Top V Promos: Macho Man Randy Savage

Let's be honest here for a moment: for the most part on this blog, we've been discussing things about professional wrestling that annoy (or have annoyed) Rick and I: after all, most of our reviews and re-booking pieces have been bubbling with frustration and a sense of "we could have done it better." 

 Also I just wrote 2,000 words analyzing Donald Trump's involvement with the WWE, so I need so I to write about something far more positive.

So since everyone on the internet is crazy about "Top Ten" or "Top Five" lists, I thought I would develop a new feature of pieces that Rick and I can do without too much trouble. I'm calling them "Top V" and they will be about our Top V promos, matches, or personalities of pro wrestling (I'm using Roman numerals because I'm classy. Also, I'm wearing a toga as I write this, but you don't need to know why).

So today, I thought I would offer up my Top V favorite promos of one of my favorite wrestlers of all time: the late, great "Macho Man" Randy Savage. And I hope you dig it (them). 

1) Randy and the Poffos Challenge the Rock 'N Roll Express
So the first clip I have here is from MidSouth Wrestling (CWA) during I believe 1984 where the Poffo Clan (father Angelo and Lanny and Randy) were feuding with the Rock N Roll Express. There's definite heel heat on the Poffo boys in this clip because, in part, they were the main stars of Angelo's ICW which competed against the CWA. After folding his organization, Angelo had his boys invade Jerry Lawler's Memphis territory in an angle that drew an incredible amount of heat to the Poffos because of their genuine appearance as "invaders." 

Why I selected this clip is because of the study in contrasts between the Rock N Roll Express - who provide a fairly by-the-books face promo - and the Poffos: Lanny pontificates about the decendance of rock n'roll and then moves onto a philosophical comment on the morality of vengeance when, at around the 3:38 mark, a chair moves into the frame of the camera and then Randy begins hitting himself in the head with it. What I love about the Poffos (seriously, why can't I find a Poffo Clan t-shirt?) is how the two of them embodied different heel personas: the intellectual Lanny and the unhinged, anarchistic Randy. And when compared to the prototypical Southern faces of the era, it's hard to look away from them. 


2) "Cup of coffee"
At times, I think the best pro wrestling promos operate as Vaudevillian sketches, wherein a wrestler embodies the stage comic who plays-off the reactions of his "straight man." Gene Okerland and Savage illustrate that dynamic perfectly in this short little promo: watch Randy's use of the cup as a simple prop and then Gene's deadpan reaction to the dropping of the cup --- it's fantastic. Also, Savage's ending of this promo makes me laugh every time I see it. 

3) "Not talking"
To be perfectly honest, this might be my favorite wrestling promo of all time. Watch Okerland's eyes follow Savage around as Sting attempts to cut a fairly generic promo. The timing of this is really great and I love how Sting tries to accentuate his promo by yelling "I'm not talking either!" But Savage steals the scene by distracting us from the foreground. Watching this, I'm a bit reminded of the scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper where two actors are having a conversation in the foreground of the frame while Allen's character fights a robot in the kitchen.

Again, this is a study in contrasts. I've never found Sting's character during this period all that compelling; I know I found him rather dull as a teenager, but I sometimes wonder if his presentation wasn't a concerted effort by WCW to offer audiences a WWF-style character. In that vein, it seems appropriate that Sting wants to hijack Savage's more memorable promo here.

4)  Break-up of the Mega Powers
In his recent book on wrestling, David Shoemaker argues that one of the appeals of Savage's career was how he projected an aura of paranoia and conspiracy in his character. Depending on who you talk to, this affectation was a byproduct of Savage's own paranoia and skepticism about other wrestlers; it's also - again depending on the source - an outgrowth of his relationship with his manager and real life wife Elizabeth. 

But that paranoid and conspiratorial persona was best manifested in the famous feud between Savage and Hulk Hogan leading up to Wrestlemania V. In something of a cheat, I've included a clip from a YouTube user who spliced together a series of Savage's promos prior to his confrontation with Hogan in Atlantic City. At times, Savage's rationale for fighting Hogan is somewhat ludicrous: for instance, there's a shot of Hogan accidentally touching Elizabeth's bottom while she was on Savage's shoulders. However, what's striking about Savage's promos here is how oddly empathetic they are. The WWF was then clearly positioning Savage as the heel in this feud, but like many heels, Savage has legitimate points and it's hard to not side with his perspective at times: indeed, as a kid, I found myself understanding his claims that Hogan was hardly the equal partner and something of a showboat-er (it's one of those wrestling rites of passage: the realization that the heel has a good point). 

This sequence is also an exemplary example of what we rarely see in professional wrestling any longer: the long, drawn-out feud. The formation and break-up of the Mega Powers took place over the course of a year and a half; in contrast, the majority of storylines in the contemporary WWE last roughly four to five weeks (at most it seems).

5) "Be a Man"
This will be controversial. 

So, here's what you need to know: in 2003, Randy Savage released a rap album and it was widely-panned by critics and fans. Chris Kangas recently wrote a really interesting overview of how the album came to be, and I'm going to recommend reading it: The Story Behind "Macho Man" Randy Savage's Album

And let's be clear: this album is not, er, good. But that said, this passage in the title track is aces as Savage calls-out his former friend / rival / confidante / colleague Hogan in a fascinating way:

They call you Hollywood?
Don't make me laugh
Cause your movies and acting skills are both trash
The movies straight to video; the box office can't stand
While I got myself a featured role in Spiderman

So, if you can't shut-off your musical appreciation (no, it's not Liquid Swords), but damn, you can certainly enjoy some good Hulk Hogan trash-talk. 


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