Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Jim Crockett's Grand Slam Champions Revisited - Part Four: Ricky Steamboat

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In PART FOUR of our "Grand Slam" feature, we take a look at "The Hawaiian Punch" Ricky Steamboat.

Steamboat was the fourth and final wrestler to hold all five of Jim Crockett Promotions' titles during the Mid-Atlantic years, something we here at the Gateway call Crockett's Grand Slam Championship. (For a more complete explanation of the Grand Slam, see PART ONE on Paul Jones.)

The five Crockett titles were:
  • NWA World Tag Team Championship
  • United States Heavyweight Championship
  • Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship
  • Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship
  • Mid-Atlantic/NWA/World Television Championship

There were only four men that held all five titles though their complete tenure in our area. Those men are:
  1. Paul Jones
  2. Ric Flair
  3. Greg Valentine
  4. Ricky Steamboat

Here is a summary of Ricky Steamboat's amazing championship pedigree in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling:


When Ricky Steamboat first entered the Mid-Atlantic area in 1977, he was immediately recognized as one of the up-and-coming "young lions" of professional wrestling. But for a few months he worked mid-card, getting himself established with the Mid-Atlantic fan base. A slow. several-week build found TV champion Ric Flair making fun of Steamboat and interrupting his interviews until finally Steamboat had enough. He challenged Flair for the TV title on episode of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" taped June 15, 1977 at WRAL studios in Raleigh. Flair didn't really take him seriously....until Steamboat came crashing down on him from the top turnbuckle with a devastating double chop and pinned him for the title. It was Steamboat's big break in the business and set off what would become one of wrestling's most bitter rivalries.

After Steamboat's big win over Flair for the TV title, Paul Jones began to mentor the young superstar, taking him under his wing, and together they defeated Ric Flair and Greg Valentine for the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team championship on August 22, 1977 in Charlotte, NC. They lost them two months later to Flair and Big John Studd. But better days were ahead for Steamboat on the tag team front. 

Flair made his own comeback of sorts following the TV title loss to Steamboat, defeating Bobo Brazil for the U.S. title. But as soon as he won that championship, fans demanded that Steamboat get a shot at Flair since he had just recently beat him for the TV title. Steamboat captured the famous red-leather United States title belt from Flair on October 21, 1977 in Greensboro, turning his first year in the Mid-Atlantic area into one ladden with championship gold. This title win put Steamboat on the map nationally, and his picture on the cover of wrestling magazines lining the racks at the local news stands.

Steamer lost the title to Blackjack Mulligan in early 1978, but the Flair/Steamboat battle over that title would resume during that same year with the belt being traded back and forth between them. Steamboat would gain that title once more in 1984 when he defeated Dick Slater for the honors.

On April 23, 1978, Ricky Steamboat and Paul Jones defeated the Masked Superstar and Ken Patera in the finals of a one-night tournament in Greensboro to win the NWA World Tag Team championship. The titles had been stripped from Ric Flair and Greg Valentine for their failure to defend them. They would lose them to Greg Valentine and Baron Von Raschke on TV a few months later.

in 1979, Steamboat would find a new partner in Jay Youngblood and the team held the NWA World Tag Team titles on several occasions over the next several years, feuding with Paul Jones and Von Raschke, Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine, Stevens and Jimmy Snuka, Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle, and the memorable feud with Jack and Jerry Brisco. When the NWA tag titles were renewed by promoter Bill Watts for WCW in 1992, Steamboat had yet another run with partner Shane Douglas.

The final jewel in Steamboat's Grand Slam crown came in 1980 when he defeated the Iron Sheik for that title on November 1 in Richmond, VA. He lost the title to Ivan Koloff in 1981 but regained it from the Russian later that same year before losing it for good to Roddy Piper in November of 1981.

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Did you miss our stories on the first three Grand Slam Champions? Visit the links:
"No. 1" Paul Jones
"Nature Boy" Ric Flair 
Greg 'The Hammer" Valentine

Originally published October 31, 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.