Funk's Corner - Sam Steamboat
 
I pushed the throttle on the Cessna 210 and we were rolling down runway 18 out of Tallahassee, Florida. The night was pitch black. My eyes were on the instrument panel even though it was supposedly a clear night, there was no moon and we would soon be over the Gulf of Mexico on the way to Tampa, Florida. Soon after takeoff, black night turned grey. In the mist outside, you could see the reflection of the rotating beacon on the heavy cloud cover outside the window of the single engine airplane.
 
"We're in the soup." is all my only passenger sitting to my right, Sam Steamboat had to say. I had just received my instrument rating a few weeks before and had little experience flying on my own in the clouds.
 
There was nothing to worry about because Sam had it all under control.
 
Sam gained his flying experience flying right seat for Lester Welch in Florida Championship Wrestling's Twin Beech H-18. Lester was the spot show promoter and pilot for Florida Championship Wrestling. Sam loved to fly, so much so that on a previous flight to San Juan from Tampa, even though I was licensed to fly and the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, it was Sam Steamboat who flew right seat next to Lester Welch. I was relegated to the back seat. Sam was Lester's replacement for the autopilot.
 
My first concern was flying the airplane. Flying in weather is no easy chore handling the flying and extensive radio communication. There is no telling how much experience Sam Steamboat had gathered flying the Twin Beech H-18 throughout the Florida territory as Lester's right hand man including many flights through the Bermuda Triangle. (If you happen to be superstitious.)
 
About fifteen minutes out, I looked at Sam and said, " Sam, can you handle the flying and I will take care of the radio communication.  Sam just reached up and took the wheel on the right side of the Cessna 210.  I navigated and handled the radio communication and Sam Flew the plane until we broke out of the clouds about 50 miles out of Tampa. From here it was a piece of cake. I took the controls and we landed at Tampa International.
 
To this day, I don't know if Sam had a pilot's license or not, but he loved to fly. And to this day, I am thankful that Sam Steamboat was flying right seat for me on the way back from Tallahassee to Tampa International.
 
There is more about Sam Steamboat. He was Eddie Graham's protégé in the formative days of the Florida, Territory. Sam wrestled as Eddie's partner. Sam's wrestling style was a combination of Lou Thesz and Samoa Joe. Sam always started his matches with wrestling. As the match progressed and Sam warmed up, his style became more aggressive, then devastating.
 
Sam's wrestling style preceded other great Florida Championship Wrestling mat wrestlers, Hiro Matsuda, Mike Graham and Jack Brisco.
 
Sam was a very quiet man. I never saw him loose his temper, but I for sure would never want to make him mad.
 
From the Funking Conservatory, our condolences to the family of Sam Steamboat.
 
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