Ricky Steamboat’s secret to having a WrestleMania match that pops
When it comes to performing at WrestleMania 33, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat has some advice to offer.
“Pull it back a gear,” explained the WWE Hall of Famer. “Pull it back with the things you do in the match, especially if you do some big stuff.”
Steamboat enjoyed his “WrestleMania Moment” with the “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania III in the Pontiac Silverdome, which is a match that is considered in the top three of all time at WrestleMania.
“Whenever you do big stuff in the ring—a big move or a big hit—you have to let that moment breathe,” continued Steamboat. “That allows a moment to sink in for the fans so they can reflect on it. When you hit a big move in a match, but then you’re up five seconds later running around, you completely forget about that huge move.”
Steamboat admitted that he grows frustrated when he sees wrestlers, as he terms it, “throw away” such valuable moments in a match.
“I have expression that I like to use, and that’s ‘throwing it all away,’” said Steamboat. “You are throwing that big move away when you don’t let it breathe. I’m not suggesting that every moment in the match has to be huge, but you’ve got to space it out to have a couple of really outstanding moments. Whenever you hit those big moves, let them sink in for the fans. Let the moves breathe. Let’s see who the first guy that is able to stand up, or who the first guy is who falls back down.”
Steamboat’s favorite match from last year’s WrestleMania was The Undertaker versus Shane McMahon.
“Who would have thought that Shane McMahon would have any kind of a chance versus Undertaker?” asked Steamboat. “But it was the best match on the card. They had that big moment when Shane climbed to the top of the cage and fell onto the table. They let that big moment breathe, and breathe, and breathe. It was a ‘holy sh--’ moment, and that’s Undertaker’s old-school mentality. He is one of the best in the business. Now there is a ‘but’ in my statement, because although this psychology works today, it does work better when you’re over than when you are not. When you’re over and you hit big moves, fans will still be with you. That’s when you have to let it breathe and sink in, so people can get all caught up in the moment. Don’t throw it all away.”
Steamboat was asked why there are less meaningful moments in wrestling today.
“Compare today’s wrestling to my feud with Randy Savage,” explained Steamboat. “When Randy came off the top rope and hit me with the bell to really set up the feud, WrestleMania III was three months away. Each week on TV, there were vignettes where I was trying to get my voice back. There was a build-up. The question mark was, ‘Will Ricky be able to wrestle?’
“Randy and me had a three-month run. Today, because the company has a pay per view every three weeks, there is only a three-week window. Once you have the pay per view, you move on to the next guy you’re going to work with. Before, there were only four pay per views throughout the whole year. Guys who were doing soap opera storylines could build them up week after week. We had longevity, and that is one of the main reasons why people remember. For three months, people would see these two particular guys, and the blow-off would be at WrestleMania. Today, it’s much different.”
With all due respect to his own match with Savage, as well as the WrestleMania 13 classic between Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, the title of greatest WrestleMania match of all time, Steamboat believes, belongs to The Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXV.
“I was still with the company, but I didn’t want to know the finish and I didn’t want to know who was going over,” said Steamboat. “I kept my ears shut because I just wanted to sit there and take it in as a fan—and, boy, they took me on a hell of a ride.
“Looking at back to me and Savage, I’ve been told that changed the blueprint of a match. A normal match would have four or five false finishes and then you’d have the finish, but Savage and I had 21 false finishes in a match that went 17 minutes. We wanted to make it a championship match, and our philosophy was, ‘I’m going to try to beat him for the belt, and he’s going to try to beat me.’ We were trying to beat each other every 45 seconds, and those false finishes also took the people for a ride in the Shawn-Taker match.”
Steamboat extended his gratitude for all of his fans, thanking the people who continue to champion his career.
“I’ve been out of the ring since ’94, so that is going on 23 years,” said Steamboat. “Last November, I celebrated 41 years of being affiliated in the business. In all that time, there is one thing I never, ever forgot—and that is my fans.
“I get about 100–120 pieces of fan mail delivered to my house every month, and I answer every single one of them. Some people send me questionnaires asking me my favorite match and my toughest opponents. People always say thank you to me, but no, this is my thank you to people for being fans.”