LANDLUBBER JULY, 1998

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WHY RICKY "THE DRAGON" STEAMBOAT IS THE ULTIMATE WRESTLER'S WRESTLER

The idea of a wrestler's wrestler is an interesting one. First, it must be determined what qualities make up a wrestler's wrestler (or WW).

  • WRESTLING ABILITY. The wrestler must obviously have wrestling skill beyond "I punch you in the face, you fall down." The wrestler must have excellent knowledge of moves, combinations, agility and grace, and general physical condition.

  • FAN SUPPORT. A WW must have some fame in the fans' eyes, but cannot be one of the real favorites. Fans like wrestlers because they're nice guys, or because they have cheesy moves that work only when the opponent is pretty much dead anyway. In short, pro wrestling fans have no idea what good pro wrestling really is. Therefore, a WW must not garner fan support by dint of his actual wrestling, but rather for his personal appeal, if he is to be considered.

  • WRESTLER RESPECT. This is the most important criterion for being a WW--how he is seen in other wrestlers' eyes. If wrestlers exhibit any fear of a wrestler, speak any words of respect for a wrestler, or show in any way that they think a wrestler is more than a fat mound of pus, that wrestler is well on his way to being a WW.

Ricky Steamboat (also Rickie, sources differ in spelling) is the quintessential WW because he fits all three criteria better than any other.

Many wrestlers have acknowledged his wrestling ability. (Just because they were all good guys doesn't matter. Acknowledgment is acknowledgment.) While Steamboat was always a fan favorite, it was only due to his kindness and friendly demeanor, not because fans thought he could fight. Most hardcore wrestling fans thought Steamboat was some wussy Asian guy who couldn't do anything other than kick.

This couldn't be further from the truth. Steamboat did have great kicking ability (widely acknowledged as the best in modern pro wrestling history), but the fluidity of his moves, his understanding of how to capitalize on opponents' weaknesses, his combinations of moves, his ability to evade moves that would seriously weaken him, and yes, his destructo power move (usually a cheesy turnbuckle leg drop, sometimes a flying body press), were all at the top level of pro wrestlers. Perhaps the most important wrestling skill of Steamboat's was his ability to evade opponents when weakened, which showed up most often in his matches against much larger opponents who were much stronger and more able to injure him in one blow.

Steamboat knew more about professional wrestling and the sport of the game than any other wrestler ever to come down the pike. He should be admired not for his kindness, but for his true love of the sport.

--Seamus McGee

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