If Randy Savage never wrestled a match, just by virtue of his promo catalog, he’d be one of the great performers in the history of the industry. Somewhere between Hogan and Warrior on the Intense-to-Comprehensible scale, Savage is perhaps the best ever at articulating his very specific brand (and brand of greatness) through promos. While there are plenty of other great promo cutters — and we’re going to be covering a lot of them this month — Savage’s promos didn’t just serve to highlight the importance of whatever he was pursuing, but his character AND himself at the same time.
While many of them find themselves locked in the vaults of the WWE, Best Of compilations like the one below highlight if not quite the diversity of promos, the strength of the “Macho Man” character. Cocky, brash, and all with the overriding feeling that he wasn’t just blowing up his own ass about what he was saying, Savage was better able to articulate himself and what he could do without ever setting foot in the ring with the type of all-encompassing character work that you usually see on TV shows with significantly more discerning audiences than professional wrestling.
If there was one thing in particular that made Macho Man promos unique was the very specific use of time, space and the opponents/goals he had on his mind. Not just in the sense that he said some mildly trippy things about the nature of the universe, but that everything he said — much like everything he did in the ring — had a specific purpose tied to a specific goal. Like making it clear that while he wanted to take down Tito Santana, he still existed in a world where he was a heel and Hulk Hogan was the face of the company, and therefore on the Macho Man’s radar. In lesser hands, these types of promos would seem dated. But because of the level of engagement that Savage about what he was saying, and the unique way in which he delivered it, gave promos where he went so far as to mention the specific years he was in a timeless quality. It didn’t matter when those interviews took place, Savage was Savage and that’s all that mattered.
Much like CM Punk, Savage existed in his own orbit. He could travel up and down the card and challenge whomever he wanted, not because he was expendable, but because The Madness would make any feud stand out. You never felt, especially in the 80’s, that Savage was ever doing anything he didn’t want to do. This extended beyond enthusiasm into an existential state of being for him. He made you feel that he wasn’t World’s Champion because he hadn’t gotten to it yet, not because he couldn’t, and when he did, there’d be little that anyone could do to stop him.
Which is why the Mega Powers was such an awesome idea, both in theory and execution. Instead of immediately forcing the two into a heated rivalry, the two teamed together. In part to build towards the WrestleMania blowoff, but more importantly in the long run, establish Savage as the Daniel Bryan to Hogan’s Cena: a workhorse who the fans should recognize as being on his level. Hogan’s work in the promo that kicked off the storyline is significant not just because it’s jarring to see Hogan acting so oddly at this point in his career, but how much he’s clearly emanating the mannerisms and general aura of Macho Man.
Savage was champion not because Hogan “let him” but because Savage had earned it. In the feud between the two — where the Mega Powers EXPLODED — while there’s certainly a bad guy (Savage) and a good guy (Hogan), why either is that way is much more nuanced than the previous stories that Hogan had with Roddy Piper, King Kong Bundy and Andre the Giant. Hogan had done wrong by Savage, and while his intentions were good — which is what made him the “good” guy — what exactly happened was, at best, controversial to fans. Savage was, on some level, right about everything he said about Hogan: he WAS self-centered and made everything about him, crossing the lines of what constitutes an appropriate relationship with his best friend’s significant other, and more importantly, put her in harm’s way even after promising explicitly not to.
But, because of the way he explained himself, making it less about what Hogan had done wrong to Elizabeth, and more about how disrespectful that was to him, he forced fans to side with Hogan. He’d finally, defintively put himself ahead of Liz, and act unforgivable to many fans and the thing that made it “okay” for him to lose at WrestleMania V.
And while the WrestleMania V main event would lead to a period of relative stagnation, he’d resurrect his Main Event career with a title win at WrestleMania VIII against Ric Flair just a year after his “retirement match” against the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII. Which would lead to perhaps the greatest promo ever cut, from a pure quality standpoint. Of course, this being the internet, the quality of this particular version of it is lacking, it perfectly encapsulates Savage’s ability to make himself look like the king of the world and make his opponent simultaneously meaningless and all-important at the same time.
There may be better ways to build a match between a reluctant hero and the Dirtiest Player in the Game, but if there is, they haven’t invented them yet. And just wait until we get to the matches.