In consecutive years in the late 1980s, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, who died last week at age 58, was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated's most popular wrestler and its most hated. Macho Man played a face and a heel, but most of all, he played.
"He had a look, he had a sound, and he could really move," says Stu Saks, publisher of PWI, wrestling's bible. "Fans responded to him." Never was that response greater than at Wrestlemania III, in '87. With Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant headlining, Savage's high-flying and turnbuckle-testing match with Ricky (the Dragon) Steamboat stole the night, heralding an era of greater athleticism and vaulting Macho Man to superstardom.
Savage, born Randy Poffo, was listed at 6'1" and 195 pounds in the early '70s when he batted .254 as an outfielder in the Cardinals' and the Reds' minor league systems. By the time he transformed himself into the overly muscular Macho Man, he weighed as much as 273, a physical specimen whose highly choreographed matches often ended with his finishing move, an elbow-leading leap off the top rope. Poffo died last Friday in a single-car accident, not only a man changed by his game but also, to his fans, a man who changed wrestling.