Wrestling fans everywhere were saddened to hear of the passing of one of the all-time greats Friday.
The news broke Friday that Randall Mario Poffo — better known as “Macho Man” Randy Savage — died as result of injuries from an auto accident.
The police report on the death of Randall Mario Poffo aka Randy Savage lists him as the driver of a 2009 Jeep Wrangler on State Road 694 in Seminole, FL, near Tampa. He was just west of the intersection of 113th St. North, when after a “medical event” (believed to be a heart attack, but can’t be confirmed until the autopsy), he lost control of the vehicle. The jeep traveled over the raised concrete median divider, crossed over the eastbound lanes of State Road 694, over the outside curb and collided head-on with a tree. Savage was transported to Largo Medical Center where he passed away from injuries caused by the accident. Barbara Lynn Poffo, 56, his wife, remained at Bayfront Hospital with minor injuries.
Savage was a second-generation wrestler — the son of Angelo Poffo, who was popular during the 1950s and 60s. Savage’s younger brother — Lanny Poffo — also had a run in professional wrestling as “Leaping Lanny” and “The Genius,” although he never reached the same level of wrestling success as his brother.
Savage broke into professional wrestling after a short career in minor league baseball. He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a catcher out of high school and placed in the minor leagues to develop, mostly playing as an outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox farm systems.
In 1973, Savage began his wrestling career, and during the early stages, he changed his last name to Savage at the request of Georgia Championship Wrestling booker Ole Anderson, who told him the name Poffo did not fit someone who “wrestles like a savage.”
Savage went on to hold multiple championships in the World Wrestling Federation (now called WWE) and World Championship Wrestling. Wrestling fans remember his feuds with wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, as well as the time he spent as a color commentator. In the late 1990s, Savage became a member of the NWO wrestling faction.
“He had the prettiest elbow off the top rope I’ve ever seen,” said local independent wrestler Deon Johnson. “He changed the game. When he got to World Wrestling Federation, it was more cartoonish. Everybody had characters — and he was a character too — but he was also a technical wrestler, not just a gimmick wrestler.”
Johnson said Savage definitely displayed his knowledge of wrestling technique during his match against Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, which is Johnson’s favorite match of Savage’s to watch. Wrestlemania III took place in 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, MI in front of a record-setting indoor crowd of more than 93,000 people.
Die-hard wrestling fan Dean “D.J. Big” Gregory said Savage was the first wrestler he remembers watching who had a valet. During the 1980s, Savage was escorted to the ring by his then-wife “Miss Elizabeth” Liz Hulette.
Although Savage is known for his career as one of the most popular pro wrestlers of all time, he transcended the world of pro wrestling and became a part of pop culture through commercials, movies and television shows. He was the celebrity spokesman for Slim Jim snack foods in the mid-to-late 1990s, starring in numerous commercials in which he always delivered his unmistakable — and often imitated — catch phrase, “Snap into a Slim Jim, oooooh yeah!”
“Me and my little brother were on the way to D.J. Friday and heard on the radio that he had died,” Gregory said. “We stopped by the BP in Monarch and both of us bought a Slim Jim in memory of Macho Man. That’s the first time I’ve had a Slim Jim in I don’t know how long.”
Savage was cast in the 2002 film “Spider-Man” as the evil Bonesaw McGraw, and he provided the voice of “the Thug” in the 2008 Disney film “Bolt.” Some of his cameo television appearances included the television shows “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “King of the Hill,” and “Family Guy.”
Monday’s edition of the WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” was aired in memory of Savage, and a video was shown which highlighted his wrestling career.
The Macho Man will go down in history as one of the most iconic figures to ever step into a wrestling ring, and he will be remembered every time someone imitates his gravelly-voiced promos which usually included the words, “Oooooh yeeeah … dig it!”