Thursday, May 26, 2011

R.I.P. Macho Man Randy Savage

"Best there is... past, present and future! Ohhhhh yeahhhh!"
"Macho Man" Randy Savage

I remember the feeling I had when I got the Tweet that Macho Man Randy Savage had passed. It was more a feeling of melancholy thinking about my younger years when pro wrestling was, to steal a phrase, running wild. I had fallen in love with the product put out by Vincent McMahon Sr then known as the WWWF as it was all that was readily available on TV to those of us in the Northeast. It was pretty formulaic with Bob Backlund fighting off whatever challenger the holy triumvirate of "Classy" Freddie Blassie, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling, or Captain Lou Albano would throw at him typically having to get past Bruno Sammartino (or later Pat Patterson) on the way in or the way out of the program then disappearing to be brought back fresh at another time. One of these challengers was a young "Incredible" Hulk Hogan who would be brought back several years later to create Hulkamania and change the industry forever

At the same time this was happening 2 events occurred in my life; I discovered wrestling magazines and I got cable TV. My eyes were opened to the fact there was a whole world of wrestling outside the Northeast I knew nothing about. NWA territories like Florida and Georgia, Dallas and San Antonio, St Louis and Kansas City, the AWA and the crazy world of Tennessee wrestling featuring Jerry Lawler's CWA and Angelo Poffo's ICW. I remember for the first time seeing pictures of Randy Savage in a George Napolitano mag in a feature on the bloody feud with he and Ronnie Garvin. I was fascinated with his look to say the least. One week watching the old Georgia Championship Wresting (1983) they announced one of the teams for a tag tournament they were having was Randy Savage and Magnum TA. They showed a highlight reel of the Macho Man and I was hooked. He was just so different looking, athletic, and had an aura of intensity to him

Fast forward to 1985 and the WWE. Hulkamania is officially running wild and Vincent K McMahon is in the process of gobbling up all the stars from all the territories to take the company national. Savage made his debut that year on the old Tuesday Night Titans show with the gimmick of the established managers in the company vying for his services and him eventually choosing Elizabeth (his real life wife but storyline browbeat manager). His early push came with him battling for and eventually holding for some time the Intercontinental title back when it was considered a major deal. For me the greatest memory of this era was after 5 years of attending monthly matches at the old Boston Garden I had FINALLY seen a title change. Yes, they were once a rarity (note: I had sadly missed the card a couple years earlier when Tito Santana beat Don Muraco for the I/C belt). He would go on to remain the company's perennial #1 or #2 guy for the next decade, mostly as a face but often a heel. His Wrestlemania III match with Ricky Steamboat is still considered a classic for the time and to me one of my favorite matches ever. Like many of that era he became a cultural icon beyond the ring most notably as a spokesman for Slim Jim. Eventually he jumped ship to WCW forever destroying his relationship with VKM who had a special place in his heart for the Macho Man. While he did some recent work with WWE on their latest video game he remained a solitary man never really coming back into the loving arms of the company. Sadly his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame will have to be posthumous

What stood out to me with Macho Man was his charisma and star power. It wasn't until years later as I became "smarter" did I appreciate his athleticism and what a good worker he was. His presence...from entering to Pomp and Circumstance to the outfits to the intensity with which he worked...was on another level to me exceeding even that of the Hulkster who I had become completely ambivalent towards. I think the clincher for me was his interview style which could be summed up as Dusty Rhodes or Superstar Billy Graham on acid and cranked up to the Nth degree. Hell, he even used some of the same lines as both of them but with a totally unique delivery. To this day my wrestling friends and I still impersonate his "thinkin, thinkin, thinkin that...YEAH" and "Elizabeth...Elizabeth...Elizabeth...will you marry me". Even after he "retired" and worked on commentary he was often the best part of the show in a surreal sort of way

I was sad to hear of his untimely death and shocked to see the attention it got. I mean, the news was everywhere in both wrestling and straight media. He had been so far out of the limelight that I never saw that coming. I guess as wrestling is in a "not cool" to non-fans right now I underestimated how many people still embraced that era that was WWF in the 80's. I think the thing that stood out to me were a twenty-something guy at the bar handing out Slim Jim's and yelling OH YEAH, the announcers on Bellator Fighting Championships, an MMA organization, paying tribute on several occasions, and C.M. Punk, a heel character but a real student of the game, dressing in vintage Macho Man style on RAW right down to the pink and yellow and "CM PUNK" written on his ass. The WWE, as they are prone to doing, put together one of the best tributes to any wrestler I have ever seen

Rest well Macho Man and thanks for all the entertainment you brought me as a young man and the memories I still remember vividly into my 40's. I'm still diggin it, OHHHHH YEAH!!!

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