Friday, May 20, 2011

The Day The Madness Died

By now, I'm sure you have heard the tragic news that Macho Man Randy Savage has passed away after having a heart attack that led to a fatal car accident. Although this is tragic news, nobody can say it is all that surprising as wrestlers die early at an incredibly alarming rate.

Back in the old WWE (then the WWF), wrestlers led a life of excess that they simply can't get away with these days. Kevin Nash once said, “The thing that always kills me is people say wrestlers party like rock stars. I’m thinking, I’ve partied with rock stars. Rock stars don’t party anywhere near what wrestlers do. The quote should be that rock stars party like wrestlers…We partied like wrestlers and that was pretty much the pinnacle.” And that really was the life that wrestlers led. Cocaine, steroids, you name it, they almost definitely tried it and probably took it in excess.

But that's not the only reason that it's sad that Macho Man came through the business when he did. A lot of times people will talk about athletes who could have done much bigger and better things had they come along in a different era. The tweener in basketball, the undersized lineman in football, or the speedy slap hitter in baseball could have all had much larger impacts had they come around twenty years earlier, but it's a different game that they just didn't fit in. The interesting thing about Macho Man is he actually would have made a much bigger impact had he come around twenty years later.

This isn't to say he wasn't great, he most definitely was, but he could have been greater. His peak in the WWE came at a time where bigger was better, and he simply couldn't match the sheer girth of the WWE's biggest attractions. It was a time of unstoppable forces, from Andre the Giant, to Hulk Hogan, to Ultimate Warrior, it was a time of mediocre performers but who had an aura that made them seem larger than life.

Meanwhile, Macho Man was an incredible worker with great charisma, but never had the size to seem unstoppable. He won the title at WrestleMania IV in a 16-Man Tournament mostly because he was one of the few guys who could put on four good matches in a single night. His match at WrestleMania III against Ricky Steamboat is still considered one of the greatest matches of all time. His second title win came at WrestleMania VIII, but it was in the middle of the card, so Hulk Hogan could headline against Sid Justice.

But as great as he was, I keep thinking that he could have been greater. When I look at champions like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Chris Jericho, it's hard to believe he wouldn't have been competing for the WWE Title for ten straight years had he just come along a little bit later.

But unlike most professional wrestlers, Macho Man didn't try to hang on to catch one last bit of glory. He was done as a full-time wrestler in 1999. He made a brief comeback in 2004, but had a disagreement with TNA and left after only a couple months. After that, he disappeared. No website, no Facebook, no Twitter; it was a big deal if you merely saw an updated picture of Macho Man on the Internet.

The only time he was really in the news these past seven years was when he remarried last year. The world saw some wedding photos and he fell back into his life of seclusion.

Almost all wrestlers hold onto the business for two reasons: The spotlight or the money. Macho Man didn't need either, and there's something very refreshing about that (especially as wrestling fans watch legends like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair waste away on TNA Impact Wrestling each week). But as a wrestling fan, it's hard to not imagine a world where Macho Man came along 10-15 years later, because as great as he was, he could have been even greater.


P.S. I didn't have a good space to talk about Macho Man's rapping career, but you can bet your ass that I still listen to those songs and have the best songs on repeat today in honor of him. Although, most are going to link to Perfect Friend, but I'd much rather listen to Macho Thang.

P.P.S. Yes, I do still have a talking Macho Man action figure hanging out on my dresser, and I'm proud of it.

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