Many performers in the history of professional wrestling have become stars based on look or charisma and not necessarily needed to work as hard in the ring. Others can go between the ropes but don’t possess the gift of gab. And of course countless hardworking men and women achieve a modicum of success by combining it all, but only go so far. It’s a far shorter list of wrestlers who can talk, wrestle and put it all together to break through to become a cut above merely great.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage was absolutely one of those special few.
Savage was right up there with Hulk Hogan and even The Ultimate Warrior in terms of being able to spin rambling, near-incoherent-at-times promos, but there was a strange seductiveness to his particular brand of unorthodox poetry; if Hogan sometimes made you roll your eyes and Warrior frequently made you laugh, Savage could do both, but usually because that seemed his intention, and more often than not he just mesmerized you.
He had a tremendous look that certainly came in part from gifted genetics, but he accentuated it with the bizarre wardrobe and crazed eyes. There are few people who could make ornate robes, over-the-top sunglasses, seizure-inducing color combos and bedazzled cowboy hats work all at once, but Randy Savage didn’t just pull it together, he made his style awesome as well as iconic.
All that would have been enough to make the Macho Man one of the most memorable characters in the larger-than-life World Wrestling Federation of the 1980’s and carried him through to a successful career, but Randy Savage could also get it done in the ring. His signature top rope flying elbow drop remains a portrait of grace even today when corkscrews and springboards have been added to even the most basic of moves. He could make a bodyslam or a clothesline look like a world beater. His meticulous need to lay out each detail of his every match reportedly drew some opponents nuts, but you can’t argue with the end result.
During over three decades in the business, Randy Savage became one of the all-time legends of professional wrestling, but most folks know he transcended far beyond that. There are few people of my generation whether they watched wrestling or not who don’t know the Macho Man at the very least from his role as the spokesman for Slim Jim; watching him interrupt a performance of Romeo & Juliet with “Art thou bored?! Snap into a Slim Jim!” remains a consistent YouTube guilty pleasure. He also stole the scene as Bonesaw McGraw in the first Spider-Man movie and was fantastic as Space Ghost’s grandfather on Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast and in other various animated roles. He left an imprint on pop culture and there are few people who won’t crack a smile at the mention of his name or when somebody busts out an “Ohhhhhh Yeahhhhh!” People loved the Macho Man.
Randy Savage—whose real name was Randy Poffo—died this past Friday, May 20, 2011, at the far-too-young age of 58. Reportedly, he suffered a heart attack while driving and lost control of his car, hitting a tree.
For somebody who flourishes during the era of professional era Randy Savage did, he had been able to overcome so many of the business’ pitfalls and sad clichés, making his death all the more tragic. While obviously I can’t know for sure what went on in the man’s personal life, all evidence and testimony from those that knew him indicate he did not become a slave to substance abuse problems nor did he mismanage his money as so many members of his generation in wrestling did. He invested wisely and has been able to stay inactive by choice for nearly a decade, never needing to come back for a quick payday and by all accounts wrestling when and where he chose as far back as the mid-90’s.
If any part of Savage’s story seemed tragic, it may have been his romantic life, as his relationship with on-screen manager/off-screen wife Miss Elizabeth ended in divorce—she passed away in 2003 following a drug overdose—but even there he reconnected with and married his high school sweetheart just over a year ago.
It’s a terrible loss first and foremost for Randy Poffo’s family and friends, but also for his countless fans within the world of wrestling and even just anybody who enjoyed him in a Slim Jim commercial or Space Ghost cameo—I’d count myself in both the latter groups.
I’m going to try and throw up a list of some favorite matches and moments later this week, but for now, rest in peace Macho Man--you were one of a kind in a world where that's not easy.