It is with great sadness that I have to write about the death of Randy Savage today. TMZ.com is reporting that former WWE champion Randy Savage has died in a car accident. Savage’s brother Lanny Poffo confirms the news.
I am filled with emotion and have chills as I sit here and write this. I saw an email come through from TMZ.com but didn’t believe it. I thought it was some goofy hoax or cruel headline. Well apparently it is true and it is a terrible day for pro wrestling and the friends and family of Randy Poffo. Randy Savage was 58 years old.
I was a big Randy Savage fan growing up. As a tape trader, Savage got my attention with his feud in Memphis against Jerry Lawler. I was always a fan who loved promos and wrestling interviews and Savage was tremendous. Watching Savage’s intensity for the first time was unlike anything I was watching in the WWF or even NWA. It was apparent quick that Savage was on his way to greatness.
Savage was a hit immediately in the WWF. I remember what struck me most about Savage was his style. It was different than anything else in the WWF at the time. Savage was doing things like coming off the top rope to the outside floor that nobody was doing in the United States. Even the great athletes like Ricky Steamboat and Bret Hart weren’t doing the things that Randy Savage was doing on a weekly basis.
It wasn’t an easy road for Savage. The WWF at the time was the land of the giants. Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, the Junkyard Dog, the WWF was full of big, muscular guys that probably outweighed Savage by at least fifty pounds. However, Savage was quick to win fans over and developed a style that was fast, fun, and camouflaged the size difference between him and the giants.
Savage immediately hit his stride tearing up the house shows against WWE greats like Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, George Steele, and Tito Santana. In my opinion, the Savage vs. Santana series is one of the most underrated series of matches in WWF history. It is certainly arguable, but I would put it right neck and neck with his series against Steamboat.
Of course Savage broke through with his WrestleMania III match against Ricky Steamboat. Some of the most successful WWE superstars of the last two decades have called it their favorite match of all time. The match was certainly different and booked like something you would see on a New Japan Pro Wrestling. The bout was filled with just non-stop action and tons of near falls. Even more impressive is that the two guys did the same thing off camera on the house show circuit for almost a year.
I interviewed Ricky Steamboat on my Pro Wrestling Radio show about his matches with Savage and asked him about whether or not he was surprised at the legacy of their classic match.
“Yes, yes I am. I don’t know what kind of comment I would be getting with this generation of fans that are used to watching what they’re watching now. Maybe the ones that were voting, the majority were fans like you, that were able to see wrestling as it was and wrestling as it is today. That’s why we got the nod. It is surprising, because at times I do watch the programs on TV and watching these guys working their butts off and taking these high risk moves and these humongous bumps and then it does surprise me. You know, a lot of this has to do with the way we built that match, Savage and I, up. Starting with the hurting me in the throat, the soap opera thing that lead into it week after week, after week. Then finally being able to wrestle at the Silverdome in front of 93,000, although I’m the first one to admit it was Andre and Hogan that drew that house. It was Andre and Hogan that drew the big numbers for that WrestleMania. People were just curious, with Hogan as big as he was. Andre being almost twice that size, what was going to be the outcome of that match. Nobody ever saw Andre get beat. Savage and I knew this. We knew what was going to draw this particular pay per view, but let’s go out there and steal the show. I guess that there are guys in this business today that know what’s drawing the show and just going out there and cruise. We were so hungry and said, “Let’s take advantage of this opportunity, this moment. There’s going to be millions of people watching, we got almost a 100,000 people at this one sitting.” I guess we went out there and stole it. ”
Savage finally reached the mountain top at WrestleMania IV. Savage defeated Ted DiBiase in a tournament to crown a new champion while Hogan went off to film a movie. I loved Savage’s matches with Bad News Brown, DiBiase, and the Ultimate Warrior at the time but he had big shoes to fill. Savage did the best he could with great post-WrestleMania house show numbers against Ted DiBiase and continued to tear it up in the main-event just the same as he did on the way up from opening match.
The Hogan-Savage feud is remembered by many fans of that generation as the greatest feud of all time. For one full year from the moment Hogan congratulated Savage at WrestleMania IV to their lock up at WrestleMania V. It was truly a thing of beauty and arguably one of the last great creative jobs from the minds of Vince McMahon and WWE creative. The rivalry would continue years later through WCW and off camera to this day.
Savage continued his heel run as the “Macho King.” The Macho King was awesome and his promos were just fantastic during that time period. He had tremendous chemistry with Sherri Martel and their feuds against Dusty Rhodes, Hacksaw Duggan, and the Ultimate Warrior were all a lot of fun to watch. Most people credit Hogan with getting the best match out of the Warrior. I disagree. Not only were the Savage vs. Warrior matches good on television, they were arguably better on the house shows.
Savage sat out for awhile as a commentator and honestly, he wasn’t that great. Savage belonged in the ring. He knew it, the fans knew it, and Vince McMahon finally knew it. Savage returned to action after a sudden change of plans going into WrestleMania 8. While the WWF didn’t give fans the Dream Match they expected at WrestleMania that year, they gave fans the next best thing with Savage vs. Ric Flair. Once again, an incredibly underrated effort from the Macho Man and in my opinion this was a top ten all-time WrestleMania match.
In my opinion Savage’s series against Flair was his last great run. He stuck around the WWF for awhile but business was changing. Things were not the same until years later thanks to scandals in and out of the WWF. Savage made headlines out of the ring at the time for blasting Hulk Hogan on Jim Ross’ radio show, accusing Hogan of breaking up his marriage. How ironic that they would wind up in the ring together years later but in WCW.
To me there was always something missing about Randy Savage in WCW. For one, he blew up to the point that he lost all of the great mobility that made him a favorite of mine years earlier. Two, age and injuries in general slowed him down. Three, he just didn’t appear as hungry as he was in the WWF. I almost felt as if I was watching a Randy Savage parody (not the one in the WWF) at times rather than watching one of the all-time greats.
Savage laced up the boots for one last time in TNA Wrestling. Savage debuted at Victory Road and confronted Jeff Jarrett. Savage wrestled at TNA Turning Point against his old band mates Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Jeff Jarrett. Savage never showed up for his next match at Final Resolution 2005. Savage was scheduled to win the NWA title but left without doing a match. Dusty Rhodes recently said it was because Savage knew he couldn’t wrestle anymore, although numerous reports claim that Savage felt TNA double crossed him by bringing Hogan which may have contributed to his decision.
The relationship between Savage and the WWE has been strained for years. There are a lot of rumors about the reasons why, but the bottom line is that Vince McMahon has had a deep disdain for Savage for years. McMahon would reportedly become furious with staff whenever Savage’s name was mentioned for the WWE Hall of Fame. Something happened to soften the stance because slowly, Randy Savage has eased his way back into the WWE Universe.
The WWE reacquainted its current fanbase with Savage by releasing a DVD collection of the Macho Man’s greatest WWE and WCW matches. Macho Madness – The Ultimate Randy Savage Collection DVD was a hit and well received by fans from all generations when it the shelves. The collection was a documented reminder of how big a part of the historic WWE boom of the 1980s the Macho Man was, and finally acknowledged his contributions to the company.
Most observers concluded that the commercial and DVD were the first steps into bringing Randy Savage into the WWE Hall of Fame. Vince McMahon never commented on it, but with a lack of big names available to be inducted in upcoming years, Savage was looking like a slam dunk. Unfortunately we will never get the chance to see Savage wave his finger in the air and yell, “Oh yeah!” in that Macho Man voice as he walks onto the Hall of Fame stage to accept his well deserving award.
As a fan, I will remember Randy Savage as a ground breaker. Savage made the rest of the crew in the WWF step up their game and was a huge innovator and pioneer of what the WWE style would later become. Randy Savage opened up the door for guys like Bret Hart, Jeff Hardy, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Edge, and countless others who weren’t necessarily “big enough” to become WWE headliners on style, athleticism, charisma, and character.
Pro wrestling will never be the same without Savage. Sure, he hasn’t been in the spotlight often in years but it was a nice feeling knowing he was around. Throwing Savage’s name in the mix every time a mystery man angle was always a thought, yet sadly that will never come to fruition.
I want to wish the friends and family of Randy Savage my deepest condolences. He will be greatly missed.
WWE.com has offered their condolences.
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