‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage; brought flair to wrestling ring

Randy “Macho Man’’ Savage, whose legal name was Randy Mario Poffo, was one of the most popular wrestlers in the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s and ’90s. Randy “Macho Man’’ Savage, whose legal name was Randy Mario Poffo, was one of the most popular wrestlers in the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s and ’90s. (World Wrestling Entertainment)
By Harry R. Weber
Associated Press / May 21, 2011

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NEW YORK — Randy “Macho Man’’ Savage — the professional wrestler known for his raspy voice, the sunglasses and bandanas he wore in the ring, and the young woman named Miss Elizabeth who often accompanied him — died in a car crash yesterday in Florida. He was 58.

A Florida Highway Patrol crash report said that the former wrestler, whose legal name was Randy Mario Poffo, was driving a Jeep Wrangler when he lost control in Pinellas County around 9:25 a.m. The Jeep veered over the raised concrete median, crossed over the eastbound lanes, and crashed head-on into a tree.

Police said he may have had a “medical event’’ before the accident, but the report did not elaborate. It said officials would need to order an autopsy to know for sure.

The report said a woman in the vehicle, identified as Barbara L. Poffo, 56, had minor injuries. A statement from Stamford, Conn.-based World Wrestling Entertainment said the passenger was the wrestler’s wife. Both were wearing their seatbelts, according to the police report.

“Poffo will be greatly missed by WWE and his fans,’’ the statement said.

Mr. Savage was a charismatic wrestler made famous for his “Macho Man’’ nickname and his “Oooh Yeah!’’ catchphrase. He was a champion in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation and later Ted Turner’s now-defunct World Championship Wrestling.

Mr. Poffo was under contract with World Wrestling Entertainment from 1985 to 1993 and held both the World Wrestling Entertainment and Intercontinental Championships.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends,’’ World Wrestling Entertainment said. “We wish a speedy recovery to his wife.’’

Mr. Savage defined the larger-than-life personalities of the 1980s World Wrestling Federation. He wore sequined robes bejeweled with “Macho Man’’ on the back, rainbow-colored cowboy hats, and oversized sunglasses, part of a unique look that helped build the federation, now World Wrestling Entertainment, into a mainstream phenomenon.

For most of his career, his valet, Miss Elizabeth, was by his side. The woman, Elizabeth Hulette, was his wife at the time. They later divorced, and Hulette died in 2003 at age 42 in what was later ruled a prescription drug overdose. She was among many performers in the sport to die young.

Others include Curt “Mr. Perfect’’ Hennig, who died of a cocaine overdose in 2003 at 44, and Chris Benoit, who killed his wife and son and then committed suicide in their Georgia home in 2007. Benoit was 40.

The federation made Mr. Savage its champion after a win over Ted DiBiase in the main event at WrestleMania in 1988.

Mr. Savage had not appeared for a major wrestling organization since 2004, when he performed for Total Nonstop Action.

He was at times both the most popular and most hated wrestler in entertainment. His flying elbow off the top rope was mimicked by basement and backyard wrestlers everywhere.

Mr. Savage made good use of his deep, raspy voice as a corporate pitchman as well, for years ordering Slim Jim fans to “Snap into a Slim Jim!’’

He was best known for his legendary rivalries with Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, and Ric Flair. Wrestlers took to Twitter to let fans know that Mr. Savage will not be forgotten.

Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson hailed Mr. Savage as one of his childhood inspirations and heroes, while Mick “Cactus Jack’’ Foley called Mr. Savage “one of my favorite performers.’’

Hogan said he and Mr. Savage had just started talking again after 10 years.

“He had so much life in his eyes and in his spirit, I just pray that he’s happy and in a better place and we miss him,’’ Hogan wrote.

While so many personalities who left the federation for World Championship Wrestling — like Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Mean Gene Okerlund — were welcomed back to the company and even inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mr. Savage never returned.

Mr. Savage was a minor league catcher in the 1970s for St. Louis and Cincinnati before turning in the uniform for tights. His father, Angelo Poffo, was a longtime wrestler, and his brother, “Leaping’’ Lanny Poffo, was also a 1980s federation mainstay.