Ricky Steamboat Explains Why Fans Started Cheering Heels

At the 2009 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, Ric Flair described Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat as "the purest good guy that ever walked the aisle." In a career that spanned 20 years, Steamboat was a top babyface who never turned heel even when fans' perception of the industry changed. Speaking with Bill Apter of Sportskeeda Wrestling, Steamboat said that once fans found out pro wrestling was entertainment, the days of fans strictly cheering the good guys and booing the bad guys was over. 


"The fans started making adjustments, rooting for the heels solely because 'I know he plays the role of a bad guy, but I like the way he entertains me,'" he said.

The personification of a babyface, Steamboat followed the rules in the ring, shook hands with the fans, and was never too busy to sign autographs. However, the babyface persona that made Steamboat one of the industry's biggest stars started to grow stale for a segment of fans, especially during his 1989 program with Flair over the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship. A proud family man, Steamboat found himself being booed while Flair, the consummate heel, was receiving loud cheers for his extravagant lifestyle. 

This was evident during their face-off at "Clash of the Champions V" in Cleveland. Dressed in a $10,000 mink coat, a $1,500 custom silk suit, and accompanied to the ring by five women, Flair told Steamboat "this is what being the world champion is all about." When Steamboat replied that he despised Flair for "representing all the evil materialistic things in the world today rather than the family unit," the boos were noticeable, as were the cheers when Flair responded, "Why don't you go home and help the Mrs. with the dishes."


If you use any quotes from this article, please credit "Sportskeeda Wrestling with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.