Friday, May 20, 2011

Wrestlers of Yore: Macho Man Randy Savage

(NOTE: This post [written by GHABBY] originally ran on November 21, 2008. We are re-running it unedited in a tribute to Savage, who passed away today at the age of 58.)



Few professional wrestlers have touched our hearts to the extent that the Macho Man Randy Savage has. He taught us to snap into Slim Jims. His theme music is played at every high school graduation. He gave us three of the greatest Wrestlemania matches in history. He got married on pay-per-view. He recorded the world's greatest rap album, ever. It's no wonder that the Harvard Lampoon named him "Man of the Year" for 1998. Frankly, Randy Savage is the man of the Century, both this current one and last.

Born Randy Poffo, the soon-to-be Macho Man exuded his machoness in the world of minor league baseball, serving as a catcher in the White Sox, Reds and Cardinals minor league systems. Reportedly, Keith Hernandez was one of his minor league teammates, and the two would often exchange high fives on how awesome their facial hair was. However, Randy hurt his throwing shoulder and decided to hang up his spikes, starting a second career in the family business: professional wrestling.


Randy's father Angelo Poffo was one of the well-known wrestling promoters of the midwest during the 1970s, and had appeared on Ripley's Believe It Or Not for his ability to do situps for hours on end. Randy's brother, Lanny Poffo, was a wrestler, working under the nicknames "Leaping Lanny" or "The Genius," one of my five greatest characters of all time.


Randy soon began wrestling in his father's ICW promotion, where he met a comely young lass named Elizabeth Hulette, who he soon married. The couple soon moved to Memphis, where the newly named Macho Man Randy Savage battled Jerry Lawler for Lawler's CWA crown. Savage lost, but was soon signed up by Vince McMahon's WWF, who also brought on Elizabeth as his manager, though they didn't reveal on television that the pair were married.


Savage was immediately given a huge promotional push in the WWF, first making it to the semifinials of The Wrestling Classic (the first ever wrestling Pay-per-view), and soon winning the Intercontinental Championship from Tito Santana. The highly skilled Savage would keep his title in upcoming feuds with George "The Animal" Steele and Bruno Sammartino, leading up to a big title match at Wrestlemania 3, the biggest event in WWF history, against challenger Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.

When wrestling fans list their favorite matches of all time, the Savage/Steamboat Wrestlemania 3 match is generally at or near the top. The two rehearsed every move for weeks at Savage's home before the match, and put on a technical masterpiece that still holds up to this day. Savage lost the match, but was made a huge star in the process.


From there, Savage was immediately thrown into contention for the World Heavyweight Championship, winning the 1987 King of the Ring tournament, and feuding with then-Intercontinental Champion the Honky Tonk Man, who scarred my childhood when he hit Miss Elizabeth over the head with his break-away guitar. Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan came in and saved Savage, leading to the formation of the Mega Powers of Hogan and Savage, the most powerful tag team ever.

In reality, Hogan and Savage were huge rivals, as Savage was constantly paranoid that Hogan was cheating with Elizabeth behind his back. In the ring though, the two were a force, and Hogan was the first to congratulate Savage after the Macho Man won the Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania IV. The two also defeated Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase at the first ever SummerSlam, when Elizabeth removed her skirt to reveal a bikini bottom, easily the most erotic moment of my childhood. Savage, with the help of his scripted friend Hogan, would defend the belt for the next year.


At this time Savage also gained his highly publicized contract with Slim Jim, appearing in rougly 379,840 commericials where he yelled at us to "SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM." In a related story, Savage is responsible for a large percentage of the cases of diarrhea that I suffered in my childhood.


The Mega Powers of course had to separate at some point, and it came at a Saturday Night's Main Event when Elizabeth fell off the apron, and Hogan carried her to the back. A jealous Savage attacked Hogan in the dressing room, and the Mega Powers were no more. The feud culminated in the main event of Wrestlemania V, where Hogan won the belt from Savage.

After his run with Hogan, Savage took Sensational Sherri as a manager, eventually becoming the "Macho King" by winning the King of the Ring tournament. The Macho King smashed his sceptre over the head of the Ultimate Warrior at Royal Rumble 1991, causing the Warrior to lose the Heavyweight belt to Sgt. Slaughter and paving the way for Hulk Hogan to end the Gulf War with his 24-inch pythons. It also began a feud between Savage and the Warrior that ended in a Retirement Match at Wrestlemania VI, where, in probably the best match of his career, the Warrior summoned the power of the Gods to defeat Savage and send him into retirement. Savage, soundly defeated and now retired, sat in the ring dejected, until Miss Elizabeth ran out of the crowd to embrace her one-time partner. This reuniting was proven to make even the hardest of souls cry like babies.


The now-retired Macho Man returned to a non-wrestling role in the WWF, serving as a commentator for the various Saturday Morning shows. Savage still found a way to stay in the spotlight, "proposing" to Miss Elizabeth (even though they'd actually been married for seven years prior) on television and having their "wedding" take place at SummerSlam 1992. Ironically, the couple would divorce in real life only a few months later. From there, Savage soon un-retired, and would feud with Ric Flair, Jake Roberts and Crush over the next few years, until he mysteriously disappeared from the WWF in the summer of 1994.

Now, Savage's departure from the WWF and lack of return anytime since has puzzled wrestling fans, as no specific reason was given for his departure or persona non grata status in the current WWE. The prevailing rumor was that the then-divorced Savage slept with the then-14 year old Stephanie McMahon, a rumor that has not been proven or disproven. All that I know is that Savage has not ever been mentioned since on WWE television, been inducted into the watered-down Hall of Fame, or invited back for any WWE events or shows. Draw from that what you will.


From there, Savage signed with WCW, where he led a largely inconsequential career in comparison with the heights he reached in the WWF. He held a few titles, was a central figure in the nWo wars of the late '90s, and had to resort to wrestling in a shirt because he was rapidly losing his figure. Savage was even reunited with Elizabeth during his WCW reign, though by that time, the emotional scars were too deep to re-spark any friendship, and their time on screen together could only be described as "awkward." Savage would also be known for parading his current girlfriends out on television with him, including one Stephanie "Gorgeous George" Bellars, owner of some of the fakest tits I've ever seen. Broken down and bitter, Savage would eventually leave the wrestling industry when WCW folded in 2001, returning only for a forgettable one-shot deal in TNA.


Savage was also apparently quite shaken when ex-wife Miss Elizabeth was found dead of a drug overdose in fellow wrestler Lex Luger's house, whom she had been dating. This led to me naming my fantasy teams "LexLugersLadykillers" for the last three years and absolutely NO ONE getting the joke.

Savage's life in the public wasn't done at this point however, as he landed a role as Bonesaw McGraw in the wildly successful 2002 Spider-Man movie. He's also lent his unique voice to various cartoons and television programs, where he's carved out quite the niche for himself. Savage also released a rap album, entitled "Be a Man," where he called out Hogan to fight him for real. Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.


Recently, Savage shocked the wrestling community when he recently appeared at the premiere for the Disney movie Bolt, where he lends his voice alongside that of Miley Cyrus and others. This Randy Savage, however, looked very different from the one we all have grown used to:


Clearly, Savage is preparing for yet another career: Mall Santa Claus.

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