I remember this perfectly:
“Ooooh yeah, freak out freak! When I’m in Canada I like to know what my opponents are up to, so I dial 1-976-2929!”
That was Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s commercial for the Wrestling hotline, which I dialed many times as a 10 year old fan living in Toronto, wanting to hear the voices of all my favourite and not-so-favourite World Wrestling Federation superstars. Make no mistake, the Macho Man was definitely one of my favourites. Like Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at the same time, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock a generation later, even if you didn’t watch wrestling, you probably knew who Randy Savage was. In fact, I was at the symphony with the Queen Saturday night and I overheard two gentlemen several generations removed from me talking about Savage’s tragic death at 58 this past Friday. Clearly, he was a character everybody remembered.
Randy Savage arrived in the WWF in the fall of 1985, which tied in with me becoming a wrestling fan. I was 8 years old, nearly 9 and Savage headlined the first live show I ever witnessed. My dad and I sat at Hamilton Place, where we watched on Closed-Circuit television as the Macho Man and the Hulkster battled it out from Maple Leaf Gardens. Hogan retained his world heavyweight championship that night and I became a fan. From 1985-1988, Randy Savage was one of the biggest bad guys in the business, feuding with Hogan, George “The Animal” Steel and, perhaps most memorably, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Their rivalry, stoked when Savage crushed Steamboat’s larynx with the ring bell on television, culminated at Wrestlemania III at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan in front of 93,173 fans. It’s universally agreed upon by wrestling critics and and fans that, while the Andre The Giant-Hulk Hogan match sold the show, it was Savage-Steamboat that stole it.
One year later, Randy Savage became a good guy, burying the hatchet with Hulk Hogan and winning the top title at Wrestlemania IV. He held it for a year and was almost as popular as Hogan, something that should have been impossible. Throughout the rest of his WWF and eventual WCW run, Savage would move between heel and babyface, both of which he pulled off with ease. I think that deep down, even when we were supposed to be booing him, all of us wanted to be cheering the Macho Man. He was a brilliant in-ring wrestler along with being a captivating talker – all the tools that made him a legend in the wrestling business.
The last decade had been all quiet when it came to Randy Savage. He never returned to the WWF/WWE and there was always speculation as to why. Some say it was because he gave Vince McMahon no notice when he up and left for World Championsip Wrestling in the mid-90’s. The more salacious types suggested a tryst between Savage and McMahon’s barely legal daughter had caused an irreparable rift. Whatever the case, Savage was persona non grata up until the past year and half. First came a DVD anthology of his greatest matches, and then the announcement of an action figure and appearance in the latest WWE video game. It seemed whatever bad relations there were between the man and the company where he made his mark were thawing. Sadly, with his death all we’re left with now is speculation of what could have been and the inevitable posthumous induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
There are lots of great memories of Randy “Macho Man” Savage, from beating Tito Santana for the Intercontinental title with the use of a foreign object and to hiding behind his valet (and first wife) Elizabeth whenever he needed protection to defending her honour when battling Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 8. Savage was one of the best – in his honor, why not check out a few of his matches while snapping into a Slim Jim.