From his yellow wrestling trunks decorated with white stars, Randy “Macho Man” Savage pulled out a “foreign object,” and hid it slyly in his right hand.
Macho Man was outside the ring when Intercontinental champion Tito Santana picked him up for a belly-to-back suplex back inside the ring.
On the way down, Savage punched him on the forehead with the foreign object, then landed on a stunned Santana for the three count.
The referee never saw a thing.
“The winner of this match, and NEW Intercontinental Champion, Randy ‘Macho Man,’ Savage,” ring announcer Howard Finkel shouted. Macho Man grabbed his newly won belt, kissed it, and the journey began.
On that night in the Boston Garden in 1986, a star was born.
That same star, one of the Top 10 greatest professional wrestlers of all time, burnt out today. At 58, the Macho Man died in a car accident. He apparently had a heart attack while driving.
Many high-profile professional wrestlers have died in recent years. Mr. Perfect, Chris Benoit, Ravishing Rick Rude. The generation who grew up on wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s has seen plenty of its heroes die unexpectedly.
But the death of the Macho Man really hurts. The Macho Man revolutionized professional wrestling in America.
The death of the Macho Man is also profound because it is also a reminder of what professional wrestling once was. It was a time when wrestlers weren’t told what to say on the microphone, and when scripts didn’t overpower in-ring performance.
The Macho Man could get people to buy tickets to a live show or watch on television just by opening his mouth and talking or through his performance inside the ring.
With his ring entrance music, “Pomp and Circumstance,” and his silent, obedient valet The Lovely Elizabeth at his side, the Macho Man always stole the show when he was on.
Macho Man had many classic matches during his career. His battles with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, The Ultimate Warrior, Ric Flair, Crush, and Diamond Dallas Page, are legendary in the minds of wrestling fans.
He was part of a rare group of wrestlers to make it big in the mainstream, even securing a national endorsement deal with Slim Jim–“Snap into a Slim Jim!”
He was also one of the first heels (bad guys) who rose from the mid-card to the main event at Wrestlemania in the late 1980s, and go from verbally abusive boyfriend to beloved husband.
Macho Man was so big that the WWF actually ended SummerSlam, a pay-per-view event, with the wedding of The Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth. (They were already married at the time). That is the only time in the history of WWF pay per view that the main event was anything but a match.
Today, professional wrestling is crippled by weak script writers who produce television shows instead of wrestling storylines.
The Macho Man never needed a script writer.
He got over with the fans (became popular) because of his natural charisma, unforgettable raspy voice and classic catch phrase, “Oh Yeah!”
And inside the ring, from about 1986 to 1988, he was absolutely untouchable.
He was graceful, yet aggressive; a high-flyer who could also put on a side-headlock and wear an opponent out.
When Macho Man wrestled, it was pure performance art.
When he made it big in the WWF, there was no one else like him. He would jump from the top turnbuckle to the outside of the ring and devastate his opponents with a double-axe handle.
It was a beauty to watch.
The Macho Man reached the peak of his career inside the ring in 1987, in one of the greatest matches of all time.
He wrested Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in front of 93,173 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome at Wrestlemania 3.
If you wrestling fans are ever trying to convince non-wrestling fans why you love wrestling, this is the match you should make them watch (see video, below).
As a heel, the Macho Man stole the show. The key to being a great professional wrestler is having the ability to make fans hate you or cheer you. Macho was one of the few who could do both simultaneously.
He carried Steamboat, also one of the all-time greats, to a 35-minute classic. With several near-falls, and last-minute kickouts, Savage and Steamboat had the fans exactly where they wanted them–hanging on their every move.
Macho Man put Steamboat over that night (let him win), thanks to some outside interference from George “The Animal” Steele, who was obsessed with the Macho Man’s valet at the time, The Lovely Elizabeth.
The match gives wrestling fans the chills.
Macho Man was so over as a bad guy that the WWF turned him into a good guy in a memorable feud with the Honky Tonk Man.
As Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, otherwise known as the Hart Foundation, held him down, the Honky Tonk man smashed Savage over the head with his guitar.
From the dressing room, the then-unstoppable WWF champion Hulk Hogan did a run-in, to save the Macho Man.
Vince McMahon, the play-by-play announcer at the time, made one of his greatest calls ever, “We could be seeing the meeting of the Madness and the Mania.”
Hulkamania and Macho Madness together as one.
Macho Man’s career took off from that point. He won the WWE championship at Wrestlemania the following year in a one-night tournament where he beat The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase in the finals.
Macho Man headlined two Wrestlemanias in a row and ultimately became a household name, won the King of the Ring Tournament and became the original announcer on Monday Night Raw.
Macho Man then enjoyed a second fantastic run in WCW, leaving Vince McMahon WWF to join Ted Turner’s wrestling organization. Hogan was the first WWF guy to defect. Macho Man was the second.
The two reprised their roles and had many more great matches.
Though Macho Man slowed down in his ring agility, he most of the time was still one of the best, most athletic wrestlers on the show.
Macho Man spent most of his career chasing Hulk Hogan in terms of championship belts and mainstream success.
But Macho Man outclassed the Hulkster in the ring every time.
Savage never made it to the WWF Hall of Fame. He had a mysterious falling out with owner Vince McMahon. Macho Man’s name is rarely mentioned as part of WWF history.
It’s likely that McMahon will put him in the Hall of Fame now. It wouldn’t matter though. Macho Man was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in the eyes of wrestling fans.
Today, Fox News ran a crawl at the bottom of its morning news report, saying Macho Man had died. The network called him “one of the greatest performers in the history of professional wrestling.”