In the past decade it seems that many legendary wrestlers have had a "return" year. Hulk Hogan in 2002. "Superstar" Billy Graham in 2006. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat in 2009. Press, projects, and even brief in-ring returns have given these stars one last major time to shine. By all accounts, 2011 should have been the year of the "Macho Man."
New action figures. A video game appearance. Even a live-action appearance touting the video game where Savage himself declared 2011 his year. Family, friends, and fans were cheated this past Friday when Savage passed away of a heart attack resulting in a car crash. Judging by the press coverage of the tragedy, it looks as if the entire world feels cheated.
I've often argued just who the true "mainstream" names of the wrestling business are. Everyone and their grandmother knows the name Hulk Hogan. This has been fact since around 1985 and holds true to this day. While names such as Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes, and even Steve Austin come close in the wrestling fan's vernacular, they simply don't resonate the way the Hogan name does. Going back thirty years, Andre the Giant was definitely known in the mainstream. In the past ten years, The Rock would certainly be an arguable contender due to his entertainment career. Triple H or John Cena? Unfortunately for WWE, not even close.
The names I most often hear mentioned by folks who could barely be classified as wrestling fans are Junkyard Dog, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, The Ultimate Warrior, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake...and "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
Whether it be for any of his various memorable wrestling runs, amazing performances, classic promos, or the often imitated (but never duplicated) Slim Jim commercials, Savage may be the only star name to come close to Hogan. Savage may have also been the first wrestler to crack the popularity armor of "The Hulkster." During their 1989 feud, Savage undeniably received more fan support than any of Hogan's other opponents since the birth of "Hulkamania." Indeed, "Macho Madness" was powerful despite Savage's heel tactics of the time.
Savage's downfall may actually turn out to be something that his many fans can cling to. While his virtual disappearance in the last several years has been largely disappointing to his fanbase, it has been said that the "Macho Man" lived in financial security in close proximity to family. Both his lack of need to do any notable projects for money and the word of his brother Lanny "The Genius" Poffo support this. Ultimately, while we fans may feel cheated out of more moments of "Madness" and the "Year of the Macho Man," we should actually be happy that the man who worked tirelessly for so many years in a thankless profession had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Hopefully, somewhere in the great beyond, Savage is reunited with so many that were important in his life. His father who passed only a short time ago, the great Angelo Poffo. Friend and "Macho Queen" Sherri Martel. And of course, the lovely Elizabeth. Through various accounts of his life, one can get the picture that if you were closely associated with Randy Savage, it was because Mr. Savage wanted it that way.
Randy Savage will always be second to Hogan in mainstream name value. The fact of that is not going to change upon death nor should anyone pretend that it does. What we have found out is that while Mr. Hogan is still with us, hopefully for many years to come, I cannot honestly see him getting the outpouring of emotion that has come with the passing of the "Macho Man." Tributes, thoughts, and memories have come from all corners of the world this weekend for the man who not only dropped the elbow and snapped into a Slim Jim, but epitomized action, drama, and even romance in the world of professional wrestling. To say there will never be another Randy Savage is a statement that you can take to the bank. Even in this time of sorrow, that is something which we all can "dig."