Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WrestleMania III

“Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (w/ George “The Animal” Steele) for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

So we have finally arrived at what is arguably one of the greatest shows in not just the history of the WWF, but in perhaps the history of wrestling itself which is saying a lot given how many great shows there have been. If anything, it is certainly one of the most important shows in the WWF’s history as it was certainly the apex of the Rock and Wrestling Era and was the culmination of what began way back when Vince first took his company national. Obviously, the show was built around possibly the biggest main event in the history of wrestling with Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant finally facing off and that certainly was a memorable match. However when you ask many fans what match they remember most from this show, it is the epic match between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat for the IC Title which many consider the first 5-star match in WWF PPV history. It would be a match that would inspire a lot of young men to become wrestlers and many would try to emulate that match themselves, and most of them would also dream about becoming IC Champion because of this match. You could tell that both Savage and Steamboat knew that there was going to be a huge crowd on hand with over 93.000 fans jamming the Pontiac Silverdome, and they made it their goal to go out and steal the show.

The feud between these two men began in essence when they faced off in the quarterfinals of the Wrestling Classic back in 1985 with Savage stealing the win over Steamboat, and then they would mainly stay apart as Savage became IC Champion and feuded with George Steele while Steamboat had a memorable feud with Jake Roberts. On the 11/22 Superstars, the two men faced off for the IC Title with Steamboat winning by DQ after Savage came off the top with an axehandle that drove Steamboat’s throat into the guardrail. After the match, Savage would grab the ring bell as he went up top again and drove the bell into Steamboat’s throat, forcing Steamboat to be taken out of the arena on a stretcher. The two would have their first house show match on 11/8 in Philadelphia which Steamboat won by DQ, and they would work the house shows while on TV Steamboat was shown recuperating from his throat injury. Steamboat would make his return to TV on the 1/3 Saturday Night’s Main Event during Savage’s title match with Steele, and the two would continue their feud on the house shows which usually ended in countouts, DQs, or time limit draws. On TV, the two men would continue to snipe at each other until it was announced that they would face at WM III for the IC Title, and on the 3/14 Saturday Night’s Main Event Savage would retain the title and Elizabeth from Steele while Steamboat defeated the Iron Sheik. It was then announced that Steele would be in Steamboat’s corner for the match and they continued to cut promos on each other, and they would face each other in 6-man tags on the house shows in the final push to WM. This was an interesting feud in that with all of the focus on TV being on Hogan/Andre, this feud has also been very well built and fans were dying to see Steamboat get his revenge and take the title from Savage.

Both men give great promos before the match as Steamboat puts over the importance of this match while saying he will scorch Savage’s back, and Savage puts him over as the lord and master of the ring as he just radiated confidence. I thought the look of the arena was pretty cool at this point as it was starting to get dark though there was still some light shining through which made the match feel more special, and Savage looks like a mega star as he comes down in the awesome ring cart with Elizabeth to major heat though he does get some pops as he was now champion for over 1 year and seemingly unstoppable. Steamboat also looks like a big star when he comes out to a huge pop with Steele, and the two men have an awesome staredown as Gorilla and Jesse are putting this over strong with the importance of this match. The two men lock up to start with Savage shoving Steamboat back and they lock up again with Savage going behind Steamboat, but Steamboat escapes by taking Savage to the mat and Savage rolls outside to pull Elizabeth away from Steele. Savage returns to the ring and they lock up with Savage getting a knee in only for Steamboat to duck a shot and hit an armdrag, and he slides under Savage and hits another armdrag before hoisting Savage up in a choke and slamming him to the mat. Savage rolls outside to regroup and Steamboat chases him back into the ring as Savage nails him coming in with an axehandle, and he kicks at Steamboat and chokes him on the rope before snapping him to the mat for a two count. He drives the elbow into Steamboat’s head and tears at his face in the corner as the crowd chants “Steamboat”, and Savage misses a charge in the corner and Steamboat hoists him up by the arm and takes him to the mat as he works on the arm. He goes out to the apron and snaps Savage’s arm on the top rope before returning to the ring and he continues to work the arm, but Savage whips him off and hits a back elbow before whipping Steamboat into the corner as he sends Steamboat over the top to the floor. Steamboat tries to get on the apron only for Savage to kick him back to the floor and then he pulls Steamboat onto the apron and drives the elbow into the throat, and Savage stomps on Steamboat and sends him to the floor before pulling him onto the apron and snapping him over the top into the ring. Savage drives the elbow into Steamboat’s head for a two count and drops a knee on him for a two count, but Steamboat blocks a ram into the buckle and he rams Savage into the buckle before pounding on him in the corner. He causes Savage to get tied up in the ropes and he pounds on Savage until Savage catches him with a kick, and Steamboat reverses a whip only for Savage to reverse the whip and Steamboat hits a high crossbody for a two count. Steamboat hits another armdrag and goes back to the arm of Savage before knocking him down for a two count, and he knocks Savage down again for a two count and Savage avoids Steamboat before hitting a high knee to the back.

Savage throws Steamboat over the top rope only for Steamboat to skin the cat back into the ring though Savage hits a clothesline that sends Steamboat over the top to the floor, and Steele tries to assist Steamboat as Savage goes outside and knees Steamboat in the back which sends him over the timekeeper’s table and guardrail into the front row. Steele helps Steamboat by carrying him back to the apron as Savage pulls Steamboat back into the ring, and then he throws Steamboat over the top to the floor before going up top and hitting an axehandle on Steamboat. Savage throws Steamboat back into the ring before going up top again and hitting another axehandle on Steamboat, and Savage hits a running elbow on Steamboat for a two count and then he hotshots Steamboat on the top rope for a two count. Savage hits an atomic drop on Steamboat for a two count and then he hits a suplex on Steamboat for a two count, but Steamboat blocks a shot and pounds on Savage until Savage rakes the eyes and hits a gutwrench suplex for a two count. Steamboat tries to battle back and escapes an atomic drop attempt before firing up on Savage, but Savage catches him ducking with a kick only for Steamboat to catch him charging with a backdrop over the top to the floor. Steamboat goes outside and rams Savage into the apron before throwing him into the ring, and he goes up top and hits a chop on Savage for a two count as Savage gets his foot on the rope. Steamboat knocks Savage down with a chop for a two count and then he hits a trio of chops to the face as Savage rolls out to the apron. Steamboat knocks Savage to the floor and chases him back into the ring before getting a shoulder in, and he hits a slingshot sunset flip for a two count before rolling him up for a two count. He trips Savage up and hooks another rollup for a two count before hooking a small package for a two count, and Steamboat hits a slam on Savage and slingshots him into the post before hooking a sunset flip for a two count. Savage almost decks the ref with a shot and Steamboat rolls him up for a two count with Savage using the tights to hook his own rollup for a two count, and Steamboat pounds on Savage until Savage sends him shoulder first into the post. Both men attempt to reverse the whip until Savage sends Steamboat into the ref which knocks him down and Savage hits the hooking clothesline on Steamboat, and then Savage goes up top and hits the flying elbow on Steamboat though the ref is still out. Savage tries to revive the ref before going outside and grabbing the bell from the timekeeper, and he tries to go up top only for Steele to take the bell from him though Savage kicks him down. Savage grabs the bell and goes up top only for Steele to shove him to the mat as the ref starts to come to, and Savage seemingly regroups first and attempts a slam only for Steamboat to hook a small package which gets the three and we have a new champion. After the match, Steele carries Steamboat out of the ring into the cart and Steamboat holds the title up in victory as Savage is left stewing, and then he and Elizabeth head to the back as Savage is dejected for having lost the title.

What more needs to be said about the match that hasn’t been said by this point, it was considered one of the greatest matches then in 1987 and even almost 31 years later it is still one of, if not the greatest match in WWF history. As mentioned, these two men knew there was going to be a huge crowd and made it a point to steal the show and they did just that as the crowd is on the edge of their seats for the whole match and into each near fall. For a match to only last 14 and a half minutes and to have exactly 23 near falls is unprecedented, and each one you thought it would be the one to end the match which is a testament to how good both men were at this point. It was pretty obvious how good Steamboat was at this point and he wrestled the best match of his career to this point, but the real star of the match is Savage as he put on a wrestling clinic that many hadn’t seen to this point aside from those at the house shows and he became a made man with this match despite losing. I thought it was a fitting end for his reign as he had dominated that title since February of 1986 and Steamboat was the perfect guy to end it as he had been built up strong and looked to have a long run himself. I know a lot of people have an issue with Steele getting involved in the match, but it made sense as it paid off that feud and you could argue that it almost didn’t work as Savage seemed to recover first though Steamboat did catch him at the right time. The crowd as mentioned was red hot throughout the match and popped big time for Steamboat when he won, but I know that Savage earned a great amount of respect from the crowd for his performance which would play into the direction he goes later in the year. Steamboat gets the win over Savage and is the new IC Champion, and both men move on as they leave their mark by having one of, if not the greatest matches in not just WM and WWF history, but in the history of professional wrestling.

Final Grade: *****

Author: Steve Riddle

I have been a wrestling fan since 1993 and that is probably my biggest love, with movies being a close second due in part to being employed at a movie theater for over 9 years.