This coming Saturday night, one of the great injustices in wrestling will be corrected as Macho Man Randy Savage will finally be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, Savage has somehow never been enshrined, despite having one of the greatest careers of all time. While most fans know of his great accomplishments, they might not be aware of how intricate his story was in the WWF. It could be argued that from the day he debuted until almost the day he left, Savage was in the same long running story. Today we’re going to look at it and see why he was one of the best characters the WWF ever had.
First off, let’s look at what was so special about Savage. The key to Savage was how different he was than other heels. When he debuted in 1985, the top heels were a talker in Roddy Piper, a technician in Bob Orton, monsters like King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd, and various basic power guys like Nikolai Volkoff. For the most part, they were much more intimidating than skilled in the ring.
Enter Randy Savage, who instantly changed how heels could work. Savage was a constant stream of motion who would come off the top with ax handles and the big elbow, basically exposing most of the heels for the big slugs they were. Instead of slowly pounding the heroes on the back and putting on bearhugs, Savage was running all over the place and making even his opponents pale in comparison. No one had ever seen anything like him but no one could take their eyes off him.
That included the managers, who all scrambled to sign Savage. Bobby Heenan, Freddie Blassie and Jimmy Hart all gave him their best pitch, but Savage threw everyone a curve. On “Prime Time Wrestling” on August 24, 1985, Savage debuted Miss Elizabeth as his manager, revealing that he had gained all the information he needed from each manager but had his pick made long before he arrived. Not only was Savage great in the ring, but apparently he was also very crafty.
After winning the Intercontinental Title from Tito Santana in February 1986, Savage moved on to his first memorable feud against George “The Animal” Steele. This was the first of many feuds over Elizabeth, whose beauty completely stunned Steele. Savage was livid over the idea of someone going after his valet and we first see Savage’s major character flaw: his insecurity.
This would become one of Savage’s trademark problems over the years. Savage may have been one of the most talented in ring workers of all time, but he was terrified of losing what he had. Whether it was the Intercontinental Title or Elizabeth herself, Savage would go into a psychotic rage whenever someone threatened what he had. Even someone like Steele, who was just a step above the intelligence of a small cactus, threatened Savage by implying he could take Elizabeth away from him.
As you would expect, Savage easily dispatched Steele, but didn’t have the same luck with Steele’s friend Ricky Steamboat, who beat him for the Intercontinental Title at “Wrestlemania III”. However, something interesting happened a little bit after the loss: the fans started to cheer for Savage.
This goes back to something a lot of people forget: above all else, wrestling fans appreciated great wrestling, and that’s exactly what Randy Savage gave them. There was just no way to keep booing someone like that and the time had come to make a change. As would be the case with so many things in Savage’s career, that change would be brought around by Elizabeth.
At “Saturday Night’s Main Event XII”, the new Intercontinental Champion the Honky Tonk Man was defending against Savage. After the match, the Hart Foundation came in to attack Savage, but Elizabeth got in the way. Honky Tonk Man ensured his eternity of eternal torment by shoving Elizabeth down before blasting Savage with a guitar.
Elizabeth ran to the back and got help and found the best there was: Hulk Hogan. Hogan came down and cleaned house before helping Savage to his feet. Savage wasn’t sure what to do, but he eventually shook Hogan’s hand, signaling Savage’s official face turn and forming the greatest force in the history of the universe in the Mega Powers.
The handshake wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for Savage to do, as he never was the most trusting guy in the world. He realized Hogan bailed him out though and Elizabeth’s endorsement seemed to matter to him. The Mega Powers were formed and the team would go on to dominate the company for the next few months, but it would come to an abrupt halt in early 1988.
On the first episode of “The Main Event”, Savage failed to get the Intercontinental Title back from Honky Tonk Man and Hogan lost the WWF World Title to Andre the Giant, who immediately sold it to Ted DiBiase. This created a huge mess in the title picture and the belt was vacated, setting up a tournament for the vacant title at “Wrestlemania IV.” Both of the Mega Powers were entered.
Hogan had a first round bye but in a huge twist, wound up being eliminated in a double disqualification. This opened the door for Savage, who won three straight matches to make the finals against DiBiase. An exhausted Savage made it to the finals but had to contend with DiBiase’s second, Andre the Giant. His early interference sent Elizabeth to the back to get help and again she came back with Hogan. The sides were now even and after a few minutes, and a chair shot from Hogan, Savage pinned DiBiase to become the new WWF World Champion.
However, things weren’t that simple. Savage only won due to Hogan, who also stayed in the ring to celebrate with the new champion and Elizabeth. As you might expect, this started to set off Savage’s paranoia all over again. This would continue over the summer as Savage successfully defended the title, leading to the “Summerslam 1988” where the Mega Powers faced the Mega Bucks, comprised of Andre and DiBiase.
In the famous moment of the match, Elizabeth got on the apron and took off her skirt to distract Mega Bucks, allowing the Mega Powers to shake hands and make their comeback for the pin. Post match however, Hogan did the unthinkable: he put Elizabeth on his shoulders while she wasn’t exactly covered up. You could see Savage freak out for just a few seconds before snapping back into reality.
That one look was all you needed to know about Savage. He had success, his woman, a best friend and the World Title, but his paranoia was still running rampant. The idea that Hogan was after Elizabeth, even in the most innocent of acts, set him off just enough that he lost focus on everything else and regressed to his primal state: a man man who thought everyone was against him and that he had to keep fighting to stay on top.
The next big feud was against the Twin Towers, comprised of Akeem and Big Boss Man. The two teams captained Survivor Series teams at “Survivor Series 1988”, where Hogan scored the final pinfall after Savage took one heck of a beating. In other words, it was Hogan getting all the glory and Savage looking like an afterthought.
Around this time though, Hogan had been having Elizabeth join him at ringside for his matches, sending Savage further into insanity. At one point, Hogan was being beaten down but Savage stayed in the back and watched until FINALLY coming out for the save. The seeds were beginning to grow as Savage and Hogan were heading to a major problem. This led to a showdown at “The Main Event II” with the Mega Powers facing the Twin Towers.
During the match, Elizabeth got knocked silly as Savage was thrown to the floor. Hogan picked her up and carried her to the back for medical attention, leaving Savage to fight the monsters alone. Hogan finally came back out but Savage walked out on him, leaving Hogan to win the match on his own. After the match, Hogan went to the back to find out what in the world Savage was thinking.
That’s exactly what Savage told him, as the champion erupted on Hogan, letting out his entire year of frustration and paranoia, saying that Hogan was trying to steal Elizabeth from him and wanted to sneak in and take the title instead of just asking for a shot. Savage knows he could beat Hogan 1-2-3 if Hogan was a real man but Hogan was just a snake trying to steal everything. Savage laid him out and turned full heel again, setting up the main event of “Wrestlemania V.” As you probably know, Hogan won the title and Savage lost everything.
That included Elizabeth, who started appearing less and less. Savage wasn’t one to be alone for long and picked up Sherri Martel as his new manager. Martel was the complete opposite of Elizabeth with heavy makeup and constantly getting involved in matches. She was pure evil and fit in with Savage’s new character. In September, Savage became King Savage by beating Jim Duggan for the King’s Crown, thereby making Martel Queen Sherri.
The crown fit Savage perfectly as he went from a normal person to believing he was better than everyone else around. As you would expect from him though, that wasn’t enough as Savage wanted his title back. He would have to get it back from the Ultimate Warrior, who had defeated Hogan at “Wrestlemania VI.” There was one problem though: Warrior wouldn’t give Savage a title shot, saying Savage wasn’t worthy.
That wasn’t cool with Savage, who eventually cost Warrior the title at “Royal Rumble 1991.” This led to Warrior vs. Savage at “Wrestlemania VII”, but with the stipulation that the loser had to retire. It was quite a step for Savage, who was putting up everything he had fought and worked for, which was a huge deal for someone as obsessed with his accomplishments as he was.
Ultimately, Savage lost the match after Warrior kicked out of five flying elbows, proving that Warrior was right all along because Savage wasn’t worthy of receiving a title match. That wasn’t the important part though. After the match, Queen Sherri got in the ring and started beating Savage up for costing her her meal ticket.
As Sherri kicked away at Savage, Elizabeth was shown in the crowd, completely distraught at what she was seeing. It was finally too much for her and Elizabeth ran to the ring and threw Sherri down before helping Savage to her feet. Savage figured out what was going on but didn’t know what to do. Finally, Savage threw his arms around Elizabeth, realizing what he had given up two years earlier and understanding that the only thing that mattered to him was Elizabeth. This is still one of the best moments in wrestling history and one of the few scenes that brings tears to fans’ eyes.
Savage would eventually be reinstated to get his hands on Jake Roberts, who attacked Elizabeth. After destroying Roberts, Savage entered a feud with Ric Flair, defeating him for the WWF World Title at “Wrestlemania VIII”, showing that with his new mindset and change of heart, he could win the title without help from Hogan because he was good enough all along.
The character arc for Savage, going from a paranoid crazy man to trying to be civilized to snapping back into insanity to finally having a real change and becoming the good man he wanted to be is one of the best long form stories the WWF ever produced. Everything made sense, the matches were great, and the emotion was off the charts.
However, the story worked so well because of Savage, who had such incredible charisma that he made people care about him. That’s the most important thing a wrestler can do and it had a huge impact on Savage’s career. His WWF story is excellent though and some of the most interesting stuff the company ever put together.
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