A look at Randy Savage’s history of classic feuds in the WWF.
It doesn’t matter how many times it happens – we never get used to it and it never feels like any less of a shock. I am referring, of course, to the death of Randy "Macho Man" Savage. As fans of professional wrestling (may I still call it that?), we’ve dealt with the loss of some of our favorite entertainers and superstars for decades. Savage’s passing was so abrupt, however, that it surely sent a shockwave through the business.
Now is really not a time to jump on a soapbox about the lifestyles of wrestlers or how it shouldn’t be such a shock that Savage’s heart wasn’t in the best of conditions. Rather, I wanted to discuss an assertion I have made on many occasions on the Wrestlezone Forums.
Randy Savage is the greatest feud participant in the history of the WWF/WWE, and possibly pro wrestling overall.
Pro Wrestling is built around feuds – the concept of good vs evil, hero vs villain, face vs heel. The allure and the draw of those feuds is usually based around two things – the existence of one or more major stars and the effectiveness of the participants to build the feud. During his WWF career, Savage built a feud like no other man.
In the long and storied history of the Intercontinental Championship, it was Savage’s feud with Ricky Steamboat that truly put the title on the map. After using a foreign object to knock out 2-time champion Tito Santana, Savage started a memorable feud with George "The Animal" Steele. In addition to his feud with Steele, Savage began facing off with the young and high flying Steamboat, and in a still infamous moment in WWF history, Savage viciously attacked The Dragon and slammed him in the throat with the ring bell from the top rope. Recovering from a crushed larynx, Steamboat returned to face off against Savage at Wrestlemania 3 in a match that remains, to this day, quite possibly one of the 10 greatest matches ever. Savage put Steamboat over huge and helped advance the idea that the smaller guy could be a major player in the land of the giants.
Savage’s formation of the Mega Powers and his intense relationship with the great Miss Elizabeth led to a very credible feud featuring Hogan and Savage vs Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant, and also featured Savage defeating DiBiase for his first WWF Title at Wrestlemania 4. What was truly amazing was what happened next – Savage’s subsequent heel turn and attack on Hulk Hogan, resulting in an enormous main event at Wrestlemania 5. While Hogan was the massive star in wrestling at the time, it was the realism of Savage’s jealousy and ego that really made the feud feel so sanguine and so intense. It made perfect sense that Savage was upset at Hogan, and even more sense that this historically loose cannon would snap at his former friend.
Now calling himself "The Macho King," Savage began a feud with Dusty Rhodes before setting his sights on a new challenge – The Ultimate Warrior. Costing Warrior the WWF Title to Sergeant Slaughter at the Royal Rumble, Savage entered Wrestlemania 7 in a retirement match with the Warrior. After 20 minutes (and arguably Warrior’s best match ever), Savage lost and was forced to retire, only to reunite with Miss Elizabeth.
In the following months, Savage did something truly unprecedented. Despite being a commentator and being retired from in-ring action, Savage helped carry a chilling feud with Jake Roberts. After Roberts and The Undertaker attacked Savage at his wedding reception, Roberts managed to goad an incensed Macho Man into the ring during a TV taping. In one of the most iconic and disturbing moments in wrestling history, Jake turned a live King Cobra on Savage, who gnawed on Randy’s prone arm. Soon reinstated, Savage beat Roberts twice and even facilitated the first face turn of The Undertaker. Not bad for a retiree wrestling 2 matches.
His next feud with Ric Flair is legendary. Though many fans look back at Wrestlemania 8 with the belief that it should have been Hogan vs Flair, I have always maintained that Savage did a better job with the feud than Hogan would have. All men involved – Flair, Perfect, Heenan, Savage, and Elizabeth, were at the top of their game. Following Flair’s claims that he’d been with Elizabeth prior to Randy (including a hilarious segment on Regis and Kathy Lee during which Regis Philbin claimed the same thing), Savage attacked Flair at Wrestlemania like a man possessed by a demon, fighting for his wife. The match, like his Wrestlemania 3 effort just 5 years prior, was an instant classic, only matched by the intensity and realism of Savage’s post-match promo.
In just 5 years, Savage was the catalyst of 5 of the greatest feuds in the history of pro wrestling – against Steamboat, Hogan, Warrior, Roberts, and Flair. His career obviously goes on into WCW, but you’ve been kind enough to read this far as I wax nostalgic on the only man I believe could have carried these feuds with this level of raw emotion. It’s a shame that the relationship between Savage and the WWE was so rocky as of late, because it’s crazy to think of what may have happened had Savage stared down The Rock or Steve Austin in the ring. He could have been the next former superstar to dispatch Mr. McMahon at a Wrestlemania. And you know as well as I do that a Hall of Fame speech from the Madness would have been a must-see event.
It’s important to take some time to appreciate the subtle details of Savage’s great career. Not just that fact that he was a great worker, but that his painstaking attention to detail and commitment to his character allowed him to launch good feuds into legendary encounters. Savage was an undersized guy at the time, weighing roughly 235 lbs, but his demeanor and intensity made him larger than life. He was the only guy to hold the WWF Title more than once during the 8-year Hogan-era until Flair regained the title from Savage in Hershey, PA. The man is a true legend and will damn sure be missed.
Agree or disagree with me, you’re welcomed to discuss this or any other topics on the Wrestlezone Forums. Please check the forums out as a guest or register as a member and post your feelings or discussions.
Chris "IrishCanadian25" Fitzpatrick