AMSTERDAM, NY – Normally, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction weekend in Amsterdam, NY is a celebration of achievements. This year, it’s a more sombre affair, following the death of 2009 inductee Randy “Macho Man” Savage in a car crash on Friday. At the Impact Wrestling show at the local high school and around the hotel, people who knew him talked about Savage.
Leading the charge into Amsterdam with Impact Wrestling was company co-founder Jeff Jarrett, who knew Savage back when Jarrett was only 11 years old.
“On the personal side, the Poffo family and the Jarrett family, and I know this sounds crazy in 2011, but in the early ’80s, you talk about serious bad blood. In Eastern Kentucky, they were trying to put us out of business, and we were trying to put them out of business. It got real personal with guns and threats, more threats, and more death threats,” recalled Jarrett before the show of the territorial battle.
“Randy was a very intense human being. At that time, he was fighting for more than a title belt, he was fighting for his life. You can imagine the intensity he had. Then for that situation to really become a 180, and Randy to work hand-in-hand, not just with my dad, but my grandmother — and they had a unique relationship, and Randy respected her,” said Double J, getting a little emotional.
TNA Impact Wrestling did a 10-bell salute to Savage before the show, and fans chanted the Macho Man’s name.
Though not many from the Impact roster had ever worked with Savage, they were fans.
“It’s a very sad loss to the business and the sport of pro wrestling. He’s one of the first guys to really put athleticism back in pro wrestling — that was much needed at that time when cartoon wrestling was really, really popular, bigger-than-life characters were really popular at that time,” said Matt Morgan. “Not only did Savage have the character part down, but he had the actual in-ring acumen part down as well. I think he was one of the first guys to have both. It’s something that we see with characters today. I know that’s what I strive for, and I think that’s what every pro wrestler strives for. Who could forget Macho Man and Ms. Elizabeth? Come on, everybody knows that. That’s one of the most famous duos; Macho Man by himself was one of the most famous acts of all time in pro wrestling, and justifiably so. To his credit, he was one of the best to ever do it.”
Billy Caputo, a former WWE referee and now a New York State Athletic Commission wrestling inspector, was at the TNA show in his official capacity, and was the referee the night Elizabeth was introduced as Savage’s manager.
“You talk about the roar of the crowd, and everything with John Cena, but see there was a buildup, that was a buildup for a couple of months, who Randy Savage was going to choose as his manager,’ Caputo recalled of that night in Allentown, PA. “When he walked out with Elizabeth, the crowd just went crazy, because they had seen her, they knew a little bit about her, but they didn’t know exactly what her role was going to be in professional wrestling. She came across as beautiful as ever, as strong as ever, and strong- willed. It just was a great pairing.”
At the get-together for the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, the various wrestlers talked of the Savage they knew through the years.
Dominic Denucci worked with Savage when he was starting out in Detroit.”He was a young buck, but he was well trained because of his father. I wrestled with his father so many times,” said Denucci. “The kid was good, nice looking fellow, and he had hair, a lot of it. But he was good. To me, every time I saw him, he was respectable.”
“Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe first met Savage in Florida in 1974.
“Down there, we were trying to learn how to wrestle, and the promotion was beating me in 15 seconds on TV, not giving Randy anything. The oldtimers were just eating us up and we weren’t learning anything,” said Sharpe. “But when I wrestled Randy, it was the only time he brought his girlfriend, because he knew the match would be good. We both wanted to learn, we both wanted to work hard, and we always had excellent matches.”
Ray Apollo worked with Savage in various locales over the years.
“Randy Savage was one of the greatest ring wrestlers of all time. He had a tremendous ring presence. He could have had a wrestling match with a broom — he was that good. The guy really knew where he was and he took his craft very, very seriously. Anytime anybody ever bought a ticket to see Randy Savage, they never got half a match, or a ‘B’ match, or he didn’t feel like wrestling that night. He went in there and gave you 100 per cent of what he was capable of doing. And what he was capable of doing was terrific,” began Apollo, who works as Doink the Clown now.
“The first time I met Randy Savage, he was in Puerto Rico and it was in the mid-’80s. He had that territory at his fingertips. He was terrific. Randy Savage, Randy Poffo, what you probably don’t know about him was he was a professional baseball player too. I played in a softball game with him in Chicago, and we played a DJ named Mancow. He hit a softball out of a major league baseball park. Do you realize what I just said? He hit a softball over 300 feet over the wall. The guy was some kind of athlete. I still can’t believe he’s passed. He was a good friend. He was fun to be around. He had a quirky sense of humor, and I’ll miss him a lot”.
“Cowboy” Johnny Mantell only knew Savage a short while.
“I was with him in New York for about three months in ’87, and we had a thing in common, which we both played minor league baseball as catchers. We had a lot to talk about that way,” said Mantell. “Other than that, I didn’t know him very well. I spent about three months with him in dressing rooms.”
J.J. Dillon knew Savage from a talent and an office perspective.
“He was very, very talented, and he was one of the guys from an era where you had control of your own person,” said Dillon. “Randy was an innovator in terms of the image that he portrayed, the costumes he wore, they were of his own thinking.”
Most talked about how Savage was one of the greatest talents of all time.
Jarrett said he was right at the top.
“As far as a performer, I think it takes three things to be really good at what we do,” said Jarrett. “I think your athleticism, or in-ring ability, is one. Two, is your persona, your verbal skills. Three is that ‘It’ factor. On a scale of one to 10, I think Randy was a 10 out of 10. I don’t know if I would say that about anybody else other than Kurt [Angle]. They’ve got it all. They can have a match with any guy, of any style, at any time, of any era. I can’t say enough good praise, but a lot of people will say that.”
Savage’s last notable mainstream run in wrestling can in TNA under Jarrett.
“He just had that intense look, just the things that he would say when we were negotiating to bring him in, just Randy’s a character,” smiled Jarrett.
The accident, likely caused by a heart attack, brought Savage back into the spotlight, with reports of his death airing on mainstream sports shows, news shows, and in newspapers around the continent.
Jarrett said he was interviewed by the Associated Press, and talked a little about why we didn’t see Savage much these last few years.
“The AP writer was asking me today, that you see Hulk, you see the Dusty Rhodes, the Ric Flairs, everybody from that, I don’t want to say era, because Randy transcended eras, but Randy just sort of fell off the face of the Earth, quote/unquote, and nobody heard from him. I take great pride in knowing that Randy, not just handling his money, where he could walk away and didn’t need anything like that, but just what he did in this business, he was ready to move on, he was happy with where he left it at and just progressed in life.”