Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Vault Seriously 100% For Real Mourns The Macho Man Randy Savage. Am I Super Sad Right Now? OHHH YEAHHHH! :(

If you were a kid (or even alive) during the 1980s, you lost a hero today. The Macho Man Randy Savage has died. Madness! Randy Savage was one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time pro wrestling made flesh and the real-life, non-Dos-Equis-commercial version of The Most Interesting Man in the World. He has been a fake fighter, shilled beef jerky, released a rap album, been in the Danger Zone, was Space Ghost's grandfather, got bitten by a snake on national television, and battled Spider-Man in a steel cage, among many other things few mortal men would dare dream about. And yet apparently, despite appearances, he was simply that - a mortal man. There will never be a more bombastically awesome human being on the face of this planet, and he will be truly missed.

Apocalypse predictors: I hope you get your wish in a few months (or tomorrow, whenever the current trendy doomsday prediction happens to be), because frankly a world without The Macho Man Randy Savage is a lot less worth living in. And if the world doesn't end - well we all know who to thank for sacrificing himself to save us.

Born Randall Mario Poffo, the one time baseball prospect turned grappler would rise to international fame as de facto second banana to Hulk Hogan during the golden age of the World Wrestling Federation in the late 80s and early 90s. At the time, pro graps was the Hogan show, and all the other wrestlers were bit players compared to the orange titan with the blonde Chinese hair at the top of the card. However, the Macho Man distinguished himself in the eyes of fans due to his undeniable charisma and athleticism, not to mention his flashy outfits and mastery of the era's cocaine-fueled-rambling-insane-philosopher-style promos, and eventually earned his spot as Hogan's lieutenant in the ranks of good (that is, when he wasn't kicking ass for the side of evil). He is also known and loved for snapping into Slim Jims and being the first thing anyone thinks about when they hear "Pomp and Circumstance" playing at their cousin's high school graduation.

Any brief discussion or summation of Savage's entire wrestling career would fail to do the man (Sid) justice, so instead I simply present my [recently amended] Top 5 Favorite Macho Man Randy Savage Moments.

5) Macho Man Wins the WWF Championship Tournament at Wrestlemania IV

Notable because it provided the opportunity for this amazing picture to be taken:

I can't think of an image that screams VICTORY more than that one.

This show was also notable because it featured no less than four victories for the Macho Man, topped off by a huge win in the finals for his first WWF Championship against "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, a cartoon supervillain of a man who back in the day ruled almost as hard as The Macho Man did:

4) The Mega Powers Explode!

Savage originally entered the WWF as an obnoxious, egotistical villain who was absolutley obsessed with his girlfriend/manager, the lovely, fair, and pure as the driven snow Miss Elizabeth, who of course he treated like crap. Many of his feuds would begin with another wrestler making eyes at Elizabeth and the jealous Macho Man snapping as a result. Over time, however, the fans warmed up to Savage's colorful personality, and after a shift over to the side of good during his Wrestlemania IV run at the WWF Championship (which he claimed with an assist from fan favorite Hulk Hogan and a steel chair), he became the second biggest face in the promotion. The biggest, as I said before, being the hotdog-skinned mustard-stached face of Hogan.

Eventually, after Hogan made a save at Elizabeth's request while Savage was being assaulted by the dastardly Hart Foundation, the two officially joined forces as one of the most unstoppable alliances the wrestling world has ever seen - The Mega Powers! For months, Hogan and Savage were inseparable, watching each other's backs against the biggest, baddest villains in the WWF. Hogan even took on Miss Elizabeth as a manager. 

Of course, that would prove to be the beginning of the end for the Mega Powers, as Savage's jealous nature would eventually cause him to turn on Hogan. This culminated in a memorable tag team match between the Mega Powers and the Twin Towers (the team of Akeem the African Dream and the Big Boss Man - never forget!) during which Miss Elizabeth was injured when Savage was thrown out of the ring and crashed into her. Hogan carried Liz backstage to the trainers, which incensed Macho Man and led to him walking out on the match and his partner. What followed was one of the quintessential pro wrestling heel turns.







3) Savage vs. Steamboat for the WWF Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania III

Pretty much universally acclaimed as one of the best wrestling matches of all time, this match speaks for itself and was my original pick for #1 (until it got bumped when I rewatched one of the greatest storylines of all time - and besides, I only ever saw this on video way after it happened). The buildup to this one showcased the much-loved Macho Man's undeniable skill at playing the villain. Savage crushing Steamboat's larynx with the timekeeper's bell set the template for blood-feud-making pro wrestling beatdowns. That, and former Governor of Minnesota Jesse "The Body" Ventura's complete inability to pronounce the word larynx on commentary ("LAIRNYNX") led to me never being sure how to spell that damned word until I was like 20. Take the time to to watch this one - and Dailymotion's countless commercials - and I promise you'll understand what people see in this fake carny pseudo-sport.  

2) Macho Man Bit By a Cobra

There is nothing that is less sacred in the colorful world of pro graps than the Retirement Match. Ric Flair was retired by Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXIV after a match that stole the show, was given a sendoff the next night bigger than any retiring wrestler has ever seen (locker room emptied for a standing O, tears, arena full of fans chanting "thank you Ric") and yet mere months later he was bleeding in his underwear in the middle of a TNA ring - that is, bleeding while clad only in his underwear, not like bleeding from the ass or something. I'm not sure why it's the case, but the time honored lack of regard for the Retirement Match is as set in stone as anything in the "make shit up as you go along" world of wrestling can be and for me, the precedent was set by Randy Savage.

After breaking off from the Mega Powers and winning his second King of the Ring tournament, Savage began calling himself The Macho King, added a crown and scepter to his already outlandish gear, traded in Miss Elizabeth for the much less wholesome and way more evil Sensational Sherri, and generally started acting like an asshole. This all led to a retirement match against the legendary Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VII, and after failing to best the Warrior with multiple scepter shots to the head and no less than FIVE of his patented Macho Man Elbow Drops, Savage was vanquished and - per the stipulation - forcibly retired from in-ring competition... for nine months. Well, that's almost a year!

All gripes about the sanctity of a stipulation in a fake fighting match aside, the storyline that saw Macho Man come out of retirement features one of the best blood feuds wrestling has ever seen. Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth had recently gotten married, tying the knot at SummerSlam 1991 while Savage wore the most absolutely pimp wedding outfit of all time. 

However, the reception was crashed by the diabolical Jake "The Snake" Roberts along with his cohort at the time, The Undertaker (a seven foot wrestling zombie, for the uninitiated), and a gift wrapped snake-in-a-box in what is one of the most classic scenes ever to take place on a pro wrestling show. Trust me - there are few things more purely "Pro Wrestling" than this clip.

Enraged, the Macho Man sought to be reinstated as an in-ring competitor, but WWF President Jack Tunney - in one of his many bogus acts as president - refused. Roberts continued to antagonize Savage, and at one point even goaded him into the ring only to jump him, tie him up in the ropes, and SIC A KING COBRA ON HIM.

This moment is burned into the memory of anyone who was a fan of pro graps at the time, especially those of us who saw it as children. Everything about this clip is a testament to how great the over-the-top sideshow that is pro wrestling can be as well as a testament to the ginormous set of balls that the Macho Man possessed. The cobra gnawing away at Savage's flesh, Vince McMahon hamming it up on commentary ("THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! SAVAGE MUST BE HALLUCINATING BY NOW! THE POISON FLOWING THROUGH HIS VEINS!"), Elizabeth's B-movie horror screams, the shots of the crying kids in the crowd, the fact that no one is really even trying to get control of the situation - it's all so priceless. Where else but on a pro wrestling show could you see a man assault another man with a king cobra?

This attack finally led to the Macho Man's reinstatement, and he and Jake faced off in a match at This Tuesday in Texas that saw the Macho Man come up on the winning side of things. However, Roberts would attack Savage after the match, laying him out with DDT after DDT and forcing Miss Elizabeth to beg for mercy on the Macho Man's behalf before SLAPPING HER ACROSS THE FACE! To quote Gorilla Monsoon, who witnessed it all go down:


This is the kind of stuff that legendary wrestling feuds are made of. It's also the kind of stuff you won't ever, ever see on a wrestling show again. I literally can't think of a pro graps villain ever doing something more loathsome than Jake the Snake slapping the fair Miss Elizabeth in the face and then vilely threatening to "cultivate her into something even I could want." 

Of course, the rivalry didn't end there and Jake would eventually get what he deserved from Savage (a flying elbow to the throat) as the book was closed on another one of the great chapters in pro wrestling history.

1) Ric Flair Has Pictures of Miss Elizabeth

Yet another unforgettable Elizabeth-centric feud between Savage and one of the all-time greats, this entire storyline undeniably stands out as the epitome of what pro wrestling should be. The build up to Wrestlemania VIII saw the fiendish and flamboyant "Nature Boy" Ric Flair capture the vacant WWF Championship by outlasting 29 other men en route to winning the 1992 Royal Rumble. The new champ Flair would then incite the rage of the Macho Man by claiming to have had a relationship with Miss Elizabeth before she married Savage and repeatedly calling her "damaged goods." To make matters worse, Flair and his buddy Mr. Perfect insisted they had the pictures to prove it, including one shot of Elizabeth famously described as a "centerfold."

Savage and Elizabeth denied the allegations (with Savage famously snarling "UNNNTRRRUUUE!" over and over in response to Mean Gene Okerlund's probing questions) and countered that Flair's pictures of he and Elizabeth together were actually doctored photos of Elizabeth and the Macho Man. Flair insisted that as world champion he was above such lies, and promised to save the unveiling of the "centerfold" for his post-match victory celebration at Wrestlemania. 

However, Savage emerged the winner at Wrestlemania VIII in a barn burner, recapturing the WWF Championship and preserving his wife's honor - though he had to stoop to Flair's level in order to do it. I originally had Steamboat vs. Savage in my #1 spot, but after seeing this one again I just had to give it top honors (and edit my whole dang post). 

This right here is the Platonic ideal form of a Wrestling Grudge Match. Perfect and Flair cheated throughout, but it was the Macho Man who took the win and the belt with an assist from a fistful of the Nature Boy's tights. Flair secured a small measure of revenge by managing to steal a kiss from Elizabeth after the bell, only to be pummeled by Savage for his trouble. Everything about this - the nuclear crowd, Savage wrestling like an absolute crazed beast who wants to murder Flair and Perfect (plus his man-sized babyface comeback in the second act), Flair's amazing knack for getting his ass beat (and his hilarious BLATANT blade job right after the signature Savage axehandle into the barricade), the brilliant commentary from Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon, Elizabeth's hammy cameo flanked by pleading WWF officials, right down to the post-match promos, which are the stuff of legend - is pro wrestling at its absolute finest. WATCH THIS MATCH NOW.

The rivalry between the Macho Man and the Nature Boy would continue as Flair would regain the WWF title in a later rematch, although his promised "centerfold" of Elizabeth never came to light. To this day, this feud still stands as some of the best, most compelling and dramatic storytelling to come out of pro wrestling (not that that's really saying much, but still, this stuff was pretty great).

You know, looking back at all these classic pro graps moments makes it even harder to come to terms with what a loss the Macho Man's death truly is. The man was an entertainment supernova, and the world is palpably less awesome without him. But god damn if I don't still get chills watching these old clips. At least us fans will always have the memories. Thanks for those, Macho.

I can't wrap this post up anywhere near as well as than the man himself, so I'll bring things to a close with this incredible Randy Savage promo (and a question: Where the hell does he keep getting all those creamers? Maybe there's truth to the Ultimate Warrior's claim that gallons of coffee - as opposed to mountains of blow - was the true source of the Madness after all):

The cream of the crop indeed. Nobody did it better, and nobody ever will. We'll miss you, Macho Man Randy Savage. Rest easy.

1 comment:

  1. good read, ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhh