Today marks the 30th anniversary of what many have called the greatest wrestling match of all time. Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat put on a performance that stole the most important show in WWE history that was sold by the biggest match of all time in Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.
While there is some controversy about the preplanned nature of the match by industry elitists, 78,000 fans inside the Silverdome were in awe over the Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania III. Lots of preparation was made for a classic that we’re still talking about today.
On November 22, 1986, the genesis of this heated rivalry where Savage injured Steamboat by placing his throat on the steel guard rail and jumped off the top rope with a double axehandle. Savage continued the assault as he threw Steamboat back into the ring and flew off the top rope once again on Steamboat’s throat. This time, however, he used the ring bell.
Weekly updates from Mean Gene Okerlund and doctors put the career of The Dragon in doubt while Savage marveled at his handiwork. Steamboat would return during the tenth edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event to confront Savage. Shortly thereafter the match was made for WrestleMania.
It’s hard to find the words to describe the athletic mastery that was exhibited in the ring on that night. Savage and Steamboat made every single move, blow, look, and mannerism mean something. The initial lockup alone had an intensity that signaled both men wanted this one bad.
Two evenly matched wrestlers in the prime of their careers put on the show of shows with championship glory and revenge hanging in the balance. The near 15-minute encounter concluded when Steamboat was able to counter a body slam into a small package for the 1-2-3.
30 years later and this match still holds up. Some call it the greatest match, period, while others dub it the best WrestleMania match ever. WWE’s industry reputation at the time that they only produced cartoon style wrestling was shattered on that fateful March evening.
Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat inspired a generation who can probably name every move in succession like reciting lines from a movie. For me personally, the grace, beauty, technicality, theater, and brilliance of this affair represents everything I ever wanted to be as a wrestler. While I didn’t possess the skill set to achieve such a feat, I still appreciate it all the same as I make it a point to watch the match every WrestleMania Sunday.
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