Randy Savage was a personality that was impossible to ignore. From his entrance to “Pomp and Circumstance” alongside Miss Elizabeth at his side to his promos, he took center stage every time. He was the Macho Man of an era where personalities were truly larger than life, and he held his own against the immortals of then and now. As has often been the case, this day in wrestling history, remembers the life and career of Randy Savage.
Always an athlete
As a rule, we generally only remember the part of a wrestler’s career we see, because their history and real life accomplishments are often ignored, wiped out, or mixed with their character’s narrative for the sake of their storyline. What’s missed in this is often times, they were or are athletes in other sports prior to lacing up their wrestling boots. Savage was no different.
According to Wikipedia, he played baseball as a catcher, and was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals organization out of high school. He also spent time in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. There, as is often the case, his position was changed and he played mostly outfielder.
A testament to his drive and determination, he displayed his desire to improve and be the best by learning to throw left handed after he injured his right shoulder after a collision at home plate.
He broke into professional wrestling in 1973 during the end of baseball season. In a really cool twist, his first character was the Spider and was similar to Spider-Man. Given that he’d appear in the first Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire, this is one of the coolest footnotes in a wrestling career we’ve seen.
Eventually, he decided to make professional wrestling his career and retired from baseball. It’s a good thing for us, otherwise, we may never have known about him.
His career took a meteoric rise following his signing with the WWE in 1984, and he went onto some of the greatest feuds of the era with Rocky
The Dragon” Steamboat, George “The Animal” Steele, and as part of the Mega Powers with Hulk Hogan when he was world champion.
The man behind the image
Unfortunately, as has been the case more times than not over the years, Randy Savage left us way too early. On May 20, 2011, he suffered a heart attack while driving. He lost control of the vehicle with him and his wife, Barbara Lynn Payne, and they crashed into a tree. Both were wearing seatbelts and only suffered minor injuries. An autopsy showed he had an enlarged heart and advanced coronary artery disease (more than 90% narrowed), but he’d never been treated before, so it was believed he had no idea he was in danger.
We’ll always have the mental image of Savage dressed in wild colored outfits and top of the line promos, but there’s a part of him we rarely, if ever, got to see. This is always an important part as both sides of a personality helps to create what we see, but we should always remember there’s a real person behind the character that’s trying to entertain us.
His brother, Lanny Poffo (The Genius), put it best. (Special thanks to the @awrestlinghistorian for the transcript/)
“Some people think my brother was a wild man, but give him credit for not beating the heck out of Chief Jay Strongbow and Pat Patterson on the same day. Give him credit, instead, for picking up the phone and calling WCW and leaving the WWF like a gentleman. Vince McMahon is the most successful man I have ever met but you have to give credit to my brother for being able to work out bringing Slim Jim over to WCW along with him.
“The one thing about Randy that I want the fans to know is if there was a word to describe him it would be conscientious. He got it from my mom and he got it from my dad. He tried to pass that along with me every day and every way, no matter what he was doing.
“Whether it be taking care of his boat or mowing his lawn, he did things himself because he didn’t think people could do it properly. He put everything that he had into everything that he did conscientiously. He always remembered the fans and never wanted to shortchange them.
“My brother and I grew up in the kayfabe era when people didn’t know whether wrestling was real or not. Randy was out there to prove that it was real and he felt he proved it with Steamboat, he felt he could prove it with Michaels, and he tried to prove it every time that he wrestled without hurting his opponent. What he loved about DDP was the hunger in his eyes and his total ballsiness. They both wanted to prove something, and believe it or not, he didn’t get that cooperation with every opponent he faced. He put the show above his own body and that’s what Randy wanted.
“He wanted people to look at his matches and say, ‘That was real!’ I love you and miss you, Randy.” – Lanny Poffo ProWrestlingStories.com November 15, 2019
While Savage is considered the greatest professional wrestler of all time by many, he was also known to have contentious relationships with Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon among others. While the state of his other relationships aren’t widely known, it’s good to know that several parties have stated he was able to mend fences with Hogan before he passed, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, to which his brother Lanny said on the WWE Network that night, “I had no thoughts. I was so excited. Intellectually, there was nothing. It was all emotional. I was happy for the fans. They waited for Bruno Sammartino for so many years and now they waited for Macho Man. Randy will never die.”
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