I was in Aberdeen, Washington, getting a cup of coffee when I heard that Randy “Macho Man” Savage had died in a car accident, likely due to a heart attack. He was fifty eight.
Savage, a second generation pro wrestler and natural athlete, had played minor league baseball when he was only eighteen before following in the shoes of his father, Angelo Poffo, but giving himself one of the best stage names in pro wrestling.
Randy Savage was one of the most iconic wrestlers of his era, and, unlike Hulk Hogan, his matches were often as cool as his outrageous costumes and insane interviews, many of which bordered on metaphysical ramblings of car commercial tag lines, rock lyrics, and astrology. My fellow grapple fan Nick Mamatas wrote a tribute to the Macho Man here, with some great clips from some of his more cosmic interviews.
Randy Savage got to be a champ in an era when the big belts didn’t change much. And that was huge. He was popular enough to carry the company when Hulk Hogan ditched the ring to become box office poison in Hollywood. No mean feat, but his charisma had the goods, even if his personal foibles (of which there were many for a coked out paranoid steroid freak) made him enemies behind the scenes. Still, at a time when Hogan didn’t think anyone could replace him, it was awesome to have Savage as a legit champ for a while.
His match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at WRESTLEMANIA III blew everything else out of the water on the card, including the main event between Hogan and Andre The Giant. He was one of the best heels of his generation and every time he got in the ring you believed he could beat his opponent, no matter how good they were. He was dynamic in the ring, if not as well rounded as Rick Flair, Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels. He could explode with energy and moved like a coiled snake (I think only the Dynamite Kid and Steamboat actually moved as fast or faster than Savage). And that signature flying elbow, with all the pomp and circumstance (his theme song, no less!) he used, slowly rising to a standing position, the twirling of his index finger, then flight . . . it was epic.
I’ve watched a lot of wrestlers die over the past ten years. Drugs, worn-out hearts from steroid and painkiller abuse, injuries and depression have all cut their lives short. All of the stories are sad. But this is the first time that I felt sad about a wrestler’s death (not counting the sad and sick feeling when Chris Benoit committed his murder-suicide in 2007). Savage was iconic for my gen of wrestling fans. He was awesome in the ring and on the mic. He looked demented and dangerous and was often funny as hell and was as symbolic of the comic books-come-to-life era of wrestling that I grew up with as Hogan, and a hell of a lot cooler. He was bigger than life. And while no saint, I can’t help but think of the Macho Man with a smile on my face. A great babyface, better heel, and a true original in the squared circle. And it’s sad to see him go.
Oh yeah, often imitated, never duplicated, Macho Madness is beyond the pale and ready for a mental freak out through space and time!