Thursday, December 01, 2022

Ricky Steamboat Returns to Dorton Arena

Shared by Chuck Coates

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Sunday, November 24, 2022. Three days after Thanksgiving. Ricky Steamboat prepares to step inside the squared circle one more time at the age of 69. 

That night he'd team with FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) to battle "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal,  former NWA champion of the modern era Nick Aldis, and Brock Anderson, son of the legendary Arn Anderson. Arn Anderson was a rival of Steamboat's during the Dangerous Alliance era of the early 1990s. 

The match takes place at one of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling's most fabled and historic venues, Dorton Arena. The building has hosted wrestling since it was built in the early 1950s on the site of the annual North Carolina State Fair.  It is famous for its distinctive design, in the shape of a big saddle, with huge windows wrapping the entire circumference of the venue. 

But hours before stepping back between the ropes, Steamboat spent time in the upper deck that afternoon, soaking in the memories of his many battles at the old building. He fought all the major stars of the era there including Harley Race, Roddy Piper, Ernie Ladd, Greg Valentine, Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle, Ivan Koloff, Jimmy Snuka and of course his greatest rival Ric Flair. 

What a wonderful photo of the legendary Steamboat, shared unattributed by Chuck Coates on Facebook. Of all the photos from that night, this was our favorite. 

The "Big Time Wrestling" promotion billed it as Night of the Dragon. Steamboat was indeed dressed in his WWF/WCW dragon ring attire. But we prefer to remember Ricky as the Hawaiian Punch, the nickname he had here in the 1970s and early 1980s.  At 69, he appeared to be as smooth as ever, even deliverying his trademark floating arm-drag, defying gravity all these years later. 

The Hawaiian Punch woke up the echoes again at Dorton Arena.