Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat returned to the ring for one more match, and it was a blast of fun.
Steamboat teamed with FTR against Jay Lethal, Brock Anderson, and a mystery partner as the main event attraction of Big Time Wrestling’s Return of the Dragon from Dorton Arena in Raleigh, NC. on Sunday night (Nov. 27). Steamboat kept it simple to play the hits and pop the crowd at a fever pitch.
Four Horsemen music blared as Arn Anderson accompanied his son Brock Anderson to the ring. Arn did a little bit of a warm-up on the ropes as excitement increased from the crowd. Jay Lethal entered in his Black Machismo persona out of respect for “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s rivalry with Steamboat. Lethal wanted to right the wrong of Steamboat winning the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Savage at WrestleMania III. Lethal wore gear in the same design as Savage for that epic match.
Arn grabbed the mic to introduce the mystery partner. He pulled up his shirt to tease himself as the one. When fans cheered, Arn shot that idea down by saying, “Let’s not be ridiculous.” He searched far and wide. His team is not there to be tackling dummies for Steamboat and FTR. Arn recruited the top free-agent in the world. He is bringing in a man who has held the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship for over 1,000 days. Introducing Nick Aldis.
FTR was next on the scene. Now, it was time for the return of the dragon. Ricky Steamboat entered wearing a red robe and white headband. He wrestled in a white shirt and white pants with a dragon design and red boots. This was his return to the ring after a 12-year absence. Steamboat posed in the corner to soak in the cheers.
Ding, ding, ding. The match started with Lethal versus Dax Harwood. Aldis and Cash Wheeler also got in on the action. They worked a grounded pace. Lethal dumped Wheeler out of the ring. As Lethal distracted the referee, Aldis and Brock took cheap shots on the floor. Wheeler escaped into the ring for the hot tag to Steamboat. All six men stood in the ring for a staredown. The crowd was chanting for Steamboat.
The ring was cleared by the referee, and we had Steamboat against Lethal. Lethal bailed to stall on the outside. Tension was increasing to witness Steamboat in action. Lockup, stalemate, release. Lockup again, and Lethal took Steamboat down on a side headlock. Lethal worked to grind Steamboat on the mat. Steamboat rose to his feet and sent Lethal into the ropes. Steamboat scored a hiplock takeover then his signature arm drag. The crowd went nuts.
Steamboat tagged out to Wheeler. The scoundrels took control with tag team tactics to isolate Wheeler. Eventually, Wheeler made a diving tag to Steamboat. The Dragon ran wild with knife edge chops. He even chopped Arn on the coconut.
Steamboat headed up to the turnbuckles, but Aldis landed some blows to pick him up for a slam. Steamboat countered for a cradle, much like he did in the classic contest against Savage. The crowd responded with chants of, “This is awesome.”
Lethal regained control for his squad by executing a pair of flying double axe handles on Steamboat. The legend was in deep trouble. Lethal ducked a chop to apply a sleeper hold. Drama intensified as Steamboat was visibly fading. Steamboat dropped down to the mat with Lethal still holding the choke. The referee checked Steamboat’s status of consciousness.
The referee raised Steamboat’s arm once, and it fell down to the mat. The referee raised Steamboat’s arm twice, and it fell down to the mat. The referee raised Steamboat’s arm a third time, and it shockingly fell down to the mat again. Steamboat was out. The referee was reluctant to call for the bell to ruin this legendary return. Just as the ref was about to give the signal, Steamboat showed signs of life. The crowd got loud to give Steamboat power through their cheers.
Steamboat dug deep for the rise of the dragon. Lethal shoved Steamboat back down then blasted FTR off the apron. Lethal turned around into a back body drop. Steamboat went for the tag, but nobody was there on the apron. Lethal tried to regain control once more, however, Steamboat went under Lethal’s legs for the hot tag to Harwood.
The top guys brought quality action against their opponents. That set up the climax for a triple figure-four leglock in the center of the ring. The heroes earned a triple tap-out for victory.
Afterward, FTR cut promos putting over Steamboat as a legend. Steamboat put over the fans. He has wrestled around the world, and Raleigh holds a special place in his heart. In 1979, he was rising up the ranks and challenged for the world title for the first time. That match in Raleigh went to a 60-minute time-limit draw. Steamboat was grateful for the support over the years.
Return of the Dragon was an enjoyable show in a nostalgic sense. The main event ran about 15 minutes of ring time, and it was a ton of fun. FTR, Lethal, Aldis, and Anderson did the baking, and Steamboat iced the cake. The 69-year-old legend kept it simple to work his magic. Steamboat showed that he can still pop the crowd with the best of them.
Get full results for Return of the Dragon here. The show is available for viewing through Fite TV as a standalone event or a bundle package with events headlined by FTR with Bret Hart and FTR versus Rock ‘N’ Roll Express.
Share your reaction to Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat’s return to the ring.