Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mike Rickard Provides the Randy Savage Bio the WWE Didn't Part One

Recently, the WWE released Macho Madness: The Ultimate Randy Savage Collection, a three disc set featuring some of the "Macho Man's" greatest matches. What it didn't feature though was a career retrospective of Savage, leaving some fans feeling left out in the cold. While everyone has their reasons why Vince McMahon harbors a grudge for Savage, the bottom line is that the fans were denied an opportunity to explore Savage's rise to greatness. In light of this, allow me to provide a little background on a man who personified excitement in the ring and on the microphone.

Randy Savage's (born Randy Mario Poffo) first brush with professional sports wasn't in pro wrestling but as an outfielder for the farm team of the Saint Louis Cardinals (and others). Savage competed both as a baseball player and a wrestler, donning a mask to hide his identity when he wrestled (At the time, it was not uncommon for sports players to work wrestling during the off-season). Eventually, Poffo's father Angelo started his own promotion, inviting his sons Randy and Lanny to join him there. Angelo, a successful wrestler during the 1950's and 60's formed the International Championship Wrestling (ICW) promotion, an outlaw promotion that operated in the Southeast.

Savage joined his brother Lanny Poffo working in the ICW and battled his brother for the ICW Championship. After the ICW folded, Randy began wrestling for the Memphis based Championship Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion, the same organization the ICW had once competed against. Joined by his brother and father, Savage quickly captured the spotlight as a much hated heel, feuding with the Rock-n-Roll Express and Memphis heroes Austin Idol and Jerry "the King" Lawler.

With his chiseled physique and lightning fast speed, Savage was a sight to behold in the ring. "The Macho Man" combined the excitement of the high-flyers along with the action of the brawlers. Although Savage was not wrestling for a large promotion, he captured the imagination of wrestling fans from around North America after a thrilling match with the Rock-n-Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) highlighted by one of the most brutal spots in wrestling. The spot saw Savage piledrive Ricky Morton through a bench after the match ended,perhaps the first time such a move had been executed. The spot was soon talked about by fans everywhere and thanks to its inclusion on the compilation tape Lords of the Ring, earning Savage nationwide fame amongst the wrestling community.

The bench-breaking incident was just one of many highlights for "The Macho Man" in Memphis. In addition to his outrageous interviews, Savage continued to taunt the fans by making brutal attacks on the area's babyfaces. One such attack occured when Savage used a baseball bat to beat up "The Universal Hearthrob" Austin Idol, making short work of Idol and leading to a title win for Savage. Savage would later feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler, capturing Lawler's Southern Heavyweight Championship.

After bowing to defeat in a loser leaves town match against Lawler, Savage surfaced in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) during the peak of the Rock-n-Wrestling Era (joined by brother Lanny Poffo whose family tie to Savage was ignored). The various managers of the WWF courted Savage as their client but Savage shocked the wrestling world when he chose newcomer Miss Elizabeth as his manager. While no one had seen or heard of Elizabeth, she captured everyone's attention with her stunning good looks. Still, the fans could not help but wonder what Elizabeth brought to the table besides the obvious.

Looking back at Savage's early days in the WWF, one has to acknowledge what a brilliant move it was to have Miss Elizabeth manage Randy Savage. While Savage's work in the ring was phenomenal, his pairing with Miss Elizabeth catapulted him to the front of the pack in the WWE. The unique relationship between Savage and Elizabeth quickly had fans talking. It was a classic case of beauty and the beast with the lovely Elizabeth (a name that would become as synonymous with her as "Miss Elizabeth") providing a doting mild mannered contrast to the boisterous larger-than-life "Macho Man". Even more curious was what Elizabeth saw in Savage. While "The Macho Man" was a clear-cut heel, there was nothing heelish about her. Unlike other managers of heels, Elizabeth never cheated on Savage's behalf. The fans began wondering why Elizabeth (who seemed like a decent person) managed Savage, especially given the way he constantly belittled Elizabeth, even using her as a shield against babyface opponents.

While the fans continued to question the dynamics of the Macho Man/Elizabeth relationship, Savage won match after match. Savages success in the ring eventually earned him the #1 contender's spot for the Inter-Continental Championship, a belt held by babyface Tito Santana. Savage proved to be a formidable opponent for Santana with the champion fighting off Savage's challenges until an epic encounter in the Boston Garden. On February 8, 1986, Savage wrested the belt from Santana but his win was not without controversy. Late in the match, Savage grabbed a foreign object, blasting the champion with it as Santana suplexed him into the ring. The blow kayoed Santana, leading to an easy pinfall and championship victory.

Following his title win over Santana, Savage began what would become one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship title reigns of all time. Savage defended his belt against Santana as well as WWF veteran George "The Animal" Steele. Smitten with Elizabeth, the simple-minded Steele battled Savage not only for the I-C belt but for the heart of Miss Elizabeth. While Steele's matches weren't much in the ring, the added drama of him trying to woo Elizabeth made for an interesting program.

While the Intercontinental Championship brought prestige to Savage's career, "The Macho Man" had his sights on something even bigger. As I-C champ, Savage was the defacto number one contender for Hulk Hogan's WWF Championship, a belt that was his ultimate goal in the WWF. Savage pursued Hogan's belt with an intensity that fit his surname, waging war with the Hulkster in a classic series in Madison Square Garden. Savage took Hogan to the limit and although he failed to capture Hogan's belt, it was just the beginning of many classic encounters.

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