BOOK REVIEW: "Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage" by Jon Finkel

Originally published at BOOK REVIEW: "Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage" by Jon Finkel

In the opening pages of MACHO MAN: THE UNTAMED, UNBELIEVABLE LIFE OF RANDY SAVAGE, author Jon Finkel makes his case as to why he is the only man who should write the story of Randy Savage. Already holding an encyclopedic knowledge of Savage’s career, when Finkel was finally able to connect with Savage’s brother Lanny, Finkel was given the family’s blessing thanks to acing a test from The Genius himself.

Like many wrestling biographies focused on a second-generation performer, much time is spent on the early days of that first-generation wrestler. In this case, it’s Angelo Poffo, the father of Randy Savage. Opening with Poffo’s attempt to break the world sit-up record, I was hooked right away. Finkel’s description of the dogged determination on the part of Angelo, something he would pass down to his son Randy, and the adverse effects on his physical state sent me reeling. Poffo’s success in the ring led to the creation of his own promotion, International Championship Wrestling (ICW), the very organization that would give his sons Randy and Lanny their starts between the ropes.

I think the true drawing power of this book is the amount of time and focus that is put on Savage’s life and career before he arrives in Vince McMahon’s WWF. Finkel went to great lengths to uncover as much as possible with respect to Savage’s first passion, baseball, and the lengths Savage went to pursue his dream. Those who are fans of Savage’s in-ring work, undoubtedly are aware of his relentless quest to be perfect between the ropes. What many are not aware of is that Savage approached a career in baseball with the same single-minded obsession to be the best. The sad fact is that while no one would question his drive, he just didn’t have the talent to earn a roster spot in the major leagues. One story in particular details Savage’s quest to re-learn how to play ball left-handed after an injury to his right arm left him unable to throw.

Once Savage’s baseball dreams came to an end, Finkel dove head-first into Savage’s meteoric rise inside the squared circle. While it is often said that those who excel in the business are those who put their whole lives into it, I’m not sure I’ve ever read about anyone so deeply committed as Randy Savage. Could this be attributed to his drive to be the best or a level of insecurity about past failures and a self-imposed need to measure up to the larger-than-life physique and presence each of his peers exhibited? Certainly, Finkel’s writing about Randy’s intense gym schedule and constant jealous tendencies support that.

I will say that I learned a lot about ICW, which has been sort of a blind spot in my wrestling knowledge. Finkel breaks down its reputation as an outlaw promotion and Angelo’s quest for legitimacy against the Jerry Lawler-led Continental Wrestling Association, which was promoting much more successful shows in the same territory. I enjoyed reading about the beef between the two organizations and Savage’s unyielding desire to get a match with Lawler despite being largely ignored and not working in the same company.

I imagine it was difficult for Finkel to boil down such a massive career into a little over three hundred pages, but much of Savage’s later days in the industry were not as memorable or as important as his early ones, which are covered in great detail. Not much is relegated to his time in WCW, but that should be expected given that the promotion at the time was so chaotic. In my opinion, the only real bright spot during those days was his work with Diamond Dallas Page, to which Finkel devotes space. Time and consideration are also spent on Savage’s ill-advised hip-hop album as well as his brief but memorable appearance in 2002’s Spider-Man.

MACHO MAN: THE UNTAMED, UNBELIEVABLE LIFE OF RANDY SAVAGE is a compelling look at one of the industry’s most indelible performers. While there is a wealth of information to be mined from Savage’s peers, It is certainly a blessing that Finkel was able to connect with Lanny Poffo before his untimely passing in 2023 as I imagine the book would not feel as rich without Lanny’s invaluable input.