Randy Savage, R.I.P.

Slate's Culture Blog
May 23 2011 4:07 PM

Randy Savage, R.I.P.

Last Friday, I stared blankly at my computer screen as theemail condolences poured in. "I'm sorry for your loss. Macho Man will live onin our hearts and in our Slim Jims," a friend wrote in jest.

It was no joke to me, though, nor to the legions of 20- and 30-somethings whogrew up with the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE, for "entertainment"). Itwas unsettling to learn that one of my childhood heroes, Randy "Macho Man"Savage, had perished-in a car wreck no less. He had once seemed so invincibleto me.

The Macho Man (real name Randy Poffo) was a leader during the greatestgeneration of professional wrestling, an era in which wrestlers became realsuperheroes, packaged with in-depth mythologies, larger-than-life skills in thering and on the mic, and, most notably, enormous muscles tearing out ofbrightly colored costumes. A ten-time world champion, the Macho Man's colorfulpersona, arsenal of slams and suplexes, and signature flying elbow drop madehim compelling to watch as both a hero and as a villain.

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Over the weekend, I watched a bunch of Savage's interviewsand matches on YouTube to see if they held up to my childhood memories. Theydid. His WrestleMania5 world title match against Hulk Hogan in 1989 displays his prowess as ahigh flying heavyweight, a rarity during his heyday. His insane though highly entertaining interviews gotme excited all over again for his greatest matches, against Ricky the Dragon Steamboat and Ric Flair (In this interview he riffs, somewhatnonsensically, "Sugar is sweet and so is honey. Macho Madness can't be stopped.")With the exception of Flair, Hogan, the Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, noone has ever worked both the mic and the mat like the Macho Man.

After sporadic success in the late 1990s in the now-defunct WorldChampionship Wrestling , the Macho Man had been largely out of the wrestlingspotlight for the past decade. Within that time, I've seen myriad wrestlers dieprematurely: the British Bulldog, Miss Elizabeth, Bam Bam Bigelow, EddieGuerrero, Road Warrior Hawk. And now the Macho Man. I have a bittersweetfeeling of gratitude and guilt for my years of wrestling fandom. As thesebehemoths collided with one another 12 months a year, each body slam, chairshot, and piledriver was cutting their lives short. An initialautopsy was inconclusive, though Lanny Poffo, Randy's brother, claims that aheart attack caused the fatal crash. If the Macho Man's heart did indeed giveout, I can only imagine that over 20 years in the ring took their toll.

Many people will remember Randy Savage for his trademark "Ohh Yeah" or his Slim Jim commercials .I'll remember him for having sacrificed his body for my entertainment. A reallife action figure, a real macho man.

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Krishnan Vasudevan is a regular video contributor to Slate. Follow him on Twitter.