The show business and wrestling world lost an iconic figure on Friday with the tragic death of Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage. Best known for his legendary performances in the Wrestlemania showdowns of the 80s and 90s, Savage (real name Poffo) suffered a massive heart attack while driving his car in Tampa, Florida. He was 58 years old. For those who may have never been interested in wrestling, you likely still know of Savage’s persona through his boisterous ‘Snap into a Slim Jim!’ commercials. You might also be interested to learn that Savage’s first love was baseball, and that he spent a number of years in the minor leagues before giving up the dream and turning his attention to wrestling, a more financially promising pursuit that was rapidly growing in popularity. Several years would pass before Ric Flair, the man many consider to be the greatest wrestler ever, crossed paths with Savage and grew to know him in and out of the ring. But from the sound of it, the two men who captivated the wrestling world with their infamous clash at Wrestlemania VIII, developed a fairly close relationship over time.
Flair joined WFNZ in Charlotte to talk about the news of Savage’s death hitting him extremely hard, what he remembers about his famous Wrestlemania VIII showdown with Savage, what his lasting thoughts of Savage will be both in and out of the ring, if he agrees that Savage belongs on any top ten list of the greatest wrestlers of all time, how he didn’t always agree with Savage when it came to business but always enjoyed his company away from work, and how Savage had probably stashed away enough money with his thrifty ways to last him another 200 years.
On how hard the news hit him when he learned of Savage’s death:
“It sure did. It’s pretty sad. He just recently got married, it’s been a little over a year, and was happy and, you know, really seemed to be at peace with himself. He just had a phenomenal career and to have this happen is just really, really sad.”
What he remembers about his famous Wrestlemania VIII showdown with Savage:
“That was a huge day for me and my first dance at Wrestlemania, of course. It was just a tremendously well-written program. It was like he was married to Liz back then and she was a huge commodity and a huge star with the WWF, or that’s what they were called back then, of course. And the thought process was, ‘She was mine before she was yours.’ It was well-written and done and Randy worked hard at it and I worked hard at it. We had a really good match. Curt Henning, God rest his soul, managed me and Liz managed Randy and we gave them a helluva show and it was awesome. That was my first Mania and one of the finest memories of my career.”
On what his lasting thoughts of Savage will be in and out of the ring:
“My thoughts about Randy are different. I think he was such a competitive guy. Randy had a really hard time relaxing and I feel bad. I think about the times I used to say to him ‘Hey man, just calm down and don’t worry about this and this and this… whatever happens is going to happen.’ If you go to sleep at night worrying about what’s going to happen the next day, it’s just too hard. You know, he worked like I did, 365 times a year back in the old days. He actually broke in in Charlotte in 1975. I’d only been here a year when Randy moved in down here. He played semi-pro baseball, I think, in St. Louis and had done fairly well but wasn’t blowing up the ladder like expected. So he came here and broke in the business. The irony in that is when I first moved here in ’74, I actually traveled with his dad (wrestler Angelo Poffo) several times. I knew the whole family very well. His dad just passed recently and I think that hurt Randy really bad. They were very close. Randy just dropped out of sight when the company was sold from WCW (to WWE). The thing I feel worst about, of all of the guys that are available and eligible to be in the WWE Hall of Fame — there must be something that I’m unaware of that’s gone on and they’ve never inducted him because Randy certainly was a major player for the WWF in the mecca days of the eighties and nineties.”
If he agrees that Savage belongs on a list of the ten greatest wrestlers of all time:
“Of course. Yeah. Of course. … I didn’t always agree with Randy. I’m not gonna lie to you. I didn’t sweat things out like he did. But I didn’t have to fight like a dog in that race they had to be whoever they were in the eighties in that show, where everybody was fighting for position everyday of their life. I didn’t have to evolve from that. I never had personal differences with him, nothing about lifestyle. It was just about business and it doesn’t stop my opinion (of him) — he always did favors for me, he came in and opened some of my Golds Gyms. We were great friends. He and I clashed in business, but outside of the ring we were great. He could drink beer and have a good time. And I made him laugh and helped him take his mind of things that bothered him. We got along great and had a lot of fun together. I used to say to him all the time, he probably died with 300 million dollars in the bank. I’m not exaggerating. I’m being facetious. But, Randy was very thrifty. I used to say to him all the time, because he would stay at hotels that were less cost effective than where I stayed. (laughs) I used to say ‘you can save all that money brother, and you can criticize it all you want but I’m going to enjoy the moment because you never know, you know? The irony in that is Randy was only 58-years-old. That’s sad because I guarantee you he’s got enough money to live 200 more years. He made it. He worked hard to earn it. He worked very hard to earn it. He deserved it. But I always used to say to him, ‘Man, you live for the day buddy.’ Today’s another example of why you have to live for today. You never know.”