[It was about a month ago, while quickly scanning our Twitter feed, that we saw a report that Macho Randy Savage (née Randy Poffo) had passed away. It seemed like one of those hoax stories, and at the very least even if he was in a car accident the reports of his demise must have been greatly exaggerated. But, thanks to the blazing, almost frightening ,speed of social media, his passing was confirmed almost immediately. And we knew we had to say something about it. And we also knew, unfortunately, that we couldn’t comment at the time. However, we made a promise we would not let his death go unrecognized. So, now, better late than never, here we go.]
In some ways he was the Scotty Pippen of professional wrestling. A skilled athlete who never shied away from the spotlight, one of the best all-around performers of his or any generation, but one who spent his whole career overshadowed by another, more colorful, more bombastic, larger than life superstar. But whereas Pippen could never match Michael Jordan’s ability, Randy Savage was arguably (perhaps empirically) a stronger technical wrestler than his sometimes best friend, sometimes bitter enemy, Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster plodded around the ring, employing more smoke and mirrors than legitimate squared circle proficiency. Savage, on the other hand, could match, if not exceed, Hulk’s lyrical prowess and pair that with superior wrestling ability, capable of demonstrating legitimate ring expertise on the mat or from the top turnbuckle. And yet, while he was no doubt one of the top wrestling superstars for years, hands down one of the all-time greats, he never reached the same stratospheric heights as Hogan. Sure, there were legions of Macho Man fans, a vocal contingent who would claim Savage’s ascendancy, but the sheer fact is that Hogan achieved a level of fame that Macho Man could never quite grasp. He was probably a household name at his peak, a fixture in WWF video games, a headliner, a merchandising bonanza, a Slim Jim spokesperson. But where was his starring role in a motion picture? Where was his brand of vitamins? Where was his post-retirement reality show? In another time, Savage could have the indisputable best, head and shoulders above the rest. But in our time he was always going to fall just short of Hogan. No matter what.
And perhaps, at least for us, it goes back to the break up of the Mega Powers, the all-star team-up between Savage and Hogan, an alliance that ultimately imploded over their competition for the attention of manager and Savage’s then real-life wife Miss Elizabeth. We very, very clearly remember when their partnership, and friendship, went up in flames. And even though we think at that time we already understood that wrestling was fake, this schism felt very real. It was, truly, heartbreaking, and we never really recovered from it. And, even though it was scripted, fabrication, theater, Savage came out as the aggressor, the loose cannon, the villain, and Hogan the real American hero. And this was a perception that perhaps Savage was never able to shake. His rugged, rough and tumble recklessness would never match Hogan’s safe, bland chivalry. In the end, we could never forgive him for tossing a woman, let alone his wife, clear across the locker room.
Which, again, is a shame, because Savage, as a character at least, was more human in his imperfections. He could be jealous, insecure, selfish, callous, violent. But he could also be brave, gentle, passionate and heroic. And, with his unfortunate passing we’ll choose to look back and remember Savage at his best, a showman, offering an unmatched blend of athletic aptitude and verbal acuity, a man blessed with a gift for punching and for pomp & circumstance. Truly, a poet and a pugilist.
Thanks, Randy. Oh yeah.