How Randy Savage’s Dad, Angelo Poffo, Shattered World Record!

This world record wasn’t merely a number. It was a testament to the grit of Angelo Poffo, the father of Macho Man Randy Savage and “The Genius” Leaping Lanny Poffo.

Angelo Poffo in his peak form, performing sit-ups, along with a picture of him teaching his boys, Randy (later known to the world as Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny (also known as "The Genius" and Leaping Lanny Poffo) the art of wrestling. Artwork: Pro Wrestling Stories.
Angelo Poffo in his peak form, performing sit-ups, along with a picture of him teaching his boys, Randy (later known to the world as Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny (also known as “The Genius” and Leaping Lanny Poffo) the art of wrestling. Artwork: Pro Wrestling Stories.

Jon Finkel, the award-winning author of the April 2024 released book, Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage, passionately recounts the feat Angelo achieved on July 4th, 1945, amidst the backdrop of the U.S. Naval Repair Base Gym under the watchful eyes of witnesses, physicians, and even POWs. On this day, Poppa Poffo took a step toward immortality by breaking a world record that had previously claimed the life of a man who had attempted it!

Randy Savage: It All Started With His Father, Angelo Poffo

Angelo Poffo lifting weights with his son Randy, long before the days of Macho Man Randy Savage!
Angelo Poffo lifting weights with his son Randy, long before the days of Macho Man Randy Savage! Photo Credit: Poffo Family.

One of the most popular questions I’ve received about my Macho Man Randy Savage biography is, "Where did you start your research?"

"Did you start with Randy’s minor league baseball career?

“Did you start with his time in the ICW in the late 1970s and early ’80s?

“Did you start when he got the call to go to New York for his WWF debut in 1985?"

There were so many stages to Randy’s life and career that I completely understand the question.

The evolution from Randy Poffo, the baseball player, to Randy Savage, the wrestler, to Macho Man, the icon, gives a writer a lot of places to begin.

But for me, there was only one person and one feat that felt right to start the book with.

That person is Angelo Poffo, Randy’s dad. And that feat was his world record attempt for consecutive sit-ups, which he shattered, pounding out 6,033 sit-ups in four hours and ten minutes.

The Feat That Defined Angelo Poffo

Angelo Poffo set a world record by doing 6,033 consecutive sit-ups in four hours and ten minutes, which was recognized in the publications of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Photo Credit: King Features Syndicate, 1948.
Angelo Poffo set a world record by doing 6,033 consecutive sit-ups in four hours and ten minutes, which was recognized in the publications of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Photo Credit: King Features Syndicate, 1948.

These sit-ups performed by Angelo Poffo weren’t the sit-ups you did in gym class. These were old-school, torque-and-twist core sit-ups, where at the top of the sit-up, your elbows had to twist and tap the opposite knee.

Painful!

Macho Man’s dad was all of twenty years old when he made his second attempt at the record (he was disqualified due to form violations on his first attempt).

He was a Pharmacist’s First Mate in the Navy and was looking for a way to make a name for himself and put his newly built, muscle-bound physique to good use.

That he decided to tackle a world record at twenty is one thing. That he went after one where the last man to try it died during the attempt of a ruptured aortic vessel is another. The kid had gumption and grit and, most importantly to our story, a nose for drama and glory.

Sound familiar?

The DNA That Ran Through The Veins of the Poffo Family

Angelo Poffo practices sit-ups alongside his sons, Lanny and Randy. This is a feat for which Poppa Poffo gained national recognition as a world record owner!
Angelo Poffo practices sit-ups alongside his sons, Lanny and Randy. For this feat, Poppa Poffo gained national recognition as a world record owner! Photo Credit: Big Time Magazine.

By opening the book with this scene… With Angelo’s body ramming up and down with blood seeping from his stomach, sweat waterfalling off his body, and a world record hanging in the balance, we get a glimpse into the future – into the hard drive of the Poffo DNA that would one day coarse through the veins of his son, the Macho Man Randy Savage.

Because before the Macho Man and before the commercials and the championship belts and WCW and WWE and ICW and minor league ball and even before Randy Savage, there was just a goofy, skinny, baseball-loving kid named Randy Poffo, son of Angelo Poffo and Judy Poffo and big brother to Lanny, who loved his family and worshiped his dad.

It was that worship, work ethic, and wild streak that helped him transform into one of the most magnetic performers we’ve ever seen in sports or entertainment.

Please enjoy this short excerpt from my upcoming Macho Man biography and then give it a buy!

Setting the Stage: The Road to Angelo Poffo’s World Record

Angelo Poffo in 1955.
Angelo Poffo in 1955. Photo Credit: Public Domain.

The following excerpt, shared with permission, is from the book "Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage" by Jon Finkel and published by ECW Press:

…For his venue, he chose the U.S. Naval Repair Base Gym in San Diego, California. For the date, a holiday: July 4, 1945. For his goal, he aimed beyond the Navy record, this time to the world record of 5,900.

Angelo Poffo also enlisted a crew of support staff to monitor the attempt and his health. Along with a half-dozen witnesses were four German POWs assigned to hold down his legs, several timekeepers, a physician, and an official to ensure that every rep counted as a regulation sit-up.

According to the rules of the day, a regulation sit-up was legal only when "the legs were straight and flat on the ground, the hands were clasped in the back of the neck, then upon rising and bending forward, the right elbow must touch the left knee and vice versa."

Brutal.

If any of these points were not followed on any given rep, the timekeeper declared it a "fault," like in tennis. No exceptions.

The Attempt Begins: Angelo Poffo’s Quest for the Record

Angelo Poffo in 1961.
Angelo Poffo in 1961. Photo Credit: Public Domain.

On his way to 3,000 and beyond, Angelo Poffo performed a few dozen extra sit-ups that never made it into the record books—tiny setbacks on his way to greatness.

3,471 . . . 3,472 . . . 3,473 . . .

Poffo was a Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class. Used to be skinny. Scrawny, even. But all that changed once he discovered two things about life on a naval destroyer base:

One, he had a lot of time on his hands.

Two, he had open access to barbells and dumbbells.

"I thought I was in heaven," he once said.

Surpassing Limits: Angelo Poffo’s Journey Through Pain and Perseverance

Angelo Poffo with his sons, (also known as "The Genius" and Leaping Lanny Poffo).
Angelo Poffo with his sons, Randy (Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny ("The Genius" Leaping Lanny Poffo). Photo Credit: ICW.

In the gym, Angelo Poffo quickly discovered that his body responded well to whatever physical punishment he threw at it. While his shipmates took leave off the base, he often stayed for solo sessions in what became his personal iron paradise.

The more weight he lifted, the larger he became, transforming himself from a six-foot-tall kid who wore medium-sized t-shirts to a muscle-bound man with a thick chest, veiny arms, and a six-pack.

Soon he was over 200 pounds and in search of an outlet for all that brawn — a North Star, a goal to show off and show himself what his new physique was capable of.

He scoured the Navy’s logs for a record that piqued his interest, and he zeroed in on the mark for consecutive sit-ups in the fastest time.

4,885 . . . 4,886 . . . 4,887 . . .

A Grueling Challenge: Angelo Poffo’s Pursuit of Excellence

Angelo Poffo with his son, Macho Man Randy Savage.
Angelo Poffo with his son, Macho Man Randy Savage. Photo Credit: ICW.

The room buzzed as Angelo Poffo passed 5,004 sit-ups, his unofficial personal best to that point.

His neck ached, and his hands cramped from being clasped behind his head for over two hundred minutes.

The German POWs were exhausted, rotating in and out to keep Angelo’s ankles pinned to the ground so his massive body could piston up and down.

The physician worried about dehydration, cramping, bleeding, strains, sprains, and a possible heart attack. He’d never witnessed physical exertion on this level. He kneeled next to Angelo, feeding him water and candy bars at various intervals for fuel.

5,897 . . . 5,898 . . . 5,899 . . .

The Climax: Breaking the World Record Inspired by Jesus

The world record broke by Angelo Poffo was featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not!
The world record Angelo Poffo broke was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Photo Credit: Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Just before the four-hour mark, Angelo captured the world record with 5,900 consecutive sit-ups. But he pressed on. He secretly had his sights set on 6,000.

With the crowd in awe, his midsection glistening with sweat and blood, he hit number 6,000 at four hours and eight minutes.

Then he gutted out 33 more (one for each year of Jesus Christ’s life, he’d later say) to land on 6,033 consecutive sit-ups in a total time of four hours and ten minutes.

The record was his. Finally.

The Aftermath: Triumph and Trials of Angelo Poffo’s World Record Attempt

Angelo Poffo with his son, Macho Man Randy Savage, in 1984.
Angelo Poffo with his son, Macho Man Randy Savage, in 1984. Photo Credit: Poffo Family.

As the crowd cheered, Angelo Poffo lay flat on the ground, watching his abdominal muscles vibrate, twitch, and contract involuntarily.

He tried to remove his arms from behind his head but they were frozen in place from the restricted blood flow.

Assistants had to help him slowly and painfully lower his limbs to his sides, and when he tried to stand, he couldn’t.

Not wanting the young man to die on his watch, the physician rushed Angelo to the hospital, where he received a full evaluation.

Other than wear and tear and fatigue, he was fine.

A few hours later he was released: a new local celebrity.

Recognition Among His Peers as a World Record Holder

Angelo Poffo exhibits his custom-made Ripley's Believe It Or Not! wrestling championship belt made in honor of his world record.
Angelo Poffo exhibits his custom-made Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! wrestling championship belt made in honor of his world record. Photo Credit: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

Earl R. Gibson, a lieutenant on hand to witness the event and an athletic officer on base, dubbed Angelo "the Sit-up Champ," and officially put Angelo in the record books.

A short time later, Ripley’s Believe It or Not featured him in a newspaper column and sent him a sit-up champion belt to commemorate the feat.

The centerpiece of the gold plate on the belt was an image of Angelo doing a sit-up in his Speedo-like trunks. Underneath, it read:

ANGELO POFFO DID 6,033 CONSECUTIVE SIT-UPS

A NEW RECORD

DOWNERS GROVE, IL. — JULY 4, 1945

Within days he was the most popular man on base — a bona fide world record holder.

"I won’t try to break that record again, that’s for sure," he said in the aftermath. "I just want to get my BS in physical education and after that, well, I really don’t know."

Behind the Feat: Angelo Poffo’s Motivation and Legacy

Angelo Poffo plays a game of pool in his lounge with his sons, Randy (later known to the world as Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny (also known as "The Genius" and Leaping Lanny Poffo), in May 1964.
Angelo Poffo plays a game of pool in his lounge with his sons, Randy (later known to the world as Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny (also known as “The Genius” and Leaping Lanny Poffo), in May 1964. Photo Credit: Big Time Magazine.

But why did he do it in the first place?

"I did it for my own satisfaction," he said. "I felt good after getting the record and I could have done a lot more because I didn’t feel too tired."

The man’s hands were stuck behind his head.

He was bleeding from his stomach and back.

He couldn’t stand up.

Not too tired?

What a showman.

Angelo Poffo: The Bedrock of a Wrestling Dynasty and an Emblem of Perseverance

Judy and Angelo Poffo on their 50th Wedding Anniversary on June 5th, 1999, alongside their proud sons, Randy (Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny Poffo.
Judy and Angelo Poffo on their 50th Wedding Anniversary on June 5th, 1999, alongside their proud sons, Randy (Macho Man Randy Savage) and Lanny Poffo. Photo Credit: Poffo Family.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was the future father of the "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Leaping Lanny Poffo.

But more than that, Angelo Poffo was a man whose incredible feat of endurance and strength on July 4th, 1945, would ripple through the generations.

To read the full excerpt (believe me, you’ll want to) and the definitive biography of the one and only Randy Savage, you can purchase a copy of "Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage" today!

These stories may also interest you:

We have hundreds of great Pro Wrestling Stories, but of course, you can’t read them all today. Sign up to unlock ten pro wrestling stories curated uniquely for YOU, plus subscriber-exclusive content. A special gift from us awaits after signing up!

Want More? Choose another story!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, Threads, YouTube, TikTok, and Flipboard!
Pro Wrestling Stories is committed to accurate, unbiased wrestling content rigorously fact-checked and verified by our team of researchers and editors. Any inaccuracies are quickly corrected, with updates timestamped in the article's byline header.
Got a correction, tip, or story idea for Pro Wrestling Stories? Contact us! Learn about our editorial standards here.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us provide free content for you to enjoy!

https://booksandbiceps.beehiiv.com/subscribe

Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage, Hoops Heist, The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height, “Mean” Joe Greene, and more. His books have been endorsed by everyone from Mark Cuban and Tony Dungy to Spike Lee, Kevin Durant, and Chef Robert Irvine. He has written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and has appeared on CBS: This Morning, Good Morning Texas, and hundreds of radio shows, podcasts, and streams. Jon can be reached on Twitter @Jon_Finkel. You can also join his Books & Biceps newsletter for weekly reading recommendations, gym motivation, and updates on his books.