Friday, May 20, 2011

R.I.P. Macho Man

I've been taking the loss of the Macho Man today pretty hard. Not, "day off of work" hard, but harder than it might make sense to the casual observer.

Randy "Macho Man" Savage (later "Macho King") was arguably the most popular heel of the mid 80s WWF, and that means he holds an incredibly special place in the hearts of many, now adults, who were kids during that era.

As a kid who went to house shows in Mid-Michigan, it was a HUGE deal when Macho Man was on the card. HUGE. Somewhere in my Mom's house, I have a giant orange foam finger for Macho Man. I could've bought Hogan's, but I bought Macho's.

The wrestling toys in the 80s (made by LJN) didn't move, and were bigger and therefore more expensive than most other toys of the day - meaning you didn't get too many of them. You had to prioritize. Growing up, I had the LJN toys for Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. You just didn't need anybody else.

As I grew up, I joined the school band -- which I hated -- and the only thing that got me to practice was teaching myself to play wrestler's theme songs. Especially Macho's - which came in handy since we were expected to play it every year. (I don't think I've ever heard Pomp and Circumstance being played and not thought it would be awesome if Macho Man just ran out in neon leather fringe with big 80s sunglasses on and totally elbow dropped the Dean.)

One of my few original Game Boy games was WWF Superstars - and I LOVED hitting that elbow drop time after time.

Those who know me know that, to put it mildly, I didn't exactly have a great childhood. But the one I had is filled with fond vivid memories of the Macho Man.

Later, when the 80s wrestlers moved to WCW (and Macho Man was selling Slim Jims) I was at the Monday Nitro when Macho Man told Miss Elizabeth that things had been through with them for a long time. Even as a high schooler, there was just something magical about being a part of that. It felt like I was a part of history. (Wrestling history, which is the best kind of history I think.)

As an older guy, I've come to realize how Macho was in a way really one of the first high-fliers. Guys like Jeff Hardy and John Morrison (who I love), owe a debt to guys like Macho Man. Macho Man, in a sense, was the Jeff Hardy of 1985. Besides, I've just always dug bad guys - their ability to make an entrance, to make an impression - and nobody in wrestling could do that like the Macho Man. He was the first name wrestler I can remember to really successfully (and fluidly) alternate between a face and heel persona.

And all these years later, Macho Man died of a heart attack down in Seminole, FL - not a 5 minute drive away from a pizza place I regularly ate at when I lived back in Tampa. I own things I bought at a second-hand shop just down the street from the crash site. It's just weird to me. Granted, wrestlers tend not to live to be 100 - but to have one of the field's very best die like this feels not only sad, but perhaps too ordinary.

It's so easy to forget that the men (and women) in the squared circle really are just ordinary folks -- and it's a testament to the quality of the work they do that it's so easy to forget it.

Macho Man - you will be missed.


Autumn said...

This post is a really great tribute to a hero of your childhood and a legend in the wrestling business.

Dave of Apocalypse said...

Thank you very much!