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Randy Savage, 1952–2011

The show-off who took wrestling mainstream

“Macho Man” Randy Savage was the professional wrestler that fans loved to hate. His long-running rivalry with the popular Hulk Hogan helped turn professional wrestling into mainstream entertainment, beamed into Middle America’s living rooms during prime time. With his raspy voice, wraparound sunglasses, and outfits that were flamboyant even by pro wrestling standards (“Elton John can’t dent my closet,” he once said), Savage became a pop-culture phenomenon, landing an endorsement deal with Slim Jim snacks and playing professional wrestler Bone Saw McGraw in the 2002 movie Spider-Man.

Born Randy Poffo in Columbus, Ohio, Savage had wrestling in his genes, said the Los Angeles Times. His father, Angelo, wrestled professionally, and so did his brother, “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. Randy played minor-league baseball, but lost his shot at the big leagues when he injured his throwing arm during a collision at home plate. As a wrestler during the 1980s, he staged elaborate feuds with Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, and Ric Flair, and fans howled when he entered the ring to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” wearing a leather tank top and a neon cowboy hat, and displayed his signature move, a “flying elbow drop off the top rope.”

Savage was a favorite of teenage boys, in part for his high-drama relationship with his valet, Miss Elizabeth, played by his then wife, Elizabeth Hulette, said The Wall Street Journal. He often “played a jealous lover who assaulted anyone” who so much as looked at her. He fired Miss Elizabeth at one point, only to be reunited with her as he lay helpless in the ring, savagely beaten by the Ultimate Warrior. The crowd loved it.

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