Lanny Poffo: Remembering My Brother Randy Savage on His Birthday

With today marking what would have been his birthday, I remember my brother, the man the world knew as “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo with parents Judy and Angelo Poffo on their 50th wedding anniversary, June 5th, 1999.
My brother Randy and I on our parents’ Judy and Angelo’s 50th wedding anniversary, June 5th, 1999.

When my brother Randy in 1975 was finally released from his third baseball team in the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox organizations, no other team wanted him. He had exhausted every possibility to return to the game. He had even taken his injured right arm and learned how to throw left-handed to become a left-handed first baseman. Learning how to throw with the other hand takes so much dedication I can’t even begin to describe.

When the Chicago White Sox cut him from their team, Randy asked them, “Well, what did I do wrong?”

“Randy, you make the play fine but you look like a girl when you throw because you’re using the wrong hand. You throw like a girl now.”

Randy retorted, “But I can throw!”

“Yeah you can throw but it looks funny!”

This is what they told him. It was onto wrestling for Randy.

Randy Poffo learns to throw with both hands! Newspaper clipping from the May 6th, 1975 edition of Sarasota Herald Tribune.
Randy learns to throw with both hands! Newspaper clipping from the May 6th, 1975 edition of Sarasota Herald Tribune.

You can read more about my brother Randy’s baseball career in the recommended article, Deep Drive: A Randy Savage Baseball Career Retrospective.

How Randy Savage Got His Start in Wrestling

At the time, my father Angelo Poffo and I were working for the original Sheik, Ed Farhat, out of Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.

After coming home, Randy and I went out and we talked well into the night. Randy told me, “I don’t want to be a wrestler. I want to be one of the top wrestlers in the business. I’m not getting into this business just to be a wrestler. I want to get to the top!”

Randy always thought that the greatest wrestler he had ever seen was Buddy Rogers. The greatest match Buddy Rogers was ever in was against Pat O’Conner in Chicago.

We owned that match and Randy watched it over and over on our VCR. Now YouTube has it so you don’t have to own a VCR anymore. Besides, nobody has VCRs anymore anyway!

Watch Pat O’Conner defend the NWA World Championship against “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in a 2 out of 3 Falls match at Comisky Park in Chicago:

Randy played the hell out of that match and he would say, “I want to be Buddy Rogers!” My father Angelo also loved and idolized Buddy Rogers too.

One of my favorite photos is from the time Randy and I were on the beach with Buddy Rogers. Randy was marking out the entire time!

A day on the beach with 'Nature Boy' Buddy Rogers. Even the Macho Man was marking out! The man Randy is standing next to is Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf.
A day on the beach with “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. Even the Macho Man was marking out! The man Randy is standing next to is Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf.

Randy was fascinated with Buddy Rogers against Pat O’Conner so when they stuck him with George “The Animal” Steele, he told me, “How do you think I feel? I spent all these years trying to wrestle and I get to wrestle George Steele and I can’t use any of this.”

George Steele would eat the turnbuckle, have a green tongue, and say “Elizabeth” — and it got over, I admit, but that’s not what Randy wanted to do in the business.

“Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat raised the dignity of the sport to the highest level.”

Randy was the one who asked to work with Ricky Steamboat. He told me, “I’m going to work with Steamboat. I think I found my Pat O’Conner.”

The trouble with being Buddy Rogers is that you have to have a Pat O’Conner as you can’t do it by yourself.

When he had his match with Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III, Randy finally felt he had achieved Buddy Rogers-Pat O’Conner status. But then it ruined his life.

Randy always tried to top that match with everybody he ever wrestled and couldn’t even come close.

Randy Savage faces off against Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III, a match that inspired a generation.
Randy Savage faces off against Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III, a match that inspired a generation of wrestling fans and a match Randy could never top.

Randy had some great matches. Ted DiBiase against Randy Savage, for instance, was a great match but it was two heels against one another. He also had a great match against Jake Roberts but that was also two heels. See what I mean? Two heels facing off against one another is not the same as one bad guy against one good guy.

Randy and Ricky were tremendous and raised the dignity of the sport to the highest level. It just broke his heart that he could never top that match. He had set the bar so high and he was a perfectionist and had OCD, but he only did it for the fans. He didn’t want to shortchange the fans and he wasn’t one of those guys who took a bump at Madison Square Garden but not Paducah, Kentucky. He felt if people paid to see the Macho Man, they deserved the best he had. He didn’t want to pickpocket. If you paid your money, even if you lived in a small town, you were going to get a great show. He always made sure of that.

When Randy went to the Special Olympics, one time his music didn’t play and he got so angry. Randy said, “Don’t they deserve the best show we can give them?” He didn’t have children of his own so the children of the Special Olympics were his children. They loved him and he loved them.

I was the guy that did the poem and introduced the Macho Man and he would come out to speak. I was there that day his music didn’t play. I hate to age myself but this was during the days of the 8-track and cassette. Now we have mp3 and 4 or whatever. You had to stick the music into the machine. Randy sure let his opinion be known that it was not right that they didn’t have every aspect of the day perfect for those kids.

Randy Savage and His Struggles Towards the End of His Tenure with the WWF

Randy Savage doing color commentary at WrestleMania IX alongside Jim Ross and Bobby Heenan
Randy doing color commentary at WrestleMania IX alongside Jim Ross and Bobby Heenan in 1993.

As years went by, Randy was relegated to the announcer’s table and he felt like a failure because his career was over now and he didn’t get the chance to top the match he had with Steamboat. Randy was doing the color commentary in the WWF and he was not enjoying it because he still felt that he could go in the ring. He felt like his career was over way too soon and that he had more gas left in the tank.

In his opinion, he felt Shawn Michaels was the greatest talent that there was at the time. He saw him develop and loved everything about him. Randy got all excited that maybe he could finish his career with Shawn Michaels, build up a two-year feud like the Hatfields and the McCoys, and end it at WrestleMania where Shawn Michaels would get his head shaved if he loses and if Randy loses he will retire to the announcers table never to wrestle again but staying in the WWF.

Randy actually invited me to his home to listen to his presentation which took an hour! He went into detail about every little thing about the feud, what the angles were going to be culminating in a two-year feud at WrestleMania where he would lose to Shawn Michaels in the middle of the ring and retire to the announcers’ table. Compare that to the Montreal Screwjob when that was based on selfishness when here he was trying to raise the sport and pass the baton to Shawn Michaels. If you remember, Randy passed the baton onto Ricky Steamboat back in 1987 and he passed the baton onto DDP back in 1997. He put his shoulders to the mat just like he would have with Shawn Michaels had he been given the chance.

Randy’s glory wasn’t in getting his hand raised. His glory was to have people say, “Well whose match was better, Steamboat or Michaels?” He wanted to have two matches that were the best and he wanted to end his career with the greatest match in the history of wrestling, or arguably because you can’t prove that. It’s like the difference between objective and subjective. What’s the greatest movie, Gone With The Wind or Casablanca? Well, we can always argue but never settle it because you can’t prove anything. You can prove who was the biggest box office but you can’t prove anything else.

After his pitch, the booker in WWF at the time Pat Patterson said to Randy, “That’s great but we’re having a youth movement and the best thing you can do is hold onto the microphone.”

Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels - A feud denied.
Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels – A feud denied.

The Real Reason Why Randy Savage Went to WCW

Pat Patterson had a lot of power in WWF at the time. Pat, alongside Chief Jay Strongbow, is who denied my father from getting into WWF’s Legends Battle Royal in 1987. Now, Patterson claims that was an oversight but I call BS on that. It was with malice in his heart and forethought.

Now Randy was very, very loyal to Vince McMahon because Vince McMahon did a lot for me and him, but when Vince McMahon didn’t stand up against Pat and get this done so Randy could end his career on a high note, not just for himself but for the business, Randy made the phone call to WCW.

When they say, “Well, how can he be so disloyal?” Well, he wasn’t until he was insulted and when you call a guy an old man, that’s insulting. To add insult to injury, the WWF started doing the Nacho Man and the Huckster skit where they called Randy an old man and made fun of his bald spot, something he was very sensitive about. Randy was not happy about his bald spot. The reason Randy left the WWF is due to the fact that they said he was too old. Even Hunter Hearst Helmsley, aka Triple H, was once asked in a magazine, “What do you think of Hogan and Savage?” to which he replied, “Well, they’re great, but they are dinosaurs.” That’s the reason why Randy wanted to challenge Triple H to a shoot to prove he was young enough to kick his a*s. He found that very offensive. He was insulted by that. He was sensitive about being an old man.

When Randy got to WCW, he knew he couldn’t have a technically great match with Diamond Dallas Page as he had with Steamboat, but he felt that Diamond Dallas Page made up for it with charisma. He also loved him for his attitude of being willing to doing anything. To make up for the fact that DDP didn’t have the typical babyface technical arm drag – drop down – hip toss BS that requires many many years of training that Steamboat had, they made up for it by recreating a real fight where people crashed into stuff and people broke things and people got hurt. He loved Diamond Dallas Page because he was willing to take a chance. He wasn’t the type of guy that would say, “Hey, that was a day off!” like George Steel used to say. Randy didn’t want to have a night off. Ever. Randy wanted to have a night on. Randy wanted to kick a*s in the ring.

DDP gets the 1-2-3 victory over “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WCW’s Spring Stampede pay-per-view, April 6, 1997.
DDP gets the 1-2-3 victory over “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WCW’s Spring Stampede pay-per-view, April 6, 1997.

Randy was also very interested in the fans thinking that he was an athlete and that what he was doing in the ring was real. In order to prove that it is real, you have to take a few risks and shock the people which the wrestlers today are doing. But Randy started it.

A wonderful read: DDP vs Randy Savage – The Heartwarming Story Behind Their Feud

Macho Man’s Influence on Today’s Stars

A lot of wrestlers today who are achieving great heights got their inspiration as children from watching the Macho Man. The way he never took a shortcut, the way he would always entertain the people yet could back it up with daring athleticism. Just look at Bayley, current WWE SmackDown Women’s champion. She was inspired to get into wrestling because of Randy. Also, Candice LeRae.

Many years ago, I’m going to guess it was 2008 or 2010 even, I went to Alpine, California and I met Candice. She came up to me and told me that the Macho Man is the reason she got into the wrestling business. She talked about Randy with me for about a half-hour. “Please tell him for me he’s my inspiration.” She was telling me every match Randy ever had, she talked about Elizabeth and how she was a tremendous role model when she was growing up, and thanks to Coliseum Video she is able to relive all these moments. Of course, this was before the WWE Network.

When Candice LeRae had her debut in NXT, she sent me a picture of her knee pads which had the Macho Man’s face on it saying, “I wore this for my debut in NXT today because I want to always remember who got me in the business.”

'Macho Man' Randy Savage ring gear worn by Candice LeRae during her NXT debut.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage ring gear worn by Candice LeRae during her NXT debut.

When Randy died, I purposely called Candice because I wanted her to hear it from me. I didn’t want her to hear it from anybody else. She was all torn up. I haven’t seen her since but I am so proud of her that she finally got her break, even though it’s many years after she should have. But that was the same story with Randy. He should have got his break way before he did. The great news is that he finally got his break. Of course, it was probably better it happened the way that it did as WWF was only regional when Randy deserved to get his break but by the time Randy did join the company, WWF was taking over the world with Randy’s face on it so it was probably for the best.

Randy’s Opinion of Birthdays

Randy didn’t like birthdays. Well, he liked other people’s birthdays but not his own. He didn’t want to celebrate his own birthday much because he didn’t like getting older.

On my father’s 70th birthday, Randy bought a 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville and he cooperated with everybody in the family not to blow the kayfabe. In 1959, my dad bought a Cadillac with those ugly fins on it and it was the biggest car ever. It was huge, heavy, and it got about 1 mile per gallon, unlike a Škoda. Randy had a friend where he made a deal to get a mint condition 1959 Cadillac because my dad was nostalgic for that car and loved it. Come to think of it, I think Elvis had one. Maybe he had twenty.

So on my dad’s 70th birthday, Randy put a bag over our dad’s head, walked him out using the handles of the grocery bag, and took it off. “Happy birthday, dad!”

My dad went to live almost fifteen more years and although he wasn’t quite demented yet, it took him about a minute to realize that this was his car. That was the greatest birthday in the history of our family.

A yellow 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville, exactly like the one Randy bought for our father Angelo on his 70th birthday.
A yellow 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville, exactly like the one Randy bought for our father Angelo on his 70th birthday.

The Only Argument I Ever Had With My Brother

It was Bubba The Love Sponge that broke up Macho Man and Hulk Hogan from their friendship. On his radio show, they were trashing Randy every day. I’m glad that about a month before Randy died, thanks to happenstance or Godwink (which is a word now), or whatever you believe, Randy took my mom to the heart doctor and the nurse said that Hulk was in the other room. Randy went to the other room and together they made their peace and they embraced. You don’t want to go to your grave holding a grudge and I think it’s beautiful that they had a chance to do this before Randy died.

A picture of Randy (right) and me (left) when we were younger. My brother and I didn't argue much over the years, but there was this one time!
A picture of Randy (right) and me (left) when we were younger. My brother and I didn’t argue much over the years, but there was this one time!

The only argument that I ever had with Randy was when he did the CD, Be A Man.”

Randy came to me and said, “I need you to write me a song about Hulk Hogan called ‘Be A Man Hulk’ and I want you to denigrate him.”

I said, “I can’t do that.”

Randy replied, “Can’t or won’t?”

I said, “Both.”

I continued, “I was a jabroni. Hulk Hogan lost a match to me on NBC. He liked my gimmick and I was in main events for four months with two of those main events in Madison Square Garden.”

In my career, I have had twenty-three appearances at Madison Square Garden with two of them being main events. Both of them were because of Hulk Hogan so I feel like a fat girl on prom night that got a date for the dance. It means more to me than it would have to Elizabeth Taylor who was able to get thousands of men!

I told him, “I refuse to say anything bad about Hulk Hogan when that was the man who thought The Genius gimmick was marketable and enjoyable.”

Because of Hogan, I got my biggest break and got to be in main events for four months before WrestleMania VI which was in Toronto. They even used me and Mr. Perfect to have the match with Ultimate Warrior, so I was a part of wrestling history.

As a man who is about to turn 65, I still love Hulk Hogan for choosing me. I wasn’t chosen because I was special, I was special because I was chosen.

“I’m very grateful to him and I will not use my gift of poetry to denigrate Hulk Hogan because that would be like biting the hand that fed me.”

I continued, “However since you are someone I also owe my career to, I will do something better than denigrating Hulk Hogan, I will write a song about Mr. Perfect praising him.”

Some people think that the song A Perfect Friend is the best song on the CD and that’s the only song I wrote every word of. Instead of denigrating Hulk Hogan, I ended up edifying Mr. Perfect and he deserved it because I loved Mr. Perfect and I loved Hulk Hogan too. I love everybody that had a hand in doing those things for me.

Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and Hulk Hogan, two men I owe my career to.
Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and Hulk Hogan, two men I owe my career to.

Be sure to read the recommended article “Curt Hennig – Better Than Perfect” where I share some great stories about my time teaming with Hennig.

In Memory of My Brother, Randy Savage

Some people think my brother was a wild man, but give him credit for not beating the heck out of Chief Jay Strongbow and Pat Patterson on the same day. Give him credit, instead, for picking up the phone and calling WCW and leaving the WWF like a gentleman. Vince McMahon is the most successful man I have ever met but you have to give credit to my brother for being able to work out bringing Slim Jim over to WCW along with him.

The one thing about Randy that I want the fans to know is if there was a word to describe him it would be conscientious. He got it from my mom and he got it from my dad. He tried to pass that along with me every day and every way, no matter what he was doing.

My parents Angelo and Judy Poffo, seen here on their wedding day, instilled conscientiousness in Randy.
My parents Angelo and Judy Poffo, seen here on their wedding day on June 5th, 1949, instilled conscientiousness in Randy.

Whether it be taking care of his boat or mowing his lawn, he did things himself because he didn’t think people could do it properly. He put everything that he had into everything that he did conscientiously. He always remembered the fans and never wanted to shortchange them. Also, his love affair with the Special Olympics beat anything in his life because you should have seen the way everyone involved reacted to him. He’d always wear his Macho attire when he was there because he wanted to give them his all. And at these events, it was Sue Atchison, the well-deserved recipient of the 2019 WWE Warrior Award, who made sure everything was perfect. It was Sue Atchison who made sure that the music was correct. It was Sue Atchison who made sure thousand of dollars worth of merchandise was there so Randy could hand it out to the children of the Special Olympics. Sue Atchison was the liaison that the WWE used for all of their Make-a-Wish and every other charity that they’ve ever done. And Randy made sure he did every single one that was asked of him, but it was the Special Olympics that won his heart.

Randy wouldn’t want to be remembered not only for his accomplishments in the ring but for his part in these wonderful charities.

Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo, Christmas 2010. This would be Randy's final Christmas.
My brother and I, Christmas 2010. This would be Randy’s final Christmas with us.

My brother and I grew up in the kayfabe era when people didn’t know whether wrestling was real or not. Randy was out there to prove that it was real and he felt he proved it with Steamboat, he felt he could prove it with Michaels, and he tried to prove it every time that he wrestled without hurting his opponent. What he loved about DDP was the hunger in his eyes and his total ballsiness. They both wanted to prove something, and believe it or not, he didn’t get that cooperation with every opponent he faced. He put the show above his own body and that’s what Randy wanted.

Randy wanted people to look at his matches and say, “That was real!”

I love you and miss you, Randy. Happy birthday.

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Lanny Poffo
Lanny Poffo, formerly known as "The Genius" and "Leaping Lanny" of the WWF, is an occasional columnist for Pro Wrestling Stories, a published author, motivational speaker, former host of The Genius Cast podcast, and brother of WWE Hall of Famer “Macho Man” Randy Savage. You can find him on Twitter @LannyPoffo, Facebook @lanny.poffo, or GeniusLannyPoffo.com.