Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #3 Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (WWE Intercontinental Title, WWE Wrestlemania III)

(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31348409/?contentId=31348409&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania )

At #3, we have the WrestleMania classic, Randy Savage vs Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat. Well, I say classic because the general consensus is they put on a classic match. And it’s at #3, for goodness sake! However, it’s one of those “classic” matches that hasn’t matured well with age. It set the bar high for WWE matches back when spectacle and A-list stars (and Hulk Hogan) were all Vince McMahon cared about. It blows anything away in 1980s WWE. But it’s merely very good compared to today’s standards. So, it’s on the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List for what it stands for, rather than what it looks like today…

Go back to the early WrestleManias and you’ll be appalled at the so-called “action” you witness. I’ve never been able to watch a WrestleMania from the 80s/early 90s in its entirety. WrestleMania III, a PPV of three hours duration, has twelve matches. Only two of them, this one and Hogan vs Andre the Giant (placed at #96. Click here for my review) run over ten minutes. It’s the same for most of the early WrestleManias. To appreciate Savage vs Steamboat, you have to look at it from this point of view. Of course, if you watched it live you’ll understand what I mean. WWE wrestling in the 1980s was awful.

So, place yourself in the shoes of a 1980s WWE fan whilst watching this bout (if you are watching it for the first time). Think of how unexpected and delightful the fast-paced, near-fall ridden bout would be to a fan used to watching squash matches and Hulk Hogan no-selling and hitting a leg drop to defeat his opponent. Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat were the great wrestlers in the WWE at the time. Savage and Steamboat wanted to prove that although Hogan and Andre has all the hype behind them, the Intercontinental Championship match was where the real action would happen. And they delivered the best bout in 80s WWE.

But what does that mean to our jaded eyes, our eyes that have seen countless wrestling bouts since then? It means that we owe a lot to Randy and Ricky. They set the template for the fast-paced, near-falls stuffed bouts that we take for granted today. They wrestle for under fifteen minutes, but jam-pack those minutes full of action. I don’t believe there’s a rest hold in sight. They run the ropes like they’re running for their lives. There’s a variety of wrestling moves that you wouldn’t normally see in the 80s WWE. It wouldn’t look out of place on a modern day Raw or Smackdown, thinking about it.

I’d love to have watched this bout when it originally happened

However, it has aged less well then, for example, Steamboat’s famous trilogy of matches with Ric Flair. Those could go toe to toe with most matches of the modern era and stand tall. There’s a heavy psychology and story in those matches that I think’s lacking in Steamboat vs Savage. Take, for example, the feud behind the match. Savage had injured Steamboat’s throat, causing Ricky to miss months of action. This was Steamboat’s revenge. So why did Steamboat attempt to lock up with Randy? Why not batter Randy from the opening bell? Not only that, but Savage targets Ricky’s injured neck twice during the whole boat. Why didn’t Randy focus on the injured throat? Both wrestlers are focused on delivering a high-octane bout than selling, it appears to me. And George ‘The Animal’ Steele is an unnecessary distraction.

There’s a lot of controversy about Randy’s insistence on scripting his bouts, especially this one. I read an interview with Ricky where he mentioned look through over a hundred pages of notes Randy had written about the bout. Randy wanted Ricky to memorise each page. Now, scripting a bout isn’t a bad thing. I understand it’s the accepted norm in modern day WWE. But my view of the bout has been coloured slightly by Randy’s scripting. There are points where it looks like Ricky goes off-script, and Randy quickly tries to get him back on course.

But I’m purposefully finding problems with this bout as I feel I don’t appreciate it like I should. I’ve watched it four or five times now, and while I enjoy it and appreciate it for what it achieved back in the 80s, I can’t accept it as a stone cold classic. It’s good, possibly very good, but it’s remembered more for the standard of WWE wrestling it set, rather than the standard of wrestling it itself achieved. Any budding wrestler should watch this bout. It’s inspired a fair few wrestlers to get into the business (notably Chris Jericho). It created the notion of a mid-card bout stealing the show at WrestleMania. Yes, it should be on the 100 Best Matches…List. But not in the Top 10.

VERDICT: 7/10. Steamboat and Savage put on a wrestling clinic, but one that hasn’t aged well. It set the standard high for 1980s WWE wrestling, but by today’s standards it’s merely ‘good.’

Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!

Click here for my review of #4 Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair (NWA World Title, 2/3 Falls, NWA Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin’ Cajun)

Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die

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