As a long time wrestling fan, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the passing of wrestling legend Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Savage passed away this morning when his car smashed into a tree while driving his car in Florida. Early reports stated that Savage had a heart attack while operating his vehicle and that’s what caused him to lose control of his car.
I have two memories of Savage that really stand out for me.
My first memory of Savage comes from the first ever wrestling show I attended. It was 1986 and my aunt and uncle took me to Madison Square Garden to see a WWF (now WWE) house show. As I recall, on the card was Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine vs. The British Bulldogs, Corporal Kershner vs. Nikolai Volcoff, and Paul Orndorff vs. Big John Studd amongst others.
But the main event and the highlight of the card was Savage vs. Hulk Hogan. In the 80′s, Savage and Hogan was THE feud in wrestling. Yes, Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes, Hogan vs. Orndorff, Hogan vs. Andre The Giant, and Hogan vs. Roddy Pipper were big, but none of them had the staying power that the Hogan vs. Savage feud had.
The Hogan – Savage feud lasted from 1985 when Savage joined the WWF all the up to their clash at WrestleMania V. And it probably could have gone another three or four years if the WWF would have allowed it to.
What I remember from that night — outside of the matches — is that I sat in the third row and almost caught Savage’s glasses when he threw them into the crowd. I missed catching them by two feet. From that night on, I was hooked. Wrestling had me.
What had me was the way both Hogan and Savage had 19,000 people on the edge of their seats for 20 minutes. Savage, the heel at the time and Hogan, the ever-so-popular baby face, engaged the crowd like no other.
Savage was a great showman, but even a better technician in the ring, which I always appreciated. This leads me to my second memory of Savage.
In 1987, WrestleMania III was highlighted by the Hogan vs. Andre match. The match drew 93,000-plus at the Silverdome in Detroit, MI. While that match might have put the people in the seats, the match from that card that brought the people out of their seats was Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
The match was an instant classic and in my opinion, the greatest match of all time and the match that changed wrestling forever.
Before the Savage – Steamboat match, most wrestling matches were slow and methodical. Most matches involved a headlock, a take down, and then holding that headlock for five minutes. The match told a story, but the story ended up being War and Peace.
The Savage – Steamboat match took wrestling to the next level. It was a fast-paced match that had over 20 “false finishes (that’s when a wrestler kicks out of a pin),” which was unheard of at the time. Not only did this match have over 20 false finishes, but it lasted over 20 minutes.
It went 20 minutes with two wrestlers who were at the top of their game. Steamboat and Savage were two of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time. I’ll take the Mr. Perfect’s, the Barry Windham’s, and the Tully Blanchard’s any day of the week over the Hogan’s, Ultimate Warrior’s or John Cena’s.
I always enjoyed those type of wrestlers — the guys who could do any move and execute it perfectly, rather than the guy who was just a fan favorite because he had a certain look. And Savage and Steamboat were so technically perfect that night, it was unprecedented.
Savage lost the Intercontinental Title that night to Steamboat, but it wasn’t about who won or lost. It was about watching history before your eyes. It was about Savage detailing every single move before the match (Savage was legendary for being detailed oriented and planning out every move for a match) and then executing those moves without flaw.
Because of that match and the reviews that is drew, wrestling promoters changed their cards to feature faster paced matches and those cards eventually became what you see in today’s style of wrestling.
Those are my memories of Savage. He entertained me for nearly 20 years and his signature “Oooooooh Yeah” will be missed. I really hope the WWE now puts Savage in the Hall of Fame. It’s a joke that he hasn’t been inducted already, but in the wrestling industry, rumors are like peanut butter and jelly, they go hand and hand and the long standing rumor is that Savage had some sort of relations with Stephanie McMahon and that’s why he’s not in the HOF.
RIP Randy Savage, you will be sorely missed.