Even in the over-the-top world of pro wrestling, the late great Macho Man Randy Savage managed to be larger than life. A showstopper among showmen, he spoke in low, raspy rumbles and thunderous roars. He dressed like an angry rainbow and rained elbow drops from the top rope. A lesser wrestler with similar attributes might have been given the gimmick of a cheesy TV weatherman who called himself "The Mad Meteorologist" and forecast losses for opponents. But not Randy Savage — he was the "Macho Man," a self-made character whose irresistible charisma, dazzling athleticism, and extreme peacockery fit perfectly in the squared circle.
Savage went toe-to-toe and promo-to-promo with some of greatest performers of all time, and no matter the outcome the audience was always the true winner. In the WWE he had timeless rivalries with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and his Mega Powers brother Hulk Hogan. In WCW he had fantastic battles with Diamond Dallas Page, Sting, and former WWE foes like Hogan and Ric Flair. But here we examine the human behind Macho Man Randy Savage. Did he have admirable qualities? Yeah. Did he have serious flaws? Yeah. Was he as crazy as he seemed on TV? Oh yeah!
Like father, like sons
Born Randy Poffo in 1952, Randy Savage was the son of Angelo and Judy Poffo and the older brother of Lanny Poffo. Longtime wrestling fans may remember Lanny as "The Genius," a scholarly wrestler who spouted poetry before matches. Seen one way, he was the exact opposite of Macho Man, who was literally a Savage. Seen another way, they were complementary characters who echoed two distinct sides of their father.
As Sports Illustrated detailed, during the day Angelo Poffo was a proud DePaul University graduate "who stressed academics above all else." But at night he transformed into a detested wrestler known as "the Masked Miser" or alternatively "the Carpet Bagger." Angelo’s first athletic love was baseball, but when that career path didn’t pan out, he turned to pro wrestling.
Randy Savage followed closely in his father’s footsteps, first pursuing baseball and then becoming a pro wrestler. He would later say of his dad, "He has always been my hero and my mentor, and the priceless gifts he gave I will have and cherish forever." Angelo never came close to achieving the level of success that Savage did, but they aided each other’s legacies. Angelo founded his own wrestling promotion and helped launch his sons’ carers, and according to Bleacher Report, WCW supposedly inducted Angelo into its wrestling Hall of Fame "as a favor to Savage."
Macho Man Randy Savage did a thousand sit-ups and a thousand throws a day
Long before Randy Savage became a big-league wrestler, he was a Minor League baseball player. He had wanted to play America’s game since he was 7 or 8 years old, per Sports Illustrated. Though not the most elite athlete, Savage was unbelievably motivated. If someone set a bar for him, he wanted to go miles above it. In a telling anecdote from junior high, he was tasked with completing 100 sit-ups in gym class, so he did more than 1,000.
Baseball and sit-ups ran in the family. Savage’s father, Angelo, played college baseball and dreamed of going pro. Angelo also set a world record for sit-ups — 6,033 in four hours and 10 minutes — while in the Navy. A teammate of Savage’s, who played with him for the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league affiliate, also claimed in an interview with Sports Illustrated that Savage had a habit of doing "like, 1,500" sit-ups every morning. In addition to having iron abs, he had an iron will. When he suffered a severe injury to his right shoulder, he chucked a ball against a wall 1,000 times a day with his left arm.
Savage’s physical abilities and otherworldly willpower greatly impressed Pete Rose, who would would go on to appear in multiple WrestleManias. It’s unclear if Rose thought Randy Savage was a sure bet for baseball, but he considered the future Macho Man a "super athlete." Even so, Savage never made it to the major leagues, which turned out to be a blessing for wrestling.
The time Macho Man Randy Savage savagely pistol-whipped another wrestler
Nowadays the WWE regularly breaks the fourth wall, but Macho Man Randy Savage rose to stardom in the heyday of kayfabe, when wrestling was meant to seem unscripted. For a relentless perfectionist like Savage that meant staying in character outside the ring. Before joining the WWE he worked for his father’s promotion ICW, and as wrestler Dutch Mantell recalled, whenever you saw Savage — morning, noon, or night — "he was always in full-blown, wide-open Macho Man mode."
Savage’s unhinged Macho Man persona was so convincing that even other wrestlers seemed to think he was crazy. CBS Sports reported that in 1978 he brawled with a newlywed at a Waffle House and got "maced, billy-clubbed, and bitten by a police dog for being uncooperative." Randy Savage was admittedly "a little hyper." So he must have been super hyper when he supposedly pistol-whipped Bill Dundee.
Dundee worked for a rival wrestling promotion, and in 1982, he and Savage got into it outside a restaurant. Legend has it that after Dundee pulled a gun, Savage disarmed him and fractured his jaw with the firearm. Dundee was on the shelf for several weeks and Macho Man bragged about it frequently on TV. Dundee denied that Savage pistol-whipped him, instead alleging that Macho Man sucker-punched him. He said Savage had help from three other guys and ran away when he saw the gun.
Macho Man Randy Savage got sued for body-slamming a fan
In March 1988 Macho Man Randy Savage reached the mountaintop of the WWE, winning the world title at WrestleMania. By that time he was a beloved babyface. But just weeks before his crowning achievement, the Morning Call reported that the soon-to-be-champ was being sued for attacking a fan on the street.
Back in May 1986, David Peschel drove home after a wrestling show and saw Savage driving a Mercedes. He stopped Savage at a red light and asked for an autograph. According to Peschel and eyewitnesses who were in his car, Savage hoisted him into the air and slammed him on the ground, fracturing Peschel’s back and bruising his ribs. Then he stood over the injured fan, flexed, and said, "How’s that for an autograph, boy?" A policeman noted that the fan was "hurt and dazed." Savage slammed the accusations, claiming he pushed Peschel "at most." They settled out of court.
The fact that this happened back in 1986 is incredibly relevant. At the time Macho Man was arguably the most savage villain in the WWE. Per CBS Sports, his character was a dastardly bastard who infamously "crushed Ricky the Dragon’ Steamboat’s throat." And as wrestling great Kurt Angle noted, Randy Savage "never broke character." He was so consistent that Angle believed the man born Randy Poffo "started thinking he was the Macho Man" in real life.
Macho Man Randy Savage didn’t want anyone at his real-life wedding to Elizabeth
The often volatile onscreen relationship between Macho Man and his valet Miss Elizabeth — played by real-life wife Elizabeth Hulette — created some of the most emotional moments in WWE history. When they reunited at WrestleMania VII, fans literally wept in their seats. At the following SummerSlam Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth tied the knot in front of 20,000 fans during a fictional wedding billed as a "Match Made in Heaven." It was wrestling storytelling at its finest and unfortunately at its most illusory. By then the couple’s real-life union was on its last legs, and when the pair married in earnest in 1984, Savage didn’t even want his own family to be there, let alone a large crowd.
According to Sports Illustrated, Savage planned on eloping with Elizabeth. However, his future mother-in-law refused, so they got hitched at her house. Savage’s mother Judy recalled, "He didn’t want anyone to be there, so he only invited [his parents]." Even his brother, Lanny, wasn’t there because he had a wrestling match, and "Savage would have been furious" if Lanny attended the wedding instead. It wasn’t that Savage saw his marriage as less important than wrestling. Rather, as Judy explained, "He didn’t want anybody to know that it was so special to him, so he was quiet about the whole thing." So they had a lowkey ceremony with "some refreshments."
The Macho in Savage’s madness
Between his outrageous outfits, incredible in-ring psychology, and meticulous match-planning, Macho Man Randy Savage always had the potential to put on show-stealing matches. But between matches he was deeply paranoid about people stealing his wife, Miss Elizabeth. That made life complicated for George "the Animal" Steele, who literally tried to steal Elizabeth as part of a storyline feud with Macho Man. Though Steele’s infatuation was scripted and he was a married man, Savage went ballistic anyway. "Honestly, Randy was the most jealous man I ever met," Steele told ThePostGame. During matches Steele would "stare, owl-eyed, at Elizabeth" or caress her hair, and a rabid Savage would "blast [him] with a chair" or "hit [him] with a haymaker that could have taken a Clydesdale to its knees."
Steele wasn’t the only wrestler who grappled with Macho Man Randy Savage’s insane jealousy. Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Hulk Hogan explained, "If you even looked at Elizabeth the wrong way, then holy sh*t, Randy would freak out." "Mean" Gene Okerlund called Savage a "loose cannon" who made a lot of wrestlers uneasy. But they didn’t dare complain to Vince McMahon for fear of seeming weak. The person who suffered most was Elizabeth, whom Savage locked in dressing rooms to keep her away from other guys. Understandably, she couldn’t take his deranged behavior, and in 1991 — just months after their onscreen characters married — Elizabeth and Savage divorced.
The bad, the good and the gorgeous
In May 2011, Randy Savage was driving with his wife, Lynn, when his heart suddenly stopped beating. The car crashed, and Savage passed away from heart disease. Macho Man didn’t like funerals, but he had a special request for his own: He didn’t want his wrestling entrance music, "Pomp and Circumstance," to be played. It was his way of honoring Gorgeous George, a wrestler who mentored Savage’s father and used "Pomp and Circumstance" as theme music. Macho Man Randy Savage felt guilty for attaining greater fame than George. Unfortunately, the story of Savage’s reverence for the Gorgeous One has an ugly chapter.
Savage and his brother bought the rights to the name "Gorgeous George," and in the late 1990s Savage licensed the name to then-girlfriend Stephanie Bellars (above), who was his valet in WCW. According to Bellars, Savage was possessive not just of the name but of her, too. She said he made her hide in broom closets to prevent other wrestlers from making eye contact with her. She claimed he hid cameras in her home, tapped her phone, and had her followed. After they broke up, Savage allegedly threatened to sue Bellars for using the name "Gorgeous George." If so she wasn’t the only one. As the LA Times described, in 2000 he sued the guy behind the Pamela and Tommy Lee sex tape for using the Gorgeous George moniker for an adult video that Bellars appeared in before getting into wrestling.
The heartbreaking loss of Macho Man Randy Savage’s father
The year before Macho Man Randy Savage died was an emotional roller coaster. In May 2010 he tied the knot with Barbara Lynn Payne, a woman he first dated in 1972, per Bleacher Report. Two months before saying "I do," he said goodbye to his father, Angelo. Savage absolutely idolized his dad and was adamant about sharing Macho Man’s success with the man who raised him. He funded trips to Europe for his parents and purchased a Cadillac for Angelo on his 70th birthday. When Savage renovated a weight room at a prep school, he stipulated that the room had to be named after Angelo.
As Angelo got older, dementia took hold, so Randy Savage had a special toilet and walk-in tub installed in his folks’ home. But not even Macho Man’s muscles and limitless love were strong enough to stop Father Time. His mother, Judy, described how painful it was for Savage to see his lifelong hero deteriorate: "Randy prayed for [Angelo] to die because he suffered so much. But when he did die, Randy went home and punched holes in the walls."
Why Macho Man Randy Savage didn’t want to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame
Wrestling fans may debate about who belongs on the shortlist of all-time great performers, but Macho Man Randy Savage indisputably earned a spot. Wrestling legend Jesse "the Body" Ventura called Savage’s WrestleMania III showdown with Ricky Steamboat "the greatest match [he] ever saw" despite the fact the main event was the history-making match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. That contest alone made Savage a giant whose shoulders future generations could stand on. So when the WWE went well over a decade without inducting him into the Hall of Fame, fans were baffled.
Per the Washington Post, it was long rumored that Macho Man Randy Savage and Vince McMahon had a falling-out. Before leaving the WWE in 1994 Savage supposedly promised to re-sign with the company but changed his mind. Relegated to doing color commentary, he apparently wanted a match with Shawn Michaels but was basically told he was too old. So he jumped ship to WCW, at which point WWE callously mocked his age and made light of his real-life divorce from Miss Elizabeth. Savage publicly said he wasn’t offended, though his brother, Lanny, suggested otherwise. Rumors also circulated that Macho Man slept with Vince’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon. But according to Lanny the reason for Savage’s delayed Hall of Fame induction was much less salacious — Savage didn’t want to be inducted alone but as a trio with his brother and father. However, Lanny agreed to let Macho Man be inducted in 2015 after the WWE "made amends."
Andre the Giant wasn’t a big fan of Macho Man Randy Savage
Macho Man Randy Savage dripped with charisma and intensity, but the thing that dripped from him most was probably baby oil. He coated his muscles in so much oil before matches that his wrestling name could have been "Exxon Val Diesel." While that probably helped every bicep and pec flex stand out, it didn’t sit well with Andre the Giant, who dwarfed Savage like an oil tanker and wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around in the ring. "Andre hated baby oil," according to Savage’s brother, Lanny, "but Randy wouldn’t stop wearing it. He stubbornly said Andre’s gimmick is being a giant and mine is baby oil. He never backed down from Andre, and they never got along because of it."
Because Macho Man Randy Savage didn’t back down, he got beaten up during matches. In a clip from HBO’s documentary Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan recounts how Andre "just beat Randy to death." He pulled Savage’s hair and slapped the crap out of him, which seems like a harsh reaction to something you put on infants’ skin. But according to Andre’s daughter Robin Christensen-Roussimoff, the giant didn’t ravage Savage over baby oil. The real issue, she said, was Savage’s use of steroids, which Andre detested. In one interview the giant discussed the devastating effects of steroids on wrestlers‘ bodies. Witnessing that must have been especially frustrating for Andre, whose body grew uncontrollably on its own, causing debilitating health problems.
Macho Man Randy Savage and the macho-est rap album ever made
You might not expect a guy whose nickname is the title of a Village People song to be a rap fan. But the Macho Man "really liked" hip-hop, according to his brother Lanny. Savage "kept up with the lingo" and frequently used phrases like "true dat" to show how with it he was. He also showed it with his 2003 rap album, Be a Man, which is easily the greatest hip-hop composition ever created by a 50-year-old wrestler.
Macho Man Randy Savage didn’t reach Eminem levels of creativity, but he slipped in "sly references" to rappers like Ice Cube, Biz Markie, and A Tribe Called Quest. Plus, he kind of sounds like a slightly less angry DMX. The biggest highlight of the album is the title track, "Be a Man," which disses Hulk Hogan. It contains hilarious lyrics like, "Hot diggity damn Hulk I’m glad you set it off" and "Cuz like Rodney Dangerfield you gets no respect."
"Be a Man" might sound like one wrestling great poking fun at another in a musical promo, but the animosity was sincere. In addition to being Hogan’s onscreen nemesis, offscreen Savage had more beef with him than a Slim Jim. Hogan had been appearing on the radio show of Bubba the Love Sponge, who loved disparaging Savage’s family.