Acrylic on 30″ x 40″ canvas
Ricky Steamboat is one of the most beloved professional wrestlers in the history of the sport. Richard Blood was born on February 28, 1953 in West Point, New York, and was a natural athlete early on competing for his high school wrestling team in New York and later Gulfport, Florida. He trained to be a professional wrestler with Verne Gagne and the Iron Sheik, and debuted with the American Wrestle Association in 1976 as Rick Blood. He soon went to Championship Wrestling from Florida, where promoter Eddie Graham changed his name to Ricky Steamboat, based on his resemblance to Hawaiian wrestler Sammy Steamboat. In 1977 he debuted with Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling promotion for the National Wrestling Alliance. He was signed by George Scott on the recommendation of Wahoo McDaniel, who became his on-screen mentor and later adversary. Steamboat quickly entered a career-spanning rivalry with Ric Flair, and became a mainstay of the tag division, largely with Jay Youngblood, holding multiple NWA World Tag Team Titles. Steamboat and Youngblood had notable wars against Paul Jones and Baron Von Raschke, Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle, and most famously Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco.
Steamboat moved to the World Wrestling Federation in 1985, where he became Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, a more martial arts-oriented persona playing off of his Japanese ancestry. Over the course of the next two years he had victories at the first two WrestleManias, had a brutal rivalry with Don Muraco, teamed with the Junkyard Dog, an incredibly violent feud with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, and the beginnings of a historic run against The Macho Man Randy Savage. In early 1987 the battles against Savage got red hot leading into the third WrestleMania, where the two had what is still considered one of, if not THE best match in the history of ‘Mania and saw The Dragon become the WWF Intercontinental Champion. Steamboat left the company early the next year.
At the beginning of 1989 Steamboat returned to NWA and World Championship Wrestling, immediately reigniting his feud with NWA World Champion Ric Flair. On Feburary 20, 1989 Ricky Steamboat defeated Flair for his only World Championship in Chicago, Illinois. The two had a series of five star matches over the title before ‘The Nature Boy’ regained it on May 7, 1989 in Nashville, Tennessee. Steamboat then entered into a program against Lex Luger over who was the number one contender. Steamboat left WCW by the end of the year. After working with New Japan in 1990 he had a brief return to the WWF in 1991 as simply ‘The Dragon’.
Steamboat returned to WCW in late 1991 as the surprise tag team partner of Dusty Rhodes, and the two defeated Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko to win the tag titles, which they soon lost. At the beginning of 1992 he began warring against Paul Heyman’s Dangerous Alliance, beginning with Rick Rude. Later that year he began battling ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin and then in 1993 Lord Steven Regal. In 1994 he had one last run against his career rival Ric Flair, which ended in a disqualification due to a run-in by Steve Austin. The last encounter between the two was in a tag match seeing Steamboat teamed with Sting and Flair with Austin (Holy crap, can you imagine!?!), before Steamboat began his last major rivalry, setting his sights on Austin. Steamboat was forced into retirement due to a back injury.
Over the next decade he made appearances for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and in Ring of Honor, before returning to the now-WWE as a road agent. He made occasional appearances as a legend and occasional refereeing duties before entering into a surprising in-ring return against Chris Jericho around WrestleMania in 2009. Steamboat was also inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that year.
About the piece: Having a subject whose ring-name is ‘The Dragon’ allowed me to do something a little more conceptual. I wanted to pull a bit on the fantasy genre with the color palette and how I utilized it. I envisioned Steamboat about to breathe fire, bringing it up for a burst, but that’s more conceptual and instead I had fun with making the colors play off of each other in a way that particularly framed Steamboat’s face.