“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (Nov. 22, 1986-Mar. 29, 1987)
There’s not much to be said about this rivalry. While the IC title had been around before and held with high regard, this was the feud that brought the championship to new heights, culminating with what is still one of the best matches of all-time at WrestleMania III.
I think many people forget the actual genesis of this rivalry, however. After successfully overcoming Jake “The Snake” Roberts during about a six-month feud, Steamboat faced Savage for the Intercontinental Championship on the Nov. 22, 1986, edition of WWF Superstars. Steamboat lost by count-out.
It was a good match, though not on the level of their classic at Mania. What’s best remembered about this initial match is the brutal injury Savage inflicted (kayfabe) on Steamboat using the guardrail and ring bell to “crush” Steamboat’s larynx.
There are a few notable things to note here. Steamboat, one of the purest babyfaces ever, is a masterful seller. Savage’s eyes look so deranged that you believe he’s gone a bit psychopathic. Listen to just how loud and scared the fans were whenever Savage climbed to the top turnbuckle with ring bell in-hand. Lastly, the referee wasn’t a total dunce in 1986! He struck Savage’s left leg, causing him to lose balance and avoid any further damage to Steamboat. Good on you, ref!
Steamboat returned six weeks later on Saturday Night’s Main Event X on Feb. 21, 1987 as he prevented Savage from leaving with Miss Elizabeth during his title defense against George “The Animal” Steele. The match was also for the “managerial services” of Miss Elizabeth, which Savage won by count-out. This would lead to their classic at WrestleMania.
This rivalry set the stage for what would be high profile and intricate Intercontinental Championship feuds for the next two decades. Do yourself a favor whether you’ve seen their WrestleMania III match or not: fire up the Network and just enjoy the artistic masterpiece that is this feud.