On this day five years ago, we lost Randy Poffo, aka Macho Man Randy Savage. It was absolutely one of the most devastating pro wrestling deaths ever, especially considering Savage never got the chance to make his peace with the WWE and be re-embraced by fans who never stopped loving him. Macho Man was a once in a lifetime talent; super charismatic and lovable on the stick, and supremely talented and innovative in the ring. It’s been thirty years since Savage’s WWE debut, and the company still hasn’t hosted a total package quite like him.
To commemorate his death, we gathered 20 great moments from Macho Man’s legacy—from five-star matches, to insane promos, and even a little from his rap album. We’ve got it all, because he did it all.
The Revival Elbow
The “Hulk Hogan hulking up” trope is a classic, timeless part of pro wrestling history, but it’s also been responsible for a lot of frustration over the years. A monster heel finally connects with his devastating finishing move! And… a few seconds later he’s off the mat and ready to win. It’s great for the kids, and horrible for the livelihoods of other wrestlers. That’s what makes this old WCW clip so funny. Hogan is down and Macho Man is trying to revive him before saying “screw it” and dropping his signature flying elbow. This of course immediately stirs the Hulkster from his agony, and he quickly clears all the mid-card heels out of the ring. It’s one of the funniest moments in Macho Man’s career, and proof that even though it turned sour, his partnership with Hogan led to some great moments.
The Last Macho Man Promo Ever
As I’ll mention throughout this list, Macho Man did a pretty good job of stepping away from wrestling. Maybe it was general burnout or the steady bad blood between him and Vince McMahon, but Randy Savage stayed pretty quiet in his later years. That’s a huge shame, because it would’ve been great to watch him have a proper reunion with the company that made him famous. However, only a few months before his death, we did get a classic Macho Man promo recorded for the WWE All-Stars video game. Sure, he’s not dripping with tassels and he’s lacking that glorious build, but there’s absolutely no doubt that our man still had it til the very end.
His First Televised Wrestling Appearance
If you want to see a star, watch the above video of Macho Man’s first ever televised promo. Still huge, still wearing his trademark cowboy hat, still totally, delightfully insane—his brief run in Memphis’ Continental Wrestling Association (run by Jerry “The King” Lawler) quickly morphed into a WWE chance, and it’s easy to see why.
The Hulk Hogan Shoot
Macho Man’s rap album is maybe not one of his 20 most memorable moments, except for one song (which we’ll mention later,) but this shoot interview during the album’s promotional cycle, is straight fire. Hulk Hogan talks a lot about how he and Savage patched things up and were friends at the time of his death. Hogan is known to stretch the truth, and from this interview, you get the impression that there was a lot of patching up to do. Stay to the end, where Macho Man challenges Hogan to a real fist fight. It’s awesome. Macho Man is awesome.
That One Time He Wrestled Stone Cold
There are a lot of lost matches in wrestling lore—Undertaker-Sting, Flair-Cena, Daniel Bryan-Shawn Michaels—all came close to reality, but were unfortunately banished by bad timing or bad booking. You might be inclined to add Stone Cold-Macho Man to that list, considering they were both superstars in very different eras, but you actually can’t, because they totally worked together in 1995 on a WCW Saturday Night.
Yeah, he was called “Stunning Steve Austin” back then, but it’s still a real match with real bumps between two all-time greats at very different moments in their careers. There are a lot of what-ifs attached to Macho Man because of his untimely death, and it’s good to know a match with Steve Austin isn’t one of them.
That One Time He Wrestled Bret Hart
On the other side of the coin, here’s a match from 1987 that captures a green Bret Hart in one of his earlier WWE matches against Macho Man, who was on the verge of his unstoppable main event runs. It’s not quite as unlikely as the Steve Austin encounter, but it’s still pretty awesome to watch a guy like Hart work Randy Savage’s leg.
Cup of Coffee
I could put a billion classic Macho Man promos on this list—they’re seriously all great—but this has always been a personal favorite. I’m not sure why all of Savage’s best promos tend to be coffee related, but I’m not going to question it.
His First Championship Victory
If you want to watch Macho Man win his first ever WWE championship, you’ll have to go all the way back to February 8, 1996 at the Boston Garden, where he beats longtime rival Tito Santana with the old brass-knuckles-in-the-tights trick for the Intercontinental strap. It’s weird to think one of the most beloved superstars of all time took home the gold working heel, but that’s also tradition considering Hogan, Stone Cold, John Cena, and The Rock all worked heel in the beginning of their careers.
Macho Man was never meant to rap, but he’s also good at beating the odds. There’s a lot of bad wrestling vanity projects out here, but this thing, a Nice & Smooth-esque tribute to his friendship to the late Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, is pretty moving. Honestly Savage’s passing makes it hurt even more. Pro wrestling sure can break your heart.
The Cream of the Crop
Gene Okerlund tells a story that he never knew what Macho Man was going to do during promo segments, so he’d basically stand back and let him take over the camera with whatever ridiculous angle he had in mind. I don’t think there’s a better example of this than the legendary “cream of the crop” polemic, where a half-deranged Randy Savage issues one of the greatest taunts ever using only a plastic cup of coffee creamer we imagine he instinctively grabbed on the way to his interview.
His WrestleMania Match with Ric Flair
For whatever reason I feel like people sleep on Macho Man’s match with Ric Flair at Wrestlemania VIII. Maybe because it comes a little late in his WWE run, or maybe people still can’t get over the baffling decision not to book Flair against Hogan in the main event, but whatever. This is a great match between two all-timers and should be required viewing for anyone interested in Savage, or wrestling chronology in general.
Snap Into a Slim Jim
Is it weird that I can’t remember that many great wrestler commercials? I mean, the recent John Cena Foot Locker promotion was great, but it’s not really in the cultural canon. Macho Man’s “Slim Jim” promotion is, without a doubt, the most recognizable corporate pitch to ever come out of the WWE. That absolutely counts for something!
Taking on Spider-Man
Despite a couple of regrettable TNA appearances and a rap album, Randy Savage did a pretty great job of stepping away from the business when he wanted. In a world where Terry Funk is still taking bumps to make ends meet, Macho Man faded into the sunset and only reappeared when it really made sense. One of his best post-retirement moments came, of course, in the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie, where he played a terrifying cage fighter named Bone Saw who also happens to be the superhero’s first victim.
The Mega Powers Come Together
I don’t think there’s ever been a more high profile tag team. It’s Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage! Teamed up! For a long time! The current WWE tag division is getting better, but it’s still weird to think once upon a time the two top undisputed stars in the universe were main eventing as a tag team—that’s far, far removed from, like, Primo and Epico. Obviously it wasn’t meant to last, but in kayfabe there really can’t be any team more powerful than the Mega Powers, right?
His Retirement Match
No, he didn’t stay retired, but Macho Man vs. Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII is probably the only truly great Ultimate Warrior match ever. Yes the passing-of-the-torch classic against Hogan is incredible for all sorts of mythic reasons that have nothing to do with the ring work, but in terms of watchability nothing compares to the Macho King’s downfall, Sensational Sherri’s emasculation, and the subsequent Miss Elizabeth reunion (more on that later.) For our younger readers, yes, it’s true, Ultimate Warrior did in fact have more than one match in the WWE.
Most pantheon-level WWE superstars have a WrestleMania that’s decidedly theirs. Daniel Bryan owns WrestleMania 30, Shawn Michaels has WrestleMania 26, um, the McMahon family has WrestleMania 2000. However, I don’t think there’s ever been a bigger veneration of a wrestler’s career quite like WrestleMania IV. Macho Man Randy Savage wins a four-round tournament against the inauspicious likes of Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, and One Man Gang, before finishing off Ted DiBiase in the main event, hoisting the gold and his wife on his shoulders in maybe my favorite wrestling image ever. Yeah Hulk Hogan was in Savage’s corner and spends the post match celebration in the ring getting as much shine as he possibly can (which was obnoxious then and even more obnoxious now,) but it’s still the definitive Macho Man pay-per-view. I’m glad he got one of those.
Marrying Miss Elizabeth
It didn’t have a happy ending, but Macho Man’s on-screen and real-life marriage to Miss Elizabeth is still the most iconic romance in the history of pro wrestling. At Summerslam 1991 they kayfabe tied the knot in maybe the only happy wedding WWE has ever broadcasted. There have been plenty of other power couples in the squared circle, from Edge and Lita to Triple H and Steph, but nobody captured that authentic geniality quite like the Poffos.
His Heel Turn on Hulk Hogan
The Mega Powers Explode! This is probably the most notable heel turn of all time next to Hogan joining the nWo and whenever John Cena finally goes nuclear. Savage is paranoid that his best friend Hulk Hogan is trying to sleep with his wife (and from what we know now, maybe that isn’t an insane postulation,) and eventually culminating in the famous medical bay scene where Savage finally assaults him. It’s super melodramatic and almost incomprehensible, but it’s also one of the darker things WWE had ever broadcasted in the late ‘80s, and absolutely served as a touchstone going forward.
His Match With Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at WrestleMania III
The best match of Macho Man’s career, and arguably the greatest match in the history of WrestleMania, Savage/Steamboat stole the show on a card that featured Hogan and Andre, and more or less predicted pro wrestling’s future of smarter, more economic cruiserweight offense - away from the bear hugs and goofy roundhouse punches that defined the rest of WWE at the time. Macho Man, in his usual perfectionism, choreographed the whole match from start to finish before the show. It’s a wonder it looks as smooth as it does.
Reuniting With Miss Elizabeth
The only time I’ve ever seen people cry for kayfabe reasons. It’s great when a guy like Daniel Bryan or Eddie Guerrero win a championship, but those stories make us emotional because we’re invested in those performers as people, not characters. Savage taking Miss Elizabeth into his arms at WrestleMania 7 left a stadium in tears out of pure commitment to storytelling. Yeah maybe we’re more jaded now, but whatever, it still stands as one of the most powerful moments in the history of wrestling, and proof that this silly squared-circle soap opera can be truly, truly life-changing sometimes.
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