Five years ago, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Macho Man Randy Savage, tragically died at the age of 58.
Despite his early death, The Macho Man provided many of the most memorable moments in wrestling history in the ’80s and ’90s, and the one that very well may top the list was his epic WrestleMania III bout with Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental Championship.
If you were to ask any wrestling fan worth their salt to name the best matches in wrestling history, Savage-Steamboat would be on the shortlist. In fact, WWE.com recently ranked it as the second-greatest WrestleMania match ever, behind only The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXV.
Even today, nearly 30 years later, the match still holds up, and that partially had to do with the amount of preparation that went into it ahead of time. Savage famously planned out every single move in the match in advance, driving Steamboat insane in the process, as The Dragon told Wrestling Observer Radio.
“It got to the point to where I would turn page after page after page in my notebook and then at about the fourth page, I’d say, ‘Okay this is step 112. I’m going to do this, this, and this. Tell me the rest of the match.’ And he would go through and tell me the rest of the match. And then he would get his book out and he would flip through same pages and he would go ‘Okay I’m on step number 86, and I’m going to be doing this, this, and this, tell me the rest of the match.’ “
The perfectionism by Savage may have been tedious, but it’s also what made him one of the greats, and the results speak for themselves. Watching it back now, even though some of the moves that they do wouldn’t be considered as unique nowadays as they were in 1987, the technical prowess of both men remains unrivaled.
In addition, the storyline going into the match also brought it to the next level. Savage had famously injured Steamboat when he dropped the ring bell into his larynx, taking the feud up a notch. Not only were the two fighting over the prestigious Intercontinental title at the biggest show of all-time, but The Dragon was also out for revenge. Adding another element to the match, you had the X-factors of Miss Elizabeth and George “The Animal” Steele at ringside, with Steele playing a crucial role in the contest by preventing Savage from once again using the ring bell to inflict damage.
The match went nearly 15 minutes, and when Steamboat was able to eventually counter a body slam into a small package to get the win, it elicited an enormous reaction from the 93,000-plus in the Pontiac Silverdome.
The match obviously is one of the best technical wrestling displays of all-time, but what’s more is that Savage-Steamboat managed to “steal the show” on the same card as arguably the biggest match in wrestling history.
Andre The Giant vs. Hulk Hogan has stood the test of time as one of the grandest spectacles in the history of the WWE, and it can be argued that it changed the landscape of wrestling forever. Nevertheless, it is Savage-Steamboat that ended up being many people’s favorite match from that show.
In a way, the IC title match from WrestleMania III began the concept of “stealing the show” at WrestleMania. While main eventing the show of shows is ultimately the goal for every wrestler, Savage and Steamboat proved that you can still have the best match even if you’re not last on the card.
Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart from WrestleMania 13, Hogan vs. The Rock from WrestleMania X8, Undertaker-Michaels, and the Women’s Triple Threat match from this past year are all examples of matches that didn’t go on last that arguably are more memorable than the main events that followed.
It’s tough to truly top Hogan-Andre just because of the historical significance that match had, but Savage-Steamboat managed to do it and put on a performance that has gone on to be remembered as one of the greatest of all-time.