Saturday, 25 June 2011


My obit of the Macho Man, Randy Savage, is in today's Independent; you can link to it here. The paper gave it lots of space, but had I had more there are a few things I would have liked to write about in more detail; admittedly it would have been more information than most of the readers wanted or needed to know. It was easy to write, and I found that simply relating the highlights of Savage's career made the point about the insanity of the wrestling business and its appeal to 12 year old boys of all ages. So I didn't feel I could waste space explaining the details of George 'The Animal' Steele's retard character. Put it this way: writing about Jake 'The Snake' Roberts disrupting a wedding by putting a cobra (and why it wasn't his boa constrictor, Damien) in the wedding cake is best done deadpan.

One thing left out was his baseball career: Savage tried to fashion himself into a Pete Rose figure, willing to do anything in order to advance, including learning to throw ambidextrously. His talent was limited, however, which eventually became clear, and he devoted himself to wrestling. I might have gone further into Savage's influences beyond Gorgeous George, like Freddie Blassie (who was also a huge influence on the young Cassius Clay), and into the way Angelo Poffo was able to set up a whole promotion with the express purpose of pushing his sons, and avoiding having them spending years in the wrestling equivalent of the minor leagues.

The love-hate relationship between Savage and Vince McMahon, who inherited the WWWF and turned it into today's WWE, was another topic I didn't have the space to explore--Savage got a quick and deserved push, but today remains outside the WWE's own hall of fame. In one sense McMahon always seemed to side with Hogan, who had been his meal ticket, but there is also the persistent rumour that Savage had a relationship of some sort with the very young Stephanie McMahon, but I felt that was speculation I didn't need to get into in the context of an obit.

I would have liked to devote some space to 'Team Madness' as well, Savage's three-woman entourage which included his then-girl friend, a much younger stripper named Stephanie Bellars, whom he rechristened 'Gorgeous George'. The other two were Madusa Miceli, probably the most talented American woman wrestler of her generation, and Miss Madness, Nora Greenwald, who went on to become Molly Holly. Again I would have been speculating, but it seemed to make some sort of life-change when Savage stopped dating young strippers and settled into a relationship with his old baseball first love, who of course was his own age.

The one bit that did get cut was more speculation, about the possible role of long-term use steroids and other drugs in precipitating Savage's heart attack; I noted the amazing list of wrestlers from that era who have died early, and especially a number, like Brian Pillman or Savage, who were smaller guys pumped up to the kind of dimensions and physiques McMahon desired and pushed. I also mentioned that Miss Elizabeth died in 2003, while living in a tumultuous relationship with Lex Luger, of an overdose of painkillers and alcohol.

But Savage's legacy will remain in the ring, where he was one of the great performers of the biggest boom wrestling is likely ever to enjoy. Unlike many of the superstars of that era, he went out and gave his all in the ring most of time; unlike most of them, he got out before the business killed him, or turned him into self-parody. And at his peak he had some of the greatest matches, and was certainly one of the greatest acts, ever.

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