Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngbood Tag Team: Where it All Began

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of the greatest tag teams in the history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was the tandem of Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. Five times NWA World Tag Team Champions from late 1979 until late 1983, Steamboat and Youngblood were the gold standard for fan favorite tag teams in that time period.

Ricky Steamboat entered the Mid-Atlantic area in February of 1977, and he soon became an established singles competitor and champion. On the tag team side of things, he formed a potent tag team with Paul Jones, capturing the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles with Paul later in 1977, and even had a brief run with Jones as the NWA World Tag Team Champions in the late spring of 1978.

Steamboat and Youngblood later became
NWA World Tag Team Champions
Youngblood entered the Mid-Atlantic territory in April of 1978 and his rise to stardom was much more stunted that Steamboat’s. During the early months of his Mid-Atlantic run, Jay shifted back and forth between the lower and mid card ranks, and Youngblood wasn’t positioned for a main event tag team run with Steamboat until it unexpectedly happened in the early autumn of 1979.

When Jim Crockett Promotions fans tuned into the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that aired in many markets on July 15, 1978, they were likely excited about a couple of things that were teased in the show’s opening by hosts Bob Caudle and David Crockett. First was a replay from a memorable segment that occurred several months prior, where Blackjack Mulligan publicly taunted Ric Flair by showing off several personal items of Ric’s that Mulligan discovered in a van the two had jointly shared while they were friends.

The second thing that seemed noteworthy on this July 15, 1978 Mid-Atlantic show was a main event caliber bout between Greg Valentine and “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods where Greg’s 1000 silver dollars were at stake in the ten-minute time limit match. The match would live up to expectations, as the two Mid-Atlantic stars went to an exciting ten-minute draw.

During the run down of the card’s scheduled contests, fans likely didn’t have much of a reaction when Caudle said, “Then, Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat will team together for more tag team action with Bill Howard and Frank Monte.” Or when Crockett continued, “That’s going to be a very good match because it’s a young team…an exciting combination.” The only question that this paring may have raised in the fans’ eyes was why was Steamboat teaming with this mid-carder, and not with his regular partner Paul Jones.

At the bout’s onset, Caudle exclaimed, “Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, what a fine young team they make. Steamboat, [is] one half of the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions along with his tag team partner Paul Jones who holds those belts. And it’s Youngblood who gets us started against big Bill Howard.” Almost immediately, Steamboat and Youngblood began isolating a single body part of their two opponents and their speed was clearly confounding their slower opponents.

Crockett then observed, “They’re doing very well together, Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.” Jay then went on a run where he showcased some tremendous chops and an outstanding dropkick, and then he brought in Ricky for some fabulous chops of his own. Caudle said, “Steamboat and Youngblood are working very well together, like they’ve been in a few matches themselves together. Another tag, another quick change!”

As the short bout neared its conclusion, all four grapplers were in the ring at the same time when the good guys isolated Franke Monte and worked him over while Bill Howard was stuck in the corner, and pinned Monte in the process. Crockett exclaimed, “How about that! Good win by Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood!”

Caudle elaborated on the finish, “You could have counted a dozen! Well, the referee was slow getting there because he was busy and here in slow motion you see them come right over him and there goes Steamboat, got him with the elbow, here’s the chop and right here he had him pinned for the count of three and the referee could have counted a dozen with our winners Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.”

In the next interview segment on the program, Caudle talked with Ricky and Jay gushing, “And here’s a couple of young fellows that just looked fantastic up there, and you two guys worked great together Ricky, Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. You two worked together like you’ve been working together for years…just beautiful.” Steamboat replied, “This Indian right here uses chops similar to mine, and as you can see, even though this is the very first time we’ve been tagged up…we went against like Bill Howard and the guys of these likes that have been wrestling on and off this television for a long, long time, and we pulled out a victory!”

Caudle followed up, observing, “Oh man, it was more than pulled one out, I tell you, it was almost like you steamrolled right over them!” Steamboat answered, “Hey, I don’t know what it was, maybe it was a sixth sense or something as you could say, because every time he just gave me an eye or something, when I looked at him that was the time to tag out or get the other partner in there to work on the other guy.”

Bob then brought in Youngblood briefly, “Jay, I tell ya, you guys were fantastic!” Youngblood answered, “Thank you very much. First of all I’d like to say it’s a pleasure being back here in the Mid-Atlantic area…I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks. But I’ve been taking a tour of the Mid-Atlantic area [and] I’ve been watching Steamboat and I think we can get things going.”

While this first pairing of Steamboat and Youngblood in July of 1978 didn’t lead to anything at the time that would suggest these two would come to be one of the greatest tag teams in the promotion’s history, this TV match did provide a glimpse into the moves, style and teamwork that would become hallmarks of the tandem that would begin their magical carpet ride together in about another year. And what a ride Ricky and Jay had…and it all started with the humble beginnings of just another television match of two guys being thrown together on a hot July Saturday in 1978!