1)
- NWA Toronto United States Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- NWA World Television Championship (2 times)
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship (3 times) - with Paul Jones (2) and Jay Youngblood (1)
- WWE.com Profile
- Ricky Steamboat profile at Online World of Wrestling
- Ricky Steamboat profile at CAGEMATCH.net
- Richard Blood at the Internet Movie Database