Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Project 33" - Match #126: Savage vs. Steamboat

Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat
29 March, 1987
Silverdome; Pontiac, MI
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match

Part 2

This is in tribute to the passing of the "Macho Man" Randy Savage.

A lot of my peers, and even fans that are my age, grew up viewing Hulk Hogan as the greatest of all time.  I did not.  I tended to think that Flair was the best in the world, and I always had in the back of mind that maybe, just maybe, Arn Anderson could beat him if they ever became enemies.  However, I always thought that Savage was the best guy in the WWF.  With his passing, I have actually been thinking a lot about his place in history. 

Hulkamania is often credited to two men, aside from Hulk Hogan himself: Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper.  McMahon was the obvious promotional and marketing genius that took Hulk Hogan and gave him the platform and marketing strategy to make him a household name.  McMahon's marketing skills are obvious here, as Hogan is far from a great in-ring talent.  In fact, Hogan's best asset may have been his ability to completely believe the total line of bullshit that McMahon fed him, to the point that he can still sucker millions of dollars from people today for stuff that he participated in two decades ago. 

Roddy Piper was a solid in-ring talent, that was the perfect bastard to get Hogan over as the all-American white-bred babyface.  Piper was a diabolical cheat that talked smack and everyone wanted to see get his comeuppance.  It is quite possible that without McMahon's marketing and Piper as his initial foil, Hulkamania may never have been born. 

However, Randy Savage was the heart and soul of the 1980's WWF. 

The thing that a lot of people do not understand about Savage, is that he was not only the son of a wrestler, Angelo Poffo, but by the time Savage reached the WWF in 1985, he was a ten-year veteran of the sport, and had been a promoter, and an outlaw. 

Savage made his name in the mid-south and midwest, where he followed a career path similar to that of Bruiser Brody - as a top draw working shows for outlaw promotions in the territories of NWA members.  Savage had actually become an outlaw due to a falling out between his father and the Tennessee promoters.  This led to Savage honing his craft on the independent circuit, until he made a splash in 1984 when the Poffo family invaded Memphis, and a hot Lawler vs. Savage feud emerged.  Almost as quick as he came into Memphis, Savage was gone. 

Savage popped up in the WWF, where he was immediately treated as a big deal, and his wife Elizabeth was brought in as well.  Savage got a ridiculous amount of heat in the ever-expanding WWF, with a lot of tried-and-true cheap heat tactics.  Savage was obviously abusive towards Elizabeth, often threatening to hit her at ringside when fans or wrestlers looked at or went near her.  Then Savage would turn into a maniac and tear apart his opponents.  Not only did Savage get over huge, but he became one of the biggest heels in the wrestling business, as fans were just begging for someone to give Savage what he had coming. 

When Ricky Steamboat returned to the WWF, a feud between the two was obvious.  Steamboat was a good-looking white-meat babyface that the fans would get behind no matter what, but was also spectacular in the ring.  Savage had also been in a nasty feud with George Steele, who was in love with Elizabeth.  Savage had put Steamboat out with a neck injury from hitting him with the ringbell,  and when Steamboat returned to action, Steele was in his corner. 

At Wrestlemania 3, this match took place, and it changed the career of Savage.  Although Steamboat's actions in this match were 100% those of a babyface, the quality of the match and the way Savage handled his championship loss led many fans to begin cheering the "Macho Man".  With Steamboat soon departing the WWF to head back to the NWA, Savage would receive a push as the number two babyface in the company. 

In hindsight, it is easy to see what happened here - McMahon saw the potential of a Hogan/Savage feud, and stacked the deck to get to that match - two years later.  In the year after WM3, we saw Savage built up as a possible title contender, and we saw Hogan being overwhelmed by Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase.  When Savage was able to overcome the odds to win the WWF Championship, it was just the beginning of the story, as the "Mega Powers" would explode over Elizabeth, and Savage would revert back to the paranoid misogynist - and his anger would be directed at Hogan. 

Savage's career would become intertwined with Hogan's.  "Macho Madness" would be the antithesis of Hulkamania, and Savage would not spend a career in Hogan's shadow, but rather as Hogan's equal.  His evil arch-enemy.  Superman would have Lex Luthor, Batman had the Joker, and Hogan would have Savage. 

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