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The Steiner Brothers
October 28, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com


Not long ago, I was listening to a classic rock station on the radio. To my horror, I heard "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses. Wait a minute... am I really that old? Even more to my horror, I remembered that Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987, right around the time when I was rocking the fourth grade. So, OK, it's been around a while. But, do you have to put it on classic rock stations already? Can't I pretend that I'm not ancient for another year or so? Well... at least before the child arrives, anyway? 
All right, I'll get to the point. Just as music unexpectedly marks the signposts on the way to our rocking chair occupancy, it can also sneak up on you when wrestlers and teams that you grew up with could be on the wrestling equivalent of a classic rock station. With that in mind, I pondered who I would remember in writing this week. Given that

being a great tag team these days only requires you to stick around for about five minutes (I actually had the thought in passing that La Resistance are one of the great teams of this era), I thought I'd take a look back this week at one of my favorite teams from the days when I voluntarily listened to Whitesnake - The Steiner Brothers.

The brothers (who actually were brothers, which is a rarity in this business) were, as most fans know, amateur stars from Michigan before entering the pro game. Contrary to popular belief, however, they didn't begin their careers as a tag team. Robert Rechsteiner (that would be Rick) made his pro debut in 1983, after being trained by Eddie Sharkey. His early career path took him from the AWA to the UWF, which then of course was taken over by Crockett Promotions. Scott wouldn't debut until 1986, after being trained by The Sheik. He would of course end up in the NWA as well, by way of Tennessee and Ohio. Rick was involved in a feud against the Varsity Club, and Scott originally entered the promotion as backup for his older brother. By that time, though, Rick had already claimed singles gold. At Starrcade '88, he defeated Mike Rotunda for the NWA Television Title - before dropping it right back to Rotunda in Chicago less than two months later. Scott entered the company in April of 1989, and the two were paired almost immediately.

It didn't take long for the team to gain credibility, as they quickly became famous for excellent, hard-hitting, athletic (and hard-hitting... did I mention that?) contests. You can ask anyone in the tag division at the time... I doubt that very many people were looking forward to getting Steinerlined or suplexed or flying bulldoged by the brothers. Scott in particular amazed audiences with the Frankensteiner - a standing hurricanrana that finished off countless opponents. In short, the Steiners were among the most balanced and complete teams in wrestling history. They hit hard, they could come off the top rope, they threw demonic suplexes, they could brawl, they could mat wrestle - they could adapt to any style or situation. While it's hard to envision the duo as anything but dominant tag team champions, it took them quite a while to climb through the ranks and into title contention. With great teams like Doom, the Horsemen and the Midnight Express around, the Steiners were almost always involved in fantastic battles night in and night out. But, by all accounts, perhaps their greatest opponents in this time were Terry Gordy and Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, the pairing known as the Miracle Violence Connection. The two teams engaged in a series of brutal, stiff wars that were more about survival than victory.

The breakthrough for the Steiners finally came on 11/1/1989, when they defeated the Fabulous Freebirds for the NWA World Tag Team Titles. After a respectable reign, they dropped the straps the following spring to Doom. But, just months later, (8/24/1990 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, to be precise), they outlasted the Midnight Express to win the WCW United States Tag Team Titles. Interestingly, this was just the beginning of perhaps their finest run as a team. Not only were they champions again (albeit secondary ones at first), but they were having fantastic matches with everyone. Of course, I already mentioned the great teams of the time, but one of my favorite Steiner Brothers matches is a hidden classic from Halloween Havoc '90, where they defended the US Tag straps against the Nasty Boys. While the Nasties could be carried every so often, they were never confused with polished ring generals. That said, the two teams wrestled a classic, mixing brawling with mat wrestling exceptionally well. The Steiners got the duke there (via a Frankensteiner, which Jim Ross foreshadowed with a typically great call before the match - "Maybe we'll see the Frankensteiner - it was made for tonight."), and never actually lost the US Titles. As US Champions, they faced the Fabulous Freebirds again, and like the first time, defeated them again to become World Champions for the second time. However, the circumstances surrounding the change were odd... to say the least. Heading into the switch, Doom were actually the champions (this was the same reign from when they beat the Steiners. They only had the belts for a month or so). The Freebirds-Steiners match was taped on 2/18 in Montgomery, Alabama. But, as far as the rest of the audience knew, Doom were still the champions. The belts were shifted onto the 'Birds in Phoenix, Arizona on 2/24, and the televised title switch to the Steiners was aired on 3/9/1991. Confused yet?

It didn't end there for the Steiners, though. With the US titles not yet vacated and the World titles also in their grasp, the Land of the Rising Sun was next in the crosshairs for these rising stars. World Championship Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling had a mutually-beneficial working relationship at the time (long before Jushin "Thunder" Liger caught the wrong end of a tequila bottle), and a huge Tokyo Dome show was slated for 3/21/1991. One of the highlights of the show was a hard-fought contest between the Steiners - WCW's double crown champions - and the IWGP World Tag Team Champions, Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki. Despite the fact that the Steiners were bona fide stars by this point, it had to have been considered a gigantic upset when Scott was able to keep Sasaki down with a Frankensteiner for three. With that win, the Steiners did what no team had done before, and what no team managed after - hold the US, World and IWGP Tag Team titles all at the same time. But, what comes up eventually has to come down, and all three titles were eventually vacated. The US titles were vacated shortly after their immortal hat trick was attained, but the World and IWGP titles were both vacated due to separate injuries to Scott - the World in July, the IWGP in November (they did get a rematch in one sense... the vacated titles were won by Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow against Rick Steiner and Scott Norton). The IWGP titles were quickly won back from Vader and Bigelow, but then dropped to Scott Norton and Tony Halme. In yet another odd occurrence, that is likely the longest uninterrupted number of reigns by foreigners for any belt in Japan's history. The brothers would get one more reign with the top tag titles after beating Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton. But, their story was just starting to get interesting.

At the end of 1992 , the two struck WCW a blow by signing with their hated rivals, the World Wrestling Federation. Almost right beforehand, Scott won his first singles gold, beating the immortal Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat for the Television Title. But, then it was off to Titan-land. In their debut at the big PPV daddy of them all (Wrestlemania IX in this case), the Steiners won, beating the Headshrinkers. After several months, they finally walked away with the WWF Tag Team Titles, beating Money Incorporated (Ted Dibiase and Irwin R. Schyster - poor Mike Rotunda never could stop trading titles with Rick) in Columbus on 6/14/1993. They dropped the titles right back two days later, but then won them back three days after that. Perhaps the oddest thing about that is that Vince Russo was nowhere in sight in the WWF yet. This time, they held them for almost three months before losing to the Quebecers, and that would be the last gold they saw in the WWF.

After their Stamford adventure was over, the duo made a brief stopover in ECW (in 1995) before re-signing with WCW in 1996. However, even by this point, they weren't the team that they once were. Whether it was age or the impending solo run of Scott, they were just sort of treading water by then. Still, they earned three more reigns with the titles... even if they lasted 3 days, 3 months, and 13 days respectively. Then again, by that time, 3 months was a Sammartino-esque reign in WCW.

The story essentially ends at Superbrawl VIII, when Scott turned on his brother to join the NWO. Continuing the string of odd occurrences, they didn't have a long feud afterwards. There was one match that went to a no-contest, and that was basically it. Scott went on to the main event picture, while Rick stalled at the upper-midcard level (though some would argue that he was up too high on the card anyway, and they have a pretty good case). There have been a few brief reunions since then - the 2/5/2001 edition of Nitro (teaming together to take out Kevin Nash), New Japan's 30th Anniversary show (a horrendous match with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kensuke Sasaki, with Chyna refereeing), but that's been about it. These days, both have fallen out of the limelight. Scott is MIA from WWE television, while Rick is currently the WLW champion out in the midwest. Despite that, they still stand as one of the most notable and complete tag teams of all time. Many fans today still look at them as a benchmark of what tag team wrestling should be, and their success is one of the reasons why many fans are mystified at why the WWE treats their tag team divisions as almost as much of an afterthought as their Cruiserweight Division.

All in all, they had quite a run for a team whose gimmick consisted entirely of "guys from Michigan who will clothesline you out of your boots... and did we mention they were from Michigan?"


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