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For years, the WWE Hall of Fame induction has been the chance for longtime wrestling fans to honor and possibly even meet the legends of the industry they grew up with. The key to receiving induction hinges on a wrestler’s relationship with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. This has led to some notable exemptions and inclusions.
Chyna, the first female Intercontinental Champion, was fired from WWE in 2001, and went on to slam the company at the height of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide media blitz. Neither are often mentioned for Hall induction. Bruno Sammartino refused induction for years. Yet many people at odds with Vince have ended up inducted, often at fans’ behest.
Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior, Bruno, and even former business competitors like AWA promoter Vergne Gagne had major issues with WWE, but are all Hall of Famers. Abdullah the Butcher never even competed in WWE, but was enshrined nonetheless. And then there’s the case of one “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
David Shoemaker, a.k.a the Masked Man of deadspin.com, did an obituary of sorts for Savage just after his May 20, 2011 death. It’s also the source of the Hofstadter quote from last time. Shoemaker’s “Dead Wrestler of the Week” articles are written by a longtime fan of sports entertainment from a real-world view. The article piece pretty much sums up why people loved Savage.
He had the perfect woman (as of 1984, his real wife, Miss Elizabeth), and was jealous. He had the zany ring gear that still sells. He was believably brutal and agile in the ring. And that intensity in matches came through in spades when he was on the mic. The dream match between Savage and the Rock would be a hit if only for the promos between the two.
But there always seemed to be that underdog trait to Savage. He was the wrestling Orthogonean, the striving up-and-comer nipping at the heels at the elitist Franklin WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan. Much like the most famous Orthogonean, Richard Milhous Nixon, he would finally be the man, but he didn’t soundly beat the man, and was haunted by it.
Savage and Ricky Steamboat stole the show at WrestleMania III in their Intercontinental Championship Match. (Savage reportedly went over every single detail of it for days prior to the match.) Vince decided that Savage deserved a chance to be WWF Champion, and prepared him to replace Hogan, who was about to become a new dad.
Savage won the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV after Hogan’s interference. He lost the belt to Hogan at WrestleMania V. Savage then replaced Elizabeth with Sensational Sherri Martel. He tried to establish himself without two key figures in his career, but it just never felt right. WrestleMania VII saw the Liz/Savage saga come full circle.
Minutes after a “retirement match” loss to the equally nutty Ultimate Warrior, Savage and Elizabeth reunited to tears and cheers from fans. The couple had a “wedding” at SummerSlam 1991, and Savage won a second WWF Championship, and defended his wife’s honor, from Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII. Liz divorced him the same year.
In 1994, he up and left the WWF to join Hogan in WCW, where he got to play a sidekick- again. He even got to reunite with Elizabeth for a spell. Only when he signed with the upstart TNA did Savage, with his career nearly over, truly fly solo. His final televised match at TNA’s Destination Point event in December 2004.
Randy Savage was actually promoting his upcoming WWE action figures and video game appearances at the time of his death. Yet at the Hall of Fame Induction prior to WrestleMania XXVIII, the first after his death, he wasn’t included. Almost instantly, conspiracy theories exploded.
Was Macho Man Randy Savage being denied a shrine because he took the Slim Jim commercial deal to WCW with him? Did Savage refuse to be inducted over the WWF’s “Nacho Man” parody of him? Or was it because of the most bizarre, and therefore most popular, conspiracy: that Vince caught Savage trying to hit on a then-teenage Stephanie McMahon?
Savage’s brother, “Leapin'” Lanny Poffo alleged that the Macho Man only wanted to be inducted if Lanny and their late father, Angelo Poffo, could also be included. Since Lanny is only vaguely remembered for his short stint as the poetic Genius, and hardly anybody remembers Angelo’s Poffo’s ICW promotion, the induction was a no-go.
Vince refused the request, just as Elizabeth Ann Huelette’s family refuse to allow her to be inducted. They feel the wrestling industry killed her (she died in 2003 after an accidental drug and alcohol overdose). As the only surviving immediate family members, Lanny and the Huelettes get to make the call. Lanny finally decided to allow only his brother in.
Savage’s longtime frienemy Hulk Hogan is inducting Savage in the Hall, which loads yet another conspiracy regarding their association at Savage’s death. Meanwhile, fans and non-fans are all celebrating the career of one of the greatest wrestlers ever.
If Hulk Hogan was what kids wanted to be, then Macho Man Randy Savage was who many of us knew we ultimately were. Intense, talented, but too insecure to appreciate what we could do in full.