The legendary Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat has revealed how he got his iconic ring name while wrestling in Florida.
Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat is best remembered for his epic rivalry with Ric Flair and the legendary clash he had with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, where he captured the WWE Intercontinental Championship. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots.
Steamboat began his career in the AWA under his real name of Rick Blood back in 1976. He wouldn’t stay in the AWA for long, however, and soon moved to Eddie Graham’s promotion, Championship Wrestling From Florida.
Speaking to Gerald Brisco and JBL on ‘Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw‘, Steamboat revealed that it was Graham who first mooted a name change, as he thought that ‘Blood’ was better suited to a heel wrestler.
“When I came down to Florida in 1976, I walked in the office and Eddie Graham says, ‘I remember you kid, you know when you’re in high school you wrestled Mike’. He says, ‘Rick Blood’s a great wrestling name’, but he said that’s for heels, Blood, that’s for heels.”
Graham went on to suggest that Blood take on the role of the nephew of his former tag team partner, Sammy Steamboat.
“He said, ‘I’d like to call you Ricky Steamboat, we had a guy here in the late 60s and through the early 70s that campaigned here. His name was Sammy Steamboat. He was from Hawaii and I’m going to start putting your name out there, but I’m not going to call you his son, I’m going to start listing you as a nephew. You’re the nephew of Sammy Steamboat.'”
Steamboat recalls that he immediately saw success with his new name, and the crowd jumped out of their seats when he was first announced.
“I’ll never forget the first night I went to the office, on Tuesday or Wednesday night we’re in West Palm Beach. I’m the first match, I’m in the ring, I’m in the corner, they’re doing old school announcing.
The announcer’s in the middle of the ring with the mic and he announces, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have a substitute this evening. Taking the place of Rick Blood, give it up for the nephew of the great Sammy Steamboat, Ricky Steamboat!’ and the crowd jumped out of the seats. I went, ‘Holy moly!’
“Prior to that, whenever they announced Rick Blood when I worked for Vern [Gagne] up in Minneapolis, I get beat in two or three minutes and I get a couple of claps out of the house. Then when I went to Florida, and just because of the name change, the fans, they must have loved Sammy dearly because they jumped out of their seats.”
The success was noticed by Graham, and he decided he wanted to pair Steamboat with his son, Mike Graham, to create the second-generation version of Steamboat and Graham.
“So about a month later, Eddie pulled me back in the office and he said, ‘son you’re getting a great response’, and I said, ‘well, it’s not because of my work, I’m just getting a rub off of Sammy Steamboat! The name, that’s the reason.'”
“Eddie goes, ‘Do you remember when Sam and I were wrestling tag teams?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, I do, you guys were the Florida Tag Team Champions.’ He said, ‘I’m going to team you and Mike and it’s going to be Steamboat and Graham all over again, second-generation.'”
The WWE Hall of Famer explained his disbelief at the position he found himself in only three months after his pro wrestling debut.
“The following week on TV, we were in the ring with the Hollywood Blonds with Sir Oliver Humperdink as their manager and we wrestled to a ten-minute draw. The next thing you know, we got Mike Graham and Steamboat wrestling against the Hollywood Blonds for the Florida Tag Team Championships, and all of a sudden I’m in the main events and I’ve been in the business three months!”
While he was unable to capture the Tag Team Championships with Mike Graham, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat went on to have an illustrious career which included 13 NWA Tag Team Championship reigns with partners such as Jay Youngblood and Dustin Rhodes. His career has been recognised by both the NWA and WWE, who inducted him into their Halls of Fame in 2012 and 2009 respectively.
If you use any of the above quotes, please credit ‘Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw’ with an H/T to Inside The Ropes for the transcription.