Celebrating the Macho Man’s life a window to the past

wrestling

I’d say nothing calls your attention to the fact that you’re vulnerable to the passage of time like waking up to the news that Macho Man Randy Savage has passed away.

Wrestlers seem to die early, it happens a lot, and though that always gives me pause, there’s something different about when someone like the Macho Man goes. There were so few even close to his level in terms of fame, performance and pop culture relevance.

It was sad, for example, when Eddy Guerrero died. But an entire generation of kids grew up playing with huge rubber action figures of Savage. We picked him in video games. We had WWF magazines with him on the cover. I even know a guy who imitated the Macho Man with the finger twirl when he walked down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstance at his high school graduation.

As I’ve discussed here, I was a huge fan of wrestling when I was growing up because it was just so fantastical — the splashy characters, the athleticism, the storylines. And Randy Savage was just the epitome of all of that, even at times when he wasn’t involved in the championship picture.

I was never a huge Macho Man fan in particular, though it wasn’t that I didn’t like him; it’s just that he was never explicitly my favorite. When I was in elementary school, my friends and I were basically split between expressed devotion to either Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior. Personally, I was a Hogan guy through and through, and though Macho Man was cool, I viewed him as second class next to the Hulkster.

Buddies In addition, Savage was for the most part a “bad guy.” I didn’t start liking heels until I couldn’t deny how cool Mr. Perfect was. (Note: Savage seemed to have liked Mr. Perfect just as much as I did — see above right.)

But the Macho Man was just so ubiquitous back then. I didn’t have a Hulk Hogan “Wrestling Buddy” — remember those? — but I did have a Randy Savage one. If I recall, that had something to do with it being on sale while the Hogan one wasn’t, but the fact remains.

I also remember having a Macho Man poster on my bedroom wall. Again, he wasn’t my explicit favorite, but if you loved wrestling, you loved the Macho Man. It was just the way it was.

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A couple of specific memories came back to me when I heard the Macho Man had died, and I had a good time revisiting them on YouTube and such. (Props to the Cageside Seats blog for presenting a couple of clips I was having trouble locating.)

The first was his epic match against the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 7. It was the first time my parents had allowed me to order a pay-per-view and invite all my friends over, and considering that we essentially destroyed the house, I’m stunned it wasn’t the last time. We watched the event, screaming like banshees, and then staged our very own battle royale in the living room with our Wrestling Buddies.

The match was unbelievably dramatic, with all sorts of twists and turns. Savage ended up losing a career-ending match; the stipulation would last about three months.

You don’t think of professional wrestling this way, but I watched as a room of 12-year-old boys were surprisingly affected by his postmatch reconciliation with Miss Elizabeth. She was as beautiful as ever, we all loved her, and it just kind of seemed like all was right with the world.

That summer, I remember sitting on the floor of my parents’ house watching WWF Superstars on a Saturday morning when Macho Man sucked up his pride and finally proposed to Elizabeth in the ring. Never mind that I had no idea they were already married “in real life,” I was just so proud of the Macho Man for finally screwing up the courage and popping the question.

It really was a perfect moment. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t want Mean Gene emceeing your wedding proposal, with some good-natured mongo in the crowd hollering, “Get down on your knees!” It was also — for no apparent reason — the first “Will you marry me?” in the history of the world with the emphasis on the word “me.”

The wedding reception didn’t go well, but luckily, Sid Justice was on the invite list.

(By the way, take note of hilarious commentary by horrible over-the-top huckster Vince McMahon, unintentionally attempting to ruin a poignant moment by shrieking, “He’s gonna ask her, folks! What’s the answer gonna be?”)

There were many other Macho Man moments that I explicitly recall watching live, including a neat piece of pop culture when a relatively svelte Buster Douglas coldcocked the Macho Man on Saturday Night Main Event. This was apparently supposed to be Mike Tyson, setting up a Hogan-Tyson match of some sort, but things don’t always go according to plan

But I think the moment that epitomizes the Macho Man for me was the introduction to WrestleMania 9. Savage was a commentator that night, and he was pure gold while setting the scene for the event.

I watched this back a few years ago at a friend’s house, and we thought it was tremendous. Everything we loved about the Macho Man was on display.

He was, as usual, delightfully mad, making little sense with what he was saying. (At the end of the video: “Go for it! Lock and load! Do the thing!") He was fun loving, with his random comments and wild gesticulations; I particularly enjoyed him playfully yanking up the back of Bobby Heenan’s toga at the 8:10 mark and giving a thumbs up to nobody in particular.

Like a lot of the WWF guys back then, he was a living superhero, and he was always pretty much the sole inhabitant of the world he created for himself.

And everybody in the entire crowd just plain adored him.

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When someone as significant to my childhood as the Macho Man dies, my thoughts immediately turn to the memories I have of him. But really, when you do something like that, you’re not just looking back at the person Randy Savage was at the time you made those memories, you’re looking back at who you were then.

The boy I was when I counted off the hours until the Saturday afternoon WWF Superstars show doesn’t seem real anymore, despite that I saw the world through his eyes. But he comes into focus a little more when I think about where I was when I watched these clips live.

If one good thing comes from the death of someone we all loved through a television screen, it’s that examining his life is significant enough to forcefully bring us back and let us vividly picture long-buried moments in our own lives.

That’s probably the best tribute to Randy Savage I can offer.

Rest in peace, Macho Man.

Esoteric

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