As previously noted, WWE Hall Of Famer Ricky Steamboat spoke with Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri for an exclusive interview. Topics discussed include Steamboat’s WWE departure in 1988, his return to WWE in 1991, and his feud with the legendary Chris Jericho in 2009.
During the interview, Steamboat cut through all of the so-called rumor and innuendo surrounding his WWE departure in 1988, shortly after winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 3. According to the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, he wanted time off to be home for the birth of his first child.
“I never knew about rumors [of] dropping [the Intercontinental Championship] to Butch Reed.” Steamboat recalled, “after Randy [Savage] and I had that match [at WrestleMania 3], we took the status of the Intercontinental belt, I feel, to another level. We took it up a notch. And I wanted to take time off because my first born, Richie, was going to be born, and I wanted to be there, and be there for my wife, and I just didn’t want to miss it. I had been gone and I had been on the road a number of years. I just wanted to be there for the moment. I understood that the championship being brought to that new level, it’s business to me being away and it laying dormant. I understood that. For me to drop it to Honky Tonk [Man], I think I took about four or five months, maybe longer, of time, business-wise when you have a championship belt that [has] just been elevated like that and then it’s not being seen, we’ve got to keep the belt moving, so yeah, I dropped it to Honky Tonk.”
With respect to Steamboat’s return to WWE, ‘The Dragon’ claimed that he does not know the puzzling motivation for “repackaging” him with the fire-breathing lizard costume when he was already an established commodity in the world of professional wrestling. Steamboat went on to say that he returned to WCW when he felt he could not break the glass ceiling to the main event level in WWE.
“I don’t know if there was politics involved, I really don’t.” Steamboat divulged, “if I remember, I think they dropped the name ‘Ricky Steamboat’ and they announced me as ‘The Dragon’. I had this new outfit, this dragon outfit, I’m blowing fire in the ring, so the company came to me and said, ‘we want to start from scratch and repackage you and do it that way.’ I started right off with this character-type guy and blowing fire from the get-go. I understood, to me, however I started out, I knew that I would get my work over or get the character over, and, unfortunately, I think it was  when nine or 10 months had gone by and I was still in that slot of below the main event card type guy. And I just felt, ‘I’m doing everything I can and it looks as though maybe in their eyes it’s not getting me there.’ For my business, for Ricky Steamboat, that’s when I moved on and went back to WCW. It was the repackaging profile that I remember correctly.”
On the subject of his 2009 comeback, Steamboat said he was training young talents in developmental at the time and was working 20-minute matches with the students as a method of teaching.
“Oh, my hair was grey and it was thin, thinning. And one thing about me, at that time I was coaching at the school and almost every single day, I was getting into the ring with some of the talent and working with them in the ring, and talking to them because I kept reflecting back to when I first started as a rookie, and how they were doing it with me, and it really helped me. So I would grab one of the new guys and have a 20-minute match with them and be talking to him in his ear the whole [match].” Steamboat added, “it’s hard to do that kind of coaching on the sideline instead of letting them feel what I’m trying to teach.”
While Steamboat admitted that he lost a step by the time of his WrestleMania 25 match with Jericho, he ended up having a decent run with WWE instead of just the one-off with his fellow WWE Hall Of Famers at WrestleMania.
“At that time I was older and I had that match with Jericho at WrestleMania 25 with [Jimmy] Snuka and [Roddy] Piper, a few moments in that match, I knew I had lost a step and it was just mother nature and age. I knew it. The fans, a lot of them said, ‘you haven’t lost a step,’ but I knew it. And then, three weeks later, unbeknownst to me, I got a single’s match with Jericho at Backlash. Vince was so impressed with the way I was carrying myself at WrestleMania 25, and I think Jericho too, that he went to Vince and said, ‘hey, I’d like to work a single’s match with Ricky,’ and without a hesitation, the next thing you know, I’m on Backlash. And then, we went overseas, on a tour and I was one of the road agents at the time, and working every night with Jericho, we came back to the States and in the States, every night, I was working with Jericho. And that one match at WrestleMania 25 ended up being 20 matches with Chris!” Steamboat noted, “that was never set before WrestleMania 25. It was only because of my showing that that developed and I was like a kid in a candy store, back again working just like one of the boys, like one of the boys every night and having some really good matches.”
Source: Wrestling Inc.