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Matt Talbot



Steamboat v. Savage Analysis

My column last time, entitled Unmitigated Nostalgia, raised quite the furor. Many people, it would seem, did not share my views. This was most pronounced when it came to past WrestleManias. Perhaps the most polarized people were on WMIII and the Steamboat Savage match. While people were on my side that it was not all it is cracked up to be, many more people sent me emails or posted on message boards their opposing viewpoint. One of the more common threads with these disagreements was the lack of real analysis in my last column. I more or less just panned over the match with a sweeping comment about its lack of quality in my opinion. I realize that people are not going to all of a sudden change their minds or anything like that, but perhaps if they see a more developed analysis of the match, they can understand where I am coming from. And really is not that what this world is about, comprehension and tolerance of other viewpoints. Except that all people who think Elian should go to Cuba are dumb, dumb, dumb, and they smell too. You are all dumb. But tolerate me. Me! Now, it might be more apparent who is the dumb one among us.


The angle is a good place to start. Cut down to its barest elements it is a revenge case. Savage hit Steamboat with a bell. Steamboat wanted revenge. He chased Savage across America until he finally got ahold of him at WMIII. It is a pretty basic angle and one that has been done a lot. X beats up Y's valet. Y wants revenge. X beats up Y's manager. Y wants revenge. X steals Y's move. Y wants revenge. X hits Y with a white hummer. Y wants revenge (Watch the hatemail flood in after comparing Savage Steamboat to the Hummer angle). It is your standard X beats up Y. Y wants revenge. Because in the wresting world, two wrongs DO make a right. The Savage/Steamboat was not the first to do such an angle and easily was not the last. I think that a lot of people loved it, because at the time the bell thing was really violent. People lament the fact that today it takes many chair shots to take someone down (although it only takes 1 from the Rock on VinnieMac). In 1987, those bells shot were like falling off a cage. A good example of this is Rick Scaia who remarks about how he was a "mark" and was taken aback by the absolute violence of it all. Nothing had been seen in the WWF at that time. Things like that had been occurring in other places. Although I do not know much about these things, I understand that NWA had been doing pretty hardcore matches during the 80s. Feel free to give information on that, because I know little about the 80s era NWA.

So, the WWF is starting to come up to the level of the world. Leaving its cartoonish Rock N' Wrestling Roots and that was startling to a lot of people. A lot of people who perhaps might have not seen NWA at that time. Once again, I have no contemporary experience of it as I did not watch wrestling until January 1998. As far as the NWA influence, I am merely speculating. The optimal word is "for its time." For its time and place too, I agree it was a great match. It was leagues ahead of the other matches on WMIII, most of which I ended FFing due to fear of brain damage. The angle was more realistic for the time than most of the others which were not as based in the rage factour of Steamboat. A decade and a half later, I do not think that it stands up to the test of time. That particular type of angle has been done again (IMO better). I think it was the stark violence of the angle, which set it above in WMIII and to this day. The angle, the match, the feud have all been topped since then in tasteful ways (No New Jack bumps here).

Let's look at a similar example in Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask for his time was awe-inspiring. He originated the junior style, I believe. There were some juniors before that, such as Atsushi Ohnita, but I think he really popularized that style (just as Babe Ruth popularized the power style of baseball). The junior style has grown immensely since then. People have been doing it better. People like TAKA Michinoku, Sasuke, and even Mitsuhiro Misawa as TM II. TM was the originator. Does that mean that I should rate him above the later wrestlers? No, it means that he should get credit for thinking in a different stream. Nowadays if I had a choice to watch a TM match and say Ohtani-Kanemoto, I would pick the latter. Do you see what I am saying? TM was the first, but not the best. Let's take another example. Candy Cummings created the curve ball. Would you place his curve ball over a curveballer these days? Although I hardly know anything at all about his actual curve ball, I would probably say no. Because it has been refined since then.

On the same wavelength, wrestling, be it the TM or the WMIII example, has been refined since then. Yeah, there has been A LOT of schlock that tried to life up to Savage/Steamboat (or what they perceived it to be), but failed. But there were angles that I feel built on this revenge/rage factour. Take the pre-WMXII angle where Owen Hart "beat" HBK. At the February PPV, Michaels wanted to get revenge on Hart. The only way to get Hart in the ring, however, was to put up his WM title shot. He was putting up his "boyhood dream" on the line to get a chance to get revenge. I also thought that match at the IYH was the match of the card and easily beat out the BHart-UT cage match. Hmmm, the similarities are striking.

Savage beats up Steamboat. OHart beats Michaels. Savage is coward heel and flees Steamboat until WMIII. OHart is coward heel and flees, but goes one step further. He will not meet HBK unless he gets something out of it. How selfish! Steamboat finally gets ahold and wins against him to regain his honour and the IC belt too. HBK gets ahold and beats him to regain his honour and save his boyhood dream also. HBK has more to fight for and more to lose. So right there we have a more refined storyline (IMO).

Hell, I haven't even talked about the match. Besides the angle being basic, the match itself was pretty basic. Now do not get me wrong, basic does not mean bad. AJ is basic. Very basic, especially your God and mine Kawada. Now for basic to work (IMO), it needs to work somewhere or be stiff. Kawada is the latter, for sure. The match itself was not too stiff and certainly not stiff enough for me to be believable. There was some good psychology relating to that. At one point, I remember Savage attacking the neck with some chops with seems really good to me. I mean there had to be something good for it to stay so long. As for working somewhere, we should look at the ending. George Steele (a third party, thus diluting the mano a manoness of the angle) hits Savage with a bell (good psychology) and Steamboat rolls him up with a small package. There might have been a little more, the memory goes first these days. How does a small package work into anything. That seems like a very docile move to win such a revenge-filled match with. I mean anything they were working too looks foolish when all they had to do was hit Savage with a bell and use the small package to win. Why not just do that at the start? I thought the whole point was to get revenge, for Steamboat to inflict some pain, but instead he just rolls him up when he has the advantage, thanks to an outside source. Besides the fact that I think a "great" match should probably be one on one and completely utterly clean (like Misawa Kobashi 10/98), was there really a cathartic time when Steamboat finally beat the stuffing out of him and then got the 1-2-3. Catharsis is really what is important in the big matches right. How cathartic is a small package? That of course, is just me.

I think that in the case of Steamboat v. Savage, it is just memories sustaining to this day. Memories of an angle that was revolutionairy for its time and place. Memories of a match that incorporated elements of psychology there had been heretofore unseen. Because of the human urge to criticize the present day conditions of the world and the long memory of the law errr humans, I think this match has been overrated for close to what 13 years now. I implore you, gentle reader, go out and rent/purchase a tape of this event. Watch it for yourself. See the match in its entirety with the backdrop of the other ten matches or so. Then make your educated decision. It is your prerogative to enjoy that match. I particularly do not, but that does not mean that it will not appeal to your liking. This column is just to show that there are people who do not enjoy fully Savage v. Steamboat as much as certain reputable Internet web sites make it out to seem.

Anyway if you have any comments, concerns, complaints, or questions, or just wanna chat about how the New New New Era is just the same as the Old and New New Era of Nitro, then please email me at

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Matt Talbot

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