We're down to the final two matches in the Cageside Seats Greatest Matches Tournament and in today's post, we'll be looking at Finalist number one, "Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, WrestleMania 3."
It was no easy road to get here, as "Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, Badd Blood 1997" very nearly pulled off the upset in the Elite Eight round, losing by just one vote. But that shouldn't take away from the brilliance of two of the greatest performers in the history of pro wrestling.
It's hard to pin down exactly what made this match so special. Perhaps the easiest way to explain it is that when you looked at the finished product, starting from the beginning of their feud to the final pinfall that saw Steamboat win the Intercontinental title, you knew you had witnessed a masterpiece.
It started simple enough. A match between the two led to a spot where Savage kayfabe crushed Steamboat's larynx against a guardrail, one of those small metal contraptions the World Wrestling Federation used to use at live events. But "Macho Man" didn't stop with just a double axe handle from the top rope to the outside. He also grabbed the ring bell and continued the assault, effectively putting "The Dragon" out of commission.
This lead to a long rehabilitation process with plenty of vignettes airing showcasing Steamboat's long road to recovery.
It was simple and effective booking, all to build towards the biggest WrestleMania in history, WrestleMania 3 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan.
Knowing the two could create magic if they worked hard enough at it, Savage carefully choreographed the match and practiced it meticulously so there would be no mistakes once the bell rang and some 70,000 fans were witnessing their dance.
Psychology ruled the day. With so much bad blood built up between them, the match started fast and furious. Steamboat, a career babyface, even picked Savage up by his throat and choked him, typically a heel maneuver that would be treated as such were it not for the brilliantly crafted story leading up to the match.
We wanted Ricky to get his revenge on Randy. We wanted it badly.
Interestingly enough, this match didn't have a clean finish, not really. Savage was close to finishing him off but George "The Animal" Steele pushed him off the top rope, leading to the finishing sequence, a scoop slam reversed into a roll up that got the surprise three count.
Still, it stands out as quite possibly the greatest match of all time. Savage couldn't win the Greatest Wrestler Tournament but will his masterpiece with Steamboat win him the Greatest Matches Tournament?