When I was a kid, Randy’s Mother (aka Macho Mom) would always make sure that Randy would put aside tickets for when the WWF or WCW would come to Chicago. During a show in 1992 or 1993, me and my brother were actually granted the opportunity to go backstage. For the 6-year-old me, this was the most awesomest thing possible.
I don’t remember what happened during the show, but I do have a vague memory of what happened when I was able to go backstage. I’m not sure of what my expectations were of going backstage, but at that point in my life I was sure of 3 things: Wrestling was 100% real, there were Good Guys who were super heroes, and there were Bad Guys that were super villains.
We were met backstage by some WWF people who were leading us into the locker room area, and we were brought to Randy to say hello. There were a bunch of other wrestlers around, which was really cool but there was one problem: the good guys were hanging out and being cordial to the bad guys! Seeing good guys like Brett Hart sharing laughs with bad guys like Jake “The Snake” Roberts was almost traumatic to see; like seeing your Dad french kiss your aunt. It simply wasn’t supposed to happen.
I was sad, scared and confused. I gathered up the courage to ask why the Good Guys were friends with the Bad Guys. Randy said, “We’re not. We’re just tricking them. You’ll see.”
After this, a WWF rep was showing us some other areas of the backstage. I don’t remember what we saw, but I know when we circled back to the area where Randy was, all of the wrestlers I had seen before were back in character. Bad guys were yelling at Good Guys about how they were going to kick their butt and Good Guys were holding each other back from attacking the bad guys.
This. Was. Awesome. It IS real! Of course it is!
Randy didn’t know me too well, but he cared enough about a young fan and professional wrestling to keep the illusion and innocence alive.
While, as I said earlier, I cannot claim that we were particularly close, I do send my condolences to those in our family who were. He made a lot of people happy.
The above is not my story, but it’s my favorite tribute to “Macho Man” Randy Savage I’ve read over the last four days. It belongs to a gentleman named Adam, who was Randy Savage’s second cousin, and it was sent to Drew Magary of Deadspin who included it in his latest edition of the Funbag.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage died Friday of a car crash in Tampa, Florida. This is my tribute to him.
Spring 1992: I am 10 years old. I am in 4th grade. I am as big a fan of professional wrestling as I ever will be (save for that lonely year in Houston when I’m 17). I learn the WWF is coming through Denver on its road to WrestleMania, so I beg my parents to take me to the Denver Coliseum for it. Unbelievably, they oblige and they score big – seats on the floor, not more than 50 feet from the ring.
The night is fun, and an early highlight is Bret “Hitman” Hart goofing around with New Zealand oddballs The Bushwhackers against The Mountie, and grown-up Garbage Pail Kids, The Nasty Boys. It’s all prelude to the reason everyone in the crowd is excited. The Main Event features “Macho Man” Randy Savage taking on Jake “The Snake” Roberts inside a steel cage.
Ten year-old me finds this match odd since it’s occurring after the two settled their lengthy feud (that began when Roberts wasn’t invited to Savage’s bachelor party before his fictional wedding to Elizabeth in what was called The Match Made in Heaven at SummerSlam ’91, and hid a cobra in one of his wedding presents – seriously) considering Savage dispatched Roberts on Saturday Night’s Main Event earlier that February. And besides, Savage was scheduled to face Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII.
Whatever. It didn’t matter because we were going to see Randy freaking Savage. He was in Denver! Why would a main event guy like that waste his time in our city, I wondered? In order to show my support, I made a big sign for him back when that kind of thing was somewhat rare. Naturally, I had a lot I wanted to convey on this poster, so it was a tad wordy. Here’s exactly what it said:
Savage VS Flair
Despite that being perhaps the clunkiest thing anyone’s ever committed posterboard (and not terribly lucid in terms of the point I was trying to make – I think the “Woo!” was meant as sarcasm), I carried it proudly and waited for the optimal moment to unleash it for the Macho Man. And just as I had hoped, Macho Man took care of the evil Jake the Snake with his patented flying elbow smash and claimed victory for the good guys. Before the 3 had even been counted, I sprinted down to the guardrail and held my sign up as high as I could to show my love for the Macho Man.
Macho climbed to the top of the cage, stuck that trademark index finger in the air and absorbed the cheers of his adoring fans. He scanned the crowd, spotted my lonely display of encouragement (mine was the only sign in our section), found my hopeful eyes, locked on them, and gave me a confident nod. It’s as if he was saying, “Thanks, kid. I’ll get him for you!” It was literally five seconds of Macho Man’s life that has stuck with me to this day as one of my happiest childhood memories. One of my heroes saw me, and with a little nod of his head, made me feel important. He didn’t have to, but he did. I’ve never forgotten it.
Like Adam’s story above, Macho Man made the effort to acknowledge the adoration of one of his young fans and make him believe that much more in the magic of professional wrestling. I hoped my well wishes helped Macho Man even just that little extra bit that would propel him over Ric Flair at WrestleMania. I realize now the innocence and silliness of those thoughts, but the meaning of Savage’s gesture still resounds brilliantly.
That’s why the passing of Randy Savage has struck a chord with so many wrestling fans and why I’ve read countless tributes to the Macho Man all over the web. He was a captivating presence that transcended the sport and touched just about everyone’s life in some way. CJS Regular Keithage noted in our 2010 Cavalcade of Death post that when someone like Chris Kanyon or Ludvig Borga dies, normal people don’t care. He’s right.
But when one of our female readers, one CassieB, can recall with stunning clarity all the events surrounding the dissolution of the partnership between Macho Man and Hulk Hogan from more than 20 years ago, you’ve got yourself a cultural icon.
In fact, it was this very scene that was the thrust of Bill Simmons’ tribute to the Macho Man earlier this week. In his story, he and his roommate skipped out on their dates at some campus sponsored dance to watch Saturday Night’s Main Event where Macho cravenly accused Hogan of having jealous eyes and pounded the piss out of that giant, orange glory hog. The two then drunkenly re-enacted the scene for their hallmates with another dude playing the role of a crying Elizabeth.
Whether you saw him live, re-enacted his promos drunk in your dorm room, or just perversely enjoyed his manic Slim Jim commercials, damn near everyone had a Macho Man impression. That menacing rasp coupled his zealous “Ohhhh yeah! Dig it!” made for one of the most fun impersonations anyone could do.
While Adam’s tribute to the Macho Man was my favorite, the best belongs to The Masked Man, who posted this lengthy eulogy here. After a brilliant analysis of his career, The Masked Man concludes with this: “Since he died on Friday, comments sections and message boards have become saturated with tributes and eulogies to a guy who played the heel for the bulk of his career. But he was more than a bad guy, or a good guy: Savage gave himself over to us more fully than any other performer of his generation, and we always appreciated him for it.”
I felt it when we made eye contact at the Denver Coliseum of March of 1992, and that kicked sent my Savage fandom into high gear. His poster sat proudly on my wall even though I hid my wrestling fandom the same way a paranoid gay teenager hides his homosexuality from jock bullies. When people would ask, I’d claim I thought those Slim Jim commercials were so funny, I just had to have that guy’s poster, whoever he was. Everyone bought that. I think.
When the WWF released “WrestleMania: The Album” in 1993, I found the opening lines to Savage’s goofy song so hilariously perplexing, they became my outgoing answering machine message. “The tower of power, too sweet to be sour, funky like a monkey… Ohhhhh yeah! [my voice comes on] Leave a message!” By the way, this album was awful, and of course I owned it. It featured wooden wrestlers talk singing over hideous 90s synth-pop (here’s a sample called “SummerSlam Jam”). Funny footnote here though: One of this album’s producers? You guessed it, Simon Cowell.
Once I got older, I appreciated Savage on a whole different level. Compared to many of the stiffs of the day, Savage wrestled like a wildfire. He was jumping off the top rope to the floor and using that same rope as a creative way to clothesline his opponents. And his promos were totally bugfuck crazy.
Looking back, my Savage fandom peaked both as an innocent and as a jaded old prick for the same match: His WWF Championship Match against Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII. I’ve covered this at length here before so check out the last match in that article for reference. Then click this for two certifiable loons jawing at each other in the most hilariously over-the-top nutzo way possible.
Savage had it all: athletic ability, delightfully insane paranoia that colored all of his wonderfully eccentric interviews, commercial appeal, and a force of personality so great you never associated him with that gay Village People song. At various points in his career, Savage wore ostentatious sunglasses, giant sequined robes, and flamboyant cowboys with matching arm tassels. Yet, we never associate him with The Village People.
And yet, for every young wrestling fan, the first time you attend a graduation and “Pomp and Circumstance” kicks in, you wonder to yourself: “Is the Macho Man here?” No one defined the Macho Man, the Macho Man defined everything else in the minds of his fans everywhere.
That’s why everyone from Adam above to Drew Magary to Bill Simmons to countless people on my personal Facebook page have chimed in with tributes to “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
He was a singular personality and a cultural icon to our generation. I take wrestler deaths hard because growing up professional wrestlers were my superheroes, my comic books, my action movie stars. They defined me growing up.
And now the one who made a diehard believe even harder with a simple confident nod is gone. He takes with him another piece of my childhood and leaves us with a basket of fond memories.
Rest in Peace, Randy. We’ll miss you. Ohhhh yeah!
And as one final tribute: If you want to know the real reason there was no apocalypse last Saturday. Here’s your answer:
26 May 2011 E Dagger