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The history of World Wrestling Entertainment cannot be written without the story of “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
The 2015 Hall of Fame inductee exploded onto the national scene at a time when Hulk Hogan was wrestling’s biggest star and wasted little time proving that he could excel at that same level. With an in-ring ability that few rivaled and a larger-than-life personality that would captivate worldwide audiences, he was a complete package and legitimate competition to The Hulkster.
His matches and rivalries are the stuff of legend. They were absolutely integral to establishing WWE as the No. 1 promotion in professional wrestling and must-see television for fans of sports entertainment.
In many ways, Savage transcended the sport, with his work helping him to become a household name.
Critically acclaimed, and rightfully so, Savage remains as popular in 2017 as he was at the height of his in-ring career.
Relive the wild ride of Randy Savage throughout his WWE career with his best, most memorable moments, a few disappointing ones and the incredibly outrageous instance that demonstrated the passion with which he approached his craft.
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Savage’s iconic run in WWE may best explain why he is the beloved Superstar he is even now, some six years after his death, but he built a reputation for himself as a magnetic personality well before he set foot in Vince McMahon’s promotion.
Macho Man feuded with Jerry “The King” Lawler in the Memphis territory, working some of the hottest and most memorable matches of either Hall of Famer’s career.
The tension had built to such a point, though, that there was no longer room enough for both of them in the territory. On June 3, 1985, Savage and Lawler battled in a Loser Leaves Town match that would send one man packing forever.
Savage bloodied Lawler, and at numerous times throughout the match, he appeared to have The King defeated. Lawler demonstrated some of that trademark intensity and babyface fire that had become a staple of his in-ring performances and fought back, overcoming Savage’s vicious onslaught and sending him packing.
The match, though not one of either man’s best, put an end to a rivalry that helped Savage achieve national recognition and the eye of North America’s most daring and successful promoter.
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Since its inception in 1979, the Intercontinental Championship was synonymous with Superstars whose personalities were defined by their in-ring work. They were not bombastic or outrageous. They were not necessarily the most charismatic bunch of wrestlers, but their work between the ropes helped elevate the title in importance.
That all changed on February 8, 1986, when Randy Savage defeated Tito Santana in Boston to capture the title.
The Macho Man was a larger-than-life character, a Superstar who demanded the attention of any audience he performed in front of. He was loud, electrifying and brought a sense of showmanship to WWE program few could match.
On that night, inside the historic Boston Garden, Savage utilized a foreign object to knock out the game Santana, win the title and forever alter perceptions as to what kind of Superstar held that prestigious championship.
Yes, Savage was a superb in-ring worker, but the strength of his character allowed Vince McMahon to look at his roster of larger-than-life personas and realize that any one of them could conceivably hold the coveted prize.
Including Honky Tonk Man, who, arguably, never would have held the title were it not for Savage paving the way for more character-driven Superstars to enjoy that sort of success.
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March 29, 1987.
Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit.
And 93,173 fans filling the dome to the brim in anticipation for the epic wrestling extravaganza that was WrestleMania III.
On that night, in front of an all-time indoor attendance record number of fans, Savage would defend his Intercontinental Championship against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. The match, the culmination of a monthslong story that began when Savage nearly ended his rival’s career courtesy of a ring bell to the back that crushed Steamboat’s throat across a guardrail, was one of the night’s marquee bouts.
It was a major force behind the excitement that filled the air that evening and drew that absurd number of fans to the venue.
Savage and Steamboat, thriving under the bright lights and understanding the enormity of the event, did not disappoint.
In what remains one of the greatest matches in professional wrestling history, the Superstars jam-packed a half-hour’s worth of action and drama into a compact 15-minute frame. The result was an unpredictable match that kept the legions of WWE fans on the edge of their seats. A worldwide audience watched Savage attempt to utilize the same ring bell that nearly put Steamboat out of action for good, only to have his old rival George “The Animal” Steele uncharacteristically interfere, shoving him from the top rope.
That distraction was more than enough for Steamboat to score a small package rollup and win the title.
Steamboat may have left the event with the title in his possession, but it was Savage whose greatness captured the attention of management and endeared him to the sea of wrestling fans inside the dome. In a year’s time, Savage would take his rightful place at the top of the wrestling world, a place that can be attributed to his epic performance on the grandest stage the sport had ever seen.
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On an unforgettable night in April 1988, live from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Randy Savage paid off years of hard work and dedication to being the very best professional wrestler on the planet by defeating “The Natural” Butch Reed, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, One Man Gang and “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase in a single night to become WWE champion.
Once considered too small to carry the top prize in Vince McMahon’s traveling circus of sports entertainment, Savage shattered the glass ceiling and proved a larger-than-life character, with unrivaled in-ring skill, could hold the most coveted prize in wrestling regardless of his size.
The image of him celebrating the victory, manager Miss Elizabeth shedding tears of joy by his side while newfound ally Hulk Hogan rallied the crowd in support of the new champion, is an iconic one in WrestleMania history.
And rightfully so.
Savage had proved to be a hybrid of sorts.
In a company that had seemingly separated the workers from the characters, Savage perfectly blended the two roles together, proving to the world that it was possible to be both a ring general and transcendent personality all at the same time.
He would ride a roller coaster of emotion through the next year that would produce one of the most unforgettable stories in wrestling history.
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In hindsight, one can point to WrestleMania III as the start of a three-year trilogy that firmly established Savage as one of the greatest storytellers, let alone professional wrestlers, in sports-entertainment history.
If the 1987 classic against Ricky Steamboat was his breakout performance and his WWE Championship victory the following year was his coronation as the best wrestler in the industry, WrestleMania V in 1989 saw a fall from grace fueled by jealousy and envy.
Believing his friendship with Hulk Hogan to be one built out of deceit and lust, Savage became paranoid. He repeatedly accused Hogan of having eyes for Miss Elizabeth and suggested The Hulkster palled around with him in order to share the spotlight that rightfully belonged to the champion.
The Mega Powers, once the most unstoppable force in professional wrestling, exploded before the eyes of the wrestling world when Savage perpetrated a sneak attack on Hogan during a broadcast of The Main Event on NBC.
At WrestleMania V, Hogan would defeat Savage and capture the WWE Championship he last held early in 1988. While The Macho Man lost the match, his star burnt brighter than it ever had before. He had proved himself an elite star in professional wrestling and was firmly entrenched atop the promotion.
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By the time WrestleMania VII arrived, Savage was wrapping up his second full year as a heel. Having cost The Ultimate Warrior the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, he was still as over a bad guy as there was in the industry, but there was a sense the WWE fans wanted to cheer the charismatic grappler again.
A Retirement match against Warrior and the fallout from it would give them that opportunity.
The bout, one of the greatest examples of the power of storytelling within the confines of a match, captivated the fans in Los Angeles and reiterated Savage’s greatness. A true ring general, he laid out a phenomenal bout that left the audience guessing as to whom would eat the pinfall and go away for the time being.
Savage sacrificed the effectiveness of his iconic top-rope elbow drop for the sake of the match, dropping for of them on Warrior, only for the face-painted fan favorite to kick out. From there, he bumped around the ring, his knees weak and shaking as Warrior exploded off the ropes with another brutal shoulder tackle.
Egoless, he laid motionless on the mat as the former WWE champion placed a single boot on his chest and pinned him, seemingly ending the critically acclaimed career of The Macho Man.
As phenomenal a match as that was, though, what happened afterward provided fans of any gender and age a moment that would live forever in the annals of WrestleMania lore.
Beaten and battered, his ego deflated and his career over, Savage struggled to his feet while manager Sensational Queen Sherri berated him. Her meal ticket now gone from the industry, she laid into him with stiff kicks to the ribs, embarrassing and humiliating him.
Suddenly, Miss Elizabeth emerged from the stands, threw Sherri to the mat and checked on her former charge. When Savage finally realized who it was and that she was not the perpetrator of the selfish and self-centered attack, he embraced her.
Tears flowed from the eyes of the WWE fans, many of which were captured on camera.
From there, Savage hoisted Elizabeth into the air, providing fans with the emotional happy ending they had previously only dreamed of.
Savage never really went away, storyline loopholes allowing him to remain an active competitor.
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The 1991 rivalry between Randy Savage and Jake “The Snake” Roberts ranks as one of the best-though-darkest in WWE history.
After Roberts and The Undertaker interrupted the wedding reception of Savage and wife Elizabeth at SummerSlam in August, the intense dislike between Macho Man and the devious Snake devolved into pure, unadulterated hatred.
In October 1991, Roberts perpetrated one of the most unforgettable attacks in WWE history. Restraining Savage in the ring ropes, the future Hall of Famer unleashed a king cobra on his rival, allowing it to latch its fangs into Savage’s bicep.
Fans watched in terror as the horrific situation played out. At one point it became clear there was a struggle to get the snake to release from Savage’s arm, making for an even more dire situation.
The lack of television magic, the reality of the ordeal, demonstrated Savage’s commitment to the art. Who else would have willingly allowed a cobra, devenomized or not, to bite them in the arm for the sake of a wrestling angle?
Savage did, creating an unforgettable moment that doubles for the most outrageous of his all-time great career.
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Randy Savage’s full-time in-ring career was winding down in 1993, but he still had tremendous star power and was inarguably one of the most beloved stars in WWE history as the Royal Rumble approached that January. One of the most recognizable names in a field lacking the star power of previous years, he was clearly one of the favorites to emerge victoriously.
When the match came down to Savage and the massive Yokozuna, dreams of a WrestleMania IX showdown between Macho Man and WWE champion Bret “Hitman” Hart danced in the heads of wrestling fans everywhere.
Then it happened.
Savage leaped from the top rope and delivered his patented elbow drop to the sternum of his opponent.
And then he went for a pin. In a Battle Royal.
The momentary lapse allowed Yokozuna to press Savage off of him and over the top rope, showcasing his tremendous strength. While the new No. 1 contender looked like a legitimate threat to dethrone Hart in Las Vegas, one of the greatest Superstars to ever lace a pair of boots looked like an idiot.
How did Savage, who had competed in countless Battle Royals over the course of his career, forget that pinfalls do not count in the gimmick bout? He looked stupid and unattentive, two traits no one wants associated with them.
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While he may not have been in his prime as an in-ring worker by the time January 1993 rolled around, Savage was still a better worker than 90 percent of the WWE roster at the time. He still exhibited an ability to inspire enormous reactions and deliver quality matches.
With a wealth of young Superstars developing into main event attractions, such as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, Savage would have been the perfect opponent to lend them credibility and legitimacy.
Instead, the decision was made to take him out of the ring and shove him into the role of color commentator.
As he had done so many times throughout his career, Savage seized the opportunity and made a new position his own, but one could not help but notice he lacked the passion for calling the action. It was not difficult to imagine Savage running through the classics he could have been having with Hart, Michaels, Razor Ramon and Diesel rather than calling Monday Night Raw matches between Bastion Booger and Bam Bam Bigelow.
Worst of all was WrestleMania IX, where Savage dressed in extravagant white and purple and watched from the sidelines as his fellow Superstars waged war on the grandest stage in the industry.
He would return to the squared circle on numerous occasions but only in a part-time role.
As WWE embarked on a new marketing campaign known as The New Generation, it was clear Savage no longer fit Vince McMahon’s vision for the future of his company.
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Though he was disenfranchised with his role in WWE, that did not stop Savage from turning in one last great rivalry before departing to WCW.
Betrayed by longtime friend Crush, who believed Macho Man left him to endure tremendous pain and punishment at the hands of Yokozuna rather than coming to his aid, Savage set out on a months-long rivalry with the Kona, Hawaii, native that culminated in a Falls Count Anywhere match at Wrestlemania X.
Any other Superstar in Savage’s position may have stuck it to Vince McMahon, refusing to work with a relatively young performer like Crush and/or devaluing him throughout the program. Savage, always one of the more selfless icons in the industry, did the exact opposite.
He worked with Crush to deliver an intense, personal, thoroughly engrossing program. Proving he could still generate emotion from the audience like no other, Savage took what should have been a nice little midcard story and turned it into a program that easily and believably could have headlined shows.
Furthermore, he did more to make a star out of Crush than bookers had to that point. Just by agreeing to work with him, Savage elevated heavyweight to the next level of competition. He would do the same three years later for Diamond Dallas Page in WCW.
In what would prove to be his final WrestleMania performance, Savage defeated Crush in a brutal brawl of a match and took one last bow before the Madison Square Garden audience.