The year was 1987, the locataion the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit Michigan. The fans packed inside for a chance to see the third annual Wrestlemania. Little did anyone know, they was about to see the culmination of the most transcendent fued in wrestling history.
The WWF Intercontinental Championship is known as the working man’s Championship. The Championship has earned that reputation through the years, thanks in large part to the men who have carried it. On one brisk evening in Michigan two men waged war for this title, left it all in the ring and inspired a generation of talent.
- Macho Man Randy Savage and Ricky the Dragon Steamboat had one of the greatest fueds in WWE history.
- The fued took place between 1986 and 1987.
- The fued included what many consider the best technical wrestling of all time, outside interference and props.
- Professional Wrestling today is heavily influenced by this fued.
Like the first two, Wrestlemania III was make or break for the WWE. Owner Vince McMahon has never been shy about putting all of his chips in the center of the table and betting on himself. So naturally leading up to Wrestlemania III McMahon deployed his usual marketing tactics by heavily promoting the cards main event. The WWF Championship Match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant was billed as one for the ages, and rightfully so. Hulk Hogan, the company’s budding young star and defending champion, versus Andre the towering French Giant, that had never been taken off his feet.
Over 23 years have passed since the night that Hogan slammed Andre and retained the WWF Championship. The entire night was full of entertaining matches and the event is one of better productions in the history of the WWF. But what made this night one for the ages, was far more than just ‘the body slam heard round the world.’
In the months leading up to the event McMahon had an ace up his sleeve, by pairing his two most technical athletes on his roster together for a series of matches. Today, this fued is essentially a training guide for professional wrestlers, matches and angles.
Savage vs Steamboat
Twelve total matches were on the card for the night, slated at number nine (after the Butch Reed and Koko B. Ware match) was the Intercontinental Championship match. Defending Champion Macho Man Randy Savage would put his title on the line against an equally athletic Ricky the Dragon Steamboat.
Leading up to the match Steamboat said that ‘I have the opportunity of a lifetime.’ Little did he know he was about to have the match of his lifetime.
This fued was a slow burn that climaxed at Wrestlemania III. But on one not so famous night in November of 1986, the stage was officially set for the legendary bout between the two technical masters.
One match in particular, from a November 22, 1986 epsisode of Superstars really puts the context of the fued in focus and displays the pairs greatness. It also neatly places a bow on the fued and sets the stage for the events that would unfold at Wrestlemania III.
November 22, 1986
Both men immediately lock up and have to be seperated, the pace is fast, the crowd is hot already! A lock up again, followed by an Irish whip from Savage but Steamboat counters with a beautiful arm drag, into an arm bar. Savage reverses the Arm bar and throws Steamboat into the corner, then quickly to the other corner where Steamboat leaps to the second turnbuckle, over Savage then power slamming the champ.
A few moments later Savage has the upperhand after quickly climbing to the top ropes and hitting Steamboat with a double ax handle smash, Stemboat sell this perfectly. Savage goes for the pin, 1…2…… Steamaboat kicks out!
Only a moment later, Steamboat sends Savage hurling towards the corner. Macho Man leaps to the top turnbuckle and changes direction mid-air and splashes The Dragon. Only to be rolled up by Steamboat! What a rapid series of technical moves that was!
Several more minutes of high octane back and forth culminates with Macho Man unintentionally knocking the referee David Hebner down momentarily. While Hebner was down Stemboat quicky ascends to the top rope and explodes into a beautiful splash on Savage. Hebner is able to recover in time and counts 1….2…but another referee Danny Davis storms the ring and breaks the count up. After a moment of confusion Davis leaves the ring but Savage now has the upperhand.
Over the next couple of minutes Savage unloads on Steamboat. Culminating with the Dragon draped over a guard rail outside the ring and Macho Man delivering a beautiful double ax handle smash off the top turnbuckle, damaging Ricky’s throat.
Savage then grabs the bell from the timekeeper area and heads to the top of the ropes and off, smashing Steamboat in the throat. Savage heads back to the top turnbuckle when referee Dave Hebner calls him down. The medical team rushes out to help the The Dragon placing him on a stretcher and rushing him away.
The match for the ages
The match for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania III had all of the same elements as the match only a few months prior. The raw heat and ability to mix pain with pace was on display again. Except this time when referee Dave Hebner was knocked out, it was The Macho Man’s pin that was missed. A hot Savage then went to the time keepers area for the bell and again attempted to climb to the top turnbuckle with it. Only this time George ‘The Animal’ Steele was ringside and pushed Savage off the ropes who was then rolled up and pinned by Steamboat for the win.
A new era
Ricky the Dragon Steamboat was the new Intercontinental Champion and rightfully so. The work ethic, skill and dedication these two warriors displayed to their craft still echoes to this day, an era where technicians are now the norm.
Was Wrestlemania III really the night that Hogan Slammed Andre ended an era? Or was it the night that Steamboat pinned Savage and the likes of Chris Jericho, Daniels Bryan and Aj Styles was born.
Enjoying our content? Check out another article- Roddy Piper only held a singles title once in the WWF and that’s a shame