If pro wrestling truly is a morality play, as many defenders claim, then Randall Mario Poffo was the ultimate player. In the ongoing battle between good and evil he represented both the revolting and the redeemed, the misguided and the saved, the hated and the hero.
The world knew Poffo by the wrestling moniker Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and to millions of fans around the world he is a beloved and revered part of their childhood. As news of his death from a car accident early today at the age of 58 spread, sports figures, journalists, current wrestlers, former colleagues and fans of all ages paid tribute to him on television and online. It truly speaks to the reach, influence, and crossover appeal Savage possessed in a career that spanned over 30 years. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer has a fantastic article up on the life and death of Randy Savage here. I just wanted to take a few lines to express my admiration and thanks to one of the true all-time greats.
It sounds cliché but Randy Savage, son of the great Angelo Poffo and brother of Lanny Poffo, was born to be a pro wrestler. His pedigree aside, Savage literally possessed all of the tools one needs to be a superstar. He could talk, fly and wrestle better than most, not only in his era but all time. He had classic battles with some of the best wrestlers of the day (see Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat or Ted DiBiase), carried less technically-skilled wrestlers to some of the best matches of their careers (see Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior) and infused every arena he entered with an electric charge known as “Macho Madness.”
In the 1980’s the World Wrestling Federation, as WWE was known then, was dominated by giants and musclemen – epitomized by perennial world champion Hulk Hogan. At the height of the era the much smaller Savage established himself as one of the company’s biggest stars through his athleticism, wrestling ability and charisma. A prime example of this occurred at Wrestlemania III. While the event saw over 70, 000 people fill the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan to see the iconic battle between world champion Hulk Hogan and “undefeated” challenger Andre the Giant, Savage’s match with Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat for the Intercontinental championship stole the show and is widely considered one of the all-time greatest matches in company history.
The fact that, to this day, Savage’s undercard match is just as synonymous with Wrestlemania III as the epic
main event is no surprise. Savage was fast and furious, his intensity unmatched and his mix of technical prowess and high-flying ability rarely equaled. With his manger and real-life first wife Miss Elizabeth (Elizabeth Hulette, who died tragically from a drug overdose in 2003 at the age of 42) by his side, Randy Savage personified toughness. He was either a heel (bad guy) you couldn’t help but like or a babyface (good guy) you’d love to cheer as he climbed to the top rope to drop an elbow on a downed foe.
While most people I know left their enjoyment of pro wrestling behind with their childhood, I retained it. I’ve always loved the theatre and athleticism of it all, a love nurtured through shared moments with my grandfather in front of the television eating peanuts and cheering on the good guys. As well, I’ve often credited my lifelong passion for creative writing in some part to wanting to replicate the excitement and emotion that I once felt as a child while watching my favourite heroes battle their arch-enemies in the squared circle. Savage represented both sides at one point or another and as I got older I came to realize just how talented he was to have done so. As well, Savage, along with Jack Brisco, is one of the only top wrestling draws to ever walk away from the industry and stay away. He had remarried and was happy to be out of the limelight and settled with his new wife according to brother Lanny in an interview with The Score’s Arda Ocal conducted a week ago.
Randy Savage was a giant personality in a world of physical Goliaths. He possessed the skills of a legend, and the heart of a champion. Police reports suggest it was that same heart that gave out as he was driving his Jeep early this morning. For any wrestling fan from the 1980’s, that revelation is almost too difficult to believe.
Rest in peace Randy. Keep the angels entertained and enjoy catching up with Liz.