Last Friday, "Macho Man" Randy Savage died from injuries sustained in an auto accident following what was believed to be a heart attack.
Savage's death managed to take the focus away from the impending apocalypse, proving that even death and the end of the world couldn't stop Macho Madness.
We here at GonzoGeek wanted to take a few moments to remember a one-of-a-kind performer.
I was 11 years old, standing backstage at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa. A few minutes earlier, I had watched Ludvig Borga, the Anti-American strongman from Finland, brutalize Randy Savage with a steel chair...and yet here was Savage, looking a little blown up but otherwise no worse for wear. It didn't make any sense, I thought. That probably registered on my face as awe, so Savage simply growled something at me (not out of animosity, that's just the calmest verb you can apply to his voice), shook my hand and moved on to another set of fans. He was much bigger than I remembered him being.
The Macho Man is a guy who probably had to pass on for his legacy to get properly recognized. With so much of his career tied to either Hulk Hogan - a crossover star and pop culture icon - or Ric Flair - a revered worker with endless charisma - it's too easy to forget that Randy Savage was the middle ground between the two worlds - respected by "old school" fans but instantly recognizable to casual viewers. When I read the news, one thing struck me most: we will never see anyone like him again.
This was a bearded "maniac" who wore a neon-colored cowboy hat and tassled jacket with a theme song taken straight from college graduation. He could spout pure nonsense on commentary (I recall him referring to Japanese woman Bull Nakano as 'Bull Nakanakanakano' every time she was in the ring) then turn around and sell Slim Jims with a catchphrase that EVERYONE repeated (and consequently, one that EVERYONE used to make jokes on Twitter after his death). Most importantly, he had the ability to not only cross over into pop culture, but to be truly entertaining there as well.
Whether he was putting over a hamster on the Weird Al Show, posing as Space Ghost's grandfather on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast or stealing his scene as Bonesaw McGraw in Spider-Man, Savage showed a kind of self-awareness and sense of humor that has not been replicated by a WWE Superstar since.
The Rock has the knack for self-effacing humor and Chris Jericho has that same balance between workrate and casual appeal, but nobody can replace the Mach. A great wrestler, a great character, a great commentator and an overall great entertainer. He was much bigger than we remembered him being.
He executed the flying elbow. He shilled Slim Jims. He battled with, and against, Hulk Hogan--and lost nearly every time. He jobbed to Spider Man.
But perhaps Randy Savage's greatest feat?
He carried the Ultimate Warrior to an outstanding match. I repeat, he carried the Ultimate Warrior to an outstanding match. Isn't that reason enough to remember Randy Savage as one of the all-time greats in professional wrestling?
Savage would have to go on the short list of the greatest to step inside the squared circle. His high-flying offense, whether he was playing the role of a good guy or bad guy. set him apart from the pack.
Savage was one of the iconic wrestlers of the 1980s, and sucessfully bridged the gap to the boom period in the late 1990s as part of the circle surrounding Hulk Hogan and the nWo--for better or worse.
Most will remember Savage for his match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III. Or the aforementioned rivalry with the Warrior. I'll remember a career embodied by tremendous action in the ring, and an eccentric bordering on unhinged character in interviews.
The pity is that, aside from a few video packages, fans growing up today may not get a full grasp of Savage's greatness. WWE owner Vince McMahon reportedly went back and forth on how much play to give the tribute video on Raw up until the time the show went on the air. And Vince and the Macho Man hardly had the coziest relationship. That can bode poorly for an individual's legacy when one man--Vince--owns most of the history of wrestling.
Randy Savage entered the WWE, then WWF, in the summer of 1985. That summer a much younger, wrestling obsessed Bruce immediately gravitated to Macho Man's heel persona. He was such a pleasant change to the "Hulkamania" being forced down our collective throats at that time. He also seemed, in those far simpler times, to be a legitimate threat to Hulk Hogan's stranglehold on the WWF.
I knew about Savage only from what I had read in the "Apter magazines." I knew he was related to "Leaping/Genius" Lanny Poffo and came from a wrestling family. I knew he'd had a pretty significant feud with Jerry "the King" Lawler. What I didn't know was exactly how much I was going to enjoy watching Savage do his thing.
Savage brought a different kind of charisma than Hogan. He wasn't polished and shiny (no pun actually intended) the way Hogan was. No, Savage was rough around the edges and, it seemed, quite possibly insane.
That he brought Ms. Elizabeth to the ring with him didn't hurt his cred amongst we teenage males.
In 1986, when we graduated from high school, bedecked in our horrible green gowns, it took every ounce of strength we had not to spin down the aisle ala Macho when "Pomp & Circumstance" ushered us down the aisle and onto the biggest stage of our young lives.
Now, many years later, looking back on the career of the Macho Man, its easy to see that he was, at every moment, the equal to his most famous peers: Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. In fact, as Matt rightly pointed out, he was the perfect middle ground between the two more iconic wrestlers. He was their Derek Smalls. He was their lukewarm water.
During the prime of their careers, Hogan and Flair would avoid facing one another like the plaque. They would, however, face Savage. By applying a little Pythagorean math, you could then imagine how matches between Flair and Hogan might turn out.
In 1998, Savage accepted a Man of the Year honor from the Harvard Lampoon. Savage got it. Not only did he get it, he embraced it.
Last week, while buying a gift at Best Buy for my son's birthday this week, I stopped by the demo XBox because it had the new WWE All-Stars video game on. When asked to select my Superstar, I scanned the available options. Savage was my first choice. I put him in the ring with John Morrison and played. I eventually ascended to the top turnbuckle and dropped the flying elbow. Two days later, the Macho Man was gone. Maybe I should go back and play as John Cena to see if that particular demo has the power of Zoltar.
People loved or hated both Flair and Hogan. I've never met anyone who didn't like Savage. I don't think I'd like that person if I did meet them.
Savage was a one of kind performer. He will be missed.
In an age of buzzcut and tribal tatt'ed meatheads, the world of the square circle could sure use a guy like Savage to save it from itself.