Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remembering Macho Man

Pardon me if I ramble a bit more than usual here. This is all just off the top of my head. I’m not trying to write a retrospective or a tribute or anything significant. I just want to get across some thoughts about an icon.

Macho Man Randy Savage passed away on Friday May 20, 2011.
Mrs. Troublemaker is the one that told me and I didn’t believe it at first. I had just woken up and she was sitting in her study on the computer. She turned around and told me Macho Man had died in a car crash and it just didn’t even seem possible. I had always thought Randy Savage would go out in one of two extremes: he would either have to team up with hated nemesis Hulk Hogan to defend the planet from alien invasion and go down in a blaze of fiery, lasery glory; or he would quietly retire to Colorado and live out the rest of his days as some sort of spiritual counselor - dying peacefully in his sleep somewhere around his twelfth decade.
I still haven’t actually read a news article about Macho Man’s death. I don’t want to. I know it’s real, but I just don’t want that kind of solidity. I don’t want printed words to tell me that this immortal died in such mundane, human circumstances. Maybe that’s silly and maybe I’m romanticizing a professional athlete more than I should, but I loved Macho Man Randy Savage.
He was more than a wrestler, more than an entertainer, more than a spokesman. Randy Savage was almost too big for words.
Like many people my age, my first Macho Man memories involved Miss Elizabeth. Despite the fact that Savage was and will always be one of the best, most consistent in-ring performers this industry has ever seen; those early memories are all about the drama outside of the ring. Savage’s relationship with the first Diva sparked memorable feuds with George “The Animal” Steele, Hulk Hogan and even Ric Flair. I could barely even remember Savage’s earliest matches previous to the retrospective DVD, but his character was unforgettable.
The first time I recall noticing Macho Man’s actual wrestling prowess was the legendary match against Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. I still wasn’t at the point where I valued ring work the way I do today, but I knew I was seeing something special. I very specifically remember thinking, “Wow. They wrestled a really long time!”
I loved Savage on color commentary at the end of his WWF run. Like everything else the man ever did, it was over-the-top and outrageous. He also hosted several Coliseum Home Video releases from WWF. I have one called WrestleFest where Macho Man is sitting poolside, drinking an adult beverage and reminiscing about the matches featured on the video. Eventually he moves into his palatial manner and what results is a sort of surreal “Lifestyles of the Rich and Bugfuck Crazy” sort of thing. There was clearly no script and Macho Man’s interstitials are the highlight of the video.
After a while Randy Savage showed up in WCW just like everybody else did. The difference was that Macho Man was there to work. Unlike Hall, Nash, Hogan, Luger and some of the other top names from WWF; Savage was a notable workhorse from his entry in 1994 until he left in 1999. Granted, in later years he did not compete nearly as much, but if he was in the ring he was going to be working. I can’t recall ever seeing Macho Man half-ass it in the ring. He was the nWo guy that was going to get shit done. Savage was an invaluable element of every WCW match he was a part of.
I remember Macho’s early days fighting against the nWo as part of WCW. I remember the turn when he joined Hogan’s evil nWo. It wasn’t as shocking as Hogan’s turn, but it was more surprising in a way. Now reunited with Miss Elizabeth, Savage had an excellent feud with Diamond Dallas Page and Kimberly.
I can’t claim that Macho Man Randy Savage is my favorite wrestler, but he is always in my top five. I don’t know that I ever really have a favorite wrestler. I hate it when people ask me that because there are too many factors and too many possibilities to ever give a real answer. I usually just say “Chris Jericho”. But Savage will always be near and dear to me.
Macho Man took some time off after being a valuable member of the anti-Hogan nWo Wolfpac for a while. He had a knee surgery or two and needed time to recover. This was before I was following anything on the internet, so I just knew that the guy was gone for a while and I wasn’t too sure he was coming back. It bummed me out, but I was more than happy to let him go if it meant he was leaving at the top of his game. Savage was getting on in years (in wrestler years, anyway), and he might be one of the few that stopped when he should. But then he came back and it was a HUGE deal. I don’t remember the exact circumstances of his return, but it was all about Macho Madness and he had Madusa and Miss Madness (Molly Holly!) in tow as Team Madness. I’m still not sure the raver pants he was sporting were a good idea for a guy pushing fifty, but hey – it was Macho Man.
Savage showed up in TNA at some point, but I honestly don’t remember what he did there. I don’t think he stuck around for more than a couple of weeks and I’m pretty sure he left because management wanted to do something utterly boneheaded with him.
For as much of a pop culture icon as Macho Man is, he never starred in a bunch of crappy movies like Hogan did. Savage made the obligatory appearance in Ready to Rumble just like every other WCW heavy hitter and guest starred on a couple of television shows as well. I remember being stoked that he was on Weird Al’s show and I’m pretty sure he was on Space Ghost: Coast 2 Coast as well.
It could be argued that Macho Man came full circle with his role in Spider-Man. He played Peter Parker’s wrestling opponent – Bonesaw McGraw – in a cameo that was made a lot more special than it had to be. I say full circle because Savage’s first in-ring gimmick was “The Spider”, a character that I have never seen but understand to be inspired by (because “A rip-off of” sounds harsh for this article) everybody’s favorite web-slinger.
I was working at Hot Topic when wrestling was booming in the late 90’s. It was so big that we actually carried a shitload of wrestling shirts at one point. This is back when Hot Topic was still the edgy punk store in the mall (I’m not going to argue Hot Topic’s edginess right now – this isn’t the time or the place) and we were carrying shirts with Bill Goldberg on them. I bought exactly two full price wrestling shirts the whole time we carried them – an nWo Wolfpac shirt and a Macho Man Randy Savage shirt. I’ve also made it a point to pick up Macho Man figures whenever a new line of wrestling toys starts. I don’t have every Savage figure or anything, but I make a point of buying the first one of any line.
I know I didn’t mention Macho’s work as the spokesperson for Slim Jims. There’s just not much to say about that. Everybody knows it and it’s probably the reason he’s such a household name. No other wrestler has had as long and lucrative a sponsorship.
I’m glad Macho chose to wind down in the last few years. He’s kept fairly quiet since his rap album (no, I haven’t heard anything other than “Be A Man” either) and I think that’s awesome. As a matter of fact, the last big thing Macho did was cut a promo for WWE All-Stars after signing a deal to be in the game and have new action figures produced with his likeness. He might have been poised to take a bigger part in wrestling – as a spokesman or occasional commentator – or he might have just faded back into his personal life.
It’s tragic anytime somebody dies, but it seems all too often wrestlers die with some sort of horrible stigma attached to them. Savage going out in a car crash (possibly after suffering a heart attack) is rough, but there don’t seem to be any nefarious circumstances attached. I’m glad for that. We’ll all miss the Macho Man, but in the wake of his passing we get to enjoy fond memories rather than having to see endless muck raked and dark theories postulated.
There’s a bit of an internet meme going around right now that Macho went on to prevent the predicted apocalypse that was supposed to happen the day after his death. I like that. It may be a tiny bit blasphemous to imagine Randy Savage whacking Jesus with a steel chair while the guy was on his way to the arena to bring the thunder, but maybe he just got put over one more time on his way upstairs.
We’ll miss you, Mach’.
Until next time, dig it brother

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