Before we get going, let me welcome France to the international fold. I don't speak any French, but my buddy Nelson does, and my brother probably remembers a bit, too. But, here's a picture of me in my Marseille Virtolles jersey that my mom got me while she was in France. That also happens to be what I was wearing when I renewed my drivers license, for whatever it's worth.
Today, I'm pulling a page of Bill Simmons' book and going to do a retro-video diary of sorts. Instead of doing a recent game, though, I'm going to do what was named the number one WWF* match of all time by Ask Men. That would be "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat in Wrestlemania III.
*It was still the WWF at this time, and that's how I grew up with it, so that's how it's staying here.Capiche?
First, a little background. I wouldn't exactly call myself a wrestling fan. I watched when I was really little, and then went through a little flirtation with it in middle school. But, generally, I haven't kept up with it. I'll watch a bit if I see it's on when I'm flipping through channels. I do regularly read the Masked Man over at Grantland, though, so I usually have a decent idea of what's going on in the world of wrestling. Or WWE,* anyway. My wife followed wrestling growing up even more closely than I did, though, and her dad still buys all the pay-per-views. So, yeah, I think I'm at least a little knowledgeable about it. At least as knowledgeable as a casual fan.
*Yeah, it's WWE here. Grantland, being an internet publication, wasn't really around when it was the WWF, so he writes about the WWE. Look, it's not my fault they didn't keep a consistent name, okay?
I won't get into any background in this match beyond what is in the videos. If you want to follow along, I watched on Daily Motion. Part one is here. Times will be the time on the video.
0:00 - It's still a little bittersweet to see (and hear) vintage Randy Savage now that he's gone. And, we get a little background here. Ricky is making a big comeback, and taking a shot at the Macho Man's belt. That's motivation enough, right? No big convoluted storyline.
1:15 - Does anybody do valets any more? Is there an modern day Elizabeth or Sensational Sherri? I can't think of any off the top of my head.
2:06 - Ricky Steamboat. Kind of an unlikely name for being such a martial artist, isn't it? Ah well. He's still a deserving legend in his own right. But, that does bring up a good point. I don't know about anybody else, but I really miss when wrestlers really had definite characters and not some reality-blending "character." Wrestling seems to be getting back to that a little bit these days, but it's still not back to this era just yet.
4:30 - I forgot about the whole story line between Elizabeth and George "The Animal" Steele. I'm sure that's going to play a role later.
4:50 - I know the announcers here are Jessie Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon, but that also made me think about the days when everybody thought Vince McMahon was just the announcer. Only in the wonderful world of wrestling.
6:24 - I love how the announcers in these old-school wrestling matches go on and on about how badly these moves can injure these warriors. And usually about how quickly and miraculously they bounce back.
8:48 - Just an observation. I know Randy Savage was always known as such a high-flyer growing up, but wrestling from this era just doesn't have the same kind of big spots that modern wrestling does. Not saying it's better or worse, but it's interesting to see the difference in what makes a match great now versus what made it great then.
10:18 - A staple athletic move pulled by Ricky Steamboat there, pulling himself back up and flipping over the ropes back in the ring. Now, I'm sure in today's wrestling, that would lead to a big momentum shift every time. And maybe it typically did in those days, too, but the near-non-reaction by the crowd doesn't tip us off to seeing a big shift. And, to the point, Savage simply turns around the finishes the job of getting Steamboat out of the ring.
That brings us to the end of part one. Just like cassette tapes, it's time to flip over to side two to follow along in the story. God, does that ever bring back memories of the Voltron story books I used to have that came with a tape.
0:23 - "A Pearl Harbor job!" I cringed and grinned at the same time.
1:06 - Steamboat is just being thrown around like a rag doll. I think he's spent more time out of the ring than in it. And there goes Savage to the top of the ropes for a flying axehandle. I remember seeing Savage do that in other matches and just think that was the second coolest thing, next to the flying elbow. Growing up, climbing up on anything made you think you should be doing flying elbows off of it, and that if you got hit by anybody jumping from any height, it might as well be a deathblow. It's funny now how dated it looks.
1:48 - Another double axehandle from the post. If this weren't Wrestlemania, that would have finished the match. But, this is a big deal, Steamboat kicks out a couple times.
2:28 - True suplexes look impressive, no matter the era.
3:20 - Here's the big momentum shift. Steamboat finds his feet after being thrown over Savage's shoulder. And after a minor setback, gives Savage a taste of what he's gone through all match.
4:03 - Steamboat to the top! We're talking now! I'm not sure exactly what you call the move he pulled from there, it wasn't quite as impressive looking. But, it leads to what looks like the end of the match. But no! Savage has a foot on the ropes! It's getting awfully tense now.
5:00 - Sunset flip! Maybe! No? Yes! He got it! But Savage still kicks out!
5:25 - Great combo here from Steamboat. Package, to scoop slam, to slingshot. And Savage still finds a way to get out of the pin. And Savage counters with his own pin, but Steamboat kicks out, too, where he quickly finds himself going off the post like he just put Savage. We're definitely into the back and forth of the match.
6:43 - A version of the Easily Distracted Referee, we get the super-fragile referee. In a bit of a subversion, though, Savage (the heel in this match) doesn't take advantage by pulling out the gouges and chokes and other illegal moves. He instead goes to probably the greatest move of my youth, the aforementioned flying elbow. But, there's nobody to count!
7:30 - Well, maybe not as big of a subversion as I thought. But, we do get some story continuity, and a bit more background that I'm sure I would have been aware of if I were watching this at the time. Steamboat is making his comeback because Savage injured him with the timekeeper's bell, and he's got a mind to do it again. But George Steele to the rescue! Not quite how I thought that was going to play out.
7:49 - George Steele is still playing hero, through a kick from Savage, but notice that the ref is getting back to his feet in the background.
8:06 - Savage is picking up Steamboat for another slam, and now that ref is up, that might spell the end. But no! Steamboat rolls it into a small package! 1! 2! 3! It's over! Steamboat regains his title! The crowd goes wild!
8:30 - We get some concerned Elizabeth shots. She didn't play nearly the role she usually did. A bit disappointing.
8:53 - Steamboat is champion, but he's battered. He has to be carried to the getaway carriage by George Steele.
So, there it is. A very good match that still generally stands up today. I don't know about number one of all time, but I have no problem with it being ranked awfully high. It had quite a bit of drama, plenty of twists, some big spots, especially for the time. And it wasn't even the headliner of Wrestlemania III.