I really hate to admit it but when I was a kid, I loved wrestling. I think all boys do.
I am not a fan these days. I cringe a little every time I am at a ballgame and they play the Ric Flair "Whoo!" over the PA. I think to myself this is baseball. The outcome is not pre-determined. I wish they would play a Vin Scully call instead, or maybe a John Fogerty song clip.
But, when I was very young, every kid I knew loved wrestling- including me.
I remember seeing Randy Savage and Austin Idol at the Sports Center in Owensboro beating each other red with a strap one night. Another time, Savage and his brother, Lanny Poffo wrestled Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Savage tried to pile drive Morton on the announcers table. The crowd unloaded on Savage like he was Freddy Krueger. THEY HATED HIM. Savage convinced the fans that he wasn't just trying to win a match. He was trying to put someone in the hospital... or worse.
Savage ALWAYS looked wild eyed and ready to hurt someone. Especially someone that the fans loved. He looked like he had just had a couple of drinks and was ready for a bar fight if someone looked at him the wrong way. He had to be the most intense human alive.
You had no doubt that if Savage saw Ricky Morton at the mall, or at Wal-Mart, he would try to pile drive him there too. Savage truly sold his bad guy image in a way that no one could pull off today.
Later in his career, when he became more famous, his character was watered down. He dressed in colorful costumes and hung out with the comic book like Hulk Hogan (who, at the time, was literally copyrighted by Marvel Comics). Sadly Randy Savage became likable.
Before his career as a wrestler, he was a minor league baseball player. jimmy Piersall was one of his minor league team managers (I know their conversations were probably strictly about baseball, but it is fun to imagine those two guys sharing a dugout having strange conversations about running the bases backwards).
He never made it past low A, but by all accounts, he was very determined. Sports Illustrated has a nice write up on their site about his playing days. The local paper here in Lexington also had a very nice article, interviewing local baseball legend Doug Flynn about his friendship with Savage. Flynn knew him in baseball circles, AND officiated one of Savage's wrestling matches later.
I felt sad when I was told by a buddy that Savage died a couple of weeks ago. Some characters are very easily duplicated, but there will never be another one like Randy Savage.