Commencement season is upon us, folks. And with that being said colleges and universities are ready to prepare the “Pomp and Circumstance” for their graduates on a special day. With that being said, in the history of professional wrestling, no one exuded more pomp and circumstance than one Randy Poffo, better known as “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The man who went down to the ring to Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” playing throughout the arena was and still is one of the most loved pro wrestlers of all time due to his charismatic promos and incredible in-ring performances that stand the test of time. That being said, here is a look at the long, marvelous career of the “Macho Man”.
Before he was the “Macho Man”, he was Randy Poffo. For those who don’t know, Randy Poffo was rostered by three Major League Baseball teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, who signed him out of high school as a catcher. Once in the minor leagues, he found himself patrolling the outfield as a Left Fielder. Unfortunately, his career would end after four seasons in the minor leagues when his right shoulder would be injured for good. He would try to continue his career by learning from the left side, but it would not be enough for him to continue on in baseball, retiring in 1974 and falling in love with the world his father was a legend of.
Something that fans may not know is that Savage began his wrestling career while still playing baseball in the minor leagues, having his wrestling debut in 1973 under the gimmick of “The Spider” which many compared to Spider-Man back then. (Which makes it even cooler that he got to be “Bone-Saw” in the 2002 film of Spider-Man) Savage was trained by his father Angelo Poffo, who had wrestled in the NWA and AWA for much of his career. He would get the name of Randy Savage from Georgia Championship Wrestling booker Ole Anderson, who told Savage that “The Spider” name did not fit the savage-like in-ring style that he had developed.
For much of his years in the 70s, Savage competed almost specifically in the NWA (primarily with his father’s International Championship Wrestling in Kentucky) and Georgia Championship Wrestling. In his time, he would win the NWA Gulf Coast Tag Team Championships with his brother Lanny Poffo, as well winning a number of singles championships including the NWA Mid-America Championship on two separate occasions. Following his six years of NWA work, the “Macho Man” would join the Memphis scene with his brother Lanny. In Memphis as a part of Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association, Savage would feud with Lawler through 1984 and the first half of 1985, including their battles over the AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship. They would battle all the way to Savage’s last match in the promotion, where Lawler would defeat him in a “Loser Leaves Town” match before Savage would go on to sign with the World Wrestling Federation.
Through his creative, game-changing promos and incredible in-ring work, Macho Man debuted as the “top free agent in wrestling” and was in high demand. Savage would appear on Tuesday Night Titans as the top managers in wrestling would attempt to gain the services of the “Macho Man”. The likes of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Mr. Fuji, Johnny Valiant and Jimmy Hart all fought for being the advocate of Randy Savage, but Savage had better ideas in mind. On the July 30th, 1985 edition of WWF Championship Wrestling, Savage would grab the microphone following his victory over Jim Young and make his final announcement of who his manager would be. With all the managers hoping for his talents in the ring, Savage letting everyone know that he is at the absolute top, his peak, would announce that Miss Elizabeth would be the one who would walk him to the ring for the foreseeable future. As many know now, this would become one of the most iconic duos in wrestling history and continues to be brought up to this day as the real-life married couple made every emotion feel real on screen (and so beautifully captured in the VICELAND documentary, “The Match Made In Heaven”).
With Miss Elizabeth by his side, Savage became even more of a rough and tough individual, bullying and punishing anyone who even dare look at Elizabeth. This version of Randy Savage is the one that became a sensation in the WWF. Towards the end of his first year in 1985, he would enter a rivalry with Tito Santana in a fight over the Intercontinental Championship. On the November 2 version of Saturday Night’s Main Event, he would get his primetime shot at the championship but come up short in a double count out.
Before he would continue his feud with Tito, the Macho Man would make his PPV debut at The Wrestling Classic show where he would compete in the Wrestling Classic Tournament getting all the way to the finals before losing by count out to The Junkyard Dog. He would once again continue his feud with Tito, ultimately winning his first championship in the WWE at the Boston Garden on February 8 of 1986 which would lead to an incredible reign by Randy Savage. Savage had no problem cheating to get him the championship, using a steel object from his trunks to smash Tito and get the pinfall. His first big feud defending the championship would be against George “The Animal” Steele which would all start due to his crush he would develop on Miss Elizabeth. This would mark Savage’s first WrestleMania, WrestleMania II to be exact, defending the Intercontinental Championship successfully and giving him his first huge defense.
For over 400 days, Randy Savage would successfully defend his championship, all leading to the matchup of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at WrestleMania III in 1987. On Prime Time Wrestling in March of 87, the Macho Man would cut a promo on Steamboat with a cup of coffee in hand letting the world know that this would be Steamboat’s “cup of coffee” in the big time as he would exit WrestleMania III still the Intercontinental Champion of the world. With Savage’s rival George “The Animal” Steele on the outside, the forever remembered classic between the two Hall of Famers would take place and be remembered in history as one of the greatest WrestleMania matches to this very day. Steamboat would walk away victorious when he would turn a slam by the Macho Man into a small package pin to pick up the three count and win the Intercontinental Championship, ending Savage’s first championship reign as a part of the WWE at 414 days.
Savage would spend much of 1987 trying to win back the Intercontinental Championship but failing to do so. He would then be apart of the King of the Ring tournament on September 4th of 1987. In his first-round matchup Savage would defeat Nikolai Volkoff to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals he would manage to the defeat Jim Brunzell allowing him to get to the semifinals and be considered the favorite. In the matchup against Danny Davis, he would defeat him as well to set up a finals battle against King Kong Bundy. Randy Savage would pin Bundy, winning the third annual King of the Ring to carry a large amount of momentum heading into in 1988 which would be the biggest of his career.
With all this momentum, the Macho Man had become one of the biggest fan-favorites of this time and doing so treated the fans and Miss Elizabeth much more fairly as the fans hoped that one day he would be WWF World Champion. But before 1988 could come around, one of the greatest stories in the history of the WWE would occur when Macho Man entered a feud with the Honky Tonk Man in late 87. On Saturday Night’s Main Event on October 3rd, 1987, the Macho Man got his opportunity against the Intercontinental Champion but would be stopped when The Hart Foundation would enter the ring and help the Honky Tonk Man beat down Savage. Miss Elizabeth would try to stop them but would be pushed out of the way and disappear to the back. She would return by bringing out the WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan to aid Savage. The two men would fight off The Hart Foundation and the Honky Tonk Man but then shaking the hands of each other on their way to the birth of The Mega Powers.
The greatest alliance in the history of wrestling would be formed as The Mega Powers would be the law over the WWE. Randy Savage would get to the biggest moment in his career when he would be in the WWF Championship tournament at WrestleMania IV. While a possible match with Hogan was possible in the finals, it would be denied as Hogan and Andre The Giant would end in a double disqualification. Savage would go through Butch Reed and Greg Valentine no problem before facing One Man Gang in the semis. One Man Gang would purposely be DQ’ed in aid of Ted DiBiase who had made it to the final prior. In the finals, Macho Man would face off with DiBiase to crown the new WWF Champion. With Hogan and Elizabeth in his corner, Savage fought and fought to stay alive and achieve his greatest accomplishment yet. As DiBiase locked in the Million Dollar Dream and Andre pulled on Savage, it looked as though we would have a new champion. Hogan would get in the ring and strike the “Million Dollar Man” with a steel chair as the referee dealt with Andre, allowing Savage to climb to the top rope and ultimately hit the Elbow Drop to become the new WWF Champion. “Pomp and Circumstance” would play through the arena as the Macho Man stood tall with Elizabeth on his shoulder and his Mega Powers teammate by his side.
The Mega Powers and Savage’s reign would go strong through the first ever SummerSlam event when they would defeat DiBiase and Andre in the main event as a team. However, cracks began to show as the Macho Man became angry and jealous with Hogan as it seemed he had feelings for Elizabeth. Miss Elizabeth would not only manage Savage but begin managing Hogan as well which would lead to Savage being ready to explode. On The Main Event in February of 1989, Elizabeth would be injured in their tag match against the Twin Towers. Hogan would carry Elizabeth to the back-leaving Savage alone. It would be backstage where Savage would finally snap, calling out Hogan and attacking him in the process for trying to steal the love of Elizabeth for himself. The fiery Savage would cut one of the most serious and fiery promos in the history of wrestling ahead of the biggest WrestleMania main event of all time at WrestleMania V. He would declare how he hates Hogan and will keep his WWF Championship when it is all said and done. After holding the championship for 371 days, Hogan would get the last laugh by defeating Savage for the championship and driving Macho Man off the deep end.
Macho Man’s turn went to another level when he would drop Miss Elizabeth as his manager and have Sensational Sherri replace her. Not only would he drop Elizabeth, but also being the Macho Man as he would become the “Macho King” in September of 1989. By winning the title of King of the Ring from Hacksaw Jim Duggan, he would become the King of the WWF. Coronation and all, the Macho King would rule over the company and enter a rivalry with the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. They would battle at WrestleMania VI when Macho King and Sherri would team up to take on Dusty and Sapphire. The Macho King would lose in this effort before getting in win back at SummerSlam later in 1990.
The King of WWF would finally move his attention to the WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior in the late months of 1990 in hopes of getting the true crown of the WWF. Tensions would escalate at the 1991 Royal Rumble when he wanted a piece of the Warrior if he defeated Sgt. Slaughter but would not receive such promise. Savage and Sherri would make sure Warrior would instead lose the championship due to Macho King and Sherri attacking him on the outside. The scepter of the King would strike the Ultimate Warrior out cold, leading to him losing the championship and a match between the two at WrestleMania VII with the catch of the Savage’s career being on the line.
As Miss Elizabeth made her return to the scene watching the match from the crowd, Savage would fight and fight but not have enough to defeat the Ultimate Warrior. The beaten down would be pinned in the middle of the ring and his career would-be put-on hold in-ring wise. Sensational Sherri would begin to beat down the Macho Man which would get Miss Elizabeth to run into the ring and make the save, leading to WWE’s most iconic couple reuniting in the middle of the ring as tears ran down the faces of the fans. Much like when he won his first WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV, he would lift Elizabeth to his shoulder holding her high as the fans could enjoy this moment for Macho Man and Elizabeth as his career would be over for now (despite having matches in Japan for the company), but he could be happy.
His return to television would be as a commentator as he could rest his body for a few months. He and Elizabeth would have their forever remembered on-air wedding, known as “The Match Made in Heaven” at SummerSlam of 91 which would begin his feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. This would be the reinstatement of the Macho Man to the glee of the fans and would lead to a rivalry between the two which would involve the remembered biting of the cobra on the arm of the Macho Man. The feud would roll all the way into 1992 when he would defeat Roberts at the February 8th episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. With Roberts out of the way, it would allow Savage to pursue a championship for his first time back, being the WWF Championship at WrestleMania VIII against “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
The feud would be developed through Ric Flair claiming that he and Elizabeth were once together beforehand. This would rile up the Macho Man as he would go to WrestleMania and defeat Ric Flair for his second WWF Championship reign. Much of his 1992 year would involve the Macho Man teaming with the man who had retired him in the Ultimate Warrior as his championship reign lasted long enough. He would have to face Warrior at SummerSlam for the championship and it looked like this would not last too long, unfortunately. The match would end when Ric Flair would come back into the picture with the help of Mr. Perfect and beat Macho Man down on the outside leading to a count out. On an episode of Prime Time Wrestling that aired on September 14th, Ric Flair would take the championship from the Macho Man marking his last championship reign in the WWF.
The last years of Randy Savage’s WWE career would involve him teaming with Warrior to become the “Ultimate Maniacs”, become a commentator again in 1993, and have on and off matches but not wrestle at a full-time schedule for much longer. His career in the company would shut down almost as his contract would not be renewed as Savage in his own words did not want to fully retire just yet from the ring, going to World Championship Wrestling in 1995 and never stepping foot in the WWE again.
In WCW, it was never really the same for Savage. While his historic rivalries with Flair and Hogan were renewed, in no way was he the true Macho Man of old. He would become a four-time WCW World Champion but none of his reigns would last over 31 days. His time in WCW would also include him becoming a member of the New World Order and having his own Team Madness in 1999. The greatness of the Macho Man will forever be remembered for his time in WWE, but it is important to let it be known of his time in WCW and even TNA in 2004 which included just one match.
“The Cream of the Crop” was truly the “Macho Man” Randy Savage as his career will forever be remembered for his iconic promos that are impersonated to this day and his incredible in-ring abilities that leave him as one of the greatest of all time.
He passed away on May 20, 2011, when he suffered a heart attack and unfortunately crashed his car which was the last of the Macho Man on this Earth. On January 12, 2015, he would be announced as an inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame as his brother Lanny Poffo would be his representation which was perfect in retrospect. Macho Man spent many of his final years as an ambassador for the Special Olympics and caring for kids and being such an important part of that.
The legacy of “Macho Man” Randy Savage remains strong to this day and should for as long as professional wrestling is around. A true student of the game and the reason many follow their dreams of becoming wrestlers due to his realness inside the squared circle that is unmatched, we happily remember the Macho Man as commencement season continues on and “Pomp and Circumstance” plays through arenas and buildings around the world.
Thank you to the Macho Man for his contributions to the world of professional wrestling and the world as a whole.
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