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WK BLOG 5/20: Thoughts on watching the career of "Macho Man" Randy Savage

May 20, 2011 - 1:32:33 PM


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BY WADE KELLER, PWTORCH EDITOR

Randy "Macho Man" Savage was one of the most charismatic wrestlers I have ever seen live or on TV. He had an "It Factor" that defined what "It Factor" is, an intangible quality that causes you to notice him and not take your eyes off of him when he's performing.

I first read about him in national newsstand wrestling magazines. Then he showed up on national TV in the WWF and from his first match, when he dropped the elbow off the top rope in a squash match on WWF Superstars of Wrestling, I knew he was going to be a huge star in the WWF.

I had the opportunity to see him in person from the front row at multiple WWF matches. His house show matches with Tito Santana defined my belief that the Intercontinental Title, if presented and promoted right, can be a legitimate draw, a star-boosting title to hold, and a great asset for a promotion to give to the second biggest star in the company. (The photo included in this story I took at a Feb. 19, 1989 WWF house show.)

Savage was the second-biggest star in the WWF during his peak years, in the shadow of Hulk Hogan. He fit the role well and seemed to embrace it, even if there were pangs of jealousy or frustration that he'd likely never be the long-term top dog. A number of talented wrestlers begrudgingly accepted that role when Hulk Hogan was on top.

I attended SummerSlam in New York at MSG when he had the marriage ceremony with Miss Elizabeth. It felt like as close as the United States was going to get to a British royal wedding, at least to those fans in attendance.

His run in WCW was less memorable and it was clear Savage was past his peak as a performer, but like with so many wrestlers during the WCW Nitro era, Eric Bischoff and booker Kevin Sullivan managed to capitalize on their reputations and storylines developed in the WWF and gave them one more go-around.

Some of my favorite memories of Savage, though, are watching old tapes of his work before he signed with the WWF in 1985. The raw grittiness and tightly wound unpredictability that shaped his character in the WWF was on display in his appearances on TV in Memphis. For a while, there was an argument to be made that he was one of the top two or three performers in the country at a time when many others were doing great work, including Ric Flair.

Savage's ranking on the WWF All-Time Greats list will be debated for years to come. He's just under Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Bruno Sammartino, and John Cena in a top ten discussion.

He was an iconic crossover figure, with a prominent roll in the Spiderman movie, famous for his Slim Jim commercials, and known for his catch phrases, especially "Oh, yeah!" As far as mainstream recognition, he might be in the top five, along with Hogan, Rock, and Austin.

If he died of a heart attack at age 58, the issue of whether his many years of heavy steroid use played a role will be a fair discussion. It's the type of death at a young age that should give pause to wrestlers who have used steroids for years or plan to use steroids for years. The pictures of the car wreck suggest that the impact of the Jeep into the tree wasn't enough to cause death since Savage was wearing his seat belt.


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