Even if you don't like or don't watch pro wrestling, you probably know the name "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
It's hard to imagine the industry icon, who died Friday after a car accident, doing anything other than grappling, flying off the top rope with an elbow, or taking a bite out of beef jerky.
And that's what made him special.
In pro wrestling, which has long been acknowledged as entertainment and not sports (as if it was ever in question), Savage was a once-in-a-generation performer, with an over-the-top personality and an interview style just about anyone could imitate.
Savage was a cartoon character brought to life, with colorful outfits, sunglasses, and occasionally a well-placed cowboy hat.
"I am the lord and master of the ring," he once yelled before a match. "Ooh, yeah!"
Savage seemed born to be a wrestler. His father, Angelo Poffo, was a long-time grappler, as was his brother, Lanny, who became known as "The Genius." In a forum where fans need to be able to suspend their disbelief, Savage was a master. No matter how bizarre or outlandish the storyline was, or the world of wrestling was, Savage's character was so intense, so chaotic that he made you believe what you were seeing, if only for a few minutes. It may sound stupid to say that, but it's really no different than an action movie, when the bad guy gets his. A good film gets you to buy into its story. A wrestling match is no different.
But even though Savage will be remembered for wrestling and as a spokesman for Slim Jim ("Snap in to a SlimJim!"), there was at least one other side to him.
Before he was a full-time pro wrestler, Savage was Randy Poffo, a minor league outfielder in the Cardinals and Reds organizations. I'd always heard stories about that, but was skeptical, since pro wrestlers tend to exaggerate their legitimate sports accolades.
But in this case, it was true. According to baseballreference(dot)com, Randy Poffo played four seasons in the minor leagues. His best season was his last, in 1974, when he played for the Reds' single A team in Tampa. He played in 131 games, hit nine homers and drove in 66 runs. It was somewhat promising, but the .232 average he put up that year, and his .254 lifetime average in the low minor leagues, may have convinced him that he was not the heir apparent to George Foster or Ken Griffey.
It's probably for the best (in some respects, anyway), that he chose the crazy world of wrestling. It suited him.
There are many levels of tragedy here. Savage was traveling with his wife, who escaped the accident with minor injuries. You really have to feel for his family.
There's also something strange when I see a man die at 58 and think "well, that's old for a wrestler."
I'm ashamed to think that way, but it's a reality in a business where men and women seem to die young. Savage himself knew this reality as well as anyone. His former wife, Elizabeth Hulette (who gained fame as his manager "The Lovely Elizabeth") died in 2003 at 43.
Randy Savage is gone now, but his death revealed, if nothing else, the level of his celebrity. National news programs reported on his death. ESPN put it on the front page of its website.
In an era where wrestlers are frequently out of character and busting a move on Dancing With the Stars, Savage was a guy who seemed to be who he portrayed. Maybe that's why, even though he hasn't wrestled in years, he's still one of the first names people think of when they think of the industry, perhaps only behind Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Steve Austin.
His fans will never forget him, and the non-watchers at least know of him.
In wrestling, that's an impact.
Zach Baker is an Associate Sports Editor for The Advertiser-Tribune
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