WCW Beach Blast 1992
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Iron Man Challenge Match
Well, lemmie get this off my chest first: This is probably my favorite match ever. I like it for the same reasons that Chris (Protege) liked the May 21st Benoit/Austin match on Smackdown: Because it opened up the world of professional wrestling to me. Now, granted, I had watched wrestling for quite a while, since I was 10 or so, and even when I was reading around message boards and talking to people, writing articles, there was still something inside that hadn't been unlocked. That something was precisely what this match brought out.
People toss the words "Psychology" and "timing" and "ring presence" and "story" around a lot in the context of wrestling, but the simple fact is that American wrestling tends to supplant story development in the ring with story development outside of the ring. I'm not a wrestling historian, so I can't accurately pinpoint the exact date when some promoter thought up the idea of getting wrestlers' gimmicks and their lives confused... I have always preferred wrestling where it's pretty much understood that all people in the ring during a certain match are wrestlers, who wrestle for a living and enjoy what they do. Tapdancing pimps and balloon-blowing clowns have never so much appealed to me as much as the simple archtype that sports (or sports entertainment, if you prefer) embody:That there are athletes who do this for a living. Hell, I will follow them like a drone based solely on that fact alone.
This isn't to say, of course, that I don't care for storylines, but I greatly prefer storylines that are pertinent to wrestling, and am especially fond of the storylines that will eventually lead to good wrestling. For instance, I loved the hell out of the match between Triple H and Steve Austin last year at No Way Out, and part of it had to do with the storyline involved in the match (the way the match played out), but a big part of it, the anticipation, was built up with the hot feud they had going into it.
So, with some disclosure, I will admit that I don't know the storyline leading up to this match, and that my attempts to find what led up to it have been in vain (maybe if someone out there knows, they can email me at email@example.com and let me know). However, there was such a rich story told in the ring on this night that it hardly mattered at all. One of the things that makes this match great is that it carries with it its own story.
We start out with the intros, of course. Rick Rude is brought in first, and he removes the robe and his U.S. Heavyweight Championship belt, telling the people in the back to cut the music, "What I'd like to have right now, is for all you fat, out of shape, beef loving BOZO'S...keep the noise down while I take my robe off, and give you a good look at what a real sexy man is supposed to be like! Hit the music!" - I'll take this opportunity to note that Rude is in phenominal shape. Ross notes that this is a "Special Challenge Event" as Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat makes his way out to the ring with his son and wife in tow, to a great ovation. They wave to the fans in attendance as Rude stares at Steamboat from behind, as Steamboat helps his son (who can't be more than 6 or so) out of the ring, then turns to Rude, quite matter-of-factly, ready to get business started.
As the bell rings and the 30:00 minute clock pops up, Steamboat immediately starts in with forearms and chops to rude, then an Irish whip sends Rude into the ropes, and straight at Steamboat who tosses Rude up and hits a gutbuster, 8 seconds in, that will set the tone for this matchup. The Dragon takes his robe off, and his headband, then goes back to work on the standing Rude, running into the ropes, then shoulderblocking him in the corner. Steamboat hits forearms to the ribs, then whips Rude to the middle of the ring, forcing him to land face down, onto his ribs. Steamboat continues to kick Rude's ribs, chopping, stomping as need be. Steamboat whips Rude into the ropes, but Rude tries to counter with a hip toss, then Rude tries to counte, but Steamboat hits the ribs again!
Steamboat grabs rude into a side bearhug, putting all the pressure on his ribs, charging him into the corner to hit more shoulderblocks. Rude counters the third with a knee lift, sending Steamboat staggering to the middle of the ring. Rude tentatively forearms Steamboat, then whips him into the ropes, misses a clotheline. Steamboat puts Rude on his shoulders, DVD-style, and slams him forward, holding onto his arm and leg, and driving his knee into the side of Rude. Rude tries to inch his way to the ropes, but then goes back to the trusty eye rake, to break out of the submission. Rude, lying on the ground, kicks Steamboat into the ropes using both legs, and Steamboat flips over the prone Rude, grabs his legs and rolls him ... Ever... so ... slowly.. into the Boston Crab! Rude falls onto his chest, his damaged ribs, trying like hell to muster the strength to stay off of them, but remains unable! Steamboat pulls up the Crab to Walls of Jericho levels to keep Rude onto his ribs; Rude, in turn crawls on his elbows to the ropes, reaching, but not close enough! He continues to reach as we hit the 5 minute mark. Rude finally gets to the ropes (forcing Steamboat to break the hold), and, still on his belly, grabs the second and then third ropes to get himself up, but Steamboat comes from behind, grabs his legs and SLAMS him straight onto those ribs again! Dragon runs into the ropes and SPLASHES his back! Jumping knee drops to Rude's back and ribs. Rude cowers and Steamboat dares Rude to get to his feet.. Rude does and Steamboat kicks him directly in the ribs. Rude staggers to get up again, and Steamboat AGAIN forearms to his ribs. Steamboat goes for a quick suplex, but tosses him down FACE FIRST, then knee-drops Rude in the head and goes for the first pin attempt of the match at 7 minutes in, but gets a 2. Rude gets up, as does Steamboat, who chops Rude in the chest, then punches him in the head. Steamboat whips Rude to the other corner, and runs at him, but Rude gets his knees up, and catches Steamboat off guard! Steamboat staggers in the middle of the ring, but Rude is quickly there, with a schoolboy rollup... Grabbing the tights, the ref counts it.. 1, 2, 3! (First fall -> Rude, 7:42)
Let's break here for sec. In the above segment of the match, Steamboat pulled out just about every "mean" trick he could pull out, but he did so within the context of "babyface-ism". Example: Exploiting the ribs - I believe it's quite one thing to, during the course of a match, damage an opponent's ribs, and continually go after them, while it's another entirely to exploit an already existing injury. It's rare that, and especially in these times (Early 90's) a face would exploit the weakness of an opponent who showed that sort of vulnerability before the match started. I mention this, because by contrast, Rude is trying to damage Steamboat's face, and that will become more evident as the match progresses. Already, Rude hit an eye-rake to break a submission hold, and he kicked Steamboat in the face to stagger him. For his part, Steamboat is, I believe, playing up an injury eariler in the feud, a broken nose, which probably led up to this match. Therefore, seemingly every "to-the-face" move that Rude applies sees Steamboat selling like someone just ran him over with a car.
Rude doesn't let up, however, seeing light for the first time in the match since the 7th second, he takes advantage of a prone and surprised Dragon, punching him on the face while Steamboat lay on the ground. Rude brings Steamboat up, knee lifting him to the kneck/face, and.. ever ... so .. slowly hits the Rude Awakening (Note: The Rude Awakening is basically a neckbreaker-type maneuver.)! Rude goes for the pin, ref counts: 1... 2.... 3, (Second fall -> Rude, 8:39) bringing the score to 2-0 for those of you counting at home. Crowd boos their asses off, Rude struts and taunts, then pulls Steamboat up, hits a backbreaker, then goes... Up to the top rope? Ross informs us that it's an automatic DQ! Rude comes flying from the top rope... KNEE DROP TO STEAMBOAT'S FUCKING FACE FROM THE TOP ROPE! Holy shit, Bill Watts has us declare it a DQ (Third fall -> Steamboat, 9:40), point to Steamboat, score is 2-1.
Another break. I was arguing with Protege a while ago, he liked the top-rope rule, I didn't like it. He explained that it was used as a tool for heels to cheat by coming off the top rope when the ref wasn't looking. I don't know if he brought this point up, but the rule also legitimized top rope maneuvers by making them so rare as to be devastating, the way a table-bump used to be. Instead of simply trying to outwrestle Steamboat, which Rude surely knows he can't do, instead, Rude has decided to try and outsmart Steamboat, taking the point loss on the DQ, but for further gain. Remember, Steamboat's face is Rude's primary attack point, and Rude just nuked it.
Rude slowly pulls Steamboat up and easily gets a small-package rollup for the fourth fall (Fourth Fall -> Rude, 10:50). Rude 3, Steamboat 1. Steamboat tries to fight back, hammering away at the ribs, chopping, wailing away at Rude with as much energy as he can! Steamboat whips Rude into the ropes, ducks the head for the backdrop, but Rude sees it from a mile away, and SLAMS Steamboat into the mat head-first! Steamboat losts all semblance of momentum as Rude takes over again... Steamboat tries to mount some non-existant offense, but rude easily answers with a quick eyerake and snapmare, turning Steamboat around and locking in a chinlock on Steamboat.
Now that Rude's got the lead, he can waste time in holds like this one above, without fear that his lead is in jeopardy. This will come back to haunt him.
Steamboat nearly makes it to the ropes, but Rude jumps up and crashes down onto Steamboat's back! He goes for a grind-taunt (imagine Val Venis), but can't get it in because he's still hurt... Instead, he knee-drops Steamboat in his back, driving his knee into Steamboat's spine, then going back to the chinlock to waste yet more time! As the seconds tick away, the crowd begins to chant for Steamboat to make his return... Steamboat slowly rallies the energy he needs, making it to one knee, then to both knees, making it to one foot, then the other.. He's finally standing with Rude on his shouders - then he falls back, sending Rude and himself crashing down to the mat. Rude sells the fall like death, as Steamboat smells blood and runs into the ropes with a double knee-drop, but Rude counters, causing Steamboat to land directly onto Rude's knees! Rude grabs Steamboat into a front headlock, hits a quick knee lift, then a spinning neckbreaker. He goes for the pin, but only gets two.. He goes for the pin again, but gets two. He holds Steamboat's arms down, but STILL only gets two. Rude quickly knees Steamboat in the shoulder. Steamboat and Rude stagger to their feet, and Steamboat tries to rally again, chipping rude across the ring, but Rude counters with a knee to the stomach, a hammer to the back, then a snapmare, as we get halfway through the match. Rude locks on a headlock from behind, trying to waste yet more time, perhaps getting a fall in the process as Steamboat starts to leave us... The crowd stomps their feet to get STemaboat back to his feet.. Steamboat elbows, again, and again, runs into the ropes, but Rude gets a knee to the midsection, sending Steamboat to the mat. Steamboat staggers, Rude is right behind him. Rude slams Steamboat's head into the turnbuckle three times before he lets the weary Steamboat go. Steamboat staggers into the next corner, and Rude is again right behind him, and slams his head into the turnbuckle again, before getting ANOTHER eye-rake. Steamboat staggers again, Rude goes for a piledriver.. And gets it. Rude goes for the pin, but doesn't get it, only 2. Rude complains about the count. Rude, frustrated, grabs Steamboat to hit another piledriver, but Steamboat begins to revive... He starts climbing up Rude... And Reverses the piledriver into a Tombstone! Cover: 1...2...3! (Fifth fall -> Steamboat, 17:39)Both men are down, the ref (futilely) counts to 8... Steamboat to his feet first, coming after Rude, but Rude counters, from his back throwing Steamboat head first into the top turnbuckle! Steamboat is down! Rude rolls out to the apron, and tries to go back to the top rope.. But Steamboat finds him prone, hitting him in the chest, then hits a (legal) superplex! Both men are down again! Steamboat to his feet first.. He staggers around, finally finding Rude, falling on him, but only getting 2!
While Rude's strategy may have been working for him, when he began to become pressured by Steamboat, he found himself only able to rely on the same-old-tricks, for instance, trying to piledriver twice or trying to find gold from the top rope once more. As the match progresses, though Steamboat was orignally caught unawares (something about how a babyface seems to never know the heel actually WILL go after previously injured bodyparts), he finally begins to catch on. While Rude may be in the lead, it's Steamboat who smells blood, it's Steamboat who sees victory in sight, and it's Steamboat who is now confident, leaving Rude looking tired and weary with only 10 minutes to go.
Steamboat goes for a clothesline, but misses, Rude and Steamboat both have the same idea, clotheslining each other, both men down. Rude tries to crawl onto Steamboat with his back for the pinfall... The ref counts... 1.. 2... No! Steamboat begins bridging out of the pinfall attempt! He turns it into a backslide! 1....2....3! (Sixth fall -> Steamboat, 20:22) It's now tied 3 to 3! Steamboat wails on Rude, goes for an inside cradle, but only gets 2! he goes for a rollup on the ground, but only gets 2! He runs to the ropes and hits a cross body block for 2! Rude needs to slow Steamboat down and hits a jawbreaker (that's one way)! Steamboat is DOWN. Rude to his feet first, slamming Steamboat face first into the canvas. The Dragon is writhing in pain on the ground. Rude does it again! He goes for the pin.. 1...2 No! Rude picks Steamboat up and bodyslams him with AUTHORITAH! He goes for the pin, but only gets one, with a weak kickout. Steamboat makes it to his feet with Rude, and Steamboat lays in some VICIOUS chops to Rude, but Rude goes BACK to the eyes. STRONG lariat to Steamboat sends him CRASHING down. Rude poses with just his right arm (his left side being damaged) to a chorus of boos. Rude picks Steamboat up, and punches him into the collarbone. Rude chokes Steamboat on the ropes, and takes Steamboat to the middle of the ring. Steamboat tries to mount another offensive, but Rude forearms Steamboat HARD several times. Rude goes for the Rude awakening, but Steamboat grabs his hands, he separates them... Rude turns quickly and goes for a clothesline! Steamboat sees him coming, and ducks under and runs behind Rude, and HE locks on the Rude Awakening! WHAM! He gets the cover... 1....2... No! Rude gets his foot on the ropes. Steamboat knees Rude in the chest twice for good measure as we hit the 25 minute mark, with 5 minutes to go. Steamboat hits a suplex, goes for a pin, but only gets 2. Steamboat with a back suplex, but only gets 2 again! Steamboat with a very measured chop, and an Irish whip, but Rude counters with a desparation Sleeper! Rude in completely on Steamboat's back! Steamboat tries to ram Rude into the turnbuckle, but to no avail!
This is where Rude's time-wasting kills him, because there are only 4 minutes left in the match, and it's still tied 3-3. While Steamboat's reliance on Rude's ribs has gotten him 2 falls (plus the extra fall from the DQ), and Rude's reliance on working Steamboat's head/face, got HIM 2 falls (minus 1 if you count the one he gave up), it still comes down to this final test of endurance. Perhaps if Rude had not wasted so much time in the middle of the match when he controlled it, he might be able to beat the clock and make the final pinfall...
Steamboat still has Rude on his back, the sleeper still applied as we go into 3 minutes remaining. Steamboat tries to make it to the ropes, but his arms begin to drop. Rude finally is able to make it to his feet as Steamboat's knees weaken. Steamboat reaches out for the ropes, but Rude kicks his hand away every time. Steamboat begins leaning back with Rude, as both men fall to the ground near the corner, but not close enough to grab the ropes! The ref asks Steamboat if he wants to quit... Rude GRINDS the hold onto Steamboat, Steamboat's arms nearly falling as we count down to 1 minute remaining. The referee raises the arm, but doesn't get a 1!! Steamboat struggles to his feet, climbs up the ropes, while still in the hold and pushes off, landing on Rude in the middle of the ring! He hooks the leg! The ref counts... 1..2..3!! (Seventh fall -> Steamboat, 29:22)
Rude goes for a quick clothesline and pin! No! Another, no! A knee to the stomach, hooks the leg! No!! 10 seconds left! Rude bodyslams! The ref slides! 5 seconds left! 1....2.... NO! Steamboat kicks out as time runs out! Steamboat wins, 4-3! Rude can't believe it!
Thus concludes the match. I really can't say enough about it. It typified everything that is great about American wrestling- while the action wasn't necessarily extremely technical or extremely brawl-ish, it had its moments in both categories. THe primary attribute that makes this match click so well is that both men in the ring could tell a great story. Neither man carried the other, both worked equally hard. While it was typically formulaic (face dominates, then heel dominates, then face comes back), the transitioning between the two modes was done perfectly, so as neither man seemed to forget what kind of match they were in. This was full-on wrestling, and 100% action. My only complaint with the match is the sometimes spotty selling by both men - at times, Steamboat would sell head-realted offense like it was killing him, then not, and at times, Rude would go for a move that someone with seriously injured ribs probably wouldn't be able to pull off. However, the beautiful selling of the ribs during, say, Rude's signature taunt or when he only flexed with one arm instead of two, or the way he (mostly) only punched with the right hand instead of the left makes it pretty forgiveable. ****1/2.
By the way, right after the match, they immediately went into a bikini contest. Some things will never change. :)